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Empowering, rebuilding: A mother and daughter have made careers out of their commitment to service

Shaia Bernard, Elisha Bushman. Photos supplied.

This piece first appeared in Blueprint365 Magazine. To request your free copy, click here.

Shaia Bernard has been coaching in one way or another for going on 20 years. Most of that time, she worked as a financial planning consultant and coach, helping people make the most of their money – not only to build wealth, but to live well.

“I really kind of dive into talking to people about their relationship with money. How do they think about money? Some people think, ‘I just work to pay my bills. As long as I get enough money to pay my bills, I’m okay.’ But then they have other dreams and aspirations and so I really like to dive into what those dreams and aspirations are,” Bernard says. “We want you to be able to take care of your life, take care of your family, have things set in place, but we also want you to enjoy your life now. So while we’re building your future, we want you to enjoy life. What you’re doing right now is not all about just saving, saving, saving and investing for the future. It’s about living the best quality of life you can live.”

All that said, financial planning wasn’t quite checking all the boxes for Bernard and what she wanted in her career.

“(Financial planning) was along the lines of what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do,” she says. It wasn’t much of a leap to realign from pure financial planning to personal empowerment, which she did when she launched her personal and business coaching company, BEmpowered.

“I was talking to a lot of individuals, and I wanted to work with small business owners,” Bernard said. “I really wanted to help them to get a better handle on how to grow their business, without lacking in their personal lives. A lot of business small business owners do that. There’s a desire to do something different, that desire to start their own business, to not be on somebody else’s clock. But the thought is, ‘I’m going to take all my money and I’m going to invest it into my business,’ and then they find themselves lacking in their personal lives or at home or sacrificing a lot of things. I wanted to help change that.”

In addition to business owners, her clientele also includes corporate executives. At the moment, her clients are all women, though that’s not necessarily by design. 

“We’re also going to deal with … mindset, how we approach things, how we deal with things, how we look at things,” she says. “Your perspective is everything. That’s your reality. We want to really talk about your perspectives and how we see things and how we can shift that so we don’t hinder ourselves from moving forward and being successful.”

Elisha Bushman was never good at self-care.

“I wasn’t a pro at it. I wasn’t super good,” she says with a laugh. “Especially fresh out of school and like I was hearing constantly like what is self care and … what does it look like? I would learn about it but then I wouldn’t know how to apply it.”

That’s part of why she didn’t last too long at her first couple jobs after earning a degree in social work from Northeastern Illinois University. While still in school she worked at a domestic violence shelter and after graduating became a case manager at a homeless shelter, helping to ensure people remain successful after being placed in permanent housing. She poured herself into the work, and it took a toll, even though it was less than a year.

“I look back at it and it seemed a lot longer than it was, because the days were very long,” she says.

Now back in Northeastern Wisconsin, she’s settled into a much less stressful role where she can still make a real difference – she’s the first-ever community outreach manager at Rebuilding Together Fox Valley, the local chapter of a national nonprofit that helps people with disabilities and mobility challenges modify their homes to accommodate their unique needs.

“If you’re a homeowner, we can go in and install grab bars, handrails, toilet seat risers, shower chairs, completely free,” she says. The organization does these renovations with mostly volunteer labor in Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago Counties, with an eye toward expanding into Fond du Lac County as well.

Bushman’s role is to engage the community for purposes like fundraising, volunteer recruitment and connection with those in need.

Bushman says her job involves a lot of “meeting with individuals one on one, meeting with organizations, getting invited to do presentations with different nonprofits in the area, medical facilities, faith based communities. I’m constantly meeting with new people all the time. My list of contacts has just expanded so much because it’s about who you know, not what you know.”

The national organization has stated a goal of performing one million home renovations by 2030, and Bushman has been named to Team Hedgehog – the strategic planning committee focused on making sure that goal becomes reality. 

As if they’re not busy enough, the mother and daughter also work together on media production – again with an eye toward service.

Bernard has launched 3PM Productions to produce inspirational and informational video content.

“We really try to produce content that is uplifting, encouraging and positive,” Bernard says.

One of their signature products is a daily social media video show called “Perspectives,” in which Bushman joins others in offering uplifting, faith-based messages.

“Every day we’re posting something encouraging for our viewers and for the people who need it,” Bushman says. 

3PM Productions, named for the time of day tradition holds that Jesus died, is also working on a campaign of short films and commercial spots highlighting the importance of mental health, especially among Black communities.

The company also plans to move into live music and theater events, and even has a musical in the works.

So far, they’re not too concerned about doing big numbers – quite the opposite, in fact.

“It’s not so much about how many people we reach, it’s about an individual,” Bushman says. “If one person hears this message and is able to feel the love of the Lord that day, that’s really where it hits home.”