Navigating career twists and turns can be tumultuous. Are you on the right path? Are you offering the right products or services to your customers? Is it time to expand your business or pivot in a different direction?
There’s rarely a right or wrong answer to these big questions, but it can feel overwhelming to determine the best step to take.
For some, the light at the end of the tunnel is that ‘aha moment’ where everything seems crystal clear. Whether it’s receiving a piece of surprising feedback, gaining a new insight from a conversation, or even simply waking up one morning with a new idea, these brief light bulb moments can have a long-term impact on our lives.
If you’ve found yourself waiting for your next (or first!) ‘aha moment,’ take it from the following 36 women from the Dreamers & Doers collective: the most impactful realizations may come to you when you least expect it.
Founder and CEO of Lady Gwendolyn, empowering women across the globe with her infectious enthusiasm through acting, speaking, wellness coaching, and podcasting.
Her aha moment: When I was cast in the movie “Wonder Woman 1984” as one of the Elite Amazonians, I was fortunate to be working on a woman-directed and -led set. The cast was diverse from different cultures and backgrounds. For the first time, on a major production, I never felt like I had to work harder or prove myself due to my race. However, I did have to shift my mindset around age. I was one of the older actors. I not only had to push myself physically, but I needed to release any negative connotations about my age. After decades of working in an industry that typically chooses youth over experience, I couldn’t let Hollywood’s paradigm of age weigh on me or distort my belief in myself to perform. I wanted to make the most out of this opportunity, so I had to dig deep with the courage to push through any limiting beliefs and gravity to be able to play this once-in-a-lifetime role. That defiance has stuck with me and shaped a new way of how I see myself as an actor and now as an entrepreneur.
CEO of MySyde, an app that brings gig workers to their local communities, amplifying their marketing and their network.
Her aha moment: A few years ago, my baby brother died of an aneurysm at age 36. This changed my life—I quit saying no. I knew I was meant to do more. I was to quit playing small. Life is way too short. So I took a huge leap and I am building a business way bigger than I could ever imagine. The business we are building has the opportunity to change countless lives—and I am all in!
Brittany Busse, MD
President and Chief Medical Officer at ViTel Health, the one-stop platform for independent physicians looking to launch their own direct-to-patient digital health practice.
Her aha moment: One day my employer came to me and told me that I would be giving a presentation to one of their clients at 6 a.m.. I let them know that I was setting a boundary to protect my mental health, but they forced me to give the talk anyway. Ironically, the topic of the talk was “Protecting Employee Mental Health in the Workplace.” It was then that I knew I had to leave my job to found a company where physicians, and even our own employees, would have the power to live happier, healthier, more autonomous lives.
Founder and CEO of SHAYDE BEAUTY, a skincare line made with melanin in mind.
Her aha moment: Failure always seemed unacceptable. We grew up within an education system where failing held you back. After jumping into entrepreneurship, I quickly recognized that each wrong turn is an experiment, not the end. Learn how to fail so that failure turns into a beginning. Learn from the mistakes you identify and be better next time around.
Founder of Group Coaching HQ, an ICF-accredited group coaching certification program and community.
Her aha moment: In November 2020, I organized an event on group coaching for the NYC International Coaching Federation. I could not believe the number of people who registered—the highest of all our events. There was a clear interest in the topic. The week after the event, I received a ton of messages, asking me for support around group coaching. I knew then that this was an opportunity to build a company around what I know and love. A few months later, my business partner and I led the very first Group Coaching HQ cohort. Since then, we are incredibly proud of building community, a space for support, and an outstanding, engaging learning experience. I would never have done this if I hadn’t chosen to volunteer my time and share my passion with group coaching at the ICF event. This moment gave me the confidence to build Group Coaching HQ and to impact a wide variety of coaches in a meaningful way.
Founder of Juicy AF, helping successful women who are sober curious or alcohol free transform themselves.
Her aha moment: Early in the pandemic, I started an online recovery meeting primarily for my friends who are alcohol-free. Today, 60 people attend this Zoom meeting seven days a week, and hundreds of people have given up alcohol. Witnessing the light behind someone’s eyes turn on is such a miracle. It inspired me to create a movement for women only. I’m riveted by creating the space for those transformations to occur.
Founder of Marissa Pick Consulting LLC, providing strategic consulting focused on digital transformation, content marketing, social media strategy, personal branding, and more.
