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United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.

Image Courtesy of Courtney Obland

Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Courtney Obland.

Affiliation(s) (past and present): Current Area Director for N2 Publishing for the Running Man neighborhood magazine in Yorktown. Current President of Sorva Syrups, a gourmet food business that makes all-natural simple syrups for drinks. Former Outreach Coordinator and Grants Coordinator for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.

How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

I have been in the Publishing field for 4 years. I was an assistant for three years to the person who ran our neighborhood publication before, and I took over the publication as the main Editor in 2020 in the midst of COVID!

I have been in the gourmet food business since 2014. My husband and I have always had entrepreneurial spirits and stumbled across the idea of opening up our own food business. We got the idea when we could not find the product we wanted to buy on the shelf. Since then, we have branched into 8 different flavors of all-natural drink syrups, traveled to local and national events and selling nationwide.

How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

I as raised in Virginia Beach in the Kempsville Area, went to William & Mary for college, left for a few years (living in Texas and the Dominican Republic), then made my way back to Hampton Roads when I got my position at the Virginia Aquarium. So basically, on-and-off my whole life! I love the area and every part of Hampton Roads has its own feel and fun things to do. When I was growing up, the Peninsula seemed so far away; now that I’m living on the Peninsula,

What advice would you give young women going into your field?

Prepare to work hard, and know that while the path might not be easy, it is worth it. Set your mind on a goal and work towards it every day. Even baby steps are progress. Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes. In both publishing and in the gourmet food business, there are a lot of “no’s”. To me, “no” simply means “Next Opportunity” and I’m onto the next thing without getting bogged down in the negative. If you have goals and a dream of where you want to be, hold onto that and don’t let go. You’ll get there if you fight for it. If you come across a problem, it’s simply an opportunity to be creative to find a solution.

Has parenthood impacted your career or shaped your perspective as a professional? In what ways?

For ten years, I have been a de-facto stay-at-home mom, working in these other positions around my children and family life. I have been an entrepreneur, and simultaneously a full-time mom. I have had to learn how to balance the family life and work life, and it is not easy. It can still be stressful, but it is worth it for me as I see working as an extension of caring for my family. It is a way to provide a good role model for my boys, who are 6 and 9. They get to see their mom set goals and work hard to achieve them, without letting work be the consuming factor in our lives. I work to help improve the quality of our family life, allowing us experiences and travel we might not otherwise be able to do. My family provides a lot of the “why” behind what I do.

What has been your greatest challenge and what have you learned from it?

My greatest challenge has been to monitor my inner monologue on a day-to-day basis, especially when things are stressful or overwhelming. What you tell yourself on a daily basis about whether or not you will succeed will become the truth. I give myself mental prep talks every day to get in the right head space to attack my day, to make sure I am focused with a positive attitude. I have learned I am my own best cheerleader and need to encourage myself when things are tough, praise myself when things go well, and most of all, take it easy on myself when things are not going well. I can be hard on myself when I am not meeting my own expectations, and I have learned to give myself a break, re-asses where I am, and move forward in a positive way.

Any closing thoughts?

No matter what field you go into, find a mentor to help you achieve your goals. Many of us got where we are because someone took the time to help us. When you find a good mentor, make sure to learn as much as you can from their knowledge and experience – they often have insights and strategies that will help you on your journey. They can also share lessons they have learned along the way about what *not* and that knowledge can be very valuable. When you achieve your own goals, pay it forward and turn around and help someone else just starting out. Rising tides raise all boats!

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