On this week’s episode of The Vibrant Leadership Podcast, we speak with Alexa Carlin, the founder and CEO of Women Empower X. At 17 years old, she took her entrepreneurship international, selling jewelry with OmniPeace and donating a quarter of the profits to help end poverty in Africa. She founded Hello Perfect in 2011, but following a near-death experience and a life-altering diagnosis, she began speaking. Alexa founded Women Empower X in 2016 after noticing a need for connection within a diverse and inclusive community of women entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds, and has since impacted 1000s to take action on their biggest dreams.
Alexa says, “Sometimes you do have to take 10 steps backwards in order to figure out the right step forward. But, you’re still taking steps. Momentum does not matter if it’s forward or backwards, if it’s success or failure— those are all just terms in your head. It’s literally just taking action every single day.”
We chat about the need for more courageous leaders, as well as:
Two imperative skills for success in any endeavor
Being incredibly mindful about where you focus your energy
The importance of being decisive and following through with your choices
Taking actionable steps towards creating momentum
Mentioned in this episode:
The Simple Gluten-Free Vegan Cookbook by Alexa Carlin
Alexa Carlin: Momentum does not matter if it’s forward or backwards if it’s success or failure, those are all just terms in your head. It’s literally just taking action every single day.
Voiceover: You’re listening to the Vibrant Leadership Podcast with leadership speaker and consultant, Nicole Greer.
Nicole Greer: So welcome to the Vibrant Leadership Podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and I am absolutely delighted today to have Alexa Carlin. She is the founder and CEO of Women Empower X and a nationally renowned professional speaker. At 17. Don’t miss that. 17 years old, she founded her first company, and at 21, she suffered through a near death experience. I want to hear about that that left her with only a 1%. 1% chance to live. And today, she is impacting 1000s to take action on their biggest dreams because I bet she knows life is precious. Alexa founded WEX or wex in 2016 after noticing the need for connecting a diverse and inclusive community of women entrepreneurs of all ages, backgrounds and industries. So round of applause for Alexa Carlin. Alexa. I’m so glad you’re here.
Alexa Carlin: Thank you so much.
Nicole: Yeah, so we’ve gotten to hear all about your first company. That’s the first thing out of the gate. What what gets a young girl to think you know, I’ll start a company. What did you, what did you do?
Alexa: Yeah, definitely. So I was going into my senior year of high school. And I had different, you know, entrepreneurial ventures here and there, dog walking business, a lemonade stand all those things. But this was I would say my first real dive into entrepreneurship. I was school shopping with my mom before senior year, I was very involved in leadership. I was student body president. And I saw this T shirt that stood out to me that had a graphic design on it that was shaped like you’re holding up a piece sign. But the palm of the hand was in the shape of the continent of Africa. And I read the hang tag and saw that they were using fashion to fulfill their mission of ending poverty in Africa. And by 2025.
And I just fell in love with this mission, went home research the company saw like Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Zac Efron, all these celebrities sporting the T shirt, and I had this random idea that maybe I can design jewelry for the company, since they didn’t have any, anything other than T shirts and a handbag. And I emailed the company. Never heard a response. Emailed every email I could find back then. And I followed up followed up. Four months later, I finally got our response. And long story short, I got my, I had my first conference call with this big LA founder, and sold them on the idea. And at 17 years old, I became the sole licensee to design jewelry for this LA based fashion company, and helped with their mission by donating a percentage of proceeds to build schools in Africa.
Nicole: Oh, that is fantastic. So you’re right up there with Oprah taking care of folks over there. That’s awesome. So are you still dabbling in jewelry design and that kind of thing?
Alexa: No. Definitely have grown since then. Just from life experiences, I always thought fashion was what I wanted to work in. It’s kind of just a hobby for me now. But it’s it’s funny how when you’re younger, you’re so set on one thing, and then of course, life helps you align with your true purpose.
Nicole: Yeah, okay. So I got to hear more about that. What do you mean? Life helps you align with your true purpose? Listen up, folks. I think this is going to be good.
