Chelsea Montgomery-Duban Waechter, otherwise known as Chelsea Austin, is a writer, speaker and life coach from Malibu, California raised by two of the most incredible parents, her dads. Chelsea has taken her story of being raised by two gay men, and used it as a platform to spread love, tolerance and has advocated for the LGBTQ+ community since she was in high school. In 2010, she was voted one of the Top Fifteen LGBT Activists in the Los Angeles area and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Muhlenberg College in 2015 with a degree in theatre and dance. Chelsea has created a career out of sharing her experiences as the daughter of two gay men and a young woman navigating the world on her blog, “The Girl With Five Names,” her podcast, “Worthiness Warriors,” through speaking engagements, her upcoming course and as she prepares to release her first book surrounding her life, her beliefs and her wish to bring peace, self-love and joy to as many individuals as possible. Chelsea is actively pursuing her life coaching certification and resides in Los Angeles with her incredible husband, Dominic and sweet puppy, Moe. To learn more visit https://chelseaaustin.com/
Where did the idea for Chelsea Austin come from?
The birth of Chelsea Austin was somewhat like a snowball effect. I had been working in real estate for years and felt like I needed to start flexing my creative muscles more. I grew up as a singer/actor/dancer, and as I got older, that creativity didn’t just disappear – it was itching to come out in a way that my real estate career wasn’t allowing for. So, I went back to the basics. I sat down with a pen and a blank piece of paper and asked myself, “What brings you joy?” I brainstormed everything I could think of, and realized some of my most joy-filled and exciting experiences were when, well before it was in vogue, I shared my story of being the girl with two gay dads in support of non-profit organizations as an advocate for gay marriage. I didn’t know exactly how to make that into a career, but I knew one thing was for sure. I loved sharing my story in the service of others. I love helping individuals find joy. I adore making people smile and laugh. What kind of career does that make? I didn’t know yet, and I wasn’t quite ready to walk away from the family business, so I started small. I started writing a weekly blog in any spare time I could find, and, as my inspiration grew, I began writing my book. Doing these things at night and on the weekends gave a nod to the part of me that was aching to be recognized, and it helped relieve the pressure of my everyday work in sales. In those small parts of the day, it felt like I truly got to be Chelsea. Still, I wasn’t sure where it was all going to lead. As I was finishing my manuscript and honing in my work with an editor, I realized that I could make a brand out of my writing, my love for public speaking, sharing my story, and inspiring people. So, I told my job that I would be leaving in one year. And in that year I just kept focusing on what brought me joy, and the more I continued to focus on those joy-crafting activities the more came my way. I was connected with a coach and she and I started to brainstorm where my career could go. The idea for a podcast came, then creating courses and getting my life coaching certification. It wasn’t a business I necessarily had a plan for, (shocking, since I plan everything), but it was a continual process of listening to what brings me joy and following the breadcrumbs my heart led me to.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I divide up my days by theme. I looked at all the work I do and turned them into categories to help me focus on each task as deeply as possible. My categories are creation/brainstorming, editing/execution, administration, learning, and personal. Each day, after I’ve had coffee with my husband, walked my puppy, Moe, and worked out I look at my weekly goals and decide what theme needs to be the day’s priority. For the first half of the day, I hone in on those tasks in that category without interruption. If I’m not doing administrative duties, my phone goes on do-not-disturb, emails get turned off and I focus on what needs to be done. My afternoons are much more flexible. After my first block of concentration, I let the rest of the day unfold before me based on my priorities for the week. That time functions as a catch-all for work, but also includes making dinner, spending time with family, and, of course, more Moe-time.
I also find I can be much more productive by breaking up my to-dos and goals into buckets of what needs to be done for the week. I set aside specific days of the week for calls, Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, and then I try to leave Monday and Friday open for creative space. I used to think I was productive while multitasking. I had no clue how much it was slowing me down. When I turn off the distractions and just focus on one thing at a time, I’m able to work so much more efficiently than when I was trying to write a blog post or edit a podcast, take calls and do emails all at the same time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Once I set my mind to something, I dive wholeheartedly into it. Recently, I co-founded and am the executive director of Dance In Color, a nonprofit which works to provide scholarships to dancers of color and aids them in pursuing their dreams through dance, ultimately creating systemic change in the dance world. It all started when I heard my friend, Adrian, speaking on an Instagram live show, Black Ballet Talks. He shared that, if he hadn’t had a scholarship, he wouldn’t have been able to become a professional ballet dancer, as so many of the costs that come along with ballet training are a major hindrance when it comes to pursuing a career in ballet. My husband, Dominic, and I immediately started talking about creating a scholarship fund in his name to support one child through their dance training each year. When we told Adrian about this, he got extremely excited, and encouraged us to think beyond one student: we could make a full-blown organization out of this. Together, we sat down and created an action plan. Then we started talking to people about it, getting the idea out there, seeing if we would be able to fundraise. We started small, funding one child with all personal funds. From there we created social media accounts to get the word out and brought friends on board who were skilled in fundraising. We found experts in their fields and trusted them with what they do best, while we continued doing what we do best. We started using the contacts we have in the dance world. And in less than one year we have already been able to fund three scholars across the United States and have raised almost $30,000. Once you find an idea that lights a fire in you, follow it. Continue asking for help. Do not try and do it all alone. And more than anything, don’t keep it a secret: the more you talk about it, the more you will find people who want to help.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I hope this is more than just a trend, but a new way of being: the body positivity movement on social media is incredibly exciting to me. The idea that we can accept our bodies, and others, as they are without photoshop, surgery, and more is so important as we continue to spend time on social media.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I call it zooming in and zooming out. When I notice myself getting stuck in the nitty-gritty or feeling overwhelmed, I step back and look at the big picture. I look at all of the things I have accomplished overall or on my to-do list as opposed to all the things I have not. I zoom out and look at my overarching goals and take stock of where they are before heading back in to do the day-to-day work. When I feel overwhelmed, zooming in and zooming out helps me continuously remind myself that it’s all going to get done and it’s all going to be okay.