I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexa Carlin, Founder & CEO of the Women Empower Expo and nationally renowned Public Speaker.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
I started my first company when I was 17 years old designing jewelry for the L.A. based fashion company OmniPeace and donating a percentage of proceeds to help them build schools in Africa. This was my first dive into entrepreneurship and I fell in love with the process of turning an idea into reality.
From there I started a blog in college called Hello Perfect which was to help instill confidence in young women and garnered the support from Mark Cuban, Steve Madden, Shaq, and Rebecca Minkoff among others.
When I was growing this blog, just a few months before college graduation, I had a near-death experience where my body went into septic shock and I was induced into a medical-coma given a 1% chance of living. This experience changed my life forever as I now deal with a chronic autoimmune disease. While this experience brought on years of challenges and hardship, it also led me to starting to share my story as a public speaker. The more vulnerable and authentic I was, the more people could relate to me. I saw how your story can truly change people’s lives.
I was hosting small events at the time and that led into the inspiration behind Women Empower Expo (WEX), my current company. As a public speaker I saw a big disconnect among women and I wanted to create a large event that brought diverse women together from different industries for the purpose of collaboration over competition as I truly believe this is the way to achieve positive change and success.
Within the first year, in 2016, I grew WEX to become the largest event for female leaders and entrepreneurs in South Florida and Washington D.C. and we are now expanding to a 3rd city in 2019.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
WEX stands out for the following reasons:
- Structure of events
- Our events differ from other women-focused events because our program is customized to each individual. Even with 3,000+ people in attendance, every single person experiences WEX the way they want to — based on their passions and preference. Everything is going on concurrently and our educational tracks focus on the different stages of the business lifecycle as well as offering personal growth workshops.
- Our events are also way below market price on registration and this is for the sole reason as our mission is to empower as many women as possible and work hard to make it at an affordable price.
2. Transparency within the company
- I work hard to have full transparency between the company and our audience. I truly believe this helps us stand out because people know who we are behind the brand and grow a connection with us personally.
3. The marketing tactic we used to grow
- I started the company with $2,000 in savings so I didn’t have much to spend on marketing. (I actually spent less than $200 on marketing for first event and we had about 2,000 people in a attendance) We have focused on the communities in which we serve which has led to a grassroots marketing strategy where word of mouth has been our biggest driver for growth. Word of mouth in conjunction with public speaking- as the founder I speak all over the country which has helped the company grow exponentially.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes! I actually just launched a new project called BeAPublicSpeaker.com which is a training program for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business leaders to show how you can grow your business through public speaking. Public speaking has been my #1 marketing vehicle for all of my ventures and it truly is an incredible way to not only get your message out there but build a loyal brand following.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This book is about a boy’s journey towards his purpose. It made such an impact on my life because it shows that just when you feel like giving up, just when it gets to difficult that you feel like you can’t possibly go on, that is the point where you are so close to achieving that goal or dream. It reminds me to never give up and to keep on going.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- People will underestimate you based on your age. Let them.
I have yet to meet a Founder younger than me who is running an event of my size which has led to many vendors, sponsors and businesses question my capability. I used to let this get to me but then I decided to shift my focus to work on the things I do have control over. Now, many of those people are knocking on my door wanting to work with us.
2. Ideas are fluid.
Ideas are ever-changing. Don’t get attached to the idea, get attached to the process. I thought my first blog, Hello Perfect was the idea and the company I would continue to grow. It took me a very long time to understand that as I grew, I needed to also allow my ideas to grow. Hello Perfect did get me to the point of creating small events (5 people showed up to my first event) and then that led to creating WEX (where now 3,000 people attend!) It’s okay if your ideas shift and change- that’s the amazing part of entrepreneurship!
3. Consistency = success
Another thing I wish I knew when I was first starting out was that consistency equals success. I am an idea person so I always have so many ideas I want to pursue and when I was younger in my 20-something founder journey I jumped from one idea to the next if I didn’t see the results I wanted right away. Now at 27 years old, I’ve learned that the more consistent you can be with anything, whether that be creating videos for YouTube or meditating, it will lead you to success much quicker than going from one thing to the next.
4. All the answers lie within. Cultivate your Intuition.
Everyone will always have an answer or solution for you but the real key to finding the right answer is looking within. The more you can cultivate your intuition and tune into your instincts, the more success you will achieve. I always have a rule of thumb, do your research and learn from as many people as possible. Invest in programs, consultants, coaching, etc. to help you learn as much as possible BUT, with a capital B-U-T, create your own solution and strategy from what you’ve learned. Take what feels right to you from it all and then create your own path. No one got to the top from being like everyone else. Go do you!
5. Get it in writing.
No matter if they are your best friend or someone you trust with your whole heart, business is business. Get everything in writing. And I mean EVERYTHING.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Sara Blakely! I love how authentic and real she is and would love to have the opportunity to sit down and ask her how she overcame some of the biggest hurdles in her career as a solo Founder who still to this day, owns 100% of her company.
Jean: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
-Published on September 2018