First, Invest in Yourself



Valerie has an impeccable personal style and knows a boutique when she meets it. She’s styled by Sabrina Davis at Range Boutique from head to toe.

“It takes me 10 minutes extra to really feel confident all day long”, said my best childhood friend, Valerie (Wampler) Inglesby, as she leaned into the gym mirror applying her eye makeup. “I see these moms looking and feeling tired all day but for me, it’s a 10-minute fix”. This was 9 years ago, and I was home from Germany for a week. I went to visit her and her young family for a day, which always means a stop at the gym for a quick workout and a shower. I didn’t have kids at the time, but that moment has always stuck with me. I have always marveled at how Valerie, at every stage, projects confidence even when she may not feel confident.

Valerie and I grew up together and met through the 6th-grade orchestra. We also IMG_2212pursued the middle school cheerleading squad because we thought it would be funny for a couple of “Orch Dorks” to show up at try-outs. We didn’t really anticipate getting on the squad, but we made it, and it cemented our friendship. We’ve been finishing each other’s sentences ever since.


Currently, Valerie serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Crescent Investment Group, a major commercial player in the real estate office arena. She is married with three kids, one of which is still a toddler and the other two are in middle school (playing multiple instruments).

Valerie has never had any issue investing in herself first in order to take care of her investment business better. Here are a few tips for Valerie’s ROI.

  1. You’re never too far away from being your best self

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how far you must go. Every day is an opportunity to work towards being your best self.

  1. Find your joy in exercise

Exercise is a necessary part of being successful in business and in life. If you don’t find a way to enjoy exercise, even if that means watching your favorite show while you exercise, then you will always fall short. Valerie says she is a different person walking out of the gym than she is walking into the gym. And speaking of Val’s exercise habits, you can tell that she has worked hard for her physique.

  1. Invest in yourself even if it feels exorbitant

If there are things or issues you have with your clothing, mental health, physical appearance or whatever else there is that tends to take up too much space in your brain or keeps you in negative self-talk mode, fix it. The cost of dwelling on an issue is a larger investment than fixing it and moving on with your life.


Valerie is one of those rare exceptional people that truly does have it together, and it’s wrapped up in this perfect package of health and wellness. So much so, that she’s about to pursue her passion and help others in a professional coaching business. I’d encourage all of you to follow her advice as she is a model of success. She will be our very first guest blogger on The O Protocol next week as well!

Level The Playing Field in Honduras


“I need you to look as unattractive as possible.” Those were the words that Ron Hicks, Executive Director of Lunches for Learning spoke as I landed in the Tegucigalpa Airport in Honduras. Ron had visited my Rotary club, Roswell Rotary, a few months earlier to speak about his Lunches for Learning program. A program operated in rural Honduras with a focus to break the lifecycle of poverty through feeding children that stay in school.  When he spoke, I was immediately invested with my checkbook but wanted to see the operation with my own eyes several months later. I was lucky that my friends Kay Love and Lisa Carlisle were equally invested, but unlucky in the sense that we are all blonde hair, blue eyed women that stick out amongst the brown eyed, brown haired Hondurans. Ron was intent on keeping us safe as well as engaging us in the work he had been pioneering for almost 6 years. At the time I had no idea how much this trip would expand my horizons and connect me to the most amazing women on the planet.Photo Nov 18, 4 11 10 PM


Lunches for Learning began during a vacation for now retired Executive Director, Ron Hicks. As he drove his motorcycle across Central America, he came to the border of Honduras and El Salvador on Central American Highway 1. While trying to cross the border a little, “street urchin” as he referred to her, was begging him for coins. He wondered why she wasn’t in school and handed her some coins and she ran off. After he returned to Montgomery, Alabama from his month-long trip, he couldn’t erase the little girls face from his memory. He got back on a plane, flew into Tegucigalpa and drove 3 hours to the border town of Amatillo, Honduras. He found the girl, the school she was supposed to attend and the principal of the school, Roxana Gonzales. Ms. Gonzales came


Coila Gonzales the community matriarch and former Principal

from a long line of educators as her mother, Coila Gonzales was the former Principal. The Gonzales women informed Ron of the desperate situation in Honduras of starvation and that children at the age of 5 had to choose between feeding their stomachs or their minds. From there, Lunches for Learning began, and Ron and Roxana Gonzales built a model in the first Lunches for Learning School in Amatillo.

Food insecurity is an understatement for those living in extreme poverty in Honduras – starvation is the more appropriate term to describe the situation. Lunches for Learning keeps children in school by providing lunch thus erasing the issue of feeding their minds or feeding their tummies. The communities that this program serves in the Valle District rallies around it. Every member plays a role with keeping their children in school by serving in the kitchen and being active in the education process. Families stay intact and kids can become literate, which enables them to have a better job than scouring the landfills or begging for money in the border towns that dot the Valle District.


