This darling boss babe with pink hair that speaks such amazing words about living our best life. Creator of The Champagne Diet, Cara got my attention years ago and I’ve been a loyal follower ever since. When you read what she has to say, you’ll see how much in alignment we are in what we think about following your passion, being true to you, and living On Purpose. I’m so honored to have the fabulous Cara Alwill Leyba for today’s Women On Purpose series.
Cara is an inspirational author, master life coach, and speaker whose self-published motivational books have all reached #1 on various Amazon bestseller categories. In 2015, she was named one of YFS Magazine’s “Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs That Will Inspire You.” Cara is obsessed with women on the edge of change, and nothing inspires her more than assisting women as they evolve into the best version of themselves. She believes we can be self-assured, spiritual, and successful, and do it all with a chic and stylish flair. Cara admits she carries healing crystals in her Chanel, and meditates with a glass of champagne. Because who says self-help can’t be glamorous?
Name: Cara Alwill Leyba
Location: New York City
Current Title/Name of Company/Business: Cara Alwill Leyba, Author, Speaker, Master Life Coach – Creator of The Champagne Diet
1. What does living on purpose look like for where you are in your life right now?
For me it honestly looks like listening to my gut and really spending my time looking within and spending as little time as possible looking outside of myself – like looking for approval from others or looking around at anyone else in my industry. I noticed that my life really changed when I focused on carving my own path for myself. Doing things that I want to do in my life that make me happy. I found that has naturally helped me become not only happier but more successful in my life and in my business.
So really kind of writing my own rules and not being afraid to break them.
I call myself a non-practicing life coach because I’m not taking on clients right now and I don’t have any workshop going on. I’ve kind of been on a little bit of a hiatus for a while, focusing on other projects. But I know when I was first starting out as a coach, there were all these people telling you the way that it should be done, like selling you blueprints and guidebooks and rules. There’s a lot of programs out there for coaches who teach people that you should do it a certain way. I found that was not serving me.
So I stepped away from all of that. There’s a mantra that I love and it is “create things you wish existed”. I really had a good look at my business and I was like what would I respond to, what do I wish there was more of, and that’s sort of how I built everything up to this point.
2. What does The Champagne Diet entail? How did you get started?
Well, I always knew that I want to be a writer, from a very young age. I always dreamed of writing books and I knew that I wanted be an author. Writing was my true passion. I got into the music business because I wanted to become a music journalist. My path took me in a different direction and I took corporate jobs that really weren’t creative because I viewed them as a stepping stone to break into the business. Along the way I kind of lost myself. I found myself in a really unhealthy relationship. I was working in a job that really wasn’t fulfilling me. It was taking a lot of energy and time from the things that I loved to do. I had become really unhealthy. I wasn’t exercising. I was living on take-out food. I was working 12 to 14 hours a day, commuting back and forth to Manhattan from Brooklyn, and I decided I wanted to change. I always thought change came from weight loss. For me that was my way of changing my life. Like if I could just lose ten more pounds, I would experience some kind of break through…
So I turned to one of my coworkers at M.T.V. and I told her, “I’m just so frustrated! I’m going to go on a diet this weekend!” And she looked at me and she was, “Cara, this is not working… Why do you always think that a diet is going to make you happy, that losing weight is going to make you happy? You just have to start being healthy and eating healthy.” I didn’t understand what that meant. I grew up thinking “eating healthy” was drinking Diet Coke and eating Lean Cuisine frozen dinners and 100-calorie cookies. This was really before the whole clean eating thing and eating organic became really mainstream and really popular. So she kind of gave me her prescription for her version of eating healthy and I was like, wow that’s so much easier than what I’ve been doing! But of course I said, well can I still drink?
Everybody wants to come home and enjoy a glass of wine, or a cocktail or something at night. Or we’d be taking clients out, or going to team dinners. You want to have fun. We live in New York City, that’s what we do.
