This interview is part of a series on Trailblazing Women role models (Entrepreneurs and Leaders) from around the world and first appeared on Global Invest Her. You have to see what you can be.
"Dream and Do Big, with Passion and Purpose. Entrepreneurship requires such relentless perseverance and a belief and faith in your vision."
Claudia Chan is a women's leadership and lifestyle expert dedicated to celebrating today's female role models through her 200+ remarkable women interview series on ClaudiaChan.com, and S.H.E. Summit, the annual global women's leadership and lifestyle event which she founded in June 2012. Immersed in the women's space, Claudia noticed the dire lack of mainstream programming positively portraying women leaders and felt that this directly affected how women and girls recognize their own potential. In 2012, she launched SHE Globl Media Inc., a purposeful women's platform that empowers women to live their most optimal personal and professional lives so they can change the world, through ongoing media and educational initiatives.
Referred to as "the aspirational Facebook for women" by Forbes.com, "SHE Who Must Be Obeyed" by the The Daily Beast, "Intrepid Woman" by The Glass Hammer, "a motivational media woman in charge" by Cosmopolitan Magazine-Claudia has been featured in countless media outlets including the Aol/PBS initiative "Makers: Women Who Make America." She also speaks on leadership, intrapraneurship, entrepreneurship and empowerment at corporations, universities, conferences nationwide.
S.H.E. stands for She Helps Empower and the summit represents this mountain that women are climbing and conquering. It's a global event to give women advice, stories and strategies to help them lead their optimal personal and professional life. We cover everything from career advice, leadership, inspiration, to tech, social good, motherhood, self-care, and managing your money. It's a lot of practical advice for these areas of your life, which are the pillars that hold up the modern women's life. If women are really cultivating, developing, and getting inspired in all these different areas, that's where they can really reach their potential.
"At the same time we're building consciousness and educating women also on global issues that affect women and girls - expanding their action. We want all women on the planet to care about women's empowerment."
Who is your role model as an entrepreneur?
Oprah Winfrey. She's the most extraordinary woman - God's gift to the universe. I heard her in an interview one day and she was asked why have you devoted your life to service and doing good for others and she mentioned a country song that had the lyrics 'God, use me until you use me up'. That has always resonated for me.
I'm rather spiritual myself and I believe that every person on the planet is born with a certain set of skills and experiences because they have a calling in life - a life assignment. For me, I feel it is my life assignment to change the world for women in a very specific way. I have interviewed over 200 women, and this is my purpose. Oprah is so authentic. Her content is really based on what she's been through in her personal life. That's why it's so real - she's been through so many hard things. I hope I can achieve even a fraction of what she has.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Building the SHE Summit. It really is a massive undertaking. I can't even believe what I see when I look at it now. We're really just 3 years old as a company and organization. I always follow the mantra 'Dream and Do Big, with Passion and Purpose'. It's another one of those seeds of inspiration that I got years ago. SHE Summit is all about planting seeds, these little acorns become forests of trees. It just starts with a little seed of an idea.
Three or four years ago, women's empowerment was in a very different place. It has accelerated a lot in the past few years. Just a few years ago I looked at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Conference, TED and SXSW, all these massive conferences and thought, 'Where's the event for women - who make up 50% of our world, control 85% of purchase power, and drive so much? Where's the conference that is accessible and relatable?' When I had the vision, I thought it has to be really, really big. SXSW meets TED. It's TED in that it brings together extraordinary women thought leaders, and like SXSW in that events would take place everywhere, and mix entertainment with empowerment. I really drew from different inspirations, but I just felt this was missing.
What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
Probably the greatest challenge for all women is that women are vulnerable, critical and emotional. It's a feminine trait to be very tough on yourself - that inner self-talk and the voice inside your head. We tend to focus on all the things that we didn't get done in a day, versus all the things we did achieve in a day. It's a nasty habit and I have spoken to so many women so I know that this is a fact.
Entrepreneurship requires such relentless perseverance and a belief and faith in your vision. It requires constantly picking yourself back up when things don't work out. It's 10 no's to every yes. You really do need to have thick skin, faith, a positive attitude and really manage your mind.
"I think the greatest obstacle for me and probably for many women entrepreneurs is to be kind to yourself while you're persevering towards achieving your dream. The more kind and loving you are to yourself in the process, the better."
What do you think is key to your company's success?
My tribe of supporters and friends. It's critical to build your tribe. There is no way that we as human beings can self-sustain our responsibility and take on what we do without support of amazing, trusted friends and family. For me it has been my husband, some key people on my team who are more like family, not even team members. I have a life coach who has been critical. My support network. People that you really feel comfortable being honest with, because it's so hard to ask for help and so hard to show vulnerability, especially when we are all out there saying 'we're leaders, we're driving this change!' Of course we have our moments of insecurity and fear, so your tribe needs to be made up of people with whom you can really show your authentic self.