Alexa: So I was growing this business. And then I realized the one thing that was holding me back from really getting to that next level was confidence. And I know so many other people, especially women struggle with confidence. So I started a blog while I was still growing my jewelry business called Hello Perfect. And this was all to instill confidence in young girls and women to redefine perfection. And when I was growing this blog, getting support from huge influential leaders like Mark Cuban, Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Madden, Rebecca Minkoff, I, as you see a lot of them are in the fashion industry as well.
I was growing this blog, and now it was a few months before I was ready to graduate from college. I went to the University of Florida. And I wasn’t feeling that well leading up to this big celebration that my roommates were planning for a big milestone that I had in the blog. And I had flu like symptoms, high fever, shiver shakes, and at 21 years old, you’re like, oh, you know, nothing can happen to me. It’s just the flu. My mom was coming in to celebrate this milestone, this party with us. And that morning before guests were supposed to arrive, I went to the walk in clinic, and they gave me an IV of fluids.
Antibiotics sent me on my way and said, have fun at your party. So, my roommates, my mom, were getting ready for the party as I rested. And I remember I woke up from a nap, I took and took a shower, got out of shower, sat on my bed, and my mom walked in my room. And she saw that I was having a hard time being able to breathe. And she looked at me and she saw my heart beating rapidly out of my neck. And she said, Alexa, we’re canceling the party, I’m taking you to the emergency room. Drove me to Shands Hospital, within moments, they took me in the back because my blood pressure was dropping rapidly.
And I remember at first it was like one or two doctors surrounding me, then all of a sudden, five doctors surrounding me. And at one point, I looked around and there were like 25 doctors surrounding me. And I, they put a mask on my face to help me breathe, and I couldn’t breathe with it on and when I tried pulling it off, and I couldn’t breathe with it off. That’s when I knew something bad was happening.
Alexa: So that the doctors took my mom into a separate room from where I was. And they said to her, your daughter’s body is going into septic shock. Call your family she has 24 hours to live. And I was induced into a medical coma. My body went into septic shock. Because this bacteria that was in my body got in my bloodstream and was killing all of my organs. And they gave me a 1% chance to live. I was in ICU for six days, or I was in a coma for six days in the ICU for 10. And that experience what I experienced in the coma, the ongoing health challenge after it.
I was six months after I was discharged from the hospital, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. And all of these experiences definitely led me to the path I’m on but have been the hardest thing I could possibly deal with. Because, like I mentioned, like my near death experiences in the past, but my autoimmune disease, for anyone struggling with any type of chronic illness. It’s with you forever. So that’s something that I deal with now every single day in my life.
Nicole: Right, right. Yeah, I have a dear friend who has Crohn’s and these autoimmune things are a challenge. So hey, everybody lift up a prayer for everybody who’s got these autoimmune things, especially Alexa and my girlfriend, Molly. So it’s really important to look at life in a different vantage point after something like that happens. And like when you’re telling your story, Alexa, I’m thinking about your poor mom, too. You know, she is probably just about to die of a heart attack of the whole thing. Right? Okay, so this like, you know, you got out you got better. You’re on your own two feet. And so what what propelled you into producing, you know, this thing called WEX. Tell us all about WEX.
Alexa: Yeah, great question. So, I was still headset on fashion, moved to New York City after graduating. That’s where I was diagnosed with my autoimmune. And then I realized, like, I meant to do something different. Like it just didn’t feel aligned with me at all. And when you are not in alignment, you are suffering and you are struggling. And so I moved back home to South Florida, where my family was at the time to get their support. And it was months to years of living in and out doctor’s offices in and out of hospitals. Trying everything under the sun to get me healthy. I wrote I even wrote a vegan gluten free cookbook, I became a certified Holistic Health Coach, like literally tried everything.
And through this journey. For a long time, I was asking, why did this have to happen to me? Like it’s one thing where I have my near death experience. I overcame it. And now you know, I’m uphill from here. But why did I have to get this thing that is I have to suffer with forever. And I was waiting for something to change before I felt like I could move on with my life until I realized like, you must not wait for your life to change. You must change your own life. And that’s what led me to really being on this journey of curiosity, as I like to call it because so many people said just have hope, hope, find hope, have faith, and I couldn’t find any hope. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for me.
