Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - 6:00 am
By Ishmael Tate CITY PEOPLE WRITER
Each day we make hundreds of choices: where to eat lunch, which pair of shoes to buy, which movie to see. Those are the easy decisions.
But sometimes the decision is whether to end an unhealthy relationship or change careers. And sometimes, it's making the choice to believe in yourself and to stretch toward your dream.
"There's a decision to make your life better and a commitment to that decision. And that commitment is made up of good choices," says Stacey Lemmond, owner of Ask & Receive Business and Computer Solutions.
Everything, Lemmond says, revolves around decisions. Six years ago the upstate New York native made a decision to start a business. Already she had come a long way from the teenage girl who was denied her high school diploma because she had one too many unexcused absences. It was yet another step in triumphing over a difficult childhood and early adulthood rife with low self-esteem and doubt.
Shortly after arriving in Greenville in 1990 and at the age of 25, Lemmond took her first college class, introduction to psychology, through a correspondence program at USC Columbia. At the time, she was "insecure" about her intelligence and was sure she would fail. The high B she received in the class bolstered her self-esteem. She was accepted as a full time student at Greenville Tech on the condition that she get her GED, which she did.
Lemmond transferred to Lander University and graduated with honors with a degree in sociology. She chose her major because she wanted to be able to help people. Before college she was employed as a certified home health aid and worked with hospice.
After graduation, Lemmond joined the staff of a battered women shelter. After 18 months, she concluded that it wasn't the job for her. She struggled with leaving work behind at the end of the day.
"It was so frustrating because I know the power of choice. And it's so difficult for people in crisis to look beyond the crisis and start making positive choices for permanent change," she said.
Lemmond began learning the skills she uses in her computer business today while she was an administrative assistant to the business manager at Christ Church Episcopal School. She was charged with upgrading the computer courses available for the Upper School to the standards of an International Baccalaureate program. She then taught the courses. She later taught computer technology classes at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.
She jokes that by the time she actually started Ask & Receive, which focuses on Web design and graphic design, she had already taught herself how to use all of the necessary software. But she took classes to get certified anyway. She is a Microsoft-certified office specialist and master instructor for office products, which means that she has both passed tests and has had years of experience.
Lemmond is the vice president for education for the Greenvillle International Alliance for Professional Women, a 1-year-old non-profit organization that seeks to connect professional women and advocate for women's advancement. It is affiliated with the International Alliance for Women.
In addition to being an important networking tool, the organization gives businesswomen the opportunity to learn from and mentor each other, Lemmond says. In each other, they can find people who have a very good idea about what it's like to operate a business.
"It's about building relationships. When you are an entrepreneur or part of a small company having those systems in place is crucial," she said.
One of the organization's projects is donating money to micro enterprise banks, which make small loans, often less than $100, to women in developing countries to start businesses.
Lemmond had discovered Greenville during a cross-country trip and said she longed to return.
"It's kind of like the beautiful things I like about upstate New York without the horrific cold," she said.
In addition to continuing her success with her company, Lemmond is passionate about empowering women and helping them realize their dreams. It wasn't so long ago that she was a woman on the brink of change.
She says women should ask themselves: What do I want out of my time here and how can I make that happen? If that means changing your circle of friends, not spending so much time with dysfunctional family members or asking for help, then so be it.
Lemmond said that women will be surprised by how willing people are to help someone trying to better herself.
"I'm not saying it's easy. I'm just saying it's one choice at a time," she said.