I love doing the Charlotte Smarty Mom interviews. I always try to select someone that is one step back from my inner circle. We have some connection but I want to explore it more. For my second selection, it was a no brainer. Not only was this person someone that I wanted to interview, but oddly I was receiving emails from other people saying, “Hey, have you heard of Susan Sears? She would make a great Smarty Mom!” Boy, were they right.
The thing that catches me immediately about Susan is how humble she is. I knew that she was a huge volunteer (okay, the RACE DIRECTOR) with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, but I was finding that I was pulling her other volunteer causes out of her. We sat and had coffee and I kept discovering new causes she was passionate about it. She wasn’t offering up all the stories of how she gives of her self without question time and time again. In her eyes, nothing made her special or different than the next person. Most people you meet have one cause that is near and dear to their heart (outside their families of course) if they have anything at all. Susan was different. She had so many things that she gave herself to and is determined to find more. She doesn’t want to talk about herself or how completely amazing she is. It makes her uncomfortable. She wants no “thank you” or pat on the back. She does all this because she thinks it’s important to live your life this way. I know that everyone in her life probably wishes she would slow down and spend more time relaxing over girl talk with a glass of wine. But this woman has her mind set on paying it forward and making the world a better place. We could all learn something from her.
I just want to clone this new friend of mine and strive to be more like her in how I live my life. I know that there are a million more things that she does but she just doesn’t want to tell me. But I will eventually get them out of her. 🙂
Meet Susan Sears.
Smarty Mom: Susan Sears
Smarty Mom Stats:
Children: Austin (12), Colin (7)
Married to: Rick, 16 years
Years in Charlotte: 9
Neighborhood: Cady Lake
Hometown: Valparaiso, IN
College Alumni: Purdue Boilermakers
Occupation: VP Finance at Sterling Partners
Tell me how you and your husband met and eventually made the move to Charlotte?
Rick and I met in college at Purdue University. His roommate was dating my roommate and Rick kept showing up at my apartment to ‘see what his friend was up to’. The four of us ended up going to a concert in Chicago together and within a few days we were dating. After I graduated we moved to Wilmington where we lived for 8 years and then we wanted to live somewhere with more of a big city feel so we made the move to Charlotte in 2005.
College sweethearts huh? How in the world do you keep the romance in check when you manage a business together out of the home?
Trust me this is the most difficult thing to do! Our children are now at the age where we can head out to dinner without needing a babysitter, so we go out for sushi dinners often. And when we go out we make every attempt to keep work out of the conversation.
To say that you volunteer is an understatement. Tell me about some of the things that you are involved in and why?
Since I work from home volunteering has been a great way for me to meet new people and feel connected to the Charlotte community. For the past 4 years I have been part of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Committee, helping to plan the largest 5k race in Charlotte. My mother-in-law, Terry Sears, lost her battle with breast cancer in 2004, so volunteering with Komen has been my way to honor her and help others battling this disease.
While volunteering with Komen I had the opportunity to meet Jen Pagani and joined the race committee for the GoJenGo Foundation’s 5k race held in March at Symphony Park. Jen Pagani passed away the month before the race and there was an incredible outpouring of support with close to 2,000 people participating in this year’s race.
Running is a consistent theme in my life, so last year I became a Girls On the Run coach at my son’s elementary school. Raising two boys is awesome, but having an opportunity to mentor girls in grades 3-5 has been a fabulous experience!
I also serve on the PTA Board of Directors at both of my son’s schools in addition to helping with fundraising for our Cub Scout pack.
When I look back at everything listed above I realize it may seem overwhelming to some people, but volunteering has become such an important part of my life. The best outcome of my volunteerism is that it has laid the groundwork for my children to become active and involved in nonprofit organizations as they grow into adults.
You mentioned that some of the most inspirational people are losing their battles to cancer. Tell me how people like Jen Pagani have impacted your life?
I have a picture of Jen Pagani on my desk that reminds me to always remember to ‘Pay it Forward’. Jen fought breast cancer for 7 years and was fortunate to have so much support during her battle. In the midst of her fight she decided to pay it forward – and in a big way – by establishing the GoJenGo Foundation whose mission is to provide financial assistance and emotional support to individuals and families who are battling breast cancer.
A quote that Jen put on one of her Race for the Cure team shirts says ‘I looked around and wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized…I AM SOMEBODY.’ Jen’s ability to give back while fighting for her life inspires me to give as much as I can to the organizations and causes that touch my heart. Whatever your passion is – do something – Pay it Forward!
Your oldest son is reaching those pre-teen years. How are you handing the social media aspect as a parent?
We have an agreement with Austin that at any time we can check his phone and Instagram account and we have all of the passwords for his accounts. I also follow him on Instagram as well as his friends, so I can see what is being shown and talked about. We also discussed how what you write and pictures you share on social media are permanent in cyberspace.
As you raise two boys, what are you trying to teach them about growing up as strong men and how to be with the ladies?
I think it is important with raising my two sons that they know the following (and witness it first hand at home):
1. Always be kind
2. Manners are not an option
3. Work hard and don’t take things for granted
4. Stand up for anyone that needs help
5. Give back to your community
6. Women are equals – always treat women with respect
Who are your role models?
My role models consist of women and children who have fought or are currently battling cancer. For them it is not an option to give up. When I feel overwhelmed or stressed by something I often think of these survivors and realize that my issue is nothing compared to what they are going through. Keeping everything in perspective is so important.
What do you and your husband like to do in Charlotte on your date nights?
Our favorite date night is a delish sushi dinner either at 18 Asian & Sushi Bar or Sushi 101.
What are some of your guilty pleasures?
Ovomaltine (Swiss crunchy chocolate cream heaven), a nice glass of Cabernet, or my all time favorite OMB Copper.
What is your summer plans to stay busy as a family?
We are planning to get to know our city better this summer by exploring a new landmark / destination each week. There are so many places in Charlotte that we have not been to and we will be checking out Charlotte Smarty Pants ideas as part of our planning!
What topics in the news do you feel get too much attention? How about too little attention?
Too much attention: Anything related to a reality star’s life.
Too little: The good things that are happening in the world.
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I let my husband build a bar in our garage…
What are two of the products in your life that you can’t live without?
I can’t live without eyeliner. I just don’t feel right without it and no matter what I will not leave the house without it on!
I also have an absolute addiction to lip balm. It is so bad that I can see a friend put ChapStick or lip gloss on and immediately need to use my own. In fact, right now…where is it?!?!
What is your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is hearing people complain about something over and over and they have no desire or willingness to help come up with a solution or do something about it.
What has been the most memorable experience of your life?
I had the amazing opportunity to be the Race Chair for the 2012 Komen Race for the Cure. The first year required us to move the entire race site and come up with a new 5k route due to construction in Uptown Charlotte. This experience required so much of me, but it also challenged me in ways that I’ll never forget. Leadership, public speaking (yikes), negotiations, and dealing with setbacks – it all was frightening to begin with! Come Race Day though, it all came together and we celebrated with over 1,000 survivors. In that moment I was the happiest and most content I’ve ever been. (Excluding wedding day and birth of my kiddos of course!) It was such a great experience that it didn’t take me but a minute to decide to be Race Chair again in 2013!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I see myself working for a nonprofit organization in Charlotte. I would love to turn my passion for a cause into a career! I’ll also be volunteering with my favorite groups and running in 5k’s/10k’s and hopefully I will have another marathon under my belt by then. My oldest will be in high school and will be driving (wow!) and my youngest will be in middle school, so lots of growth and change for the boys. I can’t wait, but will enjoy every minute of the journey until then!