At 21 she had a 1% chance to live. At 26, she is empowering and teaching female entrepreneurs how to succeed. This is Alexa Carlin, a 26-year-old who is bringing female entrepreneurs together to learn, to share and to network and to succeed. This is a story not just about women helping women, but about Alexa's journey and the idea of fostering opportunities for women and for aspiring female entrepreneurs to learn, to grow and to succeed. Her story of empowerment and tenacity is an inspirational one for women in business. It's a compelling one to tell to an audience and a step forward for women in business.We had a chance to interview Alexa and asked about her story, how she started her business and the future of Women Empower Expo (WEX).
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
I started my first business when I was 17 years old and since then I've been on a journey of different entrepreneurial endeavors that have all led me to where I am today. For everything I've ever pursued when it comes to being an entrepreneur it has been with the mission to make a difference in at least one persons life a day.
When I was a senior in college, just a few months before graduation, I got really sick out of nowhere and my body went into septic shock. I was induced into a medical coma given a 1% chance of living. This experience changed my entire life as I was then diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease which I struggle with on a daily basis. While I was trying to heal my body I still was working on turning my ideas into reality. I became immensely passionate about sharing my story with others publicly and began pursuing public speaking. I spoke anywhere and everywhere for free for about a year until I started getting paid to speak. As I was growing my business as a public speaker I noticed a big disconnect amongst the women's organizations and events I was speaking at. All of these women were doing amazing things in their own industry and community but no one knew each other, they all just stayed within their own groups or industries. I knew this needed to change if any real change was to be made.
I believe it is through collaboration vs competition that we can create real change and especially as an entrepreneur, you need to get out there and meet other people from different industries and walks of life. I created my business, the Women Empowerment Expo with this in mind so at WEX you know you are truly getting a diverse and customized experience. You get to choose what sessions you want to attend based on your interests and passions and you get the opportunity to be in an environment of thousands to entrepreneurs from all different industries so if you are in need of a lawyer, graphic designer, investor, or even a podcast guest- you can meet them at WEX.
How did you come up with your business name?
I wanted the name of my company to be both direct (aka easy to understand what it was) as well as meaningful. I could have easily called it the “Women Empowerment” Expo but WEX is about taking action- you come to WEX to empower… empower yourself and empower others.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
As a public speaker I help people by sharing my story authentically and vulnerably to inspire and empower them to turn their ideas into reality. As the Founder of the Women Empower Expo I created a platform to help elevate other women entrepreneurs and leaders. We provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to share their story as a speaker, to showcase your business in our marketplace, and/or partner with us to create a truly experiential activation to get your business in front of thousands of women.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
I believe your authenticity is your point of differentiation. So for me, i'm unique because i'm real. I put my authentic energy into everything I do and into my business. When you are yourself you have no competition. At WEX, our USP is the fact that we work hard to keep our ticket prices way below any other event similar to ours but our value remains the same, if not higher. We do this because it is my personal mission to empower as many women as possible to act upon the things they want most. Aside from that, we make it very accessible to meet all of our speakers and business owners. At WEX you not only learn from the best locally, but you can then create a real relationship with them that may forever transform your life and business.
A speaker at our first DC event told me about how WEX dramatically changed the course of someone's business. This speaker runs a local women's group and someone who saw her speak at WEX then decided to check out her organization and attend a monthly meeting. During this meeting another member was sharing how the co-working business she started for moms was having financial problems and she wasn't sure if she was able to keep it afloat. That new member, who attended from the connection made at WEX, invested in her business and today, it is growing and thriving.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
For WEX, we will have expanded to at least 3 cities attracting 5,000+ people per event. For me personally, I will be gearing up for my book tour. 😉
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Consistency is key. Be consistent with what's working and stay focused. I find that many entrepreneurs, like myself, are passionate about a number of things and we have an unending stream of ideas and things we want to create- I mean that's what makes us entrepreneurs, which is great, but it also can hurt us. When we try to do too many things at once because our passion is pulling us in a million directions, it's hard to make one thing become that “big hit”. I learned this early on and I created a strategy I like to call the “Domino Effect”. You CAN achieve everything you want in life, just maybe not all at the same time. So in order to make it work for you, choose the big thing that will help you achieve everything else, the domino that will help knock down all the other dominos.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
“Don't be intimidated by what you don't know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” – Sara Blakely
I love this quote because it reminds me to just go for it- even if I don't have all the answers or i'm not the most knowledgable about the industry. When I started WEX I had no clue how to rent out some of the largest convention centers, anything about union labor, contract work, AV and so on. But this allowed me to do it my way- and save a ton of money doing it the grassroots way!
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
Getting on the cover of one of the top magazines in my industry after just hosting one Women Empower Expo was a huge achievement of mine. I met one of the organizers at this meetings event I was at in Arizona and I told her about my mission and what I was working to create. This was just a week or two after my first event in Fort Lauderdale in October of 2016 where we had over 2,000 people come out. A few months later the company who hosted the event calls me for an interview for their magazine (unknowingly they own Meetings & Conventions Mag). They told me it was just an article for young meeting organizers in the industry. A month later I'm scrolling through their website and I see my face on the cover of their magazine! It was a total surprise and it ended up being where they named me, “1 of 15 young professionals to watch”. It was just a reminder that I knew I was doing something meaningful.
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
I recently launched a new entrepreneurial endeavor that I've been cultivating for about a year now called, Be A Public Speaker©. It's a training program for entrepreneurs to learn how to grow their business through public speaking. When I started my business I had $2,000 that I used to put a deposit on the venue. I didn't have any marketing dollars so I used public speaking to help spread the word. It has been my number one marketing tool that brings in the highest ROI every time, whether i'm speaking for free or getting paid. I am confident when I say if entrepreneurs know how to tell their story in the right way, they not only will make an impact in thousands of others lives but they will also grow their business exponentially.
One of my quotes… “The bigger impact you make, the more income you'll create.”