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Wendy Yates: “You can do more than you think can”

It’s alright to not be okay and to say you don’t know everything. When I first started, I pretended that I knew everything and missed out on the opportunity to work with mentors. No one knows everything and no one will look down on you for asking for help; it’s a compliment to ask others […]

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It’s alright to not be okay and to say you don’t know everything. When I first started, I pretended that I knew everything and missed out on the opportunity to work with mentors. No one knows everything and no one will look down on you for asking for help; it’s a compliment to ask others for help.


As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Wendy Yates.

Wendy Yates is an entrepreneur and philanthropist dedicated to leading by example as she inspires her team and like-minded leaders to create a culture rooted in value. After dropping out of college to prematurely launch into the world of business, she experienced failure on many levels. From those failures she learned how to use grit and purpose-driven motives to move forward.

Yates is the CEO and founder of Abigail-Elise Brands, a collection of companies on a mission to reinvent what others believe to be possible in the world of design, leadership, and global impact. Her award-winning design firm, Abigail-Elise Design Studio, specializes in interior design and merchandising for commercial, hospitality, and residential projects. Well Fit Human Retreats, a wellness based impact humanitarian travel company and AE Cares, a non-profit foundation, are both dedicated to positively influencing the wellbeing of others by connecting communities’ needs with resources. AE Properties Partnerships is currently in the works and will focus on creating high-end luxury real estate developments worldwide.

In addition to running her businesses, Yates is the host of a podcast the Design Driven Life. Within the upbeat, informational series of conversations she interviews entrepreneurs, leaders, social impact investors, wellness gurus, and many more on important topics like money, fear, anxiety, self-trust, and how to spot opportunities amongst life’s chaos. The goal is to help others gain the tools they need to change their lives and the world.

Dedicated to being a force for good, Yates is making big things happen on a global scale and she’s ready to tell everyone she meets along the way all about it.


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?

I was born in Oahu, Hawaii. My mom did secretarial and administrative work, while my dad was a varied-ranking member of the U.S. Air Force. Because of my dad’s military work, we bounced around a lot when I was a kid, from Hawaii to Turkey and back, then on to Arkansas and a small town in southeastern Colorado.

I was in a hurry to grow up — in part because my dad was an alcoholic and my parents’ fighting made my home scene less than ideal. It was difficult to create and maintain friendships, which made me feel both lonely to some degree, but it also helped me become more independent and self-reliant. I never really had a sense of home, nor a community so in a roundabout way I believe missing those aspects guided me towards the types of businesses I started and now oversee.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I decided to start my first business Abigail-Elise Interiors, Inc. while I was going through a divorce, didn’t have a place to live, and had a two-year old. My timing wasn’t ideal on many levels, but to exacerbate the challenge it was during a recession. Making a shift into entrepreneurship came very naturally, but I’ve also had to work incredibly hard to make things work.

A couple years ago I was craving more human connection and felt compelled to make a pivotal shift in my own life that inspired more joy and self-fulfillment. It was from this idea that I created Well Fit Human Retreats, a wellness-travel-impact company that promotes giving back on a global level. Through local and international events we are activating purpose in people, while also creating experiences that improve an individual’s mental, emotional and physical sense of well-being.

My goals as a creative visionary have always been far reaching. I don’t just see myself as an interior designer, but instead as a person contributing to society in an impactful way. I’m on a mission to show others that you can be profitable while also leading by example and giving back on a universal scale. I’m not sure there is really a defined “career path” for that outside of having purpose and making sure that purpose materializes into a reality. I have a vision and am on a mission that is bigger than myself.

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

I have always had a tendency to get ahead of myself when it comes to ideas and ways I can scale up my businesses. In the past I tried to expand by opening multiple locations, adding a showroom, and juggling a variety of unrelated projects. My attempts weren’t entirely incorrect, however I never really had a plan prior to moving into action. I took risks whereby I won a few and lost a lot, but all in all I believe that that’s what has ultimately helped me succeed in the long run. I’ve since learned where I want to go and I’ve gotten better about planning how I’m going to get there.

Everyone has ONE life. Taking risks and failing is just part of it. When things don’t go as expected it doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you have to ask yourself, “What’s next?” Then get out of your own way.

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?

My sense of humor is pretty dry honestly, so some will find this funny and others may not.

When I was first getting started I acted like I had been designing forever. At my first trade show I talked about our space and plans as if they already existed. The more I talked the more people believed and most importantly, the more I believed in my own capabilities.

I learned early on that when you have a vision that is bigger than yourself, share it with everyone! People are willing to rally, support, and believe in you and your mission if you do and if your motives are authentic. I attribute a lot of my continued growth to being intentional but also being vulnerable with expressing my goals.

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?

My mother has always been supportive, even when I didn’t fully realize it. I also believe that every person that gave me a job or said something kind to me helped encourage me to keep going or to come up with a new idea. For that I am thankful.

