There are some unfortunate things that we all know to be true when it comes to women in the workforce. Women are paid less, promoted less, and shoulder more, if not all, of the emotional labor. Without leaders to look to, many young women are left searching for guidance, support, and access to other women. It was exactly this experience in her own life that led Lauren Alexandra to not only build a business but find her purpose.
“As a young girl, I was always dreaming of climbing a corporate ladder and having that fabled corner office,” says Alexandra. “But in my pursuit of that dream, something felt like it was missing.” She realized there were simply not enough women in her professional life. When she set out to answer why, she discovered that it wasn’t just her. Everyone she spoke to, in virtually every field, shared the same frustration.
“I knew there was a need for a safe space to bring women together, women who are passionate about business, self-development, and their careers,” she says. “It was just a matter of how to connect them.”
These realizations would become a business. Unfortunately, they coincided with a car accident. Because as the old saying goes, if you want to make the universe laugh, tell it your plans. The car accident put everything on hold, made working a full day impossible, and made her reconsider her next steps. Ultimately, she decided to pursue an MBA.
“While I was getting my MBA, I remember asking myself what kind of corporate job I was going to apply for once I was done, and what further education I would need before finally taking the leap and starting my own business,” says Alexandra. “I wasn’t satisfied with either of my answers, so that’s when I decided that the time was now. I started building a website and working on the brand while I was completing my thesis. I put myself in a bit of pressure cooker. I think the ultimate motivator for me was to create a business where I could be that female coach, that female mentor that I never felt I had.”
Alexandra launched SheCan Consulting almost two years ago. SheCan offers personal coaching, professional consulting, and masterminds facilitation. Her mission and path have never been more clear: to support and empower women to conquer their goals.
The most straightforward definition of a masterminds group is people who meet to give each other advice, support, and to connect. The term was first coined by journalist Napoleon Hill in 1937 after discussions with Andrew Carnegie who had allegedly credited his success to his participation in a “masterminds alliance” with other industry titans. Since then, everyone from Thomas Edison to Henry Ford have taken part in masterminds groups. One of the most notable masterminds was a group of British scholars who referred to themselves as the Inklings which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as members. They both credited the Inklings for conceiving and writing The Chronicles of Narnia and Lords of the Rings, respectively.
“It's pretty crazy what can come from masterminds, and the amazing thing about them is that they come in so many different forms,” says Alexandra. “They can be customized and really be about anything. You could create a masterminds group that discusses collectibles, music, business, entrepreneurship and art.”
For SheCan masterminds, Alexandra prefers to keep them small to maintain a level of intimacy. She takes the privacy of her clients very seriously and requires all members to sign a mandatory NDA before the first session starts.
“For me, it’s about creating the safest space possible for my members and knowing that they are in an environment built on trust,” she says. “I’ve had clients have full blown breakthrough moments where they are sharing for the first time that they have an eating disorder or they’re working through a traumatic event. For other clients, maybe it’s a new business idea or financial problems. Whatever the case, it’s really personal stuff and having [an NDA] helps me feel like I’m protecting my members and they also feel better protected.”
Privacy isn’t the only thing that differentiates SheCan masterminds. While it’s possible to apply on her website to take part in a group, Alexandra invites her members directly and strategically puts certain people together. Her goal isn’t to scale exponentially.. at least not right now. Bringing like minded, yet diverse, strangers together has proven to generate the most successful groups, and it’s a format she intends on continuing. She also allows members to provide input into discussion topics and offers a spotlight session, where each member can bring a specific problem or topic to the group.
“What I’ve found works best for SheCan is finding the right people to participate,” she says. “Then it’s about customizing the topics to fit the group’s needs and the rest is on me.”
SheCan offers six-month masterminds or 12-month advanced programs. Both structures follow the TGROW model and, within each session, individual goal setting, tracking and review takes place. Members are invited to a private 24-hour group chat to stay connected, encouraged and accountable in between meetings. For the 12-month members, monthly one-on-one coaching sessions are included to really hone in on individual needs.
While I can tell you from personal experience – full disclosure, I am both an advanced mastermind member and a coaching client – that the combination of the two has proven to be incredibly effective in setting and reaching goals, but you can opt for the coaching sessions alone.
Alexandra is a no-nonsense kind of coach who, while compassionate, is much more concerned about helping her clients reach their goals than trying to avoid hurt feelings. She focuses on existing perspectives or beliefs and how those can be altered when they are no longer serving you. Those perspectives can be food-based, confidence or relationship goals, or business related; either from a financial or management angle. Whereas therapy looks at what happened in one’s past that has formed behavior or habits, coaching focuses on the future version of a person, their goals, and what can be done to help them get there, she explains. In true eating your own dog food fashion, Alexandra has two coaches herself.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that if it’s not a ‘hell yes’, it’s a ‘hell no,’” she says. “And that’s how I look at my clients as well. Whether I’m choosing who to invite to a masterminds or who to take on as a coaching client, you have to be ready to do some hard work and if someone isn’t ready or willing, then they won’t see any results.”
Her ideal client is someone she describes as having a growth mindset and who wants to make their dreams a reality. “I know that sounds like such an eye roll, but I don't really know how else to say it,” she says. The growth mindset is really key.”
In her business and her personal life, Alexandra has learned to roll with the punches and perhaps in part because of this, she doesn’t use the word failure as a negative. Every time she’s felt like there was a barrier or a detour in her way, it’s only brought her closer to where she wanted to be in the end. When reflecting on the lessons she’s learned so far, she has three key pieces of advice for anyone who may be looking to make a change or take a leap.
“First and foremost, believe in yourself,” she says. “Don’t rely on other people to be your cheerleaders because often the people who you think are going to be your biggest cheerleaders just aren’t, and a lot of time can be wasted being sad about that. Secondly, you need to be willing to fail. So much of what we don’t do is out of fear. I’ve always approached my failures with excitement because I believe that success is built on a pile of so-called failures.”
“But the most important thing you can do is know your ‘why,’” she continues. “If your why is simply that you want to start a business, you will not succeed. Being an entrepreneur is hard. You have to get up and motivate yourself every day. You absolutely must know your why and be passionate about it.”
Setting out to change to the landscape of modern workplaces and what it looks like to be an entrepreneur is no easy task. But after a conversation with Alexandra, you often walk away feeling like you can take on the world, so who better than her to take this lead?
Carly Sheridan is a writer and editor passionate about technology and the arts, and the intersection of the two in a digital world. Her experience over the last decade has ranged from working as a journalist in Canada and South America for lifestyle publications, to the Director of Content and Communications for a digital art blockchain company in Berlin, and as a consultant to several startups across Europe. A storyteller at heart, she is forever trying to finish her first novel.