Female entrepreneurs and businesswomen in 2021 face their own set of challenges. The upside is that we support networks like the Brave On Purpose, the Facebook collective founded by Vickery and Co, to give us a sense of community as we pursue our dreams. But thirty years ago, women like Kathi Sharpe-Ross forged a path for themselves without the communities we have now. Despite this, Kathi started her own public relations business back when Nirvana ruled the radio.
Kathi knew she wanted to be her own boss from a young age. She’s a self-described free spirit who says her bold life philosophy comes from her unconventional childhood. Growing up, Kathi explains, there weren’t a lot of parameters or boxes that she tried to live within. On top of that, her family moved around a lot when she was a kid. Kathi took this as an opportunity to get good at making friends anywhere. Unhindered by societal expectations and armed with resiliency learned from being the perpetual new kid, Kathi had the skills necessary for any successful entrepreneurial venture. So when she felt like she had something to offer to the public relations industry, she dove right in.
The Reinvention Epiphany
Kathi started her business—The Sharpe Alliance—when she was just twenty-four. As she navigated the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, Kathi came to recognize that much of her job depended on her ability to reinvent herself. She decided around twenty years after she started that she wanted to uplift other women with similar dreams. The best place to start, she thought, was to share her epiphany about reinvention.
At that time, she represented a conference called WIE (Women, Inspiration, and Enterprise). There, she got the chance to meet Ariana Huffington (yes, that Ariana Huffington) at a WIE dinner. Kathi worked up the courage to tell Ariana that she wanted to write a book about reinventing your life. She asked Ariana if she could write for the Huffington Post about the topic. The timing was perfect: Ariana already had a plan to launch a series about reinvention.
Forging Creative Communities
Kathi became a HuffPost contributor for a few years. She put out content and, in return, received the gifts of both experience and feedback. The connections she made with readers and fellow contributors led her to realize that people crave creative communities. Now, she runs a media company called the RE:Invention Exchange. The purpose of the RE:Invention Exchange is to provide a network where people can connect and share their stories of reinvention. The people who contribute to the RE:Invention exchange understand that reinvention is one of our greatest tools. Reinvention comes from resiliency, and resiliency is our capacity to recover from setbacks.
Improvising on the High Wire
The COVID-19 pandemic put Kathi’s own reinvention skills to the test. After ten years in the making, Kathi finally published a book about reinvention—Right at the beginning of the stay-at-home order last March. Without the ability to tour, Kathi didn’t have the conventional avenues to promote her work. She turned to her team, and together they forged a way to turn the order to their advantage. They developed virtual book signings via Zoom. Inspired by the turnout, Kathi and her team reworked the signings into regular virtual chats about reinvention. You can join these chats every Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30pm PST/5:30pm EST.
Kathi’s career trajectory might seem golden, even serendipitous. While it’s true that luck played a role in her success, the real champion of her story is her resiliency. For thirty years, Kathi’s walked the tightrope of both sticking to her venture and allowing it room to evolve. And she isn’t done, because resiliency and reinvention are part of her routine. Before she goes to sleep at night, she says, she likes to take stock of the day and go over what she wants to accomplish tomorrow.
Get to know Kathi
Kathi Sharpe-Ros is a business advisor, female entrepreneur, and founder of The Sharpe Alliance, a marketing, branding, business development, and sponsorship agency with global clients. She also runs a media company called RE:Invention Exchange, where she hosts a podcast and twice-weekly virtual chats about reinvention. She is the author of Reinvent Your Life! What Are You Waiting For? and a contributor to Thrive Global. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram and keep up with The RE:Invention Exchange on Facebook.