Today I am thankful for mentors and coaches that have been championing me through 2020, providing resources, and giving their hearts and minds to help me to continue to grow.

In addition, any team members now and in the past that have been part of the Company have played a role in some way of where we are currently.

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?

For me, there is really only one true failure and that is the failure to try. Everything else in life is simply a redirection. In my talk, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you design”, I teach that fear is an excuse people use to live lives of mediocrity. Be afraid and do it anyway. Be more afraid of regret, because time is not renewable.

If you are a healthy human with the ability to utilize your body and mind then you have an automatic advantage for creating the world you want to live in. This may sound harsh, but I think it’s a person’s obligation to make every attempt at doing something worthwhile and to never give up on their dreams. Find people doing what it is you want to do and be with them as much as possible. They will champion you. In my experience, people creating great things truly want to help others to do the same.

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?

I am motivated by gratitude and a purpose that brings joy. I feel an urge every morning to be a better person, to learn new things, and to look for opportunities that add value and empower. The best thing that I could hope for in my life is that something I said or did made someone else’s life better.

Of course there are days where I feel overwhelmed, self conscious, and unworthy, but I address those challenges by refocusing on gratitude. This practice helps me get back to my purpose. One of the best things you can learn is that you control your mindset.

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?

My biggest tip is to be authentic and speak from a place of giving. Before I speak to anyone, whether I’m talking to a group or having a private conversation with a client, I ask myself, “What can I give that provides the most value?” Everyone is unique and everyone has experiences they can share that will mean something to someone else.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

Practice. Practice with your family, lecture to the dog, talk to yourself in the mirror, record yourself so that you can listen and critique yourself.

Second speak from the heart. When you are authentic your message will always be received. Your style may not be for everyone, but the people that need to hear you will. Those are the people you are showing up for.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You can do more than you think can. Believe in yourself instead of worrying about failing.
  2. Find mentors and coaches. I waited until “I thought” I could finally afford them, which wasn’t entirely true. The only thing I regret was not starting sooner.
  3. It’s alright to not be okay and to say you don’t know everything. When I first started, I pretended that I knew everything and missed out on the opportunity to work with mentors. No one knows everything and no one will look down on you for asking for help; it’s a compliment to ask others for help.
  4. Money is nothing more than a tool and that tool can be an extension of your heart. What you focus on grows, so focus on the good.
  5. You are not for everyone and that is fine. Always be kind and never assume the way someone else acts has anything to do with you.

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?

Thank you! We are focused on having an impact in design lifestyle, leadership, and social initiatives. We are becoming involved global citizens by collaborating on developments in the US, Dominican Republic, and soon to be Italy and beyond. The mission behind our growth is to always be learning and contributing so that we can connect needs with resources on a worldwide scale. We want to do as much good as possible and believe that from here the future is limitless.

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.

Creating a schedule is my most important practice. This might be the most unexciting answer of all time, yet it is an amazing tool. I schedule everything from showering, eating, time with my daughter, work events, meetings, creative time, finances, you name it. Everything gets a time slot and is color coded with a category to help simplify things. I don’t believe in work-life balance because in my life everything is integrated together. My purpose is bigger than the task at hand, and it’s imperative that I create a lifestyle that nurtures my purpose.

In addition to scheduling, I have created a 5 yr life plan and review it every week. I focus on doing all the things I need to do every 90 days so that I stay on track and remain focused.

Mornings I note 5 things I am grateful for while watching the sunrise, and evening typically include a glass of wine, planning for the next day, a very extensive skin care regimen, family hugs, and the Calm app (it helps drown out the voices in my head).

Lastly, the use of vision boards and affirmations to shift your mindset and mental wellbeing can sound cheesy, but once you try it you’ll realize it works. I use affirmations every day and night to speak things into existence. By giving thought to an idea it expands, focus on what you want to exist, it’s a total game changer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Your environment, diet, exercise routine, actions towards others, usage of time, spending habits, and friends create your personal experience which has a direct effect on your mental wellness. Everything we do in life is tied together. If I were to add a quote that I live by centered on mental health it would be by Richard Branson. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing, by falling over.”

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?

I am dedicated to leading for change by showing others how to find opportunities and help them overcome limiting beliefs. When we share knowledge and work as a global society, there is greater equality. For me, the movement to end poverty starts with equity, empathy and education on a global level. If we could see money as an expansion tool of the heart and not something to hoard we would have a greater ability to positively affect the world. If more people could adapt this type of mindset it would be a major game changer for our future generations.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Wendy Yates: Instagram LinkedIn

Abigail-Elise Brands: Twitter YouTube LinkedIn Website

Well Fit Human: Instagram Facebook LinkedIn Pinterest Website

Abigail-Elise Design Studio: Instagram Facebook Pinterest Website

The Design Driven Life Podcast: Apple Podcasts Spotify BuzzSprout Instagram

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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