Kids from the Amatillo School.

While my friends and I remained invested both emotionally and financially in Lunches for Learning, we started to think beyond food. People in the region of Valle, located in the dry corridor, die from starvation or water born diseases.  Kay is sophisticated with navigating complex processes as she had spent the duration of her career in government. I have a knack for fundraising, and with Rotary International’s ability to leverage funds and their international network, we knew it could be accomplished. We just had to find a Rotary Club in Honduras that would be our co-sponsor.

Our first attempt at finding a partner didn’t go so well. We visited a Rotary Club on the outskirts of Valle in Choluteca, Honduras. They were 20 minutes away from the project but wouldn’t work with us because the project was being led by women. They did not work with women. I later found out that this club, along with another were the only two in Honduras that did not have women as members.

We ended up meeting through Lunches for Learning connections of another Rotary Club,


Wendy on the left and Myriam on the right joined by Armando and J.J. all Rotary members.

three hours away in the capital of Honduras, The Villa Real Rotary of Tegucigalpa. A club with women leading up front and invest in both business and community. Our first connections to the females in the club were through Myriam Osorio McCormick and Wendy Ayestas, sisters in law and real-life superheroes. Later they were joined by another female superstar, Sonia Rameriz and the rest of their club.

I am not a details person but thank God Wendy and Kay have that covered. There were some long years put into the initial water project. Multiple government entities and detailed requirements for the application of funding and then, of course, the initial fundraising, which was the easy part (and my responsibility). It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done. And our final product of water to 1900 people was so good that it’s about to be replicated in several communities in the region.

Photo Nov 18, 11 40 12 AM

Myself, Kay Love, Wendy Ayestas, Sonia Rameriz

As we are in the season of giving thanks, I must hand it to these incredible women. They go above and beyond for other women and children. They can literally say they are carrying a region in the poorest country area in the western hemisphere that nobody noticed, even their own government, a decade ago. Thank you, Kay and Lisa, for taking that initial leap of faith and boarding a plane. Thank you to Wendy, Myriam, and Sonia for joining in with us and Rotary International for giving us a greater platform to serve. I must give equal thanks to Roxana Gonzales and Ron Hicks, for being the spark that lit the fire. These women (and Ron) save lives. And thank you to those of you who have followed along in our footsteps to donate their time, treasure and talent to strangers in a desolate and otherwise insignificant place. You’ve made your mark without a drop of makeup on too. But nothing is more beautiful than to give to others.




Taking a trip to Honduras may be out of reach for most, but it’s easy to be invested here as well. We have our annual fundraiser coming up in February in Atlanta. So as we line up to give thanks with our families and have our tables full of food, consider passing it along to some very deserving children. Or better yet, come to join us on the dance floor as we celebrate the success of others.  Ron would say it’s acceptable to be attractive at this event as well.

hearts for honduras logo


Power Hair



Hair – Much to do About something.

While presenting about being presentable at last month’s Women Who Count Conference, I was approached by an impeccably dressed woman with an equally


She looks like this every day.

impressive head of long hair. Her name is Nicole and she is in business development for Polston Tax.  She asked me, “What do you think about long hair?” I spat out some statistics to her 84% of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women have short hair, while being mesmerized by her perfectly coifed long locks. I believe I also mentioned that excessively curly hair or long hair gives the impression of being high maintenance. Protocol says to keep it above shoulder length or tied back. Please mind that I deal in the business of perception, not actuality.

Nicole really had me thinking though, and as I went back through my mental digest of


Natasha flaunts her hair to those without

people I knew with long-hair or big-haired professionals, one woman came to mind, Natasha Cary. Natasha speaks her mind and when she’s not busy telling you how it is, she’s telling someone else how it is. She’s a recovering chef/event planner that is now running a marketing business, FlavorEXP. Natasha has long curly hair, and the bigger it gets, the more confident she becomes. I told her about Nicole when I came back from the conference, and she said, “You know, I used to hate my hair growing up, but now it’s really my brand and I love it.”

She’s right, it really is her brand. So much her brand that while attending a charity event of culinary professionals that Natasha helped organized, the hair took front and center on the stage. Natasha is a part of a global organization of baller culinary women, Les Dames d’Escoffier International. The Atlanta chapter of 130 women hosted an amazing event, An Afternoon in the Country, for 1200 people last Sunday. Natasha, along with the Les Dames International President, the Atlanta Chapter President, and two other women, who all had short and tidy doo’s, took to the stage for a check presentation. As they were lining up, The President blurted over the microphone to 1200 people, “man, we sure got a lot of hair going on up here.” Natasha’s hair took center stage and she was owning it!


