Bolder Sister Spotlight: Coleen Otero, A CEO Chick & Let’s Do Launch

coleen-headshotOne of the things I value is great conversations with Bolder sisters who are making things happen.

My latest discussion is no different. My goal is to always make sure you feel encouraged and inspired by other women who have navigated through fear and are now able to live a life they are passionate about. There is a sense of empowerment that comes from hearing real stories of women who choose to live fearlessly.

Coleen Otero is a celebrity stylist and beauty and branding expert. What makes her story so unique is that she had a large bump in the road, lost everything, but didn’t succumb to the fear that set in during that time. She’s definitely winning and living fearlessly and coming to the Chicagoland area to empower others. The Let’s Do Launch luncheon is coming to Chicago from 12–3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8 at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood (Lowes Chicago O’hare Hotel), 5320 N. River Rd., Rosemont, IL. 60018. Here’s more from our chat:

The Bolder Sister:

I created the Bolder Sister blog because I wanted to encourage women to raise their voice, speak up, walk and talk with confidence, pursue that career they want, speak up in those meetings on their job. Just live a  life with confidence and go after the things you want, so I was really excited about your story. I was thinking this sounds like a bolder sister to me.
Coleen: Girl. It’s all about that bold life.
The Bolder Sister: I love stories that encourage my readers to be bold too. It’s important for them to hear other stories of success. I was so fascinated with your story, Coleen, because there were some bumps along the road. I think that women need to connect with that because they get nervous and  fearful because they worry about failure and the bumps along the road.  When you hear other people have overcome certain challenges it provides hope and a sense of encouragement.
Coleen: I know it.
The Bolder Sister: How did your career began?
Coleen: Well, for me I got started in the beauty industry at a very young age. I was twelve and just kind of fascinated with hair. I grew up in the New York, Brooklyn area a very diverse area. So I got pretty much just obsessed with different hair textures and types. One of my good friends had, oh my gosh, beautiful dreadlocks. I had another Hispanic friend that had curls. Another with straight hair. I would just play in their hair all the time. I think it stemmed from my mom, who was horrible with hair and therefore mine was jacked up, so I think I kind of was like, “Ooo. Let’s go to the bathroom. Let’s fix this. Let’s try that. Can I borrow your beret?” It kind of started at a very young age. It’s just one of those things I’ve always experimented with. Then weaves came along. Oh my God I remember … I’m the youngest of three, so I remember when my sister got her first weave. The neighbor downstairs did her hair and she came back looking like Whitney Houston. I said, “Oh my!”
Real talk. She had layers of layers of curls. I was like, “Oh my God! This is it right here.” Of course I was too young, disappointing, but that kind of started the journey. I was like, “Watch. I’m going to get my first weave.” I started sneaking in a little piece here and there. I was not allowed to get a relaxer. Just doing all this kind of different stuff with my hair. My mom would braid it up and I would feel so limited.The Bolder Sister: That’s so amazing though to know what you want to do at twelve and still be excited about it, because you speak with such passion and excitement.Coleen: I love it! Yeah. It is. It’s the women that do it for me more than the hair. Now I could do it without thinking about it, but to see the people’s response. It is true, when you find a good stylist … To have someone want to fly in for you to do their hair, it’s a big deal.
I was like, “Oh my gosh. Who would have thought.” My parents wanted me to go to college like my sisters and I’m like, “But I want to do hair!” I did. I tried it. I tried. I thought about it, “I’m going to go be a nurse.” No, no she’s not. She is not going to be a nurse. I just had to bite the bullet, deal with my daddy’s dirty looks for a little while and just truck on through. I’m glad I did. I’m glad I did.

The Bolder Sister: That even takes a sense of boldness too, to kind of go against the grain a little bit and follow what you feel is your calling.

Coleen: It does.

The Bolder Sister: I’m curious about the three B’s and how those connect to you. The beauty, the branding, and the business.

