How can we be more resilient? How can we shake off the big challenges of life, be patient, and ultimately succeed?
For Andrea Heuston, it was not an easy journey. Her life has been a whirlwind affair, leaving her with many scars and obstacles but also an unflappable spirit that refuses to give up on the world. Andrea now leads Artitudes Design, a full-service creative services and experimental design firm that specializes in providing high-level speaker and design support to top executives. She is also the creator and host of the Lead Like a Woman podcast.
I enjoyed our insightful and inspiring conversation, and I’m sure you will love it too.
Creating value for herself
We all have a purpose, and the best way to find it is by creating value for ourselves and providing that value to others.
Andrea grew up as the middle child of the family with male siblings. Her father has traditional values around gender roles and didn’t believe that women should be in positions of authority. This factored into the attraction as well because it showed how independent she could become! The realization set into her at an early age. She said, “I found that I could have a say and believe in my own voice and it changed the entire trajectory of my life.” Not only do females have access to opportunities, but they are also able to accomplish them with ease.
It was all about finding that strength and courage within her. “In order to really survive and thrive, I had to find my way through and push through. So for me, it was really about creating value for myself and then learning who I was so that I could support other women,” Andrea expressed. For her, the first step was finding that voice so that now, other women can hear it too. And the ripple effect is powerful.
Leading like a woman
Andrea has always been passionate about empowering women and passing on her knowledge to others. She has created something special that resonated with her life experiences and shared it with as many people as she could.
In a world where women are still fighting for equality, Andrea’s podcast Lead Like A Woman shines as one of the few rays of hope. It focuses on closing the gender gap in business and empowering women leaders to lift others through topical discussions as they share stories about life, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
The before and after of her life
Andrea has had a series of life-altering experiences that tested her resiliency. In her book “Stronger on the Other Side: The Power to Choose,” she takes you on a journey from one traumatic experience after another and how she conquered each obstacle against all odds.
She shared about how she had fertility treatments and adopted her two sons. In 2008, she underwent surgery and didn’t wake up. Due to complications, doctors had to put her in an induced coma for 3 weeks. When she woke up, she was out of her business for eight months. She experienced her house burning down and having to escape it with her children. And she had a dear friend and employee who died of cancer.
She expressed, “It’s really about how the universe knocks me on my ass and I have to get up and figure out how to use gratitude in my life to move forward in a positive way.”
Instead of wallowing in self-pity and falling into the victim mentality, one thing she does every day is to set her tone and practice gratitude. “My life is a gift. Every day above ground is a gift for me,” she said. She proves that even when you think everything around is lost, there can always be hope for life.
Building strategic relationships
Networking is a powerful means of building your business contacts and establishing meaningful relationships with other entrepreneurs. It isn’t just about meeting new faces but also connecting through shared interests or values that help build trust.
Andrea uses her book to actively expand the scope of her influence. She said, “My book is a business card. My book is an entree point into conversations and keynote speeches. That’s exactly what it is.” By positioning herself to contribute to a larger community, she’s not only bringing in business benefits but fueling idea-sharing and providing joy that comes from connecting with others as well. “I am happy to give my book away to people who attend. I am happy to send them to Amazon to buy one, but my book was never meant to make a ton of money.”
You can catch my full conversation with Andrea on the Fascinating Entrepreneurs podcast!
Transcript from Podcast
[00:00:00] Andrea Heuston: But I also wanted to create a gift for others in that they could learn from my experiences and how to get through to the other side. It’s what my keynote speeches about now is really about how to focus on gratitude, to get to a life of opportunity and grace.
[00:00:16] Natasha Miler: Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur?
How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and fascinating entrepreneurs. Hey, can you do me a favor while you’re listening to this podcast?
Can you open a web browser and type in OfficialNatashaMiller.com? This is my brand new website that I built for you, entrepreneurs that want to scale and grow their businesses. It’s packed full of information articles, blog posts, podcasts, and also you can download the FREE Profit Finder Guide that helps you find more profit in your current business.
You can get on the wait list for my digital course and be the first to know when my book relentless is up for pre-sale. Andrea Houston is the founder and CEO of Artitudes Design Inc. Podcast host of the Lead Like A Woman Show and author of the book stronger on the other side, written to empower women with the power to choose their own path.
Now let’s get right into it.
