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Meet Nicole Wood of Ama La Vida in River North

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Wood.

Nicole, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my career in management consulting, and coming from a university which was not on any recruitment list, I had to cold call and hustle my way into my job. I thought I’d be a lifer consultant. But after a few years I was burnt out and frustrated because I’d worked so hard to get into an industry that had now become clear to me was not where I wanted to be long-term. I looked around at my peers and saw that many of them felt the same way. They had done all the “right” things, but in their mid to late twenties were already miserable at work and wondering if this is what the next 30 or 40 years would look like. I searched for a solution – a way to process all of this and find something that I would be more passionate about. When I couldn’t find a great solution, I teamed up with two expert coaches to create one.

We created a coaching program which combines proven coaching techniques and methodologies with innovative online eCoaching technology to make career coaching more process-oriented, effective and affordable than ever before. Our ALV Career Designer Method is the best program on the market to help someone identify and land a job which will bring them equal parts fulfillment and success. We have now helped hundreds of Chicagoans to go from burnt out and miserable at work to doing work that they’re excited about.

I firmly believe that life is too short to live for the weekends and dread the alarm clock each morning. I’m committed to helping people take action and find work that makes them come alive.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course not! I think like any startup, we have had our roller-coaster of highs and lows both business-wise and emotionally. We’ve lost a lot of money to vendors who have not delivered on their promises. We have had to let people go who didn’t perform. We have had to learn by trial and error what works when doing business development and marketing. We’ve had to get comfortable truly putting ourselves out there and hearing ‘no’ ten times before a ‘yes.’

One thing I am eternally grateful for, however, is that I have two incredible women by my side. My two co-founders and I did not know each other really at all before we went into business together. We had a shared vision and were each determined to make it happen but immediately knew our chances of success were exponentially higher together. Though our vision is shared, our personalities are very different, and that diversity of background, ethnicity, nationality and thought helps us to make great decisions. We are now two years into the startup journey, and these women have not only become my family, there is no one on earth I have more respect and admiration for. In that time with an almost laughable bootstrapped budget, we have built out an eCoaching platform, have developed a service offering which has now helped hundreds of women to find and land jobs they love and have grown our team of career coaches to 12. And that’s just the business stuff. We’ve also collectively had two babies, one wedding and one move to the other side of the world. No matter what life or the business throws at us, we know it can all be figured out, one day at a time.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Ama La Vida – what should we know?
We are a career and leadership coaching company with a particular focus on coaching people through career transitions. If you are thinking about changing jobs or industries, I want Ama La Vida to be the first thing that comes to mind. We initially started serving people similar to ourselves, people in their 20s-40s who were no longer enjoying their work who were searching for something different, something more. But as we grew, we found that this desire for meaning and purpose in life and work is universal and becomes top of mind at many different points in our lives. We’ve also coached moms who are going back to work after 10 years at home. Folks who have enjoyed 40 year careers who now want to do something meaningful in their retirement. No matter who or where you are or what transition you’re going through, we want to help you feel like you’re making an impact that’s important to you.

Outside of our dedication to our clients, one thing I’m particularly proud of is the team we’ve built. In addition to our 3 co-founders, we now have 13 other coaches and specialists on our team. Since we’ve brought on these talented, passionate individuals to Ama La Vida, my confidence in our future and my feeling that something truly special is happening here has been amplified. Just the other day after a coach on our team had a great success with a client, she said to us, “I’m feeling so lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a diverse and interesting group of clients. You guys have created the best company.” To which I of course replied, “No WE are creating the best company.” She is helping to change people’s lives, and she, along with our other team members, are creating the best company.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
So many! We were fortunate enough to be selected as part of 1871’s WiSTEM Cohort 7, an accelerator program for female-founded tech companies. We have grown so close to the other women in our cohort and continue to depend on them for both business and emotional support. It’s incredible to be surrounded by people with such ambition who also complete get what you’re going through as an entrepreneur.

I’ll also give a special shoutout to our husbands. We are three driven (sometimes) workaholics with a big, bold vision, and our husbands have supported us even when our ideas seem crazy. From helping us work events to fixing business cards that printed improperly at midnight before a meeting, they have been the unsung heroes of ALV.

Contact Info:

Photo Archive/2017/02-February/Career Night-TCA
Young Alumni Career Night

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