Coleen: Yes ma’am. Well, okay so the beauty side of course you get that part of it. A couple years ago after I had to pretty much relaunch, right, and start everything over. At this point I’m like, “Listen here. I ain’t never ever relying on one stream of income. Not ever, ever in my life.”
Definitely just prayerful about what steps I would take. Of course I had friends and I tried girdle situation. I did girdles and juice, and so that stuff works for a little bit now. It worked for a little while. I did pretty good. A girlfriend and I we did a great job doing MLN’s and doing additional streams of income. At this time I had the salon, and so after all that kind of came to a close I had to just re-brand myself. At this time everybody wasn’t talking about branding, but now it’s become so popular because I think with a lot of reality TV, with a lot of onlookers being able to see other women and build an empire, we now understand that stems from a strong brand. Well, what is the brand?
All this time I was doing that for myself. Just kind of really going through my growth process if you ask me. Like, “Okay. I’m just evolving at this point.” While kind of going through that process knowing that I’m staying in the beauty field. I realized that a lot of my clientele was different. I realized my clientele were people that were like preachers, their wives, different motivational speakers, people that were in the forefront or VP’s for companies. I’m like, “Okay, so I’m definitely great at professionalism and drawing the right audience. What else can I help my clients with?” Right? What are the other things I could do? Out came the hair line and other products because we have become so popular. I went on that journey as far as finding the right manufacturers. It took a couple years. Finally struck gold. That business side came out of it.
I’m like, “Wait a minute now. This might be something.” It really was birthed organically almost for the most part and it really just required me paying attention because more people would say, “Man I need you for my video shoot. I need you for my photo shoot. I’m doing something different.” Now, I make it known that that’s something I can really assist people with in discovering who they are, and so then I just started digging into branding and I started digging into marketing. I started digging into … We’re being sold. Things are coming at us all the time from so many different angles and I started paying attention to what things I liked and why did I like them, and what experience did I have when I walked into a store, and why did I like that or what I didn’t like, and really pay attention to the things sometimes people are too busy to focus on.
That’s where the branding portion of it kind of came into play. That right there, I love it. All of them go together. It’s how you look. It’s how you feel. It’s how you present yourself. It’s your brand, what people say and think about you when you’re not in the room. That stamp. That presence. That essence. That whole thing that you’re able to bring. Authenticity. All of those different things. I love it. I absolutely love it. We all have a brand and one of the things that I say all the time is, “It’s either your mission or it’s by mistake.” You either really focus on it and really focus on what does that mean. What does it mean to be bold, right? What does a bold woman look like? What does she smell like? You know what I’m saying?

The Bolder Sister: Yes. I do. I do. Absolutely.

Coleen: Of course you do! It’s like, “What is that like? What is encountering her like? What are the things that she would say?” Those sessions are everything. I ask those questions that a lot of people don’t think about. A lot of times they’re like, “I know I just want this.” Okay. That’s the end result. Now, what are we going to do to get there? What’s that experience like? It feels like, honestly, just an extension of who I am: beauty, branding, and business. That’s it.

The Bolder Sister: I don’t know if a lot of women connect those dots. I control what people think and what people say about me. Not necessarily what they think, but my reputation with them. I have the power.

Coleen: That’s right. That’s right.

The Bolder Sister: I think people forget that. You mentioned something, too, early on, when it all came to a close.  I wanted to ask you about that experience. What happened where you lost everything?