So I exchanged that hope for curiosity. Being so curious to what may happen if I don’t give up. If I try one more thing if I wake up one more day. And that level of curiosity led me to going to find out what why this happened for me versus to me, and I found a passion for sharing my story as a speaker, when no one would hire me as a speaker. I literally reached out to maybe 60 small small events or meetups like luncheons, literally maybe like 10 women coming around for lunch and they brought in a speaker. Nobody gave me an opportunity. Everyone said no or didn’t respond. Felt very very discouraged for a long time. Until that that burning passion was still inside of me. And I believe that if you have a dream that keeps you up in the morning and wakes you up at night, it’s there for a reason. And you can’t ignore it. You can’t ignore it.
So I was like, why am I putting my dreams in someone else’s hands? So that’s when I started my own small event. It was still under my blog at the time, five people showed up. And I was like, Yes, I get your I get to inspire five people today. Next event, 10 people. And the next event 20 people. And it organically grew, people started asking me to be speak at their events. And that momentum built up which as a speaker yourself, you know, momentum is super key to growing as a speaker. But through this journey, the more I was speaking specifically to women’s groups, and organizations and events, I saw such a big disconnect. I would be speaking only to millennials or only to women further along in their career, only women to that part of the tech sector, whatever it may be.
And while these niche communities are very important, I just thought how much change can we create if we just connect and collaborate with diverse women, different ages, different backgrounds, different industries. And that’s what led me to starting the Women Empower X, as well as longing for real connection, authentic connection, not going to these networking events and just exchanging business cards to exchange business cards. Like, I felt so alone. And I felt like there had to be a better way to connect with people. And that’s what really led me to starting Women Empower X and and growing it in the last five years to be one of the most, one of the greatest blessings in my life. And it created 1000s and 1000s of real connections for so many women who have been part of our movement.
Nicole: That is fantastic. Okay, so that was a lot of information. So I want to backtrack just a smidge. So you said earlier, you have to get aligned. So can you can you tell us what that means? I think I know what it means. But for our listeners, I don’t want to gloss over that. Because like that’s the first step towards stepping into your calling, I think is alignment. Right. So how do you know you’re aligned? Or how do you get aligned? Can you kind of speak about that a little bit?
Alexa: Yeah, that’s a good question. I feel when you are aligned, everything is in flow. And what that means is, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, right? Going after anything meaningful to you is not easy. But it means that your hard work is paying off. And you don’t feel you feel like yes, it’s challenging. It may be hard, but you’re not suffering. Suffering is when you are focused so much on everything that’s going wrong, and you’re staying stuck in that path. And you’re staying stuck in those negative thought patterns. Versus alignment is when you the work you’re doing is so connected and in harmony with your core purpose. And you may not know what that purpose is, which is totally okay.
But you feel it. And you do have to tune into your feelings. When you feel something is off. Something is off. Here’s a perfect example. I thought Hello, Perfect, my blog was my Forever Business. When I was in college. Like I started it. I was like this is going to be my Forever Business. Yes, it’s going to pivot it’s going to morph, it’s going to change. But this is it. Then this idea for WEX came about and I was still growing the blog when I started WEX. But I realized, like I wasn’t happy anymore doing the Hello Perfect work because it wasn’t in alignment. Like it just felt so hard to the point where I wasn’t feeling that joy anymore. Because at times I thought like, Well, I’m not good enough. I don’t know the answers and all those negative thought patterns.
But truly, it wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong. It just wasn’t where I was supposed to be focused. And the moment that I decided, if I’m going to make Women Empower X work, I have to go 100% in on it. I have to focus every ounce of my energy on it. The moment I made the decision, which was very, very difficult. Because it was i was growing Hello Perfect for years. It was like my baby. I just, I mean, ask any one of my friends that you saw the the scale of how much faster I grew. And it wasn’t because I was doing anything different. It was because I was aligned with my core purpose.
Nicole: Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay, so I love what she said. Alexa said alignment is when you know you’re in flow. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but you certainly shouldn’t be suffering and you’re connected in harmony with your purpose. I love that. Write that down. People write it down. Okay. Well, I want to also backtrack, you said you wrote a cookbook. Is that cookbook available?
