EmpowHERto asked Executive Coach Lauren Cooney, Founder and CEO of Spark Labs, about her entrepreneurial journey and commitment to elevating women into leadership roles.
What is Spark Labs and why did you start it?
Spark Labs’ goal is to ensure that everyone is offered the guidance they need to be successful in their roles as they strive to move up the corporate ladder. Besides collaborating with the best and brightest minds in tech, we do sliding scales and pro-bono work.
There were many instances in my career where I was faced with discrimination based on age, sex, and race. For example, women are paid less than men and treated without equity in many workplaces. I want to help women break down these barriers and educate companies on how to create more inclusive and safe environments. I wish I’d had these services when I was building my career, especially as a woman navigating complex office environments.
How did you come up with the name for your company?
“Spark” comes from sparking ideas and “Labs” is where the work is done. The tagline is, “Let our passion meet yours”, and that’s truly where we have a mix of ideation and innovation.
What makes Spark Labs different from other career coaching services?
The nature of our work makes us different. We do some executive coaching with a focus on the path that our clients are taking with their careers. We build upon sessions and offer real-time coaching via text. Our clients get strategic coaching from someone with 20+ years of expertise working in the tech industry as a leader and executive.
How have you built your customer base? Do you market your business on your own?
Most of our marketing is word-of-mouth. We also have a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We heavily utilize Twitter and LinkedIn for posting articles and engaging in the communities that need career strategy services.
Since the company is still relatively young, the brand and image are still forming. As the CEO, I still do all the marketing (using input from clients and industry veterans) across all of the above platforms, with a heightened focus on the WOM (word-of-mouth) factor. The more our clients talk about what Spark Labs can do, the more visibility we get. This method of marketing establishes an intrinsic trust, which is one of our most powerful sources.
What does “a day in the life” look like for you?
I get up at around 4:45 or 5:00 AM and caffeinate, and then read emails and social media. By 6-6:30 AM I’m on my Peloton, where I get in some early stress relief. After showering and changing, I start work. Due to the pandemic, I’m often on lots of video meetings with big companies as well as current and potential clients. I also present to organizations and employee resource groups. I try to close down about 6:00 PM, but I often get caught up with things like checking emails and doing financial or marketing work. I’m typically in bed between 9-9:30 p.m.
What has been the most challenging and rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
The most challenging part is seeing people struggle in their roles in poor office environments with bad leadership, but I love helping people get out of those situations and thrive.
How has your previous working experience prepared you for any setbacks?
Long hours combined with the acquired ability to fail (fast) and stand up quickly prepared me for becoming an entrepreneur. Also, the network I built early on in my career helps a ton.
What are some challenges that you’ve had to overcome during the pandemic?
Online-only coaching has its challenges, as coaching is truly about the relationship. But my clients and I have been able to build rapport through lively dialogue.
What skills must an aspiring teenage business owner cultivate?
Learn about what makes a business run: a relentless focus on the customer and their needs. You need to understand who your customer is and why they need your solution. If you accomplish this critical first step, you’re ahead of the game and the revenue will come.
What advice do you have for a young woman looking to start her own business?
Besides attention to the customer, understanding the business basics of profit and loss, sales strategy, customer outreach, and marketing is essential. But these are only one side of the story as the whole thing will also come down to grit and perseverance: you’re going to fall 10 times and have to stand up 11 before you start to see success, and that’s why determination is crucial.
If you’d like to get in touch with Lauren or access her services check out her company’s website.
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