Dez Stephens is the Founder of Radiant Coaches Academy, a prominent international coach training school certifying holistic coaches.
She is a certified and credentialed coach, published author and expert trainer who is known for her great insight and compassion. Dez is a humanitarian coach, social entrepreneur, people’s advocate, and planetary activist. She has coached professionally since 2005 and has trained over 800 students in 20+ countries. ICF Tennessee honored her with the PRISM Award for the advancement of the coaching profession. ICF Ignite recognized her important work in Honduras through her co-founded nonprofit organization providing grief-recovery coaching to Central Americans.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
My life growing up in the city of Chicago in the USA was both rough and fun. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood where most fathers were plumbers, electricians and garbage collectors while most mothers were homemakers or secretaries. I didn’t grow up thinking about becoming a business owner. It was more like, “Maybe I’ll become a teacher, secretary or factory worker.” It wasn’t until I switched to a college-preparatory high school, because I moved to the suburbs, that I even thought about attending university or aspiring to more. My goals included obtaining a bachelor’s degree, then a masters degree, and then a doctorate in dance! I eventually obtained a business degree and an honorary doctorate in holistic life coaching. My interests growing up were primarily gymnastics and dance. I love moving my body! My role models included my gymnastics teacher who was like a surrogate mother to me. Also, Wonder Woman on TV was inspiring because of her strength and beauty.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
I became a professional life coach by accident after working for nonprofit organizations. I’ve always wanted to serve others, so nonprofit work was a pretty good fit. At work one day, a respected colleague of mine turned to me and said, “You would make a great life coach because you’re so resourceful and compassionate.” This conversation changed my life because it sent me on a trajectory of really making a difference for others. Upon graduation from my professional coach training, I immediately started coaching in prisons and facilities where “returning citizens” live after leaving prison. This fulfilled me in a way I never imagined. Coaching has become the best fit for me so far in terms of what my career does for me and others.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
When my son was three years old, I had a conversation with my husband about whether I should return to work full-time. He said, “Why don’t you start your own company?” My first thought when he said that was, “I want to start a coach training school that does it the holistic way.” Then he said, “I don’t think you’re ever going to work for anyone else ever again.” I liked the sound of that! That was 11 years ago and I’ve never looked back – or worked for anyone else.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
When I was becoming “successful” in other people’s minds, they started coming out of the woodwork asking to work for me or with me. Some of them were angry when I said that my business wasn’t quite ready for that. I wasn’t expecting that. My coping mechanism for this was to not take things personally. This is easier said than done but can really help when others are critical of you.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
Personally, the global pandemic halted my international travel and allowed me to spend lots of time working in my home office enjoying the beautiful backyard view I had of birds, animals and trees. I enjoyed this pause and contemplated quite a bit about my life and future. Professionally, my business experienced a boon because people really reconsidered their careers. Many of them decided to become professional coaches. We switched over to virtual-only training and onboarded a lot of new international students.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
One of my most proud moments in life was last year (2022) when a film that I co-executive produced received an Emmy nomination in the USA! It’s a film about Indigenous women on a Native American reservation who are protecting their clean water rights. The documentary is called, “End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock.“
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I would like to see more kindness in action. So many of us truly care for others and the planet, but sometimes we don’t know exactly how to help. I would like to see more volunteer and paid opportunities for people, including professional coaches, to offer their time and energy for positive impact. I would like to see more accessibility and affordability for caring people to become professional life coaches, wellness coaches and business coaches who can then provide affordable and accessible services to all. Examples of this are income-sensitive pricing and financial sliding scales.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
The most important thing I’ve learned so far in life is that love is the only thing that really matters. I saw a quote once from Seane Corn stating, “Ignore the story, see the soul.” I have lived by this motto because it helps me see others as fellow spiritual beings instead of the histories and backgrounds. I can live my life soul-to-soul and heart-to-heart.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Women make incredible leaders because they tend to see the whole over the parts. They are naturally holistic in their point of view. They make sure to take care of all parts, not just self-serving ones. Women have a long way to go before being “equal” in terms of representation, but it’s encouraging to see so many doing well. I look forward to a world where this is balanced and opportunities abound for those who identify as women.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Come up with solutions that don’t yet exist. If you have an idea and no one is yet doing it, please do it because the world needs it. Follow your heart and your gut, not necessarily your head. Reach out to people who can mentor you. Listen to your inner knowing. It will never steer you wrong!