With a head for numbers, Starla Sireno carved out a niche market as a Portfolio Manager focusing on
the all important return on investment (ROI) for the Fortune 500 companies she worked for. At 28, she was trading billions of dollars by day and drinking martinis and eating at the very best restaurants in Washington and New York by night. She met the impossibly rich of Wall Street, corporate leaders, famous artists, musicians and even a Supreme Court Justice. There were regular dinners, sporting events, concerts, private art showings, and trips to Europe. On paper, she had it all. But for Starla, it was stifling.
A Shift in Values
“It always felt like something was wrong with me. How could I have such incredible opportunities and be so miserable at the same time? Only after I started doing some work on myself did I realize that my values were in opposition to what I was doing.” And so Starla’s career reinvention journey began.”
Like so many women, she started out fully intending to follow her passions but over time doubted that she could really make a living doing what she loved. Starla found her choices becoming more and more practical – her heart gave way to her head. Looking back, Starla was able to admit: “I convinced myself that a successful career was more about stability and financial security, not challenge and passion.”
Getting Your House in Order
Taking the plunge from a secure and high paying career to a new adventure was a journey and a leap of faith. Ever practical, Starla first took steps to get her financial house in order. She earned a coaching certification to add to her business know-how and financial expertise.
While the additional credentialing was helpful and important for the new career path, the inner work and rearranging of mental furniture was what made the most difference. Starla talked about her need to shed some of the hard edges of the corporate sector before she could move forward in the new direction of becoming a coach and a trainer.
“When you are working so intimately with people, you have to clear your own energy. I spent a lot of time reminding myself of who I was, at the core, before I was in finance. I did all of the things that gave me joy – my family, nature and animals, adventure and that feeling of being free.”
It was now time for Starla to identify her personal return on investment strategy knowing that she was the human capital at stake. She identified two secret weapons that helped her move forward to achieve her ROI. The book Get Clients Now by C.J. Hayden provided concrete action steps and revealed secret weapon number one – the quickest way to build visibility and credibility was by speaking to groups of people. The only problem was that Starla was deathly afraid of public speaking! She feared being judged each time she stood in front of a room – a feeling shared my many.
Known to be tenacious (and maybe even stubborn to those close to her), Starla mustered her courage and decided that it was the fastest way to what she wanted. According to Starla- “I just sucked it up. For almost 2 years, I spoke almost every week. It was exhausting, but finally it became ingrained in me.”
The second secret weapon isn’t as easy to replicate. It’s her amazing husband, David Greco who has always been Starla’s rock. “I can talk endlessly, cry, celebrate or ask for strategic advice and he is ALWAYS there. He is never tied to an outcome – he just wants me to be truly, authentically me. Because of his unconditional support, I know that no matter what choices I make, he will support me.”
The lesson here is to find your unconditional support system and tap it – regularly.
A New Career is Born
Armed with secret weapons and a commitment to honor her values, Starla founded Fearlessness, Inc., an executive coaching, training, and consulting company that specializes in business communications and leadership development.
Founded on the principle that business metrics alone are not enough to guarantee a successful company, Fearlessness, Inc. focuses on the people that comprise the business. From team dynamics down to individual contributors, Fearlessness, Inc. creates customized solutions to foster more effective communication and productivity. Training programs cover leadership communication, teambuilding, presentation skills, time management and proper office etiquette.
The name of the company is inspiring and gives you some insight into Starla and what makes her tick. Based on her real world experience in high pressure, high risk environments, Starla has taken her lessons learned and keys to success to develop customized programs for executives and their teams. As an executive coach, speaker and trainer, Starla helps individuals leverage their skills through personal branding, effective communication and leadership development. She also works with teams to overcome obstacles, communicate across differences and agree on intended outcomes.
When it Rains it Pours
As an entrepreneur, Starla now enjoys the creativity of setting her own strategic mission. She enjoys meeting inspirational people and doing interesting things every day that help people improve in their professions and she is thrilled not to have to deal with office politics.
But the new career path did not come without challenges. During the first year of the business, Starla was flying to San Diego every week tending to her ailing father. While she was very grateful to have the flexibility to spend time with her family, it also meant that she was not growing her business and essentially put it on hold for a year.
The financial strain was tougher than she expected, even with savings, but Starla never envisioned that her husband would lose his job. Within the same 2 week period of David’s lay-off, Starla’s father passed away. They had exhausted their savings and amassed significant debt with the company start up fees. The outlook was bleak.
Starla candidly shared:
“There have been the sleepless nights, feelings of panic and a sense of futility. But I never once considered going back to work for someone else. How do I overcome the challenges? I cry until I’m exhausted. I laugh at the absurdity of my life. I complain to my husband. And I rely on the wisdom of other women business owners who have gone through it and come out better and stronger.”
A Hero’s Journey
And as the old adage goes, that which does not kill us does make us stronger. Starla came away from the adversity stronger and more focused. She created her own Queen-dom with 3 partners and co-founded the Fearless Women Entrepreneur Network (FWEN) to empower other women on their entrepreneurial journeys.
Starla is forever grateful to entrepreneurship – she been known to say that the starting a business is a personal evolution that saved her from herself. Starla wants to bring that same sense of purpose and possibility to other women who are tired of living separated from who they are meant to be. Fearless Women Entrepreneur Network is an organization dedicated to fostering emerging women entrepreneurs through education and community-building. Starla is passionate about providing the programs, tools, resources and connections that she wishes she had when she first started out.
While the goal is to take FWEN national, most of the programs happen in the California Bay Area. Starla believes becoming an entrepreneur is a hero’s journey that takes you to the deepest pits of darkness to the highs unlike any other. The journey doesn’t take the entrepreneur on a straight line and the journey never ends. Instead it is a constantly changing cycle of challenges, victories and emotions.
The fears, doubts and uncertainties of being an entrepreneur never really go away. That is why Starla and her team have created a community of women fearless enough to be honest about the hardships and perils of the journey and who support and celebrate each other’s successes. FWEN aims to be a sigh of relief for women who feel alone and who wonder if they’re crazy to being on this journey.
Starla is hard at work growing her coaching business, empowering women entrepreneurs, and writing a book. While her plate is full, so is her heart since she is living an authentic life with a career she adores. The ultimate relationship builder, this corporate maven left cubicle land to help hero’s find their way and she has created a sacred space for women entrepreneurs to realize their dreams.
Starla’s Advice and Action Steps:
To be a Fearless Entrepreneur, you need to possess the 3 P’s:
- Passion. Love what you do so strongly that you would do it for free (because chances are you will be working harder than you’ve ever worked for less than you’ve ever made).
- Preparation. Having an idea that you’re passionate about won’t sustain a business. You have to back the passion up with a viable business model, solid market research and enough flexibility that you can pivot if the market tells you that it wants something different.
- Persistence. Every entrepreneur I’ve ever met is overly optimistic about when they will have the product finished, will reach scalability, or hit a certain revenue target. It always takes longer than you imagine it will. Stay the course and take time to acknowledge how far you’ve come.
Starla is has learned that the only way she can make a positive impact is by being absolutely true to who she is. She is inspired by this quote from an e.e. cummings poem:
“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”
Fearlessness Inc. www.FearlessnessInc.com
Fearless Women Entrepreneur Network – http://www.fearlesswomennetwork.com/