Who’s the Muse?

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Who’s Terri Belford?

Helping entrepreneurs create meaning, money and community while making a better world.

Image 2 I”m a self-employment muse and recovering art major. I’ve created and sold four successful businesses. My greatest creation to date is a yurt-dwelling, green house building, luthier son who has the courage to make an unconventional life.

I started my first business in my twenties because I’m better at designing the map than following the yellow brick road. Beware of expressing passion about a topic in my presence: I’ve been known to scribble mindmaps on boarding passes and table napkins. I admit to eavesdropping on conversations at coffee shops and creating fictional lives for people I see in airports. I visited all 50 states before my 35th birthday.

I believe that growing a business is a lot like being a parent. You can plan and reason but ultimately, it comes down to creative problem solving and making it up as you go. I consider curiosity and resourcefulness an entrepreneur’s greatest asset.

My greatest dream is for every young person to be in love with themselves exactly as they are and to know that they don’t have to decide at 18 what to do for the rest of their lives. In my version of a perfect world, we’d all forget to unlearn the joy and playfulness we knew at four.

I’ve developed businesses out of personal interests in advertising, home furnishings, fine arts, healing arts and contemporary crafts.  My most recent business continues to thrive under the creative direction of a new owner.  The businesses were all started on very little capital. Since selling my gallery, I’ve continued to help aspiring entrepreneurs create a life and livelihood they love while growing more deeply into who they are meant to be.

Creative people don’t need  more ‘how-to’ business books. They need someone to tune in to their interests, really listen and give them concrete ideas to make their passions profitable. I’ve found most aspiring entrepreneurs are turned off by rigid business plans and MBA speak. I help them design a customized map to put the life back in their livelihood and turn their interests into income. I’ve yet to meet a dream that can’t be translated into a profitable business.

My leisure time is spent walking my dog, Lucy,  by the sea or in the redwoods, camping in the Monterey pines, and cross country road trips in my VW camper.

I love reading, writing, spending time with family and friends,  hearing the stories of strangers and watching people in airports. The art and customs of different cultures fascinate me. Motown makes me happy, black Gospel stirs my soul and the Blues makes me cry.  My favorite teachers are those under five or over eighty five.

Why I’m the Muse

My story is more about where I came from than where I am now.   I don’t for a minute believe that I’d be who I am had my dad not been the oldest child of poor Russian immigrants, with the responsibility of  supporting his mother and siblings at fourteen.

The last time I saw him, shortly before he died, my dad gave me a cherished gift. He told me that if he could live his life over as someone who hadn’t had those hardships, had he been given the opportunity to become a physician, attorney and other professional, he’d want to live exactly as he had. I believe the greatest legacy a parent can leave is having no regrets in the end.

My dad told me once that he only played golf because his doctor told him to find a hobby, that he didn’t particularly enjoy the game and that his favorite past time was business.  As a kid, I found that a little odd, but now I get it. I see now that if work is a product of your own creation, nurturing it is fulfilling and rewarding. And every bit as much a game as golf.

While it was typical of my parents’ generation to pressure their kids into going toward “practical” professions and land solid corporate careers after college, my sisters and I were encouraged to embrace our creativity. My sister, Pam,  wrote her first song at nine and although she didn’t have her first big hit until forty, our parents never discouraged her or suggested she just give up and focus on making her  “more stable” library job a career.  And when I announced plans to major in art,  my dad only mentioned that I might want to learn some commercial art as well. Note: I didn’t listen and later when I decided to start my own ad agency, he said, “I’m glad you’re resourceful. Figure out how to make it happen.”  It’s my belief that he was able to let us be our artsy selves  because he knew something that those parents with steady paychecks didn’t. He knew that the only real job security was the business you create for yourself.

He saw decades ago what high level executives are only now realizing: that entrepreneurs possess the creative problem solving abilities to make it through tough times. My dad left us a gift so much more valuable than cash. He showed us that our most valuable asset is our own resourcefulness.

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