Her aha moment: Sometimes it can be scary to work for yourself and branch off from the stability of a traditional 9-to-5 role. I decided to put myself first after realizing I was missing precious moments at home with my family, friends, and kids. Once I refocused and prioritized what mattered for me at that given moment, I felt at ease and knew I’d made the right decision. Life is too short to be unhappy. I believe in making a plan, working hard, and doing my best. I know this won’t happen overnight. It’s a process filled with both successes and failures, and I’m focused on living in the moment and appreciating each step of the ongoing journey.
Founder and CEO of CustomHappy, shipping unique, custom-made products around the world.
Her aha moment: When I first started online, I made a great income. Then I started chasing a ton of other shiny objects thinking I could do better. My original business plummeted because I wasn’t giving it enough attention. I really learned that, “if you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” Focusing on one thing has had a tremendous impact on my bottom line since then. I like to focus, systemize, and then move on to the next thing.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Nomad Lane, a brand of elevated bags and accessories for stylish and organized professionals on the go.
Her aha moment: “Master your strengths; outsource your weaknesses.” When we first started out, we had to wear multiple hats: product design, marketing, customer service, operations, etc. But as we grew, this became a roadblock. Through business books and groups, we started listing out every role in the company as well as who was in charge of that function. The more we could delegate the things we weren’t good at, the more efficient we became, which opened up time to think about working on the business instead of working in the business.
Founder of Gratiam Consulting, a boutique accounting firm for passionate entrepreneurs.
Her aha moment: My “aha moment” came when I realized that I am not a good fit for everyone, and, most importantly, that is okay. I was on the phone with a client who gave me bad feelings from day one. We were having the same unproductive conversation we had multiple times a week for more than a year and I finally had enough. I hung up, dreamt up my ideal client, made cuts to my client list to match the dream client, and created an onboarding process that would help ensure I was only working with clients who fit that framework.
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Rexxy, a brand-focused affiliate marketing agency.
Her aha moment: When my partners and I launched our marketing agency, we took on all different types of projects—branding, strategic planning, content creation, social media management, you name it. If a client wanted to pay us for a service and we had the ability to do it, our philosophy was, “Why not?” My “aha moment” came when I realized the value of channeling all of our agency’s energy into being the experts in one particular niche and saying no to everything else. In the early days, we felt crazy for turning away opportunities to make money at a time when we needed it most. But ultimately, becoming the go-to experts in affiliate marketing for brands instead of sticking with a full-service agency model enabled us to carve out a unique identity and value proposition in a crowded space.
Dare to be niche. It has allowed us to scale our business faster than we ever thought possible.
CEO of Belgian Boys, bringing craveable, turn-key, whole ingredient European foods to the mainstream.
Her aha moment: A few years ago, I thought coaching was a waste of time. I couldn’t imagine ever needing or wanting to sit down with someone and talk about my challenges at work. Fast forward to August 2020. Deep in the pandemic and feeling very burnt out, I turned to an executive coach and started practicing mindfulness. I can’t say enough how much this has helped me on a daily basis and also overall. If you can afford to invest, make the time and see how much you’ll grow.
Lori Sussle Bonanni
Founder of elssus, LLC, a multi-disciplined communications consultancy building and growing companies’ reputations.
Her aha moment: In the first few years of my business, when I would receive a referral to a potential client, I would say yes so long as I was confident I could get the work done or figure it out. I’d say yes even if I didn’t want to take on the work, even if I didn’t find it interesting, and even if they negotiated my rate to a point where I didn’t feel “whole and compensated,” courtesy of Lena West. Once I decided on the types of work I wanted to do and the types of companies and clients I wanted to work with, my business transformed. Once I decided what a perfect fit client looked like, I felt more comfortable saying no; and, where applicable, making referrals to people who may be more aligned with the work.
Founder and CEO of OTITỌ Executive Leadership Coaching, coaching high-achievers and entrepreneurial leaders to confidently accelerate into more impactful leadership positions.
Her aha moment: I recently discovered that there is no certificate, no title, and no tenure for impact. Like many other corporate professionals turned business owners, I felt like I couldn’t label myself a “business owner” or a “CEO” or even a “coach” until I achieved some arbitrary measure that I wasn’t even sure about. I remember the first coach I invested in challenging me when I said I wanted to use “consultant” instead of “coach” because I was more comfortable as I had been a McKinsey consultant. She made me list moments throughout my life when I had “coached” people before I formally decided to start my business. This was the first step in finally getting rid of my imposter syndrome. It has helped me step into every new challenge that business brings with confidence, curiosity, and that much more fun.
Global Lead, New Verticals at Uber Technologies, changing the way the world moves for the better.
