Fearless Latina Leader: Yvette Bodden, CEO of Awakened Woman & Host of AW Confidential Podcast
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
I am the daughter of Dominican immigrants. Expectations were made clear from a young age. Study a profession that offers a real living. In other words, go to school and become a doctor or lawyer. My options were limited. Like many other immigrants, my parents believed that having a good life meant working a steady job with benefits. Later in life, buy a house and maybe take a vacation, once a year. I tried it their way but eventually, Corporate America won. I believed it was a better fit, personally and professionally until it all stopped being fulfilling.
My journey to where I am now began post divorce. There were endless life questions during this period, initiating a path to self-discovery. I could not shake the void and began creating content out of a need to fill space but it became bigger than me. Millions of women around the world did not have the resources to help themselves out of a similar place or worse. Immediately, I tried to think of ways to use my personal stories to encourage.
The writing led to podcasting, and our platform has grown significantly from that one idea. More importantly, it is an example of how we can use our voice for good. Lending the gift we’ve been granted to help others tap into their personal power is what AW (Awakened-Woman.com) is about and has become purpose.
Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?
It would be impossible to name one person because it takes a village to materialize a dream. We see a vision, create a foundation but there is a need for bridges along the way. You meet so many people that make introductions, teach, encourage and hold you down. There is a saying, “No man is an island.” I have learned that it is possible to flourish and grow when we accept help. Everyone has a different talent. Letting them use their gifts, gives you more time to focus on your own. Think about how much stronger the foundation can be if we allow for that space.
Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?
Delegate. No one does it better than you. Is it true, maybe but we have to learn to ask for help, even when it means paying out of pocket. When you first start, there is no budget. This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn and finding the right person to do the job can take trial and error.
I do most of the work for the AW platform. There are over 500 articles on the AW platform and about 40 episodes of the AW Confidential Podcast and YouTube channel. I do the writing, editing, interviewing, hosting, sourcing of guests, as well as, manage the social media channels for AW. In 2021, I made the decision to outsource the PR for the platform. In order to do more of what I am good at, I had to allow someone else to take the reins on something else. It was difficult to come to terms with the idea that I couldn’t do it all but was necessary.
What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?
Lead by example. Don’t ask your team to work hard while you are traveling around the world without a care in the world. This is your baby, your livelihood and your dream! You cannot leave it in the hands of others to nurture and develop your ideas. You have to be present and vested to ensure that you are taken seriously.
Be consistent. Dedication and focus are big factors in the success of any business. Dreams are built not made. You cannot wish things into reality like a genie in a bottle. The commitment requires blood, sweat and tears. It is very different from a 9 to 5 that you can walk away from at the end of day. You should pause to give yourself time to regenerate but then keep going.
Trust yourself. Being a successful entrepreneur and leader is impossible without knowing how to make the difficult decisions. The business is like your child, you know what is best and nurtured it to fruition. Be open to listening but remember, you have the last call. Don’t second guess yourself. You will make mistakes, it is ok - that is how we learn.
What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?
Patience is a required to lead. It takes time to build a strong network to help push your dream. Not everyone has your skillset or knowledge. When building a team, find people that have strengths in areas you might not. Everyone should compliment and support one another. It is not about working with friends or family, it should be about having the right people for the job and folks that truly believe in what you are creating.
Success is a long-term game. Overnight success is not the goal, nor is it realistic. There are a handful of these stories. We often hear about people who made it big and came out of nowhere. If you dig deep, you may find their story has a long trajectory of mistakes or so-called failures that are part of the journey to where they are. Buying into the fantasy that you will be discovered or “get rich quick” is a recipe for repeated disappointment. We have to do the work.
Don’t be afraid to ask, the worst they can say is “No.” I used to be afraid to ask or approach people in a room. The mere thought of writing an email asking for an introduction was terrifying. A friend told some time ago “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” It is exactly what will happen, so I say, shoot your shot! You never know what can happen.
In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?
My advice for anyone looking for mentorship is to come from a place of strength while remaining humble and open to everything there is to learn. Preserve your curiosity and passion for being the best you. People will organically be drawn to you making it a little less difficult to find your person.
The first step is knowing what you want. A mentor can be someone in a professional or social network. The key is having someone that sees your potential, as you do, and is willing to walk the path with you. Build your network around people you admire but also see your worth.
How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?
Pivoting is key in any business. Your ideas won’t always work, getting attached to only one way of doing things is dangerous ground. Timing is key and tricky because if you pull your idea too soon, you can lose out. However, pulling out too early can cheat the business and yourself out of possible success.
When struggling with this type of decision, I tend to step back and look at the overall picture. I get a sense of the customer base or audience being targeted and observe their actions or lack thereof, to help me see whether or not my idea is working. Occasionally, I will ask trusted sources for assessment on the matter. However, at the end of the process, I turn to my gut for ultimate guidance because I know what results I’d like to see.
Lastly, I’d say, we get stuck on visions. Don’t be afraid to modify the vision. Things can start out one way but don’t have to be so rigid that you can’t change them to work for you. Sometimes, as visionaries, our greatest fault is getting fixated on one idea or way of doing things.
How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?
Great question! There are ups but in the throes of things, we can find ourselves in more downs, particularly when first starting out.
Firstly, read! Inspiring books, stories or quotes that uplift you. You will be surprised how much inspiration you can find or how much knowledge you can retain from it. Sometimes, it can inspire your next big move. If you don’t read, listen to audio books or podcast, there are different ways to absorb information.
Secondly, surround yourself with people you admire or that inspire you. Like-minded people that challenge you mentally. If is such an amazing way to exchange ideas and learn.
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?
I’m not sure, I’d want to restart the journey! But, if I could, I’d say that I would have loved to get started on this idea sooner, then again, I may not have had the maturity or life experience to create this awesome platform. I believe everything has divine timing, so I’m exactly where I need to be, at this time.