More Sparkle and More Swagger with Anniedi Essien
Whether you come from a corporate background or not, trying to secure corporate clients can feel intimidating. Corporate has a stuffy, stiff reputation that may not align with the way you want to do business.

Or maybe your brand is whimsy, fun, and loud. And that’s not really what corporate looks like, does it?

But in reality, corporate is filled with human beings who all have their own personalities. So it’s not surprising that something fun and outside the box might very well be what sets you apart from someone else…and exactly what gets you hired.

That’s what this week’s guest, Anniedi Essien, found when she and a friend started a YouTube channel during the pandemic. With only 10 followers, they secured a multi-year licensing deal and corporate contract from their channel.

It’s all about the sparkle and swagger that you bring to the table, according to Anniedi. And I couldn’t agree more. Be sure to listen in!

About Anniedi Essien:
Anniedi Essien is CEO and Founder at Idem Spark where she advises business leaders on building the workforce of the future by fusing cutting edge well-being and leadership development strategies. Anniedi delivers keynotes, workshops, consulting and executive coaching programs for diverse audiences. She loves teaching top performers how to slay their well-being and career goals with powerful insights as a former corporate health and wellness executive.

Anniedi is a trusted advisor to C-level and senior leaders and was a founding member of PwC’s New Entrants and Innovators in Health consulting practice at Strategy&. She drove growth strategies, disruptive innovation, and employer driven wellness solutions for the top global brands, including Fortune 10 clients such as Walmart Health. Prior to PwC, Anniedi designed market expansion strategies for Medtronic, executed strategic partnerships for EmblemHealth, and managed corporate wellness programs for GE Energy. Her work on social determinants of health has been recognized by the American Association for World Health / World Health Organization.

With twenty years of health industry experience, workforce well-being expertise, and a people first mindset, Anniedi is passionate about human flourishing. She is a Co-Founder of Healthtech Women Charlotte, a non-profit dedicated to getting more women into the C-Suite. Anniedi co-created W.I.D.E. Dynamic Dialogues to build inclusive cultures that are more responsive to the emerging needs of a diverse workforce by optimizing employee well-being.

Anniedi holds an MBA in Strategy from NYU Stern School of Business and a BA in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University. She is a foodie, yoga lover and avid karaoke enthusiast.

Links & Resources:

Time Stamps:

[2:58] – More about Anniedi
[4:39] – Shifting to work/life harmony instead of outdated work/life balance
[6:10] – The time we spend outside traditional health system has a big influence on our wellness
[8:15] – Women and folks of color experiencing burnout more than others
[9:08] – It’s hard to recognize you’ve lost your sparkle if you’re climbing the ladder
[11:20] – When you’re in that swagger, that’s when things really start to open up; but it’s scary to trust that
[13:02] – The things we shy away from are the things we need to spotlight
[18:28] – Being an accidental entrepreneur
[20:23] – How she transitioned to get the sparkle back
[21:43] – What’s your meaningful purpose?
[32:45] – Your business shouldn’t suck out your soul
[33:08] – How do you go from soul sucking to soul singing
[36:15] – Being authentic about hard parts make it so meaningful to others


Amber Hawley 0:00
Why business owners are increasingly being pulled in so many directions, feeling like they aren’t reaching their full potential in business and life despite their type aways. With my background as a therapist, entrepreneur, and as dropout with ADHD, I interview and coach high achieving business owners like you who want to stop struggling for success by using psychological systems, strategies, and the occasional care for entation. This is the easily distracted entrepreneur, your place to slay overwhelm perfectionism and shiny object syndrome so that you can get done what matters most to you. Hello, hello, where am I fall lovers at? I am loving this change in weather. I know all the worshipers of the heat shall be sad. But fall is my season. It is my favorite. So I am relishing in that and I’m relishing in this awesome interview that I have with the lovely Anniedi Essien of Idem spark who is the Chief swagger officer, which I mean, that’s one of the coolest titles ever. And we have this great conversation about actually getting your swagger on. So finding your swagger and doing corporate deals, which could what could be more full of swagger than that? I don’t know. So, it was a great episode. And I hope you’re going to enjoy it as much as I did. And as always, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to hear about your favorite season or whether or not you believe you have swagger or how much you enjoyed the episode, or how you really feel. I’m always open to that. Anyway, without further ado, here we go. Hello Anniedi welcome to the podcast.

Anniedi Essien 2:01
Oh, Amber, I’m excited to be here.

Amber Hawley 2:03
Yes, I have been gently stalking you for a while we know. Although I did have brunch with you. So I don’t even know if that’s a good stalker thing because I actually have connected with you. But

Anniedi Essien 2:18
I do love a good brunch.