So, she said, “Of course you can drink, just drink champagne!” I was like Champagne?” I never drink champagne. In my whole life, I think I might have had like a sip of that once at a birthday or New Year’s Eve and she acted like champagne was like milk. She went on to explain that “You know, champagne only has like 90 to 100 calories in a glass, and it’s like such a glamorous sexy kind of drink and it’s so elegant”! So I was totally sold, because, who wouldn’t be? So I went out and I ordered a glass of champagne that night and it kind of became my thing. I would joke with my friends and I started calling it “The Champagne Diet” and all of a sudden things started changing. And I quickly realized it was more than actually just drinking a low calorie adult beverage. It really became a metaphor for me for living my best life and I started to think about why champagne is saved for special occasions. Why do we make it such a special thing? Why do we restrict ourselves from having something that’s so beautiful and so indulgent? I started to view champagne as a metaphor for the way we should live our lives. Why do we wait to wear that dress or why do we wait to take that vacation? So I kind of dubbed it my “Champagne Life” and I got rid of the bad boyfriend, and I lost weight, and I became healthy and I started to really learn how to love myself and that was the birth of The Champagne Diet. So it’s really not a diet. Yes, champagne is a great choice if you’re counting calories but my life – and I think all of our lives – should be so much more than counting calories. It’s really a lifestyle about celebrating ourselves, finding something to toast to every day and living effervescently.
3. What has been your biggest hurdle since you’ve started your business?
I think the story around my book has really been the thing that has proved to be very challenging for me. I mentioned I always want to be a writer and the reason why I started a blog called “The Champagne Diet”, back when I had my lifestyle makeover, was because I wanted to write a book about that story. I knew that there was something there. I knew there was something women could relate to. I felt like it was a unique story, finding this kind of self-discovery through a glass of champagne essentially. I imagined it would be like a Carrie Bradshaw story when I got my book deal. I was in my 20’s and I thought I’d get this great literary agent and get a book deal and have this fabulous book launch party. I had it all planned out in my head – but it didn’t work that way. I did get an agent, and we wound up shopping the book, the idea, the proposal at the time and the book got rejected 19 times from 19 different publishers…
It was a big, big let down for me and it was devastating and it made me really reassess my path. I thought, well, maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to do. Maybe I’m not good enough, maybe this isn’t what I should be focusing on right now. Maybe I should just focus on life coaching and give up the dream of writing, but I read a Seth Godin article and in the article he talked about the concept of “choosing yourself”. The article was all about the world that we live in today and that we can choose ourselves especially when it comes to publishing. It’s no longer in the hands of a publisher to determine whether or not you are “allowed to write a book”. That article really moved me and really changed things for me. I said you know what? I’m going to choose myself. I’m going to self-publish this book. I had been keeping an eye on the self-publishing industry which was growing and making things much more doable when it comes to writing and publishing. So I self-published, and I’ve self published all of my books up to this point. There’s 6 of them altogether and they have all hit number one in various bestseller categories on Amazon. They’ve become really successful and they’re now my full-time business.
But it took me years and years of learning to not only believe in myself, to determine what was actually going to work, and also really nurturing my business and building up my audience and my readership so that book could become successful. It wasn’t until my fourth book, Girl Code, that things really took off. So I would definitely say the book thing was the biggest hurdle but it was something that I pushed through and I think for anyone reading this article, listening to this conversation… choose yourself and know that you can make things happen in your life. But I do think it takes a lot of patience and a lot of perseverance.
4. Do you believe there’s a pattern or formula to becoming a successful writer and or building a platform?
I think there are qualities that certain people possess that allow them to obtain success but I don’t think that there is necessarily a pattern or a blueprint. I think there’s a few things that are important. I think number one belief in yourself, is super important. The ability to be authentic and to trust that who you are is enough and that you don’t have to be like someone else, and your story doesn’t have to look like someone else’s. You need the hustle and the drive to keep going when you do get those rejections or you hear those no’s. And I think patience… I think patience is really, really under-rated. I’ve been doing this nine years now so when I talk to women who are frustrated, the first thing that I ask them when they say that they’re hitting a wall in their business is how long have you been in business? Probably 99.9% of the women tell me they’ve been in business under two years. So, it’s important to realize that it does take an incredible amount of patience and sitting back and realizing that this is a very long road and I think the magic happens in the journey. It’s not a destination point. It’s not like you finally become successful, because there’s always something else you want to do. I don’t necessarily think there’s a pattern, but I do think that those qualities are essential to being successful in business.
