I asked for professional business advice, and all I got was this sexist response
A month after I started my own business, I thought it would be a good idea to get some business advice — especially since I am already acquiring clients and making moolah. I called up a not-for-profit organization that offers business advice for local entrepreneurs in my area, and scheduled an appointment with their business advisor. I was pretty excited to share the details of my business and my early successes, and gain some valuable insight so that I can be prepared for further growth in this new year. I grabbed my notebook, jotted down some questions to ask this business expert, and couldn’t wait to fill in the blanks when I met him.
The day of the meeting, I made sure I looked presentable (yet not overdone). I had my notebook and some business cards. I stepped into the quiet office and took a seat. I waited for the office admin, strategically placing my business cards next to the others that were already neatly set on the waiting room table.
After a few minutes, the administrative assistant stepped in, apologized for the wait, and passed me a clipboard with a form to fill out. While I was filling out questions about my business, a man walked in and I automatically recognized him from their website (I always stalk before I talk!). I got up, passed the completed clipboard contents to the admin, and he took it from her. Without looking at me, he said “I’ll be with you in a few.” So back down I sat until I was summoned.
At this point, I was still bright eyed and bushy tailed, patiently waiting to finally get some one-on-one time with this business guru.
A minute or two later, I was summoned! “Follow me to the boardroom,” he said.
I was expecting a handshake and an introduction, but he just sat down, opened up his notebook, and started writing. Feverishly trying to make eye contact, I watched him while he scrolled. My inner “awkward alert” rang, so I coolly took off my jacket, opened up my notebook and followed suit.
There was nothing except his own reluctance filling the air, so I decided to break the cold, cold ice — only to be saved at the last minute when he said “so freelance writing, huh?”
Eager to get this on a better energy level, I said “Yes!” and then began to preface my decision to go freelance. I gave him a little of my background; I told him that I am a graduate of Brock University (I’m Canadian, eh), and that got him interested. I knew from my earlier stalking that he was previously an instructor at Brock — but my academic history piqued his interest for a different reason. He asked which year I graduated, and I told him.
He began to go on and on about how he used to date a girl in the same program I was in, but she was a few years my senior.
Not exactly appropriate to bring up?
I awkwardly smiled and said “That’s cool,” and tried getting back to my business questions.
I told him right off the bat that I am a creative type, and that my weak point is finances and bookkeeping. He understood, and then started to talk accounting while my pen tried to keep up with his words.
The whole time he spoke, he was looking at a 20 degree angle to his right. Not at me, not at the table in front of him — he was just talking into space. It was as if I was a burden on his day, when he would rather be sitting in his office playing Angry Birds.
Feeling satisfied with the financial advice I’d received, I asked him if he would share some local marketing opportunities that could benefit me.
Somehow, he got on the subject of “girls” he knew. Yes, that dreaded word that some people use to describe women.
He said he knew a “girl” who started a business as a lifestyle blogger, and he had no idea how she made money. I’m not a business expert, but I can think of a few ways that would be profitable. He then proceeded to name drop some people he knew who had gotten famous on YouTube. In my head, I was like, dude, can we please get back to MY business needs?!?! Instead, I was all nice about it, said another “That’s cool,” and swayed him back to me.
Then the bullet came.
If I was five years younger, I probably would have squirmed into my shell, told him “you’re right,” and packed my notebook — along with my dreams — into my purse, and gone home to cry. Not this time.
To which he took his next shot:
“To be honest, I think you really got lucky getting that first client of yours.”
I literally could not handle this anymore. This guy was a douche. Big time.
A sexist, mean douche that couldn’t even look a successful young woman in the eyes and motivate her to follow her dream WHICH IS WHAT THIS ORGANIZATION WAS SUPPOSED TO DO.
Knowing that I was not lucky, that I had landed my first client because I am smart and because I stand out, I made sure that I stood up for myself.
I stepped out of that room without a handshake, without a “take care,” without any spark in my step. I climbed into my vehicle, happy to finally be on safe ground. I felt that familiar pinprick of oncoming tears, but something happened. I decided to not let him win.
I turned up my tunes, and laughed over what a sad little man he was.
I went home so that I could continue working on my awesome business. In a year, I’ll head back to that organization to show him how much more “lucky” I’ve become.
Melissa Daniels is a freelance writer/graphic designer who took the plunge into self-employment. She is a crazy dog lady, happy wife, reader of books, wreath-making enthusiast, tea drinker, pretty scarf wearer, sea glass hunter, long walk walker, and lover of all things bright and beautiful! You can see more of her work here.