Alexa: Yeah, I did write a cookbook. So for there. There was like a long eight months where I was too sick to even leave my apartment, my house. And and so I was getting into veganism and gluten free. And I, it was so hard. It was so difficult because there’s either so many ingredients in every recipe which I’m not a chef whatsoever. And it takes so long, or is so expensive. So me my mom started like taking some of my favorite recipes, and just replacing them with healthier alternatives that were vegan that were gluten free. And I started taking photos. This was really just for fun posting them online. People were like, Oh my gosh, what’s that recipe? You should write a cookbook. And so I took the time to do that. It’s literally called The Simple Gluten Free Vegan Cookbook. Simple ingredients, simple recipes and simple title. But it was a passion project that just kind of came to life.
Nicole: That’s fantastic. Okay, we can probably find that on Amazon.
Alexa: On Amazon. Yes.
Nicole: Okay, fantastic. Okay. All right. All right. So you said also, that you went on this journey of curiosity. And I think that learning, I think that’s what you were probably doing on your curiosity journey, was learning as much as you can. And I think that is so essential for entrepreneurs and leaders to learn as much as they can. So I love what you said there. And then you talked about momentum. So, so talk about like, when you started WEX, and you said, you know, we started getting 5 there. 10 there. 15 there. Other than you doing a fantastic job, which is what I imagine you did in front of that group of five women, 10 women, 15 women, what are other ways that leaders and entrepreneurs can create momentum? Because I think this is a huge concept, getting momentum.
Alexa: Yes, momentum is, is key to any type of success, in my opinion. And I think too many people underestimate it. They get so set on the path, and then they think, Oh, well, this is not working, I have to start all over. And that can be very discouraging. But you’re never starting all over. Because you did things right. And everything is piecing together the puzzle to help you become the person you are meant to be. And that’s what momentum is, it’s not giving up. It’s taking one action step a day. And so through speaking through entrepreneurship, through climbing the corporate ladder, whatever it may be, the moment you stop taking action is the moment you break momentum.
And the more you keep going, the more you’re building up this momentum, the more you’re being seen, the more you’re being heard. And sometimes you do have to take 10 steps backwards in order to figure out the right step forward. But you’re still taking steps. Momentum does not matter if it’s forward or backwards. If it’s success or failure. Those are all just terms in your head. It’s literally just taking action every single day.
Nicole: I love what you just said. She said that taking a step backwards, is even momentum. Like I love that, right? Because you can go back there and you can look, you can be curious again, like you say, and go, why didn’t that work? Then find the new strategy. I love it. Okay, so you sound like you’ve been a leader your whole life. I’m curious, what’s your definition of leadership? And it sounds like it started when you were back in back in school and has never left you. So tell me your definition of leadership. I’d love to hear it.
Alexa: That’s a good question. Um, I would say my definition of leadership is a leader is someone who is courageous enough to step in their vulnerable truth, speak up for what they believe in and empower others to do the same.
Nicole: Oh, my gosh, that’s beautiful. All right. So I’m not sure if you could say that again. Can you say that again?
Alexa: A leader, a leader, in my opinion, is someone who is courageous enough to step into their vulnerable, authentic truth and speak up for what they believe in and empower others to do the same.
Nicole: Oh, my God, I love it. All right. So that is that is genius. Okay, so so you help a lot of women entrepreneurs get things moving, but even if they’re you fellows listening, you should still listen up, right? Like, I love what you said about we need diversity generations, the different sexes, the different backgrounds, all that kind of thing. So if a woman is moving up the corporate ladder or starting her own business, what do you think are the skills he or she really needs to hone? What has served you and your experience? What skill sets have you kind of worked on? And what should other people work on in terms of skills?
Alexa: Yeah, that’s a great question. So confidence is the the first skill for sure. And I think a lot of people forget that confidence is a skill. It can be learned
Nicole: Talk about that.
Alexa: Yes, so confidence is 100% a skill. Confidence and energy, I would literally just stick it to those two things are the two most important skills to have. So confidence. If you do not have that confidence in yourself, it’s going to be a very, very difficult road for you to achieve anything, you may achieve small things. But really, to get to that big goal, you have to have it, it’s imperative to success. Because you have to be able to speak up, you have to be able to effectively communicate your message. You have to get people to believe in what you’re doing. You have to have influence, all of that comes with confidence.
