In the Company of Women

By Lorna Hollifield

I’m in search of a rooftop and a megaphone. Maybe I can use the top level of The Vendue or Market Pavilion Hotel, but I’d have to go to Asheville and comb my parents’ basement for the megaphone stashed away with my old cheerleading paraphernalia because I need a nice tall place and loud voice to scream praise to the masses for Grace Bonney’s “In the Company of Women. This is the one inspirational nonfiction book females not only should read, but need to read.

I wish high schools and colleges would add this book to their curricula because more than showing the black-and-white, paint-by-numbers methods for building businesses, this compilation shows how to thrive in a community of women who all inspire one another. It shows how to grow through relationships, not just numbers. It makes the girls’ girl inside come screaming out and fosters a sense of fandom instead of jealousy for others.

This book is the cherry on top of the recent climate shift of women supporting – not competing with – other women in the workplace. It intends to tell the stories of many for multiple channels of inspiration, but by the fact that it was written at all, it teaches us to be unafraid to praise other people. And. It. Is. Magic.

Author and entrepreneur Grace Bonney compiles more than 100 interviews from the pool of the most inspiring women she knows. This isn’t a book of “how I did it,” but instead, “how she did it.” It is a wonderful celebration of how women from all walks of life overcome adversity to reach their ultimate goals, without tearing down or negatively competing with other females along the way. 

Interior designer Danielle Colding is asked in the first interview highlighted, “What does the world need more of? Less of?” Her simple and perfect answer struck me immediately, and I later found it to speak to the overall point this book aims to make. She answers, “The world needs more gratitude and less narcissism.”

The quote stayed with me as I read about women from all walks of life, all ethnicities, cultures and economic backgrounds, who fought one form or another of adversity to become the women they were meant to be. Some had to overcome financial issues, some grief, while others faced downright haters trying to prevent their rise. But they all managed to barrel through, take all the risks, and come out as the poets, designers or media moguls they were meant to become. What none of them did was reach the summit of the mountain by using another woman as a steppingstone. They all supported other women, encouraged networking and embraced the female entrepreneurial world with open arms.

Small business is huge in the Lowcountry. I meet women every day who are opening new businesses or dreaming about taking that next step. I go to networking and social events frequently because I like to be inspired by other people with goals and ideas. This town is bubbling with support for local business. I can honestly say that more often than not, other women are willing to help spread the word, collaborate or refer business to one another. I’m seeing fewer side eyes and more helping hands. At the same time, there still can be a sense of competition – a rat race to get the most Instagram followers, a fear of being left off of a committee, or a possibility of being looked over in some way.  

This collection of stories reminded me that in those situations it’s important to continue supporting others, continue surrounding yourself with positive thinkers and continue swimming in the one lane that leads to your goal next to other amazing people swimming alongside of you in their own. The haters will fall off and the embracers will prevail every time.  

I challenge and implore you to not only read this book, but as you read it, think of all of the inspiring women in your life and celebrate them. You’ll get what you give back. Don’t be afraid to tell another woman’s incredible story.  If she is part of you, you are part of her. Remain in her corner and in her company.

Read more of Lorna’s book columns:

Book column: “Educated” by Tara Westover