Keeping Small Businesses Competitive through Sharing Best Practices of Global Leaders

 Leah Oviedo’s BIO

Leah Oviedo is a certified self defense instructor, writer, and artist. Her work can be seen on http://www.ImpowerYou.org. In 2011, she published a resource and empowerment book for tweens and teens, “More Than Just a Girl”. This was met with such positive reviews and feedback that a year later she published a second book for older teens and college age women, “Fierce: A New Generation of Female Empowerment”. Her most recent book is for women and girls of ALL ages, “You Can Fight Back: Emotional and Physical Self Defense”.

http://impoweryou.org/ 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. Please share with us what prompted the creation of Impower You?

Leah: After working and volunteering with victims of violence and neglect in domestic abuse, sexual assault and the foster system, plus my own experiences of being a victim of violence, I decided to work in prevention. Easy access to information and individual empowerment are two important aspects that seem to be missing from the majority of lives. If I could inspire and teach people to be survivors instead of victims then I would feel accomplished. It was also a chance for me to grow. I have always enjoyed helping others and I started a blog to share resources and my own life-changing lessons. Those blog posts blossomed into a website that I add new resources to every week.

2. There is no typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Please share with us a sample of your day, start to finish.

Leah: I usually wake up early and take a walk on the beach so that I can sit still in front of the computer. Three days a week, I work part time as an office manager at a small non-profit that I like. The first part of most days is working for someone else. The second is all about Impower You.

Once that ends, I take another walk (or swim in the summer) and grab some lunch. Then I review my To-Do list and get the most important jobs done first. I spend my time following up on inquiries for classes, researching and writing articles for my website, contacting people that intrigue me in the hopes of getting an interview, working on my next book, and marketing my work in a few demographically specific online communities. Life interrupts me often and for that I am grateful, because life is meant to be an adventure.

 

3. What are your ‘can’t live without’ Smartphone or desktop applications?

Leah: As archaic as it may sound, the calendar is the only desktop app that I regularly use. Without it, I would most likely forget important dates and double book classes or meetings. I don’t own a “Smart” phone, but it’s smart enough for what I need.

 

4. What are your tricks for time management?

Leah: A good night of sleep, paying close attention to my calendar, prioritizing what is most important, and letting go of things that swallow my time. My business works around me, not the other way around. One action that has really helped me not waste time is thoroughly researching every new project. This has replaced jumping directly into a project with no clear focus.

I had no time management in my previous clothing business and operating the Investing In Women grant program. I worked late into the night almost every day. A few years of that stressful schedule showed me how much time was wasted on the wrong audience, flitting from one marketing idea to the next, and the constant worry that I wasn’t succeeding fast enough.

 

5. What was the best advice you received when you started your career?

Leah: “Deliver quality and nothing less.” I took it to heart, but forgot it along the way in my attempt to grow the dollar line as a sign of success. Then many changes happened in my life that taught me to really understand that advice. As a writer, I struggled to market my first book for almost a year. That result was depressing until someone told me to write more and market less. It was essentially the same advice. This gave me the focus I needed and have since written two more books with a fourth in the works. Everyday I follow that advice, it’s not just my business motto, but how I live.

 

6. Given the current economic climate, what has been your strategy for building awareness of Impower You? ( what you do for short term and long term growth)?

Leah: I rely on word of mouth. I ask my family and friends to share a new project, new article or new book with their own network. I am careful not to overload them with requests. Nobody likes to feel used. I teach free community self defense seminars. Every participant leaves with an informative flyer that includes my website link and book descriptions. I continue to reach out to people who are creating positive change and featuring them on the site. In return, they share my work with their network and their customers.

I write books that are free to read online. To spread the popularity of my books, I send copies to people who are wiling to create a video review as a trade for a free book. The video reviews are shared and I reach a few new customers for the price of a book.

This summer, I received my self defense instruction certification and have since been teaching classes in my community. The classes I teach are free and everyone leaves with a flyer about my website and books. My customers have slowly been growing from those classes. It’s also the best free advertising in my opinion because I have this chance to practice what I preach. Some businesses give shoes or computers to underprivileged people as you make a purchase. That’s amazing to me so I copy that with my business. I teach self defense and in return find new customers.

 

7. What is your proudest achievement as an accomplished entrepreneur?

Leah: Publishing my second book was even more gratifying than the first. As a child, I dreamed of being a writer, but life took me in different directions. When I wrote my first book, it still was not in my mind to be a writer. I was simply sharing what I knew. “Write what you know” is the standard advice for writers everywhere for a reason. It works. Writing that second book reminded me of a childhood dream to be a writer. It just felt right.

 

8. How do you achieve balance in your life?

Leah: I thank the sky everyday for still being above me. After two tumultuous years of deaths, family illnesses, and closing my business I stopped for some personal growth. This was when I decided it was time to take stock of what did and did not work for me. All of those events made me realize that I needed to put a price on my precious valuable time. Now my personal life and my work each have their own time. Some weeks I have more me time and some I have more work time. I feel more balanced than I can ever remember.

 

9. Your top 3 book recommendations?

Leah: Just 3 is a hard choice. I read about a book a week so I could recommend hundreds. My favorite business book so far is “Blue Ocean Strategy” This is great for any entrepreneur who wants to step out of traditional marketing. It focuses on how there are enough possible marketing niches that every entrepreneur can embrace a unique or collaborative way to reach new customers without bulldozing their competition.

Another great “business model” around a single person creating exciting and positive change is “King Peggy”. It follows the events of Peggelielene Bartels who while working as a secretary at an embassy in D.C., found out she was the new king of her birth village in Ghana. She arrives at a village slipping into poverty with an unethical government. Through years of hard work and smarts she improved the economy, created a new village council, and improved the morale of her new home.

One of my favorite non-fiction books is “Garbageland, On the Secret Trail of Trash”. The author travels the country to see how our trash moves, where it goes, and what it becomes. It’s an eye opening look at all the different solutions we have created towards a more sanitary society. Entrepreneurs succeed when we can see more than one path to success. The trick is to research and see what else is possible.

 

10. What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?

Leah: In 2012, I donated 60 copies of “More Than Just a Girl” to various youth organizations and individuals. Awarding monetary grants to women entrepreneurs from 2009-2012 was equally amazing. It is good for me and my business to help others and see them succeed or grow as the unique individual they are.

 

11. Who has influenced your career the most? 

Leah: My mom and grandmother are my biggest role models. They both were entrepreneurs and somehow supported several children while also enjoying life and having adventures. My grandmother had the support of her husband, while my mother succeeded mostly on her own with some support from family and friends. Growing up with the idea that I should be my own boss has always kept me inspired to follow my own passions. Sitting in a cubicle or jetting off to meetings in the hopes of a promotion is not my idea of a career.

 

12. What is your advice for someone interested in entrepreneurship?

Leah: Go for it. Read all the books you can on startups and people you admire. This will give you some creative ideas and inspiration. I have a notebook I keep with ideas and inspirational people, services and products. It’s great on slow days when I feel lazy. Your first business may fail and possibly publicly so you need a thick skin. If you don’t have the personality to be your own boss, don’t bother. Keep your job or go to part time hours. You will appreciate that financial cushion in the beginning.

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