Kala Philo is founder and producer of the DreamBiz Test Drive and YinCaravana, an online community for women embracing change in midlife. In late 2015, she radically simplified her life, selling or donating almost everything she owned to travel solo, work online, shred her comfort zone and up-level her personal capital.
Leading with the heart, she combines an extensive array of technical and creative skillsets to curate resources and manage a creative team producing high quality, engaging, informative content and courses like the DreamBiz Test Drive Full Circle System for Savvy Women.
Kala is currently settled (relatively speaking) in the incredible cultural epicenter that is Mexico City, with frequent trips back to Houston and California. Prior to 2015, she was a video producer, videographer, editor and writer for 12 years in Austin, TX and Northern California, specializing in short web marketing videos.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I have always been interested in women’s entrepreneurship. Like many women, I spent my 30’s and 40’s juggling priorities of family and a dual career household. My career was always second priority to my spouse’s career and my family’s needs, and I was (mostly) fine with that at the time. I accepted the career risks of the tradeoff I was making and don’t regret it even today, even though it has meant some financial insecurity.
You see, when my youngest daughter graduated from high school, I had separated from a 26 year marriage. When the marriage ended, I chose not to pursue alimony. So, practically speaking, I knew the money I had been making from my previous flex-time freelance video production work was not going to be sufficient for me to achieve my goals. Plus, I had always had my own DreamBiz ideas lurking within me – I just wasn’t sure which one to choose.
I spent many years networking in the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Austin TX and Northern California. I read tons of books and talked to hundreds of people over the years about how successful startups and innovative big companies test THEIR ideas. I advocated for women starting small businesses in other countries. I hosted a salon in Austin to talk about how business and social benefit intersect. I thought about graduate school. Did I need an MBA to start a real business?
Basically, I read, and I talked, and I THOUGHT a lot about how to start, but I did not do much about starting. Why? Because I was afraid. Because I did not know where to start. So, with my sweet girl on her way to college, I left the nest really empty. I sold or donated everything that wouldn’t fit into my trusty Honda CRV and hit the road.
I worked online and traveled solo for 18 months throughout the US, Mexico and Latin America. My daughter and I trekked through icy mud fields in the Middle of Nowhere, Iceland, to find hidden thermal springs. We stripped down in the frigid air, hopped in and communed with the spirit of the Valkyries! I shredded my comfort zone, up-leveled my skillset and reclaimed some of my own chutzpah.
One day, I was googling some of my business ideas in a bungalow in Todos Santos, Mexico, trying to figure how to organize my questions and approach. I had just wrapped up about 18 months of solo travel in the US, Mexico and Latin America. My mojo was back after a painful divorce. I was super inspired and dying to dive in and create something really amazing.
?But that day, things were not going well. It was incredibly hot. The wifi in our bungalow was lame. There was no air conditioning and the nearest coffee shop with A/C and decent wifi was an hour away. I was almost in tears (well, OK I was in tears) and I finally said to myself, “Enough. Let’s take a break”.
I went to the pool and was standing in deep water, looking out over the edge at the gleaming green tropical plants and preening lizards on a stone wall. THEY were happy with the heat. But maybe it was the heat that caused me to start talking to myself, because suddenly a voice in my head cut through my confusion.
I paused for a minute.
I heard a lazy insect buzzing nearby, children playing across the street, dogs barking, because basically there is always a dog barking in Mexico. Have you ever had a moment of clarity when your surroundings zoom into sharp focus and your brain offers up a new perspective?
In that moment I realized I was asking the wrong question. I realized that the first question around starting a business is not “How do I start this business”. No. The first question is: “Should I start this business, and why?”
That is the step that was missing from all the business advice I found. It’s like when you buy a car. You research different models and test drive cars before you buy, right? And suddenly, something clicked. I knew that the most innovative startups and companies test their business ideas before they fully fund production. I had always thought there must be something missing for new entrepreneurs, the official business failure rate was way too high. I thought, why can’t women with great business ideas use these ideas?
And thats how the DreamBiz test drive was born.
Tell us about your business.
The DreamBiz Test Drive Full Circle System transforms women with a DreamBiz idea from confused dreamers into informed, confident decision makers, before they start their business and make it easy to start business ideas for them. The course is a holistic, 4-step process women use to get real world clarity about themselves and their idea to answer the question, “Should I start this business, and why?”
We do this through a unique combination of personal development, customer discovery, organizing your idea, and testing a piece of it. This is a hands on, fun and affordable process. The DBTD is hosted by YinCaravana, an online community we are also building out with curated courses and collabs for midlife women embracing change.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about
Yes! The course starts in September for 2 limited groups. We have 20 spots available per group. More info here.
