For the latest Courageous Women feature I had the pleasure of interviewing Lara Lauder, Presence, Impact & Image Consultant, at her home studio in Wiltshire.
With a wonderful view over her garden, a slice of freshly baked lemon cake in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, we talked about everything from health, and leaving the classroom behind, to discovering the joy of colour and grabbing new opportunities.
There is no doubting Lara’s ambition. She lives and breathes her passion, which is to teach, coach, nurture and empower others to be the very best version of them.
Join me as we explore Lara’s story, and discover what inspires her, what lessons she has learnt along the way, and how after overcoming some difficult obstacles in life she now finds herself on the precipice of launching into an arena where she can fulfil her true potential.
What was life like before Lara Lauder Colour, Presence, Impact & Image Consultant? What were you up to?
6 years ago I was a busy teacher, working 60+ hours a week as a single mum. I was trying to earn enough money to keep my children at the private school they had attended before my marriage broke up.
I was still enduring a horrendous situation with constant aggravation from my ex-husband, and as a Senior Teacher at the Head Teacher’s beck and call, I was also expected to be an outstanding in the classroom, and make time for all the management work that came with being a Phase Leader.
I then suddenly became very unwell.
I collapsed at school. Turned out I had an infection of the heart and what was also later diagnosed as SVT or Supraventricular Tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart rate.
My Mum came to stay whilst I convalesced, as I literally couldn’t get up the stairs independently. I managed to return to work, to start in my new post as Assistant Headteacher, but sadly after having another SVT episode at school; it soon became apparent that I was not well enough to endure the demands of the job.
Despite feeling completely sad and broken at the thought of never really fulfilling my potential, to nearly get to the top of my teaching career and not quite making it, I had to accept the advice of my Consultant. I couldn’t work at that pace, and my compromised immune system couldn’t withstand being in the school environment either.
During this time, I met Richard, quite by chance through a mutual friend. Moving to the Marlborough area, having the support of a kind and loving man changed everything for my family. It also meant that I was able to focus on recovering properly, and set about rebuilding my life.
I could have quite easily given myself a label with a long term health condition, and never worked again, but that’s not me, I need to work.
So what was I going to do ?
What job out there was going to give me that feeling of joy and pleasure, just like witnessing those wonderful moments with a school child, when you see them thrive and achieve. What job was going to give me that?
In November 2015, I came across House of Colour quite by chance on the internet when I was searching for jobs, and running through business ideas in my head.
I remembered House of Colour consultant Annabel Cyzba, whom I had met many years before at a networking meeting. I remember thinking how perfectly put together she was, and wanting my colours done then, but with young children it wasn’t a priority.
So all I wanted for Christmas that year was to have my colours done. I didn’t want anything else; I was so excited, and at the back of my mind thinking was this something I could do.
A lady called Lisa in Oxford (a high flyer with House of Colour) was the one I chose to see about my colours. I wanted to see what she did, and how she did it!
I can honestly say it changed my life. That day in Oxford I saw myself in a way I hadn’t seen for such a long time. I knew then that what a profound and positive effect it could it have on so many other people out there.
I started to think more seriously about it as a business opportunity, and by the end of March I was on the training course. When I decide I’m going to do something, I do it.
Grabbing that opportunity has been the thing that has given me the job satisfaction I had when I saw that light bulb moment with a child when I was teaching. I now get to witness that with the clients I see. They get to see their beautiful selves, and they can’t believe it. I help them to emerge, and set them free.
Where did your journey begin with your business – was it “a lightbulb” moment? How would you describe it?
My journey began sitting in front of that mirror, being introduced to colour. Having those wonderful colours draped around me, with the added touch of some lipstick, I came to life again.
I completely embraced it, and remember going into school wearing a bright lipstick (which suited my winter skin tone,) and quite unexpectedly the compliments started. I couldn’t remember the last time someone said “Lara you look well.” I could tell, and even my friends could tell, they were getting Lara back, the one that they hadn’t seen for years. It was definitely a lightbulb moment for me.
Discovering colour helped me to reconnect with my values and my personality, the style class especially. It helped me to feel proud and confident of my identity, and that is what I help my clients to do now.
Light bulb moments are like opportunities, and I think you have to recognise them, and then make a conscious decision about what you do next.
What surprising lessons have you learnt along the way – would you have done anything differently?
The biggest lesson for me has been in regards to my health. I have learnt the hard way, and this applies to when I was teaching and even with my business now.
Looking back I should have found more ways to relax, more ways to switch off, given myself more time for me, to heal and to rest.
I look back to when I first became unwell, I remember having an exceptionally bad throat infection and saying to my Deputy Headteacher, “I can’t make the staff meeting tonight, I must get to the doctor I’m really not well.” But he couldn’t do without me, so I went. It is highly likely that this episode contributed to the infection that spread to my heart, and subsequent pericarditis. Although I no longer have the infection, I can’t go back. I now have to live with its lifelong effects.
You have to look out for yourself, look after yourself and never be afraid to say no. Although it is hard, and I get that, it’s about honouring you, and being present.
When I talk to people now about presence and being present, it’s about you truly living and being comfortable in your values and valuing yourself. Clearly I wasn’t being present at the time when I first took ill, otherwise I would have said no to being at that meeting, instead I’m paying for it and so are my children.
What’s a typical week for you?
