Being vulnerable and yourself is totally okay — if you plan to succeed.” Many of us have a very clear image in our mind of what being a CEO looks like, and we face imposter syndrome if we don’t feel like we’re matching it. For example, coming from a corporate world (especially human resources), I tend to think of compartmentalizing everything about who I am because it’s not appropriate for the work world. However, as a CEO to a digital business, when my kids crash a Zoom meeting or live interview, crying or in need of a diaper change, that doesn’t diminish my CEO status. It just means that I’m a CEO and a Mom and it’s important to own that and not divide it. I’m also soft spoken and not a shark, which ten years ago, I would have thought that wasn’t enough to be a CEO. However, I’m me and bring an ocean of passion about the stories and success of our authors, and that’s the heart of the company.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Eckhardt.
Lauren Eckhardt is an award-winning and best-selling author, ghostwriter, book coach and the CEO of Burning Soul Press, a book coaching and publishing company that helps soul-driven writers share their inspiring and empowering stories with the world. Using her exclusive Soul Writer framework, she focuses on authors’ unique story and voice, transformative message, and soulful passion to help them achieve true fulfillment through their life’s purpose. You can learn more at https://www.burningsoulpress.com
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Lauren! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Absolutely. Since I was six years old, I knew I wanted to be an author. It took me about thirty years to find a “why” big enough to achieve it, though. The birth of my two boys, now 5 and almost 3, was it for me. I wanted them unafraid to dream big, and I wanted to prove to them that reaching those dreams is indeed possible, that they don’t have to settle for a socially-determined box they don’t fit in to “make it” in life. Up until that point, I had done everything by the book for a successful and proud life- Master’s degree, started my PhD, collected multiple certifications to position myself as an expert in my field, yearly promotions or a higher position every year, the next pay grade. It was the ultimate hamster wheel, an endless cycle. I was constantly doing more to prove that I was moving ahead, and it was exhausting. It wasn’t until after I quit that I realized there’s a big difference between being successful and being fulfilled. I vowed I would put more emphasis on being fulfilled from here on out.
So, despite the most chaotic period of my life, which was during a ten-month spell of postpartum depression, sleeping only two hours per night with an infant and potty-training toddler in tow, I finally made my six-year-old-self dreams happen. I published four novels within nine months and end up winning an award for one. But what I didn’t realize until only recently, is that when you set out to achieve a dream, it’s only the door that you can see. You think you know what’s to come, but you can never fully account for what else is behind that door- until you’re holding the key and unlock it, which is how I came to launch Burning Soul Press.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Once I became an author, other people asked for my help to write and publish their books. Every time I helped someone, my soul was lit on fire. In April 2020, I launched Burning Soul Press, a book coaching and publishing company, as a 20k dollars-in-debt-one-woman show. Within mere months, we hit six figures and scaled to a full company with writing, marketing, publishing, and PR experts, helping the most amazing writers share their stories to empower and inspire others around the world. It’s been nine months of trial and error, tears and more, but the evolution has been beautiful. I couldn’t have dreamed this at six years old, but if I never went for that author dream in the first place — no matter how long it took to reach, I never would have been able to discover my soul’s purpose behind that door.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
You know, it’s interesting how terrifying it is to step into our area of expertise and passion and share it with friends and family especially. I always knew I had the entrepreneurial spirit within so was constantly running side hobbies, sometimes MLMs, sometimes other pursuits. When I first started Burning Soul Press, I absolutely refused to share it with people who knew me for many months because I was scared of judgement from those who witnessed me launch multiple other endeavors in the past.
Every single thing I did before made me better prepared for being the CEO of this dream company. I wasted several months shying away from owning that truth. You won’t figure out what you’re supposed to do in this life until you actively try to figure it out — and fail along the way. I learned quickly that my affirmation had to come from within and not from anywhere else if I truly wanted to help people. So when things got hard, I reminded myself that I had finally stepped into my purpose in life. No one’s opinion changes that truth. A failure doesn’t change that truth. A hard day does not change that truth. Your purpose is a part of you, a solid truth that can’t be discredited or dismissed.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
A true rollercoaster. Every CEO will have days or seasons that make them question the survival of their company. It’s so much easier to give up than to keep fighting if you’re too short-sighted. When I feel hopeless, I put my focus on the ripple effects- the continual impact of every single action we take and every author’s book that is put out into the world. My drive comes from the hope that every time one of our authors share their story with the world, someone else is encouraged to embrace their own vulnerability and truth and to share it, knowing it can help even more people. I like to believe that we are making the world better for my kids and their future kids.