If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?
I wish I had found my purpose earlier in life. Sometimes I feel like I have so far to go, but I really didn't start building my core values system and really get a sense of who I was, and what I was meant to do until my early-mid 30s. At the same time, I know it was perfect timing, because I had spent 9 years building my previous company. I thought I was going to sell it and that it would be my end all and be all, and it didn't turn out that way. I ended up leaving the company.
I gave up a lot to pursue this new dream, but it's all been part of the process. If I hadn't gone through that difficult transition, I would not have discovered my true calling.
What would you say to others to encourage them to become entrepreneurs?
To me, entrepreneurialism means, seeing something that is missing, seeing a pain in the market, a gap that needs to be filled, identifying the invisible and trying to fill it, and making it visible. I don't think its necessarily even just entrepreneurship, but intrapreneurship as well - you can be an entrepreneur within your organization.
"If you don't see enough diversity, do something about it. If you think an area needs innovation, find ways to speak up. You want to get your work out there? You've got to advertise it, it's not going to speak for itself."
I think entrepreneurialism requires taking risk, getting out of your comfort zone. It's having a creative idea on how to do something that isn't being done. I would encourage everyone to take on that entrepreneurial instinct and those traits. The other thing I would encourage every entrepreneur to do, is to be a social entrepreneur. Ultimately if we're going to create any sort of enterprise or business, it's got to do good. We can't as a world rely only on governments, we need to rely on entrepreneurs and civil society. Entrepreneurialism needs to be the new activism.
How would you describe your leadership style?
- Communicating & focusing on the vision: I believe that my job as a leader is to set a really clear vision as to where we are going and the space we are filling. I see myself as an activist. I constantly communicate, what our organization does, our goal, and why this is relevant.
- Building the culture in a way we are all collectively achieve together: I interviewed Jane Wurwand the Founder of Demitologica Skincare years ago, and she is one of my role models as well. She said to me, 'Hire the dream believer, not the resume,' so if someone comes to you and really believes in your passion, that's the best thing there is.
- Empowering the team: Inspiring and supporting my team to realize their individual purpose and achieving that collective mission. We're young and have very limited resources, so often I will customize a role to that person's skill, depending on who's on the team.
- Transparent: Often I worry about things, so I share them with my team and bounce ideas off of each other. My style is definitely warm, empathetic. Inclusiveness, compassion, vulnerability - all these are feminine values that are really the new form of leadership. What advice would you give to your younger self?
"The advice I'd give my younger self would be really save and get a financial mentor. In my 20s I made a lot of money, and I didn't save and manage it properly. There weren't a lot of resources out there."
Women's financial literacy is a major problem - it's an area that women don't talk about. Things are changing a little bit, Power Shift just had a huge conference around women and economic prosperity, and there are platforms like DailyWorth and LearnVest - all spoke at SHE Summit. We really need to disrupt how women are learning about earning, saving, making money, because financial wealth is health, just like self-care (taking care of your diet and exercise to build the foundation for a successful life). Learning how to manage your money at a young age is critical as well.
What do you want to achieve in the next 5 years?
- Expand SHE Summit: I really hope millions of women around the women tuned into SHE Summit. I really feel that the empowerment and education that takes place during these two days, that content should be available to all women across the world.
- Get more men involved, participating in this conversation: I also want to see men make up 30% -50% of that audience. We have a panel called 'He for She: The Next Frontier' and that's really where the next major conversation is. It's about expanding our reach and spreading our content, because content creates consciousness and consciousness is what creates action.
- Launch an education platform - SHE University: I want to see my company SHE Global Media, the parent company that creates these conferences and ClaudiaChan.com, launch an education platform. SHE University is something that we've been ideating internally. An education video platform that women everywhere can access, with development tools across all these different topics.
- Scale our business so we can do more good: We have another panel called 'Women Business Owners: from Start to Scale'. Its so easy in many ways to start something, the hard part is to sustain it, to get profitable and to scale. In the next 5 years I want to see us scaling revenue because the more resources we have, the more impact we can drive.
3 key words to describe yourself:
"Be kind to yourself and love yourself. It's been a revelation to me. We take on so much and it's hard for us to ask for help, we're tough on ourselves, and we're doing more than ever. I did a TedX talk called the #SHE Revolution, about the internal revolution happening in the minds of women. If you don't have self-love and that inner voice isn't kind, then you can't lean in and thrive.
Our thoughts control our emotions, our emotions control our behavior, our confidence, what we believe our potential is. To manage our money well, to run successful businesses, all of that requires this positive inner work and conversation. Be really kind to yourself, every time you catch yourself being critical, just say 'I love myself'!"
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