As part of Global Women‘s Meet the Speakers series, London Business Magazine brings you this exclusive interview with Debora Luzi.
One of the keynote guests from the Financial Empowerment event held on International Women’s Day, Debora has become a familiar presence on the Global Women stage, in-person and online. Familiar due to her transient manner of speaking and the curious manner in which she holds her audience, akin to that of a warm embrace. In short, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d met her before – such is her conversant nature.
It’s always interesting to get an insight into the background of our speakers and what led them on the path towards this type of public role. Could you paint a picture for our readers about your time growing up in Italy and your early career?
Growing up in Italy was not always easy. My mum and dad struggled with money a lot, and for as long as I can remember, there were always conflicts. I always felt like the white sheep, having to reinstall the peace and keep everyone calm.
Writing in my diary became a form of escape to me. I could dream and create an imaginary world and imaginary situations for myself in my diaries. I always felt different. I had this desire to run away and travel the world from a very young age and to write a book about my adventures.
I did end up leaving Italy at the age of 18. My dad wanted to find me a job at a local bank, but I knew this just wasn’t what I wanted for myself. I’d have preferred to study and become a teacher, but my parents could not send me to university. So I decided to come to London as an au-pair and learn English.
Life was tough as I felt really lonely and learning the language was harder than I expected. However, after a few years, London became my base for a series of world adventures. I did any possible job – tour guide, waitressing, jewellry-maker, salsa teacher – and in between, I travelled to more than 55 countries.
Eventually, I settled in London, started photography and took up a receptionist role. That set me on the path to becoming the Events and Marketing Manager of one of the most prestigious restaurants in London. After a severe accident to one of my twins, I decided to leave the corporate world and start my own business, offering coaching and healing services.
“Life was tough as I felt really lonely”
One thing about your life that stood out for me was your exploration of voice and writing – of the spoken and written word – and how you received intense pushback with regards to how you utilised both. Some choose music, dance, theatre etc to explore their creativity. What convinced you that writing/speaking was the art for you?
I have always loved writing since a young age. My journal was my best friend, my trusted friend to whom I could say anything. But somehow, my writing was often dismissed. My Italian literature teacher thought that it was undecipherable and too imaginative. When my book about my travels was stolen from my backpack (at the time my manuscript was handwritten), it felt like the final confirmation that writing was not for me.
Years later, when I started my own business, I realised that I had to leave my fear behind and begin writing again. I had no money to pay a copywriter to promote my services. I had to do it myself. So I began to show up online with motivating and inspiring content, sharing my stories and thoughts. To my surprise, I started to get a lot of praise for my content!
People were messaging me, saying that my words gave them the strength, and they were looking forward to reading my posts because it gave them hope and joy. Those posts started to bring clients to my business. At the same time, I also had a lot of negative ones highlighting spelling or grammar mistakes. It was hard to keep believing in myself, but the positive feedback was far greater than the negative.
It felt like I had an audience, so I had to get better at writing. While searching online for writing courses, I heard a voice coming from above that told me: “Debora, you are an amazing writer; open an academy and start teaching other entrepreneurs how to find their writing voice, become more confident online and sell their services through powerful, life-changing content”. And so I did. I opened my own thriving Writing Academy which now has members all over the world.
“The world needs your flavours, your flaws, your gifts”
I’m curious about how your initial writings were perceived, especially in a way that reveals the subjective nature of the industry. What would you say to women – particularly women from marginalised backgrounds – who would like to put pen to paper but are struggling to find an outlet that accepts them for who they really are?
What a great question. My writing journey was not easy. I struggled at first to write content. I was scared to show who I truly am. I was comparing myself to all the other successful entrepreneurs who seemed to write in such a professional way. I struggled to share my true colours, to add colour, passion, fun and depth to my writing as I thought I had to sound like everyone else who was successful.
When I started, my content was so different. It did not show who I indeed was. Day by day, I began to own my voice a bit more and to write for fun. I began to be the opinionated person I am. And to my surprise, this brought even more followers.
This is something I always say to my students, “Do not adapt your voice to your audience; the right audience will find you”. Writing with a voice that does not belong to you is more challenging. Write as if you would write to a diary or a friend. Be yourself. We do not need another polished, cookie-cutter copy. We need your version and your voice, the world needs your flavours, your flaws, your gifts, just as they are. Write as if no one is watching. Someone out there is waiting for your words. It could be their last hope.
A quick glance at the current literary scene suggests that we are living in quite an epochal moment for the written word, with an emphasis on fiction works that are breaking down barriers and taboos. Are there any names or titles that come to mind, books you recommend etc? Also, do you have any plans to focus on fiction content?
Yes, I think the world is awakening to a more authentic, honest and free form of writing. There has never been a better time like now to speak our truth and tell our stories the way they are. We are so privileged to have more freedom of expression and more means to express this freedom, compared to our mothers and grandmothers.
Most of the books I read are about self-development. However, a particular book I love is The Dark Side of the Light Chaser by Debbie Ford. This book has opened my eyes to so many things, especially about how humans behave in a certain way and why we cannot blame others as everything we blame and hate about others is also in us.
About writing fiction, why not? I am very creative and imaginative so I might write a fiction book about this powerful heroine. She lived exhilarating adventures to find her true voice finally. My children have started writing a few fiction books, so we might publish theirs before mine.
“Writing is a perfect way to get to your soul”
You call business “a spiritual journey”. Spiritual isn’t a word that easily jumps to mind with business. We tend to see it as materialistic, driven by numbers and even ruthless. With your literary background in mind, how did you pivot towards entrepreneurship?
I think spirituality is everywhere, and many do not even realise it. Being spiritual is about connecting to your inner self, finding your path and your voice and connecting to a higher force, the universe or God – whatever you believe in. So many entrepreneurs and celebrities are now taking the spiritual path and openly talking about it. I believe the world needs to reconnect more to spirituality as humans feel disconnected from themselves, their hearts, and their desires.
It was hard to talk about being spiritual and being a business owner. I felt shy at first. I felt as if people would not take me seriously. But again, I decided to stay true to myself and fully come out of the closet. I now talk about getting clients and increasing your income through spiritual practices combined with my writing skills. I even created a powerful meditation to help my students connect to their inner voices by activating their chakra energy.
The best way to get clients is not only about strategies but also about how well you can nurture and expand your energy. And the only way to acheive this is to look within and heal your soul. Writing is a perfect way to get to your and your clients’ soul.
You’re now resident in London. How is life in the city for you? What’s your typical week like, and are there any places in London that you recommend for those seeking creative inspiration and a place to tune out?
I love London. It is such a colourful and vibrant city. I feel so free here. I grew up in a small village where people would judge you for the way you dress, the way you talk and look. Like my mum said once, “In London, I feel I can wear a red shoe and a green one without being stared at”.
I have three boys, so I work only until 3 pm. After that, I become a football mum. As my boys play football almost every day, you can always find me at a football pitch, bearing the cold winter months! Weekends are family time. We often go to the cinema or do a family activity, after the football match ends on Saturday.
One of my favourite places in London is South Bank. I love water so being close to the river makes me feel happy and relaxed. There’s always something happening there and a lot of great street performers.
Debora Luzi is a published author, content strategist and well-versed public speaker. She is also the founder of the Writing Academy for Entrepreneurs.