Amber Hawley 2:19
I know it was it was really good, too. But yeah, I I’ve been following you and the work that you do, because it’s I think it’s really intriguing. And so it’s something I’m obviously interested in. But I think a lot of people are and so I just thought, hey, that I need to have her come on the podcast, talk about the work she does, and also about the story that kind of led you there because you actually have a really intriguing, I would say origin story because I’m in this like, superhero thing. But yeah, your your background, your story which led you to where you are now in business. So with, with all that maybe you could just tell people a little bit more about you. And then we’ll we’ll get into that.

Anniedi Essien 3:02
Yes, my name is Anniedi, I’m a chief swagger officer at EDM Spark, I empower folks to elevate their income, their influence and their impact the impact that they want to make in this world. And so I definitely have not always had swagger, I will say, like, I do recall myself at the height of my corporate executive career, really experiencing a tremendous amount of professional success. But personally, my wellness right was was really being impacted. I just remember, I don’t know that I had a language for it. At that time. I don’t know that I had a word to put on it. Right. ironic because I was in that health and wellness space, but I just knew that I was in this is my sparkle. Okay, so I think I walked past my reflection in the mirror one day, and I saw that I was missing the sparkle in my eyes. And I just knew that something had to shift. And so I have my challenges in my hands. I’m like, you know, hustle harder, go hard like you You never give up right until the point I got laid off from that dream job. And I realized this was my moment to decide how I wanted to move forward. Do I want to go left and continue down that churn and burn? Or do I want to go right? And take all that I had been pouring into elevating the well being of others take that and pour that back into me and figure out how to come back to life again, so that my swagger I was like, I want more of this. I want more of this. And I launched my company and it’s been such a dream to have a vision and bring it to life and see, I talk a lot about like shifting away from the outdated idea of work life balance and moving into sort of what is really the newer model of work life harmony, like how do we fit more of ourselves our selves into our idea of what success looks like. And so it’s been really thrilling to be able to create that not just for myself, but for the clients I serve as well.

Amber Hawley 4:59
Oh wow. I mean There’s so much about that I love but that work life harmony. That is I just that shift in perspective is so huge. And yeah, I think I think so many people find themselves there. And many people in the health care profession you said isn’t an ironic, and it’s like you feel bad or you feel guilty? Like how could I not know, but that’s the thing, like when we’re doing our work, and especially, you know, some places that maybe aren’t as I don’t want us were toxic, but maybe aren’t as supportive of that harmony, right, that you’re seeking. And then it’s like, yeah, you grind away you hustle, and then you lose, like the essence of you.

Anniedi Essien 5:44
Yeah, yeah. And it’s surprising, right? You would think, well, health care, you should know about wellness. And I find that the health care system is traditionally a sick care system, right? It teaches us how to prevent illness, or how to prevent death, it doesn’t teach us how to thrive, you know. And so I really realized I was gonna have to look outside of the traditional paradigms and figure out, what does it take to really ignite my spark, right. And so researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health they they studied this idea of human flourishing. And they found that the time we spend outside of the traditional health system actually influences our sense of wellbeing more than the time we do inside, which means the places where we live and work and play, have such an impact on how well we feel. And so I think oftentimes, as an entrepreneur, right, we can tend to recreate those old models like we, what we’ve seen, and so you talked about toxic work cultures, we couldn’t be the I find, like, I am the hardest boss I’ve ever had, right, and the most difficult to manage this. So, you know, it’s like this opportunity to create a new world. And oftentimes, we replicate what we’ve seen. And so it’s just a really unique time and space, especially where we are this moment of history to redefine the way we work. And to think about spaces where we can truly thrive with like, I think that’s really the opportunity that this moment presents for us all.

Amber Hawley 7:06
100%. And that’s, that’s the thing, it does take people like you who are looking at it and saying, okay, yeah, I need to, we need to shift this. Because, you know, naturally, if you’re doing something in you see, like, oh, this works, or, you know, I’m thinking, right now, of course, I’m just thinking of a therapist, all of a sudden, like, you know, if they’re working in these agencies that tend to not be so healthy and supportive, because they’re, that’s high demand, low compensation, there’s just more need than ever could be met. And then they go into, like starting their own business. Like you’re saying they recapitulate that same thing. And, yeah, I never thought of that, like, my might be my most toxic in the ways that probably the way we talk the way we speak to ourselves, the way we take care of ourselves, because that’s the thing, especially as caregivers, it’s like, I see that in so many people from doctors, therapists, you know, nurses, all the wellness professionals, they’re so busy taking care of everyone else, and like, you know, addressing that exceeding demand, and not taking care of themselves, right.

Anniedi Essien 8:13
Absolutely. I mean, we did a 21 day harmony journey study where we look at this idea of burnout in the workplace. And we found right, it was not surprising, like there’s been a ton of studies around women, senior leaders, working parents died experiencing this at higher rates. But we found that women and folks of color were experiencing burnout at higher rates, they were at risk of leaving the workplace at higher rates. And they were right, experiencing it and more severity. And so I think when we think about the opportunity we have as business owners, as leaders, as folks who are driving and shaping culture within our own organizations, like this is one of the number one issues that if we fix this, we can improve a lot of things throughout throughout the world. Oh, yeah.

