Success can sometimes bring failure. When I started business 13 years ago, I was thrust into high levels of success early on. I did not take the time to put systems in place and I did not manage my finances well. Because these foundational areas were not taken care of, eventually challenges and failure became inevitable. I learned the hard way because there was no one to guide me and to show me the way of the successful. If you are not careful with success, it can quickly bring failure.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelisha Mills.
Kelisha Mills is a wife, mom of 4, author, speaker and an Entrepreneur (BSc. Entrepreneurship) for over 13 years. Kelisha specializes in life makeovers for mom entrepreneurs, helping them gain the clarity and confidence they need to find SYMMETRY so they can run a successful business and have quality time with their families.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a rural town in the South of Trinidad. Life was great as a young child. Being a part of an extended family meant that I always had my siblings and cousins to play with. Living in the Caribbean had its benefits. You could sit all evening with buckets of fruits at your leisure, eating so much of them that you got a good tummy ache. There was an abundance of land space to play “hide and go seek” without getting found for hours. Not to mention exciting outings to the beach or to Carnival.
However, despite all the persons around me, I knew there was something different about me, different dreams, aspirations and thoughts. When I was about 10, I realized I had a love for singing and crafting. I sang the anthem at my graduation, led choirs and used every opportunity to share my voice. I also learned to knit, sew and make leather goods. I remember selling crochet ribbons to villagers for $2.00 a pair at the age of 11. Coming back home with $40 for me was golden! It was my first taste at entrepreneurship, and I loved it! My mom always encouraged me, and my dad did the best he could to ensure we had everything we needed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is “She believed she could, so she did.” ~ R.S. Grey.
Throughout my childhood, teen and young adult years, I lived this Quote until I heard it first at age 35. Every good thing I experienced was because I believed it could happen. Ironically, every “bad” thing that happened was also because I believed it would. After experiencing a great business loss in 2013, I was plunged into depression when my business succumbed to economic pressures and poor financial decisions. My family of six had to move back in with my in-laws. I believed everything that occurred was because of my actions. It was not until my 35th birthday when I couldn’t even buy an ice-cream for myself that I said enough is enough. I let go of the false beliefs and started believing differently. I remembered my abilities and started operating from a place of knowledge, expertise and experience. I started believing I could get myself out of that situation. So, the power of belief is what I utilize to propel myself to my next levels.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I always love to watch “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will and Jaden Smith. The first time I saw this film, I sobbed so much. Not only because it was a sad, depressing story, but because it was my reality at the time. I was not at the point of homelessness, but it felt just like that for me. Staying at a place that is not yours has its challenges, not to mention the gut wrenching feeling of not being able to provide for 4 children. Happiness was very far from me, but I yearned for it. My husband and I knew what we had inside of us. We brainstormed and came up with ideas to start a new business using our natural skills and talents. In just a few months, we were able to get a new place and continue our journey to happiness. Six years later, my life has completely changed for the better in ways I cannot even describe.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I have over 21 years of Procurement experience. My company sources hard to find items for Government agencies for the past 13 years. Our Tourism business started in 2015. Before the Pandemic began, the company would host retreats, teams and celebrities. We curated unique events on the island of Tobago. 2019 was our best year. We were able to pay down debts and make real business moves. My Coaching business was also growing. I started increasing my rates and had more opportunities for Group Coaching. I had planned a major local Event in May, 2020 that included sponsorships and celebrity guest speakers. It would have been my signature event for years to come.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Our tourism business really took a hit because of the Pandemic. Our clients are international upper-class travelers. Our country’s borders are closed since March 2020, and only nationals can enter, so the business became really challenging. My Procurement business grew the most through the pandemic. The Government agencies leaned on us heavily to source those hard-to-find items. That business that closed due to the economic crash in 2013 turned around to earn over 7-figures in revenue.
I gave scholarships to my mom entrepreneurs for Coaching to help them navigate the growing need for online business. I noticed physical products were on the rise because of the Pandemic. Since my niche is mom entrepreneurs, I started thinking about what product I could create for mom entrepreneurs that would be popular during the pandemic.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I was using my planner more to write down my ideas and to keep abreast of my new homeschooling schedule. I remembered an idea I had two years prior which was a paper planner. I did some research and found that planner sales were on the rise because more persons were at home with added responsibilities, not to mention having more time to write vs. digital planning. I designed a planner myself back in 2018. I’m not a graphic designer, so what I created did not cut it. Because of what was happening globally, I knew I had to go all in. I prayed about it and decided to hire a brand strategist to do the design. I began reading books and bought training about marketing and e-commerce so that I could be successful with my first try. I had no idea what the outcome would be, but I went back to my “Life Lesson Quote”; I believed I could, so I did! The designs turned out so beautifully that I started looking for printers. I was blessed to find an amazing supplier by utilizing my procurement talent. Within three months, I had a sample in my hands and began taking pre-orders. Those pre-orders were sold out within a few weeks.
How are things going with this new initiative?
