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Shay Haddow: “Encourage mistakes and failure”

…Encourage mistakes and failure. Like I said earlier in the interview, fear of failure is one of the biggest things that hold women back from becoming founders. “Failure is Fatal” was ingrained into us as kids and it’s still ingrained into us as adults- which is why so many women don’t take the risk in […]

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…Encourage mistakes and failure. Like I said earlier in the interview, fear of failure is one of the biggest things that hold women back from becoming founders. “Failure is Fatal” was ingrained into us as kids and it’s still ingrained into us as adults- which is why so many women don’t take the risk in becoming a founder. I believe at every stage of life, we need to shift our mindsets and perspectives around failure. I was on a coaching call with one of my mentors last year and we usually start off the call with wins from the group-the things that went well. But one day, my mentor decided to mix it up and instead of sharing our wins to the group, he asked us to share and celebrate our mistakes. It doesn’t sound fun to celebrate mistakes but it actually turned out to be exhilarating because we usually hide our mistakes from others. So airing out our mistakes, encouraging it, and celebrating was such a powerful experience.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shay Haddow, an expert coach and speaker on confidence and mindset for female athletes. After overcoming her own struggles with confidence throughout her youth and collegiate soccer career, Shay knew that it was her life’s purpose to provide female athletes with the mentorship that she wished she had when she was younger.

She has worked with hundreds of youth female athletes and college teams from across the country; supporting them in building unshakable confidence so they can live and play to their fullest potential — in and out of sports.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Although I always thought it would be appealing to start my own business, I never in a million years would have thought that I’d be in the position that I am now as a business owner, doing what I love.

Growing up, I was obsessed with sports and was the epitome of a tom-boy. I started playing soccer from the very moment that I was allowed. I was an incredibly talented and confident athlete- it came easy to me. But when I was 12, I had a devastating injury- I tore my ACL and meniscus and had surgery at the age of 13.

That’s when it all started. After nine months of sitting on the sidelines, the self-doubt started to creep in and consume me when I played. I lost the majority of my speed and started to question every decision I made. I no longer played free and played for fun- instead, I played afraid.

These confidence issues didn’t stop during my college career either. So even though I was playing at a high level, I still didn’t know how to really believe in myself.

When I finished my Masters Degree I moved from Utah to Sacramento, CA where I began my soccer training business called Alpha Girl Soccer Academy. I quit all of my other jobs and went full-time into running my own business.

Well after a few years of doing this, I realized a few things:

  1. The girls I was working with were struggling with their confidence just as I had, and they weren’t getting any help.
  2. Being a soccer trainer wasn’t my passion and it also wasn’t a scalable business
  3. I need to be that person to fill the gap, be their mentor, and build a sustainable, scalable business

So in 2020 I quit training and went all in to online confidence coaching (COVID gave me the extra push I needed to pivot), and now I’m living in my purpose while building a 6-figure, impact driven business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This isn’t so much a story as it is a lesson, but when I first began my career I thought it would be the thing that I did until I couldn’t work anymore. I never imagined that I could evolve personally and as a business so much in only a few short years. In less than 6 months, I went from being fully committed to building a soccer training business to pivoting into my online business. And what I didn’t realize at the time, was that it’s okay to change your mind, and shift in a new direction that truly aligns with your purpose. This change that I’ve made has taught me that my business will grow only to the extent that I grow as a person. The more I work on and better myself, the more successful my business is, so my goal is to never stop evolving as a person and as a founder.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

First off, I’m a huge believer that in order to be successful you have to be willing to make a lot of mistakes, otherwise, you never take risks or learn from your mistakes.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes but there’s one in particular that stands out to me. In 2019 I started hosting in person Empowerment and Confidence workshops for teenage girls. The first one I did was in the summer and we sold out the seats we had (granted it was only 12 seats), but after such amazing feedback I did another one in November and we had over 25 girls sign up, maxing out the conference room.

I was having so much fun and so much success with these workshops that I wanted to do them on a more regular basis. I had my first in-person workshop for 2020 scheduled on March 17. I sent out so many emails, posted all over social media, and talked to so many people about signing up, so I was sure it was going to sell out just as the others had…but day after day, all I heard were crickets.

As the deadline to register was almost closed, I only had two girls sign up. I was so embarrassed, ashamed, and didn’t know what I was going to do with only two girls in this big conference room… Should I cancel or just do it with those two girls?

