Adrienne Garland is the founder of She Leads Media, a media company dedicated to leadership - both professionally and personally - for women, worldwide. The mission of She Leads Media is to inspire, educate and ultimately, to showcase women as the leaders we're meant to be.
Adrienne has an extensive marketing background and has helped prestigious media companies such as Cablevision, DIRECTV, SiriusXM, PR Newswire and PricewaterhouseCoopers with customer growth and digital transformation over the course of her career.
Additionally, Adrienne is a sought-after marketing consultant with expertise in bringing together and activating audiences and brands to achieve tangible results. Adrienne is a New York Business Journal 2016 class of Women of Influence honoree and an Astia Advisor.
Adrienne holds her MBA in Marketing, with a concentration in Entertainment, Media and Technology from the prestigious New York University, Stern School of Business. She currently resides on the north shore of Long Island with her husband and two sons.
Her advice to entrepreneurs starting a business in NYC:
Think BIG as early as possible, stop talking and start doing, and build a scalable business that can grow and thrive beyond your personal efforts.
In this interview, Adrienne shares her mission and how she inspires women to be leaders in business and in larger corporations. She also gives us a look behind closed doors on how she found time and money to start a business, her toughest business decision and how she overcomes struggles.
When you're done absorbing Adrienne's insight, follow She Leads Media on Twitter for the latest conferences and happenings!
WHY DID YOU START ‘SHE LEADS MEDIA CONFERENCE’? CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS AND WHAT YOU DO?
I started the She Leads Media conference back in 2013 as a way to help women who were seeking to launch and grow a business. Since then, the mission has evolved to focus on the higher ideal of leadership.
Women are natural leaders, but sometimes don’t recognize that leadership quality. The mission of She Leads is to help women understand that they are leaders and should operate from that place of leadership in their lives – whether leading businesses or departments within larger corporations or any aspect of their lives.
She Leads Media hosts conferences and events and works with large brands who support the mission of leadership for women, worldwide.
IS THERE A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE THAT YOU HAVE OVER THE REST? HOW DID YOU FIND IT AND ‘NICHE DOWN’?
My competitive advantage is the manner with which I approach this space and how She Leads conducts business. We are 100% focused on helping women to achieve their leadership potential and to create, grow and influence businesses that support equality.
Our main tenant is that everything we do must be genuine, supportive and actionable. This space is competitive, and that’s a good thing! Clearly, women are recognizing that more needs to be done on a global scale to educate, support and help women to step into leadership. The world needs more women at the helm to bring balance on a global scale.
The fact that we focus on providing actionable advice is really where we stand out. We came to the conclusion to hone in on action, as we felt that there are other organizations and conferences out there that do a great job of inspiring women to take action. We’re really good at grabbing that baton and taking women across the finish line.
HOW DID YOU FIND THE TIME AND MONEY TO GET ‘SHE LEADS MEDIA CONFERENCE’ OFF THE GROUND? ANY ADVICE FOR ENTREPRENEURS WITH MINIMAL TIME OR RESOURCES?
Finding time for something one is deeply passionate about isn’t difficult to do. When She Leads began, I was working as a consultant at DIRECTV 4 days a week, which gave me one full day to focus on the conference. Money is a different story. Like the majority of women who start businesses, I self-funded.
I used my consulting income and credit cards to pay for anything that was needed, and did absolutely everything as inexpensively as possible and basically did everything myself from writing to web development to graphic design. Looking back, I realize that trying to do everything – being a Jane of all trades – isn’t a smart approach to building a business.
The main reason is that when you operate from a place of lack, it’s difficult to break out of that mindset. Had I hired the help that I needed and focused my efforts on developing bigger and more powerful relationships that could have provided the support that the business needed, I believe we could have gotten farther, faster.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BIGGEST MILESTONE THAT YOU HAVE HIT WITH YOUR BUSINESS? WHAT WAS THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU DID TO GET THERE?
The biggest milestone we achieved last year is profitability. This allowed us to grow and expand. We have certainly turned the corner, as we now have large brands, people and organizations from all over the world reaching out to us, whereas in the past, we were the ones doing the majority of the outreach.
