Michele Aikens is someone who has learned that failure is not an indictment against you. She has been married to the same man for 31 years, a mother of two adult children, and still learning how to be her best self. “No, I haven’t arrived,” she laughs, “but I know where I’m going.” She calls coaching the most rewarding work she has done with a background in public relations, publishing, ministry, and consulting. “As a coach, you don’t tell people what to do; you get to help them discover what they are to do.” As the CEO of Sepia Prime Communications and Coaching, Aikens is clearly in the business of discovering, uncovering, and helping others recover.
Sepia Prime Communications and Coaching was started in 2011 to help women over 50 redefine themselves as consultants and business owners after a job loss. The business expanded to include others: men, younger people, and groups. The company features workshops tailored to companies and individuals to help others make needed changes in their lives and inspirational materials. Additionally, Michele Aikens is a playwright and author. She has written two devotionals, Not Just Any Kind of Woman and Not Just Any Kind of Woman: The Middle Years and a modern-day parable for leaders dealing with disappointment entitled The Homecoming.
When I lost my job as a magazine publisher during the recession of 2009, I was devastated. For two years, I looked for a job and battled depression. One day a former student asked me how to start a magazine, and 90 minutes of information came out of me – things I had forgotten that I knew. I realized that if I, at 50, learned some things that would launch me into business, so did other women over 50. When I stopped trying to get others to hire me because of my master’s degree, I put that degree to work for me. I started a consulting firm. A few years later, I realized my clients were stuck, not because of work, but because of heart and mind. I went back to be trained as a coach, certified, and credentialed. I saw lives change and the light come back into the eyes of both the successful but stuck, and those fearful about the future.
In March of this year, I contracted with another excellent coach to conduct group coaching sessions. This was the year of expansion for us; however, once the shutdown happened in Illinois, cancellations occurred in all of our group sessions. We had no income. In May, I chose to coach one person every day pro bono. Giving back will always be a part of our company. We have not achieved the expansion that we hoped, but we are currently looking at ways to offer coaching, which can be expensive to those who need it as part of a low-cost membership plan.
“You have been anointed to do something great. Make it your business to start doing it today.”
How She Redefined Herself
To redefine herself, a woman needs to do three things: Let go of what was, turn towards her future, and BEGIN WALKING! Re-definition does not happen because you think it; it happens because you break up with the past and step into the future. This is why we encourage women to #MakeABOLDMove.
Often in the transition process, we can get so busy learning and managing the new responsibilities that we forget to take time to nourish ourselves. The most significant way to overcome the anxiety and frustration that comes with change is to take time daily, quiet your spirit, and find your confidence. Fight for that time of self-care; allow yourself to be nurtured by the beauty of creation, the contagion of your children, or grandchildren’s laughter. If you don’t feel cared for in relationships, make a habit of caring for yourself daily.
Part of living in wholeness is being able to find joy in your work. My business is an expression of my journey. I know what it feels like to fail and get so disoriented that you can’t even decide what shoes to wear. I understand the process of building something and the emotional resources that you need to keep going. During this time, when many are concerned about what’s next, it is my privilege to “show my scars”, weep with leaders and firmly tell them, “Now get up and let’s build.”
What She Wants Woman to Gain
The most important thing I want women to get from working with us is courage – you are going to need that to recover and move forward. After the courage, you need a strategy and accountability to keep you on track. That is what we provide at Sepia Prime Communications and Coaching.
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