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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

Every once in a while, you meet a really bright spark that you know will become (if they haven’t already) a really big bonfire…the kind everyone wants to warm up by over great conversation and maybe even some beers. I met such a spark on January 26, 2009. Her name is Carla Langhorst and she was the most welcome rush of warmth and energy in an otherwise cold and gray room (I do disdain networking functions…or at least…did back then…now I’ve found a way to make them fun).

She introduced herself as a “self-employed consultant” and at the time, I didn’t realize that this was a big shift for her to introduce herself in that way. Over the past months, I have reveled in her progress, her success and her friendship. She is a woman to watch. Here’s why:

  • She is the wisest 29 year old I’ve ever met.
  • She just earned her MBA.
  • She just launched a book called “Will it Fly: And Idea Tester” which is an important read for anyone with a vision and an uncertainty about its viability (and invited me to speak at the launch party…told you she was cool).
  • She is hilarious.
  • She has a consulting business called Make it Fly that is simply bursting at the seams.
  • This month she launches a new site called: smallbusinesssolver.com which was created for small business owners who may not be able to afford a business consultant’s wages. It was also borne out of her connection with herself and her values. Smart, smart woman. She knew that as successful (and here, I mean bucks) as she will continue to be as a business advisor, that she was likely not going to be satisfied in the long term helping people with the same problems and the same answers. She likes greater variety and wanted a product that could reach everyone…not just those who can pay top dollar. The Small Business Solver is a program that represents tons of research and interviews with small business owners (yours truly included) to tap into what their needs are…and the solutions. Do check it out…even if you don’t sign up, you will learn some aspects about your business that you may not have considered.  She’s very very very generous that way.
  • She has great shoes.
  • She is a world traveler.
  • She is a natural and giving connector and if you ever get the chance to sit down with her and talk about life, love, success and all things glorious, you’ll feel grateful to have her at your table.

I wanted to write about her because you know how I love to talk about people who step into their greatness. I also like to write about people who are tapped into their values. And I wanted to post about her today (September 30, 2009) for two reason:

  1. I believe in helping to build the businesses of those I dig and smallbusinesssolver.com launches this month (October 15th, 2009). Yahoo!!!
  2. On this day last year, she almost died en route to Tibet…elevation sickness. Twelve hours away from a hospital, she went into a coma for 5 hours and when she awoke, the only person who spoke English told her that they didn’t think she’d walk for at least three days…what with her temperature of 106 degree temperature and all. Call me sentimental, but I thought that story bore telling.

Here’s some insight that she shared about herself in an e-terview.

You are someone that I admire…who do you admire and why?

I admire my best friend. She is a rock.  She is one of those people who knows herself, knows what she stands for, and lives up to it every single time.  She believes in being good.  She is rather quiet, but she shines because she is comfortable with herself and is extremely happy because of this. I think that it is probably easier to be happy when you are being true to who you are – and she pulls it off better than anyone.

You are an idea tester. What is the greatest idea that you’ve come across (perhaps one that you wish you had have come up with) and what might you have done differently?

The greatest idea?  It is so tough to judge as it depends on the criteria of a great idea. I generally judge ideas on how they fit the people who want to push them forward. Often an idea doesn’t fit a person’s salary expectations, the number of hours they want to work, or their own strengths.

But to just judge an idea on its own, you have to know what the criteria of best is.  If the criteria is money (which is the traditional view of a “good” idea), I would say that casinos are great. I wanted to own one since I was 10. How would I do it differently?  My casino would go after a different niche – women.  All of the men serving drinks would wear revealing clothing, and the night entertainment would be significantly different. Instead of free cigars, maybe free manicures.  I haven’t narrowed in on a name, but maybe Cougar’s Palace. If the criteria is giving back, a neat concept, cool technology, or promoting sustainability, the best idea would be completely different.  I think that to figure out what is the “best idea”, people need to start with what is important to them. (ed note: DING DING DING!!!!!)

Was there a moment in your life that you can say “turned it around” for you (life, business or otherwise?)

No. There are many. I think that life is full of paradigm shifts.  The key is that each one should bring you to a new (and better) viewpoint.  Not to say that you can’t take a step back every once and again.  I took a step back last week. But the key is to keep striving for the next viewpoint and turning bad times into learning points.  Everyone has good and bad moments, that’s the charming part of life.

One paradigm shift that sticks out in my mind was when I first met you.  Everyone at the networking event didn’t seem that interested in speaking to an unemployed graduate student.  I kept having playbacks in my mind of headhunters telling me how many companies were on hiring freezes and the job offers I was getting were 50% below the offers given before the economic downturn.  And the shift hit me.  I had been in sales, I believed in the product which was me, why not sell that and become self-employed? That’s the exact moment you walked up to me and introduced yourself.  I responded, “I’m Carla, and I’m a self-employed consultant”.

What is the one word that guides all that you do?

“Fun” was my first reaction.  I basically live each moment, and fully enjoy each moment.  I figure I only live once – and if that is the case, I should have no regrets.  But you really can’t have fun, or at least appreciate it, without the other – connection with other people.  And I think the strongest connector is giving to others and caring about others. So I try to make sure that that is central in things I do.

What are you always giving away and what does that give you?

Anything I can really.  I make it a priority to do one good turn a day.  This can be as simple as smiling at a stranger, telling a woman on the street that she has excellent shoes, or something more involved such as pushing someone to a homeless shelter in a wheelchair for 2kms. I find that I give 30% of my time away to people.  In the end, most of my clients are a result of having done a good turn somewhere else in my life.  I think the important thing is not expecting that or taking it for granted.

Beyond the launch of smallbusinesssolver.com this month, what’s next for Carla Langhorst?