[00:01:40] Andrea Heuston: So pandemic the first few weeks, the pandemic, we lost $500,000 off our top line because we were working with live events for big companies like Microsoft, Tableau and Cisco, everyone cancelled their huge life event. And these are live events of 20 to 50,000 people. So we were doing backstage support. We were doing supportive speakers.
We’re writing content. We’re creating visuals. So we ended the year only down 11%, which was really good for us. Cause we quickly pivoted into the virtual event space. So we were able to regain some traction with smaller events, never with bigger ones because they’re still not out, but it really worked out for us in the end.
And now we’re seeing large events coming back now right now. The first one we have on our books is July of 2022. So I would say we survived, but we also thrive because we were able to pivot a bit. And frankly it gave me some time and attention on my own brand, the lead, like a woman brand and stronger on the other side.
So it was nice. It was nice to get this space, to do some other creative and funds.
[00:02:48] Natasha Miler: I’m right there with you. We have a very similar parallel story, but we’ll get to that maybe off camera. So right now, what is your current role at and are you working in your business or on it or hybrid?
[00:03:02] Andrea Heuston: So mostly working on my business. I am the director of strategy. I’m the CEO and founder. I do the things that I love to do. So I love to create culture with my team. So I ran all the meetings where we do things of interaction and we have a virtual team. Now we closed down our offices. So I have employees in four different states. So keeping that connection is vitally important.
So I do that. That’s my favorite thing to do, but I also do strategy with clients because I absolutely love it. The other thing I’ve really focused on, I’ve been a speaker coach for 15 years. However, I’ve been able to really focus on my script, whisper a title, which I love to do. So I love to take scripts and help people connect with their audiences and really focus on working with speakers and speaker coaching and stage presence. It’s been a gift.
[00:03:52] Natasha Miler: Yeah, it sounds amazing. And it really leads me into the earlier part of your answer. It leads me into how do you keep your employees both engaged and inspired. And now, especially since they are remote and in four different states.
[00:04:06] Andrea Heuston: We work hard at it. I have to say you can’t just sprinkled fairy dust.
If it gets going to work, you actually have to talk to the employees to find out what they want. So I have an outstanding COO who spends time every other week with every single employee. So he does those conversations. Ports back to me, what’s going on in their heads. And we create things from there. Like yesterday, we had a BYOB happy hour online with everybody there.
We showed our childhood pictures and we talked about spooky experiences for Halloween. Next week, we’re doing a two day strategy session with our team, really diving deep on what they need, but we’ve done things. Boxes of candy. We have sent snacks. We sent plants, we send presents periodically just to keep people engaged.
We’ve also done cooking classes together and that’s really fun. So just things to be engaged with each other, but to be aware of what each person needs, because it’s different for everybody.
[00:05:05] Natasha Miler: It really is, how many employees do you have right now?
[00:05:08] Andrea Heuston: We have 11 full-time employees right now, but we also have a base of about 20 different contractors. We call them now they’re not involved in all the meetings, but we try to keep them engaged to some of it too.
[00:05:18] Natasha Miler: Yes. So what do you do for the introverts and extroverts? I’m the shy people and the outgoing people. And I have a smaller team now because of COVID and I have such a strange dichotomy. People are different. There’s some that are hard to reach because they won’t say what they want or need.
[00:05:36] Andrea Heuston: So that is the reason my COO reaches out to them every other week, because we need to know what they need. And there are a lot of people won’t speak up. I too have introverts and extroverts on my team and what’s been really impactful are the conversations where he can pull out from those people.
The one-on-one rather than one-on-many. And just a talking head, cause that just never seems to work. So by doing that, we’re able to focus on each person individually and what they bring to the table and what they need from the company and from the team.
[00:06:08] Natasha Miler: It sounds like he’s an employee whisperer and I think that’s wonderful.
I haven’t thought of having someone other than myself gather that Intel. So I love doing this Podcast because I asked the questions, honestly, that I want to know for myself and my business, but I also know my listeners are looking for too. So thank you. Awesome. We’re going to go deep. What inspired you to create the Lead Like A Woman Show?
[00:06:34] Andrea Heuston: Oh. So lead Like A Woman Show is my podcast where I interview female leaders who are empowering others. The whole goal is to empower other women. I started my life in a family that did not value women, and I love my parents and I love my brothers, but I was a second class citizen. So I always felt “other”, that is the word that I’ve chosen.
