Alexa Carlin became an entrepreneur at the age of 17. Even at her young age, her career as a jewelry designer and blogger was expanding rapidly. But after a life-threatening illness, her life changed. She became a public speaker, sharing her story across the country, and saw the need for women to be able to connect with other female entrepreneurs. That led her to create the Women Empower Expo. Within its first year, it grew to become the largest event for female entrepreneurs and change leaders. This Fairygodboss of the Week is clearly a true inspiration!

Fairygodboss of the Week: Alexa Carlin

Founder and CEO, Women Empower Expo

Boca Raton, Florida

Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?

The experiences we go through in our life help us become who we are and who we are supposed to be. For me, I'm where I am today in my career as a nationally-renowned public speaker, the founder of the Women Empower Expo, and creator of BeAPublicSpeaker.com because of a series of different events that started when I was 17 years old. That's when I started my first business designing jewelry for an L.A.-based fashion company. From there, I went on to create the blog, Hello Perfect, which had a mission to redefine perfection to instill confidence in young women. While growing this blog, a few months before college graduation, my body went into septic shock and I was induced into a medical coma given a 1% chance of living.

This dramatically changed my life, and it was through this experience that I discovered my passion for public speaking. I began sharing my story vulnerably and authentically across the country and on social media. This sparked the inspiration for the Women Empower Expo. While speaking to a number of women's organizations in my local community, I noticed a big disconnect. All of these women were doing amazing things, but no one knew each other; it seemed like everyone just stayed within their own industry or membership community.

I knew that in order to create real change in your own life, business, and community, we need to connect and collaborate. Especially as an entrepreneur, you need to meet people from different industries to help you grow your business into a successful venture, and so I created the Women Empower Expo (WEX) to solve this need. Within its first year it grew to become the largest event for female entrepreneurs and change leaders. Today we host WEX in Washington D.C. and Fort Lauderdale and are looking to expand into multiple cities by 2020.

What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?

After hosting only one Women Empower Expo in 2016 I was named "one of 15 young go-getters to watch" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine and landed the cover spot. This was a big milestone in my business, because it was early recognition to what I was creating and gave me credibility with vendors and big venues we were trying to work with, which is not an easy thing to do as a new player in the industry. The cover spot definitely helped and is something that I refer back to anytime I come across an obstacle or challenge in my business. It reminds me my work is needed!

What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?

My health has been my biggest challenge by far. Six months after my near-death experience, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease due to all the antibiotics that were pumping into my body, and this has been the hardest thing to deal with. There are days I have to cancel all of my meetings because I don't feel well and days when fear takes over my mind before an interview or big speaking gig. It's a chronic illness that I'll have to deal with for the rest of my life.

For many years I allowed it to define me. I kept asking, "Why did this happen to me?" Then one day I was sick and tired of waiting—waiting for my life to change. At that moment, I stopped asking myself, "Why did this happen to me?" and instead started asking myself, "Why did this happen for me?" That's when I began sharing my story about what I was currently going through, which then helped my career skyrocket. I was being authentic and real, showing people that even through the illness and struggles, I'm still chasing after my dreams, and you can, too. You must not wait for your life to change; you must change your own life.

Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?

Bethenny Frankel is someone I would love to work with and definitely the epitome of a Fairygodboss! I think her resilience and work ethic is something very admirable. Even through the obstacles she's been through, she continued to persevere and managed to build a very successful empire. She always believed in herself, and I think that's the reason she's been so successful.

What do you do when you're not working?

Most of the time when i'm not working I go on walks and play with my toy poodle, Nala. She brings me so much joy and is a great reminder for me to step away from the computer and get outside! I also travel a lot and try to spend as much time as possible with my family. I actually just got back from an awesome spring break hiking trip through Big Bend National Park with my mom and sister!

If you could have dinner with one famous person—dead or alive—who would it be?

Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx! I love Sara, because she not only is a self-made woman who still owns 100% of her company, but if you follow her on social media you can see how genuine and real she is. She's an authentic business leader and a woman that I think we can all get behind. I love how at one moment she's driving through the carpool in her pajamas lip syncing, and the next moment she's speaking at a top women-in-business event!

Lightning Round:

What is your karaoke song?

"Wannabe" by the Spice Girls!

What is your favorite movie?

Hmm...It's hard to choose just one! Let's go with Almost Famous.

What book would you bring with you on a desert island?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?

Apple for sure! If I won the lottery, I'd buy my mom and dad a house close to where I live.

What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?

Start sharing your story! Here's why: There will always be people out there doing what you are doing. You can offer your services or a different version of your product, but there is no one with your story. Your authenticity is your point of differentiation. So many women forget this, and they let the "competition" stop them from truly going after their dreams.

When you add in your personal story of why you started your business, what inspired you, and truly what has helped you become, you, that's when you'll begin to stand out from the crowd. I built my entire business off of public speaking, and that's why I just launched my speaker training program called, "Be A Public Speaker©" to teach entrepreneurs and leaders how to grow and scale their business or career through public speaking. It's a skill that can be learned, and with this skill the possibilities for success are endless.

Why do you love where you work?

I work from everywhere, and it's amazing! Right now, I'm answering this interview sitting on a plane traveling from Lake Tahoe to Florida. I'm very grateful to be able to work from anywhere in the world.

Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.