How Chelsea Hayes Quit The Corporate World & Used Communication-Savvy To Get The Bag

Workin' Girl

Imagine using all you've learned working a 9 to 5, taking a leap of faith into entrepreneurship, and finding success in working with major corporate clients—all before the age of 30.

This is Chelsea C. Hayes' reality. In 2014, she left corporate life behind to follow her dream of helping companies and everyday professionals use strategic communications to maximize success and sometimes resolve sticky situations.

The 28-year-old California native has been able to leverage her early career experience working in human resources for entities, such as GE and the Los Angeles Sparks, to launch her firm The Coaching Factory LLC, which boasts a client list that includes Eli Lilly, General Mills and NBC. Even Insecure actress Yvonne Orji has raved about her skills and glow up, and Hayes has since expanded her empire into coaching celebrities.

"My background is in corporate HR, so everything I do revolves around people. For such a long time HR was thought of as hiring and firing, but it's much more complex than that. It's very strategic," she said during an xoNecole interview. "HR is really about balancing the needs of an organization with balancing the needs of the incredible people within that organization. It's a really delicate balance and when you're good at it, people tell you. I've worked for some incredible women [in corporate diversity.]"

"I think in that process, I learned that whatever I did in life I wanted to revolve around people at work. That was the foundation."

Chelsea C. Hayes, SPHR CEO & Principal Consultant

Courtesy of Chelsea C. Hayes

Hayes' rep with communications also landed her a feature by The Hollywood Reporter, where she rewrote the infamous Steve Harvey memo that brought backlash to the popular radio and TV host and had everybody from The Breakfast Club to Jimmy Kimmel to CNN weighing in on his harshly-worded, post-show guidelines for staff. Hayes was able to share her nuanced version to better communicate the message without sparking offense or negative publicity.

Don't get it twisted though. Entrepreneurship wasn't always in the plan for her.

Post-college, she had great jobs and made a good living, something all college grads desire in order to cash in on their educational investments. Hayes had earned not one, but two bachelor's degrees, and was fortunate enough to get a headstart in building a pretty impressive resume. She practically stumbled upon launching her own business after getting a chance opportunity to lend a helping hand to a friend who was working on a project with the LAPD. This friend, who knew about her experience in the corporate world, thought her to be perfect for the opportunity. (Talk about the power of a great reputation and good relationships.)

"I thought I would never be an entrepreneur because math and science was really challenging for me," Hayes recalled. "That worked out fine because I had really amazing bosses, and I felt supported everywhere I worked. And then, [I participated in] the LAPD project. It was a really great experience for me. That was my first client—though I didn't know it at the time. Afterward, they were talking about me, and I said, 'Do you think I can use your logo on my website to get other clients?' and they said, 'Absolutely.' So that was how this business was started. Literally every single one of my clients has been word of mouth."

"To be honest, I think word of mouth is the strongest [way to market the] business that you have."

Hayes leads seminars and trainings on HR best practices, leadership, strategic communications and management skills. She also helps celebrities fine-tune their messages and presence to ensure they protect their reputations and don't end up on the wrong side of a scandal or in a PR nightmare.

"I love that it's my job to go into companies and have fun with people. Of course, it is my job to teach them, but people want to have fun. Any entrepreneur is selling an experience," she said. "[Coaching celebrities] one-on-one is fun because every single day is so different … Sometimes it can be as simple as writing an email that they're having a tough time writing, or it's helping them manage their team when someone is not performing correctly and giving them the language to make that happen."

Being a young boss can have its challenges, especially in a male-dominated world of high-earning executives and entertainers. Hayes is no stranger to assumptions about her abilities based on her age, but she likes to combat insecurities and doubts with humility and a commitment to excellence. Hayes keeps a smile and holds on to confidence in her own abilities in order to provide the best services and grow her business.

"You have to be comfortable in your own skin. I'm a woman, I'm black and Chinese, I'm from the Bay. I don't care and all those things add to who I am and they make me more of who I am. My clients respect that and they love that. For me, I approach every single opportunity and every client with a sense that, [yes,] I have this to offer, but I've learned from every one of my clients. They are wicked smart, they have so much going on, and every one inspires me. I think approaching it from that aspect and from that place of gratitude and learning—people can sense that and feel that."

"So when you're young, they'll probably tell you that they're feeling a way about that. It's not personal at all. You have to let your work speak for itself."

In mastering getting out of one's feelings and communicating in a way that is professional yet engaging and effective, Hayes has been able to use her own tricks of the trade to challenge herself and her clients. Building great relationships by knowing the power of emotional intelligence in both written and spoken communication has been a saving grace for Hayes. She offers the following advice for other young women who are seeking to do the same in reaching their business and career goals:

"Be sure about what you're really good at and be sure about where you need growth. Be positive about [those things] every morning when you walk in the door," Hayes advised. "[Also], think bout what you want long-term and don't be afraid to ask for it."

"I work with so many women who are so confident and have literally almost 20 years of work experience and they are struggling asking for what they deserve."

Lastly, Hayes stresses the importance of following the single most important rule most successful women follow: take emotion out of it. "Assume everything is on the record… It's OK to feel emotion— to feel tired, exhausted and frustrated. Those things are OK. If you can, get a team to write [a difficult memo] for you. If you don't have a team [right now], wait for the emotion to pass, give it some time, and then write [the email] again… I learned these things early in my career and they helped me tremendously."

For more of Chelsea, follow her on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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