Interview conducted by Chanèle McFarlane
Photography by Nikki Jae

Live your dreams, be your best self…today, it’s pretty much impossible for us to scroll our social feeds without seeing inspirational mantras like these. Because, let’s be honest - sharing insta-worthy quotes has become something we don’t really think twice about.  

But, what happens when inspirational mantras become more than just another cute Instagram post? For Monique Bryan, there’s simply no other choice.

After a surprising triple positive breast cancer diagnosis, Monique promised herself that she would live her life fully, encouraging women to live their dreams while also prioritizing their health. She launched an Instagram account (@surpriseitscancer) to document her journey and became an advocate for breast cancer awareness at events and in the media.

In fact, she was recently featured in top business magazine Entrepreneur alongside Sophia Amoruso (yes, you read that correctly - THE Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal and #girlboss fame) to share her experience of attending the inaugural Girlboss Rally in Los Angeles, just a few weeks after her diagnosis.

Monique was declared cancer-free in August 2017 and she continues to prove that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Through her authentic and infectious personality, she’s built an engaged online community of women and provides consulting to those looking to package and sell their genius. She continues to lead and moderate discussions on personal branding and body positivity across the city and in our opinion, she’s one of the best damn ambassadors for making lemonade when life hands you lemons we’ve ever seen. As she proudly states, breast cancer picked the wrong chic!

Here’s Monique on uncovering her true purpose, the importance of niching down your offerings and how the support of mentors is critical, both personally and professionally:

Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade? 

I’m going to make a very ignorant statement right now. I thought only old people, genetically predisposed people, smokers, obese people, diabetic people, or alcoholics got cancer.
I am none of those things and I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer a week after my 36th birthday. I had just got married 6 months prior and I was happy. Actually, I was the happiest I had ever been, I think. I had just left a start-up and was making plans to launch my own business for the 2nd time. But then my life changed in an instant. Whatever plans I had for myself had to be put on hold and my health was the number one thing I had to focus on. I wasn’t sure what the future would bring, but I knew that if I was given a second chance to live full out, I would not waste any time. And that’s what I did. Over the next 9 months of treatment, I spoke out whenever I could, on stages, on panels, on social media, encouraging women to live their dreams now. To put themselves and their health first, because they were the most important resource they had. I found my purpose and my passion from my cancer diagnosis and have built a business helping women package and sell their gifts so they can share their message with the world, like I did.

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After that first year, how did you scale your business and continue to grow?

After the first year I really had to re-evaluate what I loved most about what I did, and which clients I liked working with the most, and put all my efforts behind that. I let go of the offerings that didn’t serve me anymore and really niched down, so the message of who I was helping became crystal clear. I believe you have to try a bunch of different things before you can decide what your thing is, but if you try and do too much you will drive yourself crazy and serve no one well.

“I let go of the offerings that didn’t serve me anymore and really niched down, so the message of who I was helping became crystal clear.”   

How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?

All risks! LOL! After my diagnosis playing it safe isn’t even in my vocabulary. Taking calculated risks in your business is the name of the game when you are an entrepreneur. I am not talking about being reckless, you have to know what you are hoping to achieve. You have to assess the risk based on where you are today. But I always ask myself, “Will I regret not doing this one day?” If the answer is yes, I go for it. So far it has increased my credibility and opportunities ten-fold.

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If you could attend a dinner party with 3 women of your choice - past or present - who would they be?

This is such an amazing question…

Maya Angelou

Oprah

Michelle Obama

You're 30 minutes away from walking into an important meeting. What do you do to get yourself in the right headspace?

I listen to a few songs from my favorite playlist, and sing them out loud, that always puts me in a good mood. Then I practice how I will introduce myself. Then I tell myself the things I know my husband would tell me if he were here; “You are awesome, you are more than capable, and they would be lucky to work with you!”

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Do you have a mentor? What role have they played in your success?

I have a ton of online mentors. Like Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Marie Forleo, Oprah. But I also have people in my life who have supported me and hold me big in whatever I am up to. People like my coach, Audrey, who coached me through my entire cancer journey and reminded me every day that this would pass, and then I would go on to do great things and help others. That type of support when going through something so traumatizing and lonely, was vital in my recovery. Then I also have mentors in business, men and women who I can call on when I need help in a particular area of my business. I don’t know where I would be without my coaches and mentors.

What impact are you making through your work?

I have helped hundreds of women gain the courage to go after those dreams and start that business or go after that opportunity in their career they have been too afraid of to pursue based on a program they have taken, or something they heard me say from a stage or through social media. I also speak out actively on breast cancer prevention in the media and through the #FEELITONTHEFIRST social media movement in partnership with metastatic breast cancer survivor, Nalie Agustin.

What is one book and/or podcast that you believe every woman should read or listen to?

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer 

How I Built This – Podcast

What is something on your bucket list?

Learn how to surf in Australia

What's next for you? Can you tell us a little bit about something exciting you're working on?

I just finished a total rebrand, so I am really excited about that launching in November. It’s the perfect platform to launch my online course in early 2019, “How to Unlock the Lucrative world of Personal Branding.”


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