I’m a member of the Circular Board Collaborative Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs, a highly competitive program for growth-oriented female entrepreneurs building businesses that scale. I recently completed 18 months of solo travel in Latin America and the US. I’ve also finally achieved a life-long goal of bilingual competency in Spanish.
Where is your business based?
My business is now based in Houston. I met and fell in love with a man from Mexico City when I was living in Northern California, and now I split my time between Houston and Mexico City.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first thing I did was look for ways to improve my network and get excellent advice. For example, I’m not a trained course designer, so I invested in the premier program for online course design – Jeanine Blackwell’s 6 Figure Course Design. In addition, one of the women in the first DreamBiz Test Drive class teaches college level English; she was a great source of advice.
I have also invested in professional development. I think this is one of the best ways to invest in your career. It was not natural for me to do this at first – I had never known anyone personally who invested in coaching or personal development.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Hours and hours spent in personal contact via emails and phone calls, interviewing entrepreneurs and expanding my existing network.
Secondly, my background as a video professional has come in very handy. I’ve re-oriented my online communications to video. It sets me apart, and I enjoy doing expert interviews with colleagues to collaborate.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Building momentum and deciding what is the highest priority.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Perseverance, meditation and exercise. I make exercise a priority. It helps my stamina and I’m able to focus and make much better decisions if I’m not skipping workouts to get that “one more thing” done.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
International travel and living in Mexico has taught me that I don’t really have any difficult times. There are literally millions of people on the planet that would trade places with almost any American on our worst days, in a heartbeat. I have no idea why I have been so fortunate simply by virtue of where I was born and to have had caring parents who gave me a great start, but I am determined to live a life that exhibits gratitude and create the biggest positive impact I can on the planet while I’m here.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Two ways: focus and collaborations.
We see the pre-business phase as the most important time in the entrepreneurial journey. That is because the learning and emotional curve are substantial and your experience during this time can make or break your mindset for starting a business.
Other programs either ignore this crucial phase altogether, or try to cover it with a quickie tip sheet, or offer a mini-course as a vehicle to upsell women to a bigger program or coaching package. We don’t have a next level program. Women in our program know that there is no agenda or pressure beyond them truly gaining clarity about what is best for them at this time.
It’s why we call it the DreamBiz Test Drive Full Circle system – you can’t just tell a woman to go through a checklist, write a business plan and voila, a business pops up. Not only does that not prepare her in a holistic way to start a business, but it short changes what can be a very rich set of experiences that build confidence that she can take into whatever her next step might be.
In addition, our program is committed to diverse collaborations. I’m not a coach, the course isn’t from KalaPhilo.com. It’s not about building my personal brand. I created the basic framework for the course with the intention of augmenting it with lots of diverse expertise. And so we are – we have a diverse and growing Curated Collabs, amazing coaches and mentors that advise on the course and contribute expert interviews every month. As the program grows, so will the amount of different viewpoints and expertise.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Choose one thing every day that by doing that, all other things become easier or irrelevant. This is from The One Thing by Gary Keller. It’s harder than it sounds, but I do believe that simplifying is the key to productivity.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Keep planning even if the plan changes often. Keep taking action, even if you aren’t sure if it’s the right thing. If you are planning, you are by default checking in with your bigger picture, and so your actions will be more likely to keep you going in the right direction. Don’t hide behind over-planning (I have been guilty of this) but also don’t just run around doing stuff without a plan. It’s a balance.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
- Canva for graphics
- Weebly for websites
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
- I’m reading Blue Ocean Strategy. Its phenomenal.
- Also, for your wonky side, The Lean Startup.
- For you spiritual side, The Gift, poetry of Hafiz translated by Daniel Ladinsky.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Running Facebook ad campaigns is something I am learning. As soon as I get proficient, I’m going to hire someone who loves Ad Management and knows how to leverage it (and not just throw an ad out there) to take over the ad placements workflow and reporting.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goals for 2018 are:
- To have 300 women experience the DreamBiz Test Drive Course.
- To launch the first phase of YinCaravana’s premium community for women in their 40s and 50s. We are focusing on quality collaborations to produce fabulous content around wellness and money. I’m making progress on achieving these by delegating some research and setting some PR goals for next year, getting more admin help, and sticking to deadlines, even if it means implementation feels like a hot mess sometimes.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Hashtags #yincaravana #entrepreneurblogger #womensupportingwomen
- Who do you need to be to be the person who is ready to achieve the goals you say you want to be??
- What to do if you hate networking, how to fix it, and how it led me to meet my hot Mexican!
- Listening to your inner call
- Trusting your struggle
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