Female Founder Feature – Kelly McNelis, Women for One

Kelly McNelis is the Founder & CEO of Women For One.

Tell us about your company. What inspired you to start it?

I am the founder of Women For One, a destination for women ready to step up, speak out, and shine by embracing their truths and stories. We offer live events like retreats and Truthteller Tours, and also online courses. Women For One is also a community where women from more than 50 countries share their powerful stories with the world. My work as the founder is to empower generations of women in my global community to build relationships, community, and confidence they need to achieve their wildest dreams. My dream was to create a global tribe of like-minded women who could learn from each other and share their own life lessons. It is my hope that, in continuing to share women’s truths and talents, Women For One will encourage everyone to take a stand on the issues that most impact our lives, while building a supportive community.

Who are your cofounders and what makes you a great team?

I founded Wf1 on my own, but I’ve been lucky to have worked with a number of incredible women over the years, including my current team. What has helped to create cohesion and trust is an ethic of transparency that has helped us work through difficult moments and put our fuel towards our individual well-being, as well as that of our organization. I hire people who can embody the ideals of sisterhood, collaboration, and connection that I believe are aspects of feminine leadership. We are an intergenerational staff with a variety of talents, and while we all have our own areas of expertise, I have made sure that Wf1 is a welcoming environment that values every single person’s feedback and contribution.

How is your company making a difference?

The work that my organization is doing gives women safe spaces in which to share their stories powerfully and to connect with other women who’ve been through similar experiences. We also provide a number of resources that help women step into being powerful communicators, effective truthtellers, and change agents in their own lives and communities. For example, universities across the nation are using our Hard Conversations Toolkit to empower young women leaders to be more assertive and to navigate conflict with ease and grace. It’s my belief that when women join our voices together in the spirit of connection, truth, and transparency, we can move into a brand-new phase of collaborative empowerment that will change the climate when it comes to feminine models of power and leadership. I am a firm believer that there is power in numbers, and we are at a turning point in the history of the world and of womankind. Our actions and courage will have ripple effects.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Building an online community has a number of challenges associated with it, including building momentum with our projects and creating a business model that is financially sustainable while continuing to create tools that truly serve our global community. A huge part of my focus with Wf1 has been building partnerships and alliances with other women and organizations, and while I’m enthusiastic about making connections wherever I can, I’ve had to learn to focus my efforts and be more discerning about what I say “yes” to.

What is your biggest win?

In the past two years, I’ve written a bestselling book and had the privilege of creating four courses, two women’s retreats, and three live truthtelling events that have literally transformed thousands of women’s lives. I get emails on a daily basis from women who continue to share how they’ve been impacted by Wf1’s teachings and resources, as well as my book. From guiding women through setting healthy boundaries to showing them what it means to claim their power and step into courageous truthtelling, my team and I have cultivated a number of powerful tools that are helping women across the world to heal their wounds so they can step into being brave and bold leaders capable of making life happen on their own terms.

Who is your role model?

I have a number of peers and colleagues who have inspired me. I think that the term “role model” can be misleading because it implies a relationship of “looking up to” someone else or trying to be like them. However, I think it’s more powerful to surround yourself with people who help bring out the best in you, and vice-versa. Creative, collaborative relationships where people are constantly learning from each other and pushing each other into new horizons of thinking and feeling have offered me some of the most valuable guidance. These include my relationships with my team members. I also think it’s powerful when women learn to become their own role models—to alchemize the wisdom they’ve gained in their lives into fuel to make life happen. So often, we discount our own expertise, and a big part of what my organization does is gently guide women back into their power.

What do you wish you had known before starting your company?

I wish I’d known that there is no “destination” when it comes to running a business, and it’s important to be open to change and flexible when life is leading you down a different path from the one you originally envisioned. Many of us are conditioned to believe that we need to have everything figured out and make six figures within the first fiscal year of launching our business! That whole idea is a myth. Instead, I now know it’s important to grab onto the yearning and passion you have right now and alchemize them into fuel for future success. I’ve learned to set clear outcomes and take baby steps toward them—and to pivot when I need to! I’m still learning to enjoy the process and fall in love with what’s right in front of me rather than trying to step into some “perfect” future me.

What is your CEO superpower?

My intuition, for sure. I know the importance of always checking my gut. This isn’t about simply trusting the intuitive “hits” you get—it’s also about connecting that trust to the information that’s at your disposal. Put those things together to make meaningful decisions. I think that gut feeling comes from personal discernment, and a lot of us don’t take the time to cultivate it when things like business opportunities are flying at us. Take the time to get clear on what you believe and always check your bullshit detector; don’t simply take someone else’s words or beliefs at face value.
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