“Other”. Because I wasn’t a boy. And so for me, it took a lot of gas to go out on my own and I’ve always had guts, but I found my voice when I was an exchange student in Denmark when I was 16 and 17 years old. So when I came back, I found that I could have a say and believe in my own voice and it changed the entire trajectory of my life.
And so starting to lead like a woman show during the pandemic really helped me focus on women and what they mean. To not only survive, but to thrive and how to empower them. And it is one of the best things I do now, because I get to spend time talking to these women and learning about their super powers and how they use them for good.
[00:07:37] Natasha Miler: Listen, when I looked at the title Lead Like A Woman, it reminded me of the campaign Run Like A Girl.
[00:07:43] Andrea Heuston: Yeah, we’re Nike campaign, so outstanding.
[00:07:46] Natasha Miler: Toughest hell. We’re soft in places too, but we’re so powerful in general. And any man really thinking about what a woman does in their life and in this world. We’ll also understand that, but I’m interested in hearing about what was it about being a woman that was the “other”.
[00:08:05] Andrea Heuston: So I grew up with parents who are not even baby boomers. They’re older than that. So they’re called traditionalist because they were born before world war II. So very traditional household roles.
And while my mother worked as a teacher, she worked as a teacher. Do you know what I mean? So a teacher was a very acceptable role for a woman back then. I never, and I apologize to my parents for saying, but I never felt supported to be able to sack and do whatever the heck I want and do and be whoever I want.
And so that had to come from within really. So being other in a family full of boys, I’m the middle child and I have a brother on each side, which is great. However, in order to really survive and thrive, I had to find my way through and push through. So for me, it was really about creating value for myself and then learning who I was so support other women.
[00:08:59] Natasha Miler: And what do they think of you now? The owner CEO, founder of an incredible business. You plowing your way through speaking and the podcast and the book that we’ll talk about. What is their feeling about this?
[00:09:14] Andrea Heuston: So I believe they’re proud of me. I do believe that they are ultimately proud of me because I’ve pushed through barriers that have been there for centuries.
Sorry to say. I try not to just have that be my language, but sometimes I have felt like a disappointment, in my life to my parents, because I was not typically who they fought I should be a wife, a mother, a person who really takes care of the home, fire do that too, because I’m all in with everything I do. But pushing through those barriers and working with CEOs of Fortune 100 companies and really believing that I have a place at that table because I have something to give has been different for them.
My mom says that her buttons burst on her shirt every time she thinks about me. Cause she’s so proud. So I think that’s adorable. My dad told me recently during a heart to heart conversation, that he is very proud of me. So I do believe that as well, but it took me almost 50 years to believe that.
[00:10:15] Natasha Miler: Right, that’s tough. We’re going to move into the book so stronger on the other side is your memoir released earlier this year? And I will-
[00:10:24] Andrea Heuston: On my 50th birthday.
[00:10:27] Natasha Miler: What were your why’s for writing and publishing it?
[00:10:31] Andrea Heuston: So for me, I believe that the world has a victim mentality. A lot of people do because it’s so easy to fall into that victim mentality.
The world is out to get me, somebody cut me off driving what a jerk. They are, all the things that add up to kind of a I’ve really low in your life because you don’t believe you have the power to push through it. So my why was really to focus on victim mentality and how to get out of it and how to be grateful.
My book is about my before and afters in life. And there are a lot of them there’s before and after in fertility treatments and adopting two boys there’s before and after being in a coma for 17 days. And losing everything based on that, it was a very difficult time in my life. And I was definitely in victim the before and after of my house burning down.
And then the before and after of a dear friend and employee who died of cancer, quite suddenly, who’d been with us for nine years. So it’s really about how the universe knocks me on my ass and I have to get up and figure out how to use gratitude in my life to move forward in a positive.
[00:11:41] Natasha Miler: So I’m wondering since releasing it, what surprises have you encountered at publishing it and having people read it and having people in your life that know you, but now they know some things about you that aren’t table topics.
[00:11:56] Andrea Heuston: So I decided to put myself out. Because my life is a gift every day above ground is a gift for me. And I believe that fully and wholly, and I am an optimist now I didn’t use to be, but I’m definitely the glasses overflowing type of a person. And I think it drives some people crazy. But the way that I was able to put my book out there and really connect with people who didn’t know me or thought they knew me has been an epiphany in a way, because people have these preconceived notions about you.
