Women in Business Q&A: Leila Lewis, Founder, Be Inspired PR

As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis' career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry's go-to for public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

Leila created Be Inspired® PR in 2007, the first full-service public relations agency dedicated to the wedding and special event industry. Passionate, focused and results-driven, Leila works closely with wedding and lifestyle brands - educating clients on marketing strategies, rebuilding corporate image, securing top-level media placements and helping them book new business.

Leila comes from a big family and is the oldest of five, many of which can be seen alongside and partnering with the Be Inspired® PR team! When she's not working, Leila can be found scouting gelato shops in Italy, dressed in cowboy boots, sipping on a glass of Demetria Pinot Noir or spending time on the beach with her husband - Tony, toddler - Londyn, baby - Graham, and golden retriever - Marlo.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Being the oldest of 5 kids taught me so much about sharing and helping others. I moved away for college which taught me independence pretty early on. When I first decided to start my business I was told it would never work. I've learned to stand on my own two feet with out a lot of help. Today I like to help others get to where they want to be in their businesses.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Be Inspired?
I learned so much in my career prior to starting Be Inspired PR. Mostly- what not to do. I saw bosses treat other's poorly and work people to the bone until they had nothing left in them. Dishonestly and disloyalty was rampant and I knew that I would never be this type of business owner or manager. Integrity is what we have at the end of the day. Being good to people is the foundation of my business.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Be Inspired?
I was told so many times that my business idea wouldn't work and that no one would hire us. So I did it anyway!

I heard a lot the word "no" and had countless un-returned emails when I first started out. These challenges made me that much stronger in my quest to empower small businesses and get them into the spotlight.

What advice can you offer to those who want to start their own business?
You get what you give! So take less and give more and you will be rewarded far beyond what you expected.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Every day is different. What saves me each day is having good help. Between my nanny, husband, and staff I rely on them to help me get through since I can't do it alone! I try to be 100% present wherever I am. If I'm at the office I try to be fully present there and get through as much as I can. If I'm at home, I try to make it as much about family time as I possibly can. I'm certainly not perfect at balancing both but I try everyday!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
As a mom coming back from maternity leave after having my seoncd baby I find that women are still put at a disadvantage when they want to have kids and be able to continue to work. I took a maternity leave but as a small business owner, it was a challenge to see that while people say that they respect I was taking, it didn't feel that way. I think there needs to be more acceptance of babies coming to work with moms and attending meetings and work events. I never truly understood this need until I went through it.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been fortunate to have amazing parents who were my first leaders in life and wonderful mentors along my career path too. It has always been a passion of mine to teach and be a role model to others. I hope I can continue to give back to others since I have been given so much.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Since I became a mom 2 years ago and just added another little one to my family 2 months ago, I find that I look up to women in business who are also moms!

What do you want Be Inspired to accomplish in the next year?
This year I'm looking to speak at more conferences to grow our brand awareness and educate others as well continue to scale our business by expanding the number of businesses we work with across the country and internationally!