The venture is going great. I was able to reach a new audience through networking and trying new things in the e-commerce space. All of this is new to me coming from a service-based business background. I have a lot to learn, and I’m very willing to do that. Raising funds, internet and influencer marketing, and Subscription Boxes are the new focus for me at this point in my growth. As an entrepreneur, if you are not constantly increasing your knowledge and forming strategic partnerships, then the path to success will be longer and harder.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I can never credit one person who helped me get to where I am today. There were many persons I met on my journey that helped in one way or the other. I had persons in my life who were helping financially, which solved one challenge, but my integrity was being threatened personally. I want to point this out because it caused me to grow mentally by learning how to make a stand, and to be in control of what you are willing to accept from those “helpers” on your way to success. Always be on the lookout for those who have ulterior motives.
I have amazing family members and friends who gave emotional and financial support. My mentors showed me how to navigate the choppy and unforgiving waters of online business and personal development. I am truly grateful to my husband, Colin, who gives me time and space I need to pursue my dreams. I spend a lot of time online between marketing, coaching, learning, creating and networking. He doesn’t understand much of what I do, and sometimes brings to my attention the need to slow it down. I’m grateful that he cares enough to bring me back to reality and support with the children.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The most interesting thing I saw was that my local network really showed up! They were the first to buy 95% of my pre-orders. Never underestimate the power of local focus. Oftentimes, we want to scale internationally and sometimes neglect our foundation clients, who are mainly local. I would have cost me more to bring some of my product to Trinidad & Tobago, but I made the sacrifice and absorbed the costs because I wanted to serve my foundation audience. I secured features on local TV and Newspapers which helped increase my influence. I am now more prepared and have social proof and backing that would give me more credibility in an international audience.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Success can sometimes bring failure. When I started business 13 years ago, I was thrust into high levels of success early on. I did not take the time to put systems in place and I did not manage my finances well. Because these foundational areas were not taken care of, eventually challenges and failure became inevitable. I learned the hard way because there was no one to guide me and to show me the way of the successful. If you are not careful with success, it can quickly bring failure.
- Everyone will not be happy about your success. I saw my circle change when I was successful. The persons I left behind included some “friends” who I later found out were not so happy about where life elevated me to. I tried having conversations, but the quality of those talks was not profitable because we no longer had the same goals. I learned to be okay with moving on in love.
- Those who pay, pay attention. Early in business, I tried to get everyone and anyone into my programs. I even let many in for free, moving from $997 down to $0 just so I can say that I had more persons in my programs. The result of that was overwhelm and more time management. Some clients didn’t even show up for scheduled calls. One of my Coaches hammered this quote in my head after expressing my frustration, “Those who pay, pay attention.” After accepting this and addressing my internal struggles, I increased my fees and stopped being desperate for clients. The result was more quality clients, better results and increased revenues.
- Let go those time-consuming activities. I was the chief of everything in my business. I adopted the notion that I didn’t have the cash to hire staff. This led to burnout. I developed an eye infection from looking at screens for too many hours a day. That was the breaking point for me. The next week, I hired a VA who started helping me with content creation, social media management and posting my blogs. I found more time to be offline and to create more content. It also allows me to focus on more important areas of my business.
- Don’t over-complicate things. Funnels, automations, email marketing, systems, livestreams, networking…..it can all be so complicated if you don’t have a plan in place. Whenever I did not map out all the tasks I had to complete for the week or month, I could not get a grip on managing those tasks. You don’t have to make things complicated. A simple Google Calendar reminder, or a short list in your planner can streamline your weekly tasks.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Learning to unplug has been my number one strategy. It’s so easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of social media and the news. One story leads to another, post after post down a feed. Brain fatigue and information overload comes into play when we spend more than 25 minutes on one task, our attention span drops drastically. We also start to internalize what we see and hear. For the past year, the same world challenges have plagued media: Covid-19, death, fear and inequality to name a few. When these topics are constantly spoken and written about multiple times a day, it can easily become part of your psyche. I limit my screen time to no more than 3 hours per day. I also spend as much time as possible with my family, reading and enjoying nature. It helps me remain calm. Amid these stressful topics, there are still stories of success and growth. I look for those stories and seek the lessons from those who succeed despite these world cycles.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’d love to start a “Mompreneur” movement. There are so many moms around the world who have businesses or would like to start a business so they can have additional income in their household. There are also moms who do not have to work if they don’t want to but can make a huge difference in the world by sharing their knowledge. Moms need a lot of support and encouragement so they can be their best selves. Mental health and freedom of time for moms is super important, and creating a movement that promotes this will in turn bring about lots of good for the moms, their spouses, children, businesses and humanity.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I’d love to have lunch with Courtney Adeleye, the founder of The Mane Choice. I love how focused, creative and dedicated she is to her family, business and customers. Her ability to find that symmetry is quite intriguing even with her level of success. She embodies what I teach my audience; how to have a successful business and a happy family.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can visit my Website at www.kelishamills.com
Get my Planner at www.ultimatemompreneur.com
Follow me on Instagram @kelishamills
Let’s be friends on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kelisha.mills
Network on Clubhouse @mompreneur868
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you so much for having me! I truly appreciate it.