Debra Gaines, of Debra M. Gaines Fine Art, took Bonnie Marcus’s workshop, “GPS Your Life and Career,” the first time it was presented through the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Network two years ago. She had closed her gallery and was unsteadily contemplating the next step. The interactive curriculum provided vision for her new endeavor.
“The program gave me a lot of clarity that made me more focused on where I want to be,” Debra says. “Sometimes you’re on the Island and you’re trying to do this and you’re trying to that…you’re trying to do a bunch of things to make something work and you feel like it’s not working. Her program made me feel that I could find a niche and run with that.”
Bonnie, founder and principal of Women’s Success Coaching, is a walking illustration of working from the Island in an international milieu. Since launching her business in 2007 from her home in Vineyard Haven, she’s been able to keep up a hectic schedule of speaking engagements, private coaching, a syndicated radio show, writing for Forbes Magazine, an award-winning website (womenssuccesscoaching.com) webinars, podcasts, and a blog.
She is able to broadcast her radio show from anywhere through Skype, but there is a lot of off-Island travel. Recently, starting on a Wednesday, she began with her radio show, then a drive to Smithfield, Rhode Island, for a pre-conference dinner, speaking at the conference on Thursday, a drive to Connecticut for an overnight stay to catch a flight on Friday to another dinner and conference in Minneapolis. She returned to Connecticut on Tuesday, broadcast her show from there on Wednesday, spent the next week at a conference in Springfield, and then returned to the Island on Friday. While most of her work is in the New England area, she spent time last year in cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas and has trips coming up to New York and San Francisco.
“This past November, I went to Nairobi, Kenya, and spoke at a Women’s Leadership Conference and did coaching workshops for women business leaders from about six different East African countries,” she says, followed by a reflective chuckle. “That was the longest and farthest I’ve travelled to speak.”
Bonnie’s career began after receiving a BA from Connecticut College and an M.Ed from New York University. In 1984, in spite of a lack of business or management experience, she was hired as managing director for a cardiac rehabilitation center solely through her interviewing skills. Within a year and a half, she was running 11 centers for the company. She’s since held positions as CEO of ServiceMaster Company and VP of Sales at Medical Staffing Network. She’s also held executive positions in start-up and Fortune 500 companies. In 2006, she took a nine-month course in coaching and became certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Since then, Bonnie’s Women’s Success Coaching website has been called one of the top 100 websites for professional women for the last three years in a row. Her radio show, “GPS Your Career: A Woman’s Guide To Success,” is syndicated in four markets and boasts an estimated 45,000 listeners. Besides her frequent contributions to Forbes.com, she’s also had articles published in Forbes Woman, Women Entrepreneur, and Central Valley Business Times. Articles about her and her business have been published in the Wall Street Journal and CIO Magazine.
“My focus has always been helping professional women,” she says. “From my experience in business, I saw that women have trouble selling themselves. Promoting and positioning themselves in the workplace — in business — was a challenge that I had identified. That’s my niche.
“You need to be savvy about self-promotion,” she continues. “Part of what I focus on is not only helping women to understand what their value is, but also how to position themselves depending on who they’re talking to or what the culture of their organization is like.
“I do have some male clients who have the same issues and challenges, but for the most part, my coaching clients are women. Most of my speaking is done in front of women’s organizations and leadership conferences.”
Bonnie moved to the Island in 2004. A single mother, her two children had grown and left their home in Connecticut. She moved to Boston for work, renting a condo there and purchasing a little vacation house on the Vineyard. When her condo was sold by her landlord, she was forced to move to the Island in the dead of winter. “Talk about snowstorms,” she recalls. “That year we had really bad ones.”
In 2007, Bonnie joined forces with Kae Williams and Barbara Welsh to form the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Network. “It was my idea,” she recalls. “I moved to the Island and I realized there are so many talented women who own and are running businesses here and there are not a lot of resources to learn about how to run a business — even just the basics. The idea was, let’s bring resources from the Island or the mainland so women can learn how to run their businesses better.”
“The first informational meeting was held at Louisa Gould’s Gallery,” Kristin Buck, the current president recalls, “to see if there was interest in forming the group. The turnout was huge and the rest is history.”
Bonnie has since relinquished the co-chairmanship of MVWN due to her traveling schedule, but she continues to keep her fingers in, mainly through the workshops that inspire entrepreneurs like Debra Gaines.
“I just love that she’s from here,” Debra says. “Sometimes you feel like you’re working in a fishbowl here: ‘I’m on the Vineyard. What difference can I make? Who’s going to see me? How can I grow here?’ she questions. Bonnie’s experience shows that it’s not impossible from here. I think that’s really encouraging for people.”
Bonnie Marcus will be presenting her workshop, “GPS Your Life and Career,” on March 26, 6 to 8 pm, at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown. Contact the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Network at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.