Set Boundaries! — When we run our own businesses, the boundaries are ours to set. And it can be hard not to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything a client asks for in fear of losing work. But as an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to set the boundaries and work only with people who respect them.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leena Alsulaiman.
As a lifelong creative, Leena Alsulaiman’s career path has taken her from jewelry designing to conscious image and brand consulting for women across the globe. The California-based entrepreneur and mother of three is devoted to cultivating change and building confidence for her diverse clientele. Whether they’re starting a new career path or simply need a wardrobe refresh, Leena’s keen eye for transformation helps her clients put their best foot forward into the next chapter.
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?
Growing up as a female Saudi/American hybrid in the Middle East, I craved and searched for all things creative in a time where it wasn’t necessarily an easy thing to find. When I was choosing what to study in college, I landed on Jewelry Design as it ticked the creative box and was accepted as a career path by my family. In those days, creative fields and careers were not common or widespread, and as I look back on my diverse career history, I see that I found ways to infuse creativity into everything I have done.
For many years, I took the entrepreneur’s path and unconsciously always brought a side of creativity to my roles. And while that was my “day job,” my passion led to color outside the lines, and I offered my expertise, guidance, and knowledge to women that were starting their own ventures, growing their brands, or making career moves.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Being selective — doing less- is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.”
Focusing my attention on what’s truly important in my life by protecting and conserving my energy has been the most productive thing I do. Moving away from the mindset of needing to be busy to feel validation has kept me from hitting walls and feeling burnt out or unhappy.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Knowing my “why.”
Once I was able to identify my purpose clearly, and I was able to define the impact I would like to have in creating a business, it shifted everything. I am deeply invested in service and which makes motivation and inspiration easy to access.
Being able to integrate and learn from challenging experiences.
Taking all those stories, mistakes, and learnings and choosing to keep creating and serving. Understanding that a single experience doesn’t define you… how you react and move on does.
I’m relentlessly optimistic — a silver linings collector. The glass is always half full. This doesn’t mean that I’m shiny and happy at all moments of the day. What it means is that I can look at a situation, and while it might be challenging, I’m able to see around that corner and see the possibility versus the difficulty.”
As Marie Forleo says: “Everything is Figureoutable.”
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
My career has had many, many chapters before this point. All different but also very much the same. Which is why I do feel that at this point, I am truly in my second chapter.
Pursuing a career up to this point for me has been rooted in response mode. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do and craving the experience, I took on many different roles and tried it all, from being a Jewelry designer to a wedding planner to a health coach, communications manager, and fashion stylist. The only constant was that I was helping and guiding women entrepreneurs on the sidelines.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I wouldn’t call it reinventing. I would say it was more of a blossoming. When you reinvent something, you change it so that it appears to be entirely new. That’s not what I did at all. My second chapter has come to life through acceptance and by fully embracing my gifts and the things that bring me joy.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
The plunge was a byproduct of being furloughed and working from home. I had unknowingly planted the seed of this new chapter months ahead of the furlough, but then the world slowed down; I had time to sit with myself to assess what I wanted my life to look like post-pandemic. And the more I sat with it, the more it became clear that the time was now.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that, and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Truth be told, I have had people coming to me for help with their ideas, brands, and creative startups for years, and I’ve always obliged, helped, and gotten involved, but in my mind, I was helping a friend or doing it as a favor.
Launching my website and finding the language to communicate authentically helped me put my clarity and consulting services out there; I realized that I could add value and make a career out of it!
My platform caters to creatives, and I expand and tailor each service based on my clients’ needs. I am always listening.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
It’s been such an expanding and beautiful experience.
I have recently updated my website to reflect all the growth that has happened since the launch in June 2020. The services and iterations of how I work have unfolded and evolved in such a way that I could never have imagined!
In just this last year, my clients have been inspirational women creatives from all corners of the globe! From India, the Middle East, Africa, Greece, and the U.S.! Ranging from artists, jewelry designers, fashion editors, makeup artists, and entrepreneurs, I have been able to guide women through the journey of creating and showing up with purpose.
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?
Honestly, it took a village! But three extraordinary people have lifted me through this journey — my children.
They have been my motivation to create a career that brings me joy. As my biggest cheerleaders, they believe in what I do and what I bring to the world through my work.
A defining moment in this chapter dates back to last March when Covid arrived on the scene, and I was signing the contract hiring my website designer. I was conflicted by the uncertainty of the time and making a move that big. My kids sat with me at the dining table and said: “You always tell us that there is no perfect time. So you need to do this. Now.”
And the rest is history!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I would have to say the most unexpected thing that has happened since I started this chapter would be the shift in how I work with styling clients. It has evolved and taken a different iteration based on my growth. I am now a style coach, and I work with women by blending creativity, style tips, shopping strategies, and guidance to help them uncover and find the authentic style that’s unique to them. Defining style from the inside out!
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I am a recovering perfectionist, and the limiting belief that everything had to be perfect before I could share it with the world was a huge obstacle and challenge that I had to overcome.
Once I started my consultancy, it quickly became apparent how much my drive for perfection hindered my growth. It was frustrating for me because the fast pace at which I was trying to create was always bogged down by my doubting how it would “look,” and it finally dawned on me. I’m not a perfectionist — I’m scared of putting myself out there!
So in reframing it this way, I have been able to share more openly and authentically.
In my own work, I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
My support system is like a beautiful abundant garden. Over the years, I have cultivated deeply rooted relationships. I have planted the seeds, watered, nurtured them, and watched them blossom and grow. As a single mother, I am blessed to have an entire community of women that are my support system. Each of these women showed up for me and lifted me through the birth of this chapter, each in her own unique and special way.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
All my life, I’ve been much more comfortable being behind the camera than I was in front of it. But when I started this consultancy, I understood that I needed to show up and be on camera. People needed to connect with me, and in the era of all things virtual, it meant being on camera and Instagram posts, IG lives, and interviews.
I am happy to report that after speaking in a virtual conference and conducting numerous Instagram live interviews, and even taking part in the TikTok Creator Learning Fund, I am much more comfortable showing up!
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. 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.
There is more than one way to succeed.
There will always be a program, a webinar, or a course that promises to teach you the secret and formula to success. But there’s no quick fix or fast pass to success. Your path is your own. No one is you, and once you understand that, you can create something that works for you!
Protect your time and energy for things within your skillset and that you enjoy — delegate the rest. Think about it in terms of time management, and work on letting go of things that are taking too much of your precious time.
Rest creates space to listen to your body and quiet your mind. When you run straight into things without slowing down, you will miss details and need to come back and course correct -which is not the end of the world- but taking a break saves time and energy on going back and forth.
When we run our own businesses, the boundaries are ours to set. And it can be hard not to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything a client asks for in fear of losing work. But as an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to set the boundaries and work only with people who respect them.
Your brand isn’t for everyone. And that is OK.
Trying to please everyone through your work is not a good strategy.
In business, if you take on the role of being a people pleaser, you will get lost in your attempt to gain acceptance. Which will lead you will lose your voice, your message, and your authenticity.
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 would love to inspire a movement of celebrating women in the second chapter of their careers and lives. A collective that inspires and lifts.
Women that start something new in this unique stage of life would benefit from a supportive community celebrating and cheering them on while also exchanging success strategies, tips, and experiences unique to this chapter…
Today too many people hold information close to their chest. We shouldn’t be afraid of sharing because someone else knowing what we know will not take anything away from us!
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with Oprah. She’s an inspiration of resilience and perseverance and such an expander of how to live authentically and do anything you can dream up no matter your age!
How can our readers further follow your work online?