Colleen Star Koch is a rule-breaking rockstar. And she’ll probably change your life.
Welcome to the latest installment of “I’m a Business, Woman,” a series of interviews with cool, entrepreneurial women I love who are doing cool shit. Today’s conversation is with the vibrant, kind, and adventurous Colleen Star Koch, a career, brand, and life coach for creatives, entrepreneurs, and nonconformists of all kinds. Colleen and I (along with Julia Lovallo Chaykin) belong to a small group of women-identifying business owners we call “Working Title Collective.” We serve as an advisory board and accountability group for each other and because of this, I’ve gotten to know Colleen and her business intimately and I continue to have my socks knocked off by the work she does and the passion she brings to her clients’ lives. I’m super excited to share this conversation with all of you so you can get to know—and adore—her too!
Hi, Colleen! Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do:
Colleen Star Koch: I am a career, brand, and life coach for creatives, entrepreneurs, and nonconformists of all stripes. Typical things I hear from new clients include: “I’m stuck,” “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” “I’m ready to take my career to the next level, but I’m not sure how,” “I need help getting my business/side hustle off the ground,” and “I really need help with my negative thinking!”
Starting with the belief that “rules aren’t real,” I help clients switch gears from Human Doing to Human Being. Using neuroscience-based tools, I create comfortable, energizing spaces where honest growth can happen.
I leverage my experience as an entrepreneur, master ideator, brand executive and creative to coach those brave enough to define their own path. I’m here to help you turn your JOY into a life that is profitable, effective, and a f*ckload of fun.
In addition to coaching, I also offer personal brand, small business brand, creative entrepreneur, web design, and logo design services.
If someone is looking for a coach, what advice would you give them to ensure they find the right one?
Colleen Star Koch: First and foremost, make sure that you actually talk to the person you’re considering working with before you hire them. Coaching is an intimate, vulnerable relationship – so it’s important that you have a good rapport right off the bat.
Secondly, it’s important that you feel like your coach shares your core values. For example, I’ve had a lot of clients find me by searching for “feminist life coach.” You are more likely to be understood and supported – and therefore more prone to open up – if you and your coach are like-minded.
Lastly, read your potential coach’s testimonials and reviews! No matter how compelling his or her approach may be, the proof is in the pudding.
You work with a lot of women entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, side-hustlers, and corporate ladder-climbers. What lessons has your work with professional movers-and-shakers taught you that you’ve ended up applying to your own business?
Colleen Star Koch: I think the most important lesson centers around integrity. In other words, practice what you preach. If you want to have incredible word of mouth, then do amazing work worthy of sharing and make sure to be generous in how you spread the word about others. If you want people to be super engaged in your business, but you pay no attention to their businesses and lives – don’t hold your breath. You get what you give.
Another critical lesson is the importance of both identifying and following your values. I can’t stress enough how transformative this practice is. When you make choices – both in business and in life – that align with your values, progress feels both more natural and more possible.
I’ve met several of your clients and they all adore you and credit you with a lot of their successes. Can you give 2-3 brief examples of someone who came to you, what it was they needed to work on, how you tackled it with them, and what results they achieved?
Colleen Star Koch: Sure! I love and learn so much from my clients. Let’s start with Gaby.
Gaby came to me a new mom who had recently launched her own business, struggling to own her “bad business b*tch” self. We had a breakthrough when discussing how she was introducing herself to people. “I’m a lawyer,” she’d say, to which they’d respond, “Cool! Where do you practice?” At this point she’d shrug and say, “Oh I’m not a lawyer anymore. I gave that up when my husband and I decided to have a baby. Now I have my own little Etsy business.” We worked together to not only reframe how she presents herself to others, but also on how she thinks of herself! Beyond that, we worked on growing her business so she has true confidence behind her new introduction. Three months after we started working, that “little Etsy business”—Casa Confetti Design Studio—grew over 300%, and began bringing in over $14K/month.
