Stephania Varalli is the co-owner and co-CEO of Women of Influence, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women in the workplace. Beginning her career in marketing and advertising, Stephania ventured into entrepreneurship with a role at Sweetspot, a Toronto-based email newsletter.
After selling her shares to Canada’s largest media conglomerate, Stephania chose to pursue a freelancing career, splitting her time between copywriting, digital strategy, and a managing editor position at an adventure sport and travel magazine.
Taking the concept of remote office to a new level, over six years she settled into more than ten countries and worked with a broad list of clients, including industry leaders in the technology, communications, consumer goods, financial, and manufacturing sectors.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I had spent fifteen years in advertising and media, and I saw an opportunity to take all that I had learned in that time and use it to help other women get ahead. It was a quick and easy decision.
Tell us about your business.
At Women of Influence, we believe women deserve workplace equality now, not 217 years from now — which is the current World Economic Forum estimate.
So we’re doing all we can to move the dial, from content to events, to courses and coaching, to building a voice through our community. Our goal is to provide both inspiration and insights, plus opportunities to connect.
Where is your business based?
We’re based in Toronto, Canada but we have events in Toronto and Calgary, plus our Global Leaders Dinner Series also takes us to New York, Washington, and London. And our message goes a lot further than that — we’re providing insights and inspiration for women around the world.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Buying an existing business is a unique challenge — we had to simultaneously keep all the gears turning while assessing every element, deciding what was working and what needed to be changed or scrapped, and how we could add our unique voice to make the business even better.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Making sure we had a cohesive vision. Knowing what your business stands for and is trying to accomplish, and communicating that in everything you do, is the best way to convince others to come on board.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Wearing multiple hats. I came into the business with plenty of experience in print and digital media, but the only thing I really knew about accounting was that I didn’t like it. Running a successful company requires an understanding of the numbers, so it’s not something that can be avoided.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I have zero hesitation with asking questions. I ask about the little details I don’t understand, and I ask about the big picture and best practices — you don’t know what you don’t know.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I recognize that owning a business is like riding a roller coaster: there will always be ups and downs. When I’m at a low point, I know that I just have to push through until the ride starts climbing again.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
In the women’s workplace advancement space, I don’t really like to think of anyone as my competitor — we’re all working towards the same goal. And since we have one of the largest social communities, we try to act as a voice for everyone.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
You choose the pace of your life.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
It’s easy as an entrepreneur to fill your day (and night), and to get so busy all you think about is getting things done. If this sounds like you, try bringing more mindfulness to your schedule. As you are planning your day, ask yourself:
- Am I only focusing on the things I enjoy, or am I making time for other necessary tasks?
- Am I avoiding bigger challenges by filling time with easy tasks?
- Am I devoting most of my time to work that will help my business succeed?
- Am I delegating as much as I can?
- Am I taking time for myself to recharge?
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I’m a huge fan of e-newsletters, because they remove the need to curate content. There’s so much information available online and through social media these days, and I avoid getting lost in it by signing up for exactly what I want.
We’ve used this strategy at Women of Influence, too, with e-newsletters catering to women at different points in their careers — whether you are looking for a bit of motivation, or tangible tips to advance. I always encourage women to sign up for one!
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a great resource for writers who are seeking inspiration, or for anyone who needs a bit of encouragement to stay the course when creativity isn’t flowing.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
We’re learning about how our audience is changing. We have a legacy brand and a strong community, but we want to ensure we’re continuing to serve the needs of today’s working women.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
In 2019 we’ll be celebrating our 25th year — and we have a lot planned to make it our biggest year yet!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @womenofinflnce, @stephaniavaralli
Twitter @womenofinflnce, @stephvaralli
Photo credit: Carole B. Eves