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Interview with Deborah Koehler

Today, the spotlight is on Deborah Koehler, CEO and Founder of SEHBO Pvt. Ltd. (Sustainable Environmental Himalayan Business Opportunities). Choosing to challenge herself against all odds, Deborah established her own business to support small to medium size companies in Nepal.  SEHBO provides assistance with marketing, finance, and production process improvements.  In addition, SEHBO makes its own herbal body care products and produces garments using natural fibers and herbal dyes.  SEHBO’s mission is to find international buyers for the quality products it promotes so that there is job creation for economic development in Nepal.
These interviews are meant to teach you as well as give you a glimpse of some very accomplished people. The second part of the interview is presented tomorrow. What are some of the ways that you can use the information.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Deborah Koehler:  I am in the prime of my life, putting all my life experiences together to do the impossible.  Living in Kathmandu for 3.5 years and running my own business that provides an income generated in internationals sales into the hands of the people that labor to produce the products.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Deborah Koehler:  Engaged with virtual clients, pacing myself, and enjoying the beauty in which I live.  Looking across the valley at Monasteries and watching parrots fly through the trees.
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Deborah Koehler:  I have natural energy that has always been with me.  Awareness of self of what gives and takes away my energy, choosing not to stay stuck.
If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Deborah Koehler:  I would have believed in myself more.
What’s the most important business (or other) discovery you’ve made in the past year?
Deborah Koehler:  I am good at whatever I set my mind to do.
What’s one of the biggest advances in your industry over the past five years?
Deborah Koehler:  Of course the movement of natural and organic products.  Nepal is ideally suited to deliver wonderful products that are non-chemical, utilize wise water usage and zero carbon footprint – all the new buzzwords. My business works to support new business opportunities in these areas.
What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
Deborah Koehler:  Local corruption, unskilled staff, and lack of testing facilities.
  1. Local corruption: I face it without a Nepali present.  Usually corrupted officials are unwilling to ask for bribes directly to foreigners.
  2. Unskilled staff: I teach in a college, train my own business staff, and offer suggestions where I can.
  3. Testing facilities: I find existing documents and then talk to different labs and see if they can create a similar testing program or request that the testing be done in the clients home country.
Describe a major business (or other) challenge you had and how you resolved it.
Deborah Koehler:  Not knowing what to do.  Knowing is a big part of western culture, knowing the answer and being smart is something, as a women, that gave me promotability.  However after leaving my husband and moving to Nepal, I did not know what it was that I should be doing.  I was needing to refine my “self” on so many different levels.  I do believe that my biggest business challenge was how to form my very diverse life into a life that I loved living.
What lessons did you learn in the process?
Deborah Koehler:
  1. Each day is interesting,
  2. Being present to each situation, being it familiar or unfamiliar brings about change that brings up new learning.
Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Deborah Koehler:  I have had many big breaks and there were many people that went out of their way to give me opportunities.  I have never pretended to be more than I am, only that I am. Those that were in the position to help, helped and I have never forgotten them, and when I am in their city I make sure to stop and thank them for the great gifts they gave me.
Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Deborah Koehler:  Failure has not been part of my life.  In 1978 I got off the plane in Denver, Colorado with $40 in my pocket.  I lived on the streets and learned that I survived with nothing. I learned I was resourceful and that I did not need to stay in bad situations, or situations that I outgrew – it gave me faith that things worked out.  Failure for me was being rejected for something that I thought I should have, but what I learned was, I was not ready for it yet.  Everything has a time and place and if you really want something it will come when you are ready.
What has been your biggest disappointment in your life – and what are you doing to prevent its re-occurrence?
Deborah Koehler:  That intimacy eluded me for a long time.
What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Deborah Koehler:  To leave my marriage. I was married to a wonderful man but in spite of all I had, I was drawn to test myself in new directions.
What are three events that helped to shape your life?
Deborah Koehler:
  1. Being part of a cult
  2. Going to MIT
  3. Living in Japan
How did mentors influence your life?
Deborah Koehler:  They made all the difference in the world. They believed in me when I doubted myself.
What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Deborah Koehler:  You know what you need to do within yourself, trust yourself and move toward where you are pulled.
As an Invisible Mentor, what advice would you like to give to readers?
Deborah Koehler:  Seek information from those that you trust and then ask your heart what you believe or want.
Which resources (books, movies, training etc.) did your mentors recommend to you?
Deborah Koehler:  Best was Diana Krall music, a suggestion by Ben Cannon who died of cancer in 2006.
What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
Deborah Koehler:  Paying attention to where I spent my brain time.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in your field?
Deborah Koehler:  I don’t have a field – I am a generator of new opportunities and I think that this “field” is not possible until you have experience.  So my advice would be, do as many interesting things as you can in life and they will add up to something you never imagined possible.
Which aspects of this interview can you apply to your situation? What do you have to add to the conversation? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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