The Story Exchange, Shelly Ulaj, Women EmpoweredYour Name: Shelly Ulaj

Business Name: Women Empowered, an online platform to connect and inspire women

Type of Business: Nonprofit

Business Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Twitter   @WELosAngeles

Reason for starting
I founded Women Empowered at a difficult time in my life. After voiceless years of allowing others to dictate my life, I finally had the strength to leave my husband – against the norm of my Albanian culture – and began a fresh start. It was scary and not easy yet the most liberating and empowering decision I made. Women Empowered helped me find my voice and my goal was to help women do the same for themselves. Today, Women Empowered is an established non-profit organization that connects, educates and supports women of all ages and backgrounds, and inspires them to give back to their communities through mentorship, networking and volunteerism. We promote women entrepreneurship and value relationships, friendships, individuality, and freedom.

How do you define success?
Success to me is simple: to love and be loved. Relationships are what make life worth living, whether it’s a romantic relationship or otherwise. “Happiness isn’t real unless it’s shared.” This is one of my favorite quotes from the book, Into the Wild. Everything else falls into place so long as you find what you’re passionate about; are persistent in making it happen; and have a support system.

Biggest Success
My biggest success was starting a new life for myself. The moment I left an unhappy situation was the moment my life truly started. I was independent and felt free to be myself for the first time in my life.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The top challenge I face today is learning how to say no. I want to do it all and help as many people as I can but I am spreading myself too thin. Without self-care and feeling 100% not only will I feel depleted but it will reflect on my organization as well. I am learning to set goals and boundaries without having to miss out on any opportunities.

Who is your most important role model?
Even though I viewed my oldest brother Viktor as an authoriative figure growing up, I have always admired him for his tenacity and willingness to always give to those less fortunate. Whether it was through financial means or advice, he has always been one to help others in any way he possibly can. He has a great work ethic and is very ambitious with his goals. He’s a big thinker, intelligent, kind hearted, and he has inspired me in so many ways. I no longer view him as an authoriative figure but rather as an equal and best friend.