By Megan Seckman
|Colene Elridge started her own consulting firm to help employees thrive in the workplace.|
Colene Elridge is probably the coolest person you’ve never met. After our short hour together I left feeling calm, inspired, and reinvigorated. Her contagious smile, overt positivity, and sensible philosophy on life had me wondering where I’d gone wrong — and that was just from an interview over hot tea — no coaching involved.
Colene, 34, has dedicated her life to improving women’s lives, inspiring effective leadership, and creating a healthy workplace environment. She coaches women (hence the name “Coach Colene”) on how to live their best lives and consults with companies all over the world on how to create more inclusivity, communicate more effectively, and cultivate abundance in the workplace. Her consulting firm, “Be More Consulting,” incorporates a bee in the logo because bees’ bodies are technically too heavy to be able to fly, but somehow they overcome the odds and defy all expectations.
Like the bee, Colene has defied society’s expectations. “I grew up hearing statistics about what my life was supposed to be as a black female from a single-parent home, but my mother was a progressive that let us watch Murphy Brown in an era where Dan Quayle was making divisive statements about raising children without fathers.”
After Colene’s father’s death, her mother moved the family from Pasadena to San Antonio to, wait for it… Cynthiana, Kentucky.
“My mother thought Cynthiana was a suburb of Lexington…we ended up being one of the only black families in the whole community. It was definitely culture shock. But, growing up in this rural environment was great for me — the community helped raise me — and I learned to navigate different worlds very well. I learned to communicate with diverse audiences and break down stereotypes. For instance, Fancy is still my go-to karaoke song! People don’t expect that!”
This experience of navigating diverse cultures inspired Colene to pursue a degree in anthropology. At the time, however, the college she attended — Transylvania University — didn’t offer this major. So, Colene petitioned the board and spearheaded the first anthropology program there. This leadership earned Colene recognition across campus, and she later became the first African American to be crowned Miss Transylvania.
“Many of the people I went to school with had never talked with a black person before. I ended up making friends with boys from the Kappa Alpha fraternity — a fraternity founded by Robert E. Lee.”
After graduation, Colene applied her anthropology background (and knack for inclusive communication) to the field of human relations. “I have an eye for culture. I look at companies through the lens of the culture they are creating. We spend far too much time at work to not be happy there, so I examine the workplace for common threads and evaluate if the environment is hurting or harming the employees. I aim to increase loyalty, longevity, and productivity.”
Colene is a self-proclaimed people person and is fascinated by people’s stories. “I meet people and instantly think we’re best friends. I’ve met people on the plane that I still stay in touch with,” Colene says.
What Colene is Reading:
Colene reads a lot of self-help books to guide her clients:
- Finding Your North Star by Martha Beck
- Abundance Now by Lisa Nichols
- Scandal is the one show Colene watches religiously.
- This is Us has Colene “trapped in an emotional web every Tuesday.” At the time of this interview, the show was on break, and Colene was happy to have an emotional breather.
- Sunday Morning is the greatest show Colene’s mom ever made her watch. “I’ve stopped consuming news because of the negativity, but this news show focuses on positive human interest stories.”
- Colene loves movies and recommends that women go to the movies by themselves as a “personal date.” Most recently she viewed Get Out, which she considered to be a very smart film about racism and stereotypes. Hidden Figures was her favorite this year, but Colene has tried to watch all the films critically nominated in 2016.
- “I’m still obsessed with Hamilton and I sing it everywhere I go.”
- School of Greatness (a podcast by Louis Howes who interviews thought-leaders and entrepreneurs)
- Lively Show (a podcast about creating more intention by Jess Lively, who has documented her life as she’s traveled the world for 10 months)