“Share stories.” With Candice Georgidis & Shannon Lavenia

I would love to create a platform where people can share their stories in a way that moves and touches others. I believe that everyone has a story that can impact and influence others in a positive and creative way. I’ve often stopped to talk to random people, including homeless people, and I have heard […]

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I would love to create a platform where people can share their stories in a way that moves and touches others. I believe that everyone has a story that can impact and influence others in a positive and creative way. I’ve often stopped to talk to random people, including homeless people, and I have heard the most incredible stories and gained so many valuable life lessons. The life lessons from people who have lived extraordinary lives are laden with practicable wisdom.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Lavenia.

Shannon Lavenia is a high-energy, fun, and dynamic speaker, coach, and entrepreneur who transformed her life from bored, broke high school teacher to online business and branding expert. Her story is one of overcoming adversity to live an incredible life, having survived and thrived through being an orphan and beating Stage 3 breast cancer. She is the founder of Brand Builder Design Studios, voice of the Booming Business Podcast, and creator of the Brand Builder Course Collective. Shannon is family focused, operating her business with the philosophy of family fun first while still creating incredible results and serving her audience with results-driving expertise. Shannon uses her energy, experience, and expertise to create obsession-worthy brands for her clients and coaches her students in the creation of fun-fueled, passion-fulfilling, wildly profitable businesses. She’s an expert at business expansion/life balance and demonstrates how to implement systems and easy, results-producing marketing strategies that gets her clients the results they’ve yearned for while enjoying life to the fullest. You can learn more about Shannon and access her free training and resources at

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

I grew up in New Jersey and was orphaned at the age of 7. My single mom was a casualty of the 80’s cocaine boom, leaving me to be raised by her father and his second wife. My grandfather was a doll of a man, but my grandmother was a bit of a pickle. I believe my grandmother was well intentioned, but after spending much of her early 20s in psychiatric hospitals, she just wasn’t right. Her method of parenting was to tell me I was worthless and would never amount to anything. When I was 8, she sat me down and very sternly told me that since my mother had me without being married, I was a sinner and no matter how good I tried to be, I’d never get into heaven.

I ran away many times, but being a ward of the state, it was either a teenage group home for me or back to my grandparents. The toxic, abusive environment was too much to handle, so I ventured out on my own the day I turned 18 and miraculously landed a spot in an all-girls college. I say miraculously because I was top of the list of the truancy officer’s cases. Through all that, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, working three jobs to get myself through.

That was followed by a career as a high school Biology teacher. I chose teaching because it aligned with my passions for helping people and traveling. I enjoyed it for the most part but soon realized that my teacher’s salary wasn’t going to afford me the lifestyle I desired, and the politics were getting ridiculous. I wanted to desperately to make a change but didn’t quite have the courage. That was until I was forced to make a change.

The weekend I was married, my husband was downsized at his job. The stress landed him in the hospital, and we were forced to find a solution. We prayed and an opportunity was presented to us. Although it was a financial stretch, we put it all on the line and went for it. It was the best move we made. We sold personal development courses and conferences plopped us smack-dab into an environment of successful people who were using goal setting, vision boarding, and visualization as tools to create better futures. We suddenly had friends who believed we could achieve the crazy, wild goals we were setting for ourselves. More than believe it, they were supporting us in achieving them.

From there, I began launching online marketing training courses. I love serving my students and helping them break free of their limiting beliefs and incomes. Creating online courses enables me to fulfill my love of teaching and helping others, but also provides the income I desire for the lifestyle I want. I have been very fortunate to speak on stages around the world and to have an incredible audience of goal-getting entrepreneurs.

My students wanted more done for you services and I noticed a demand for excellent branding services for female entrepreneurs which led to the launch of Brand Builder Design Studios. We focus on helping empower women in their businesses by creating obsession-worthy brands and marketing strategies to scale. I have a talented team who amaze me daily with their creativity and spirit.

I’m living in Arizona now with my husband, John, and my beautiful daughter Trinity. I’m so grateful for the businesses I have and for my family. Last year, I was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer and I was able to allot the time to heal through this journey because of how my business is structured, and the support of our customers and my staff. I’m proud to say I’m now cancer-free. I’m beyond blessed. Hundreds of people have sent us prayers, gifts, meals, etc. Now, I’m more passionate about helping women than ever.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! I’m about to relaunch my Booming Business Podcast on iTunes where I’ll be picking the brains of expert guests to help my audience gain know-how and expertise in what’s working right now. My past guests have included Grant Cardone, Amy Porterfield, and Chris Ducker, so my audience can look forward to very helpful interviews. I also have two new courses coming out to help entrepreneurs scale their businesses — the Profit Planning Workshop and Easy Marketing Academy.

