Elisabeth Villiger Toufexis
Change your mindset and see problems as opportunities
By Fatima Gorezi
Elisabeth Villiger Toufexis is a motivational speaker, Master Life Coach, NLP Practitioner, Hypnotist, a Reconnective Healing Practitioner and author based in Cyprus. She coaches individuals and teams to become more successful by building on their natural strengths. Elisabeth is passionate about supporting her clients to use obstacles as stepping stones and brings out the best in them. She feels that her mission is to empower people and to help them understand what makes them unique, what their natural strengths are, and how they can invest in them. She loves motivating young people in particular, who have so much more knowledge in the digital world whereas she can show them how the mind works.
Can you tell us about your childhood and upbringing?
I found out very early in life that if we want to achieve something, we have to take action and not wait for someone else to do it for us. Life doesn’t happen to us, we make it happen. I had a bit of a tough beginning. My mother was 16 years old when she gave birth to me and wanted to give me up for adoption. My grandfather insisted to take me home and I grew up with my grandparents, but unfortunately, when I was 10 years old, my grandfather died. I felt a lot of insecurity and shame and spent many years feeling quite lost and worthless than others but was determined to achieve something in my life. Despite all the obstacles I started dreaming of traveling the world. I wanted to leave the place I was born in and go somewhere where nobody knew me. Apart from learning French and English at school, I took Spanish lessons and prepared myself for the world. I successfully completed a three years vocational business school, and then there was nothing keeping me anymore. I moved to Geneva to improve my French and as soon as I was old enough to be accepted, I started working for a Swiss tour operator as a tour guide.
How do you remember your first steps in business?
As I mentioned earlier about my childhood and upbringing, I didn’t really have anyone guiding me or advising me about what to do with my life. I started working very early, I cleared tables at a self-service ski lodge on the weekends and I cleaned hotel rooms in the summer. When I was 16, I had saved enough money to attend a language course in England. That was my first investment I made in myself which I had earned myself. During the 11 years as a tour guide, I developed many entrepreneurial skills. Even though I was employed by a tour operator, I was more or less on my own with a tour group and a schedule, having lots of flexibility to offer extra optional excursions, meals, activities etc. It was a great opportunity to add even more value to the trips I accompanied and increase client’s satisfaction with an extra income as a positive side effect.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
I admire people who lead by example, people who walk their talk and are willing to listen to suggestions and admit mistakes, although I don’t like the word mistakes; I prefer to call them lessons which help us learn and grow. Obstacles are opportunities where we understand that we cannot control our luck, but we can control how we want to react to it. That’s where the power is, knowing that we always have a choice when we take full responsibility for whatever we do. I admire people who share their knowledge and know that before we receive, we have to invest.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
When my children were small, I started importing high quality wooden toys from Germany to Cyprus. I had two shops: one in Limassol and one in Nicosia. I wanted to introduce quality instead of quantity, because people here like big plastic stuff made in China which come in big boxes. It was a great lesson because I realised that the majority of people here were not ready for it. I had a small clientele but wasn’t patient enough to pursue it. I wasn’t passionate enough about it, so I closed one shop and sold the other one, as I had found out what I didn’t want it. This experience helped me grow into understanding what I really wanted. Eventually, aged at nearly 50, I started training in Personal Development and within a short time and lots of enthusiasm managed to build up a good clientele, write a blog, a book, etc. I am now doing what I am really passionate about, and when you are passionate, it never feels like work.
Can you tell us more about your business?
I trained as a Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Hypnotist and even certified as a Master Coach. Somehow, I wanted to be able to have access to more people worldwide, and so I wrote a book together with my friend Sarah Jane Linley called “The Soul Kit”, which I am now using as a base for life-changing video courses. I love motivating young people, especially those who have so much more knowledge than me in the digital world whereas I can show them how the mind works. It’s a very powerful combination in today’s world.
What has been the most effective marketing initiative or program you have used to promote your business?
I am my own best marketing tool. I invest in opportunities to go and talk and motivate people to understand how much more power they have than they think they do. I am a Rotarian and the President of my Club this year, and I am connected to Rotarians all over the world via social media who are interested in what I do. I believe in networking. My business as an author and Motivational Speaker is fairly new and I always look for new opportunities to get speaking engagements because I believe the world needs more positivity. The world is basically good, but we tend to concentrate on the bad news. Unfortunately, positivity doesn’t sell as well as drama and scandals.
I use social media to market myself and my products. I make a motivational post every day to brighten people’s day.
What life and business lessons have you learnt from your experiences?
I have travelled to over 100 countries in my life and my experience from learning about other cultures and peoples is that we are all the same. Even though we may look different and speak different languages, we have the same needs, wishes and dreams, we all want to feel safe, we want to bring up our children in a safe environment, we want to have opportunities to grow and we want to be happy. We all smile in the same language, and if we want to communicate, we can. I also learned that if we always talk, we only hear what we already know whereas when we listen, we are exposed to something new and believe me, we can learn something from every person we meet.
How is the situation for women in Cyprus? Do women start their own businesses or stay mainly in corporates?
We don’t have so many young female entrepreneurs in Cyprus, even though the number Is growing. Many young people from Cyprus go to study abroad and often stay in the country where they studied because they feel that they have more opportunities. Cyprus is a small market and the number of female board members is 4.4% compared to the EU average of 13.7%.
Do you have a favourite quote regarding business/entrepreneurship that you would like to share with the readers?
I am a huge fan of Tony Robbins, and I attended a one-day seminar in 1989 in Newport California when I was a tour guide in the US shortly after he had published “Unlimited Power.” He comes from humble beginnings and my favourite quote by him is: “Your past does not equal your future.” It worked for me…