Denver Business Journal, April 21, 2000 edition, “Small Business Insights”

by: Lyn Berry

A local entrepreneur who has steered herself successfully through multiple and varied careers is opening a new chapter in her life to explore the publishing business.

Sandra Ford Walston, a nationally known speaker, trainer and executive coach, has written and published a book that explores the characteristic that sustained her through it all: courage.

The book, titled, “Courage: The Heart and Spirit of EveryWoman,” combines real-life stories from courageous women with exercises on using that courage to change obstacles into opportunities.

Recognizing that courage is a trait rarely associated with women, Walston draws on the word’s original definition, which in medieval Old French is “corage,” meaning heart and spirit, to demonstrate how women can and must claim their courageous will in order to lead successful and fulfilling lives.

“When you define yourself as having courageous will, then you’re unwilling to do things the way they’ve always been done or the way society tells you they should be done,” she said. “In essence, the book is a celebration and a salute to unsung courage in women.”

Stepping into the world of book publishing heralds the start of a fifth career for the entrepreneur, who has demonstrated her own brand of courage in the arenas of education, real estate, banking and corporate training.

“Courage, for me, is an intangible sense of energy,” she said. “There has always been this ingredient in me that propelled me to face things in a different way, this propelling energy.”

Armed with a bachelor’s in social science and a minor in English from California State University, Walston began her first job as a teacher of gifted fifth and sixth graders, in her small hometown of Bakersville, California.

At that time, Walston’s courageous entrepreneurial spirit had already begun to emerge. “My classroom was called ‘Walston’s Weirdoes,’ because I was always designing new, creative things,” she said. “I’d be featured in the paper for some new creative idea that I came up with and it was just fun. I got to be wild.”

After a few years, Walston became restless and moved to Beverly Hills to pursue a career in real estate.

“I wanted the freedom to be my own entrepreneur,” she said. “With a few thousand dollars that I had saved I started my own business and built it up.”

However, Walston admits the business was not without its setbacks.

“One of the biggest challenges I met was being the only woman,” she said. “I really wanted to sell commercial property. I wanted the business side of real estate. I went into Coldwell Banker downtown and interviewed with this man and I didn’t get the job. And I knew why — I was a woman.”

After nearly eight successful years in residential real estate, Walston decided to tackle a new challenge. “I like change. I’m enterprising,” she said. “So I got out of real estate and got into banking, where I was still working with people, providing a service, making a difference in their lives.”

Walston landed her first banking job with First Professional Bank in West L.A., despite a resume that listed no banking experience. “They were astute enough to see that I knew how to develop a business. They saw my marketing skills and my ability to generate business. They knew they weren’t going to have to hold my hand.”

Walston enjoyed another eight years of success in banking, working her way up to vice president and a six-figure salary, while doing some corporate training on the side. The bank eventually hit hard times, and Walston decided to pack up and move to Colorado with the man she was planning to marry. “It was a good time to transition into being an entrepreneur again,” she said.

However, soon after arriving in Colorado, Walston found herself suffering through a painful break up.

“I got dumped,” she said. “And here I was, with no friends, no family, no support system. That’s when I harnessed the courage to reinvent myself again. You know, like Madonna.”

She set to work, designing seven corporate training programs. “I just literally worked seven days a week, designing the programs and going out and marketing. I always followed up on a referral or a lead, even if I didn’t think it would go anywhere. I always turn over every rock to follow up on something.”

“Her follow-through is incredible,” said Sue Eaton, director of human resources for the City of Englewood. Eaton has known Walston since 1996, when she asked Walston to provide training for a director’s retreat. “I envy her ability to never let things drop. She has been able to bring herself back from ups and downs in her personal life, as well as her professional life, that would have stopped others in their tracks.”

Walston’s tenacity paid off, creating a well-established private consulting practice. She is a professional speaker and trainer, executive coach, retreat facilitator and courage coach for individuals, where she specializes in courage for women.

She has designed almost 50 programs to date, for a list of clients that includes U S West, Great-West Life Assurance, DIA, Colorado Credit Union and Lucent Technologies.

“I’ve seen her develop her company from something small into a successful consulting business,” said LeRoy Romero, director of external affairs for the Auraria Higher Education Center, where Walston has given customer service and goal-setting workshops.

“This is a woman who can set priorities and get things done. As a small-business owner, you need to have the courage to go out there and meet people and say this is what I can do, and how I can do it and then demonstrate that you can do it. Sandra follows through.”

Walston’s latest endeavor as writer and publisher of “Courage” has taught her a new lesson about the courage it takes to follow through. This form of courage requires vulnerability.

“Writing a book is a full-time job. When I made the commitment to finish writing my book, I made a conscious choice that I would let my income and my lifestyle diminish, a lot.

“I’ve rolled the dice,” she said. “I’ve had the courage to put everything at risk. Now that I’ve released it to the universe, the timing will be right and the universe will perceive value — or it won’t.”

Comforted by endorsements for the book by Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson and Alexandra Stoddard, Walston has made it her goal to spend as many weeks as possible on the Tattered Cover’s local paperback bestseller list, where she currently occupies the No. 5 slot.

“Of course, it depends on whether or not the community supports my book. Either way, I’ve been very blessed to have these endorsements,” she said.

Margaret Maupin, the front list buyer for the Tattered Cover, said she believes the book will be well-received. “I think it fills a need on the book shelf, encouraging women to pursue their goals and to have faith in themselves,” she said. “Sandra’s own story is very inspirational for people who do start a business or pursue an entrepreneurial path. She had a goal and put all her energies into that. I think it’s a real courageous thing she has done.”

“Writing a book is like being on a runway, going beyond commitment speed,” Walston said. “No matter what, you have to take off.”

“Courage” is scheduled to hit national bookstores in late May or early June. For more information, contact Sandra Ford Walston at

Denver Business Journal staff reporter Lyn Berry writes this monthly column about issues related to women- and minority-owned businesses. She can be reached at 303-866-9678 or by e-mail at Copyright 2000 American City Business Journals Inc.

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