Carmen Sederino

Carmen Sederino helps Leaders and Entrepreneurs like you light up from the inside to create the impact you want. What does that mean? It means that often you can have great ideas, big visions, and important messages to convey but you just don’t have the skill, the confidence or both to resonate with your audience when presenting to groups of people – your people, the board, your clients, your industry. Have you ever experienced that?  

It’s been said that her approachable, warm manner and strength-based approach, helps build people’s skills and confidence to a point where they’re not only able to become a highly effective presenter – they might actually start enjoying it too! 

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

I grew up in a beach town in Melbourne, Australia.  Although a very shy child I developed a love for acting and joined a local Theatre Company at the age of 8.  This passion continued all through primary school and secondary school and eventually led me to study formally at Monash University, completing a Bachelor of Performing Arts with Honours.

I was lucky to have strong role models in my parents and was always encouraged to become whomever I wanted to.  Doing well in school was important to me and I would study hard to achieve high marks.  Other than Theatre I did love playing netball which kept me fit and healthy, walking along the beach with our labrador dog and hanging out with my close friends.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

After finishing my degree in Performing Arts I was invited to work full time for a company that I had been working at part time to help get myself through university.  I originally declined the offer explaining that I needed to keep my days free in case my agent was able to book me in for an audition (for a movie, tv series, ad or theatre show).  My boss at the time did a deal with me and said I could go on any audition I was offered and work full time around that.  So I took the job!  That ended up being an 18 year career where I moved up within the company first into a State role and then a National role, followed by a multi-national role.  This experience allowed me to learn all about running a successful business.  From Sales to Marketing, Operations to HR, Training and of course leading teams of people I was exposed to it all and learnt so many invaluable skills and lessons.  I’m so grateful for this part of my career for without this experience my own small business would not be as successful as it is today.

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!”

I had worked with many smart people in my time who just couldn’t ‘sell’ their ideas to others and therefore were not considered to be ‘leadership material’. I’ve hired staff who were not initially ‘seen’ by the business as leaders because they didn’t naturally communicate with confidence and inspire others to follow. And then of course there were those industry conferences where some of the speakers had bucket loads of confidence although unfortunately, they seemed to be the only person in the room enjoying their presentation…I knew I wanted to help shine a light on those who really were excellent, really did have great ideas, really would be exceptional leaders, entrepreneurs, if only they could speak with impact and have people listen. I truly believe this is a skill you can learn and develop if you want to.  After 18 plus years at the large company I worked for I was ready for a new challenge and Illuminated Story was born.

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?

This entrepreneurial journey has been a huge rollercoaster ride!  It has been exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time – and I would not change it for the world.

There have been many challenges.  I believe the biggest for many entrepreneurs is that you need to (at least initially) be all things. I was in the Marketing team, the Sales team, the Delivery team and the Operations/Analytics/Finance team.  I now have some help but compared to the large business I was a part of I still do the majority of work myself.  So prioritising time and continuously assessing and being clear on where you should spend your time is crucial.  Understanding that you will need to spend a lot of time driving Marketing and Sales for your business so that you have the clients to serve is a big reality check for many entrepreneurs including myself.  I do enjoy variety though which may be one of the reasons Illuminated Story has worked.  In terms of coping mechanisms – having many mentors/coaches to talk to has been very important for me.  You learn that ultimately you still need to make up your own mind in the end but having varying opinions from people who have done what you want to do in some way can be invaluable.  Other than that, for me, walking and keeping fit (I do 3 workouts with a trainer per week) helps me stay mentally healthy as well.  Reading many books and keeping focused on the end goal are my other recommendations for coping with challenging times.

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?

I will always remember the day our Prime Minister announced that we would be going into a lockdown.  My business was only 18 months old and completely relied on being in person with clients at the time.  I sat on the couch watching the television and just cried.  I had no idea how I was going to keep my business alive.   I considered selling my car, and started thinking about what type of part time job I could apply for that would help pay the bills while we were shut down.  Of course at that time I had no idea that in Melbourne, Australia we were going to go through one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world spanning over the next 2 years.  

Even though I do hope we never need to repeat that time again, like many challenging times great things were achieved.  I managed to write and film (in my house initially) a full online learning program for my business.  Built a new website.  I turned the front room of my house that was a bedroom into a studio and invested in equipment that meant I could serve my clients highly effectively in a virtual setting.  This completely changed my business in that I could work with clients not only anywhere in Australia with ease, I could also offer my services to other countries in the world.  Now that we are back open I can service clients both in person and in this online virtual capacity and the blended approach works exceptionally well.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

My business is now just 5 years old, so I am celebrating the fact it continues to grow and thrive when many small businesses don’t survive past 5 years.  The future is looking exciting and I can’t wait to help many more clients achieve their speaking goals.

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 continue to see us challenge the status quo.  Ensure that all people no matter what sex or race are encouraged to follow their dreams and apply for the career they want.  Or start the business they want.  I’d like to see that we continue to encourage both men and women to be involved in parenting so that if they choose both the mother and father can have the family they desire while not compromising on the career they would like.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

Keep trying.  Keep working for what you want.  Don’t let small setbacks cause you to give up because a new opportunity may be just around the corner.  Be kind.  Assume that people want to do good – even when it may not appear that way on the surface.  You never know what’s going on underneath.  Take responsibility for yourself and your own actions.  Remember that it’s great to have mentors, friends, supporters – but no one is going to do it for you.  You are in control of your own destiny and thinking about doing something is not going to get you there.  You have to take action (even when you’re way out of your comfort zone).

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?

I think it’s fantastic!  I am so glad I live in this era and am not sure how I would have survived in the past when women weren’t allowed to have a career.  I know there are many countries not as fortunate as mine and my hope is that we continue to help all women all over the world be given the opportunity to have the career they want.  Women make exceptional leaders and should be considered for a seat at the table just as much as a man should be.  I believe that when you have a good mix of both men and women leading, you get the best results.

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?

Be kind and encouraging to yourself (something I continue to work on), while pushing yourself at the same time.  You can most likely do far more than you think you can.  Just keep challenging yourself that little bit more and you’ll be amazed when you look back at what you’ve been able to achieve.  It’s not always big, it’s not always exciting.  In fact it seems to be the small things you do every day, every week that add up over time and cause your big goal to come to life. Just keep believing and taking action.  You can be anything you want to be – if you’re passionate enough about your goal, and disciplined enough to keep showing up and taking action each day, you will get there.