When Erika Brechtel took 14 women with her on a volunteer trip to Morocco for the first Global Founders Retreat this summer, she knew this like-minded group would inspire each other and create new professional relationships. . But she had no idea of the intensity of the personal transformations of each of them.
“A lot of tears were shed. It was a cathartic experience – an eye-opener and release we didn’t know we needed,” Brechtel recalls. “The trip served as a wake-up call, like a summons, to that little whisper in each of us who is ready to roar and make waves.”
As someone who has worked for 20 years as a brand designer, strategist, and brand builder, Brechtel has always helped female leaders overcome the biggest obstacle to their own success and fulfillment: themselves. “I believe women just need a little clarity on their value and the confidence to bring it out into the world,” Brechtel says. “It is for these reasons that I saw my role as a facilitator: I simply bring out of these women what is already there, what has always been there. And when we can bring it to light, it brings them to life.
With her new venture, Élanoura, a new initiative designed to enlighten, engage and empower women leaders to create positive change in their businesses, Brechtel is helping women find their untapped power to do great things. Élanoura unites and supports women by providing opportunities to explore purpose greater than themselves, connections outside of themselves, and impact beyond themselves. The meaning of the company name comes from the concept of leading a “life” (momentum) of “light” (oura).
Travel retreats are just one of the ways Elanoura helps women build their business and the legacy they want to leave behind. The company will also lead enrichment cohorts; match mentors; provide shared resources, courses and materials; help match nonprofits to help women build positive businesses; and providing free learning opportunities and interviews with female founders.
In addition to Morocco, week-long impact retreats will head to places such as Spain, Jordan and Egypt. On these trips, an organized group of female founders from around the world come together for development workshops, social activities, and a volunteer opportunity with a nonprofit organization. A significant donation is left to the non-profit organization for continued support long after the women return home. During the last retreat in Morocco, members of Elanoura made a donation to Project Soar which will provide a menstruation solution to keep 255 girls in school for three years, significantly reducing the likelihood of child marriage.
Since returning from the retreat in Morocco, the participants said they had seized the opportunity to collaborate with each other and expand their business internationally. Many finally felt inspired to take on a great initiative that they had been putting off. Brianna Diaz, strength trainer and founder of BriGainz, says the retirement inspired her to rethink her entire business model to “support everyday living beyond what was thought possible.”
Here, we caught up with Brechtel to find out what inspires her and how other women can find their inner confidence to become a better leader and global citizen.
How I got here: “I’m originally from the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. Later, I moved to Los Angeles to study art history at UCLA and interior design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). After school, I started working with clients on collaborative branding, digital identity and design, campaign art direction, and photography style,” says Brechtel. “In 2019, I launched my Branding Masterclass Tour, visiting cities across the United States to help businesswomen learn how to strategically and intentionally build and activate their business, executive or personal brands. In 2021, I will launched an online Brand Building Foundations course. In addition to launching Élanoura, I am currently working on a book called Make your mark, make it count, which will be released next year. I’ve also been a volunteer for 30 years, having served on four nonprofit boards focused on children’s education, girls’ and women’s rights.
What motivated me: “I’ve worked with women for 20 years and seen that the biggest hurdle for women (compared to men) is a lack of clarity around their value and therefore the confidence to push it and continue to learn and grow. I’m also frustrated with the lack of financial support for female founders and the inequality experienced by women in the workplace (especially mothers),” Brechtel says. “Men run the world and the business world and set it up as “me versus them”, which is no longer what consumers and employees want. Women have the opportunity to use our natural strengths to bring empathy and compassion to businesses.
My trip: “I’m just a girl from Hawaii who is good at design. I had no idea that this 20-year path would guide me to lead women around the world on life-changing impact retreats,” Brechtel says, “But that’s the beauty of travel: when you give yourself the time and space to explore who you really are and find out what you really want to do, you find it’s so much bigger than you. couldn’t have imagined when it all started. All it takes is the first step to get started.
The idea behind the retreats: Brechtel created the idea of taking women on travel retreats because she thought it would have more impact. “Instead of just donating money to a cause, I knew if these women were pushed a bit out of the daily grind of their comfort zone and had one-on-one interactions with real people outside of their bubbles across the world, this experience would be enough to shake them out of complacency about all the blessings they currently have, and into the power they each have to do something with those blessings,” Brechtel says.
Meet women from all over the world: “It’s much more impactful to sit down with and be inspired by a young leader living on less than a dollar a day, who is in real danger of being married before 18 because her family doesn’t can’t afford to buy basic supplies so she can stay in school permanently. First, it shifts your perspective around what you already have in your life; second, it makes you realize there’s so much more you can do,” Brechtel says. “You can’t leave it unchanged.”
Change approach: There are more than 11 million women-owned businesses in the United States and 21 million would-be millennial and Gen Z founders, yet less than 3% of venture capital funding goes to female founders. With that in mind, Brechtel is committed to helping women advance in business and believes that the first step to unlocking a woman’s untapped potential is to push — essentially — herself. “What women don’t take credit for enough is that they naturally have the capabilities that the new business world needs: empathy, compassion, and generosity,” Brechtel says. “It is no longer a weakness to display these qualities in business. In fact, it is required.
Make the difference: According to Brechtel, to tap into your full potential and shine a light on others, you need to start by clarifying who you are, what makes you unique, and what excites you. “Start by defining your 4 P’s: your people (who you’re doing it for), your purpose (why it’s important), your positioning (how unique you are), and your personality (how you can be authentically you). This will provide a base you can always come back to whenever you want to create something new.
Your Impact: “Whether it’s how you interact with a cashier at the grocery store or the energy you bring into a conversation with a friend or a project, you control how you directly impact each interaction. of your day and over time. , your life,” says Brechtel. “You will begin to see your relationships change and new opportunities for massive expansion emerge.”
Think bigger: “At some point, we can all get a little lost. We begin to live our lives as an endless loop of daily, weekly, and quarterly tasks. We forget to step back and see everything from above to see the big picture,” says Brechtel. “At the end of it all, why do you want to be remembered? What do you want to remember? If someone searched on Google, what do you hope they would find? Do you work and live in this direction now? »
You have more power than you think: “Especially through a multi-year pandemic, recession and major global upheaval, this can seem scary. We can fall into old self-limiting beliefs of fear, lack, judgment, and competition,” says Brechtel. “For women in the United States, as we witness the disenfranchisement of our rights, it is galvanizing to remember that you have a voice – a voice bigger than many other parts of the world. So what are you going to do with it? How can you be an advocate? »
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