Marianne came to me unhappy in her current position as an email marketing associate in a company that neither supported her work nor her growth. She was really struggling with her confidence, and felt like she should be further along in her career. Instead of worrying too much about her career (to start), we delved into what amplified her confidence, and built intentional practices around those activities. I brought her to events where I thought she’d meet like-minded people, and she had an opportunity to see herself through others’ eyes. After six months of building a fully passionate, engaged life that she was proud of, she started looking for a new job. Two months after that, she landed a fabulous gig at a distinctly growth-oriented digital marketing agency with a $30,000 raise (twice what she was making before!).
“Austin” is a more unusual story. A distinguished political scientist with an Ivy League education, he had been widely lauded for a study that directly (and positively) impacted international gay rights legislation. Unfortunately, it was soon revealed that – due to a lack of funding – he had falsified part of the study. The brand new teaching position he’d been offered at Princeton was revoked, and he immediately lost his entire world, network, and net-worth. He came to me desperate for help in re-branding and getting his side of the story out to the world. Instead of focusing on “proving himself” publicly, I worked with him to both let go of the story he had been telling himself about how his life needed to go, and also to begin actively writing his next chapter. If he let go of needing to be recognized on an international level for a minute, what did he love to do? Where could he lose himself and disappear into a gorgeous workflow for hours? Basically, we reframed his internal story from negative to possible until he was actually excited to do something other than the career he’d worked so hard for and then lost. Within nine months, he not only landed his dream job at Dreamworks (making more than he would have at Princeton), he was also vindicated when the original study was successfully replicated by two other political scientists. It was a win all around!
What are three tools or techniques that someone can start using or applying today to help them achieve their goals?
Colleen Star Koch: As you know, I’m a brain-based coach. So a lot of my tools are organized around learning how your brain actually works in order to make it an asset instead of an obstacle. Here are a few simple applied neuroscience exercises that I find the most useful!
Shift your thinking from negative to possible. A lot of clients come to me wanting to improve their negative thinking, but are struggling to “think positive.” Of course they are! Our brains are not light switches, where you can just toggle from one state to the complete opposite. Instead, I focus on shifting from negative to possible. Here’s how this works in practice: (1) identify your negative thought (e.g. “I’m too old to start a new career.”); (2) brainstorm a few alternate beliefs that are both true and allow for more possibility (e.g. “I haven’t actually tried yet, so I don’t know that,” “There are lots of people who’ve switched careers later in life, including [specific examples],” or “I might be using my fear of being too old to avoid the scary possibility that a whole new life is still ahead of me!”); (3) repeat, repeat, repeat! The strength of a habit (including a thinking habit) is determined by the amount of attention and repetition you give it – so put that track on loop!
Ditch the “shoulds”! I can’t emphasize this enough. I’m pretty sure Cody won’t let me swear on her blog [editors note: of course I will], but F*&% THE SHOULDS! Living your life by other people’s expectations is the short route to unhappiness. This includes living your life by your own outdated expectations, which may not align with your evolved values. I operate my business on the principle that we will all be more productive, effective, and profitable if we follow our joy (and I’ve seen this work hundreds of times!). So here’s a really simple exercise: the next time you find yourself facing serious resistance around a task, project, or person, ask yourself, “Am I doing this because I think I should, or because I actually want to?” Obviously, I’m not talking about doing the laundry here. We all have a few things we need to handle in order to function. But if you are going to the gym every morning at 5am because you’re a size 8 and you think you should be a size 6, you might stop and ask yourself, “Who benefits if I’m a size 6? Am I healthy? Am I happy with my life? Is there anything I really want to do that is only possible at a size 6? Or am I just trying to meet an arbitrary societal expectation or fit into my high school jeans?” You only get one life. Enjoy the heck out of it!
List Your Good. This is the easiest of them all, but don’t let that trick you. The impact is BIG! The activity is simple, and goes like this: every morning or night, write three short lists: (1) three things you can give yourself credit for that day, (2) three things you’re grateful for right now, (3) three statements of intention for that day (or the next, if you’re doing this at night). The credit list is designed to help you retrain your brain to consider the positive and remind of your daily progress. This makes a huge difference, since our brains are evolutionarily wired to focus on and remember the negative. The gratitude list is designed to make you feel more present and content in your current circumstance. Gratitude has consistently been demonstrated to be one of the top indicators of happiness! The statements of intention are designed to focus your brain towards helping you show up in your life as the person you want to be. These are simple “I am…” statements, such as “Today, I am confident in my talents,” or “Today, I am going to be there for my friend, even though I don’t feel like I have time.” You’ll be surprised at the positive impact these three simple lists have on your life!
