Start up Life

With Ande Lyons

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
A vibrant, savvy business woman with four businesses and an MBA under her tiara. I’m unemployable. Yes, there were times I desperately sought a steady gig, but everyone knew I was a maverick and would never stick around. Now I serve startup founders with my special blend of coaching: a deep toolkit of hard earned business skills along with an abundance of enthusiasm and energy, all blended together with a steady presence to help a founder weather the high level of uncertainty found in the startup landscape.

Who would you say is your #1 inspiration?
Resourcefulness in the ultimate resource. ~ Tony Robbins. I first met Tony in 1989 and have been a fan ever since. I attended his Business Mastery course in August 2015, and it had a profound effect on my business. There were 800 attendees – all business owners with annual revenue ranging from $50k to $500 million. I learned as much from them as I did the high-caliber business experts sharing the stage with Tony. I left the event deeply and confidently owning my capability and my purpose to serve the startup founder.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Many years ago… when I was launching my food business… a dear friend and smart, savvy business woman told me “Ande, it’s all about suiting up and showing up, no matter how you feel, because that’s how the magic happens.” She was absolutely right! We need to keep showing up…for our precious self and for our precious business.

What do you love most about yourself?
My ability to SEE and SPOTLIGHT the gifts people bring to the world. Whether it’s in the checkout line at the grocery store or at a networking event, I have an innate and natural knowing that allows me to look someone in the eyes and remind them how special and unique they are. Even online, I can feel what makes them glow and I don’t hesitate to tell them. It bubbles up out of me, and I have to share it. That is my awesomesauce: to enhance others.

Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
Too many to count!!

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
My MBA. I attended an all-women’s MBA program – Simmons School of Management – where they allowed 1% of the student body to earn an MBA without an undergraduate degree, provided you had a strong business background and could prove your ability to think critically and analytically. They understood women were often side tracked from college due to many extenuating circumstances. I had about 3 years of undergraduate work behind me and 10 years of business experience. However, I am a terrible standardized test taker. So when I applied, they told me not once, but twice “we don’t take students with GMAT scores this low.” I didn’t let that stop me. I asked them what I needed to do to make them comfortable with my ability to keep up with the curriculum. They said I had to get a B+ or better in an intensive statistics course I was currently taking I was halfway through the 3 semesters in one course and had a 75… which meant I needed a 93 on the final to earn a B+. I did it, and was accepted. Woo Hoo! It changed my life and gave me the credibility I needed to pursue my business dreams.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I am all about creating a success based mindset. Every day I feed my mind (and heart!) with words of wisdom and inspiration. From historical to current – I listen to or read the advice from thought leaders whose purpose is to help others reach their fullest expression in life. I also move my body… through exercise or dancing around my office to a favorite tune. It’s all about keeping the blood flowing and the mind vibrant. Finally, I embrace my fears and doubt… I give them a voice, then blend them into my day with a firm “don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I believe life happens FOR us, not to us. This view of the world helps me navigate the difficult times and removes any feelings of being a victim. I mourn the loss of what was or what I’d hoped it would be. When I see the difficult time as happening for me, it helps my beautiful brain seek solutions to the situation (not get stuck in judgmental, self-recriminating thoughts), and it allows my heart to be a compassionate observer. We can get stuck in the story, in the blue print for success we believed in… or we can step back during difficult times and honor the journey, and shift into a new paradigm, a new way of being. This choice leaves us motivated instead of discouraged.

What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I’m a huge fan of the Business Model Generation – it’s a new way to map out your business model, replacing the outmoded business plan. Because I’m all about launching, branding and building a business with spending a lot of money, I highly recommend reading Running Lean. It springboards off of Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup, and provides an excellent strategy to find your product/market fit. Most founders of any size business often avoid testing their value propositions and hypotheses through proper market research. A third tool/resource is my Powerful Pitch Deck for Investors product. I provide a fabulous pitch deck template, a one-page Business Snapshot, and 30 days of business coaching – ideal for preparing the founder for those opportunities when they only have 3-5 minutes to grab an investor’s interest.

Are there any specific advantages or disadvantages to being a women business owner?
One primary advantage to being a woman owned business: supplier diversity programs. Women owned businesses are considered “minority owned,” which means we qualify for the lucrative supplier diversity programs government and corporations offer. I always recommend a woman founder apply to WBENC for her certification. By getting your business certified as a woman owned business, you will find opportunities to by-pass the heavy entrance fees and blast through barriers to entry that typically only the big companies can play. A big disadvantage is raising capital, especially venture capital. In 2015, only 5% of capital invested went to women owned businesses! In addition, women founders are often expected to have a male counterpart, and they get asked questions male founders never hear. The antidote to this situation is more female investors, both angel and venture capital.

What was the most challenging moment in your entrepreneurial journey thus far?
When my delicious, beloved food manufacturing business came to a grinding halt, due to circumstances out of my control: Mother Nature. It broke my heart, and I have deep empathy for all the businesses recently affected by floods, fires and hurricanes. I am so so sorry. My only advice is to allow the time for healing and honor the loss. Please know, another business adventure awaits you… because nothing can take away the hard earned entrepreneurial knowledge resting between your ears… nor the tenacity, resilience and courage resonating in your heart.


She is the founder and Chief “Startup” Officer of Startup Life with Ande Lyons, where she coaches startup founders while providing free tools and resources to DIY Entrepreneurs launching, branding and building their businesses.

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