I have been in love with books my entire life. I have spent my entire life listening to other people’s stories. Being in the position that I am now to help them write and publish their books so that more people can hear their message… that’s what drives me. My entire life has been preparing me for this. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I feel absolutely honored to be a part of people’s journeys as they step into their greatness. Giving up is not an option for the sole reason that this is what I was meant to do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We dive in deep. The clients we work with have a message they want to share and are on a mission to make a difference. We believe we aren’t meant to hide our life journeys, but instead, we need to embrace them — the peaks and the valleys, the light and the darkness — to fully understand how all aspects have shaped our character into who we are today and to provide hope to those who need to hear our truth the most. We help our authors see that too. We value vulnerability, acceptance, empowerment, and reform. We focus on the authentic hearts and souls of everyone we work with — no fluff allowed.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Perfection paralysis is real! I used to spend hours recording and re-recording videos for 20 minutes of footage in my courses. Then I’d try to piece it together, exhausted at 1:00 in the morning, not realizing that I didn’t edit the times I cursed because I stumbled over something and would have to restart again. So some of my early courses were jumbled messes with random curse words mixed in.
Now, I just roll, rambles and all, choosing my heart over perfection. Authenticity wins every single time. (Unless your target audience is filled with perfectionists, that is.)
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
“Take this course because it transformed my business!” I’m a huge personal development nerd so probably an easy fish to catch on this one. But there’s a very real danger that’s not talked about enough in the entrepreneur space. Many of us can reflect back on our corporate lives and think that we felt the pressure to be a certain way or to fit a certain expectation. When you think about being an entrepreneur, you think about finally doing what you want to do. But when you’re starting out, it’s hard. An equal part con and pro of social media is seeing all the training options that are out there that provide you with guidance and tools to be successful as an entrepreneur. But most trainings are teaching you their framework for how to do things. Then when people failing using this supposed “fail-proof” technique, they think they’re not meant to do what they set out to do. Personal Development training can be dangerous because some of it is still corralling you into a box that just doesn’t fit YOU. You have to focus on your passion and your purpose behind your original vision and stay true to it. You have to own what makes you unique and confidently choose how to run your business while weaving that in. That’s how you’ll attract your target audience and not that of someone else.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Number one, being a good listener. My entire life has been about listening to other people’s stories. Even from the time I was a little girl, total strangers would open up to me and share their life stories. Everyone wants to be seen and heard for who they truly are, and I’ve always been willing to listen. It’s why helping them bring their stories to the pages is such a perfect calling for me.
Number two, I’m intuitive. I’m not super woo-woo or anything, but I’ve always been intuitive. I drifted away from that for many years, but ever since stepping into my fullest purpose, I’ve been connected with it again on high. It stems from just listening to people — what they’re actually saying and not just the words they’re selecting. Since I’m so visual, I get these natural “downloads” as they’re talking that help shape their ideas for their book or businesses. It makes it super fun and helps our clients get the perspective and guidance they’re searching for when taking steps toward their dreams.
Number three, my passion for more diverse and honest stories to be shared. Because of this, I’m always choosing the best interest for our clients — period. I want people to listen to the nudge they’re getting to write and publish their book and then do it with confidence and ease, so that’s what we help them with. Even though we have publishing services, for example, I don’t push those if that’s not in alignment with a client’s values and goals. Instead, we listen to what they need to succeed, and that’s what we help them with no matter what. It’s not about us- it’s about the readers who need to hear the stories the most, and we just help deliver the stories to them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Find a team of people you can trust who can take the load off. It can be scary hiring someone when you’re starting out, but when hire your first person, you realize how liberating it is and how much it frees you to create and innovate more to continue driving your business forward.