Amber Hawley 8:56
So I mean, I guess I’m curious, it sounds like you were having this time where you’re, you didn’t have the words for it, but you’re realizing like, Hey, I’ve lost my sparkle like, and sometimes it’s hard to see that when you’re successful, right? Like, if you’re climbing the ladder, or you’re, you’re getting like positive feedback. It’s like, well, no, everything’s going right. So why do I feel this way? Why don’t I feel great? Why? You know, and the same goes true for small business, right? And this is why I like talking about like, the emotional side of business. Because even if we achieve success, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to feel great.

Anniedi Essien 9:35
Yeah, yes. And this is why I use the word swagger on multiple levels, right? It is your unique identity, your unique leadership styles, you are the essence of what makes you I think, for so many years, I outsource that, right like I put so much stock into having a title having a fancy title working at a prestigious firm like having success. On paper, but not really realizing that for me personally, and I think as, as we’re building businesses, right, we get to decide like, you know, when you have KPIs or what success looks like at a business level, and when we’re thinking about it with people, first we get to define our joy. Like, I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I work with, and they’re building models they don’t even love, right, like the fact that I can do what lights me up that what that what ignites that spark within me that that is just as valuable as what brings in profit, right? The idea that I can bring those two worlds together and not have them be totally separate, right, that is a major mind shift, right? For so many of us who were used to sort of powering through being hard working and like, you know, really repressing right, the inner right ideas that we have of what joy looks like, right? We think that our we can’t do work that that we love, we think that we can’t make money following our passions, but I really invite folks to have a different conversation, right? How do you pour more of you back into the work? How do you pour more your special sauce back in? And how do you leverage your unique swagger to be able to win in the market? And I think that’s a really the thing that hasn’t been modeled Well, for us, but that we get an opportunity to do when we run our own companies. Yeah. And I

Amber Hawley 11:19
think, you know, sometimes there are some people that are doing that. And I think other like people on the outside say, Oh, well, that’s because they’ve already hit this certain level of success. So therefore, they have, you know, the opportunity to, to structure things in a different way. Because when you first starting out, if you’re feeling tons of financial pressure, right, you’re like, No, I have to do it this because I know this works. And this, you know, and, and like you said, though, like, I actually think when you when you’re in that swagger, when you’re in your zone of genius, you know, whatever you’re going to call it, that’s actually when things really start to open up for you. But it’s scary to trust that, right?

Anniedi Essien 11:59
Totally. I work with a lot of folks who are expanding their business models, maybe they were used to serving consumers, and now they’re going after corporate clients. So it’s like imagine coming from an environment, where up until that point, you were invisible. And now, right, you’re coming in and you’re increasing, you’re being asked to increase your visibility, and show up in a more powerful way. And I think a lot of times we assume, right? The reasons why maybe it’s imposter syndrome, maybe it’s but really, I think it’s how much of we feel that sense of belonging right in the basis where we used to work and show up and deliver value? Did we receive that value? Right? Did we feel like we were seen and heard and valued. And so really, it’s a major mind shift, when people are being asked to go into corporate, a lot of times, they’re shy, or they feel like maybe I’m too much for this? Maybe I’m not enough, right? Or I’m a small fish in a big pond, right? I’m going up against some of these big brands, like how do I really show up as the fullest expression of myself. And so I find that they tend to strip out aspects of their identity, right? The stuff that actually helps them connect more, they tend to kind of really leave those by the wayside and focus on their products. And I, I stress so much that your story your lived experiences, who you are as a person, that focusing on that will lead to way more growth in the corporate space, then focusing just on the features of your product, right. So I think a lot of times, the things we shy away from are the ones that we need to really pull to the forefront. And this, this, this idea of swagger, right? I think helps folks just like have a new language for how to describe what it feels like when you show up in that fullest expression of yourself. Yeah, I

Amber Hawley 13:39
love that. I do love that word, too. Because it is, it is like the combination of confidence and sparkle like which is that yeah, like you’re saying the unique, your unique personality and just kind of being authentic, and confident in that. But that was part of what drew me to you in the first place is as you were talking about this, because I have that struggle of, that’s something I want to shift more into. But I’m like, but I’m a lot and I swear a lot, which I’m capable of not but, you know, like, I It’s like, I can be a lot. But it’s that paradox of I can be a lot and am I enough? Right? And so like, that’s where I even like reached out to you and did one of your pop up events. And I was like, I just needed validation from somebody like, No, it’s It’s possible, you know, you’re not too much you are enough, you know, like getting that feedback. Like it’s it is scary to, you know, branch out into, to new ways of visibility, right?

