Deb and I sat down at Healthy Living Market in South Burlington on a misty June morning with a couple of fruity carbonated beverages. We shared a laugh as we simply couldn’t figure out which was our favorite Aqua ViTea kombucha! I’ve known Deb for a few years, but I’d never had the pleasure of spending an hour just learning about Deb’s passion for empowerment and uplifting others through her company Deb Chisholm Empowerment Coach, and how her values and innate desire to help shines through everything she does. It was truly a joyful meeting!
The conversation started casually, and we naturally found ourselves talking about how we stay inspired and committed to our work. Deb is a lifelong learner. She always has “something next” that she’s looking forward to. And her work fuels her! Deb’s been a teacher, a school counselor, and a life coach, and in all of these different manifestations of “work” she’s always been living her values – that each individual person matters and is, in her eyes, “terrific!” – and living her purpose to help each person know and trust their worth and power.
Deb’s approach to empowerment is a combination of education and coaching and she stressed that it’s important that her clients can put this knowledge and the skills they work on together into action. Her clients walk away with tangible steps that lead to life changes.
When did all this start for Deb? She can recall that in early childhood if there were kids on the playground who weren’t included, she would head right on over to them and get them involved! This is a part of her DNA. She also learned a lesson early from her father that sticks with her to this day. One day walking on State Street in Montpelier, there was a somewhat disheveled man sitting along the road with a brown paper bag in his hand. Deb’s father struck up a conversation with this man, but young Deb was embarrassed. Her father noticed. After the conversation concluded, he created a moment to share some wisdom with her, “everyone counts equally.” That stayed with Deb, and you can hear and see her living that truth in everything she does and communicates.
When Deb was a teacher, she allowed her students to co-create the classroom rules but the one that she always insisted they all adhere to was, “everyone counts equally.” Really important conversations and lessons came out of her students discussing what this means and how it would apply to their classroom culture. What one person wore to class, what another person brought for lunch, how someone excelled or did not excel at a topic, was not an indication of their worth, they have worth just by being them and can expect to be treated with equal respect. Sounds like a great model for a community, right?!
When I asked Deb if there were any special people in her life who saw these brilliant qualities in her and encouraged her to cultivate them, she surprised herself when she realized that she had come to this passion and her work mostly on her own. An undergraduate course in Adlerian psychology had a big influence on her. She was not without teachers and people who inspired her. One was Michael Bungay Stanier who created the Coaching for Great Work program (Deb was a Program Leader) and now Michael has built the online platform, The Conspiracy (named this because conspire means to “breathe together”). While engaging with this platform and Michael’s approach, Deb identified her “worthy goal,” to get her empowerment program to as many people as possible so it can splash out into the world even further. Deb’s “something next” now is developing her own platform and tool to share her empowerment coach with people everywhere!
To achieve her next goal, Deb has smartly explored options for partnering with Champlain College to potentially employ recent grads and students to help design her empowerment platform and develop social media content and strategy. She is also looking into procuring grants for this social media strategy. She’s been working with the Small Business Development Center on this phase of growing her business.
Being a business owner means you are the ultimate decision-maker all the time, which is a mixed blessing, she enjoys the flexibility, and sometimes it would be nice to put the weight of decision-making down for a while. Employing new staff will enable Deb to delegate, lighten the load, and create space. Space and boundaries are very important. She’s been learning to not just say “yes,” but to thoughtfully consider her calendar, her needs, and what’s wise. It’s a work in progress because Deb knows, she needs to make time in her life for movement! Swimming, walking, hiking, biking, or cross-country skiing, Deb’s body needs to be in motion for her to thrive, feel well, and give to others the way she wants to.
How has WBON been important to you?
As a women business owner, Deb loves being a member of WBON. She enjoys the connection and encouragement she gets from being a part of this network, it fills her cup. One thing she wants all women business owners, and really all people to know, is,
“Everyone has heart-centered power, that includes YOU. You are powerful. Live being your brilliant self!”
Deb is boldly embodying this belief so that others can learn from her example, and she is a reminder that how your values and your purpose show up in the world may look different over time, but if you’re living your truth and your passion, your work will be a gift to others.
WBON members represent a diversity of industries, perspectives, and experiences. Be inspired by our Member Spotlight posts, an intimate look at one member, written by another WBON member. This month’s Member Spotlight was written by WBON member Christine Badalamenti Smith, Owner of OGGI BE.