Profile: Desi Christou

Our September-October 2013, business profile is Desi Christou. Desi was born in the United Kingdom and has been in business for over five years. Desi was educated at the University of Brunel in London, where she received a BSc degree in Politics, Philosophy and Modern History. She is also a certified trainer and master practitioner in Neuro Linguistics Programming, Time Line Therapy™ and Hypnosis.

Desi Christou is the owner and founder of Desi Christou and Associates, her clients include individuals from corporations, and private individuals who require her counselling and treatment. Her business goals and objectives are to inspire, motivate, empower and support women to reach higher levels of success, by increasing their personal power and feeling more fulfilled in their lives. Desi's objective is "to help women discover their purpose, achieve their goals, fulfill their dreams and feel good about themselves through tapping into the resources of their mind."

Desi took the time to respond to some questions on entrepreneurship. Her responses provide us with a deeper understanding of her business development process and serves as a great guide to other women entrepreneurs.

Where have you worked before getting into business?

I previously had a successful career for many years in the TV Production industry as a TV Producer employed by ITV, BBC and other terrestrial channels and top UK independent production companies working with some of the biggest names in the business such as Chris Tarrant, Terry Wogan, Anne Robinson, Davina McCall, Paul Ross, Melinda Messenger, Dame Edna Everage and Neil Morrissey to name but a few. My roles included producing and directing well known primetime TV programmes, coaching TV and Radio interviewees, writing scripts and training, negotiating and running teams. I also coached celebrity interviewees and programme contributors.

Why did you start your business? What factors are responsible for you starting your business?

I always had a passion for psychology, a fascination with what makes people ‘tick’ and helping people. I grew up in an environment that was very supportive of this as my late mother, Zampia, was an incredibly gifted and exceptional psychotherapist and wonderful mother who I sadly lost to cancer last year. She shared her wisdom and taught me that everyone has the innate capacity to experience and achieve wonderful things in life no matter what their circumstances are when they are able to tap into the power of their mind and find peace in their hearts. I want to be able to help people – especially women – realize their dreams, feel good about themselves s and achieve their goals in life. For some, it may be to progress their career or grow their business, for others it may be to overcome problems, stress and to feel happier in themselves.

I spent 11 years in TV production which taught me valuable people skills together with a varied business skills toolkit, ranging from being creative, dealing with people, strategizing, managing budgets to leadership and management, team-building and coaching. I decided to embark on a big career change in 2007 when I decided to leave the TV industry and pursue my current path in training and coaching in personal and professional development. It was not easy starting my own business and it was a bit like a rollercoaster to begin with as I’d never run my own business before. But what kept me going was my motto of “believe in yourself, have faith and keep going!”

How will you describe your business structure? Why have you chosen this type of structure?

My business consists of running public seminars and workshops around personal development themes, 1-1 personal coaching for private individuals and corporate trainings. I occasionally work with a very small pool of carefully selected associates. My private client base is 90% female, either employed within large companies or who run their own business. The common themes I tend to encounter when coaching women are in building confidence, increasing self-belief and self-esteem, dealing with stress and anxiety, wanting to progress their careers or increase their client base and take steps towards achieving what they want through self-empowerment. I have chosen this business structure because I really enjoy working with women as I understand their psyche. I have overcome obstacles and achieved things that I never thought possible.

What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome and how have you overcome them?

There were some challenges I encountered when I decided to leave my TV career and pursue entrepreneurship in training and coaching. The main ones were dealing with a drop in finances after leaving a full-time well-paid job in television, lack of clarity as to where I was headed, not sure where to start or how to set up a new business and not sure as to my exact direction. I just knew that I wanted to work with clients and run personal development workshops. I was trained in NLP, Hypnosis, Time Line Therapy™ and certain coaching models. I slowly discovered my path and my business model. Over the years my business model has changed, I have had to learn a lot and get very good at sales and marketing, and I also took on a business mentor a couple of years ago. It takes time to build up a client base.

Entrepreneurship has its ups and downs. The key is to persevere, be flexible, believe in you and keep going! Once you go over that ‘tipping point’, it will get easier and your business will flow more. If you do not believe in yourself, you will give up at the first hurdle and you will find all sorts of reasons and excuses as to why you can not get what you want. It is important to have a strong business model/plan, yearly and monthly goals/outcomes, a clear strategy. I also must mention that aside from that, it is essential to have a clear calm mind and also learn to use your intuition. Your intuition guides you in the right direction when your mind is clear and when your internal chatter does not get in the way.

