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Enlightened Leadership Blog | Get to Know Cortney Donelson: How Wordle, Chai Lattes, Faith & Family Shape My Entrepreneurial Spirit | February 2024

Trust is born through relationship. It’s time we get to know each other a little better. This month, we’re taking a deeper dive into “Who is Cortney Donelson.” Next month, you’ll learn more about Jennifer Musser. We hope after these posts, we hear from you. We’d love to get to know you better too.

Jennifer: What is your vision for your business and the role you play in it?

Cortney: Like most entrepreneurs, I started with my “why.” (Thank you, Simon Sinek.) I knew I wanted to give voice to stories that would change the world. The world could be literal or it could be the author’s internal world or anything in between. I wanted to give voice to stories that matter. 

My title is founder/owner of vocem LLC. I didn’t want to be a president or CEO. It felt strange when I only employed a few contractors at the time of my business’s opening. I’m a word nerd. To me, founder/owner speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit of starting a writing services business. I thought of adding “principal writer” to my title because I envisioned growing my business and hiring many writers and editors under me. That vision has changed. I’m more than content with my one-woman business. It’s not that I don’t have the goal to grow or to be more significant. My business has grown each of the five years I’ve been open. I just know myself well enough to know I’ve never been mentored to lead people well in a professional setting—not like my husband, who is a stellar people leader. I’m too much of a perfectionist, too focused on tasks, processes, and other intangible things, and my lofty expectations need only be directed at myself! I am all in for my clients.

Jennifer: What does a typical day look like for you?

Cortney: The first thing I do is play Wordle, from the coziness of my bed. I’m a word person, and it’s an addiction. My dad plays every day, too, so we have a bit of a competition. Neither of us has gotten the word on the first try yet. The second thing I do is make a cup of tea and read my Bible and/or listen to a Bible study. My favorite teacher is Paige Brown. Then, I reply to emails and order my day for editing and writing. I take a mid-day break to go for a walk. And somewhere in there, I splurge and watch a thirty-minute TV show, usually on the Food Network, while I eat lunch. Once my family is home, I stow my entrepreneurial hat on the shelf and pull out my chef’s hat to make dinner. On some nights when inspiration wins out, my husband and I exercise together.

Jennifer: Is your daily life what you expected when you founded vocem LLC? What panned out, and what is different from your expectations?

Cortney: Working for myself as a writer and editor has met every expectation I ever harbored about this gig. As a kid, I envisioned the perfect career would be as a writer—staying home or visiting the local coffee shop, drinking tea, writing, and editing. I am living out my dream job as I give voice to stories that matter. I’m one lucky person.

Jennifer: What inspires you?

Cortney: Quite a few things inspire me: my faith, the sound of ocean waves. People helping others. A beautiful sunrise or sunset. A powerful song. Travel. A great book. A warm brownie straight out of the oven. Driving from Kansas into Colorado and seeing the land transform from flat to rugged mountain. And my husband. 

Jennifer: What is your favorite genre of books to read?

Cortney: Thrillers and mysteries. All day long. My favorite authors are David Baldacci and Chad Boudreaux. 

Jennifer: Do you have a mentor? What have they taught you?

Cortney: I don’t have a mentor, but so many people have mentored me over the years—whether they meant to or not. I learned a lot by moving between several careers (physical therapy, non-profit HR work, global missions, and more) and watching what worked and what didn’t as the various places succeeded or failed helped shape how I run my business now.

Jennifer: If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

Cortney: This is a difficult question to answer. After a breeze of a childhood, I’ve not had an easy adult life, but it’s what’s made me who I am. I believe our most challenging seasons are the most needed seasons so we can grow into the people we were created to be. To change anything would be to change me, and I kinda like me. It took me a while to get to that place. Usually, people focus on the negatives about themselves. I’ve worked hard to get where I am and be the person I am today, so I wouldn’t want to change anything. 

Jennifer: What’s your favorite thing to do on weekends?

Cortney: Sleep in, drink a chai latte, go for a long hike or walk, watch a movie, window shop for big-ticket items like furniture (but rarely buy them), dream about retirement, and eat great food. 

Jennifer: Do you have any secret talents or interesting/unique hobbies?

Cortney: Like my grandfather before me, I can wiggle my ears. It’s a stupid party trick that makes people laugh. And I love to laugh. If I could choose a fifth career (and I just might), I’d design homes. Sometimes, I grab a piece of printer paper and just draw. I even designed much of our current home, employing an architect for the final touches. I don’t think it’s unique or especially interesting, but I enjoy paddle boarding too. 

Jennifer: What is something you’re proud of?

Cortney: I’m proud of how far my business has come. It’s taken a lot of prayer and a lot of grit. I still pinch myself to make sure I really am working as a professional writer and editor. 

Jennifer: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Cortney: Five years . . . my youngest will have just graduated from high school. She has special needs, so she will be living with us, and we’ll have guardianship for a while. So, unless self-driving cars are a much more common thing five years from now, I see myself as a chauffeur and still writing and editing, but perhaps on a more part-time basis. I don’t think I’ll ever give up writing completely. Maybe I’ll be designing houses for others too. However, that might be a ten-year goal.

Jennifer: What do you want people to remember about you?

Cortney: Our family has a few core values that we base every decision on. They are respect, health/safety, being God-centered, and having fun. I’ll add integrity and grit to that list if we’re talking about my personal core values. If I’m remembered for my love for God and others, my faith through hardship, unparalleled integrity, and laughing a whole lot, I think I’ll have won at this thing called life. 

Jennifer: How can readers contact you?

Cortney: I’d love to hear from our readers! If you have a book idea but you’re not sure how to get started, contact me through my website, yourvocem.com, for more information. You can also find me on LinkedIn Cortney Donelson. Thank you!

*Image by Judit Peter via Pexels.com.