Recently, I saw a post on Facebook by Laura Conley, who was celebrating three years as an entrepreneur. As I read about her journey, her energy leapt off my screen and I instantly knew I had to share her story.
Laura and I met when she joined the Development department for my client, Habitat forHumanity of Greater Los Angeles, several years ago. As it turned out, her previous job was in sales at Konica Minolta, reporting to one of my dear friends. We hit it off instantly and stayed in touch even after she left Habitat LA to pursue another sales job. I have watched her journey unfold, thanks to Facebook, and I am so thrilled she agreed to share her entrepreneurial journey here. I hope Laura’s story, and those that will follow in this series, will inspire and motivate others to take that magical leap too.
Please tell us what you do for a living?
I am a Yoga Teacher and a Happiness Coach. I teach public classes at Yogaworks and Equinox– in Santa Monica, and also have corporate clients, whom I love, including Twitter and a couple of advertising agencies. I also work one-on-one with private clients. On top of that, I plan and lead yoga retreats – locally and internationally. I am having the time of my life!
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
I love the freedom and variety to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Sometimes that freedom and variety can be a bad thing, because I in the beginning found myself chasing every big idea I thought of because I knew I had the freedom to do so. Now three years later, I realize I have planted too many seeds, so I am pulling back and getting really clear on what I want to focus on.
“Listen to your inner voice. It’s all you need.”
What did you do before this?
My main career was sales. I sold copiers, did fundraising for a non-profit and ultimately sold pharmaceuticals. I considered the pharmaceutical sales my corporate dream job, it’s what I had been working toward. While I believed in our products and loved my boss, I found the job unfulfilling. Interestingly, the job paid well and afforded me the opportunity to go on yoga retreats.
Did anyone or anything inspire you to take the leap?
It wasn’t just one person or thing, it was a combination of the collective yoga community and how I felt doing and teaching yoga.
While on a yoga retreat to Costa Rica five years ago, I thought it would be cool to do teacher training. The majority of people who do the training do not do it to become an instructor, but because they love the experience. I was motivated to learn more. After training, the first time I had to practice teaching it struck a nerve and I knew I needed to continue! It became a nagging itch to teach yoga. The itch soon became a calling. It became very clear to me that this was what I needed to do. My husband and I sat down and made a plan for me to leave my job, specifically, how much money we’d need to save so that it would not affect our lifestyle.
I have to give a shout out to my first yoga teacher Kia Miller, who has inspired me since the day my husband and I began practicing with her 10 years ago. I went on my first retreat with her and I did my teacher training with her.
Did you plan for the leap or just go for it?
A week after making a plan with my husband, I learned there were going to be layoffs at my company and I leapt at the opportunity to leave voluntarily. My boss was vehemently opposed to the idea and thought I was nuts! He basically told me, “No way!” Literally, the voluntary severance package they offered me was the exact amount of money my husband and I had planned to save for my transition. It’s such a huge testament to “ask and you shall receive.” I am a big believer in putting it out into the Universe and manifesting. The rest is history.
Was it scary?
I was a little scared, but it was as if the stars were aligning so perfectly and the Universe was shouting “THIS IS YOUR PATH!“ It was scary-exciting but mostly invigorating. Because I felt I was fulfilling my calling, it was not that scary and it wasn’t that hard. It was what I was supposed to be doing.
What kinds of mistakes have you made so far?
In the beginning, my days were super busy to the point where I had no down time. I would teach mornings at 6 am, hustle all day and then teach evening classes until 9pm. While I loved it, I really missed having time to do my own yoga practice, meditate and read. Now I have a perfect balance of work and personal time.
What was the best advice you received?
Be patient and let the process work. The best networking advice I received was to go to as many classes as I could and let the teachers know that I could sub for them. I began doing that all the time and it worked. More good advice was not to get caught up in how many people are my class. If I only have two students in the class, I should teach to those two people and be honored to teach to them. The combination of all this advice really paid off for me. It was all about patience with the perfect amount of hustle.
What has been the most satisfying part of this journey?
Leading my yoga retreats is my all time favorite thing to do! It’s great because I get to take people so much deeper than a traditional 60-90 minute class. We have a whole weekend or week to share experiences and do more than physical posture. Our weekend and weeklong retreats include yoga combined with journaling and meditation. That is where people make really big shifts. It’s super rewarding!
Have any other areas of your life improved since shifting careers?
It’s the best life ever! I feel so happy, energetic, light and excited about life! I am living yoga, so I am more calm, and not as reactionary. I still get fiery but I am much more calm. Sales was all about hitting my numbers and while I am still goal oriented, I’ve let go of that mindset. I had a goal at the beginning of the year to reach 10k Instagram followers, but now I care more about inspiring as many people as I can to find their calling and do what they love. That is what I am excited about now. I am less materialistic. I still like nice things, but that is not what motivates me anymore. I let go of that and it’s freeing.
Do you miss anything about your previous career?
No. The first year after I left I really couldn’t believe how much i didn’t miss it! I have not looked back once.
DO IT! People will tell you you’re crazy. Sometimes you have to shake it off and follow your path. Be logical, but follow your heart and your instincts. There will be plenty of people who will support you. My calling was burning loud and clear.
If you’re unsure, go to your special place – whether that’s yoga, hiking, running or meditation – go there and get quiet so you can hear your inner voice. That inner voice will tell you if it’s a yes or a no. Listen to your inner voice. It’s all you need.
If you are not sure, it’s your job to find out what it’s telling you. You have to find that voice and have a relationship with that voice so you can feel amazing every single day!