We had the good fortune of connecting with Ria Story and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ria, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I empower women to increase their influence, develop their leadership, and maximize their results. (While I focus my speaking, writing, coaching, and training on women, the same principles apply to men, of course.) This helps the individual, her community, family, work/business, or organization, because when we grow and develop people, they are empowered to become the best version of themselves – and this helps them influence other people more effectively. Leadership is influence – and we all want more influence with the people around us. Think of any time when you were mad or upset and I guarantee you were mad or upset because you wanted to influence the other person in some way and couldn’t. Life gets better when we have more influence because with more influence comes more options and better opportunities. Life is always better when we have more options. Unfortunately, most women (or men either for that matter) have never been taught HOW to increase their influence. I know I wasn’t – I have three management degrees but not ONE SINGLE CLASS ever taught me how to intentionally develop myself and increase my influence. Women influence spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, co-workers, and even their own bosses at times, as well as the overall community. We just want to learn to do it more effectively in positive ways. And, the key to influencing others over time is developing our character, focusing on our own personal growth, and expanding our influence based more on who we are, rather than what we do. Personal/professional development is not a quick, easy task, but rather a lifelong process that begins with accepting the responsibility to develop ourselves. We don’t have to be sick to get better, and when we get better, the world gets better.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My transformation from trafficking victim to TEDx speaker, author, and leadership speaker who has spoken at places like Yale University and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, has been an incredible journey. It’s what drives my passion for empowering other women with the principles I’ve learned about how to be successful, increase influence, develop leadership, and maximize results in life. I’m passionate about the principles I teach because I have lived them and applied them. And, they work. I want every woman to realize she has ability to accomplish dreams, achieve goals, and become the best version of herself. That ability is simply waiting to be tapped into and it starts with personal growth. My success in applying the principles I teach sets me apart. My passion is also what sets me apart – I’m more interested in making a difference than I am in making a dollar. When I decided to become a speaker and author in 2013, I walked out of a very successful career that I had gone to college for TEN YEARS in order to build. Not many people are willing to give up their career, their paycheck, their health insurance, their retirement fund, and sacrifice almost everything they have in order to start a business from scratch helping other people. I didn’t have a network of connections. I didn’t have a website, a budget, or even any books to speak on when I got started. We lost $30,000 the first year and it was incredibly challenging in so many ways. We downsized, sold our house, traded in our cars, and moved to a tiny apartment for a while. There were literally some months my husband and I ate ramen noodles! (We work together in our business, although he focuses on his brand, Blue-Collar Leadership, we were both committed to building our business together with our separate lanes of focus.) But, it’s been worth every struggle and every minute when I see the impact. Today, I’ve written 13 books and I travel all over the U.S. and internationally teaching leadership and personal growth principles. I hear from women, and men too, from all over the world how my story inspires them – and that’s why I do what I do. I believe many women struggle with embracing who they are, what they’ve been through, and how it shaped who they are today. It’s a struggle at times to use adversity in a positive way but growth comes from a positive response to a negative situation. I have heard from thousands of women all over the world how they struggle with first believing in themselves and their self-worth so they can become all they have potential to be. Our biggest threat to success is embracing excuses or what I call, “The victim mindset.” Which is, we must first accept the possibility and the responsibility of changing our world by changing and developing ourselves. And, the moment we blame someone or something else for our lack of success is the moment we guarantee we can’t achieve it. That is why my brand is “Fearfully and Wonderfully Me.” When we embrace our yesterday, own our story, and own our choices today, we can create our tomorrow. It’s the essence of self-leadership and the key to influencing others. I’m most proud about overcoming my own shame about my past. While it’s never easy to share my story, it’s always worth it when someone else realizes that their past doesn’t have to define them. What happens to us may influence us for the rest of our lives, but HOW it influences us is up to us. We can be better or bitter – and our choice will define us.

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?
One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to just put on a good pair of walking shoes and walk around downtown. It’s a great way to get an up-close and personal feel for a city. If you walk around downtown Atlanta, you can see such sites as Centennial Olympic Park, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, but you can also explore off the beaten path. When family or friends visit, here are some other things I like to suggest: 1) A hike up Stone Mountain! Stone Mountain is such a unique geological feature and well worth the hike up to enjoy the view for miles around. 2) A trip to ATL isn’t complete with an elevator ride to the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza to see the view from the revolving observation deck. 3) Our favorite sushi restaurant is Kuroshio on Cobb Parkway, near the new Braves Stadium. Even if you aren’t into sushi, they have a great menu. My favorite is the Hot Wok Shrimp Soup or the Seared Tuna Salad. 4) The Georgia Aquarium! Need I say more about the cool creatures you will see? 5) Ponce City Market is a great place to shop and/or grab a bite to eat.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without my husband, Mack Story. When we met, over 20 years ago, I was living at home with a father who had sexually abused me since I was 12 (7 years of abuse), and who had started trafficking me to men he would met on the internet. And, my mother blamed me for it. Despite the fact that family and friends had noticed signs that something wasn’t right in my situation, no one wanted to get involved or ask any questions. Mack was the first person to confront the situation head on – and he gave me the courage to finally leave home for good. I didn’t have much of anything when I left home. I had no job, no money, no car, and no high school diploma – I had never been to school. I had a duffle bag and a pillow case stuffed with some clothes. And, I had a fierce determination that what happened to me wasn’t going to hold me back in life. After I left home, I didn’t want to talk about my history and my story publicly. I didn’t share it with more than a few friends/family members. I went on to start a job as a waitress making $2.13 an hour (plus a few tips). I worked two jobs for years, earned my GED, and then went to college, moving up in my career and eventually becoming very successful. But, there is no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without Les Brown. I heard Les speak in 2013, and while he was speaking to a room full of people, the words he spoke seemed like they were meant for me. “You have a story to tell,” he said, “and someone needs to hear your story. You and only you can help that person by sharing your story.” I didn’t want to share my story – I’d worked hard to leave it behind. But, I realized in sharing it, I found purpose in life. I don’t share my story so anyone will feel sorry for me. I share my story so everyone can look at me and say, “If she can overcome what she went through, so can I.” What happens to us in life is not as important as who we become because of it. Les mentored me as I started sharing my story from the stage and I’m grateful for the inspiration he provided. I’ve had countless other people whom I have learned from over the years, far too many to list each one here!

Website: https://riastory.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ria.story
Linkedin: https://linkedin.com/in/riastory
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ria_Story
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ria.story
Other: Parler: @RiaStory

Image Credits
Zach Blackburn Allesandra Nicole

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