“Natasha’s hair eclipses all others”

This event draws a good deal of culinary fans all for the betterment of women in the culinary industry. They provide educational scholarships for women. Because Les Dames is internationally known for throwing the best parties on the planet, it has a regional draw. I ran into some friends from another social circle and they asked who I was there with for the event. I said, “Natasha”, and they looked blankly at me and then I followed while motioning my arms around my head, “you know my friend with the hair”, and then it clicked. They knew who Natasha was immediately by the description of her notorious brand, her hair.




Nicole and Natasha represent the 16% that Fortune magazine long hair category. They own it and it’s part of their identity. As a short and tidy bob woman, I have absolute hair envy, but know that it could never work for me and would not work for most. Unless you are naturally gifted with awesome hair, tie it up or cut it off. And if you see a woman rocking the flowing long locks or curly kinky hair and still calling the shots, give her a high-five and maybe a bourbon on the rocks.


Cheers to Nicole and Natasha!



Style notes: Everything I wore to Afternoon in the Country minus the boots and handbag were under $40 for each piece. Skirt is Zara, Top is Banana Republic, Jacket is two seasons old from H&M, Hat is Nordstrom Rack (best hats in the world there).

Women Who Crush It Wednesday



We usually reserve this titling on our social media outlets to describe one woman, but this week we have a deserving group of power players both inside the office and inside their industry.  The Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) has existed since 1938 and has heavily aided the professional growth of women in the accounting and finance field. Their values of empowerment, integrity, leadership, and passion are naturally embodied by their members.44982864_2242722399083226_1476114387721781248_n

I attended their annual conference this week and was greeted with smiles, easy conversations, and plenty of libations. They make an industry outsider feel welcome. I taught a class on how to appropriately present yourself and the importance of business protocol. I was surprised by the level of engagement and energy in the session. These remarkable women that are paid to have the right answer in numbers were extremely interested in obtaining the soft skills necessary to propel their careers into hypergrowth.

AFWA’s annual conference had a certain buzz about it. A positive, genuine, and social atmosphere where women can share stories freely about where they struggle, how they accelerate, and when to pause.45057820_2244176372271162_7815593177267568640_n

AFWA’s commitment doesn’t stop with their compelling blend of professional growth and technical refreshing seminars, they also give back to other women through scholarships. This year we heard from one of their scholarship recipients that is a non-traditional late bloomer. She went back to school and at the age of 48, passed the CPA, all because the AFWA believed she could. The best part was when she was called to the stage, her Uncle was in the audience beaming with pride and blurted out her childhood nickname. Seemed like she had a fan-base at home too.

Any woman in the accounting and finance arena stands to gain something from the benefits of AFWA. The resounding theme from the membership that I heard from was that they’ve gained so much professional development and personal growth by their association with the organization.

I’d urge all women regardless of career stage, to join an organization of women. As women continue to close the gender gap and accelerate their careers, we see civil rights issues hitting the front page of every paper. It’s a confusing time. One thing that we can all agree on is that women are undeniably popular, thanks to organizations like the AFWA, making the ladies of AFWA our Women Who Crush It Wednesday list!


#PSA, while at the national conference we hit up the Banana Republic Friends and Family Sale happening today through Friday. That’s 50% off for card members and 40% for everyone else. Kristen is a big fan of simple, polished dresses. She’s wearing the Ponte Flutter Sleeve Dress . Keeping with the red theme, I am wearing the Belted Pencil Skirt with the Plaid High Low Curved Hem Top. If you are in the market for a new coat, BR’s last a decade, really. It’s worth the investment. I’m wearing the Italian Melton Wool-Blend Military Coat.



Rent the Runway: Part II


As I noted in my previous RTR post, I am a veteran of the Rent the Runway Unlimited program. It saves me time and money by rotating my work wear throughout the week.  By combining some of my wardrobe staples with the Rent the Runway shipments, I am sure to have a presentation worthy look multiple days a week.

Not every office can support the occasional pop of color in the wardrobe but ours certainly does. And while this TANYA TAYLOR COLORBLOCK SAMRA SKIRT does have a sense of flair to it, I paired it with a conservative top in a Banana Republic High Low Curved Hem top and the classic white “Prefect Shirt”  button down from Ann Taylor.



Below is the Adelyn Rae Black Windowpane Dress from the Unlimited service tied together with a classic cut blazer from Ann Taylor Loft Herringbone Modern Blazer. What drew me to this particular blazer was the darkened elbow patches, which give this look a little something extra.


Pictured last but certainly not least, is what I believe Rent the Runway does best – the work dress.  These two dresses don’t require any complimentary wardrobe pieces. First is the DONNA MORGAN NAVY SQUARE DRESS which has figure forgiving features and is office ready.


Second is the LK Bennett Blue Dress which is perfect for those who aren’t afraid to wear a little pattern. When done correctly, adding texture through pattern can add a level of sophistication to a look while also camouflaging areas we may no be so crazy about.


To purchase the pieces from this post would cost a retail price tag of over $1600. Rent the Runway in this case is a bargain not to be missed.