We had the good fortune of connecting with Leah Staley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leah, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
The first art show I hosted had a “flow” theme. To market this event, I started asking artists and friends in outdoor adventure sports what flow meant to them and sharing the responses on the event page. Some people talked about the physical act of moving a brush, playing an instrument or utilizing a piece of gear. One friend, a rad mountain biker, said this, “I find flow in the f*ck ups. Anyone can find a flow state on the good days when everything is feeling right. I love to find it on the days I don’t want to ride, when my lines aren’t good and I’m not into it, then something in me shifts and I start to find the flow.” Over the years, this has stuck with me and presented itself in so many ways. When I feel like I’m really messing up (in life or business), I start to search for the flow and little by little I start to feel it. Once you start to feel the flow, you can lean into it, and feel the rush that comes with riding it. This has totally shifted how I handle bad days, difficult situations or total catastrophes.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a creative person, I think it was inevitable that an artistic career would find me. A senior in High School looking for a better “plan A” than living out of my car and working as a bartender in some ski/raft town once I graduated, I googled “jobs you can travel with” and landed on massage therapist. After five years of full time employment at a resort, I put in my two weeks, left for an immersive yoga teacher training in Costa Rica, and returned an self employed woman, contracted as a massage therapist, yoga instructor and social media manager for a local wellness studio. Those first two years were filled with hard work and harder play as I navigated my ability to turn up the dial on my income by opening my schedule and booking more clients. I would 15 hours days for a week straight and then travel for as many weeks as I could afford. When the money ran out, I would return to a schedule full of clients. I found creativity in my massage practice, yoga flows and also learning how to market my business online.
During my first experience as an independent contractor, I watched the woman who signed my checks make one terrible business decision after the next. It was incredibly frustrating because while it was her business, the way she conducted herself negatively affected my business and income. When she very abruptly closed her business it left a hole in the community. The clients were still in need of services, and I was in need of a space to work, so I thought “screw it, I guess I’m opening a business!” I started my first business with two massage tables and 6 yoga mats, and I started my first brand as a way to separate myself from that business. Out of resourcefulness, the wellness studio grew into an art gallery, music venue and boutique. Starting a brick and mortar out of necessity removed all the scary “what if” barriers, which helped me start my second business as a yoga and adventure retreat leader.
After the initial quarantine in covid, I noticed two things; a lot of newcomers were exploring the wilderness and everyone was really stressed out. I moved my yoga practice from in person to online and shifted my focus toward reaching a larger audience on social media. I utilized my own Instagram platform to promote a mountain lifestyle and build my brand before finalizing my business plans. Without any clear plan other than to post content, share my experiences and follow my gut, I began signing contracts for social media management, content creation and brand ambassadorships. All these little side hustles helped bring in money and also reach new followers and clients. In May 2021 I led my first adventure yoga retreat, helping women connect with each other, experience whitewater rafting, and calm themselves by practicing yoga and meditation out in nature.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Haha I love this question but I haven’t spent time in Colorado since I was 15 when I traveled with my best friend as she raced wildwater and slalom. Instead, I would like to share my process for planning a trip if I was to travel there. First, I buy a Colorado Gazeteer online (this road/trail/topo map shows you free camping, hot springs and is super helpful when you don’t have service). Next, I make some folders labeled Colorado on Instagram, Pinterest and google keep. I start by searching “Colorado adventures” or something general on Pinterest. Typically, tons of blog posts pop up with the best areas to explore and the most iconic views. Once I have a feel of the general areas, I go to Instagram and search off brand hashtags specific to local areas. This helps me find a great spot without tourists. Another great way to find adventures is by searching the state tourism page to find local photography accounts – they are always at cool spots. Once my Pinterest and Instagram folders are filled with adventures, airbnbs, music venues and cute cafes, I list my highlights in google keep and star them on google maps. From there I can plan a route based on how many days I’ll be traveling to hit everything I want without backtracking. Once I’m traveling, I start a “things I learned in Colorado” list in google keep. This is great for jotting down important revelations that you might forget as the trip continues.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m inspired by nature, the change of seasons, the adrenaline rush that follows most of my adventures and the people I met along the way. Most of all, I’m inspired by my dad who started his fourth business at the age of 72. He’s been self employed for over 40 years now, and while our work ethic is vastly different, I respect the things he has taught me; Figure out your means and live within them. Find your passion and figure out how to monetize it. Learn what gets you high without drugs and do that often. Play hard so you can work hard, work hard so you can play hard. If you don’t want to stop, don’t slow down. He’s inspired me in other ways too, like watching him work 80 hours a week and knowing I do not want to do that. He is the reason I felt confident enough to skip college and follow my own path. He was also the support system behind all of my business ventures because if he can do it, anyone can do it, you just need to start.