Anniedi Essien 14:35
Yeah. And I actually remember being the only one right or the firt the first in my family to become a corporate executive or the only woman on an executive leadership team, right. So when you’re in spaces where there’s just not that many examples of what it looks like to show up in that authentic way. It can be super challenging, and that’s really why we created swag or school. We created it so that folks have a brave space to practice some of these new skills to have a space where they can build what I call evidence based confidence, right? Like, there was a moment right after my layoff that I was like, I did not have confidence, right? Like I, I thought I’d lost, right? Me, but I hadn’t lost the essence of me, I still had my gifts, I still had my time. I didn’t have the title. I didn’t have the paycheck, right. But I still had me. And so it was a remembering right of who I was my why, like, what made me tick that allowed me to really step forward when I launched my own business, to even have the permission, give myself the permission to show up in that their way. And so I really wanted swagger school to be a real world learning lab where we could in that brave space, create and cultivate that in a in a community of powerhouse peers, really be able to have that space to really practice those new skills on that craft and get out there and slay it in the world. I mean, that’s truly was the goal behind that vision.

Amber Hawley 16:03
I mean, that’s a powerful why, you know, and I’m thinking, it must have been so hard, though, because you said, you said it was my dream job. So you got laid off from your dream job. So like, you know, it’s one thing I think any layoff, I’ve been through a layoff in world, right? It’s like any layoffs kind of sucks. But when it’s something you’re like, if you think this was the, this is the pinnacle, this was my dream job, I can imagine that that’s even like a bigger blow to like your ego and your self esteem. And just kind of that path, right?

Anniedi Essien 16:36
Totally. And I think the biggest thing was that I only had one definition of success. So I had one definition of success. I was like, I’m gonna climb that ladder, I’m gonna race to the top, there was no stopping me. And when that path was no longer available, I was like, literally, what do I do now? What do I do now. So it’s one thing to sort of be on a path and choose to leave it like you quit your job. It’s another one, that choice is made for you. And I think a lot of folks in the pandemic, whether their markets have shifted, or their customer bases change, like there’s a lot of folks who that choice has been made for them. And they want to pick up the pieces and figure out how do I put these pieces of my life back together, you know, and so I find that those moments where you have those new ideas, they’re most vulnerable. And so really being in a space where you can nurture them and cultivate them, until they’re ready to, you know, go out into the world and take shape that is like a critical moment, right? Really being protective of your space, who’s in your squad, right is super, super critical when you’re in that kind of vulnerable moment, and you’re testing out and trying out new things. And then I also remember, in the pandemic, being on a path that I thought was gonna be successful, like I was gonna do live events, and then the pandemic happened, the world shutdown. The theme is like plans have changed, right, like, so we get so caught up in one idea of what success looks like. And then things get shaken up. And we’ve got to be able to pivot, we’ve got to be able to move. And we’ve got to be able to own our strength, lean into them and trust that we have the destination mind, but the path to get there may look different than what we’d originally envisioned. And I think that piece is like, a little bit more adventurous, right, it’s a little bit more risk taking and, and you got to sort of practice that. And it becomes more natural as you as as you experience it. But in the beginning stages, I was kind of like, No, I’m just going to, you know, start a blog, I’ll get a real job. Like I, I really, I call myself an accidental entrepreneur, you know, like, I was like, There’s no way but then as I started to see that I wasn’t the only one that have gone through burnout. I wasn’t the only one that was like, trying to, like really bring together my personal success and my professional success that really gave me a boulder. You know, it emboldened me to to really prioritize like, Okay, how, how might this be to build my dream company, right? So I may have lost my dream job. But now I get to build my dream company. And so instead of replicating and mimicking what other people are building, I actually get to take ownership around what it is that I want to see in the world. And that in itself is incredible.

Amber Hawley 19:07
Oh, yeah, it is so empowering. And it’s also very scary. Like, that’s that the balance of the two. But, you know, I think that as we go through, like in entrepreneurship, you know, I’ve been doing this for I think it’s like year 12 in realizing like sometimes, yeah, letting go the path and it’s like, you just can’t you have so little control over that sometimes, like you can have the goals and you can be there but things will shift that are totally outside of your control. You know, whether that’s health stuff or you know, pandemics or you know, whatever, all kinds of, you know, life changing things. I do think that’s such a important thing for people to kind of realize and then it is that like having that confidence and trust. Like it could still be scary, but I’m gonna move forward anyway, right? Yes, yeah. So When you so after being laid off, and you’re in this space, you were already burnt out, it sounds like because you had already lost your sparkle. And, and then you didn’t have this idea of a different path. This wasn’t the vision for yourself. So what were some of those things that you did that allowed you to kind of transition from that and kind of get that sparkle back and kind of recognize that path?