And by using my book as a tool to connect with people, it’s been amazing to hear different stories from other people. And I would say what surprised me most is people are more willing to share with me now. Willing to share with them. The book was written for me to be quite honest. It was a gift to myself for my 50th birthday.
I released it on April 7th, the day I turned 50. And I’m really proud of the fact that I did that, but I also wanted to create a gift for others in that they could learn from my experiences and how to get through to the other side. It’s what my keynote speeches about now is really about how to focus on gratitude to get to a life of opportunity and grace.
[00:13:10] Natasha Miler: Do you think that you would have been able to identify these factors that you’re now able to embody 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago?
[00:13:21] Andrea Heuston: No, I was absolutely not in the place to do that. I was living in victim. I thought the entire universe was out to get me because of all these things that I experienced in my life.
And it was brutal. There’s some brutal mental anguish. Because I couldn’t see the forest, the trees, I was stuck behind a big trunk of a tree and I couldn’t get around it. So I don’t think I had the personal knowledge or the wherewithal to really see how these things have been a gift in my life rather than a detriment to my success.
[00:13:54] Natasha Miler: And what was the turning point? What led you to this realization and the flip, because you really have flipped your screen.
[00:14:01] Andrea Heuston: My flip actually happened after I was in a coma. So that was 13 years ago and I had an elective surgery that led to the coma. So it was something that I chose to do. So I take responsibility for my part in that, but I woke up from that coma and my life changed completely.
A switch was flipped, especially in my business. I no longer had to control. I touched 85% of the projects that came into the company before I was in coma, because I was out of my business for eight months. That year I got back to my business part-time and I realized that people did what they were supposed to do.
I had hired people who were smarter than me. Which is such a gift because they were able to keep going with the company. And I came back and I realized I didn’t have to be HR. I didn’t have to be a caring. I didn’t have to be project management. I didn’t have to do any of the things I didn’t want to do. And we would fry.
[00:14:55] Natasha Miler: And you didn’t probably think back then, Not doing all of that is actually better for your business, better for potential sale, even if you never want to sell and better for your employees, better for you, better for your husband, better for your kids. And I didn’t know that either. I thought that if I wasn’t working in my business, rolling up my sleeve.
I am from the midwest. You know in the trenches with the rest of my employees day to day, that I would feel bad that I would not look good to my employees, that my clients would stop calling. Guess what? Nobody cares at this point.
[00:15:35] Andrea Heuston: Exactly.
[00:15:36] Natasha Miler: Not only did we hire great people and people that are smarter than us, but we somehow set up systems and processes to let them flourish.
And I think the reason I’m talking about this is I want listeners to hear this because I know so many new entrepreneurs, even people with a couple of million dollars in revenue. Aren’t there yet. And they’re like “I love what I do.” “I’ve never going to give this up.” Or “my clients would never book us. They’re not talking to me.” And I, them, it’s so hard to get it through somebody’s mind. Even if your name is the company,
[00:16:13] Andrea Heuston: yep.
[00:16:14] Natasha Miler: It does-
[00:16:14] Andrea Heuston: Exactly. So I have a story around that I’d like to briefly tell-
[00:16:17] Natasha Miler: I’d love to hear it.
[00:16:18] Andrea Heuston: I had, so I hired a business coach years and years ago. He was my very first business coach and showed me this graphic with the CEO.
And everything, every spoke of a wheel coming out and it was HR and payroll and it was finance, it was projects, it was everything. And he said, if you truly want to be the CEO, your company needs to grow. You need to move yourself out of the center and up to one of the spokes. And then you fill the spokes with the people who can do what they can do well and are smarter than you.
Some of the best advice I ever received, but it was hard to put into practice.
[00:16:53] Natasha Miler: I was going to say, how did you do it? Because what I realized when I was coaching a new entrepreneur, I was talking so high level and she was like, “but how do I do it?” And “I’m like, oh, people need to know step-by-step from the very bottom.”
As entrepreneurs that have been in business for 20 and 30 years, we don’t see that anymore.
[00:17:19] Andrea Heuston: No we don’t. So honestly, I couldn’t do it. I did not do it until I had a forcing function in my life. And that was the coma that would have prepared me for is when my house burned down and I needed to step away from the business to really focus on rebuilding our lives.
