Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Cara Heilmann, President of the International Association of Career Coaches, located in Walnut Creek, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a career coach who trains professionals to become certified career coaches. Our customer falls into one of our categories:

  1. Current solopreneur wanting to expand offering (e.g., life coach wants to add career).
  2. HR Talent professional wanting to open a side business.
  3. Seasoned professional working for a company wanting to branch out on its own.
  4. Talent CEOs want to add coaching as a leadership development tool.

Tell us about yourself

Here is my origin story:
He was angry. Really angry. Two years into my HR career, I was having "one of those days." The man across the desk from me had been with the company for 35 years. My job was to tell him that his job was gone. We were closing the plant. That night, after terminating 25 employees, I thought, this is not why I went into Human Resources. But I stayed. I stayed in a field I didn't love for 20 years because I felt like leaving would somehow invalidate everything I'd earned. So I got good at mixing it up. I found areas I loved on the fringes of HR, like recruiting and poured my heart into them. No one could tell I wasn't happy until I worked for a boss who could.

This guy was an incredible public figure—internationally known and a moving, brilliant keynote speaker. He liked to be surrounded by devotees. It wasn't his fault I wasn't an unquestioning worshiper. I'm just a slightly irreverent person by nature. But my lack of devotion didn't float his boat. I was the second (and not the last) person on his executive team to be let go. Before I left, other leaders in the organization offered roles in other departments. But I couldn't shake the feeling that this was an opportunity to find My Thing.

I combined everything I loved about my job and founded a coaching business to help people find jobs they loved. Every day was a breath of fresh air. I fell in love with every person I worked with. I helped hundreds of people find amazing jobs. This is where it gets crazy.

The recruiter got recruited. I was asked to be the Chief Talent Officer at a Silicon Valley startup. The founder was amazing, and onto something big! It wouldn't be all HR, she said. I took the job and jumped right back into the muck again. What ended up jolting me back to reality was the loss of my dad, who died very unexpectedly from pneumonia. It was one of those horrible reminders that life is simply too short to waste doing something you aren't in love with. I'd gone into Human Resources because I wanted to help humans. Not corporations. The siren song of corporate "stability" can be powerful, but it's an illusion—ask that dude who was ready to take a swing at me because he no longer fit into the business's plans. So I quit. Again. And went back to coaching and never looked back.

I share this story with you because if you feel like you've hit a career U-turn, I want you to know you're not alone. Perhaps you've begun to dread going to work. . You crave using all your talents, all of your skills. And it just feels like you've stagnated in a role that didn't grow with you. You feel like it's time for something different. To find Your Thing. It is time to do it because life is too darned short.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Launching a very successful career coaching business and hiring two employees. And then being asked by an association to lead as President.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I am a creator to my core. I love to create things out of nothing, and I need to stop ideating so much as it drives my team crazy.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Find someone who has done it in your segment! This is key, or you'll waste a ton of time and money hiring consultants and business coaches that get you incremental results.
  2. Keep moving forward. Analysis paralysis is the killer of all small businesses, and we worry too much about getting it perfect instead of getting it out there.
  3. Take care of yourself. It can be quite consuming.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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