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Unleashing Entrepreneurial Rebellion and Growth With Celi Arias

Celi Arias' headshot

Meet Celi Arias, the Founder and CEO of The Grown Ass Business, a program revolutionizing the way CEOs make decisions with data-driven approaches, like the “CEO Control Center” and understanding how to manage mindsets no matter the hurdle.

Celi’s introduction to entrepreneurship began unintentionally at the age of 11 when she discovered her knack for creating unique solutions to problems she needed to solve. Unimpressed with conventional paths, she questioned norms and, at times, found herself in trouble while trying to innovate. However, it was this innate creativity and resilience that has fueled her entrepreneurial spirit. Today, Celi has the opportunity to apply two decades of accrued business experience to rapidly grow her venture. For her, being an entrepreneur isn’t just a choice; it’s a reflection of her rebellious nature and a desire to constantly challenge established systems to create new pathways.

We asked Celi about what she wishes she had known before starting The Grown Ass Business, the achievements she is most proud of to date, and how she would summarize the journey she’s been on.

Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I would say unintentionally, yes. I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, I’ve been building businesses since I was 11 and have always gravitated toward creating a solution to a problem from scratch. When people say, “It has to be done this way,” I have a tendency to ask, “Well, why?” That either got me into a lot of trouble or led to the creation of a new supply chain, a new product, or a new framework. That is, at the core, the nature of an entrepreneur and a creator. Don’t get me wrong though, many of the times where I created a solution, I still got in trouble for changing the way things could be done.

What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting The Grown Ass Business?

When I was in my early 20s with my first fashion line, people would ask me if I loved being my own boss and having my own company. And my answer was always, “If I had any idea how much work it would be, I would have never done it.”  And here I am in my 40s, again running my own company. Now I say, “Hopefully I continue to evolve and grow from my mistakes!”

I grew my current consulting company into a high revenue business in a year because I applied what I’ve learned from my last 20 years in business. Once you know the rules and patterns, the faster you can build future businesses. 

So many entrepreneurs fail the first time around because they’re learning as they go. It’s the nature of entrepreneurship. As they try again in future ventures, they apply what they already know to be true and move faster. I set out to build a high-grossing business fast because I wanted to be sure I could do it, and I wanted to give my clients that reassurance that I have the strategies and skills to share with them. 

With that said, in the past my most important lessons were learning my numbers and understanding product-market fit. This time around, my hardest lesson has been that as CEO, I can no longer lean on the strengths I had as a COO. I was a great COO, but I can’t be both at the same time. I need to be the CEO and be surrounded by great support. I can’t be my own support.

Three people (including Celi Arias) sitting at a table, engrossed in their work on a tablet device.

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Literally, I think I’ve made all the mistakes. But I’d say avoiding my numbers because I believed I was too creative for them and thought I could close my eyes and wish them away; trying to do all the things all at once without laying out a strategy plan; getting into partnerships without clear contracts in place; not sharing the same vision and end goal with partners or even colleagues and team members; making my business mean something about me and my self-worth; and believing I can do it all alone.

What’s the biggest misconception that others have around entrepreneurship?

That it somehow takes one viral post or even one viral moment to create a successful and profitable business. We judge our year one by comparing ourselves to someone’s year 10 and then think there is something wrong with us. I always say, even if you have a lucky moment or a spike in leads or sales, if you don’t have the backend and business to support the spike, you’re not going to magically have a solid and self-sustaining business from one viral moment.  

Have you struggled with self-doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?

I don’t know an entrepreneur who doesn’t struggle with self-doubt. Just because I speak and coach on it does not mean that I am the exception. When self-doubt comes up, my favorite thing to do is use some of the simple practices I’ve learned from my mindset certification. My favorite is Byron Katie’s questioning process: “Is that really true?” 

We often interpret certain circumstances to mean something about us, our value, or our worth and capability. These thoughts are often not based on reality but come from our own skewed perception born from our thoughts, experiences, memories, and stories we now believe to be true of ourselves. For a long time, my story was “I’m not good at numbers.” Therefore, I avoided them. As it turns out, I’m excellent at numbers and especially the math needed within business. I had to rewrite that story to become a better and more successful entrepreneur. 

We all have failures, and we all have hard days. Even the ultra-billionaires we’re putting on pedestals; they have let-downs too. The difference is they don’t let the setbacks stop them from moving toward their bigger vision. So I either use the question process, or I re-read my business vision out loud. Then, I ask myself, “Does this future vision of my business that I’m building still excite me, and do I still believe it to be possible?” If the answer is yes, I keep going.

We often interpret certain circumstances outside of reality—based on our skewed perception born from our thoughts, experiences, memories, and stories we believe to be true of ourselves.

We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?

I sometimes forget that I created my own growth framework that delivers results for small businesses over and over and over again. I forget that my clients are getting results using the framework my brain drew out onto a piece of paper one day. That totally blows my mind. 

Celi Arias in a black suit and white shirt jumps, exuding confidence and vitality.

Have you discovered any underappreciated leadership traits or misconceptions around leadership?

I’ve realized that it’s okay to be the boss. When I was a COO, I wanted to be everyone’s friend and confidant. Now, as the business owner with bills to pay, profits to protect, and growth to create, it’s more important to lead people with confidence toward the goal. Sometimes that means showing up as a boss and not as a friend, which has been a lesson I’ve stumbled and struggled through. I remind myself all the time that honoring the business and what it’s here to do in the world is more important than being liked by everyone. Also, leaders can be wrong, and there’s nothing more beautiful than admitting to your team, clients, or the world when you are.

What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

It’s totally okay to be an entrepreneur, even if it makes those around you worry about you and question you in a way that doesn’t feel supportive. Know your numbers, show them you have a plan, and keep going.

How would you describe the journey you’ve had in a few sentences? Would you do it all over again?

I would do it all over again because I am wired this way. I am a creator. I am not good at playing by the book or following arbitrary rules. I’ve always gotten in trouble for questioning the system, so now I create new systems. “The rebel doesn’t always wear the leather jacket” is something a client of mine said to me once, and I felt like that was truly me: a rebel, in high-fashion business attire.

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