Komal Minhas has lived a lifetime in just 5 years.
In the last half-decade, she premiered a documentary at the Obama White House, was named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 list, interviewed Michelle Obama in front of 8,000 people, and survived a cancer diagnosis at 26.
We caught up with Komal to dive into it all – including how she built her dream business along the way.
You’ve had an incredible journey over the last 5 years that all started with the documentary Dream, Girl. Tell us about the process of producing that film and premiering it at the Obama White House.
Producing Dream, Girl and being part of building the movement around the film was such an immense privilege! My co-founder, Erin Bagwell, created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film with a simple goal: to amplify the stories and voices of women-identifying entrepreneurs. That call to action resonated with thousands and, within 30 days, she had crowdfunded over $100,000 on the platform. In the two years that followed, we worked with Oscar-nominated executive producers, had tens of thousands watch the film and be inspired, and shared the stories of five powerful women on screen (most of whom were BIPOC). It was powerful to be a part of the wave and movement that brought women entrepreneurs to the forefront and to be acknowledged by Oprah for our work. It was lightning in a bottle, and I am so grateful for the impact we made through storytelling.
You battled skin cancer and a neurological illness all at the age of 26. What was the greatest lesson you learned from those experiences?
The greatest lesson I learned through surviving these illnesses is that life is precious. As we were building the Dream, Girl movement, I was simultaneously diagnosed with and recovered from cancer. I had the highest highs of my life and career at the time and the lowest of lows. That juxtaposition brought so much clarity to my life’s purpose. It also showed me that overwork and obsession with productivity and success is extremely detrimental to our personal well-being. That period of time and my subsequent recoveries led me to the work I do now as a resilience educator. I learned what it takes to truly be well in our bodies, mind, and spirit and I want others to learn the same before they get sick or hit burnout.
Explain to our readers what you mean by “resilience educator”.
As a resilience educator, I teach others how they can become more resilient through sharing research-backed approaches, interviews with thought leaders, experts, and those we admire most, and my own lived experiences. After recovering from my illnesses and facing gaslighting in the workplace, I realized that the life I’ve lived and my stories of survival are meant to be shared. I train others through digital programs and retreats about the foundations of resilience building to help build a generation of connected, resilient leaders.
What lightbulb moments made you realize your professional and personal mission?
Last year I was invited to interview three of Canada’s former female First Ministers: Kathleen Wynne (former Premier of Ontario), Alison Redford (former Premier of Alberta), and Catherine Callbeck (former Premier of P.E.I). It was a powerful dialogue exploring the various facets of their time in office and the impacts on their personal lives and well-being. When I got off stage, the feedback from the audience, the organizers, and my colleagues was immense. I was working on another start-up at the time, and it was that moment that made me realize I needed to shut down the business and go all-in with interviewing. It was a pivotal moment in my career. A few months later I interviewed Michelle Obama on her Canadian stadium tour in front of 8.000 people.
Of all the women you’ve interviewed, who has impacted you the most and why?
My interview with Michelle Obama changed my life. I had recently gone all-in with interviewing and had just launched my podcast and talk show, Lessons Learned, the month before the interview. There aren’t many people in the world who have shared an hour of time with the former First Lady, but when we took the stage together we laughed, cried, and shared so much together. She discussed her experiences with grief and loss and how she faced the relentless racism she and her family experienced in the White House. I learned so much from her that day, which was also a validation of what I am capable of. That interview happened after 10 months of relentless work and determination on my end and the pride I witnessed in the eyes of my parents that day in that stadium will stay with me forever!
Tell us about being featured on Oprah’s Super Soul 100 list (eeek)!
Being featured on Oprah’s SuperSoul100 was a dream come true. She’s someone I admire so deeply and who has inspired my career in many ways. Her warmth, grace, and generosity of spirit is immense. I will remember that day at OWN studios so vividly. I met so many folks I admire and I will forever be grateful for that career milestone!
What has been your favourite episode of the Lessons Learned podcast so far?
The show is an ongoing resource for others to learn about their own resilience and to hear the stories of others so they can be further inspired in their own potential and the possibility of their own futures! My favourite episode so far was the one I filmed with my husband about our journey as an interracial couple. My family was not accepting of our relationship for the first four years we were together and it was a long and hard journey for us to bring our families together. In that episode, we share so much of our hearts and the response was so immense! It’s a story of the triumph and power of love and how who we choose as our partner in life can truly make us so much more resilient.
You just hosted a digital retreat called Your Best Year! Tell us more about it.
2020 has been an intense, wild, unpredictable year. What the research around grit and resilience tells us that, in times of uncertainty and overwhelm, what is most effective in helping us come through is focusing on what we can control. Your Best Year Yet is a virtual year planning retreat and accountability community focused on helping you do just that. For two days (December 5th and 6th) we dove into our attendees’ goals and dreams for 2021 when it comes to work, wellness, and impact. Each attendee walked away with a tangible action plan for their immediate next steps in life and with a plan for 2021. On top of our weekend together, we’ll also be having quarterly check-in workshops in 2021 to check-in on our goals and pivot accordingly. This has been a program I’ve been dreaming of bringing to life for a long time and I am beyond ecstatic that it has finally come to fruition!
If you could send one message that all women around the world would hear, what would it be?
That you truly are “powerful beyond measure”. This quote from Nelson Mandela and Marianne Williamson has been a guiding light for me in my life. We are capable of so much. I never want you to forget that.
Want to connect with Komal? Follow her on Instagram and don’t be afraid to slide into her DMs. She loves to chat with her followers! Learn more about Your Best Year here and how you can work with Komal to make 2021, well, your best year yet.