Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Bonnie Kim, co-founder of Royal Telos, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Royal Telos Coaching is an executive coaching firm that specializes in helping founders and teams scale sustainably in startup spaces. We support startups as well as coaches who want to work specifically in startup spaces. We believe in providing aspiring executive coaches with a high-caliber, comprehensive ICF credentialing process, so they can focus on what matters - creating impact for clients. From its inception, I wanted to make sure our organization impacted two groups of people - those with and without access to networks and learning resources. We have strategically served clients from an array of communities - not just from the VC-backed tech spaces. These include non-profit leaders, church groups, overseas emerging market leaders, and so on. I’ve aimed to build a strategic culture of differences within this organization.

Tell us about yourself

I was admitted to the emergency room in 2015 after having a mental breakdown. When I came home, I started feeling painful bumps forming on one side of my torso, a warning sign that I was developing shingles. For the next two years, anytime I tried to get some “work” done, my chest would tighten, my breaths became shorter, and lying down would be the only solution to soothe the frenetic energy I felt inside. Like most leaders, previous to this experience, I was invincible. I had felt immense pride in being able to work faster, harder and smarter, often getting frustrated when people wouldn’t work as well as I did. I was the founder of a non-profit. I was launching a franchise business. I was juggling so many projects, reminding myself that hard work would pay off. And it did until it didn’t. I didn’t want to live this way anymore. I never wanted to jeopardize my health again. Two years after that incident, a man in his early 20s asked me to coach him. He was encountering some complicated politics at a well-known tech company, and I wasn’t sure what the world of coaching entailed. I had associated coaching with “feel good” soft stuff that wasn’t impactful in any sustainable fashion. But it was through this opportunity I was introduced to the practice of self-compassion, psychological safety, and celebration of diverse strengths. I saw, more than anything, coaching tools were going to help others like myself.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

“Diversity” is a popular word now. But it wasn’t always that way. When I first started, coaching and leadership development activities were rarely seen in minority spaces. As an extroverted Korean-American woman with ADHD in her 30s, working alongside an introverted Black-American woman in her late 50s, we both joked about how out of place we were in popular coaching and learning conferences. From the inception of this company, I wanted to make sure we were always in the space of curiosity and learning, and that meant incorporating all types of people, learning frameworks, socio-economic levels, and so on. This is also the reason why we serve groups on opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum. One of our services focuses on creating bridges through the use of powerful communication and feedback. Our 4-month Partner Communication & Feedback program for founders utilizes a blended Enneagram + CliftonStrengths® approach for creating transformative experiences. It includes include live/virtual workshops, as well as individualized coaching sessions to reinforce learning. The Goals of this program are to reduce miscommunication and misunderstandings and increase trust and connection. As a result, an increase in healthy partnership engagement is to be expected from this program.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Customer acquisition is always going to be difficult, especially in the beginning. But as times change, the type of services must also adjust. There is a cost to making these adjustments.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Interview at least five people in that field. You could save yourself a lot of regrets if the business wasn’t what you thought it would be.
  2. Surround yourself with hard-working business owners. You really do get influenced by people around you. So making sure to have people who have the same drive is important to stay motivated when times get tough.
  3. Learn how to empathize and communicate well. This will set you up for success in managing your team, connecting with your customer, and marketing your products.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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