In the fall, I’ll be launching an online store with a brand that retails products for women going through treatment for Breast Cancer. It will be attached to a 501c3 non-profit so we can send products to women who are most in need at no charge and also so friends can send gifts to these women as well.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

We are obsessed with delivering quality service and results to our clients. We really care about our students and clients and our fundamental driving principle is “The client always deserves to be heard, to be valued, and to be served. Our clients are thrilled with our exceptional service and are winning with the products we have provided them.” We listen and deliver what is wanted in the way it is asked for. Rather than having a rigid business model, we have a very fluid one and rely on a team of outsourcers who can meet the needs of our clients in diverse ways. We focus on results that are predicable, so our clients feel their investments in our services are worth-while. We want everyone to leave happy and ready to tell others about us. After all, a referral is the best kind of testimonial.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

Oh boy, I’ve heard this A LOT. Just given my childhood, growing up in poverty and given my mother’s history, I was told I would never amount to anything. I even had a guidance counselor laugh at me when I told her I wanted to go to college. I was working a full -time job at 16 so my grades and attendance weren’t the greatest. But I knew that to have a better life, I had to get out of my current environment. When I tried to get into college, I was rejected by everyone, including the community college. But I kept on trying, and eventually, I found a school willing to give me a chance — the College of St. Elizabeth. Their belief in me drove me to do more and to be a better person. I graduated with Honors and started my teaching career.

When I was teaching and decided to start a business, I made the mistake of telling the other teachers. My husband and I truly believed we could create a phenomenal income and life with our own business. We constantly read books, including Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill and the Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. The response from the teachers was disappointing. I was openly taunted and teased. One day I walked into school and my desk was covered in gold coin chocolates with a note that said, “Your riches have arrived!”. I moved my desk out of the shared office and continued to focus on my goals. I had a vision board at home and a goal card I carried everywhere. I read it like 20 times a day. I quit my job a few months later after hitting my first goal of $20,000 in revenue in a single month. That year, my husband and I grossed almost $500,000.

When I created my first online course, a mentor of mine told me I was making a huge mistake and no one would buy it. I was so excited when I told him about the idea and left the conversation feeling very deflated. That conversation left me in tears. I had already started putting the course together and invested countless hours learning how to set up an online course. This was back in 2009, so a lot of the tools available now didn’t exist. I abandoned the project for a few weeks but then kept looking at all the emails I was getting with questions on how to generate leads. I decided to put the course together anyways and really didn’t care if anyone bought it or not. I figured I would at least have a resource I could share with people and wanted to complete what I started. I haphazardly launched the course, making about every mistake one can make in a course launch, but I still generated $30,000 in sales with it and was able to help other businesses increase their revenues with a fresh source of leads.

I learned an incredible lesson through all of these experiences. When you know what you want, muster up focus and determination and go after it. I don’t think there’s one big thing I’ve gone after where someone didn’t tell me it wouldn’t work or warn me of the potential of failure. I’ve always been able to make it work. The worst has been when I have given up on a course of action because of seemingly “good” advice only to regret it afterwards. There’s always a price to pay. It’s either hard work, grit, and focus or missed opportunity and regret. I personally prefer to pay the price of hard work to get the results I want.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

I got results. In every instance, I kept on going and got results. I graduated from college, launched a successful business, launched successful courses, traveled the world, and continue to do what I think is best for my family, myself and my community. There have been lots of little and big failures along the way, but I don’t stop to fester on them, I just keep going and find new ways to get results. I believe what often stops people from pursuing their goals or dreams is the fear of the naysayers being “right” or “looking bad” to other people. I really didn’t care what anyone thought, I just kept going to reach my own 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?

I’ve had many mentors, but the one person I’m most grateful for is the Sister of Charity who granted me admission into the College of St. Elizabeth. I didn’t have the grades. My attendance was horrible. On paper, there really was no good reason for her to accept me into the college. I certainly didn’t have the money to pay for it. I was an orphan and a ward of the State of New Jersey, so at 18 I was fully emancipated. But I was so determined to go to college that when I drop by the College of St. Elizabeth, I decided to walk in and get an application. I stepped up to the Admissions Office desk in desperation and asked for an application. When the Sister, who was the Dean of Admissions at the time, saw me, she said “hello” and I burst into tears. She gently put her arm around me and walked me into her office. I shared my story with her. At the time, I was practically homeless, couch surfing from friend to friend. I so desperately wanted a chance in life to better myself, get out of the toxic environment I grew up in and have a chance at something better.