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trying new things is something so utterly terrifying, but it makes your world bigger. It takes the unknown and makes it known. I would tell my younger self to take all those things I didn’t want to try because they made me feel anxious as a newbie and just give them a go. I always think, if you hate it, you can turn around and walk right back out.. But ultimately, everyone was new to something at some point. Don’t let the need to feel like you constantly have to be the expert on everything deter you from trying something new.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Taking a break when you’re overwhelmed by how much you have to do is often the best thing you can do for your business. Stepping away, seeing things from afar for a moment will do a world of help. It will spark your creativity. It will reignite your “why.” And it will feel like the last thing you want to do when you are watching the To Do’s building up, but it is so, so necessary for the longevity of you and your business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Follow. Those. Breadcrumbs. So, often in life something will happen and we think it’s a coincidence, but I swear it’s not. It is all happening in alignment with your path and your vision. One time, for instance, I called my alma mater and asked them if I could potentially come and speak for the students. The alumni center essentially said no, but connected me with the head of the counseling center because they thought he might have a space for me. I spoke with the head of the counseling center, who also turned me down, but pointed me in the direction of his coach, whom he thought might be able to help me. I called his coach not understanding exactly what she did and connected with her on the phone immediately. She and I started working together and I have watched my work bloom since then. When I started with her I had a halfway edited manuscript and a small blog. I now have a thriving blog, podcast, courses I’m creating, a manuscript going out to publishers, and a non-profit organization I’ve co-founded. Our work together has inspired me to look at my work as a business person, not just a creative one. Through her, I’ve met countless people that have helped me grow my business, find my next steps, and cultivate my path every day. Keep picking up those breadcrumbs on your path and follow them, because you never know what might be waiting for you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I have sought to work with only people who are honest, believe in me, and love what they do. I’ve really focused on following my gut when speaking to people. I didn’t always go for the highest-profile or the biggest name, I went for those that I could tell would back me 100% and give me honest feedback when I need it – and, I went for people who I genuinely enjoyed working with. Just because the most well-known person in a certain field is right for tons and tons of people doesn’t mean they are right for you. It’s about creating partnerships and finding the right match FOR YOU. We spend way too much time at work to not enjoy those we choose to work with. And we need people to be our checks and balances. So find people that will both support you and be honest with you, those are the people who have helped me grow the most while continuously supporting me in my journey to make my dreams become my reality.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One recurring brand of failure that shows up for me, again and again, is rejection. To me, rejection and failure have the same sting. Whenever I face rejection I look it straight in the face and I allow myself to feel everything surrounding it. I allow myself to get angry, sad, and frustrated. I let myself cry for as long as I need. I talk it out with a trusted someone if I feel the need to. And then, after whatever period of time that looks like, whether it be two hours, two days, or more, I pick myself up and start by doing something I know I’m good at. I go and take a beginner ballet class. I spend time with my family. I walk to get a cup of coffee. I fuel my tank with everything that brings me joy, peace, and gratitude. Then I go back and think about my “why.” Why am I doing what I’m doing in the first place? It’s got to be more than just the business you’re building: it’s what the business and mission will give you and others.And when I’ve rediscovered my why and filled my tank with joy, love, and gratitude, I sit down and make a plan of action. I find tangible steps, even if it’s only one or two to get me started on my next dream or to pick myself up and continuously find a way to make my current dream work. Then it’s all about putting those steps into action. Have someone you care about to hold you accountable and find somewhere where someone can hold space for you to talk about your failures, your rejections, and your bravery as you begin again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I often think about how, when I graduated college, I had no idea how to have a career and manage a household. Responsibilities can fall through the cracks when you’re not informed, whether it be bills or little things, like finding out which day is trash day or who to call for what service when things would break. I think that it would be an incredible idea to have an entire course or series of online courses that you could take right out of school to help you manage life and know what to do and how to do it outside of your career besides just running on trial and error.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I’ve spent recently was on a meal I enjoyed at one of my favorite local restaurants, The Cloverfield, with my husband. Taking time to go to a restaurant, especially after a year where that was impossible feels so special. Maybe it sounds mundane, but to me, uninterrupted time with family and food in a nice place is one of the most special times in the week.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use Asana for organization. When it comes to Dance In Color, where there is a larger team coordinating different events, social media, contracts, and more, it’s an incredible tool that allows us to communicate, organize, plan and execute everything we need. Plus I’m a sucker for good color coding and Asana has color coding to the nines! We are all working in different corners of the world, so having an online “home base” truly allows us to run our business smoothly. And if you’re a non-profit organization they offer discounts, which is incredibly helpful.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think now more than ever it is important to educate ourselves on what it means to be anti-racist, the history of racism in this country and how we can go about addressing it in our workplaces and personal lives. There are so many incredible books to recommend in this area, but a personal eye-opener for me was Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. It’s an incredible example of storytelling and history that helps us understand the present moment and where we need to go from here.
What is your favorite quote?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
• Building a business through the snowball effect
• Finding joy, peace, and gratitude in your work
• Picking up the breadcrumbs life hands you
• Getting yourself together and organized for creative people
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.