During the school term my day starts at 5.45 am when I get up and make the tea. Once my daughter has left for school at 6:50 am, I work from my bed for an hour catching up on emails and other correspondence.
Mondays are usually an admin day, with no classes scheduled, and on Friday I try to take some time out and meet a friend for coffee (although being honest this doesn’t always happen.) The rest of my week is made up of networking, delivering classes, generating business, and professional development.
I’m not very good at switching off; and I thrive on being productive and busy. I just can’t help myself; I’m always looking up stuff, whether it’s to research trends, or widen my own reading, there’s always something to be done, such as writing a newsletter to my clients.
As well as all this, I love going to the local Professional Speaking Association meeting once a month and I do try to see my daughter play in school sporting fixtures, when I can.
I do run Saturday classes as some people just cannot make a week day, but Sunday’s are spent with my family.
What has been your biggest challenge in your business?
My biggest challenge has been getting bums on seats, getting known and getting new people through the door.
Although I believe it to be a necessity to have colour and style analysis, I know it’s not something that is a priority for most people. Even though I know it could save someone time and money in the future, or deeply benefit them on an emotional level, this will always be a challenge.
What are your greatest passions in life? Are you able to weave these into your business?
I suppose I am living and breathing my passion, teaching people and making them happy. It may sound a bit corny, but just like someone saw something in me, I want to be able to unlock that with the clients I see.
I see their potential, and I love helping them to connect with that, empowering them to be the best version of them.
As a result of investing in personal development and coaching in the last year, I have been reconnecting with all my life, business and professional skills as well as my true values. I really feel that I am on the precipice of launching into an arena where I can really fulfil my true potential.
What or who inspires you to grow and develop personally and in your business?
In terms of who or what inspires me, in my lifetime there have been many. I have experienced total strangers kindness and it has helped to shape, mould and inspire me.
If it were not for Mr Waddington at Ryde Junior School all those years ago who gave me the opportunity to offer Saturday morning Speech & Drama lessons I would not be where I am today. That opportunity, and his belief that I could be a teacher saw me leave my job at the Midland Bank aged 19 and go onto night school to do a City In Guilds Working With Children 0-7 years and then onto achieve a 2:1 BEd Hons English degree.
My children inspire me. We have had a terrible time with their father, and for any teenager to experience mental health problems when they are going through puberty and to feel as though a member of their family has betrayed them, and to be able to pull through all of that and come out the other side, that is inspiring.
They are my inspiration; in my opinion they are courageous. They are my driver to keep going and never give up. They have enabled me to battle through the toughest of days, and whilst it has been very hard for them to see me unwell over the years, and even now when I have done too much, I know that they have a real grasp of what is valuable in life.
What are you most grateful for in your business?
My clients! The people I have met who have enriched my life in so many ways and I am now proud to call my friends. I am most grateful to have experienced colour and style analysis, and to recognise that it was an opportunity that would give me hope. If all the rubbish stuff had to happen in my life, so that my family could be where we are right now, then it was worth it.
What have you found most rewarding from running your own business?
It’s not the money, (it’s never been the money, even when I was teaching) it’s the endless testimonials and wonderful emails I receive. I am passionate about sharing colour, style and presence with people, and getting unexpected feed-back makes it all the more worthwhile.
What do you consider to be “courageous”?
Everyday we are all courageous in our own way.
Having a go, trying something new, accepting that we are always learning shows courage. At some point in our lives, for all of us, living is courageous, simply taking each day at a time until equilibrium is restored.
For me, anybody who steps out of their comfort zone in whatever way, stands up to a bully, or fights for what they truly believe in is courageous.
For me true courage is a child who overcomes enormous difficulties in their life, and then goes on to prosper and bloom.
What’s next for you? Are you beginning a new chapter? What are your aspirations for rest of the year?
My aspiration is to continue to learn and fulfil my potential whatever that might be.
I want to be able to draw on all my life and business skills so that I can fill people with hope and joy, and empower them to do the same.
I see my business moving forward into more speaking, as well as facilitating and coaching opportunities.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in their own business?
My advice would be to go for it, what’s the worst that could happen.
If you have the belief, or if someone sees something in you, and they encourage you to pursue an idea, just go for it! By all means listen to the advice other people offer, but ultimately go with your gut, and be your own person.
Saying that, I would recommend getting a grip on how you balance work with time for yourself, as that has been my biggest downfall. I love to work, and my work is what defines me, it is my passion, but it’s so important to find ways to relax.
Here are 3 fabulous takeaway tips from Lara’s interview;
#1 Discover your colour & style – I may be bias on this one, but finding colour for me was somewhat of a turning point in my life (and not that long ago either.) The amount of money wasted on clothes I instantly disliked as soon as I got them home, and a wardrobe full of nothing to wear. It is definitely worth the investment.
#2 Find more ways to relax – It’s such a busy world out there, and we can so easily get caught up in the hustle that we sometimes forget to stop and pause, and take time out to relax. It’s important to be kind to ourselves, and show ourselves true respect and the care we deserve.
#3 Take notice of opportunities – In the busyness of our lives, it can be all to easy to miss the signs, the recurring thoughts and dreams, or dumb down aspirations, all because we are rushing to get to the next thing. It’s important to acknowledge them, you just don’t know what that opportunity may bring.
I hope this interview has inspired you in some way; the importance of self-care and work-life blend certainly resonated with me. If you would like to find out more about Lara’s work, why not hop on over to her website here.
Until next time, be brave, be you!