My Comfort Zone

Martha Van Inwegen, Action Wipes from Doug MacMillan on Vimeo.

As a small business owner, I constantly have to step out of my comfort zone, which makes me uncomfortable! Very uncomfortable.

My friends and family think I’m an extrovert and that getting in front of people just comes naturally to me – but it doesn’t, honestly. It takes every ounce of courage I can muster to approach a complete stranger and ask if they would like to try our Action Wipes. When we go to events and people start making their way towards our booth, my stomach does summersaults and my coffee starts coming up my throat just watching them walking our way. When I won the Shorty Award for Brand last year and had to go in front of some 300 people and thousands more watching via the web to give my 140 character speech – I was so scared, I almost didn’t make it to the stage because I shaking in my boots so hard (ok, I wore sandals).

So now that you know this about me, you’ll laugh when I tell you that I seriously considered participating in ABC’s Shark Tank. Yes, a show with millions of viewer’s nation wide! I have to tell you, I was sick to my stomach just creating the five minute video required to be considered. But I submitted it non-the-less. So imagine my surprise when they called and told me they loved it and wanted to move forward. Man, I had just about puked and even cried on that demo tape – how could they possible want me?! However, I passed on the opportunity – not out of fear, but out of what I believe is smart business sense. After reading the 40 page contract and them not willing to accept changes, I decided there was no way I could sign it.

As uncomfortable as it makes me, I am always looking for opportunities that will help promote Action Wipes, or at minimum, put them in front of people that can help me. So, here’s another opportunity for you to laugh at me again… I recently entered a contest to win a free infomercial at the Locker2Locker Pitch Maker Contest, in conjunction with the 2010 Professional Athletes Business Summit. For the contest, entrepreneurs submitted their product, or idea in the hopes of being one of 20 finalist chosen to present to a distinguished panel and in front of over 100 professional athletes. Guess what? We made the final 20. GULP.

I am now sitting in Oakland, waiting to take the Bart to the San Francisco airport to catch a red-eye to Hollywood. Florida. Since the day I found out, my stomach has been in knots. The closer it gets to stepping on that plane, the more I can feel my early morning breakfast coming back up. What makes it more nerve wrecking is that - ironically, the deciding panel is being lead by Kevin Harrington – one of the sharks on Shark Tank. OMG!

My sister once asked me “how do you do it - so easily approach people and start talking to them or pitch your product?” “I have to, my business will not grow if I live my life in fear and hope people will find us by chance” I said. “I could never do what you do” she said.

If you want to have a successfull company, you have to put yourself out there, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other - but know that one day your perseverance, the nervous sweat and even making a fool out of yourself will pay off. I believe it - that's why I do it!


  1. gulp. right there with you, Martha (and no one ever believes I'm shy). good luck! great post.

  2. Martha,
    In my past life I was an industrial sales guy who canvassed the Southeast as my territory, lived in Hotels, got in front of 100’s of people to give training classes or sales presentations, even sung solos in front of a 1,000 member Church on a regular basis back then. About 10 years ago out of the blue, I developed social anxiety disorder and found myself avoiding any public speaking or training evens and eventually had to completely change my profession to avoid situations where I would be put in any kind of spotlight. I actually talked to a psychologist about it and they put me on Paxil, what a freaking mistake that was.

    Long story short, I found the best way to face your demons is head on, control your thoughts and fill your head with positive self talk, focus on what you know about your wipes and your story, smile a lot and be a really good listener. Have some kind of visualization trigger that gives you a smile or something by thinking about it that gives you a big boost of confidence. Some say visualize the audience as if they had underwear on, I say think about something that makes you feel confident like maybe the whole panel is flat chested or something and you are just blessed with what you got going on. Anything to keep your mind off of suffocating, dyeing, throwing up or passing out. Meditation helped me a lot as well to rebuild my self confidence. When time permits, I would strongly recommend you purchase “The Linder Method”, I know it sounds cheesy, but it saved my daughter from panic attacks and test anxiety last year. I had to learn how to deal with it without the Linder Method but I wished I had had access to it before I went to see that psychologist that screwed up my head with that dam Paxil. (just do a search on Google for “The Linder Method”, I’m not in any way connected with them at all)

    Challenge yourself with this, have you lived through every presentation you have given in the past ? Did you completely embarrass yourself buy throwing up, peeing your pants, or any of those stupid things you are “afraid” of doing before ? Then what makes you believe that this time will be any different. You ARE confident, You KNOW your product inside out, people genuinely LIKE and LOVE you, You ARE very attractive, you ARE very smart and intelligent and most of all you ARE HAPPY to be doing what you are doing right this very moment ! Last but not least, YOU are never alone, EVERYONE who has stood with you and loves your product is with you, rooting for your success, hoping for the best and standing with you in spirit as you make your presentation. Go forth and Conquer ! ;-)


  3. You are awesomesauce, Martha, never forget it!!