Her aha moment: I spent the early stages of my career believing if I were “so good they could not ignore me” I would be invited to the rooms and granted opportunities I so ardently sought access to. When I finally gained access to one such ordained leadership room, I was a little disappointed. I didn’t feel myself reflected in the team at the table, and I wondered—existentially—why I had given so much for the people in the room to deem me “enough” to take my seat. That was my moment. I stopped waiting for invitations to access the next room I wanted, and started creating the rooms I wanted to be in for myself. Don’t wait to be gifted the gardens of growth you seek—they may not be as beautiful as you first imagine. Instead, start planting the trees yourself.
Founder and CEO of Ethintegrity LLC, a consulting firm empowering organizations and professionals to leverage nuanced, creative, and digestible ways to solve DEI problems.
Her aha moment: When I started my consulting firm, I researched what other consultants in my industry were doing and tried to model myself after them to “fit in.” Initially, I took a “lift and shift” approach by working from my prior corporate compliance background instead of challenging the status quo and asking if the current methods were delivering sustainable results. As I leaned into my unique value proposition and took a creative approach to solving complex client issues, I became more confident and began to thrive. I then sat down to refresh my brand to focus on delivering services I love authentically. My “aha moment” was when I realized that introducing novel and innovative ways to tackle complex problems was a competitive advantage. It was okay to stand alone because, finally, my company felt tailored to fit me, and I embraced “standing out.”
Founder of Wildes District, an NYC-based design studio that specializes in emerging women’s and e-commerce brands in the fashion, beauty, luxury, and health and wellness sectors.
Her aha moment: Over the last decade, I’ve given the same advice to clients: Don’t try to be everything to everyone—the real value is in specializing in a specific niche in order to be the very best at what you do. One day, the thought struck me: “Why don’t design agencies do this too?” I saw agencies taking on projects across all verticals—from toothbrushes, to cars, to beverages, to mattresses. At that moment, I decided to pivot our business to focus specifically in the luxury sector, a sector I had worked in for many years prior to starting my studio. Now, it’s what we are known for. We have extensive knowledge in what works and what doesn’t for these types of brands.
Founder of Be Spotted, a pet marketing agency helping pet products and service providers gain clarity on their messaging and get seen by their key demographic.
Her aha moment: The start of my entrepreneurial journey was with my first company, dogspotted.com. I was offering a solution that I thought the consumer wanted/needed. But I quickly learned that the pain point wasn’t big enough for them to open their wallets. I realized that every month pet service providers and product developers were asking me for digital marketing advice. They loved my website and how I made a mark in the NYC dog community on Instagram. I realized I was being directly informed of the direction my business needed to go. Thus, I decided to pivot and launch a pet marketing agency. From my new website and marketing my new business on Instagram, I’ve been consistently receiving inbound messages from excited pet businesses to help elevate their brand, messaging, and digital presence. This has allowed me to focus more time on my clients rather than spending countless hours cold calling, emailing, and pitching.
Co-Founder of Unum, a world-building blockchain-based game with environments designed by Avatar’s legendary artist, Dylan Cole.
Her aha moment: Just because I am capable of doing many things, doesn’t mean I should. It took me years of hitting points of extreme burnout by trying to do everything I was capable of doing myself rather than delegating and collaborating with others who have the same skills and expertise. Like a true micromanager, I believed I could do most things better than anyone else. But by stretching myself thin by trying to do it all, my work quality suffered, and some things wouldn’t get done at all. I still fall into the habit of trying to do everything sometimes, and my health and personal relationships suffer. Because I was such a lone wolf in my youth, I find myself having to learn not to keep all the work to myself and to get better at giving other people responsibility, authority, and ownership over projects. I like to think I get better at this every day.
Transformational Teacher at Ashley Reed Coaching, LLC, helping high-performers reconnect with who they are and what they really want.
Her aha moment: Taking care of myself and respecting my boundaries is one of the most powerful ways to lead by example. It not only sends the message that I expect the same from others, but it also gives other people permission to honor themselves in the same way. When we create and respect our own boundaries, we create additional space that allows us to organically show up even more present, grounded, and impactful.
Product-Market Fit Strategist at Labs*: The Preseed Startup Blueprint, a comprehensive system that moves a founder from vision to product in a lean and efficient approach.
