In January 2015, Connecticut entrepreneur and visionary Lori Theriault asked herself what she wanted to be doing for the rest of her life. Later that year, she launched WORK IT! to help others answer that same question.

MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price first connected with Lori in 2018 (read CT Entrepreneur Provides Career and Life Coaching for Students). Since then, Lori has enhanced her business and formed more collaborations.

NAN PRICE: Tell us a little about your business evolution.

LORI THERIAULT: When we met, everything was rumbling. I was networking with a lot of people, which eventually became an opportunity for me to link students with mentors. As I networked and met all these fantastic entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and general professionals, I was aligning students with likeminded people who could open the doors for them to employment. A lot of people have been gaining employment because of the WORK IT! program.

NAN: How has your business adapted to the COVID-19 landscape?

LORI: Fast forward to COVID-19 and the doors are shut. Being home and unable to get out and network, except through Zoom, was definitely a challenge the first four to six months. I felt so confined. I felt like the freedom was lost.

As an entrepreneur and visionary, you can’t lose your freedom. Visionaries need to fly.

I’ve tested more than 2,000 students since I first started, and only 10% of the student base actually test as visionaries. When you look at the whole population of the world, is that true? Is only 10% of the world actually creating things for the future? I’m on a quest to find out.

I’ve continued to do the sessions, 75% in person and 25% remote. Due to COVID-19, I’ve been able to grow my remote sessions not only Connecticut, but throughout the country, all ages. When we first met, I was focusing on ages 10 to 21, but that has grown.

One thing COVID-19 has given me is the opportunity to work with a lot more adults, because many became confused as to what their profession should be. What does it look like beyond COVID-19?

I worked with a lot of teachers and nurses, people who wanted to transition out of those professions and those who actually wanted to go into those risk-taking or Zoom remote learning fields. So, I had a lot more adult engagement, which I think has helped get me through this pandemic.

NAN: You’ve also formed some collaborations.

LORI: Yes. I always believe in what I call “the power of two.” I definitely get more energy working with somebody, especially likeminded people. I began a collaboration with Karen Thomas of Karen Thomas Etiquette (pictured right), who works primarily with college students. I introduced her to the high school level last year through the United Way program. She enjoyed that and the students really enjoyed her.

Now, we’re collaborating to continue to work with the youth and help give them etiquette training—both business etiquette and life skills. Students don’t really learn those skills in middle school or high school or even at home sometimes. We’re trying to fill in that void with Karen’s etiquette training and my personality training to teach people how to work with different personalities in your world—and everybody’s world is different and every personality is different. You are as unique as your thumbprint.

NAN: As a visionary, what are your future goals?

LORI: My brain kind of lives five years ahead of where we are today. I envision one day franchising WORK IT! I want to grow my motivational speaking engagements to larger groups, too.

I also eventually want to find a niche because, with every business, you tend to find your market. I’ve always said I work with kids and adults ages 10 to 70. When I first started my business, I didn’t think I was going to work with people more than 22 years old. Now I realize that I need to work not only from the ground up, but from the top down.

NAN: How so?

LORI: I’ve been working to help people identify their legacy. I think that’s where I’m going with my business—helping people realize why they were born. Because you may be in a certain career field, but that may have nothing to do with your legacy.

The idea is to help people live their legacy sooner rather than later. Why wait until your retirement to live your legacy? Live it when you’re in your 20s. Who cares, have fun! And, if you can get paid for it, all the better.

NAN: Who’s your target?

LORI: It’s every age, believe it or not. I work with a lot of people in their 60s who are close to retirement. They’re ready to retire from the path they were getting paid to do, but there’s still a void there. They’re trying to figure out their purpose. I do similar work with younger people who are trying to find their paths.

NAN: What’s the biggest takeaway you’ve learned so far in your entrepreneurial journey?

LORI: From an entrepreneur standpoint, the world is going to throw obstacles at you–whether it’s a COVID-19 situation or anything else. To survive, you have to have thick skin and a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C at all times. Because in America, studies show that about 80% of first-year businesses will fail. And, once they hit the second year, another 80% will fail.

I’ve been in business for almost six years and I can say, I feel like I’m over the hump. Each year my business has grown. COVID-19 definitely has given me a different kind of opportunity, mainly with people trying to transition out of jobs that they’ve done for the last 20 years into thinking more deeply about what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Some may be at a halfway point when it’s time to regroup. I’m here to help you regroup.

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WORK IT! Founder Lori Theriault and Lori with students (photos courtesy Sassy Mouth Photography)
Lori Theriault and Karen Thomas of Karen Thomas Etiquette pose for a selfie at a West Hartford Coworking #MakeItInCT event.