Is financial support and funding availability a challenge? Can you elaborate?

In the UK there is minimal funding available for small businesses. There was a government organization called Business Link which used to provide free or subsidized support to small businesses, but now that no longer receives government funding, I believe. There are various organizations that offer business funding grants, but I do not use this for my business.

What business strategies have you used to grow your business?

I use both online and offline strategies to grow my business and I am always testing different strategies to see which generates better results. E.g. I find that video marketing is more powerful than simple newsletter marketing. In a crowded market you have to stand out from the crowd. What makes you "different" from others offering similar products and services? Some of my offline strategies to drum up business include delivering presentations to business groups, charities, corporate; business networking. Online strategic methods may include videos offering tips with a call-to-action at the end with a special offer/discount for a specific service or product for limited time. I also write blog articles with a call to action to opt-in on my website. Also your database is important and I have grown that over the years and it is important to build a relationship with your subscribers through articles, tips, freebies and special offers.

Is there support for women owned business where you are located? How accessible is it?

There are various business networking groups for women business owners such as The Athena Network, and WeNetwork, where they offer networking events, strategic alliances, support and fruitful business relationships. There is also We Connect International which is global who seek to empower women business owners. In many corporate companies, there are Women’s Networks set up to support, encourage and empower women in business.

What role, if any has computer-based technology played in the development of your business?

When I am not training or coaching, I am constantly using computer-based technology; for business development, marketing, strategic planning and publicity through the use of online tools such as content managed websites, social media, online video and utilizing audio software to record workshops, presentations and for product creation.

What are your business philosophy and personal philosophy, and how have they influenced your business?

My business and personal philosophies are closely linked. I always abide by the motto, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Always treat people with honesty, kindness and respect. My personal values are to be transparent, honest, with high integrity, ethics and be authentic and genuine. The world is a small place and a bad reputation in the business world spreads like wildfire.

A good, solid, honest reputation is the best long term publicity for any business which is why approximately 80% of my business is through word of mouth: referrals, recommendations and people who have come into contact with me in some way.

How important is passion to you in the development and continued growth of your business?

Passion grows from a spark into a glowing flame of enthusiasm, vitality, motivation and vigour. Passion fans the flames of motivation. If there is no passion for developing and growing your business, it will be difficult to grow and sustain it because the motivation and enthusiasm will not be there. I love what I do and that gives me the passion, desire and drive to grow and develop my business which means that I help more people and create an element of change in the world. One of my favourite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the Change you want to see in the World.” Practice what you preach. Change first starts with you. Then you set an example to others.
How do you maintain a balance in your life? What are some things that you engage in to keep your body, mind and spirit in tune with your well-being?

My work is one of my big passions so I work fairly hard, but I like to have a balance. I frequently take time out for myself to enjoy nature and the great outdoors. I also love cooking, laughter and heartfelt connection with friends and family, archery (good for focusing!), swimming and meditation.

How was your spirit of entrepreneurship ignited? And what are some things that you do to keep it burning?

When I left the TV industry, I no longer wanted to have a boss. I wanted to be my own boss and to have the independence of running my own business and setting my own hours. I loved the idea of being able to make a positive difference to the well-being of others which is why I chose to embark on setting up a training and coaching business. I’m constantly learning new things for my own personal and professional development, experimenting with my own coaching models and constantly refining, changing and updating the work I do with clients to get better and better results. Seeing that in action is what keeps the flames of passion for my work burning for me and improving peoples’ lives in some way.

What lessons have you learnt along the way that you will give to other business women, or a woman now venturing in the area of entrepreneurship?

It is important to discover your passion or what "lights you up." It will be different for everyone. Be true to yourself, never let fear or other peoples’ negative comments run your life or throw you off track. Be comfortable being yourself, be authentic, always do business with high integrity, be kind to yourself, keep going, persevere and always be open to changing and adapting whatever you’re doing. You will get there!

What future goals do you have for your business venture? Where you want to see your business in the next 5 -10 years?

To focus on online coaching programs, packages (including books, manuals, audio and video resources), and automating the business much more and generate passive income in this way.
  • Take the business internationally and run global events
  • Create a license for my coaching programs and train other coaches to deliver my training and coaching programs under my personal brand
  • Take my trainings into schools, colleges and universities in the UK and teach ‘life skills’ for young people such as: building healthy relationships, learning interview, communication and presentation skills
  • To have my own internet TV and radio show with special guests and phone-ins

Desi Christou and Associates Business

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