Purdue grad coaches CEOs and celebrities via her corporate training enterprise

Written by: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Chelsea Hayes

Chelsea Hayes, CEO of The Coaching Factory(Photo provided)

As a first-year student in Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS), Chelsea Hayes never imagined that she’d become the CEO of a company. All she knew was she wanted to help people.

Initially, Hayes considered pursuing a degree in dietetics but soon realized dietetics wasn’t the right path for her. She switched to a double major in public health promotion, which was housed in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, and public relations in the College of Liberal Arts.

Hayes is now the CEO of The Coaching Factory in Los Angeles, which offers corporate training and development focused on leadership, management and inclusion as well as one-on-one coaching to CEOs and celebrities. Hayes’ company helps clients such as PepsiCo, General Mills, Eli Lilly and more.

“I’m originally from the Silicon Valley, and sometimes, entrepreneurship is painted like you have to be in a garage with a sweatshirt on, and that’s what a real entrepreneur looks like,” Hayes said. “The truth of the matter is entrepreneurship looks a lot of different ways.”

Hayes noted that her experiences at Purdue helped her really understand leadership. This was especially true within the extracurricular organizations she participated in, such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which sparked her interest in global leadership and understanding why people follow who they follow in organizations — a question she carried with her to graduate school at Northwestern University.

“Purdue was a really formative place for me,” Hayes said. “I bleed black and gold.”

The coursework from Hayes’ classes also contributed to her success. Hayes noted that the public health classes she took in Purdue HHS offered a strong foundation for understanding data and being able to tell a story around it — a skill she uses often in her career today.

“The focus on data never stops,” Hayes said. “We’re constantly reviewing data with clients and asking these two questions: What story does this data tell? Are we proud of that story? Then, we get to work, building training experiences for employees around their answers.”

Prior to The Coaching Factory, Hayes was the head of human resources at the Los Angeles Sparks WNBA team and prior to that, had worked directly for the chief diversity officer at GE. Hayes was later approached by a sponsor who encouraged her to start her own company, so she began to pursue a firm of her own.

Hayes leads a custom Board of Directors Advance for the Chicago Association of Realtors.

Hayes leads a custom Board of Directors Advance for the Chicago Association of Realtors.(Photo provided)

Hayes was referred to her first client, the Los Angeles Police Department, and built her business one client at a time, meticulously focusing on each account and ensuring each client was happy with the outcome. From there, she let the work of her business speak for itself, without any cold marketing.

“If there are 200 people in an audience, all 200 of those people have someone they care about,” Hayes said. “Then, if they tell one person they had a phenomenal experience, you have 400 walking billboards for your business. I really thought of it that way, and I’ve been blessed.”

In her company, Hayes leads interactive experiences with companies that range from an hour to an entire day, and she said her favorite parts of her job come out of these sessions. Whether it’s someone recounting that they spoke to their father for the first time in 15 years based on what they learned in an inclusion experience, a team leader not shaking anymore when they speak after a management experience, or an individual coming out as transgender during a company retreat, Hayes said she has seen countless breakthroughs where lives change for the better.

“At The Coaching Factory, we truly believe that practical steps, gentleness and encouragement changes people and therefore the world.” Hayes said.

Hayes said her best advice to students is to start strong, find something they care about and get involved, and have fun.

“Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s journey,” Hayes said. “It’s natural to be inspired and look to the success others have experienced, but don’t let that distract you from how individually marvelous you are. No one else in the entire world has your specific combination of gifts. Be kind to people, and always remember that there is no limit to what you will achieve.”