I imagine that even though there are a lot of high points as your clients make strides, working through the pain-points can take its toll. How do you take care of yourself on days that are challenging?
Colleen Star Koch: For me, self-care is a matter of integrity. In the same way that I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t buy, I don’t recommend any paths or actions to my clients that I don’t follow myself. As a result, I’ve really leveled up when it comes to taking care of myself. Since my clients and I operate in a space of joyful transparency, my first step is always to communicate clearly what is going on for me. For example, I just started a program in Buenos Aires called Remote Year, where I’m traveling, working, and learning with 70-odd other remote professionals. It’s a fabulous program and I’m having a blast, but as you might expect, I also found myself burning the candle at both ends the first week. So when it came to my 9pm coaching appointment last Thursday, I said to my client, “Hi! I want to be transparent with you – I’m running on fumes. I’m super excited to be here, but my brain probably isn’t working at full capacity. Would you like to reschedule?”
Along the same lines, one of my top self-care strategies is simply saying “no” when I know I need time to recuperate from my super busy life.
Opportunities are ever-present, and FOMO is real, but at the end of the day I can’t help anyone else if I’m drained. For example, I said “no” to a side trip to Uruguay last Saturday that 10 of my new Remote Year friends were taking. I really (I mean really) wanted to go, but I knew that I had a commitment to the new coaches I’m bringing on board my business right now, and – to be honest – I needed to take a really long nap! It’s all about knowing (and being honest) with yourself, and finding a good balance that allows you to show up in a way you’re proud of!
Your coaching business is virtual, meaning you meet with your clients over Skype. This is allowing you to spend the next few months abroad while still maintaining your business full time. Can you tell us a bit about the program you’re enrolled in and your travel agenda?
Colleen Star Koch: Sure! So as I mentioned above, the program I’m currently participating in is called Remote Year. Remote Year brings together inspiring communities of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and professionals for a year-long journey to work, travel, and live in 12 different cities throughout the world. Once I was accepted from a pool of nearly 20,000 applicants, I chose to do their newly-introduced four month program in South America. So I’ll be living and working in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October; Cordoba, Argentina in November; Santiago, Chile in December; and Lima, Peru in January. It’s such a thrilling program, and I’ve already been digging into learning about my fellow “tramily” (travel + family) members and sussing out opportunities for collaboration. Luckily, coaching is one of the best ways to get to know people, so I’m on the right track!
Who is out there, reading this, that could benefit from your coaching but maybe doesn’t know it yet?
Colleen Star Koch: Everyone can benefit from coaching. While it might seem like a foreign concept, it’s more common than you might think. Pretty much everyone at the top of their game has a coach, whether they are a performer, athlete, or executive. Why shouldn’t you?
You might be a good candidate to work with me specifically if any of the following statements resonate with you:
- I don’t know what I want to be “when I grow up.”
- I want to make my side hustle my main hustle.
- I want to transition to a totally new career and I’m not sure where to start.
- I think I might want to be a coach!
- I’m a creative, and want to make a living off my art.
- I feel stuck!
- I need help deciding whether to stay in my relationship (and what to do next if I don’t!).
- I really need help interrupting and shifting my negative thinking.
- I want to fall back in love with my life!
As always, I encourage you to check out my website and schedule a free intro consult with me before jumping in, to make sure that our values align, we have a good rapport, and my approach resonates with you!
If someone is interested in working with you, how should they get in touch? And where can we follow along on your adventures?
Colleen Star Koch: Everything is on my website and Rowan Coaching social media! Here’s the scoop:
- Learn more about my approach to coaching here.
- Follow along with my adventures on Rowan Coaching’s Facebook page and Instagram profile, as well as on the blog!
- Schedule your free intro consult here.
- Sign up for my email list to get travel bulletins, helpful tips and activities, and so much more!
Stay tuned: Colleen and Cody will be collaborating on another post soon, sharing tips for creating accountability and support when you’re a solopreneur… Something we know an awful lot about!