Anniedi Essien 20:22
Yeah, so I have, I call them like nine essentials, nine essentials of total health, right. And I think, you know, we all think of wellness as like physical health, like, I gotta eat less and move more everybody talks about that started in the year they set these resolutions. But now we’re starting to think more about mental health and spiritual health, I know for you being in the therapy world, right mind, body spirit, right, folks are starting to take, probably a heightened attention to that and the pandemic, but things that we don’t think about as pivotal to our well being like career satisfaction, or financial stability. I mean, I can’t tell you how many folks I work with, right, that they’re in a business model that’s maybe not profitable, and it’s keeping them up at night, right. So we think about these other aspects that maybe we would not have traditionally put in the bucket of wellness, but really, really powerful when we focus on that. And then social connection and close relationships. So I remember like being really super successful in my career, but like, not having time for my family or my loved ones, and like not having that balance there. And so even whether it’s connecting with your team or your colleagues, right, or your community, right, like the fact that we’ve been isolated for so much of this candidate, those social connections, I’ve really taken a big hit. And then the last two, which I love is like meaningful purpose and playful, literally, the meaningful purpose piece asks, Who am I my unique identity? And how is it tied to my purpose, right, and my path, right, and the playful living is the creativity side. And this is the one that I think I didn’t even realize I had let go dormant, right? There’s a lot of big companies that will allow a portion of time for you to just play an experiment, because that’s where the innovation comes from. But for me, the idea like I grew up my parents would be like, if you’re sitting still, why are you not doing something? Why are you not productive. So it was the unlearning of what productivity really meant. And allowing myself that spaciousness, right, whether it’s in a given week or on vacation, right to like, reimagine what is possible. So there are some times we think we want to speed up, but sometimes you got to slow down to speed up. And I think that yes, looking more holistically at what success really could look like and defining it through the lens of these nine essentials. This was a game changer for me, in my life. And then I started teaching other people and organizations how to do the same, right, just giving us a more holistic and integrated solution to really tackle this issue of like, how do I cultivate a space where I can actually thrive? I never factored myself into the equation. Yeah, that was always on the bottom of the to do list. So now having the opportunity and having a new language and having tools and a path made a significant difference from

Amber Hawley 23:06
I and I agree with you. I mean, those some of those things are exactly what I talked about as well. Like I talked about being fun deficient. Right. So it’s that same playfulness thing. And, and I there are times where I’m working with clients, and especially my like, workaholic, you know, male clients. They’re the, you know, the ones that I see it and I could see it in their eyes. And they think I’m telling them to be frivolous. Like it’s like it’s frivolous. It’s frivolous. It is that’s ridiculous. I have too much on my plate. Like that’s not that’s not going to pay my bills. And you’re right, like this is the thing. You need that playfulness, you need that fun, you need that space, in order to innovate in order to to make it sustainable, right here all the time.

Anniedi Essien 23:54
I’m gonna tell you, Amber, I subscribed to that, like I thought that playfulness and creativity was frivolous. Like I was like, I don’t have to. So my I remember in the pandemic, my business was shut down because live events were not happening. My best friend. She was in the school district space, she was an ad consultant and schools were shutting down. So she was like, What are we gonna do? We banded together and we made a YouTube channel called the wild wild west of adulting. Okay, we were like, gonna be a virtual roadtrip to entrepreneurs and BFFs, like navigating the uncertainty and possibility of pursuing life off the beaten path. And we were like, just kind of like using it as a space to like, process what was happening in the world, right, like, small businesses were shutting down all around us. We were really processing the impact of that on our businesses and our friendship. And I remember, it was a very popular podcast, okay, for 10 podcasts, I should say, we had 10 subscribers. Okay, so what’s out and I know you weren’t, you weren’t expecting scribers and one of them was a global head of people at legal services firm and she saw it and she said Would you bring your services to our company? And so that playfulness, I remember some of my old classmates from business going, why are you doing that podcast? Why are you on YouTube? Like cracking jokes? Like I was like, this is like, fun, right? This is for us. We needed that creative outlet that actually led to right, multi year licensing deal and corporate contract. And so these are the things where we don’t we think that play is frivolous. But it actually when we tap into what lights us up, could lead to six figures in corporate contracts, right? Just because we gave ourselves permission to have that room for creativity. So I share that story. Because a lot of times we think we dismiss it, we’re like, oh, yeah, yeah, we got to focus on the heart of leadership skills, but sometimes those soft areas to be soft and have room to play and to experiment. That is really where the fun begins.

Amber Hawley 25:50
And frankly, like, when you think about that, well, first of all, yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s just so undervalued, in our culture, like, it’s so undervalued. And, but then you think about, when we say corporate, they are people who are in roles. And it’s like, what attracts you to people, like, most of us aren’t attracted to the, you know, the person who looks like burnt out and overwhelmed and, and, you know, workaholic and has, you know, there’s just no fun. There’s no joy there, right. But you get your if you’re in that space, because you know, you’re just part of the the machine, the cog. And then you look out and you see somebody like you and your friends, Christina, right. Yeah, you and Christina, like having fun, that’s going to be attractive. So of course, like, then when you say it like that, I’m like, oh, yeah, well, that would be attractive to corporate, you know, I’m doing air quotes for people are listening, because, because it’s like you this is the thing, I think the messaging is always in our head, like, no corporate is buttoned up. And it’s gotta be proper. And it’s very like, cut. I can’t think of the word almost sterile. That’s a great word. That’s a great word. Yeah. And it’s like, you think of that, but then you’re like, Yeah, but those are people. What do people what are people attracted to?

