For Gabrielle Leonard, success came down to one decision.
That decision took her from being a homeless teenager to becoming an award-winning business coach, entrepreneur and high-end corporate closer. With her new book, “Becoming a CloseHer: The Art of Reinvention that Attracts High End and Corporate Clients,” she shares her inspiring story as well as business strategies for high-end success.
Leonard seemed like a typical student when she started at Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas. She was in the Honor Society, Junior ROTC and the choir, played volleyball and was taking tennis lessons. From the outside, things looked like they were going well, but it was a different story once her mother remarried.
“We had some family issues going on. The home was extremely tense and toxic. It was a really hard situation that ultimately led to me being homeless. I was working four jobs — braiding hair, baby-sitting, dishwashing (and) cashiering at a grocery store — all while in high school, because now I’m on my own and I have to survive and I’m bouncing from couch to couch, even living in an abandoned building in the Bovoni projects at one point.”
Concentrating on survival rather than school, Leonard’s grades ultimately slipped. She was getting into fights and was about to be expelled. Her principal suggested she take a break from high school and finish up her last semester when her life was more settled. She dropped out of school, though she did go back later to earn her high school diploma.
Feeling hopeless and defeated, knowing her life was going off track, Leonard was spiraling down, until she made a life-changing decision.
“One day, I just decided that this is not the life that I want,” she said. “Yes, I’ve had some really traumatic things happen to me, but I’m deciding right now that this is not going to be my future and I’m deciding right now what I want my future to look like. Ever since I made that decision, I did everything in my power to get there, even writing a book about it, ‘Becoming a CloseHer.’ The reason behind ‘Her’ is I had to decide what ‘Her’ looked like. Who is the person I want to be in the next five or 10 years? What does she look like? Where is she going?”
Leonard started working hard to become “Her.” She landed a job with The Ritz-Carlton and got her own apartment.
According to Leonard, she became a marketing executive at Marriott’s Frenchman Reef Resort before being recruited to become a location manager for two Penha fragrance stores in Havensight Mall, increasing their sales drastically. She realized that her hard work was paying off.
Although she found the job interesting, after a time Leonard knew she was “called to do more. I quit and started to figure out who I wanted to be in terms of how I want to show up and play a huge part in this world.”
Leonard launched a purpose coaching business, an offshoot of life coaching. Although she had some clients, few people in the Virgin Islands knew what purpose coaching was. She decided to open up her business to the much larger online community. She quickly saw a huge increase in both business and her income.
Things were going well until hurricanes Irma and Maria hit. She had just started her business online, but Internet service after the storms was spotty at best.
At a previous job with the V.I. Housing Authority, Leonard had experience putting on large community-based events. A friend suggested she should start coaching on how to get corporate sponsorships and put on events. “Literally, we had no running water and no power, but I had my phone, so I got it out and went live for the first time,” Leonard said.
Teaching online, Leonard’s page grew and she started selling classes. That eventually evolved into her current business, Events and Marketing Studio, where she is a corporate strategy coach and speaker, helping clients close high-end private and corporate clients, which she has developed into a six-figure career.
On her birthday, Aug. 24, Leonard’s new book “Becoming a CloseHer” was launched and hit the Amazon international best-seller’s list. She also has an Event Strategy Planner available.
“This isn’t your average book about business. In fact, if you picked this up ready and waiting to write a full business plan, map out a SWOT analysis or create an elaborate pitch, then this may not be the ideal book for you,” she said. “However, if you are ready to challenge what you believe about success, move outside of your comfort zone and create your female-led brand powerhouse and close high-end clients, this book is going to change the trajectory of your business.”
The book, she added “will show you how to make smart decisions that are going to allow you to be successful despite the obstacles in your life and in your business that may have been thrown at you.”
Visit www.gabrielleleonard.com for more information.