Her aha moment: While it sounds cynical, the most profound “aha moment” was realizing that “nobody cares,” which has significantly lessened the extent to which the perfection monster can hold me back. In 2017, when I trademarked the Lady Engineer® and launched the first version of Labs*, I was terribly insecure. Over the first year, I got more comfortable speaking publicly about my work, sharing important milestones, and announcing new promotions. At least 12 after the launch, I received a message from a friend congratulating me on the new direction, as if it were the first time she was learning about Labs*. The reality is that nobody else cares as much as we do; there is no galley full of people waiting to judge our every move.
Founder of The ABerlin Agency, Inc., helping small businesses access and execute PR strategies that were formerly reserved for only those who could afford a traditional PR firm.
My “aha moment” was realizing I could teach business owners the secrets of visibility that were previously veiled by the PR industry . I worked in “big PR” for 12 years. When I went out on my own, I realized I had a skill set for which the big agency world charged multi-five figure monthly retainers. Instead of offering the skill set as a service, I offer skill-building. I believe that business owners can and should be their own spokespeople. They should own their own contacts. They should communicate their own message. They should own that power, rather than outsourcing it to a PR firm. As a consummate rule-follower, this specific “aha moment” made me question who I thought I was at my core—could I be someone who took a stand against the way an entire industry did business? The answer was yes, I can.
K. E. Gregg
Founder of Amant House, an independent publishing house that values intention, innovation, creative freedom, and social impact.
Her aha moment: While racing to success, a troubling “aha moment” revealed that I had sacrificed my authentic self for public service. Though I tried to shake it off, ultimately I left politics and law to find my voice. Along the way, I collected experiences and wisdom. Then, I published my first novel to pass it on. Now, I am dedicated to the power of storytelling. I use my voice to help others find their voice.
Founder of Six Degrees Society, a women’s networking organization that focuses in making human connections easier.
Her aha moment: The pandemic was an incredible “aha moment” for me in that it taught me to take inventory of what was working and what wasn’t. I spent so much time planning and executing in-person events that I had short changed and stunted my coaching offerings. The pandemic taught me how to create a super valuable and turn-key event virtually. It ended up freeing up so much time and energy for me to be creative in my coaching business and add new offerings and creative endeavors like a mastermind and a podcast.
Founder of Marte & Co., a consulting agency specializing in business marketing and branding for personal and lifestyle brands in the professional service industry.
Her aha moment: As an entrepreneur, I had an “aha moment” when I realized that I needed to start living today the way I want to live 10 years from now. I started working fewer hours, taking Fridays off, and having an “after-work” life, which was a game changer. No longer do I think that I “have” to work 40 or more hours a week to be successful and productive. To be quite honest, I’m able to focus more and get better results now.
Founder and CEO of Outspoke Design, enabling elite coaching communities to create outspoken results for every client through a signature framework.
Her aha moment: My “aha moment” was that I don’t have to work with more clients to grow my business. All my business growth, in fact, has come from the opposite of what you’d expect: more time off, fewer clients, and fewer services. As a small business, I’ve found that doing less leads to more profit, opportunity, and success.
Co-Founder and CEO of So Syncd, a dating app that matches compatible personality types.
After working in investment banking for five years, I took a year off to travel the world and learn about a range of topics. I’d just gone through a breakup, which sparked a deep interest in personality compatibility. I ended up spending the year researching why some couples work better together in relationships than others. When I returned home, my sister was telling me about her friends who were struggling to find partners and I shared my compatibility learnings with her. That was our “aha moment.” We knew there and then that we had to set up a dating app based on personality types.
Founder and CEO of Techtonica, a nonprofit that helps women and non-binary adults with low incomes overcome barriers to entering tech careers.
Even if you think you’re open to feedback, if you don’t have a system in place to regularly ask for and give it, people won’t feel safe giving feedback, and frustrations will pile up. We carefully implemented a helpful feedback framework at Techtonica with regular surveys, meetings, and a template of “observable fact” + “impact on you” + “questions to understand” + “your request for the future.” Being part of Techtonica changing this way has been incredibly satisfying—it’s allowed us to really embrace a growth mindset and build a safe, always-improving environment.
Founder and CEO of Marika Creative, an agency-ish, specializing in stunning visual experiences, boldly and strategically supporting global businesses.
At the beginning of the pandemic, my dad reminded me to “look for the clues,” a phrase I’d heard often growing up. At a low point in my career, and for the world overall, he prompted me to lean in and listen to my clients. What were the common pain points? What were brands most fearful of? In what areas were they needing the most assistance to move forward? Pandemic or not, this advice is crucial, and has guided me for the majority of my career. But after that conversation specifically, the lesson really sunk in, and caused me to radically shift how I ran my business. At the beginning of 2020, I was a team of one, working with partners here and there, primarily focusing on small-scale, in-person photoshoots.
