Just in time for Mother’s Day, we’re giving credit where credit is due.

We spend so much time and energy throughout the year chasing down new theories, groundbreaking techniques and expert advice to push our businesses to new heights. Sometimes, we just have to slow down to remember the voices that first told us “you can do this.” They’re the original Wonder Women. The teachers of the world, braver and wiser than it seems we’ll ever be. They’re mothers.

To those women who first planted the seed, those spectacular jugglers of all responsibilities, we dedicate this to you. Even if you didn’t have this example in your own life, we’re willing to bet it’s the type of leader you aspire to be. So for you, too, we honor that instinct.

With the help of Camp Bow Wow President Christina Russell, head of a $100 million pet care franchise, we’re telling all you moms just exactly what makes you so great.

Watching mom closely

Raised by a single working mother, Russell says her make-no-excuses mom laid the foundation she needed to climb the corporate ladder.

Until she was in second grade, Russell and her sister would return home from school to an empty house until the work day ended. At 5:30, the door would unlock and their mother would walk in, polished in a suit and high heels. At $7,000 a year, her secretary job with the Orlando Transit Authority was hardly glamorous, but she brought it dignity.

“I’m sure she was exhausted,” Russell says, “but she never complained. She’d shift right into mom-mode, making us dinner, cleaning up the small disasters we’d created, helping us with our homework. Then she’d get up the next day and do it all again.”

Although it was such a young age to have been studying her mother’s professional habits, Russell goes back to those memories to feel inspired in her role running a company with more than 130 locations throughout the country. As her mom shifted from one task to the next, assumed one role after another, she was teaching Russell the agility it takes to manage people and responsibilities. Between the three of them, reliability was everything. And as Russell would soon find out, following her mother’s example would propel her career.

Hanging on every word

Russell is a master of building relationships between franchisees, investors and key stakeholders. Before arriving at Camp Bow Wow, she spent 15 years pushing Curves International to the world’s largest franchisor. Communication is an important skill in her repertoire – one she also learned from her mother.

“I think her unwavering faith was the start,” Russell says about the woman who could see her daughter’s incredible potential.

But, Russell says her mom was careful to communicate the realities of what it would take to make her dreams come true. She says she learned personal responsibility from her mom. Her maternal advice was always sure to include, out of love, a dose of practicality.

“Of course you can go to college,” she would recall her mother saying. “You can be anything you want to be. Just work hard so you can get a scholarship.”

Turning the tables

Russell calls herself a late-in-life mom. At 44, she and her husband were happily surprised to find out she was pregnant. Her now two-year-old daughter is teaching Russell more about her gratitude for the influences she had growing up.

“We’ll be in a position to help our daughter in ways that my parents just weren’t. Nonetheless, I want her to grow up with that same sense of personal responsibility that I had.”

Raising a daughter in a vastly different setting than the one in which she was raised, Russell still thinks the same challenges and sacrifices are there. It’s a matter of investing in future generations of women.

“I also want to be there for her just like my mom was for me, and that’s tricky with a career,” Russell says. “It’s a new challenge, but I know I can do it if I’m willing to do the hard work… just like my mom taught me.”

Like what you’re reading? Access HER magazine’s monthly publication in iTunes or Google Play – it’s where we feature powerhouse women you can learn from and share exclusive content you won’t find here.

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