You also have to make sure you’re having fun. Get on the phone with a fun client and let yourself laugh freely without focusing on work. Have a dance party with your kids. Go for a swim or hike in the middle of the day. When I’m too focused on the grind, my business plunges. It’s only when I stop and have fun (which then sparks my gratitude) that my business soars. I’ve learned there’s definitely a strong correlation — and having fun is more fun anyway.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Pivoting too soon and focusing on the outcome verses the quality transaction. It takes time to attract and build your target audience. Many CEOs and founders will put out their first service offer or product with high expectations, and when those aren’t met, they think they have to pivot instead of throwing the line out again. They also become so driven about the sales (because let’s face it, the financial portion is necessary), that they stop appreciating the value behind every transaction or relationship that takes place. It isn’t always about the outcome only. I can’t stress the power of the ripple effects enough from every single thing you put out and do. For the first ten months of business, my company was driven solely by word-of-mouth, and most clients were being referred from people I had only done networking calls with. Taking the time to network and connect with other people with no expectations of the outcome can produce long-term profits for your company. Also, remember that taking action produces clarity- not being stuck in the planning mode time and again.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Stepping into being a CEO is the most underestimated aspect. So much of entrepreneur-related trainings is all about the things you have to do instead of who you need to be. Not enough people focus on who you should be. Who you are as a CEO and what you project influences the culture of your company and the clients you attract. If you want long-term success AND fulfillment, it comes down to who you are and then the things that you must do will be shaped and flow out of that.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Being vulnerable and yourself is totally okay — if you plan to succeed.” Many of us have a very clear image in our mind of what being a CEO looks like, and we face imposter syndrome if we don’t feel like we’re matching it. For example, coming from a corporate world (especially human resources), I tend to think of compartmentalizing everything about who I am because it’s not appropriate for the work world. However, as a CEO to a digital business, when my kids crash a Zoom meeting or live interview, crying or in need of a diaper change, that doesn’t diminish my CEO status. It just means that I’m a CEO and a Mom and it’s important to own that and not divide it. I’m also soft spoken and not a shark, which ten years ago, I would have thought that wasn’t enough to be a CEO. However, I’m me and bring an ocean of passion about the stories and success of our authors, and that’s the heart of the company.
- Hire for heart and soul, not for the job. The majority of responsibilities can be taught to a person who is truly passionate about the mission and purpose of the company. Your company will evolve and change, just as most organizations do. Hiring for people (and not the job) allows you to match your needs to the people who will truly make a difference and drive your mission forward, and not just clock in and clock out. It also makes people feel more invested in the organization when they’re not having to fit into a role, but instead, when they feel that bringing their heart and talent to the table is enough and valued the most.
- The ripple effects deserve your attention as much as the short and long-term goals do. We are usually told to set goals and then put plans in motion to reach those. When everything we do is being measured by the success or failure of reaching those goals instead of being measured by the ripple effects of the actions that are taken and the lessons we’re learning for growth, our idea of success becomes skewed and we lose sight of the actual impact our business is making. When we put more emphasis on the continued ripple effects, our gratitude rises and we realize that we are making a difference every single day and we’re growing in more important ways that truly matter.
- Having fun is equally as important as everything else on your agenda. Let loose. Be yourself. Laugh. Have fun. It’s crucial to the energy that drives your business, how you show up every day to your team and your clients, and your general health!
- Every CEO has days when they want to give up. It’s normal and will pass. I had a recent morning where I woke up just sure that the business was doomed. I couldn’t stop crying and feeling hopeless. I pulled myself together and faced the day with as much as I could muster, and by the end of it, everything felt fine again and two big contracts came through. It’s all part of the rollercoaster. You can feel on top of the world one day, then the next day, be terrified. You have to just embrace it and know it’s part of caring about something so darn much. Feel the feelings, but don’t let them paralyze you. Trust in yourself, in your mission, in the impact you’re making, and know that those off days are totally normal!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
To openly share our life journeys without shame or embarrassment or guilt. That’s what I’m striving for in everything I do with my personal life and Burning Soul Press. To influence everyone in today’s world now by giving them that platform and safe space to openly talk about the things that matter the most, to build deeper connections with people, and to transform the way we step into this world by owning all parts of our life that have contributed to who we are.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Follow Burning Soul Press on Facebook and Instagram using @BurningSoulPress and our website at www.burningsoulpress.com. We also have a weekly Clubhouse chat called The Soul Journey: From the Pen to the Stage every Thursday at 3:00 pm EST and you can find me on clubhouse @BurningSoul.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
Thank you for the amazing interview and helping us get our story out into the world!