Coleen: Ugh. Oh my god. It was horrible! Girl. It really, really was. I could chuckle about it now because walking through that was just so rough. At the time I had two children and my husband was doing real estate. We were in our early twenties and so we had been able to do good for a while in real estate. It wasn’t like we hit it and then everything fell out. We were six figure earners, about three plus years until things kind of started to come down. Now, before that he was working at a great job and I, of course, was working in the beauty industry. Before I opened my salon and he went into real estate I was a District Manager for a salon chain, and even in that aspect I was bringing home close to seventy thousand dollars a year in my early twenties. We were making great, great money for our age. Learned so much. Would not change it. Don’t want to repeat it, but would not change it.
You understand just as far as how to really, really handle money when you get it and what things to do with it and all that great stuff. It was really rough to have a Christmas where you could do nothing. Out there being able to travel and work with clients and go here and be the top giver at your church and be able to … If somebody needed a vehicle we had an extra vehicle. If somebody needed a place to stay the pastor would call us. They would stay in the guest suite downstairs. It was amazing. It was definitely a foreshadow of what I know is to come. However, it was really, really rough. Just some nights you just cry girl. What to do, where to go, where to start, because it went to a point where there were no jobs. No one was hiring. Everybody was getting laid off left and right, so we knew. Okay. It’s not just something you can take personal. However, it’s like, “Okay. What do you want us to learn from this?”
This took years to come back. The last property that we moved in … In the last foreclosed property, and my husband had been looking for … Here I am pregnant because we have four kids, five with my bonus daughter, and so he was looking for work. He kept getting jobs and getting laid off, getting jobs. They were like temp jobs working doing sales over the phone and different things like that for various companies, but nothing was permanent. We finally had a breakthrough and we were still in this foreclosed property where he was able to get a job, but then we short sold that property, moved into my mother’s house. What was supposed to be two months turned into two years. It was really, really hard. Thank God she had space, but I’m just like, “I cannot stand this any longer.”
It just took time to really regroup. To get our credit back on track to be able to move out and get our own place and all of those different things. But during that time I just really learned a lot. I learned how to make money on another level. On a whole other level. That’s where me sitting down and having that time to say, “What else can I offer my clients? What are the other things that I can do to diversify?” I got into makeup, so I became the glam squad.

The Bolder Sister: That’s where your Beauty Xpert came in?

Coleen: There you go! I remember it. It was Thanksgiving Eve. I sat there and did my own website.  I stayed up all night and did my website myself and launched it Black Friday. I remember it like yesterday. I had the hair. I was selling bags. I was selling jewelry. I was doing shows. I was doing pop ups. I was doing so many different things and I did it for a while. I remember my first pop up I made like three thousand dollars. My husband was like, “Okay. Okay.”
I really just really became sensitive to the needs of people and said, “Okay. Can I fill that need and can I do it with excellence because if I can’t I ain’t going to be bothered?”  Your be the expert was definitely birthed from there. God said go back to the original place and that thing that I gave you and don’t stray from it because of course when things dry up you go back and say, “Am I wrong? Am I doing the right thing?” You go back again. It was like, “Yes. You are in the right place. You need to go forward in this area and don’t give up.” Literally I remember because we were moving I found my old business card that I made while in beauty school and it said your beauty expert and that was what, said, I’m going to be a beauty expert. Y’all going to know me.” He said go back to that place, and so yeah. It’s been going on five years now.

The Bolder Sister:  Wow. I just love that. Just the determination. Reinventing yourself. Because some people get caught up in that space too and become hopeless and like, “I don’t know what to do.” It seems like your wheels in your mind never stopped working even during the time when you were down.

Coleen: No, no.

The Bolder Sister: Did you have any fears during that time?

Coleen: Oh my gosh. During that time. Today. Hello!

The Bolder Sister: Let’s go to your fears today. Now I’m curious about that.

Coleen: It’s just one of those things because you are taking these risks and when you’re an entrepreneur it feels like every day is that. It literally is just … Okay. When you felt that pain like that, literally losing everything, it really is something that you never forget. Never ever forget. It does kind of become the thing that will fuel you, right? It’s almost that thing that even though you feeling that kind of fear you do it anyway. You do it afraid. You still move forward and you just say, “Okay. I’m going to give it a shot because I understand … Some people say, “What do you have to lose?” I be like, “Everything. You really can lose everything.” Because I know this.

The Bolder Sister: Right. Right. Hello!

