The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

Do the Work: You can never be afraid to roll up your sleeves and just do what it takes to get the job done. My team is international, so we all work long hours and often at odd times to accommodate each other’s schedules too. I don’t get a ton of down time, but at the end of the day I work hard so I can play hard and am proud of everything I have built.
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a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Alessi.

Deborah Alessi is a Scottish-born business woman and the Founder & CEO of Face Forward International, a non-profit helping survivors of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and other acts of violence by providing pro-bono reconstructive surgeries and emotional therapy. Along with her husband, world-renowned plastic surgeon to the stars Dr. David Alessi, Deborah and her team at Face Forward have provided more than 500 life-changing surgeries, giving patients a renewed sense of empowerment and self-confidence.
In addition to her philanthropic service, Deborah exhibits a robust background in international commerce. Upon earning an advanced degree in business management from Glasgow University, she began her career in the Middle East while working for the Royal Family of Bahrain, advancing rapidly through the ranks to manage the family’s fleet of private aircrafts. Deborah eventually moved to the United States to further her career and has since worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies and private individuals in selecting, purchasing and managing private aircrafts. Now, Deborah is the CEO and Founder of Beverly Hills IV Therapy, as well as Beverly Hills Wellness and Therapy, with locations spanning from California, to the Maldives, to India, Dubai, and others.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

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originally from Glasgow which I think in some way makes me a born fighter. My father passed away when I was very young, so that was a big loss for a wee girl. Being raised by a single mum who struggled on her own, I started working at a young age, and had to learn how to handle a lot of things independently early in life which I believe led me to establishing a very strong work ethic. I knew I had to work hard to get what I wanted in life, so I did just that. When I first left Scotland, I moved to the Middle East, and later to the U.S. working in the private aviation industry for many years. Before meeting my husband, I was working for a high-end concierge medical company, and after we got married I applied the skills I had gained to help my husband grow his medical practice.

As for my career path in non-profit work, I founded Face Forward International to help survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other acts of cruelty. I always say that “Face Forward found me” as one of my first real relationships was an abusive one, and as a survivor I felt it was important to help empower other survivors to move forward and not use what happened as a crutch to hold them back. Though my personal abuse may not have been as physically extreme as some of our patients, it definitely fueled my internal fire and gave me the drive to want to help others. That drive to help people is probably a big reason as to why I started Beverly Hills IV Therapy in the United States, which has now expanded globally as Beverly Hills Wellness and Aesthetics. I feel that everyone deserves to feel beautiful, confident, and comfortable in their own skin. Our external glow should match our internal spirit. We have to nurture our insides physically and emotionally to truly be the best versions of ourselves.
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Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

This may not be the most interesting, but the most challenging story has probably been establishing my brand in areas of the world that are culturally considered to be male dominated. When you start to notice that pattern, as a woman, you get a sense that if you are considered attractive, it can be harder to prove yourself to men in the business world. However, once they have a meeting with you and realize you are not just a pretty face dressed in designer garments and heels, but are instead a strong powerful businesswoman who refuses to take “No” for an answer, they tend to show a different level of respect.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I wish I could characterize a particular mistake I found to be funny, but truthfully I tend to be a perfectionist, so I take the mistakes I’ve made and the reflection upon them very seriously. When things have not necessarily gone as planned or as I had hoped they would, I learned that it is critical to have a plan B, C, and D lined up to redirect the next course of action. For instance, when Covid-19 hit and I was in the midst of expanding my IV business, I didn’t simply throw in the towel, give up, and stop building my relationships and making future plans. I looked for ways to continue pushing forward, and navigating the challenges ahead, like the buffalo do to the oncoming storms.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Working in Private Aviation for the Royal Family of Bahrain and in the private sector really influenced me in a number of ways, and helped me build my business skills immensely. Many of the leaders in that industry became my mentors, giving me sage advice and guidance on elevating myself and my business prowess to the next level. I try to do the same for others as well today. Leading Face Forward motivates me further to help others succeed daily. In my non-profit work, seeing our survivors have overcome some of the most horrific acts of violence, and being able to empower, motivate and inspire them to do great things in life is deeply special to me as a Founder. It is the reason I started the charity, to help survivors thrive, just like my mentors taught me.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

For me personally, I don’t factor in gender, race, religion, politics, or any other perceived limitation as an excuse to being held back from being a Founder, as none of that makes you a better leader than someone else. To be a great Founder, you must be a passionate person with big ideas, dreams, and visions for how to make things better in this world. Admittedly, for a very long time women were not encouraged to strive for “power roles” in the business world, but so were many other people who were classified as minority groups. As a woman and an immigrant, I had to work even harder to establish myself in the U.S. workforce, let alone building a brand in the Middle East and India, areas of the world that are still progressing to recognize women in positions of power. I think we are seeing a continuous positive shift in the world where all those considered to be minorities are being encouraged to step up and embrace their dreams. There has been a lot of progress, but there is still a long way to go. At the end of the day, any Founder must have those big dreams, coupled with the ambition and hunger to pursue them.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

I think it is very important that girls be taught from a very young age to use their voice, that they should be encouraged to strive towards higher education, and that they are also taught to support each other and build each other up. I also believe it is tremendously important to encourage young individuals to travel the world, and learn about different cultures and values. In my own global travels, I find that meeting other women who have a similar background in being well-traveled are extra supportive in offering to help me grow my brand, and are excited to see my success. I have built so many beautiful relationships over the years by expanding my geographical horizons and not staying trapped in the bubble of one city. Traveling is a great form of education, and incredibly empowering.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

I think it is very important that girls be taught from a very young age to use their voice, that they should be encouraged to strive towards higher education, and that they are also taught to support each other and build each other up. I also believe it is tremendously important to encourage young individuals to travel the world, and learn about different cultures and values. In my own global travels, I find that meeting other women who have a similar background in being well-traveled are extra supportive in offering to help me grow my brand, and are excited to see my success. I have built so many beautiful relationships over the years by expanding my geographical horizons and not staying trapped in the bubble of one city. Traveling is a great form of education, and incredibly empowering.