Meet Trailblazer Carrie Lightfoot
Published by Voyage Pheonix Oct 25, 2018
Today we’d like to introduce you to Carrie Lightfoot.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Carrie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I came to my life with firearms late in my 40’s. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City and guns were just not part of my world. It’s rather funny to me now, but I didn’t even allow toy guns in our house when my children were young. I wasn’t anti-gun, I was just afraid of them in my ignorance.
Following my divorce, I found myself deep into a relationship that turned abusive and violent. After escaping the throes of abuse, I felt vulnerable and determined to never be a victim ever again. My youngest of four children were preparing to head off to college and I had just started a new position with a non-profit that worked with the homeless and those struggling in poverty which was in a very tough part of town. The combination of these things set me on the path to take responsibility for my personal protection.
Although I had friends that took me shooting and introduced me to the safe handling of a firearm, there were no supports or resources that answered the questions I had as a woman seeking to own a gun for self-protection. What I found in the male-dominated firearms world was either over-sexualized or condescending and spoke to me like a child. I knew there was a need for resources that spoke respectfully to women. One that could help women to navigate the world of firearms in an intelligent and comprehensive manner and to help guide them through the very important decision of owning a gun. There was a void of holsters and products that fit the needs of women gun owners.
I started The Well Armed Woman, LLC in January of 2012 to fill this void. The response was instant and overwhelming. Women all of the country were thrilled to find not only the information, resources, and the holsters products they were hungry for but a community of like-minded women that understood their questions and needs. The Well Armed Woman is now the largest and most trusted resource for women shooters and a vital contributor to the firearms industry.
It became clear early on that women, in general, felt intimidated going to the shooting range to shoot by themselves. The idea for The Well Armed Woman Shooting Chapters was born from this common hurdle many women had to their training and practice. This non-profit organization launched in January of 2013 and provides local groups of women, led by female firearms instructors that meet monthly to learn and train in the safe and effective use of a firearm for their self-protection. There are now 400 chapters across the country providing the much needed comfortable and welcoming environment for women to grow as shooters.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The firearms industry was really ready for a resource such as The Well Armed Woman. There was such a void that it just wasn’t equipped to fill. They didn’t fully understand the unique differences and specific needs of women, so the time was “just right.” The industry has truly embraced our work with great enthusiasm. Women gun owners and those seeking information to make their personal decisions were also ready, so it has been a rather smooth road entering the testosterone-rich world of firearms.
The struggles have primarily been in handling the growth we have experienced. I started The Well Armed Woman in a small two bedroom apartment in Scottsdale and $10,000 on my credit card. The holsters, product and shipping materials literally overwhelmed the apartment and took over every inch of space! I moved two times but couldn’t keep up. The explosive growth of the chapter’s program at the same time was both exciting and exhausting.
I have two words of advice to women starting their journey, first, don’t let anything distract or discourage you. Laser focus and commitment to your “core purpose and goals” is a must. Screen or filter anything that happens or comes along through this crystal clear vision. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, it must be considered a distraction and ignored. These “distractions” eat up your time and energy and take you off course and create opportunities for competitors. Protect your purpose fiercely.
Secondly, I have learned that nothing happens without amazing people to make it happen with! You can’t get to where you are going alone or with those that aren’t the right fit. (They can be one of the distractions mentioned above.) Take the time to find the right people, don’t settle for second best! We have the most remarkable women and people on our team. It is the staff and our remarkable volunteer chapter leaders across the country who are the reason lives are changing and The Well Armed Woman has the influence it does.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Well Armed Woman and The Well Armed Woman Shooting Chapters Non-Profit – what should we know?
I wear numerous hats in my role as owner and founder of The Well Armed Woman, product designer, marketing director, author, strategic planning, but one that I am most proud of is as a voice and advocate for women gun owners. There are so many misperceptions of who the American gun owner is and for women, these often become even more skewed from reality.
Women are the favored target of violent crime and a firearm in the hands of a responsible and trained woman IS the great equalizer to counter the disparity of size and force of larger and perhaps multiple attackers. To advocate for the millions of everyday women who have chosen to be their own self-protector is a great honor. Society needs to understand that women are more than capable of effectively and safely using a firearm in their self-defense. It’s important to me to work to dispell the myth’s that surround gun ownership, particularly for women. This Spring, I was elected to the National Rifle Association (NRA) Board of Directors with the second highest number of votes, demonstrating the desire of women to be represented and involved in firearm safety and our Second Amendment rights. I am very excited to bring the voice of women gun owners into the NRA Boardroom.
Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
Entering the completely male-dominated firearms industry as a woman, I have to confess was quite intimidating. Not only was I, not the gender the industry has revolved around since it’s inception, but I was also a gun newbie!
I believe there are a few key things necessary to network and grow to reach your goals. First, be bold! If you believe in yourself and your mission and “know” you will get there, fake it until you make it! What I mean by that is “be who you know you will be” as you reach out and connect with your industry peers. Secondly, surround yourself with cheerleaders and people that have the ability to see your vision and to see you bring it to fruition.
Having personal cheerleaders will nourish you with the confidence you lack when challenges come. Lastly, I am a firm believer that business and success is built on relationships, real relationships. With my industry partners and vendors, it is more than simply transactional, our affiliation is relational. Life and business is more fun and rewarding that way. Finding people who inspire you with their character and their experiences is a must. Sandy Froman, also from AZ is the former President of the NRA. Before I had ever met her, she inspired me as a woman of strength and integrity. She mentored me before I ever had the chance to meet her! I have since been blessed with a wonderful friendship with her.