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Chatham Alumna Emily Cassel


Her Soul’s Work

Emily Cassel ‘13 brings together her background in psychology and her belief in the power of sisterhood to help other women entrepreneurs find their focus.



Emily Cassel didn’t set out to start a business. She came to Chatham intending to pursue an integrated program that would allow her to complete her undergrad degree in three years followed by a two-year master’s in Counseling Psychology. But then a course with Dr. Thomas Hershberger “lit her up” and ultimately changed her life.

That course was Positive Psychology, and it brought together her interest in wellness and spirituality and her philosophy that human beings, given the right tools, can find what allows them to thrive rather than just “getting by” in work and life. She sensed what she was learning about the field would give focus to her future. But first she had to put all the pieces together.

Emily admits that Chatham was not the obvious place for her to land. Many of her friends at home in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, went on to large co-ed schools like Penn State. But she was intrigued by a women’s school environment. As a high schooler, she had traveled to Australia for a Rotary exchange and had stayed with a family who sent their daughters to an all girls’ school. Their remarks about the quality of education and the tight friendships fostered there inspired her to find a place where she could “be surrounded by amazing women.”

Her years at Chatham were jam-packed with enriching experiences. “I was so hungry for information, about everything. I attended every event even if I wasn’t really interested in it,” she remembers. She made a core group of friends and flourished in the feeling of sisterhood on campus.

Emily soon realized that counseling was not her calling. When she graduated after three years, she fell into a job at a publishing company where she had interned in Pittsburgh. At first it was exciting. But as an Account Executive, she felt pressure to meet sales goals and soon realized the work would lead to burn out. She was also disappointed by the lack of support among women in the workplace, which stood in stark contrast to her experience at Chatham.

So she thought back to a conversation with Dr. Hershberger about possible careers in positive psychology. He had mentioned life coaching. The field was still new and there were no master’s programs available, but there were a few certifications. From her desk at the publisher, Emily did a web search for “life coach training” and found Mentor Masterclass, which focused specifically on coaching women.

Her funds were limited, but when her tax return came in the next day and amounted to exactly half the cost of the training, she decided to go for it. “I was really bootstrapping it, but everything felt so synchronistic that I knew the time was right,” she says.

She left her full-time job ten months later in order to pursue coaching as a career. Asked if she was scared to make the leap, Emily says, “At Chatham you’re taught not to accept limitations. You’re surrounded by stories of women overcoming challenges. And so it’s natural to believe that you can do that too.”

Her first clients were fellow Chatham alums, entrepreneurs who wanted to find their niche. As her business grew, she was able to surpass her previous salary and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working for herself. Now she can travel, lead retreats abroad, work from home, and make her own schedule: “A lot of people think it’s only possible to find this kind of freedom in retirement, or that you have to spend a certain amount of time paying your dues in the corporate world before you can break out. But the only person who can give you permission is yourself.”

What she loves about her work with female entrepreneurs is the chance to help dismantle those inner barriers to fulfillment so that they can achieve their “soul’s work.”

“This is a pivotal moment for women in leadership roles and in business,” Emily says. “There is a need to see women leading in their own way, not in a way that mimics male leadership but in a way that draws on who we genuinely are—and ties together who we are at work, who we are as partners and friends, who we are as mothers.”

She mentions one client who used to spend hours each day sitting in traffic as she used a single vehicle to ferry her children to school and deliver her skincare product to market. Through coaching, the client was able to devise an alternative system for product delivery, freeing her up to be more present at home and also to think more strategically about her business.

“The work I do is very action-oriented,” says Emily. “I’m able to say, ‘Here’s what needs to shift.’ And that is so exciting.”

Asked what advice she would offer to Chatham students wanting to become entrepreneurs, she says: “Listen to other women’s stories—they help reinforce that it IS possible. Any reasons you can come up with that it’s not are fabricated out of fear.”

She cautions against waiting for the perfect moment: “Start early. Don’t suffer for twenty years in a job you hate. Do it now, and watch how many doors open up to you. It won’t always be easy. But as you are growing your business, your business is growing you—through your own process of learning and discovery.”

As for her own path, Emily is currently planting the seeds of another entrepreneurial venture—one she intends to nourish concurrently with her ongoing coaching. For now she is keeping the details to herself. “I’m watching it come into bloom,” she says.