Well, thanks to COVID, I had no choice but to cancel and refund the money. So although I was saved from public embarrassment, it took a big hit to my confidence and ego.

There’s a few lessons I learned from that, but the big one was that just because I had success before, doesn’t mean that everything else I did was going to be successful- and sometimes that was out of my control. Just because you put in the work, doesn’t mean you’ll see results right away, so you’ve gotta keep pushing because you never know how close you are to seeing those results.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. 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?

I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mentors and also the support of my family and friends but someone that I’m particularly grateful for my very first business coach, Ben Nabers.

Although I initially hired him to help me grow my soccer coaching business, he’s been there through it all with me and is still my coach to this day.

I remember getting emails from him back in 2017 when I was just starting to think about starting my business. Before I became aware of him I really had no idea what was possible. After soaking up and implementing all of his free content, I finally got on a call with him- and said no. I had no money and didn’t yet believe in the value of a coach.

After months of trying to do it alone (and having some success). I reached out and told him that I was ready for his help. On that call he challenged me to quit my other jobs and go full-time into building my business. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I would have had the courage or belief to take the leap and then later write my book.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from him is that “done is better than perfect.” It doesn’t have to be perfect for you to put it out into the world.

So I’m incredibly grateful for his continuous support and guidance through all the changes and challenges I’ve encountered on my journey.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’m obsessed with reading so choosing just one book is really tough for me. The book I’m currently reading “Believe It” by Jamie Kern Lima is already starting to have a massive impact on me and the way I show up for myself and the people I serve.

It’s been so inspiring to see how many times she got rejected and bullied and never gave up- and now is successful beyond measure. It’s so empowering to see a woman conquer all of those obstacles while being unapologetically authentic to who she is.

It has really resonated with me because a lot of the lessons she’s learned and taught are things that I’m working to instill in myself and the girls that I work with.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

The quote that I always try to live by and have hanging up in my office is “Real change, enduring chance, happens one step at a time.” — RBG

I think most entrepreneurs (myself included), get caught up in wanting to make a change, more money, and more impact NOW. There have been plenty of times when I feel so overwhelmed about the change I want to make, and then I don’t take any action at all. But the reality is that the biggest changemakers are the ones that take consistent action every single day- and it doesn’t have to be life altering to make a change, you just have to take that one step.

So this quote reminds me that if I want to ignite real change, it starts with just one step. Helping one person. And if I can do that every day, I know that I will inspire enduring change in this world.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I see it as a domino effect. The more successful I am, the more girl’s I can empower. The more girls I empower, the more great leaders we have for the next generation. The more great leaders we have equals a better world for all.

This was a mindset shift that I’ve had to make. Growing up there was a part of me that thought that successful people or people with a lot of money weren’t “good” people- or that because they were successful, it meant less space at the table for everyone else.

But now I know that in order for me to make the biggest impact on the world, I have to be successful so that I can reach as many people as possible to empower the next generation.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

In my opinion, the biggest thing that’s holding women back from founding companies is fear of failure and rejection. To be honest, I think this is what holds most people back, but especially women. As women, so many of us were taught to play it safe, be people pleasers, not stir up any trouble, and to be perfect.

But in order to be the founder of a company, we can’t be any of these things- we have to be the opposite. To be a founder means to take risks, disrupt societal norms, speak up, and get rejected.

Once a woman is able to move through the fear, is when she’s able to truly live into her full potential.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

The work that I do is so much more than helping girls to become more confident athletes (sports is just the vehicle).

For me, my focus is on the big picture- to empower the young women I work with to have the confidence and self-belief to become the architect of their own life. Everytime I post or have a coaching call, I want them to build more and more belief in themselves so that when they graduate high school (or even before), they know that they can live a life they want- not a life they’re “supposed” to live. In doing this, these young women will know, at their core, that they already have everything it takes to start a business, create their own path, and change the world.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

For starters, companies founded by women outperform companies founded by men. I recently read an article that found that companies with a female founder performed 63% better than investments with all-male founding teams. Businesses founded by women deliver twice as much per dollar invested than those founded by men.