I wonder that myself. I do have a dream to write a second book during a 3 month backpack tour of South America.  But that is 2 1/2 years out from now.  Right now I want to focus on smallbusinesssolver.com.  I want people to know about it as I think that it is going to help a lot of people out there, but I also want to make it better. I know that there is a ton of potential for this tool, and I want to get it there. Imagine if the percentage of small businesses that fail was reduced to 25% – how much more creative and competitive would Canada be?  How much better would the world be if a country with so much potential could flex its creativity muscles?  I think that I’m going to keep coming up with ways to do that.  Why not have a dream?

On her first day of MBA classes, the professor said: “Live like you’ll die tomorrow and learn like you’ll live forever”. Carla was listening…and so should we.

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Years ago, while on maternity leave, I read in a parenting journal about the mompreneur phenom, Jennifer Torres, Founder of Salsa Babies.

Jennifer and her inspirations

Jennifer and her inspirations

Back then, I was a budding entrepreneur myself (cf: my fleeting attempt at product development). I recall reading that this powerhouse of a woman started her company with the purpose of staying home with her kids after her maternity benefits had ended and that her intention was to generate the same revenue that she was receiving from EI. No more, but certainly, no less.

I too, wanted to stay home with my daughter and also develop a business. When I read those simple parameters, it seemed viable and …inspirationally… attainable. I felt moved to set the same goal for myself.

Our paths have crossed a couple of times over the past year, and I’ve always wanted to hear more about her. Yesterday, we shared an hour of great conversation about business, balance, goals, dreams, and why folding underwear is a time suck. She is every bit as vibrant, dynamic, energetic and warm as you’ve imagined. And she has it together.

I was hooked the moment she uttered her opening remark:

I’ve learned to follow what interests you and what you’ve loved doing throughout your life.

Bingo.

Her story

Jennifer always knew that when kids came along, she’d want to stay at home with them. So, when she was pregnant, she took ESL certification in the hopes of finding a job flexible enough to be home with the babes. Nothing came up. While on mat leave, she asked her employers if she could work part-time when she came back…and they said no. She was miserable and felt pretty desperate at the notion of leaving her babies in childcare to go back to job that wasn’t overly fulfilling. It just didn’t seem right. (And as I’ve often written…if it doesn’t feel right for you, it probably isn’t right for you. But I didactically digress.)

One fine day a friend handed her a tissue and pointed out that she could maybe integrate her well-known love for salsa dancing into a business. Jennifer was resistant at first…after all…salsa’s about heels and less about babies. Or was it?

The Birth of Salsa Babies

The idea percolated in her head for a while…and when she found herself dancing around her house to soothe her colicky baby in the carrier, the idea really started to heat up in the most picante way. What happened to turn the idea around from a ho-hum one to being her life’s passion? In a word: RESONANCE.

Before long, her network of support rallied around her and helped her get her idea off the ground. A logo was created; a plan developed; flyers distributed; a web site launched; and, since then, thousands of new moms have shimmied their way to slimmer waists and happy babies. Thanks to Jennifer’s vision.

In some ways, Jennifer’s story is a study of what is possible is you simply believe in yourself. Is there any way she could have known that 8 years after the ESL thing didn’t pan out that she’d be co-writing children’s CDs, writing books and having appeared on TV more times than she can count? As she pointed out in our discussion:

My goal was not to be a million dollar industry…but now as I look back, I could have thought bigger. I just didn’t want to be too cocky.

Familiar, huh?

S-U-C-C-E-S-S

What excites me is the fact that she THOUGHT she was thinking small, but in fact, was setting herself up for success. A business idea aligned with her values, interests, strengths and abilities? A network of support and boundless energy and acumen? That to me is a fool-proof recipe for success.

Is she successful?

Well that depends on your definition, of course, but beyond the professional accomplishments noted above, Jennifer points to two things that she’s most proud of:

  1. The fact that she has built a business that enables (at last count) 30 licensees to be doing what they love (teaching salsa) while being with their kids. This wasn’t a goal per se, but what an amazing by-product!
  2. Her girls are looking up to her in a new way. Jennifer points out that in her lottery win dreams she always saw herself at home with them and acknowledges that this may well be the right path for many…but now sees how flat that could have been for HER. Her girls see her on TV and know that she’s doing what she loves and is happy. By example, her girls are learning the value of developing something for yourself:

My 8-year old daughter started a book club and was so organized about it all. She wrote up a proposal, did up a flyer, planned the space, talked to the principal and handled all of these other details. My husband looked at me during the flurry of activity and said: ‘that’s you!’

Like all success stories, there have been some bumps in the road. She has been targeted for her great ideas and has had them ripped off (in one case, a copy cat took words verbatim from her web site). And there’s no question…like most business-parents, Jennifer knows too well the constant struggle of maintaining that elusive “balance”. “How much TV is too much for the kids? What am I missing if I don’t spend the day with the kids? What could I have gotten done if I had worked today?”

At her annual licensees’ meeting, she delivers a segment about finding balance in being a business owner. Some good rules of thumb?


What’s next for Jennifer and Salsa Babies?

She has some pretty exciting plans for the company….market expansion, program development and some new offerings and packages. You’ll just need to stay tuned. Trust me…you’ll be hearing lots more from this beautiful woman who just bubbles exuberance and energy.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend the launch of SoloMag, the brainchild of Jacqueline Parker. More on that cool woman in a later blog posting.

I am drawn to people who glow. Call it the law of attraction, call it what you will. As such, I was drawn to Monica Graves. (more…)

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The word “kindness” has been coming up a lot lately…in reference to me. Apparently, my circle of influence thinks I’ve been beating myself up as it pertains to my business of late. I, of course, think there’s nothing wrong with being an overachiever when it comes to my own stuff. Being Type “A” is a good thing….isn’t it? (more…)

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