Anniedi Essien 27:10
They are they are. And I even remember when we were like building our brand, our brand has like wild colors. Like I said, to the graphic designer, I was like, this is not corporate, whatever you’re doing the day, the colors are as wild as possible, because I would just come out of my laugh. And I was like, definitely not corporate. And so she made the colors wild. And then I remember being in a meeting, a pitch meeting. And, you know, the corporate client said to me, it was like a Chief Human Resource Officer, she said, you know, normally the topic of burnout is like doom and gloom, but we love the fresh take that you’re taking on this, like, it feels like sprinkles on a cupcake, you know, the joyfulness, the weeds, the thing that we think we’re not going to be taken seriously for, because we’re joyful, we’re playful, whatever, that can actually be the very thing that sets you apart, that can actually be the thing that differentiates you and opens doors that you could not have imagined. So yeah, I was like, I was like, oh, corporate needs some sort of, like, you know, it’s gonna be like too much over the time for them. But yeah, it was like if I’m going to shop now at this point in my career, and so I’m going to show I’m going to show up in the fullest expression of myself. And I want to be in spaces that receive that right not feeling like I have to shrink or you know, turn my light down to let others shine like I want to be in spaces where we can cultivate, right that are the understanding that our individual and collective paths to success are actually intertwined. So yeah, I say bring it I say bring the heat, bring the sparkle, Bring, bring all the swagger that you got, like what brought me that, right, and they’re going through a lot of organizations are going through the same thing right now, like, people want brands that they can connect to, that they can relate to, they will choose companies that are aligned to their values as employees. So when we come in, right, as consultants as they come in and serving those organizations, they are looking to us to lead the way. Yes,

Amber Hawley 28:53
I love the sprinkles on a cupcake thing that is so great. You know, you touch on a good point that that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be those people who will be like that is too much. And that’s not professional, but that’s not the space you want to be in anyway like, there and like you said, I think in the last couple of years, so many, you know bigger corporations are realizing we have to shift things for our employees so that it is an attractive place to work because nobody wants to be in that toxic you know, place anymore. And so, like you might still have a few people but that’s part of that protecting your space thing, like realizing when you’re in in that vulnerable place or when you’re in like putting yourself out there that that just because one person feels that way doesn’t mean it’s a truth.

Anniedi Essien 29:39
Absolutely, absolutely. And I always say like with the superstars I work with I’m like we don’t follow trends we set them well. I had no idea when I was laid off from my job that I would be setting that trend of this like great resignation this like massive like uprising of folks saying no, we don’t want spaces that we can’t bring our full selves to work. We don’t want toxic working knows we actually want to be in spaces that where we can really flourish, you know? And so, yeah, I’d say there’s, this is a unique and pivotal moment in history where we do get to change the narrative on this stuff. And yes, bringing all of our works and the things that make us unique, like that’s needed. Now more than ever before.

Amber Hawley 30:20
Yeah, absolutely. And as, you know, as somebody who’s been a therapist in Silicon Valley for like, I don’t know, 16 years now, or something. I don’t know, maybe my math is off. But, but yeah, it’s like, I worked with so many people who were C suite execs or people in big corporations, and the the misery and toxicity. And like you said, you, you could be making great money. But if you don’t get to have any time with your family, and or you have like a place where it’s like being you is not okay, you know, like, all of the all of those elements have to be happening for you to really feel that place of joy or fulfillment. You know, it can’t just be the one thing and people say, Oh, well, you’re making a lot of money, look at the opportunities you have. And I’m like, Yeah, but at the end of the day, there’s not enough money to counterbalance that feeling, right?

Anniedi Essien 31:15
Absolutely. I work with multi six figure and seven figure business owners and, you know, you get to a certain point where you hit the goal, you hit the goal, and you’re like, This is all I got, right? Like, at that point, like, you’re like, I did all this, and I just get this t shirt, you know, like, it’s like, we have to reimagine what success looks like. And even in the goals and milestones that we set for ourselves. So is it just how much money you’re making? Are there other measures, right, that you might want to add in and be thinking about like that, really take into account how you feel right? How you feel, because that’s what’s going on, I realized there was a certain point in my career, that my ability to grow my business or to ascend professionally was going to be tied to my ability to manage my own energy. Right. And so I think come to those moments where we got to define for ourselves, like, what does success look like? What does it feel like? And how do we like reimagine it so that we can be in it for the long haul? And I think that gets back to your earlier question about sustainability, right? Not just the near term, things that we said, you know, as a vision for goal to work towards, but that longer term sustainability, how do we stay in the game for the long term?

