PEOPLE: How Yemi Penn bent her own reality

As well as being an engineer, gym owner and author, Yemi Penn is a business coach and is passionate about helping others become their authentic self.

In this interview, she shares why she is passionate about empowering and supporting others who are focusing on what they ‘should’ do, and how she is setting out to change the stat that one in three people are unhappy with where they are in life. She also shares her views on diversity and inclusion, and how her experiences as a woman of colour have impacted her approach to business today.

  • As well as your engineering business, Penny Consulting, and your F45 gym in London, you also launched W Squared Coaching, a life coaching firm. What compelled you to launch this business? 

Funny story this! Well not really….it was 2017. I was having some sort of personal crisis as I was trying to understand why I couldn’t hold a relationship down. I attended a UPW (Unleash the Power Within) event hosted by Tony Robbins and we were asked the question, “What happens if you do not step into who you really are?”

Out of nowhere, I started crying (might have been the cool aid!). I got really emotional as I started to think about the work Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks did. This completely shifted my perspective as I had been having ‘imposter syndrome’ around being a coach. I truly felt that since I was failing in life according to the standards of life/memo, that there was no way I could guide others as a coach. It turned out this in itself would be the uniqueness in me as a coach as I keep things 100% real.

Having bent my own reality by starting my businesses despite being a single mother, I am dedicated to helping others especially the seeming underdog empower themselves and create a reality they want and deserve.

  • What are the biggest challenges you see your life coaching clients facing in 2020? Why do you think this is the case? 

Identity and purpose – 2020 has pretty much ripped the rug from underneath us and we could be forgiven for thinking we are being punk’d. Especially here in Australia where the fires have raged, the air quality has effected us, COVID19 did its thing and now major Civil unrest around the tragic death of George Floyd and the resurrection of the #blacklivesmatter movement. It’s been and continues to be intense.

Considering we tie our identities to roles we play in our personal and professional lives, a lot of us will be trying to establish new routines, find new jobs, question our relationships and much more. This is likely to open up raw emotions and wounds as we find our governments unable to answer the questions we thought they had.

This is an opportunity to dig deep, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, empowering ourselves as you create a new version of reality.

  • How has being a woman of colour impacted your approach to business and your experiences as an engineering and business consultant?

I wasn’t aware I was a person of colour till I came into my early teens having left Nigeria to the UK in the early 1990’s. Not knowing this would hold me in good stead as my focus was on being the best I could be.

Growing up in the UK would weaken this confident foundation I had as circumstances would make me feel ‘less than’. The imposter syndrome of not being ‘worthy’ or ‘enough’ would make me firstly, never dream big enough and when I did I had to constantly silence the voice that questioned me and my ability.

Within engineering, I have always been fortunate and blessed enough to have amazing allies in men and women, who always made me feel like I belonged or maybe I just didn’t care and my presence alone as a woman of colour made most people intrigued as I was and continue to be a stark minority.

Opening my fitness studio was a bit more difficult as I seemed to be one of many franchisees struggling to secure finances and therefore financed this 97% myself. Now, although my race didn’t come in as the reason why any bank wouldn’t finance me, however my circumstances did, which clearly ties to my financial background or lack thereof.

There is a show called black-ish, created by Kenya Barris, the show is very funny and extremely educational. It highlights the deep running impact of slavery, which has borne about systemic racism in institutions such as banks, schools, corporations, places of the law and many other establishments. As a result it is that much harder for a person – a woman of colour – to access things that would readily be available for a white person. Worldwide statistics show this clearly.

I have however avoided sitting in a sob story as I see myself as brilliant regardless of my race and gender. My hope is that one day, everyone will feel the same, this attitude has held me in good stead with my businesses.

  • In your view, what is the role of ‘diversity and inclusion’ initiatives in addressing racism in the corporate sphere? 

To hold the space for having uncomfortable conversations. One that discusses the following for instance, inviting a diverse group to develop and deliver initiatives around:
– White body privilege
– Bodies of culture

The corporate world has the ethical responsibility and position to show how a truly diverse workforce can excel at purpose and profits. It requires deep work from a professional and personal development perspective.

  • What are some simple actions business leaders can take to self-assess whether their business is both diverse and inclusive? 
  1. Examine their blindspots – Establish what they don’t know and what they don’t know they don’t know
  2. Invest and embed personal development & performance coaches in the business
  3. Create physical and virtual safe spaces for those uncomfortable yet necessary conversations
  4. Business Leaders to say yes to D&I initiatives unless they can prove a valid case for why it should be a no
  5. Model a business that has implemented D&I

About the expert

Born in the UK, early childhood in Nigeria, a stint in Okinawa Japan and now living in Sydney, Australia, Yemi can be described as a citizen of the world! She is an Engineer by profession, an Entrepreneur by Passion and a Transformation Mindset Coach by mission; Yemi Penn is dedicated to guiding others in unlocking their untapped potential. An introvert at heart having only recently found her ‘voice’, she is making up for lost time! Having authored her first book and podcast titled, ‘Did You Get the Memo?’ Yemi has featured in numerous publications in the U.K, Africa and Australia including, MI Business, Women’s Agenda, Smart Company and more; here she shares her stories offering tips on how to be the best, most serving version of oneself. Yemi run’s 3 businesses whilst parenting her two children in Sydney, Australia. One being her Engineering Management consultancy, an F45 Fitness studio in Brixton, London and her Transformation company under her brand of Yemi Penn. With qualifications ranging from project management to neurolinguistic programming, and methods taught to her personally by Jack Canfield and Tony Robbins, Yemi is dedicated to raising the vibration brought about by trauma and engineering powerful people; daring humanity to transmute its pain into power.

Image description: Yemi is sitting with her hands in her lap, turning slightly to face and smile at the camera. Her hair is tied up, she wears earrings and a stripped dress.