‘We help them become storytellers’

Mar 25, 2024 | Article, Newsletter

Alyce Blum would like to help you learn how to share personal stories in professional settings.

Her own story goes back to a 16-year-old junior at Denver East High School who studied abroad in Guayaquil, Ecuador for six months.

“I was so young, and I didn’t speak the language, so I had no choice but to listen all the time,” Blum says. “So that’s what I did for six months. My host family would introduce me as ‘shy,’ but really, I just didn’t know how to speak Spanish.”

Fast forward a couple of decades and Blum has now founded two businesses—a networking coaching business and Articulated Intelligence, a multi-faceted business that describes itself as a “leadership development firm focused on enriching networking, presentation, and storytelling skills to build relationships, promote ideas, pitch products and services, and make human interaction more interesting and memorable.”

Alyce BlumBlum’s professional journey has been far from a straight line and included some unpredictable and even accidental experiences. But where some people might have seen obstacles, she saw learning opportunities, demonstrating that sometimes you have to learn what you don’t want to do before you can know what you do want to do professionally.

When she tells her story, she connects her success today to six months of being a “shy” listener in Ecuador.

“If you are a thoughtful, active listener, you will go far in networking and relationships,” she says. “Most people think you need to be a big talker. Not true. So much of what I learned at age 16 resonates today.”

‘Have you ever considered becoming a coach?’

When Blum graduated from CU Boulder in 2006, she took her degree in international relations and headed to what many might consider a dream job—working for a Washington, D.C. lobbying and law firm. Three years later, the main lesson she had learned was that she did not want to go to law school.

She returned to Denver and landed a job with the Canadian Consulate working on international trade, an experience she calls “amazing.”

“It was high-level networking on a business level,” she says. “I was helping Canadian companies figure out how to thrive in the U.S. market.”

The job was terrific, but the potential for upward mobility was very limited. Blum left and took a temporary job working with a friend at a middle school. There, she learned that she did not want to work with people who are experiencing trauma. But at this point, she was starting to feel professionally frustrated.

“I had been so fortunate with an excellent education and great jobs, but I felt lost,” she says.

Blum decided to work with a therapist who asked her, “Have you ever considered becoming a coach?” And she said, “What, like a basketball coach?”

Twelve years ago, the idea of professional coaching was less mainstream than it is today. But after much consideration, Blum enrolled in a one-year accredited program to become a certified professional coach under the International Coaching Federation.

During that year, she knew she needed a job to pay for rent and was open to something new as her previous “big girl” jobs had only left her feeling lost and self-conscious, so she took a position at a Lululemon store. When people she knew came into the store, they were surprised to find her working retail, and many didn’t hide their disbelief that “someone this smart would be folding yoga pants for a living.” But she knew something they didn’t know.

“Lululemon is a company that makes it a priority to help employees explore their goals and values,” she says. “This was pivotal and transformational for me. I had had all these high-paying “big girl” jobs, but this was the first job that aligned with what I really wanted to do.”

In 2013, at the end of the coaching program, Blum hung out her shingle and waited. And waited. And discovered that businesses do not start themselves.

You’ve heard of a ROI, but have you heard of a RON?

At that point in her career, it was easier for Blum to say what she was not than what she was. She was not a therapist, not a counselor, not a life coach.

“It was horrible,” she recalls. “I had never coached anyone, and I had never run a business. To try both of those at the same time—well, I don’t recommend that to people unless they want to do a lot of crying.”

A professional colleague encouraged her to establish a niche and become a “networking coach,” someone who teaches people how to network. Blum googled “networking coach,” came up with no results, and saw an opening in the market.

She set up a networking coaching meetup group, created a curriculum, did a lot of free public speaking, and started to build a reputation, especially among law firms where lawyers who were on the path to partnership would need to learn how to effectively network to build a book of business. For companies that were familiar with the term ROI, she introduced a new term—RON—Return on Networking.

In addition to coaching executives and high-achieving professionals, Blum began to speak at conferences and retreats and discovered that the stage was a place where she could share her tools with the masses and help thousands learn how to realize a RON.

‘We help them become storytellers’

After running her own business for seven years, Blum met her current business partner, Keith Bailey, in 2017 and found they had similar values and compatible content. Together, they formed Articulated Intelligence, a company that created and trademarked a story-telling experience, The W1W Storytelling Methodology, which helps people use personal stories in professional settings so they have more impact.

“Being able to communicate effectively, that is how to develop leadership,” Blum says. “Does the CEO know how to report to the board? Does the C-Suite know how to connect beyond data and facts to build relationships and trust? Most do not.”

Articulated Intelligence supports people in verbal communications—whether pitching investors, speaking on panels, or delivering keynote addresses.

“We want the audience to feel connected to the speaker and to their message and ideally take action in some way,” Blum says. “When most people speak, they default to data and facts. We help them become storytellers, which, in simple terms, helps them speak like humans.”

Blum still meets doubters. At a social gathering, a man found out about her professional networking coaching—and laughed in her face. “Do you really think people are going to pay you to do that?” he said. “Good luck.”

In fact, Blum works with Fortune 500 companies. More than 90% of her clients are referral-based. But she says the most impactful work she has been doing recently has been with a Chabad that covers three colleges in Pennsylvania. The Rabbi had the idea to ask students who identify as Jewish to create a presentation called “How do you Jew?”

“It’s such a privilege to share our storytelling tools and public speaking mechanics with them to help them hone their brilliant ideas,” she says. “I can see them become more confident and assured that it is okay to be Jewish and proudly share their stories, even on college campuses in 2024, a year where antisemitism is at an all-time high.”

And what would 16-year-old Alyce have to say about the career she has developed?

Blum has an answer. “I think she would say, ‘That sounds great. I don’t know how you are going to do it, but take it one step at a time, and you’ll get there.’”

And she did.