I never dreamed when I was living off of buttered toast as a teenager that I would be where I am today. I thought life was going to be like that forever. Minimal clothes, sometimes heat or not, it became easy to become accustomed to thinking this was all life had to offer. It wasn’t until I started to break free and become my own person that I discovered there was a much bigger life out there for me than I could have ever imagined.

I don’t care where your bank account is right now or what you are (or aren’t) eating. It doesn’t mean you will be there your whole life. You have to change your mind set in order to change your life. You have to believe God is bigger than any of your problems. Start with faith as small as a mustard seed and allow God to grow it.

Let’s dive into my story a little more.

I was told over the phone, by someone who was supposed to be one of the most loving people on earth to me, that I was a drop out. He added a few more choice words in there that I don’t need to repeat. My father, the one who I feel is supposed to make me feel safe, protected, and loved, made me feel insecure, worthless, and stupid. I tried going to college–twice, in fact. I was told that I should stick it out and make sure I got a college degree because some people were “worried” about my future. “You’ll never make it far if you don’t have a degree,” they said. I don’t fit the typical “finish high school, graduate college” constraints. Nor do I want to. If everyone is wearing black, I want to be the girl who is wearing blue.

People see your success, the things you have and how you present yourself and typically think one of two things: one, your parents paid for everything and you had just the best childhood ever; or two, they will say the phrase at which every successful entrepreneur cringes at: “you are lucky.”  No, actually, all you see is my glory, and not my story.

My story.

When we are young, most of us dream of what we will be when we grow up. We vision everything from wanting to be a ballerina to becoming the president of the United States. Our dreams seemed endless and possible. We never took a moment to doubt and we feared nothing. As I got older, and became more observant, I picked up on how people treated me and talked to me. These actions by others distorted my visions and dreams. They made me second guess who I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I lived in fear because I wondered who I was going to upset this time, and what did I need to do for this person to like me. 

When my dad started to hit my brother and I, and when I was old enough to remember my dad beating my mom in front of us, my dreams stopped and fear replaced them. The constant noise of loud screaming filled the room which seemed like every day from the time I can remember as a young child. Going into my teenage years, the abuse continued with plates of food being thrown across the room and my dad pinning me up against the dryer. This was normal…wasn’t it? I mean, didn’t other people experience fights and get yelled at all the time? The speech, “you can be anything you want to be in this world” never came.

At a very young age I had to learn to fend for myself. This included shampoo, conditioner, and basically any of the normal essentials parents usually provide for their children.  I was sleeping on four box springs piled on top of each other with a mattress that had tears and springs poking me in the back.

“I will never live like this when I get older,” was a phrase I told myself often. We would go months without hot water. I would go weeks without any real food. If we got name brand Doritos, it was a huge deal. Most of our food came from the Salvation Army and we would live off of buttered toast. I can remember having six to seven slices at one time. It was my go-to snack and meal.

My glory.

What does any of this have to do with being a successful entrepreneur? It has everything to do with where I am today. See, the thing is, I never knew God even existed until I was 22. I never had a real relationship with him till I turned 25, and now I am 26. I had gotten into this mindset that whatever season I was in that it would be that way forever.  If you’ve felt this way too, I am here to tell you: NO IT WON’T. You can take your experiences in this life and use them to your advantage. You can change your life the moment you decide to not give up. God had me the whole time in His arms and I didn’t even know it. I stayed consistent and I continued focused on the path ahead. It was all I had at that point.

I decided I wasn’t going to give up but that I was going to fight.

I was 21 when I moved into my first house. I was 22 when I opened my first business. I was 24 when I “retired” from my full-time retail management job and paid off $44,000 in debt. This was all from a girl who grew up in a trailer park and came from no money. My words of advice for you today are these: you will only ever be as successful as you want to be. When things don’t work the way you thought they would, then you try something else. When you get declined or talked about then you keep your eyes focused on Jesus because He knows the plans He has for you. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, God has something different in mind for you; something better. When you have God’s anointing on your life He will take you to places you could never go on your own. He will supply you the knowledge, resources, and mentors for every step of the way.

I could have easily let my past dictate my future. I could have let the resources and money I didn’t have at the time keep me from moving forward. My friends, what it takes is belief. You have to believe with your whole heart that you can do whatever it is that you are setting out to do. When you start to believe, you will become an unstoppable force. I promise that.

Jessica Vaughn

 (Jessica is a leader in our Young Entrepreneur’s Mentorship)