The Young Women’s Alliance focuses on empowering young women through professional resources, connections, or leadership opportunities. Many of our members are already entrepreneurs and even more aspire to become one, and YWA aspires to support these women and foster a space for creativity and ambition. Here is the story of one woman who used an opportunity YWA provided to her as the catalyst she needed to start her own business.
Caroline Crawford is a coach and clinician who first spoke at YWA’s Speaker Series in 2019. Caroline is a self described “extroverted, empath who gets shit done and totally embraces when Mercury is in retrograde;” she is deeply passionate about connection, whether it is belting out a Lizzo song, debating the best French Fries in town, or exploring social justice issues. Her goal is to empower people not only feel connected to others, but feel connected to themselves; their thoughts, their emotions, and their identities
In 2019, Caroline started doing speaking gigs and training sessions for different organizations through her role at the Girls Empowerment Network. One of the speaking opportunities was at a YWA speaker series in 2019 talking about Growth Mindset, and she had such an amazing experience that she knew it was her calling.
“The night came and I was the featured speaker. I started, and what felt like a minute later, I finished. I lost myself in it. I loved every second of it. I can remember talking to audience members after and they gushed about the presentation. I remember seeing women having insights and AHA moments. I was HYPED. Like y’all… I am talking got-in-my-car-called-a-friend-and-could-not-stop-talking-about-the- experience-for-the-entire-ride-home kind of hyped. Tears of joy flowing down my face kind of hyped. I woke up the next day still energized. I realized that I was a speaker. That I loved working with women. That sharing ideas and creating the space to do so was my calling.”
Several months after her talk with YWA, Caroline Crawford Consulting was born. After countless meetings with mentors, Caroline received enough advice to feel confident quitting her job and starting down the path of entrepreneurship. While the first few months into her venture brought new challenges, she never felt like starting her business was a mistake.
“The day I launched my business was the day quarantine in Austin was enacted. I kid you not. I remember thinking okay I guess I am going on sabbatical. This cannot be real! Is this a joke? I watched all of the things I had scheduled get canceled. I asked myself, ‘was this a terrible decision?’ ”
Two months later Caroline got her first client and two more corporate training sessions. Another client signed on, and another, and she was in business!
But the hustle is real, and success doesn’t come with its own fair share of challenges. For Caroline, she had to balance her perception of success with the traditional stereotypes of professional experts.
“I think my biggest challenge is the balancing of my core belief that enthusiasm, joy, compassion, and curiosity make for the most successful people and the perceived idea that professional experts are stoic, corporate, intellectual, and high-brow. I found myself muting colors on my PowerPoint decks, slicking my hair back into severe buns, and rewriting my homepage with the latest business jargon.”
She quickly realized this could not be her style of leadership. She made changes to bring her personality back into her work and created a space where vulnerability is encouraged.
“I work everyday to show up as a confident, intellectual who loves to laugh and have fun while diving deep into the real issues. I can sing to my clients like Jean Ralpho from Parks and Rec AND sit in the seriousness of layoffs and grief. It is about creating vulnerability. Vulnerability creates true connection. And when people feel connected and grounded, they are open to real change.”
Caroline’s story is not only motivating for aspiring entrepreneurs, but she makes it seem possible. The hardest part of starting a business truly is just starting, and Caroline, with the help of her community and organizations like YWA, was able to make her dream a reality. She encourages other women who are exploring the idea of entrepreneurship to develop, brag, and be brave.
“Develop – Don’t stop learning. Maintain a growth mindset. Learn from those old and young. You may already be an expert in something, I challenge you to keep adding to your learnings.
Brag – As women, we are socialized to believe that bragging is rude or unbecoming or selfish. I have gotten some of my biggest deals because I shared my accomplishments and my belief in self. Show off your badassery (this is a word right?!) with the world.
Be Brave – You want to be an entrepreneur, then be one. Start today. Find mentors and role models. Network on LinkedIn. Check out the competition. Create a plan. Have a back up plan. You can start as a side hustle. You can start without a website. My first client venomed me for the session because I had no way of invoicing her. My first corporate client asked for an official contract and I spent the night googling “official contracts”. You don’t have to have it all figured out.”
Inspired by Caroline’s story? Looking for resources or a support system to give you that last push into entrepreneurship? Join the YWA community as a member during October Open Enrollment or reach out to our VP of Programs if you are looking for a supportive community to pressure test a new idea through a speaking opportunity or a workshop. We can’t wait to meet you!