Passion, Purpose And A Paycheck: Create a Career that Works for You
Words to Live By: Part 2

Photos by David Michael Howarth

Our 2022 Women’s Empowerment Series returned last month with a highly relatable discussion on the topic “Passion, Purpose and a Paycheck.” Our dynamic panelists shared personal and inspiring stories on how they created lives that follow their purpose and dreams.




Bernadette Finnerty
Founder/CEO, Shavestix

Felicia Hopson
Burlington County Commissioner

Robyn Greenberg
Project Manager, TD Bank

Zeynep Yurderi
President/Designer, Zeyzani

Giovonni Thompson
CEO, Camden Monarchs Moderator

Marianne Aleardi
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief SJ Mag


On living their passion

It was important as a woman, as a woman of color, to go into politics. And if not me, why not me? I wanted to be able to create that pathway for others who would be interested in it, because we need folks who truly are of service and not of selfishness.
Felicia Hopson

My job is helping to make people’s dreams come true, getting them out of debt, helping them go to college for the first time. When I think about it now – how much we help people, both customers and employees – that’s been something I wanted to do since I was a little girl.
Robyn Greenberg

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I’m always trying to help women to push through, to break barriers, to really believe in themselves and be trailblazers.
Giovonni Thompson

The main purpose of my business is to enrich women with my designs and empower them, and that’s the feedback I get. Once you have these boots on, you feel like a million dollars walking into the room.
Zeynep Yurderi

On taking a risk

I had been working in the same department with the same people for 10 years. I was comfortable with what I was doing, but it was time for a change. I wanted to feel excited and passionate, but I didn’t know what to do. That’s when I started raising my hand and scheduling meetings with people. And I started networking. If somebody had told me then that I’d move over to retail, and that 10 years later, I would still wake up every day excited, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Robyn Greenberg

My youngest of 2 kids was graduating from high school in 2020, and I was going to be an empty-nester. I knew I wanted to start a business and the pandemic gave me the time to do it. I hated shaving cream, and started using coconut oil to shave my legs. Coconut oil is either liquid or solid, it doesn’t soften, it melts. I realized it would be easier to use in a stick. I started messing around and I ordered containers on Amazon and played around with it. The formula worked.
Bernadette Finnerty

On pivotal moments

My first political campaign was so ugly, but it showed me what it means to stand in your truth in real time. I had to perform in front of so many people while my name was being bashed, and I was up against a 40-year establishment. I literally felt I was by myself, although I wasn’t. I had the support, but you’re out there and you’re campaigning – you really are by yourself in those moments. I had to be strong for myself.
Felicia Hopson

I took a leave of absence from work after my father died. My therapist and I decided together that I would not do major projects, and that was really, really hard for me. For a little over 2 months, I did close to nothing – other than being with my kids and just sort of processing what it meant that I lost my dad.
Robyn Greenberg

With my last baby I went through postpartum depression, and I had to stop working completely. I was literally losing my mind. I had to just sit on the couch and let my parents take the children for a little bit, so I could recenter myself and go through that postpartum process. When I came out of it, I realized it wasn’t the end of the world. So I take time now to process what people are asking me and my goals for the day, and it’s been working. I’m flowing in my purpose instead of stressed in my purpose.
Giovonni Thompson

On moments of doubt during the shutdown, a gentleman emailed that he wanted me to design a pair of boots for his wife. I didn’t know if he was mocking me or serious. We were going back and forth for months, and I designed a beautiful pair of boots for him. When he finally sent the money, I told my husband that he’s not all talk, and he said, “You’ve been in this for 12 years. Why are you surprised?” That changed my whole business model to direct sales. Now I only take custom orders, and we can reach women who can’t find boots in their size at stores.
Zeynep Yurderi

I was selling Shavestix at this little pop-up shop at the beach. On the first day, there were a few other exhibitors, including these 2 girls who were really young. One was a cool jewelry designer, the other had tie-dye everything, and I just felt like “the mom.” I questioned if I wanted to do this, but it ended up going really well.
Bernadette Finnerty

On sexism

When you’re the only woman in the boardroom, you just have to really go in there war ready. Don’t back down, not only because of what you’re trying to get done, but maybe with the next woman they meet with, they may not be as disrespectful, because they will think, “I met with Gio and she didn’t back down. She knew what she was talking about, and the deal worked and we made money.”
Giovonni Thompson

Two-and-a-half years into my first term, a man came up to me and said, “Oh, I’m surprised you won.” So I stood there and said, “Oh, do you think you could have beat me?” And I walked away.
Felicia Hopson

On being vulnerable

I had a very good job at a pharmaceutical agency, as director of operations, reporting directly to the president and making good money. But I had something in me even though so many people questioned why I would start this business. Opening during the recession was tough, but I had to prove to everyone they were wrong.
Zeynep Yurderi

I know political ads can get to you. But we have to have public servants who are willing to go through the storm. You can’t get past the storm, you truly have to go through it so you get elected, and then you can prove that you can do enough good to make it worth having gone through.
Felicia Hopson

On learning from failure

In 2006, my husband and I bought a dollar store. It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life, but I learned a lot from it, including the importance of listening to my inner voice that was telling me this was not for me. We were able to get out of it, rebuild, take our losses and move on. I’ll always look back and say that’s the reason I’m doing Shavestix now. The reason I’m successful now is because I learned those things and I know better.
Bernadette Finnerty

One of my biggest mistakes was not asking for exactly what I wanted. We as women need to understand the power we wield. Ask for exactly what you want because the worst-case scenario is they say no. But the other scenario is they say yes, but you didn’t ask for everything you wanted.
Felicia Hopson

On advice for women

You have to do something that’s going to fulfill you. Because if you’re not fulfilled, you’re not going to be the best mom you can be, you’re not going to be the best wife, you’re not going to be the best friend, best sister, because something is going to be missing. Find something you love and go after it.
Giovonni Thompson

Being selfish with your time is key. Be selfish with your time and then decide how you’re going to process information when you have to make a decision. I think that’s my super strength. If you need an answer in 24 hours, you might get it, you might not. Because if that doesn’t fit into my time schedule, it’s going to have to wait.
Felicia Hopson

You don’t have to plan and be in control of everything. Even if you try, things don’t always work out. I wish someone had told me that when I was younger.
Robyn Greenberg

If you don’t feel like showing up, do it anyway, because you never know who you’re going to meet. I was really lucky on the day I met the woman from QVC. It was a great day.
Bernadette Finnerty 

Don’t miss our next panel

Women’s Empowerment Series Panel 3: I’m not Superwoman: Is having it all even a thing anymore?

When: Tuesday, December 6, 6 – 8 pm
Where: The Mansion on Main Street, Voorhees
Join us for a night of food, drinks, networking and a panel by women in South Jersey at the top of their fields. This panel will feature:

Kate Scott Play-By-Play Announcer, Sixers
Wanda Hardy President/CEO, Financial Wellness Institute
Janice Johnston Executive Producer, ABC’s “20/20”
Janell Simpson Deputy Chief, Camden County Police
Susan Manzi Chief Financial Officer, SJRA

Buy your tickets today

December 2022
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