And you have to have the confidence in your dreams in yourself to not give up when the hard times come. And like two easy ways to gain the skill of confidence is through repetition and knowledge. The more you repeatedly do something, the more confident you’ll be. If you’re if you’re listening, and you’re an athlete, or you’re a musician, and when I say that you you play a sport, maybe for a rec, or you play an instrument in your house, the thing about the first time you played versus the 100th time you played like you’re going to be more confident the 100th time you pick up an instrument or you go out in the field to play than the first time. That’s literally building confidence.
And people don’t think about that when it comes to work. Like the more you go and publicly speak in a boardroom, the more confident you’ll become. Same happen for me on stages. And then knowledge, the more knowledgeable you are, I mean, knowledge is power. And I’m sure all of you know that. But become so educated around your niche around your topic around your career around what you want. And you will go into different meetings with more confidence, having that knowledge. And there’s so many other ways I could do a whole podcast interview on confidence. But.
Nicole: We should do that sometime. Let’s do it.
Alexa: Yeah, definitely. I have a whole I get hired mostly to speak on how to build that skill of confidence. And then the second thing, thank you. The second thing is energy. Energy is contagious. And if you want to achieve something big in your life, most likely you’re going to need other people by your side to help you achieve that. Now in order to attract the right people, you need to be giving off the right energy, because energy attracts energy.
So really be mindful how you’re showing up every single day, how you are showing up for yourself, for others. And remember like to always focus on the things that you do have control over. So many times we’re focusing on all these things that we have no control over, like the pandemic, like the vaccine, like others’ opinions of us, like we don’t have any control over any of that. So not only are you wasting the energy you have as we only have so much in a period of 24 hours to give to ourselves to our work to our friends or our family.
But you’re also depleting your level of confidence because feeling helpless around something depletes your confidence. So those are two skills, confidence and energy that I believe are imperative to success. And I’m a big believer that if you have those two things, you could do anything.
Nicole: Hmm. I love it. Okay, so everybody the skill sets, we need to work on are confidence and energy. And I love what you said, Alexa, you said, you got to get your goals out there. And this is part of confidence. You got to speak up, that’s part of confidence. You’ve got to learn to communicate, influence. And I’m gonna call it the Alexa-ism like not give up-ed-ness. Is there such a thing as not give up ness? But I think that’s what you’re the new definition of confidence would be. So that’s fantastic. And then I want y’all to write this down, write this down. You have to give off the right energy to get back the right energy.
I mean, hello, how many of y’all have had a toxic leader? And like, did you feel like working for them? Say No. So that was genius. And then the last thing that was in that little, that little thing that she shared was, how are you showing up? And that’s what I would call a powerful question. That’s a coach’s question. So, you know, take inventory, how are you showing up? That’s fantastic. Okay, so talking to speaking of toxic leaders and bad managers. And I don’t want do well all of those people. What do you think the number one mess ups people do? You know, they’re like, what happened? Nobody’s following anymore? Or my business didn’t work? What are the things you shouldn’t be doing? Talk about that for just a moment. What are the things we need to avoid at all cost?
Alexa: Well self doubt, avoid self doubt, avoid pivoting or giving up and starting something new too soon? Now, I know there’s a lot of questions. Yeah, I know, there’s a lot of questions around like what is too soon? When to do it? Again, you have to go back to those core feelings. And get logic out when it comes to that. Because one, you really should never give up. Especially if this is what you want to do. Now, the path may look different, right? Like in the last four years before 2020 we were just serving our mission through events in person. Now we’re serving our mission through our inner circle membership, our courses, our virtual events.
So but but the mission is the same, just the path looks a little different. So when people are set on one path, they tend to, and it’s not working out, they tend to give up too soon versus just change a path to get to the same destination. So, but when it doesn’t feel right, for example, the Hello Perfect to Women Empower X change that I did, that was a core feeling, if I logically looked at it wouldn’t make any sense. I have built a whole community around my blog. And again, logic didn’t didn’t help me with that decision. So I’m really tuned into your feelings with that. Another thing I think a lot of people do wrong is consistency. Again, it goes back to not giving up too soon.