Coleen: It kind of become one of those things, honestly. It becomes a fuel though, so I’m like, “I survived it.” Even though I understood that there’s risks I understand that I can really survive this thing, but because of what I learned and the things that I’ve gotten wiser. I know what one gets at that point because I’ve diversified. There are times where I don’t feel like doing hair and I’m going to take a month off, and we’re still going to have finances coming in. People are still ordering products. People still want to be able to do personal development and leadership training and things of that nature. I’ll take that month off from one area of my business and focus on another. I’m able to do that without being fearful of losing everything because now I realize I’ve diversified the finances that are coming in to suite those areas of business. It’s a great thing. It’s a great thing to learn how to diversify your income. It’s a powerful thing.

The Bolder Sister: It definitely is. Wow. As I mentioned before about the blog encouraging women to kind of live fearlessly. I’m wondering what advice would you give to a woman who is struggling to live fearlessly.

Coleen: Oh gosh. You gather the information that you can and you plan things out as best as you know how, and you get the counsel and you pray and you do all those things. You don’t want to get stuck in where you’re having the analysis paralysis, however they say it, where you just kind of going over things over and over again but you don’t make any movesYou have got to … Once you gather that information, once you’ve got all of the prayers out there, you’ve got to take the step. You got to connect with other women that are taking the steps. That is the big thing I think that is a huge, huge help, even for me, is being around women that are living that way. They have a dream, then they get a strategic plan. They take that time to plan it out. They invest in it. They test it. I tell people that we test. We’re going to test this out first. We’re not just going to launch. No. We’re going to test. We’re going to see what things will work within your brand and your reach and all that stuff. We’re going to test it out. Test things out and all of that, and plan for where you have to go, what it is you’re doing financially. I think sometimes people think they just have to take a leap, right? In taking a leap they think that you just go all out and go for broke. No. My husband, he does IT for CVS and they have changes that they want to implement and they test it out and they work on it for almost twelve months. I’m like, “Good God! Just for that little function right there? Lord have mercy.”

The Bolder Sister: I think that’s what most people forget too because you see all the time, “Girl just step out in faith,” or Nike, “Just do it.”

Coleen: What does stepping out on faith look like? I think sometimes we assume it means you just take the leap, take the jump, and don’t plan. No. That’s not it. There are, oh my gosh, so many places in scripture where He tells us to get counsel and to make sure we’re seeking him on our plans. To make sure we count up the cost, right? Who’s going to start a project not count up the cost. You got the foundation laid, now you can’t finish it. Just so many different things that are said about our finances and what to do with it.
It’s just one of those things. You got to count up the cost and get all the wise counsel information. Get around some other bold sisters. It’s going to bless you. You’ll be able to step out and before long … At first you’re doing it afraid, but then next thing you know you kind of get used to being uncomfortable. Discomfort is the only thing that’s going to burst those dreams. It’s definitely not going to be where you’re feeling just super uncomfortable about anything. No. I’m used to being uncomfortable at this point in the game.

The Bolder Sister: That’s what I say too. Now I’m looking for those things that stretch me. When I feel that nervousness in my stomach that’s one of the things I know, “Okay. You got to move on this.” Because you’re feeling that stressed feeling again. That’s huge. I

Coleen: With clarity comes courage.

The Bolder Sister: Absolutely. I’m wondering in what ways did you have to be bold while building your business, like the re-branding and the rebuilding. Were there some bold moves you had to make… I know you work with celebrities too, so in what ways did you really have to be bold to make those connections happen?