When the pandemic hit, I knew brands still needed content, but the means of creating it had to change. I started running productions out of my home studio, and was able to not only sustain my business, but grow my team. By listening to our clients, we met their content needs quickly and efficiently. Then, video became a necessary format unlike ever before. So we moved quickly and hired videographers to start including video on every single project. I now have a global team, and the caliber of work that we do is luxury, top-tier quality.
Lawyer at The Artists’ Lawyer, a resource hub of specialized contract templates, business tools, and small resources.
My big “aha moment” was letting go of control and perfection. When we began hiring a team, delegating, and outsourcing, I was able to focus on bigger-picture tasks that would allow us to grow and scale our business in the long run. It’s hard at first, especially for the perfectionists, to let go of certain things in business. But once you make the discovery, it is truly transformative for both growing and work/life balance!
Founder of Laura Alexandria Marketing, a social media micro-agency powered by women.
You need to spend money to make money. Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of doing everything themselves in an effort to be as scrappy as possible. I didn’t triple my revenue until I started building out a team and spending money to scale. It was extremely scary to give away part of my profits for something I could do, but it helped me make time for revenue-generating activities.
Founder and CEP of Montie & Joie, an ethical home goods and clothing brand that focuses on financially empowering women around the world.
During the pandemic, my husband and I had to close three of our businesses. We lost all of our financial security. This fundamentally changed how we do business as we have been rebuilding very literally without the resources to do so. We have had to be extremely strategic and creative. We don’t have the luxury to do everything we want to do, so we are being forced to do only what we have to do: really getting into the minds of our customers to determine what they might want if we have to choose between two seemingly important options. I know that these hardships will make us better entrepreneurs as we learn to manage funds and decisions with a clear strategy and strong vision.
Executive Coach for Women in Impact at Elisabeth Best LLC, offering executive coaching for aspiring CEO whisperers, rebels with a cause, and change agents.
One of the biggest “aha moments” in my career was in my 20s. I was preparing to leave my first-ever corporate job after six years without anything lined up next. I was terrified to walk away from a stable job and into the unknown, but I knew in my bones that it was time for me to pursue something new, travel, and move to San Francisco. I was reading Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass at the time, and I think that’s where I got the idea that, instead of asking myself, “Why me?” when it came to exciting possible opportunities and futures, I should start asking myself, “Why not me?” or, “If not me, then who?” That question and reframe came at the perfect time and has completely revolutionized my career. It has inspired me to take on some of my biggest professional challenges, including eventually founding my business working with women in the sustainability and social impact space, starting the Women Changing the World podcast, and creating the Girls Club Mastermind.
Owner at Honestly Bookkeeping, a female-owned, virtual bookkeeping firm, working with small businesses by stabilizing, strengthening, and creating sustaining financial systems.
Getting out of my own way is the best thing I have done as I started and grew Honestly Bookkeeping. Every time I get stuck in indecision or fear, I take a step back and ask myself if this obstacle is “real” or if I’m creating a false narrative. Most times I realize I’m acting/not acting on a belief that isn’t grounded in the facts. As soon as I acknowledge the root cause is something I’m creating, it allows me to be honest and open about the emotions surrounding that issue. Then I can move forward.
Head of Sales at MakeLoveNotPorn, a social, sex video sharing platform on a mission to end rape culture through improving sexual values and behavior.
I had been run ragged working a full-time equivalent, unpaid, nonprofit job and a full-time, paid, consultancy. I was brainstorming solutions, as I did for my clients, to my own burnout conundrum, when I realized what my now boss, Cindy Gallop, has long said. “You can do good and make money at the same time!” My pivot to sextech has harnessed my growth and development prowess and my culture-changing, world-improving heart.
Founder of Year of Living Better, an advisory group helping healthcare, tech, and professional service organizations reduce their exposure to the risk associated with workforce burnout.
As a former marketer, I know that the right data can be critical to making a sale. The right quantitative data point can seal the deal. In pursuit of these juicy data points, in February I incorporated a short survey into the burnout relief workshop we hosted. My jaw dropped when I saw the results. I knew then that the true value of our workshops isn’t only the skills they provide to individuals, it’s the snapshot of staff well-being that the survey provides for an organization’s leaders as they shape larger, systems-level changes.
All individuals featured in this article are members of Dreamers & Doers, an award-winning community and diverse ecosystem amplifying extraordinary entrepreneurial women through PR opportunities, authentic connection and high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to its monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
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