Hi Loveys, yes, you – LadyBosses, Bossbabes, and WomenBosses out there! My name is Olenka Cullinan, and I’m the founder of Rising Tycoons, speaker (including two TEDx talks), success coach & Millennial Leader. So I spend most of my days keynoting events, coaching clients to Up-level their business and mindset, & running programs for youth to inspire them become CEOs of their lives.
But most importantly, I’m the very slew of excuses most people use to not be successful: English is not my first language, I do not have any family in this country to support me, and I moved here from Russia on my own at the age of 20.
Defying the expectation my mother had for me to take over her CEO position in the factory she built, after the most drawn out and devastating divorce between my parents, I moved to the US with $450 in my pocket. While I grew up in a fairly well to do family, by 16 I went through a ‘reversed princess syndrome’ when my dad started drinking heavily and sold most of our belongings for booze. I was a daddy’s girl until I was 12, and I was passionate about education since I was 5. I still remember playing school with my dolls, and assigning school roles to all family members. I loved my Granpa the most, so he was the principal. Professionally, we had no teachers or counselors in my family.
Watching my mother, a die-hard-entrepreneur, go out on a limb every day of her existence taught me that anything could be made possible. Since I was little, she would say, “Whatever you will, happens.” I always wondered if borrowing $450 from my uncle and moving to another country was willful enough by her standards.
My college years weren’t particularly easy, since regardless of my hard work, and making Dean’s List every semester, I was a foreigner with no ability to receive any type of aid or scholarships. Working 3 jobs just to pay for my private college and basic existence was never my idea of fun. I remember vividly living off one bag of chips for about 3 days. I also remember how my roommate and I broke into a hysterical laughter when my mother, who was visiting at a time, offered to make us an omelette. Poor woman did not know that we were worried about turning into chickens since we’d been eating mostly eggs for about 2 months prior to her arrival.
Having made it onto a debate team and being lucky enough to have had professors who always put students first, I have finally zeroed in on my dream– to teach college. I became quite proficient in slam poetry and always loved being in the youth environment; I had taken more psychology classes than most counselors due to my Russian university degree. Then the unthinkable happened – there were no higher education jobs in Phoenix. Not willing to give up on teaching as a career path, I enlisted myself into a last resort inner city school in Phoenix as an English teacher. At the moment, I didn’t realize that I would be building my own version of “Freedom Writers” which was going to manifest itself as Rising Tycoons the course I would use to help more than 6000 students around the world and that I would present on TEDX Live.
Today, 8500 teens and some 1500 adult influencers later, the thousands of testimonials from youth and clients I’ve met through my programs inspire me to be a better human, to always grow and learn and to be fearless. During my journey, I quickly realized that the lack of pathway of building dreams into dream lifestyle did not end with teens; it spilled over into university age students and adults. I expanded my programs and coaching to adults and started #iStartFirst tribe: coaching bootcamps and events for Millennials, entrepreneurs, hustlers and go- getters who are ready to stop preparing and start doing.
And I do absolutely hold a very special place in my heart for Bossbabes, especially since I co-authored a best-selling book, “Passionistas: Tips, Tales and Tweetables for Women Pursuing Their Dreams.” Being a Passionista to me means to inspire people into action towards their dreams, to be the ‘hope and possibility agent.’ It’s not about publicity from being on stage or limelight – it is 100% about lives touched in a positive way.
While I call myself a ‘success coach’, I’m truly a results coach more. I don’t think success is formulaic. In fact, I believe it is deeply personal and needs to be aligned with a person’s core values. However, I think that happiness is an unquestionable precursor to success. Being a successful entrepreneur or business owner does mean that you are excited, passionate and in love with what you do, even on the worst days. So I would like to leave you with this: everything in your life boils down to one point: are you ready to start? Because if you just start doing, the lessons, the people and the results will show up. So Sparkle Up your power!
Olenka Cullinan is a CEO and Founder of Rising Tycoons, an organization helping teens become successful in school, life and the world.