5. To what do you attribute most of your success?
That’s really good question. I think just having an undying passion for what I do. So whatever it is, because we always shift and we always grow and evolve, whatever it looks like, I just make sure that I am completely obsessed with what I’m doing and if I’m not obsessed with that, I change it! I think it’s just that kind of nonstop addiction to doing what I love and if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t have the stamina to keep going.
6. How do you find inspiration to continue to grow and expand your business?
So, it’s kind of a two part answer. Number one, my life and my experiences in my own life are really what inspire me so rather than trying to get inspired by reading self-help books or looking around other people, I really spend a lot of time looking at experiences in my life and how I can incorporate them into stories, how I can use those stories to teach women and inspire women. And the second part honestly, when it comes to the aesthetic of my brand or maybe products or books or things that I kind of want to produce, I get a lot of inspiration outside of my industry. I follow a lot of fashion bloggers. I love looking at women in other businesses, whether it’s like an interior designer or a jewelry maker or someone not doing what I’m doing. Music actually inspires me a lot. Looking around and really pulling inspiration from the things that I love in my life and again, I keep going back to this but it is so true, just taking the focus off of my industry.
I never want my voice to be diluted. I never want my own creativity to be diluted. I want to make sure that what I’m talking about and writing about is coming from me and my life and not someone else.
7. Did you ever doubt whether or not your platform would become a sustainable source of income?
Yeah. It did come up for me more so early on. I didn’t leave MTV until I knew for sure I was making money in my business. I remember I was making about half of what I was bringing home at MTV, when I first left and then that first month out of the gate I made almost double what I made. So financially, I didn’t leave my job to pursue this until I knew that the money was coming in but I definitely doubted at the beginning. I remember thinking back when I had the blog, could this ever be something? And that’s when I decided to become a coach because I knew that I loved connecting with women and I love helping people but I didn’t really understand how I could make money doing that. Blogging really wasn’t a thing back then like 2008. It was so different. Instagram wasn’t around back then. Partnerships were not around back then for blogger to pitch a brand, so it was really tough. It was just kind of like advertising, and that wasn’t the direction that I felt like I could go in. So I remember going to my coaching school and looking around at life coaches and thinking like, wow they’re making so much money! They’re so successful! They’re leading these amazing lives and I didn’t really know how I was going to make it work but I knew that I had enough stamina and enough passion to try. So yeah I think the fear definitely crept in in the beginning and then when I pulled the trigger and I left, I just told myself, you’ve got no choice. Failure is not an option. Being broke is not an option. You have a lifestyle that you want to maintain. You’re going to figure out whatever the hell you need to do to make this happen and then that was my attitude ever since.
One more thing, I just want to add that I think it’s so important for women to really come from a place of abundance and not come from a place of lack. It’s easy to get caught up in the fear but I’m a big believer of focusing on the positive and imagining yourself being successful, using visualization techniques to picture your life going the way that you want to go. I remember I used to picture how I wanted things to look every day when I would get up and go to work in the job but I couldn’t stand. I would imagine what my dream life was like and I credit that tool. I credit that so much to being able to bring that to fruition.
8. If there’s one key piece of advice you’d give to aspiring women who want to start something of their own, what would you tell them?
Do it your way. Don’t get too caught up in looking around at other successful people. Understand that there’s a fine line between being inspired and being overwhelmed so really again, I go back to the statement that I always say this mantra “create things you wish existed”.
Buy her books HERE.
Thank you Cara! Cheers to you!