Know your customer. Not everyone is your customer. Find out what they want and give it to them. For my service, Write Your Selfie, I am focusing on people who want to leave their legacy to children and grandchildren. Millennials might be interested in writing a memoir for their parents.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Connie Inukai.
Connie Inukai had a distinguished career as a technical writing professor at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. This was her First Act. Her Second Act was being an entrepreneur and inventor of a device to help people read the menu and pay the bill in restaurants. For her Third Act, she developed a service to help people write their life story in pictures.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Growing up with a divorced mother raising six kids was difficult, but it taught us all to be resourceful.
One day a salesperson came to our house to sell us World Book encyclopedia (for those who know what an encyclopedia is). My mother wanted it, but she couldn’t afford it. The salesperson said if she could sell 10 sets, she could have one for free. My mother later became the top World Book salesperson in the Midwest! And we children learned the importance of education, resilience, and responsibility.
We grew up with no luxuries, and I had jobs throughout high school and college. In college, I had three jobs at the same time so I could help pay for my tuition. With one of my first paychecks, I bought a dress. It was my first piece of clothing that wasn’t a hand-me-down. You see, I had an older sister and a younger brother who were both bigger than me.
My saddest memory was in high school, when my boyfriend, Clayton, was killed in a car crash. After three solid months of crying, I decided to live my life to the fullest in his honor. You see, Clayton was an over-achiever, 4.0 GPA and already planning to go to Yale. I will always remember him, as I strive to accomplish more than I am capable of through every step of my life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” –Margaret Mead
“We were all children once.” That is MY quote. I say it repeatedly in telling my stories to my grandchildren.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I love the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Frank Capra’s 1946 film featuring James Stewart is a regular fixture on TV across the Christmas period, an uplifting story of family, love, hope and redemption. Themovie has been around long enough to reach several generations. This movie has many memorable moments that make us appreciate the wonder of life.
However, the book I wrote about my life is even more meaningful to me than fiction.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
My first career was as a professor of Technical Writing at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. I did that for forty years! After I retired, I became an inventor. My first product was Tip ‘n Split, a handheld device to help diners read small print on menus and bills. It also calculated a tip and split the bill in seconds. I then wrote a book, “How I Got My Product on QVC, The Today Show, The View, and More…In Retirement.” I also became a speaker to inspire Baby Boomers (like me) on following their dreams in retirement.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I got the idea when Kobe Bryant died in January, 2020, in a tragic helicopter accident with his daughter. Many people were affected by this, but his children and grandchildren will know all about his life…because he was a basketball hero and social media giant. But who will know about ME after I’m gone?
Being in the high-risk category for this pandemic, I rarely leave the house. So, I decided to use my time productively to write my “life story” so the people whom I love and their children will know and remember ME. We live as long as we are remembered.
I decided that this pandemic was a perfect time to gather photos and memories…while staying at home! I relived my pastandlearnednew details about my family. I collected memories and tales that I wanted my family to hear.
My finished product is not your typical “memoir.” Instead, I went through photo albums and shoeboxes filled with pictures from my past. I decided to use pictures and captions to make it easy to write and especially easy to read.
I started writing my life story with a section about Clayton, my boyfriend who died in a car crash when we were both 15 years old. This was not the beginning of my life story, but it was certainly a major point. Clayton had everything to look forward to, and his influence inspired me to accomplish what he was not able to do. His memory lives with me today. I gave a copy of my book to his mother, who is now 101 years old. Now she knows that her son is still alive in our hearts.
Everybody has a story! I created a course to help others to get started and write “their” story. The course is called Write Your Selfie.
How are things going with this new initiative?
For my book, I gathered my favorite memories as a child and through adulthood.
Here are some of my favorite memories:
I wish my parents and grandparents had written their memoirs to answer my unanswered questions. In my research, I found something that my mom never even told me! My mother’s parents, Arthur and Ella Dorr, immigrated to the US from Poland in 1912. They missed the ship to the United States because my grandma was suffering from morning sickness.
The ship they missed was the Titanic.
Here are more stories I am passing down to my children:
Our family lived in the same house for over 50 years. My dad built an additional sunken family room. On one occasion, we kids took a hose to the room and made a swimming pool. My grandkids love this story! Yes, we were all kids once!
What’s in a name? According to Ashkenazi tradition (Jewish sects traced back to Central and Eastern Europe), it is a kind gesture to name a newborn after the deceased, usually a recently deceased member of the family, such as a grandparent or a great-grandparent. By doing so, the parents hope to instill the positive attributes of the deceased into the lives of the child and keep the memory of the deceased alive in the child.
My name is Connie. It is not a Jewish name, and here’s how I got that name. My mother named my older sister “Sharon” and told my dad that he could choose MY name. He chose “Frances.” When my mom asked my dad where he got that name, he said it was his old girlfriend. Mom was furious and looked at the nurse’s badge. Her name was “Connie.” And that’s how I got my name…after the nurse.
As a retired writing instructor, I felt this was the time to write and share my story. We all have a story, and every chronicle is worth being shared, particularly with those that we love most.
Being a second-act entrepreneur, a “Grandmapreneur,” I am now helping fellow Baby Boomers and others write their story to pass on to children and grandchildren. It is a way to bridge gaps across generations, even after we are gone.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I spoke at a conference hosted by Erica Latrice, founder of AmplifyHer. Erica is spreading the word about Write Your Selfie to her many followers.
AND…I thank my son Matt, who has been helping me overcome all my obstacles!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
A 96-year-old woman contacted me to help her write her life story. She came to the U.S. from Egypt, and has so many stories to share with her descendants! She is not tech savvy, but I’m helping her, and she is learning and enjoying the journey!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You can’t do it alone. Build a team. Running a successful business requires experts in marketing, finance, and sales.
- Focus on your strengths…and let others do what you can’t. For example, I’m a good writer. I was actually a writing teacher for over 40 years, but I know nothing about SEO, digital marketing, lead magnets, and most things technical. My team is now helping with those.
- Know your customer. Not everyone is your customer. Find out what they want and give it to them. For my service, Write Your Selfie, I am focusing on people who want to leave their legacy to children and grandchildren. Millennials might be interested in writing a memoir for their parents.
- Get a mentor. I became an entrepreneur later in life…much later. My mentor is half my age, but she has the knowledge that I need in today’s entrepreneurial world. I found my mentor, Lindsey, from a Facebook group I joined. She has skills to support mine.
- Forget about being an overnight success. Anyone in business will tell you that.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
We cannot control the virus, but we can focus on positive activities:
- I make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family. While I no longer do in-person visits, I replace them with regular phone calls and video chats.
- Social media, such as Facebook can be a powerful tool — not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances — but for feeling connected in a greater sense to our communities, country, and the world. It reminds us we’re not alone.
- I’m trying to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep and regular exercise to help reduce stress and anxiety. I like activities like taking a walk, stretching, and deep breathing to help relieve stress.
- I include a positive or fun activity in my schedule. Two of my grandchildren live with me and we look forward to card games such as Uno and Old Maid every day.
- We enjoy outdoor activities in nature at least once a week.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would like to connect young people with older people to share stories and build intergenerational relationships.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!