Why did you decide to become a business owner?
I decided to become a business owner after 7 years of building a financial planning practice and 6 years prior to that as a Sales and Marketing expert. Two years ago, I finally realized how important it was for me to make decisions based on what I loved and not what I feared. It was then that I launched my business. Escaping a war-torn country and growing up as a child refugee from Laos (the most heavily bomb country per capita in world history) and then living most of my earlier life in low income communities throughout the Washington, DC area, I chose paths, whether related to school or work, that I believed would offer the most opportunity for financial stability as an adult. I graduated college earning three degrees and speaking four languages; all purposeful to ensure my marketability and professional choices.
In my mid 30’s, it became apparent and critical to acknowledge that my truest gifts and talents were being tossed aside because I held a “lacking” mentality carried along from my childhood. I woke up to the possibility that life didn’t have to always feel like a struggle for survival. I decided to find my passions, use my gifts and talents and chose to live my life with purpose. I mapped out my personal vision and mission to help me identify my life’s purpose. It became apparent pretty quickly what my mission is and that’s when I decided to take the bold step and become a business owner. My work helps people identify their unique gifts and talents, map their interest, hobbies and experience and helps them uncover their visions and missions for life and thus for their work in the world. Once my clients go through my personal development programs, I am better able to help them articulate their unique differentiators to the market and to the world through copywriting and messaging strategies. I have a business that allows me to live my personal mission of helping others shine their unique light through my work.
What in hindsight would you say you underestimated about your industry or business and why?
What I offer in transformational work through my workshops, presentations, and retreats is much harder to “sell” then my messaging and marketing consultation but I find that in order to help write authentic and profound messages, I must get to the core of the vision and mission for the messages. In order to do that, I must take my clients to a deeper level of thought and dig out the true motivations behind their “corporate purpose”. In providing expert recommendations related to messaging and marketing, I can point to publications, resources, and actual examples of other companies who have had successes with their campaigns. In personal development work, the results have varying degrees of impact and the journey for each client is so unique that it’s difficult to capture in marketing “packages”. What I’m finding about marketing personal development programs and transformational work has to do primarily with knowing the demographic and targeting the organizations and people who are in a place of life where “significance” is something they are seeking on a personal level which often translates to wanting significance for the mission of their work and their businesses.
What is the best business related advice you have ever been given?
“You have nothing truly real to sell but yourself. The goal of your first meeting with people, whether they be centers of influence or potential clients, is not to tell them what’s so special about your products and services… it is to leave them wanting more of YOU.”
How have you chosen to be a Charitable Champion?
I sit on the board of the Lao Heritage Foundation (preserving and promoting the Lao culture through the arts). I have volunteered for and helped with fundraising and marketing efforts for nonprofit organizations such as Teatro de la Luna, Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Best Kids, KidSave, Devotion to Children and I cofounded The Young Professional Leadership Group.
What is your favorite charitable cause and why?
This year, my focus has been and will continue to be on helping the Lao Heritage Foundation and MAG. Due to the impact of the Vietnam conflict, my homeland was so heavily bombed that not only lives were lost, the traditions and teachings continue to be in jeopardy of disappearing. The work of the Lao Heritage Foundation helps locate scholars and masters that escaped or were exiled as well as those still remaining in Laos and ask them to teach the traditional music, dance, literature, etc. in order that we may preserve and transmit the culture for generations to come. MAG works in numerous countries throughout the world, including Laos, to remove unexploded ordnance (UXOs) from war inflicted countries. Both organizations do work that I’m proud to support.
Do you feel being charitable has helped you grow your business?
Absolutely! I truly believe in the notion that when we give, we receive beyond measure. The more I am out doing things for the community, the more the community supports my work and me.
How can people support your efforts?
I wish for more people to make time for personal growth and development, to honor their unique gifts and talents and use them (whether at home or through their work) to bring upon more goodness and positive change in the world. By honoring their roles as a true contributor to life, more people will understand and know their own value and the power to create positive change. The support I need is asking others to share the work that I’m doing with those they care for, by reading and gifting the stories and lessons I captured inside my memoir, A Million Fireflies so that others can move from deep sorrow to finding joy, and by living their lives purposely by using their truest gifts and talents to help others.
If you had to share one final thought with our audience of thousands of women in business, what would it be?
Find out what your true essence is, what are your truest gifts and talents, what have your experiences gifted you with and how might all of these things come to support others. Know what you want out of life. Understand that you have the power to impact others beyond your own imagination. Articulate your vision and mission for life and do work that aligns with your reason for existence. A life filled with passion and purpose is an extraordinary one.
Mali Phonpadith is an author, poet, speaker, transformational coach and entrepreneur. She has over 14 years of sales and marketing experience which includes seven years of running her financial practice. She is the CEO of Mali Creative, a messaging firm transforming lives and businesses by creating powerful and heartfelt messaging strategies that align with our clients’ truest visions and missions for themselves and their organizations. Through consultation, transformational workshops and retreats, presentations and publications, we help uncover unique differentiators, define true purpose and encourage authentically sharing messages from the heart; messages that transform lives, organizational cultures, and the global community.
Mali is the author of A Million Fireflies, her memoir and also Coauthor of Seen and Sustained: Best Practices in Communication that Increase the Visibility of Small and Diverse Businesses. Her coauthors, Akia Garnett, Jane Lovas, and Tamecia Bradshaw published Seen and Sustained, a professional development workbook in 2011.