Coleen: Really coming to a place where I diversified, not just in how I built my business or my brand, but also in building connections. Everybody that’s your color’s not your kind. You understand what I’m saying? I was not afraid to get around different cultures. Being bold in that area, again, is that discomfort. Okay. If I’m feeling some type of discomfort then I know I’m in a place where I’m being stretched and that’s the honest to goodness truth. Where I’m around somebody that’s so great that I’m literally like, “Oh my gosh.” You know what I mean? Really am I being too awkward? I’m checking myself all the time. Am I speaking? Am I speaking too much? Did I say something stupid right there? Getting around people that are just that great that make you just say, “Oh my gosh.”
Also, man I think networking is huge. I cannot stress that enough. Getting outside of the norm and your mundane life to meet somebody on the other side of town that may not talk like you, may not look like you. However, you have certain things in common and finding that common ground and building the relationship from there is the most amazing thing because I really truly believe that you and I are the greatest resource in the Earth. Right? We are always looking for, “I need some more money, God. Oh Jesus. This ain’t right.” What I realized is in networking, which is how CEO Chick came about, is just wow. We are the greatest resource in the Earth. Literally there are things that I was able to do on bartering. I didn’t have a dime for that right there. I’ll tell it. I will tell it.

The Bolder Sister:  Just really quick too, those of us who are nervous about networking what’s one good bold networking tip that women should know?

Coleen: First I let them know if you’re going to stay shy, you’re going to stay broke. That’s number one. If you want to be able to make some money and you want to meet people and you want to have a great circle and when we talk about the five influencers and having our top five being the bomb people, then you have to become that. Right? First I tell people that’s got to stop right there. You’re going to be uncomfortable. That’s the only thing I want you to be. Being uncomfortable. Wrap your mind around that however many times you need to so you can get pass this limitation because it’s your own.

The Bolder Sister: Right. Right. That’s right and sometimes you just have to do it. You have to step into that room like you own it and connect with the people that you want to connect with. Absolutely. I one hundred percent agree with that.

Coleen: One of the best ways to start a conversation with when you’re networking is to pay someone a compliment. It really is. To pay another sister a compliment and then from there after you have that … You can kind of get a feel for a person when you give them a genuine compliment.   Just have a genuine approach and be authentic.

The Bolder Sister: Coleen, how do we learn more about you and what you have upcoming? What are these thousand dollar days and Let’s Do Launch?

Coleen: Absolutely. Right now with my actual network, the CEO Chicks Network, you can go over to ceochicksonline.com and Let’s Do Launch Chicago which is how this beautiful conversation came about that we’re having today. Let’s Do Launch is just to help women that are in business and aspiring to be in business and create another stream of income. We’re really going to just sit down and mastermind it and discuss it and talk about the different things that you can do, like how to establish business credit. I remember wondering how in the world to do that. It’s going to be good. That was that. Building those relationships. Getting sponsors for events that you have. What else are we going to talk about? Oh. Brand ambassador Donna Moody, Brand Ambassador of Carol’s Daughter for a lot of other major brands and she’s been on billboards with other brands, so we’re going to talk about that other six figures that she’s going to be able to build. Jennifer Enders, she’s native to Illinois so she’ll definitely be there talking about how to use third party platforms to build your brand and increase finances.
Again, that is huge when it comes to meeting people and building relationships and understanding what that looks like. Especially for us in African American communities. I think it’s very important for us to understand what those business associate relationships … What do they look like. Everybody that you do business with, this doesn’t mean that they have to be your best friend or that you love everything about them. All of those things. We do too much emotional transactions and so I think there’s a lot that I really just want to talk about. Especially in the Chicago area.

The Bolder Sister: Love it. You speak with such passion when it comes to encouraging women, your business, the beauty branding and business. You can feel it.

Coleen: Thank you.

The Bolder Sister: You can feel your energy behind it. Really, really rooting for you and excited to speak to you. I know my bolder sisters are going to get a lot from this conversation. Thank you.

Coleen: Oh, good! You are so welcome. If any of them want to come out Saturday definitely let me know.

Bolder Sisters, Coleen has offered a discount for those interested in coming out this Saturday. Click this link, find Let’s Do Launch Chicago and use code chitown10  to register here. 

Let’s Do Launch is coming to Chicago from 12–3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8 at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood (Lowes Chicago O’hare Hotel), 5320 N. River Rd., Rosemont, IL. 60018.

 

 

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