PHOTOS BY BRODY WHEELER
Dare to find your voice. It’s been a lifelong calling for Andrea Holland, and – as head of her own company and an executive communications coach to clients across the globe – it’s the bold call to action she issues to everyone. With 20 years of experience in professional storytelling and communications, Andrea has made a career-long study of what motivates others: how words, body language, stories and mindset affect ourselves & others, relationships, outcomes and more. She’s put what she’s learned to the test for herself and now coaches and trains others on the same techniques so they can get the results they need.
We sat down with Andrea for a Q&A session and she shared a bit more about her personal and professional journey into the great big wilderness of finding her own voice.
Andrea, you’re a business owner of almost 10 years, and also a single mom by choice of a two-year old. That’s not necessarily an easy path. How did you carve that journey for yourself?
Well, I’d say 90% of that was by design. I always knew I wanted to be a mom. After reaching my mid-30s and staying happily single, I eagerly set to the task of planning a family on my own. And – yes – it took a lot of planning and patience and there was some heartache along the way. But, it was all worth it and if I accomplish nothing else in this life, I know I’ve already done my very best by becoming a mother.
My business, however, began totally by accident. In 2012, I found myself jobless and eating my feelings in bed after a massive company layoff. Days before this sad state of affairs, I had been working at my then dream job as an international video producer for an e-learning company. My role was to travel the globe in search of fascinating business leaders at major brands who’d be willing to share their most personal leadership experiences on camera. One day I was talking to leaders American Airlines, Ford Canada and the U.S. Olympics…weeks later, I was jobless, scrolling through social media under my too-expensive duvet and crying about what to do next for a job while I ate tubs of ice cream.
Then, a friend posted on social media that she was scheduled to do a radio interview the next morning for work and she was terrified. She hoped someone would either do it for her or show her how. I had nothing to do, so I offered to meet her for coffee and simply share what I knew. For free. I just wanted to help. Well, her company president showed up for coffee with her and when he asked me what it was that I did and if I was interested in helping his whole team out as a coach, Andrea Holland Communications was born. Much has changed since those days, but I’ve been incredibly intentional about my growth process.
You’re a Rochester native. What aspects of growing up here supported you in making such bold moves?
Oh definitely a cultured family and a loving community that supported strong women! I come from a long line of bold females. My grandmothers were both incredibly brave women who moved from here from very different places: Puerto Rico and Mississippi. One grandmother never drove or spoke English. My other grandmother came from a deeply racist south. Both of them came here with virtually nothing but deeply rooted faith, conviction and determination to make it. My mother, Lucy, instilled in my sister, Norma, and I the value of hard work, staying honest and paying close attention to details. Our dad, John, taught us about empathy, perspective and humor. His job wasn’t an easy one – surrounded by a houseful of women and only a male chihuahua named Cisco as his companion! All of this has profoundly shaped the woman and mother I am today.
As a coach now, what are your priorities for both your business and also for your clients?
Growth, which isn’t always a linear path. Growth happens outside of our comfort zone – and navigating that pathway isn’t always easy. I strive to get uncomfortable for greater gains. Even doing this article was a stretch for me. Honestly – these have been some tough years: working hard through a solo pregnancy (bolstered, though – thank God – by the most loving family and friends in the world!), a pandemic shortly after having my daughter, and then some devastating losses in our family this year. The stress has been tremendous and I literally feel it. I see it, too, when I look in the mirror. My COVID pants are snug! Still, when I was asked to be photographed for this issue, I took a leap and went for it.
Now, let me be honest: when I first saw the photos from my amazing shoot with the photographer, I was a little surprised. At first, I didn’t think I looked like me. Then, a friend asked me: “What do you see when you look at these photos?” I replied: “I see the me that I’ve earned the right to be and I love her.” My goal for me – and every client I work with – is to be bold enough to be comfortable. That’s not always easy…everyone has enough courage to “fake it”. Do we have enough courage to let go, though? I’m constantly asking myself to do that…and I did it with these photos. It’s honestly been one of the most liberating things I’ve done in a while.
How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful, especially during a pandemic?
Before this pandemic, during and after, the #1 rule I can honestly share with any business person is this: have an insane desire to be seen. A business mentor told me this when I launched my business so many years ago. At the time, I was launching a new website and I was terrified to promote it because I was afraid that people would judge me for my bold new branding on my site. I was afraid to step outside of the box that others had so clearly defined for me in my career. I was caught up in the busy-ness of worrying about other people’s opinions of me. My colleague’s advice to stop worrying and start shouting from the rooftops about my business forced me to be seen. Since then, my business has steadily grown – in part because I make it my business to be seen even when I don’t want to be.
What is your “why” behind the work you do and how does that keep the hustle alive?
Helping the underdog win. That’s one of my biggest drivers. I deeply empathize with those who have been told they’re not good enough or who’ve been consistently told to sit and wait their turn. That may come as a surprise to many who know me – I am bold and outspoken and laugh-out-loud confident. I’ve had to work for that confidence, though. My phenomenal upbringing in a warm, loving, patient and supportive family bolstered me in environments where I wasn’t always welcomed because of my gender or skin color or physical appearance. I had a gentleman admit to me once that he didn’t expect much from me during a job interview because he saw that I graduated from a state university! (I didn’t accept his job offer to me a year later, for the record).
My constant desire to help people realize the full potential of their voice and their story is what keeps me going when I’m hungry, overbooked and tired.
Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
My daughter. She teaches me about patience and reminds me that life is a mirror: whatever you put out into the world will be reflected back to you. My daughter regularly gets excited about Sesame Street and crayons and strawberries and new shoes. She excitedly expresses herself with little care to how others will perceive it. She eats with gusto and doesn’t worry about spilling things on herself. I aspire to teach her about confidence in the way I was taught – with a loving heart and a firm sense of purpose. When I look at my daughter, I see a world of possibilities for her and the world she is actively creating. I believe that if every woman could be reminded of her own purpose and greatness, this world would be transformed.
How do you define success?
True story: I was voted “most likely to succeed” by my high school graduating class. I’m not certain why my peers thought I was worthy of that title, but I can certainly say that my definition of success has changed through the years. Success – to me – is about being able to unapologetically choose my own path. It’s about ownership of my wins and losses with equal weight, appreciation of myself and others, authenticity in every moment, intentionality in building a life I love and challenging myself to grow beyond what I know today. That level of success is gained in stages and is achieved over the course of a lifetime. It is earned and realized, not given.
Learn more about Andrea at her website, www.andreaholland.net.