Get A Coach Before You Start. We so often think we only need an advisor or business coach after we have something to work with. False. A great business coach can not only accelerate the startup process but help you set up a great strategic foundation saving you so much headache.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kara Duffy.
Kara is an accomplished strategic leader with 20 years of product, merchandising, operations, organizational, customer relations, project management, and business planning experience. She has helped produce successful results for both large global brands (Quicksilver, Reebok, Puma to name a few) and local start-ups servicing the sport, fashion, action sports, non-profit, beauty, marketing, and food service industries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Growing up, I moved around the US a lot. I was in 9 schools between K-12. As long as our family was together, we treated it like an adventure. When you spend your childhood moving a lot, you get pretty used to change, making new friends, and introducing yourself. I was also always up to a new project and entrepreneurial endeavor. I can remember business ideas from ages 7 or 8.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I love making things — brands, products, strategies, new projects. It’s automatic for me to take an idea and figure out how to make it come to life. Working in footwear and apparel for many years, that’s what everyone did. Then when I started volunteering with non-profit organizations, I realized that’s not a common skill. I first started coaching people who had an idea to launch non-profit organizations. Then I pivoted to help people with for profit ideas and businesses.
Most business owners haven’t gone to business school. They don’t have 20 years of experience with large, successful or international corporations. Taking my innate skills plus the skills I’ve learned in those environments and then use that knowledge to help others is super rewarding. Any idea can be a great idea. Most people just don’t know how to turn an idea into a real life thing. I can do that.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
People, big people, said yes! Following the advice of Powerful Ladies Podcast guest, Julie Podolec founder of Modern Pop, I just started messaging people I wanted to have on the Podcast. I shot for the moon and I’m always surprised and delighted when they say yes!
The first book I read this year was For Small Creatures Such As We by Sasha Sagan. I loved it. I loved the stories, the tone, the depth of the conversation and even the hidden details printed on the cover. I went to her website and filled out a contact me form telling her I loved the book and that I’d love to have her on the podcast. She wrote back quickly saying yes. Her episode was amazing and she’s since referred me to other incredible guests such as Amy Rosoff Davis and Sara Zandieh.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Failure is not what you think it is. It’s hard to truly fail on a human level. When you know why you’re doing the work, who you’re doing it for, and what benefits you’re providing, it’s also not intimidating but freeing. It becomes something you have to do. It moves from choice to calling. Don’t embark on this career because you want to, embark on this career because you have to.
What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
It’s two parts. I’m driven by a mix of frustration and empathy that life and business doesn’t need to be as hard as so many make it. I’m also driven by the incredible people who have amazing ideas that truly want to make a difference in the world. People hungry to make an impact and change their lives or the lives of others are so inspiring to me. I get excited to meet them halfway and see what magic we can make.
Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?
To be an effective speaker, you need to think about what your audience wants to know, what they need to know before you share your key story or concept, and be able to predict what objections, obstacles or questions they may have. So much of it is about giving them hope around the topic your speaking about and to generously share your energy. There’s a very specific structure that I use for speaking that I also use for my other product types. I share this secret structure in my online course Knowledge Sharing Products: How to Share What You Know & Make Money Now! If you follow this structure it will deliver every time.
When I’m speaking, I’m using my audience to gage if what I’m sharing is landing. I want people to be moved. Are they smiling? Are they laughing? Are they getting emotional — in the good way, like when you hit on something that really matters to them or they see a new element to what matters to them. Are they taking notes or actively participating in other ways such as asking questions?
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
If you’re terrified of public speaking there are lots of other ways to communicate your message and make an impact. You don’t have to be a public speaker. Write. Make videos where the only audience is a camera and maybe a camera guy. Make presentations where you never need to show your face.
If you’re committed to becoming a public speaker, get a coach.
The first time I spoke in front of about 500 people, all of us who were speaking took a shot of tequila, laughed in reaction to a joke someone told and walked on stage with a smile, realizing what we’re about to share will be but a blimp in a moment in our life. We’ll be off stage before we know it. Plus you can only get better by practicing, being prepared and doing. It went great.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Book Your Vacation Before You Start. Year one is always intense. Book a vacation in advance of starting so that it will happen no matter what comes up and if you’re an entrepreneur CEO before you get worried about personal cash flow. It will be a gift to future you.
- It’s Gonna Work Out. You’ve made it here and you’ve got everything you need to figure it out and succeed. Just keep reminding yourself and have others around you who can remind you, too. Worry is a distraction you won’t have time for.
- Get A Coach Before You Start. We so often think we only need an advisor or business coach after we have something to work with. False. A great business coach can not only accelerate the startup process but help you set up a great strategic foundation saving you so much headache.
- Schedule Networking Into Your Weekly Schedule. It’s so easy to get sucked into the management and doing of work that we’ll skip networking and being social within the industry or potential customers. The social opportunities however are where you can find so many opportunities and they should be prioritized as a must do.
- Automate Healthy Meals. As CEOs we have to take care of ourselves. Everyone is counting on us. One way to do that is have a system or routine around what we eat. This reduces the decisions we have to make in a day and ensures we’re eating right. It can be as simple as eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch Monday or Friday or having meal delivery kits brought to the office each week. The investment you make here will go ten fold.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I am most excited about the new opportunities from my business Powerful Ladies. Powerful Ladies is a platform to offer female business owners and leaders opportunities to level up in a community and have both a business and a life that is thriving. We offer the Powerful Ladies Membership Community, an online community, group coaching, online courses such as the Knowledge Sharing Products course that is loaded with so much information, a podcast and more. I love being around women rising and being able to help them get to where they want to go faster and with a smile on their face. If you’re hungry to level up and grow, we’ve got you!
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
I keep my self care pretty simple. I’m a big believer in going to bed early and waking up early at the same time every day. I’m a total book nerd, so my goal is to be in bed at 9:30 so I can read for about 30 minutes. I mostly drink water and tea. I try to eat clean — Whole 30 or plant based as much as possible. I fit in stretching and going for a walk every day with my dog. On my walks I listen to an audiobook or podcast. I do my best to journal every morning before I start working and on really good days I add in 10 minutes of meditation, too. I’ve recently added dry brushing to my morning routine followed by a cold shower, and I’m loving that.
Self care, like all things, is usually about what are you cutting out vs what are you adding in. Then it just becomes what you do. Not an extra thing to manage.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote to live by is “Let your mind be focused and your spirit free.” A friend of mine wrote that on a hand-made birthday card when I was 16. At the time I think he was being a wise guy, but it made total sense to me. It still does. It’s how I feel and what I’m intent to keep living.
You are a person of huge 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?
The Powerful Ladies movement! Really, that’s why I made it. I want people to know they’re awesome. They can be all the things they want to be. You can love your life and have a successful business. You can totally curate your life to work 100% for you and be a contribution to the world. That gets me excited. Let me show you how it’s possible!
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!
My list of inspirational people is big. Top three people to have lunch with right now, would be Marie Forleo, Lizzo, and Joanna Gaines.