The sister asked me one question, “If I give you this chance, are you willing to give it your all? That means no drugs, no boys, no drinking and 100% dedication to your studies.”. She explained it would be hard work and I’d have to get jobs to pay for some of it along the way but she was willing to give me the chance. I said “YES”! and started college the next month.

I never knew exactly what it was that she saw in me, other than sheer determination. It was hard work. It did take dedication. While others were partying, I was working. I worked overnight shifts at the local hospital and did secretarial work for a local architect. I babysat whenever I had free time. I studied and did well, graduating with Honors. It wasn’t so much the degree that made my life so different and amazing, but the chance to be in a different environment, working towards a goal, with the belief of others that I could do it.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

My grandfather was a hard-working, blue-collar, hold no punches kind of guy. He was also sweet as can be. My grandmother was very abusive and when my grandfather would find me hiding and crying when he arrived after a long day’s work, he would say “Never let anyone tell you what you are worth.”. He also said, “The only person who can decide if you can do it is you.”. He would never let me whine or complain about my circumstances, he guided me to find my own solutions, fight my own battles, and achieve my own success. He also taught me to work for everything I wanted and to keep on persisting until I got it.

While my childhood wasn’t ideal, what I walked away with was thick skin and the confidence to know that I can endure, survive and succeed. There isn’t much that ruffles my feathers, I’m able to stay focused through adversities that some people would crumble under.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. You have to want your goals as much as you want air. They have to excite you and you need to believe they can become real. When I set my first goal of $20,000 net revenue in a month, it wasn’t because it sounded “nice”. My husband had just been downsized and the stress landed him in the emergency room. He was 31 years old and a doctor told me he’d be dead within 5 years if we didn’t make some serious changes. We were married 3 months at that time and I definitely didn’t want to be a widowed newlywed or to live life without him. That goal represented a year’s worth of my take home pay and I wanted it as much as I wanted air. That goal meant freedom.
  2. You have to keep your goals front and center and visualize them daily. I write my goals on a goal card. I carry it with me and read it aloud throughout the day. It’s the constant reminder of what I am doing that enables me to focus with total clarity.
  3. Look at the naysayer’s life and decide if it’s what you want. Personally, I wouldn’t take health advice from someone who isn’t healthy, so why would I take success advice from someone who doesn’t have the success I want. When I was being taunted by the other teachers, I looked at their life. Their ability to live prosperously, their health, their happiness, and their freedom. Most of them were financially struggling and constantly penny pinching. They talked openly about how broke they were. They talked about their spouses negatively. They were unhappy, overweight and unhealthy. This was not the life I wanted so I decided not to listen to any of their opinions or “advice” on what I was doing.
  4. Connect with a new group. I needed to find some new friends who would understand what I wanted to accomplish and would be supportive of it. I found a group of entrepreneurs who were all making more than I even imagined possible. I connected with that group and went to social gatherings they were at to be around them. I integrated myself like I was one of them, not less than them. I didn’t try to “pick their brains” but rather, listened to their conversations and assimilated what they were talking about and doing. Soon, I was having the same results.
  5. Start BEING the person you want to be, BEFORE having the success. I realized early on that most of the people who were naysayers simply couldn’t “see” me being anyone other than who I was. So, I changed how I acted and dressed. I started behaving and being the successful person, even before having the success. I started sharing pictures of me with luxury cars and nice dresses. A colleague messaged and asked if I had inherited some money and that’s when I knew I had up-leveled myself in a way that others could see it. Suddenly people started to refer to me as a successful person and use words like “badass” and “guru”.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” — Elizabeth Edwards

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.

I would love to create a platform where people can share their stories in a way that moves and touches others. I believe that everyone has a story that can impact and influence others in a positive and creative way. I’ve often stopped to talk to random people, including homeless people, and I have heard the most incredible stories and gained so many valuable life lessons. The life lessons from people who have lived extraordinary lives are laden with practicable wisdom.

The other, and totally unrelated, has to do with a movement I want to initiate entitled “Don’t buy pink.” I will be launching it in September before Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What few people realize is that when they buy pink, very little or none of those dollars spent goes towards curing Breast Cancer or helping women going through treatments. People have the most beautiful intention to help, but their money isn’t making the impact it should be making. I want to put a network together of amazing organizations that support Breast Cancer Patients with things they need and also fund Breast Cancer research at universities that people can donate to instead. I’m in the process of establishing the 501c3 non-profit to do this.

Can our readers follow you on social media? YES!

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute.

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