I recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Shola Kaye at the Marie Claire Future Shapers Live event where we spoke about creating a personal brand.
Shola is a performer, entrepreneur, and founder of Speak Up Like a DIVA, which specialises in running training events and providing public speaking coaching for women and corporates. Earlier this year, she authored the bestselling book How to be a DIVA at Public Speaking – the step by step system to engage your audience and present with confidence, which draws on female role models from the world of pop music for inspiration.
She’s also a multi-award winning speaker and an international professional singer.
It’s an honour to interview her for Wonderful Women.
Describe a typical day for you?
It kind of depends on whether I’m writing or gigging. Usually I get up, write in my 5-minute gratitude journal and then do some exercise.
After many years of gymming it, I now love to workout at home so I either jump on the rebounder or swing my kettlebell for a half hour.
Then it’s time to meditate – I can usually only manage 10 minutes, but I’m working on it – before I get on with some writing or creating more content for my online courses.
I’m super excited about helping more women to be confident public speakers so right now I’m converting my book ‘How to be a DIVA at Public Speaking’ into a series of online lessons that will be on Youtube, Udemy and my own platforms.
I want to make public speaking more accessible to women by using female role models from the pop world and showing them it can be just as fun and rewarding to speak in public as it can to be a singer or performer.
If it’s a gig night (usually Fridays or Saturdays) we’ll then jump in the car about 4 or 5pm ish and head to wherever I’m singing.
Usually it’s within a couple of hours of London but sometimes it’s in the North of England or overseas, which of course requires a bit more time to get there! I’ll usually do a 90 min to 2 hour set. Then, we’ll stay the night at a local hotel and come back next day, or head back home straight afterwards.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Wow, what a question. I love learning and trying new things so I feel like my biggest achievements are always to come. Looking back I’m happy that despite being quite a big introvert I managed to change career from studying Chemistry and working as an IT consultant to being an entertainer.
Years ago I was in corporate jobs in the USA and UK and I was supposed to be advising senior clients. At the time I was soooo lacking in confidence that after a couple of months as an account director I got fired because I didn’t speak up enough during meetings. Ouch!
That was a watershed moment for me because I realised that I was living my life for other people – friends, parents etc – doing things that maybe looked good from the outside, but that didn’t make me happy. I had to move out of my flat and into my little sister’s spare bedroom for a while and spent some time out of work.
After some soul-searching I figured out that no-one was going to give me permission to live the life I wanted…I had to give it to myself. For someone looking at my life from the outside, achievements include studying at Cambridge, being a professional singer, winning a public speaking award and being a bestselling author. But to my mind, my biggest achievement has been that I’m constantly trying to live life on my own terms and get a deeper understanding of what makes me tick and how I can allow myself to do what I do best and hopefully make the world a teeny bit better place to live in at the same time!
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
Hmmm…not much! I like to travel light, so literally just some cash and cards, lip gloss, hand cream and my smart phone! I’m a bit old school and still love writing reminders for myself on paper so there will usually be a couple of pens and a notebook.
What are your ambitions in life?
To live a good life that’s of value to me and to the world. To encourage those around me to be the best they can be and to pursue their dreams, whatever they are.
My top values are freedom and learning, so to keep growing and to keep feeling free to move in different directions without constraints! I love public speaking and singing so I also want to combine being an inspiring speaker with music. I’m not sure exactly how that looks just yet but if I could figure out how to be a more chilled out version of Tony Robbins, who also sings original songs from the stage and travels the world inspiring people at big events, then that would be amaaazing! I’m going to make it happen, so watch this space!
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
It comes back to permission and confidence. That you’ve got to give yourself permission to follow your dreams, or even just inklings. Trust your gut and eventually those internal messages will get stronger and stronger. Also, that confidence comes from taking action.
Act first and trust that you’ll figure out the next steps as you go along. As a kid, I was fostered until I was eleven. When I was younger I used to think that this was the reason I lacked confidence, but life can hit all of us in so many different ways. Whatever your background, there comes a time when you just have to say that no-one’s responsible now except you. Take that first baby step in the direction you want to go, and the universe will meet you more than halfway.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Hopefully travelling for say three months each year doing the speaking/singing/inspirational gigs, and the rest of the time teaching and training people to be confident about expressing themselves, whether that’s in person, or online. Ideally I’d be split between the UK and somewhere sunny. I have this dream of playing tennis every morning year round, but I don’t like the cold so I don’t think that will be here in London!
What advice would you give a budding entrepreneur and author?
Just do it and don’t wait for permission or for gatekeepers to open the doors. People are hugely empowered at the moment to start whatever they want. There are so many amazing resources available at low or no cost. If you want to write a book, don’t wait to find a publisher, just start it. The publisher may come, or just self-publish. Amazing opportunities have come to me after writing my book so don’t let excuses stand in your way before you get going on yours.
The same with starting a business. When I started Speak Up Like A DIVA I was worried no-one would be interested. Just hold your vision, and don’t be afraid to try new formats. Be creative with how you deliver your product. Make sure there’s a demand but be innovative with your delivery and that will help you stand out. For example, with Speak Up Like A DIVA I allow women to book speaking slots on a drop-in basis, without forcing them to become members. I also provide speakers with free training videos to help them prepare. As far as I know, no-one else is currently doing this. Also, make sure you share your story. Don’t try to blend in…it’s your differences that will define you and inspire a customer to choose you over your competitors.
Finally, happiness is…
A pad thai, a cuddle and the summer sun!
Shola Kaye is author of the book How to be a DIVA at Public Speaking (http://sholakaye.com/learn/chapter1-download/) click to download a sample chapter.
She also runs public speaking events in London for women http://sholakaye.com/live-events and works with them 121 on Skype and in person, helping them write stand-out speeches.
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