Amber Hawley 32:25
Oh, 100%. And yeah, I talked about energy management as well. Like, I think that’s one of the key things and, you know, so much goes into that, right, like boundaries. And, and yeah, like, having having limits and having space and making sure you’re getting all the things that you’re needing beyond just the paycheck. Yeah, I to know, people who are like multi seven figure business owners, who will talk to me about, they feel like their business is sucking their soul. So it’s like, you know, like, Oh, my God, that’s horrible. That’s not the dream. That that we think we’re working towards when we’re building these businesses, right?

Anniedi Essien 33:04
Yes, yes. It’s like, how do we go from soul sucking to soul saying, right, like that is, that is the things that like when I had the experience of burnout, and I was like, I don’t want to recreate that it made me get more creative with my business, right down to the business miles down to the products that I down to the customers that I serve, I was like, How do I do this in a way that doesn’t just recreate the spaces I came from, but that allows me the freedom, which is why I built my business to begin with. And so yeah, it just like when you look at it from that lens, and you’re like, oh, I don’t have to scale my business the same way everybody else does. It starts to unlock so many different possibilities and much more innovation, right? And how you’re going about things and yeah, like nobody wants to get to the end destination. And then wonder, right? Is this the right path for me, but giving ourselves that space, right, giving ourselves that space, and that permission to play and to be creative, and to challenge the norms or challenge the status quo disrupt ourselves, that he’s right is really where what unlocks the key to that continued growth.

Amber Hawley 34:11
I love that I feel like this whole I feel like there are so many Treatibles in what you say. Like you have these like one liners where I just keep seeing like these, these quotes of like, Oh, I love I love the wording because, you know, how we talk about something, you know, impacts our perspective on it, right? Like that’s those, you know, as we would say in the therapy world the reframes like when we reframe stuff, and see it in that different way. It’s it’s changing the language, you know, because I’m sure I don’t think I’d ever heard anybody before you. I mean, I’ve heard different words, but I’ve never heard anybody talking about corporate and swagger together. That to me what they were, they were like, what is that not polar opposites. There’s that word? What is it today that I can’t come up with words I don’t know. an oxymoron that’s what I was like, you know, corporate in school. Iger felt like an oxymoron.

Anniedi Essien 35:02
I joke all the time. I’m like, I’m making corporate sexy. Okay, I’m gonna I’m rebranding. Like, we gotta we got to do this like so. Yeah, no, I totally I totally hear what you’re saying. Like, it’s definitely a moment like right now, where we’re all sort of reevaluating, like what that looks like, right what that looks like. And then I was laughing when you were saying about the tweetable is because I’m like, I’m bodacious and loquacious. Okay, so I’m not quite on the Twitter yet, because like, it’s the character limitations are a little bit much for me. But yes, like, we’re trying to, we’re trying to flip the script on this stuff in so many ways. And I think, how we see it, how we language and how we build it, like, I think there’s so many opportunities.

Amber Hawley 35:44
Yeah, well, sidenote, I find Twitter super overwhelming, because I have ADHD. And so I, I mean, I have an account, but I’m not on it at all. But I always think like when somebody said, I guess I heard Marie Forleo in my head saying, like, that’s a tweetable. Like, and I’m like, Oh, it absolutely is like all of that was tweetable even though I’m bodacious and I love that I’m just gonna listen to this over and over. I love it. I, I am being mindful of time. But I, there’s one thing I’m curious, because as I, you know, the work that I do with people, and I think, you know, when people are listening to stories like this, and they’re thinking, like, you know, so that they don’t go to that place of like, oh, yeah, but you’ve made it. So now it’s easy, you know, like understanding the difficulties. And I think when we can be really authentic about those hard parts, it’s so validating for other people to hear. I am curious that you, I’m wondering, as a child of immigrants, who said, if you’re just sitting there, you should be doing something like, when you got laid off, and then decided to do this, and you’re doing something that is so vastly so audacious, so different. So, you know, out there, you know, the sprinkles on the cupcake, I’m wondering, what did your family feel about that? Huh?

Anniedi Essien 37:03
Oh, this, how long do we have for this?

Amber Hawley 37:06
I was like, Well, if you’re and you also don’t have to answer that question. But I need I can just I know so many people get that same pressure from their family.

