This story is NOT about me- but I DO need to set the stage:
On the day I invited Stephanie Buckley over to hear about her new business (read below), I had invited a neighborhood child over for a play date (it was scheduled days in advance). Also, that morning I got an email from a friend who was visiting town so I invited her and her daughter to join us for dinner (that same night) AND I was trying to finish laundry from vacation so I could re-pack my son Evan for a week long trip to Kansas. So you can imagine how chaotic my house was.
Just as I put the last breakfast dish into the dishwasher, the play date arrives, followed ten minutes later by Stephanie Buckley who blew in like a warm breeze looking put together, relaxed and bearing a fragrant candle as a gracious thank you.
As Stephanie and I started to discuss the details of why she started her company, we were rudely interrupted by the phone ringing (twice), a solicitor at the door, and my kids demanding food, water and then “something to do”.
As the crescendo built around us, the reasons why Stephanie started The Buckley School of Etiquette became so clear! Obviously, my kids could use some instruction on how to “demand” things more politely! Even I was borderline rude to invite a guest into the swirling vortex of activity in my home. Thankfully, Stephanie was unfazed by our poor manners and we got down to business.Stephanie didn’t grow up in a traditional home. She grew up in two vastly different worlds where she split her childhood between the home of her paternal father and stepmother and the home of her grandparents (on her father’s side).
With her father and stepmother, she walked on eggshells realizing that anything could set them into a rage that would result in being beat. Some memories that were most vivid were being hit for eating an orange (that was meant for her stepmom) or not cleaning the dishes properly. But, sometimes all she could attribute her beating to was one of her parents having a bad day. Unfortunately, at that time, child abuse wasn’t headline news, so she never felt comfortable coming forward to report it. Her birth mom (who she had never met to begin with) committed suicide when she was only nine, so there wasn’t another adult who she trusted to confide in at that time.
Her paternal grandparents represented the other end of the spectrum. Her grandfather was part of Hollywood elite in the days of Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. Her grandparents showed her a world completely opposite of that she experienced with her father. They took her on several trips, flying first-class and treating her to meals in the finest restaurants. Stephanie thoroughly enjoyed her earliest lessons on etiquette: learning how to eat, order and interact with some of the “high society” individuals her grandparents called friends.
In addition to her grandparents support, Stephanie found comfort in a couple of families who stepped in when she needed some extra nurturing. One was the Kolman family, who already had 8 kids of their own- but found room in their home and their hearts for Stephanie when she had nowhere else to turn. They showed her what family should be like by offering love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Another family who helped her tremendously was the Martino family- they treated her like another daughter.
Stephanie and I talked at great length about her childhood. I feel it is critical to mention her background because she didn’t let her past experiences keep her from finding the happy life that she leads now. She even found the strength and courage to go back to school at the age of 25, and get her degree in American Literature from UCLA.
When Stephanie met the man she would later marry, Frank Buckley, her life turned a corner. Not only did Frank stand by and support her for 17 years, he encouraged her to go back to school and he taught her that she could do anything she set her mind to. Frank’s parents were a loving and supportive couple and they welcomed Stephanie into their lives. Frank’s parents had a tradition of afternoon tea, which was part of each of their British and Dutch Africaan background. Their observance of this tradition brought back her interest in manners and rituals. Then, her sister-in-law gifted her with Emily Post’s book on Etiquette. She read it from cover to cover in the first couple of days. Ever since then and especially since she had her son Taft, she has been studying and practicing the laws of good etiquette.
The idea of starting up The Buckley School of Etiquette came to her one night when she mulling over the idea of becoming a teacher. She glanced at her Emily Post book sitting on her night table and the concept was formed. It did take her another year to translate her idea into a business. This is where Stephanie and I share a common bond, we both agreed that one can think of a million reasons not to do something- when all you need is one reason why you can or should do it.
Stephanie has spent endless hours putting together a curriculum that is appropriate for children ages 5-16. She makes sure the lessons are engaging and meaningful. I love the idea behind her classes because the children all practice what she is teaching and this helps the lessons really sink in. Furthermore, I can’t tell you how many times I have asked my kids to make eye contact when introduced to one of my friends or answer a question when an adult speaks to them, but they still stare blankly into the distance. When the instruction comes from the outside, the children seem to listen and retain more.
Finally, at the end of our frequently interrupted interview I asked Stephanie what, if anything, was on the agenda now that she has successfully completed her first series of classes. While her immediate plan is to continue to grow her business she has rediscovered some of the business savvy she possessed before having her son. With her new momentum she is developing a safety product for kids. I am really excited because it sounds like something that will be a big hit! I can’t reveal the details, but I will share her next accomplishment when the time is right. Until then, set aside your fears and follow your dreams.
A new series of classes will be starting up on September. Six-week sessions run $195.