Local woman uses lessons from Women’s Conference in her everyday job

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

These were the words of life coach Melinda Miller during the Jackson County Chamber Women’s Conference that drew about 200 women on May 19 at Chateau de Pique Winery and Brewery in Seymour.

The conference gave the opportunity for working female professionals, mothers, sisters, friends and so forth to establish their goals and empower different aspects of their lives.

These words from Miller stuck with Seymour resident Tonja Couch and inspired her to not only uplift herself but others as she takes on a new position as a financial advisor at Edward Jones in Seymour.

“That day was about building ourselves up as women regardless of the industry,” Couch said. “But it is equally important to lift up others, as well.”

Couch was born and raised in Jackson County by Steve and Barb Grant. She said she learned a lot about hard work from her mother and father.

“I remember when I was 3 and sitting under my mom’s desk while she taught classes,” she said. “She really was doing it all.”

With the sacrifices her family made, Couch was given the opportunity to attend Xavier University to study theology. During her time in college, she reconnected with her high school sweetheart, Andrew.

After graduating from college, the couple decided to marry and move back to his hometown of Crothersville.

Couch said moving back home originally wasn’t in her plans.

For a while, she would drive an hour and a half back and forth to Marian University to minister to college students, engaging with them and getting them involved in service projects.

Still wanting to make an impact on the lives of others, she decided to work closer to home. Couch continued to follow her passion that led her to a position with Jackson County United Way.

She became an active member within the organization focusing on helping families with financial stability. She became executive director in 2012 and spent time with the organization until 2021.

Couch became heavily involved with helping families that were considered ALICE households. ALICE is a United Way acronym that stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed.

These individuals and families represent a community that is working but are unable to afford basic necessities of housing, food, health care and much more.

Couch found her passion in helping these families reach for financial stability and set them up for success on a countywide scale.

When she was offered a position at Edward Jones performing administrative work, Couch said she was able to see similar work being done through individual experiences.

“I went from seeing the big picture and helping individuals and families on a macro level to seeing where it really begins. It starts with helping one person at a time and one client at a time,” she said.

Couch started thinking of other ways she could help the individuals and families that come in regarding their finances.

It was then she was offered a position as a financial advisor to help others reach their financial goals.

“It’s not just retirement that we focus on. It’s whatever people’s financial goals are,” she said. “There’s a lot of planning that comes with the job. We have a lot to do to make sure someone can retire and not worry about their future.”

Couch spent six months of onboard training, testing and studying to make sure she was qualified for the job. She officially started her financial advisor position in April.

During those six months, Couch said she experienced a lack of confidence at times and struggled to have a work-life balance.

“I can often get tied up in what I have to do or still need to accomplish versus what connections or relationships did I build,” she said.

Couch said the Women’s Conference brought her attention to the challenges that not only she faces but other women face, as well.

“Women often struggle with boundaries, such as maintaining a balance in their personal and professional life, confidence and goal setting,” she said.

Couch said it’s important for someone to know their limitations and learn how to push through those limitations with confidence.

“I can work 50 hours a week, but at the end of the day, I can’t come home with an empty tank,” she said. “My kids need their mom, and this conference showed me what my limitations were and how to overcome that empty tank just a little bit.”

Couch said it’s important for women in professional environments to have the confidence and communication and be OK with asking questions.

“In certain situations, I found my own way of communicating perhaps more assertively sometimes,” she said. “As women, we have to be willing to ask questions and be OK with asking questions when we are struggling with something.”

Couch also learned from the Women’s Conference that women tend to compare themselves to others, especially through social media. This results in unrealistic expectations of how one should look or live.

“Comparing our lives to the highlight reels of social media doesn’t help any of us,” she said. “When we do this, we are only setting ourselves up for failure because it’s not reality.”

With her new position as a financial advisor, Couch plans to use the skills and tools she learned from the Women’s Conference and apply them to helping her clients achieve financial success.

“Sometimes, the people that come in here are facing heartache and need help walking through it,” she said. “It makes it easier to persevere when you have help.”

Throughout her journey, Couch said her parents have been a constant force of support and inspiration as she takes on this new position.

“They are some of the hardest workers I know,” she said.

Couch said she looks forward to helping individuals and families reach their financial goals, encourage others and be a safe space where tears are welcomed.