Anniedi Essien 37:16
Yeah, you know, well, so I think first every I feel like every immigrant parent wants their kid to be a doctor or a lawyer. You know, I had to know I disappointed them by going to business school. So that was the first dedeaux moment where I kind of said, I’m taking a different path. But I think it’s so funny, because, you know, I didn’t even realize how much my parents ideas and ideals were intertwined in mine of like, what I took as a serious career option, you know, like, um, during that layoff, like I resisted and dismissed everything that didn’t smack of like traditional roles, right, I was like, looking at C suite roles. And I just remember, like, not getting a position, right. I was like, the job didn’t work out. It was a sea level role. And I remember going getting my hair cut into a mohawk, I was like, That’s it. This is my rebellion. My 40s I’m like, That’s it, you know, but I really was like, I am gonna have to reimagine this path. Like, I’m gonna have to, like, think of this outside the box. So I pulled I crowdsourced on Facebook, asked some friends like what I should do. So some of them were like, You should be a plus size supermodel, you should be a consultant, you should be like you should be teaching you. So I took everything that they suggested, and I poured it into my, into my company, like literally love everything. I poured it because I was like, I’ve done the path. I’ve done the responsible thing, doing what I’m supposed to do, do you know following all the rules, and I was like, I’m gonna break some rules. I’m gonna do just what brings me joy. That was like my only barometer, I was like, I’m gonna do what brings me joy. And that’s it. And through even the pandemic, when the plants got disrupted, like that was the way I checked in with myself to say, Am I on the right path? Or I’m on the wrong path? Yeah. And that was the way that I returned back to myself each time as I was making those pivots. And yeah, I think a lot of times we dismiss the wild ideas, we do 100%. And that’s where like, the best innovations come from. The best inventions come from the wildest ideas, and sometimes we don’t even give ourselves permission to birth them into the world because we’re so caught up into what our parents, our family, our friends, like, think about what we’re doing. And so yeah, I feel like just having that experience of like letting everything like that. Yes. And so instead of like just dismissing ideas, because I didn’t take it seriously, just giving myself to try it once. That has been a game changer. It’s led to so many opportunities, and it’s just been a lot of fun, you know, which I think was something I was missing when I was just focused on Gotta get promoted by this time, and I got to have it, you know, like, I just was like, so limited in my ideas of what fulfillment could be right. And this was needed for me to stretch outside of that to challenge my own expectations, but also, to have a bigger like a more rewarding,

Amber Hawley 40:19
huh? i It’s so powerful. And I mean, that’s the thing. There’s so much like unconscious conditioning that we receive. And that’s not all negative, right? But that’s the thing. It’s like, we don’t question that stuff. It’s just like, so ingrained in us that even as you start to have that realization, and go down those paths, I think it still sneaks up, you know, from time to time, like, I’ve had that because I wanted this business because I was like, I need something that’s light hearted and fun. And that’s, and I get to be totally inappropriate me, but still help people you know, like, and, and but then there are those times where I was like, oh, no, but financially, like the stability, I got to stick with what works, I got to stick with this thing, and then overload myself so that I didn’t have the time and space to build this. And it wasn’t until the pandemic where all of a sudden, it was like there was more time and space. And I’m like, That’s it, I’m done.

Anniedi Essien 41:17
Yes, those quiet moments in the pandemic, Allah allowed us to face the things we might not have up until that point, because we could just busy ourselves for me, like, I’m a recovering Busybody, you know, but it was like that moment of pause to say, what do I really want? What do I really want not just to say it out loud, but to honor it, to hear it and to act upon it? Yeah, right. That is that piece is I think what the past couple of years have taught me.

Amber Hawley 41:44
So good, so good. Well, I, I’m sure people are like, I need to hear more. I need to hear more from her. That’s how I always felt. That’s why I say, I feel like I’m constantly stalking you. I’m like, Oh, I’m, I’m coming to another program one day, I swear, I swear, I’m coming. It’s a lot. But because I think it is really powerful work. And it’s it’s beyond just even if I mean, obviously, I know it’s a lot for business owners or people wanting to transition or expand and learn to kind of get those bigger contracts, especially as women or people of color who don’t typically aren’t the ones that are getting those things, right, like so you’re really doing important work in that. But I also think it’s just that like that, you know, boldness and that, that swagger and all that that’s so needed. And I think so many people are going to resonate with that of like, yeah, I lost my sparkle too. And I need to make that shift, right?

Anniedi Essien 42:39
Yes, absolutely. So if you are interested in learning more about what we’re up to at swagger school, you’re welcome to join one of our pop up events. You can visit us at swagger To learn when those events are happening. You can also if you’re interested in what Amber described as that sort of broader support around how do I go to market and target corporate clients? How do I land five and six figure corporate contracts so I can slay my b2b deals. You’re welcome to learn more about our seal the corporate Deal program, and you can visit us at seal the corporate for that information.

Amber Hawley 43:13
Awesome. Thank you so much. I really, I love your openness. But I love your story, because I think it’s so powerful and I can’t even imagine you without sparkle. Honestly.

Anniedi Essien 43:25
Thank you for having me. And thank you for coming to brunch that day. I was like I’m gonna take my internet friends be my in real life, right? Yeah. So yes, it’s been such a joy to have this conversation with you. And I am so excited for your listeners to just go out there and rocket right more, more sparkle and more swagger for everybody. Okay, that’s what’s on the menu, right?

Amber Hawley 43:51
Enough said I can’t I’m not even gonna add to that. Awesome. Thank you.

Anniedi Essien 43:56
Thank you for having me.

Transcribed by

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