That I was able to do that because I had moved away from the center and nothing depended on me anymore, except for culture and strategy.
[00:17:44] Natasha Miler: And how long were you away for the rebuild of your life?
[00:17:49] Andrea Heuston: The rebuilds. Yeah, it was off and on for almost. And I really had to focus on bringing that house back to life.
And so we did, but I had the ability to do that because I had a stunningly, amazingly, intelligent team who could really take the reins and move forward. It doesn’t mean I’ve always made good hiring decisions, mind you, but-
[00:18:10] Natasha Miler: You know, what’s the hardest part of running a business? Period. End of story. It’s-
[00:18:15] Andrea Heuston: People.
[00:18:16] Natasha Miler: We’re so complicated. The communication styles are different. So back to the book, as someone who’s going to be putting a book out next year, what are your goals for the books? And I want to hear both how many books you want to sell? How many books you want people to read? Do you want to make money from it? Is money not important is it to advance your authority and get speaking engagements.
I want to really hear what the goals are. But, what people think various things about why someone’s putting a book out and how much money they’re really making. And I think that you might have some good answers.
[00:18:53] Andrea Heuston: I do. I wrote this book. I’m going to show it again, “Stronger On The Other Side: The Power to Choose” as a business card. So my book is a business card. My book is an entree point into conversations and keynote speeches. That’s exactly what it is. And I am happy to give my book away to people who attend. I am happy to send them to Amazon to buy one, but my book was never meant to make a ton of money. And that sounds horrible to say, but what really was created for was visibility.
Now I’m a best-selling author on Amazon twice over, which is amazing. Excuse me, but I’m in the midst of writing the next book. And the next book is called Lead Like A Woman Tales From The Trenches. And it’s a 10 author book where all women are entrepreneurs and CEOs who are going to tell their story of the mistakes they made and how they worked through them to become stronger on the other side.
So it’s been really exciting. It’s it’s going to be a series because I have a lot of interest in it. So the first one should be out in March or April.
[00:19:54] Natasha Miler: Wow. Okay. We’re going to have to talk about strategic partnerships, which I think is really important for entrepreneurs to think about. I learned years ago from one of my advisors that businesses, and we can parlay this into other things, businesses that get to about five or 6 million in revenue need to think about strategic partnerships, push them up and over that. And you and I working together and book launch definitely it’s business related, but it’s stronger together, right?
[00:20:25] Andrea Heuston: Yes, it’s exciting.
[00:20:27] Natasha Miler: I just didn’t start myself in your book launch.
[00:20:29] Andrea Heuston: It’s great, let’s go!
[00:20:32] Natasha Miler: So I’d love to hear what you’re looking and hoping to do in your life. For the next few years, I don’t need your five or 10 year plan things changed, but what is your, like laser focus right now?
[00:20:46] Andrea Heuston: So the tip of my spear right now for me, and I love calling that at that is really to get out there and speak more.
But also to coach markers, I find it. If I could coach speakers and speak 12 hours a day, I would be happy. I’d be exhausted, but I’d be happy. I absolutely love helping speakers connect with our audiences. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I love connecting with audience. So if I can do more of that and really focus on doing that all the time, I think I’d be brilliantly happy.
[00:21:16] Natasha Miler: Okay. So the last main question I have for you is with that in mind, those endeavors, those new endeavors, you have Artitudes, will you look at selling really being like a 1% absentee owner, and that’s not a negative word in business. What are your plans? Is that going to phase out or do you need that to still inform the next few years?
[00:21:43] Andrea Heuston: So I still need our Artitudes to inform the next few years, because all my speaker coaching is coming from those clients. However, I’m working with an investor right now. Who’s looking at coming in and doing an investment in the company and eventually buying me out and keeping me as the founder, since that’s my position.
The figurehead at the top right now, but I’m moving myself out of the day-to-day work. And it’s just brilliant because it frees me up to do what I love to do and what makes me money.
[00:22:09] Natasha Miler: Andrea talked about working on her business rather than in the day-to-day employment engagement and why she started her podcast and wrote her book for more information, go to the show notes for your listing. This podcast want to know more about me? Go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven’t done so yet. Please leave a review where you’re listening to this podcast. Now I’m Natasha Miller and you’ve been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.