Another reason is that, now more than ever, the success of a business is largely related to their ethics, their mission, and their authenticity. Typically, women founders are driven by positive impact and social change more than they’re motivated by money alone. When companies are driven by service and social impact first, it creates a ripple effect which makes the world a better place.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

  1. Start the conversation at a young age. In my experience there are very few teenage girls that believe starting their own business is a possibility. For most girls, I don’t think it ever crosses their mind. The earlier we start the conversation and start empowering them with the belief that they can, the more women founders we’ll have down the road. When I was a teenage girl and into my college years, there was always a yearning in the back of my mind that asked, “wouldn’t it be cool to have my own business?” But I never actually believed it could happen. No one ever talked about it. All I was taught to do was go get an education and a “stable” job with benefits so that I could live a comfortable life. I didn’t see any women founders around me, so I didn’t know it was possible until I stopped listening to the well-intentioned people around me and started looking for ways in which it was possible and had been done. The earlier we start the conversation the better.
  2. Encourage mistakes and failure. Like I said earlier in the interview, fear of failure is one of the biggest things that hold women back from becoming founders. “Failure is Fatal” was ingrained into us as kids and it’s still ingrained into us as adults- which is why so many women don’t take the risk in becoming a founder. I believe at every stage of life, we need to shift our mindsets and perspectives around failure. I was on a coaching call with one of my mentors last year and we usually start off the call with wins from the group-the things that went well. But one day, my mentor decided to mix it up and instead of sharing our wins to the group, he asked us to share and celebrate our mistakes. It doesn’t sound fun to celebrate mistakes but it actually turned out to be exhilarating because we usually hide our mistakes from others. So airing out our mistakes, encouraging it, and celebrating was such a powerful experience.
  3. More collaboration, less competition among women. As women, we love to compare ourselves to each other, which comes out of a scarcity mindset- that if she is successful, there’s not enough seats at the table for me to also be successful. As I was starting my business, I really struggled with comparing myself to other women that were doing similar things. Every time I got on social media and saw their followers skyrocket, I felt like I wasn’t good enough- like somehow, they were going to get all the clients and I’d be left with none. This mindset brought on so much self-doubt and negative energy that there were times when I wanted to quit. I’m naturally a very competitive person so this was hard for me to move past but eventually I shifted my mindset and realized that the more we lift each other up and celebrate each other, the more successful we all become. There are always enough seats at the table.
  4. More authenticity and transparency in the journey of becoming a founder. Entrepreneurship is one of the hardest things that anyone can do, and it’s even harder when the people leading the way aren’t transparent about their journey and what it really takes. For women especially, I think it’s so powerful when you can learn from and observe another woman’s journey who has already made it or who is just a few steps ahead of you. Just like the Roger Bannister story- no one had ever broken the 4-minute mile but then, after just 46 days, it was broken. When we see other people succeeding, we believe that we can too.
  5. Give women more funding and opportunities. As mentioned earlier in the interview, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. Women are not getting the same support, funding, or opportunities as their male counterparts which makes it much harder for women to become founders. Generally women aren’t as likely to negotiate, apply for credit, and get approved. So I don’t have the answers on how to change this, but the more funding and opportunities women have, the more women founders we’ll have.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

This was a recent thought I had when watching a video about our current education system. In my opinion, our education system is not designed to set up kids to be successful in anything other than “going to college and getting a stable job”- it’s old and outdated.

I would love to inspire a movement where kids aren’t just learning about history, english, and math, etc.. but where they’re really learning how to find their purpose in life while being successful and fulfilled. I believe that kids around the world need to be learning about mindset, social skills, personal finances, leadership, physical and mental wellness, business, and all of the other things we never learned in grade school.

Ultimately a platform and movement that teaches and empowers more girls to be founders, leaders, and changemakers.

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.

Mel Robbins, if you’re reading this, I would love to have a private lunch with you! There are several reasons why I’d love to meet Mel.

First, as we all know, she’s such a huge force for good in this world and has made a tremendous impact on me and my journey- in my business, my relationships, and my mental health.

Second, she’s my role model in how I want to show up and serve the people I work with. I remember last year, someone asked me the impact I wanted to make in the world, and I said “I want to be the next Mel Robbins for teenage girls”

So although I don’t want to BE her, I would love to make an impact on the scale that she has while showing up powerfully and authentically.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Parents of female athletes can join my private Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/alphagirlconfidence

Follow me on Instagram @shayhaddow

Of course, they can visit my website at www.alphagirlconfidence.com

And they can check out the Alpha Girl Confidence Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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