But this is because consistency and everything consistency in video creation and posting on social media on on doing your podcast, when you commit to something, make sure you can be consistent with it, or else there’s really no point. Another key thing that people should not do is they spend so much time creating content and not enough time distributing it. Distribution is where the eyes come. And that’s where your message is being heard. So make sure that you’re giving 80% of your time to distributing the content you’re already working so hard to create. And again, also and one other thing that’s kind of just going off.
Nicole: I love it. I love it. Keep going.
Alexa: People wait for opportunities to come their way. But you really have to create opportunities for yourself. When no one gave me an opportunity to speak I created my own stage. Like open the door for yourself. Do not wait for people to come to you. And and easy ways to do that is to follow up. I can’t tell you how many people just email once then never email again. Like most of the time your first email won’t get through to them. That you have to follow up. Create that opportunity for yourself.
Nicole: Beautiful. Okay, so I’m going to repeat them because I think it’s important. Write this down everybody. Things that you need to avoid self doubt. That’s probably a whole podcast in itself right there as well. Avoid pivoting too soon. Right? And then I love what you said. So she said it twice, y’all. So I you know, I think it’s very, very important to think about your feelings. Because this this is like a gut level thing or like your experience insight. Is that what you’re kind of referring to Alexa, like, you almost feel it in your bones, right? Like, yeah, okay. So it’s a visceral, there’s a SAT word for you.
A visceral reaction to what’s going on. So pay attention to what’s going on in your body, that little ache in your neck, it might be telling you don’t pivot too soon, right. And so that’s really important. And then I think this is a really important point that she made, is that you may be on mission. And it’s not that the mission is going to change, it’s that the pathway needs to change. Right? That was really genius. So I think you need to think about that. And then basic, like kind of like hard work skills, I’m gonna call them, she’s like, you got to be consistent. You got to get your distribution out there.
And you got to make things happen, and you got to follow up with people. So really genius stuff, write all that down. Now, my last question for you is, I’m thinking that right now listening to this podcast, there is a young man, a young woman, an older woman, or a older man listening to this podcast, and they really want to make a change. They want to start leading themselves really well. What would be the one like last thing that you would be like, implore them to? They want to make a change. What do they need to do?
Alexa: Great question. The one thing that you have to do, and it’s the first thing, you have to decide that you want it, make a firm decision that you want to make a change. Because if you do not decide that and commit to that decision, it doesn’t matter what you do, you won’t be able to follow through with it. You have to decide and just start, I mean, make that decision and go after it.
Nicole: I think that’s very good advice. You know, I just recently wrote, talking about being consistent. I just recently wrote a blog post that I was thinking back to when I went through my coaching training. And back in 2007, Alexa went through this coaching training and like the final kind of experiential that we did together as the master coach’s name was Dave. He said, I’m going to put a you know, a piece of tape in front of you and it’s going to be a line that I placed in front of you. And so here we all had all these weeks of coaching and learning and knowledge which don’t miss Alexa says you got to learn the stuff you got to figure out you know, what’s going on in your industry.
So I went and got all my training and coaching. And he said, you know on this side of the line, you’re somebody with coach training, and on the other side of this line will be your commitment to declaring you are a coach. Now, are you going to step over the line? And so of course, you know, it’s just a piece of tape on the floor. But you know that commitment to like getting your head in the game that like this is what I’m going to do is like, I’m not gonna play around with the idea anymore, you know?
And so I think, decide you want it and that is definitely over the line. I love it. Okay, well Alexa, we want to find you on the internet and read everything you have and watch your videos and all that so could you please tell us how we can find you?
Alexa: Yes, you can connect with me all over social media @AlexaRoseCarlin. And you can learn more about our movement and what we’re doing over at with WEX at womenempowerx.com.
Nicole: That’s fantastic. I love your mother. She named you Rose. Is that is that a family name? Or?
Alexa: Yes, Rose was my great grandma’s name.
Nicole: Oh, that is just awesome. All right. Well, it has been such an absolute delight to have Alexa Carlin on the vibrant coaching podcast. I hope you wrote it down. Take notes and post on them. That’s what Alexa would say. Thank you so much for tuning in.
Voiceover: Ready to up your leadership game? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her unique SHINE method to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Email email@example.com and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at vibrantculture.com/TEDtalk.