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This CEO cashed in her IRA to start her own company

June 26, 2015, 12:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Gay Gaddis

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important for women to take risks in business? is written by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

In the early years of my company, risk was my constant companion. I started my business in 1989, during a terrible economy with the money I got from cashing in my IRA, two employees, and a typewriter. It was an extremely risky move, but I really believed in what I was doing so I bet on myself and made the leap.

Around the same time I started my business, I went to visit my mother-in-law, Isabel Maltsberger Gaddis, a brave, independent spirit, and a true cowgirl in the best sense of the word. But she was also highly educated and a proud working mother two things that were pretty risky at the time. Yet because Isabel was willing to risk being herself and follow her dreams, she enjoyed a meaningful life.

While visiting Isabel on her ranch that day, I spied a little blue and white enamel box on her living room table. On the top of the box, in elegant cursive read the following: Everything is sweetened by risk. I immediately picked up the box. It spoke to me. What a comforting message at a time of enormous risk in my own life. Isabel ended up giving me the box to keep.

Today, my business has grown far beyond two employees and a typewriter, and I no longer have to eat risk for breakfast. However, I still keep Isabel’s gift on my desk. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the lessons that Isabel taught me that day: that without risks there is no gain, and more importantly, that if you never risk anything you’ll miss out on a lot of the sweetness that life has to offer.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question:Why is it important for women to take risks in business?

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Why it’s okay to break the rules at work by Susan Coelius Keplinger, entrepreneur.

Why recent graduates shouldn’t plan their careers by Teresa Briggs, vice chair and west region managing partner at Deloitte.

Is gender bias a reason to quit your job? by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.

The one way to guarantee failure at work by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Why starting my own business at 25 was a huge mistake by Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor.

Build-A-Bear CEO: Why women need to take risks in business by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.