Awesome People Leaders

Richfield, MN
Learning and Development

Story Overview

Located in Richfield, MN, Awesome People Leaders is a business offering a neuroscience-based manager development experience focusing on power skills – also known as soft skills or people skills. This encompasses emotional intelligence, inclusion & belonging, and fostering healthy workplace behaviors. 

Heather Polivka, the founder and owner of Awesome People Leaders, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey after gaining experience at several Fortune 100 companies. Initially delving into workplace culture consulting, Heather observed a common challenge: frameworks designed for senior management weren’t effectively executed by middle management. 

Motivated to bridge this gap, Heather redefined her approach, targeting middle management to equip them with essential skills for effective leadership and cultural stewardship. She also realized the growing trend of TikTok becoming one of the world’s top learning platforms through short, easily digestible pieces of content. 

With these ideas in mind, she launched Awesome People Leaders in 2022. Today, Awesome People Leaders provides a high-touch/high-tech model that includes online training modules delivered in 15-minute segments. They also offer access to experienced coaches who answer questions, roleplay conversations, and provide tailored support. 

Access to capital for business growth 

Despite significant growth, Heather found herself juggling various roles and self-funding the business. 

“I knew to really capitalize on the opportunity and continue this momentum, I needed funding and support,” Heather said. 

To develop her growth plan, Heather enrolled in a program that helps small business owners prepare for financing. Heather found the program beneficial and developed a strong plan to grow her business. Yet despite her preparation, she encountered challenges in accessing capital. 

“My track record was shorter than what many lenders were looking for,” Heather explained. “I didn’t have years of business pre-pandemic to demonstrate the proven model.” 

The Minnesota Inclusive Growth Fund 

While speaking on an event panel, Heather learned about some of the alternative, responsible financing options available to small business owners. As she explored different options, she was eventually referred to Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF). 

“When I connected with CRF, they were very supportive,” Heather said. 

“There was a lot of vetting early on and they were very thorough.  And I could tell they really want business owners to secure the capital they need to grow, thrive, and hit the next level.” 

In working with CRF, Heather received a small business loan through the Minnesota Inclusive Growth Fund (MIGF). Co-created by CRF and several of its Minnesota community partners, MIGF is designed to increase access to flexible and affordable capital and support services for small businesses across the state. 

With this small business loan, Heather plans to expand her team, revamp her website, and diversify her product offerings. 

An ecosystem of small business resources 

Today, Awesome People Leaders boasts a diverse clientele across the U.S. and Europe. Looking ahead, Heather envisions further expansion into international markets and offering services in multiple languages. 

Reflecting on her journey to secure financing, Heather is grateful that networking led her to additional small business resources. Finding the ideal match for her business, she now advocates for other entrepreneurs to thoroughly explore their options as well. 

“The idea of going and talking to someone about financing for your business can be very intimidating,” Heather said. 

“Resources like CRF were new to me, so I keep trying to share them with other business owners to let them know there are other avenues.” 

There was a lot of vetting early on and they were very thorough. And I could tell they really want business owners to secure the capital they need to grow, thrive, and hit the next level.

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