Devon Brooks is the CEO and founder of Sphere, a user-friendly app serving as a wellbeing and self-improvement tool for online personal and professional coaching experiences. Previously the co-founder of Blo Blow Dry Bar, Devon brings 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur to the table. She is also a single mom who juggled running a business, leading a team and raising two little ones through the pandemic. Today, we sat down with her to chat about her experience and to learn tips and tricks other moms can employ to keep their head above water—and hopefully get a swan dive in here and there. —Vita Daily
Can you tell us a bit about your journey into creating Sphere?
Absolutely, a big driver for me were my personal relationships at the time I decided to launch Sphere. Knowing the importance of having a support system available to us, and seeing that need across some of my closest relationships. I have also been a coach for nine years, I have worked with coaches since I became a business owner at 21—and I was raised by one of the best coaches out there! I am literally a product of coaching. The benefits of coaching have always been clear to me. It’s like having a personal trainer, but instead of seeing more defined muscles and a better butt when you look in the mirror – you see a better leader, a kinder, more present person, a more agile creator and a more mindful contributor to humanity and the planet. There is a reason why the most celebrated people in the world have coaches. Sphere launched late 2019, at the same time as I was navigating the end of my romantic partnership with my kids’ father. A few months after we separated and I was at home alone with my kids—COVID hit the world, and well, life was as hard as it’s ever been. Still, I knew Sphere had to continue to grow. My goal with the project is to demystify and democratize coaching. Many people today don’t quite know the benefits that coaching can have in our day to day life, in how we make decisions, how we perceive ourselves, and how we assign importance and direction to the greatest matters of our lives. So initially, I just wanted to share that with the world. As I looked more into founding my coaching platform, I started seeing strong data from some of the leading institutes in the world. In fact, Harvard had just produced a study on the efficacy of coaching and the World Economic Forum had just updated their 20+yr study on the top skills of leaders for the future. Conflictive Flexibility, Emotional Intelligence and Optimism were getting more air time as the critical traits for those who hoped to thrive in an increasingly uncertain future. Sphere was born at a time of chaos with the hope to bring a net positive impact to the world by supporting the consciousness of the people who call it home.
How is coaching different from therapy? And how do I know if I am a good candidate for coaching?
If therapy is for unpacking the past, then coaching is to actually help you pack for the future. It’s a scientifically validated tool for your proactive growth and development. One of my favorite testimonials from a member of Sphere said simply, “If you have a pulse, you should have a coach.” I agree. It’s just that coaching used to be really exclusive, hard to access, lacking diversity and way too expensive. Sphere has changed that. Now coaching is accessible, seamless, affordable and for everyone. For what you spend on your fancy coffee every day in a month, now you can have your very own coach.
How did the pandemic affect your day to day as a single mom entrepreneur?
How did it not! My entire world was upside down. Much like other small businesses, we faced tremendous financial challenges. We were an early stage start-up reliant on venture capital to bring our idea into fruition. For the first six months of the pandemic every start-up I know was battening down the hatches and focusing on stretching the runway. No one knew how long we were in this for. A huge plus was that Sphere has been remote from the get go, so at least we didn’t have to worry about a brick and mortar office and what the hell to do about rent. Still, we had to tighten our expenses which meant little to no resources for marketing, so revenue was slow to come in and as a leader I really wanted to make sure my team was taken care of. I wanted to ensure that we—Sphere—would emerge in a position to go after our goals and mission. 2020 and 2021 were some of the most collectively stressful years of this generation. People were losing jobs left and right, and I wanted to make sure my people didn’t have to be in that position. So, I made a choice not to receive a salary for well over a year. This allowed Sphere to remain nimble and my team to be taken care of without releasing anyone or rolling back salaries—something I was seeing in every other startup. I believe this was the right decision for the business with the information I had at the time—but of course, this made life extremely difficult for me personally—as I was now a single mom. During this period I had the lowest income I’ve ever had in my adult life, and a start-up to run in just a couple hours a day—because schools were closed, babysitting wasn’t a thing, and I had my kids with me 90 per cent of the time.
How did you survive?
My support system was key in my survival. Thank god I lived in my family home at that moment in time, as I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the help of my parents. There were three adults at home, working full time with two kids at home full time. It was wild. I will say that I think even though it was mega stressful, they were really glad they got to spend time with their grandbabies through the pandemic while so many didn’t. Aside from that, I would say that integration was key. There was no such thing as ‘before’ and ‘after’ work. There was just life. We were all doing our best every day. One thing I found really useful was weaving in physical activity into my working time. I realized that I usually solved my biggest business related challenges while I was sweating and that counts as work. It made a big difference to my physical and mental wellbeing. Mountain biking and running became a business practice. I started to be able to breathe again. My business, team and investors have trails named ‘legalize it’ and ‘dirty beast’ to thank for the good decisions I make. Every time I get on my bike, I re-up my courage. And I build my capacity to be courageous. Baking exercise into my workday created some space and harmony. It helped me find synergy again. My ‘Why?’ (which I like to call my Reason for Being) helped me survive, too. More so than ever before we are seeing people creating passion-led projects and entrepreneurial side hustles that inspire their Why. It’s all driven by the desire to make a difference in the world. To live a meaningful life. My inspiration comes from knowing that with Sphere, we are building something that has a net positive impact on people and the planet. It’s a good use of my most limited resource, time.
What advice would you share with moms who can relate?
- Let go of being the all-knowing, all-seeing one. Remember ‘When a child comes into your life. It is time to re-learn your life. Not teach them your ways.’ —Sadhguru
- Build your courage in nature—find your thing, and bake it into your work day. You solve problems when you sweat, that counts as work.
- Jam with your Coach. Figure out what you can deprioritize.
Vita Dailt readers! Use code Growth2022 to get 50% off your memberships *terms and conditions apply*