The number one thing we did to get us there is to adopt a Think Big mindset. We realized our approach was unique and special, and that we offered real, tangible value, and it was time to embrace our approach and have bigger, more meaningful conversations with partners and brands that could help propel our mission forward.
WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST DECISION YOU'VE EVER MADE WHEN STARTING A BUSINESS? HOW DID IT MAKE YOU BETTER AT THE END OF THE DAY?
The toughest decision we’ve made is to keep going. Our business model is heavily reliant at this time on sponsorships and ticket sales, which is a hard game to play. We realize that in order to continue to grow, our business model needs to be scalable.
We’re in the process of making She Leads scalable, and will be working on implementing that business model shift over the next several months. Without scale, we remain small and the She Leads mission is too big to stay small.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE LIFE AND WORK TO REMAIN CONNECTED AND AVAILABLE FOR YOUR LOVED ONES? ANY ADVICE FOR ME?
That’s a tough one! I’m naturally full of energy so I have that going for me. I also do my best to make sure that every day I’m doing something active, even if it’s just a 30-minute walk. Getting outside and breathing deeply offer so much perspective and allows your mind to process in a way that’s not available when you’re busy working on something. I also make sure to sleep at least 7 hours every night.
When I don’t sleep, it affects everything. My family comes first, and I make sure that everyone I’m working with knows that this is non-negotiable. That said, when I have work that must be finished, I let my family know in no uncertain terms that I am not available to them and they need to figure things out for themselves. My children are teenagers now so that makes it a bit easier. I have a very supportive family and for that, I am deeply grateful.
My advice to anyone would be to ask for help from friends, neighbors or colleagues when you need it most. I have found that when you ask for help, there is someone who is willing to pitch in. At the same time, make sure you do your part to help a friend/family member when he/she needs it. What comes around, goes around….
WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-IN, DAY-OUT LOOK LIKE? IS THERE ANY SPECIFIC HABIT THAT HAS HELPED YOU BECOME A BETTER PERSON?
Every day is a new adventure. At this point in my career, I’m working from home which is both a blessing and a curse. I absolutely love being present for my children, as it has transformed my family’s life for the better. I used to commute to NYC on a daily basis – leaving my home at 7:00 am and returning at 8:00 pm.
As you can imagine, there wasn’t much time for connecting as a family. So, these days my schedule incorporates exercise – either first thing in the morning or mid-afternoon. I have many phone conversations and I work on everything that needs to be done for the conference from forming strategic marketing partnerships to connecting with sponsors to speaking to potential attendees to marketing, social media, and PR.
I also have a few clients, so I’m working on projects in the midst of all of this activity! The single habit that has helped me the most is to dump everything that needs to be done onto an oversized index card so that I’m not thinking about 10 other things at one time. This clears my mind and allows me to follow a list of items one by one. I also take mini-mind breaks to allow myself to rest. And, I use my calendar religiously. If it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t happen!
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST THING YOU STRUGGLE WITH AS A BUSINESS OWNER? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR HOW FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS CAN OVERCOME IT?
The biggest struggle for my business at this point is creating a steady stream of revenue that allows me to work on She Leads 100% of the time. The best piece of advice is to create a business from the very beginning that is able to scale beyond you. Think BIG, early. And, focus intensely on how your business generates revenue.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR? HOW DID THEY SHAPE YOUR BUSINESS?
My husband. He has run a successful fire safety business since 1999 and I have been an observer from the outside on what works and what doesn’t. As I’ve started and grown She Leads, he has been able to offer me wonderful advice that has helped me to think of my business in a completely different way that has helped the company to grow and expand.
WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 PIECES OF ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE SOMEONE STARTING A BUSINESS IN NEW YORK? WHAT DO THEY NEED TO KNOW FROM THE BEGINNING?
- Think BIG as early as possible. We’re in NYC for goodness sake!
- Stop talking, start doing.
- Build a scalable business that can grow and thrive beyond your personal efforts.