“I need to make a change.” Haven’t we all had this thought? Maybe we want to change our career path, move to another state, learn a new skill, or update our brand to expand our impact. The choices we make today can radically affect our trajectory and impact us for years to come. Is this scary? Absolutely! But it is also an exciting part of our journey.
Gorgeous photographer, dynamic accountant, and incredible business owner Ilene Squires LaCourt joins Elena Armijo on this episode of In a Manner of Speaking. With her steadfast spirit, hustler mentality, and innovative heart, Ilene is carving out a space for female entrepreneurs, creatives, and freelancers to learn, express themselves, and engage in open conversations about finances, taxes, and growth. In this conversation, Ilene talks about her journey as a multi-hyphenate, shares how she manages two small businesses and being a mom to two young girls, and provides tips for how to remain true to ourselves as we adapt to this ever-changing world.
Hustling from Coast to Coast: Ilene Squires LaCourt’s Journey as a Multi-hyphenate
LA-native Ilene Squires LaCourt has journeyed coast to coast, and back. After graduating college, she moved to New York where she lived for 13 years until she returned to LA with her husband. While she was in New York, she was trained at the International Center of Photography and also became an accountant. She is passionate about capturing non-profits, small businesses, and powerhouse women through photography. Through her accounting business, Squire’s Tax Preparation, she specifically targets women-led small businesses and creates a space for them to speak with another woman about their taxes. Alongside these impactful roles, she also teaches photography and digital media to middle and high school students in the inner city.
Certainly, Ilene is a true multi-hyphenate. “I think I've been an entrepreneur since as far as I can remember,” she admits. “I mean, I was like slaying friendship bracelets in third grade, you know? And that's just part of who I am.” She’s channeled that fierce, entrepreneurial spirit to embolden her clients to reach their goals. Her desire is to listen to their needs and provide a safe space for their self-expression in digital media and finances.
When it comes to her financial business, Ilene is driven to empower and equip her clients, so they know all about their services, their finances, and their taxes. As she says, you must have financial stability to pursue your passions. For freelancers, in particular, it can be difficult to juggle multiple clients, 1099s, and various streams of income. However, Ilene hopes to demystify and destigmatize conversations about finances among females, so that everyone can learn from each other and build strategies to grow their businesses.
“There's this weird proprietary [thing when it comes to] caring for your business where you don't talk about your financials. But I love talking about them because if someone's making more than me, I want to know how they're doing it,” Ilene says. “I think that that's just the bottom line. You got to think about how to acquire business [and] sustain business.”
It takes a lot of humility, grit, and adaptability to do what Ilene does, especially with two little ones at home. However, her faith in the process is part of what keeps her going. She actively implements and maintains routines, so she can stay grounded for her business, her family, and her life. She is also intentional about ignoring what she terms “the inner 8th-grade girl inside you” who whispers things like:
“You can’t make it as a freelancer.”
“You can’t be a working mom.”
You can make a living as a freelancer and as a working mom, which Ilene has proven time and again. According to her, the trick to succeeding is making tough decisions, creating necessary boundaries, and ensuring that the work you do aligns with your values.
The Disruption: When COVID hit, Ilene had to pivot her business, which was mostly in-person until the shutdown. During this time, she expanded her tax services, so that she could help those who were taking the opportunity to figure out how to be more financially strategic. She and her business partner, who is a CPA, began collaborating with money professionals, including a money coach, a bookkeeper, and a financial advisor. What made these collaborations special is that every single person they partnered with is female. Certainly, Ilene is finding unique ways to empower and equip other women with the financial tools they need to make an impact in the world.
Ultimately, she hopes that the time during the pandemic will usher in something new and beneficial for people of all ages. “Obviously this digital living is the future, right? Like, this is what it is for all of us,” Ilene says. “It doesn't discriminate… I think that in my work, working with inner-city youth, I'm empowering them to learn to use the tools they have to share their ideas [and] their voices.” This forward-thinking is part of what makes her such a powerhouse.
Without a doubt, Ilene is helping women and young people explore possibilities and seize the opportunities before them. According to her, what makes the difference for people in this space is humility, relationships, and intentionality. If we’re not able to learn from others, we can’t expand our impact. If we’re not making connections with people and being mentored, we will not be able to thrive. And if we’re not being intentional about becoming an expert in our niche, we will not maximize the value we can give to the world.
Weekly Coaching Tip
Where do you start if you want to pivot careers? Any pivot in life—whether it’s geographical, relational, or vocational—can be life-changing and scary. If you want to know where to start when you want to pivot careers, there are five key elements you may want to consider and adopt.
- What’s the reason you want to pivot and what will pivoting provide you? You need to determine if the reason you want to change your trajectory is because you’re bored, you’re frustrated with your team or your boss, or you’re genuinely interested in rebuilding and redesigning the next decade of your life. The choices you make today will set the tone for the next 10-15 years of your life.
- What are the skills you already possess that could support this pivot? Sit down, list them on paper, and evaluate them.
- Who do you know that could support you in this pivot? Call mentors, friends, or anyone who could give you insight into the space you hope to occupy. Take them out to coffee and have a conversation about why they love their job and what pitfalls they see.
- Sit with this information for a while. Oftentimes, when you are in “crunch mode,” you feel like you need to make a decision right away. When you feel like bonuses are coming up at the end of the year, you start putting pressure on yourself to make a move, instead of taking the time to process your thoughts.
- Give yourself a deadline to actually make a move. Maybe it’s handing in your resignation, taking that interview, or scheduling with someone to rewrite your resume. Regardless of your action step, choose when you’ll take that step forward.
What pivot have you made in the past and how has it changed your life?
Are you considering pivoting? We’d love to support you in your journey, so send us a note below!
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This podcast was produced by the following amazing team:
John Biethan, President of Imagine Podcasting
Sam De Santo, Creative Director
Rye Taylor, Podcast Design Strategist & Producer
Meg McCarley, Brand Designer & Social Media Manager
Raejan Noh, Content Writer