Women's History Month: Women's Empowerment Champion
I intentionally choose to work with a diverse mix of business owners across the metro Detroit region. Professionally, it’s to improve my problem-solving skills to better serve my clients, but personally, it’s because each client has such a unique story to tell. Many of my clients are women and many experience challenges most male business owners never have to encounter let alone solve in order to move forward. Yet these women overcome these obstacles on a daily basis in order to build their businesses, grow as people, and achieve their dreams. For Women’s History Month, I’m uplifting the many ladies I have the honor to support on their entrepreneurial journey.
Laura Khalil - Force of Badassery
When did you have your first business idea? What helped you decide to launch?
My work as a women’s empowerment coach and public speaker evolved quite naturally as a result of my previous business. In 2013 I opened the doors of my technology marketing consultancy. I had started that business out of necessity - I was living in San Francisco and working in tech and I seemed to hit up against the same problems in each company I worked for. I was direct, driven and confident, which most women know gives you the label of BITCH. I would be written up for not smiling enough and softening my language when I spoke to men (who were using the same language as me). And eventually I would be shown the door. This happened several times, until the last time - in May of 2013, when I vowed to never again work for someone who could not appreciate me for who I was.
I started my own consultancy and quickly realized that all of the traits I had been penalized for as a full time employee became my greatest assets as an entrepreneur. Being direct, driven and confident immediately helped me build rapport and trust with prospective clients. I gained my first Fortune 500 clients six weeks after opening my doors, six weeks later I won a Fortune 100 client, and then the ball was rolling!
After running a multi-six figure consulting business for a couple years, people started to approach me to speak at their events and “pick my brain”. I realized that my next act would be to help empower the next generation of women to learn how to define their vision to go after their dreams, learn to advocate and speak up for themselves and lead lives in service to their communities.
I’ve made the transition to speaking and coaching and have had the pleasure of speaking to audiences at Consumers Energy, Intermitten, Creative Mornings, Bamboo Detroit and many more on how to lead courageous lives.
What do you really love about your business?
I am a natural teacher and party planner. After years of research and study, I’ve cultivated a philosophy for living well that I share to help my students be total badasses and get whatever it is they want. I love crafting courses, workshops and experiences for my students to learn from - it's definitely the funnest part of my job!
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about my business is hearing from former clients who reach out a year or more later and thank me for helping them “change their lives”. I am deeply humbled and inspired by their words and honor them for doing the work to turn their lives in a positive direction.
What don't you like doing within your business?
I don't love accounting! It's the worst! I outsource all that to people who enjoy it and are much more capable.
What can you improve on with your business?
Where to even begin! I think the biggest thing I can improve upon is not trying to boil the ocean and do everything.
What's one of the biggest lessons you've learned since starting your business?
Your friends aren't your clients. I love my work, but thinking you can rely on friends to spread the word, come to your events or take you up on your services is a recipe for disappointment.
How does being a woman impact your business?
I would say to any woman business owner that you're going to find unique challenges on your path. Expect them. But don't be defined by them and don't let them stop you. The most successful women I know are well aware of the systematic issues that can hold us back, but they continue forward anyhow.
There is no one stopping you on your path but yourself.
How do you balance your personal and professional life? Your mental/emotional well-being?
There are two things that I've begun doing that have calmed a lot of my anxiety about running a business. The first is I do a nightly gratitude. I reflect on my day and all the things that happened and I say thank you for all the experiences. Even the lousy ones. We need BOTH support and challenge to grow, so I know that the challenges I'm facing are the one's meant to help me grow!
The second thing I've started instituting is a "no computer after 6pm" rule. Whatever needs to get done can wait another day. That gives me the opportunity to read, watch a TV show, hang out with my girlfriends or just enjoy some alone time. My girlfriends provide a lot of emotional support to me, and I hope I do the same for them. I know a lot of women entrepreneurs, so we lean on one another when we have problems or challenges and that's huge for my emotional well-being.
What's one (or two) myths about entrepreneurship most people think is true?
MYTH 1: You can't charge what you really deserve or no one will pay for it.
I've been proving this wrong for the last six years and teach my clients how to develop an abundance mindset and attract clients that are thrilled to pay you what you're truly worth.
What's one piece of bad advice you've received about your business? Any super solid advice?
To be honest with you, I can't think of any terrible business advice I've received. That's probably because I do not take advice from people who have not already gotten where I want to go. I think we have to be very careful about who we listen to. I feel qualified to coach clients on career transitions, negotiation and starting a business because I've done it already! I wouldn't take tax advice from my hairdresser and I don't take business advice from family. Stick to people in the know!
The best piece of advice I've received was before I started consulting. It was from a woman who ran a PR company and told me never to charge clients for hourly work. She was spot on!
Whom do you seek advice from for your business? Where do you get your support?
I seek advice from fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. Usually from people who are a couple steps ahead of me! Most empowered women are thrilled to pay it forward and I am in such gratitude for their generosity.
I have a tight knit group of friends who I can always go to for support. We are kind of like the next generation of Golden Girls!
What do you have coming up on the horizon that you're excited about?
I'm working on building out my Verbal Self-Defense workshop into a fully fledged course. This workshop aims to help women learn effective techniques to stop catcalling, mansplaining, steamrolling, minimization and ambiguous sexual innuendo so that women can assert positive boundaries, build healthy working relationships and advance their careers!
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
I see myself doing a lot more public speaking. My belief is that the more women I can help empower, the better. I want to see myself on bigger stages, reaching larger audiences and teaching women a philosophy for living extraordinary lives.
Anything else you want to share?
The last thing I'll say is that we have a choice to see our challenges as in the way or on the way to reaching our fullest potential. We are all going to be challenged, triggered, bothered or angered by the world around us. Instead of complaining about it, use that as your rocket fuel to propel you to ever greater heights. I believe in you.