Amanda Wagner pose

Our Conversation with Amanda Wagner: Edmonton’s Go-To Entrepreneurial Gal

If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself looking at someone else and thinking, “wow, I wish I was doing what they’re doing!” or perhaps more realistically, the comparison comes with a twinge of envy: “why are they doing that, and I’m not?”

It’s easy to get caught in the comparison trap, and left self-doubt creep in: I’m not XYZ enough, I’m too ABC, I don’t know the right people, I don’t have the credentials. I’m too young. I’m too old. Can I make money? What will people think? 

I call these the “yeah, buts.” I hear it often, and it goes like this:

Feisty person: Why is their business so successful, and I’m in a job I don’t love? I could be doing that, and I have really good things to say that need to be heard!

Amanda: Great question. If this matters to you, why don’t we find a way to get you what you want?

Feisty person: Yeah, BUT…. (insert every reason in the book that you use to talk yourself out of why you can’t get what you want).

And then we list all the yeah, buts. And we figure out: which of these, yeah, buts get attention and which don’t get as much weight anymore?

Instead of shoving these feelings that you are meant for more behind the couch or giving every single yeah, but oodles of legitimacy, I want to hear all of it and sort through what matters and give space to the feeling that isn’t going away. I fiercely believe you don’t have to go through this process or feel this feeling of wanting more alone. Far too often, I see people waiting – for the right moment, for someone to say they are ‘good enough,’ to feel ‘ready,’ and I’m the person that asks: “what are you waiting for, an invitation?” I’m the bearer of bad news, the person who reminds you that if you’re waiting to be discovered, or if you’re waiting for all your ducks to be in a row, you’re going to be waiting a long time. 

I’m also not the person who says, “just follow your passion!” “just quit your job!” “just do it and figure it out later!” I think this is irresponsible advice, especially if you’re looking at a big transition, financial obligations, and coming around to the idea that you want more. There is no ‘just’ when it comes to these big changes; these changes require planning and thinking and sometimes feedback from people you trust who are seeing this fire in you that doesn’t seem to fizzle out (hint: this might not be your partner, your parents, or other people who have their version of what is in your “best interest.” Sometimes it takes an outsider).

If this feeling won’t go away, the feeling that you are meant for more, that you’re constantly climbing, reaching, moving towards the next thing, dreaming about what your life could be like if it worked, and knowing that what you want is big and scary. You want it anyway, even if it’s not the only thing you want, and it’s not necessarily the thing you want forever. Congratulations! You have what I call Big Ambition. And you’re not alone. 

Big Ambition is how I describe the butterflies that don’t go away when you think or talk about what you want next, this innate drive to do more, and the sloughing off of the expectation that you should “just be happy with what you have” or “just settle down” (there’s that “just” again). The only settling that someone with Big Ambition experiences is settling for MORE; that is, they are digging their heels in and saying, “yes, I will always want more. Giddy up.”

I created a one-on-one business coaching program specifically for these people; the people who are tired of watching someone else get what they want and are ready to get off the sidelines and claim their spotlight. And the fact that people are joining every month is PROOF that you aren’t the only one feeling this way. 

At 33, I’m on my sixth career, and I’ve started my second business. That’s not because I’m a shiny object chaser, or because I can’t focus, or because I wasn’t good at what I was doing and jumped ship. It’s because I am a sponge – soaking up any experience I have and thinking, “how can I take what I learn from this and turn it into more?”

It’s also because I’m a multipotentialite – someone with a variety of interest areas and potentials (if you want to know more or if this sounds like you, buckle up and tune into Emilie Wapnick’s TEDTalk – it was a game-changer for me and continues to be a favourite amongst my clients).

The bottom line: if you feel like you’re meant for more – that you’re having a-ha moments, or that the idea you thought you would outgrow/get over doesn’t seem to be going away, that there is a sense of awakening in you and it won’t go away, this is your invitation (and explicit permission) to play with these ideas, and to imagine your next move.

Here are three steps to figure out where your Big Ambition is taking you:

  1. Get a piece of paper, a note on your phone, or a post-it note (anything where you can track your ideas)
  2. Write “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and finish that sentence with as many things as you can think of over a few days/weeks.
  3. Look for trends – what is coming up over and over and doesn’t seem to go away?

As you look for these trends and allow yourself to play, remember that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to follow someone else’s way of doing things. Your idea needs to be unleashed, and when you’re ready to claim your spotlight, I’m here for you.

We Ask, Amanda Answers


Amanda! Thank you for hanging out with us on the blog. Who is Amanda Wagner outside of work-life?

I’m walking around and telling jokes! Outside of work-life, you’ll see me on a patio, probably with a notebook (In 2021, I am JUST now transitioning to a digital calendar), and I’m always on the hunt for a joke that needs a punch line or to add some self-deprecating humour to the conversation. In the summer, my backyard lounge chair and I are one with each other, any ounce of sun, and I’m out there. On the less than scorching days, you’ll find me cruising my favourite shops or on the couch watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Seinfeld, Fraiser, the Real Housewives, or British crime dramas.

Tell us all about your business: What is it? How did you get started? What was the initial inspiration?

I have two! I started The Complement in 2017 (it was called Retail to Riches. After some thinking and some unsolicited advice, I learned that the name had to go). I work with business owners and their teams to create consistent and consistently excellent customer experiences, including teaching people how to sell without feeling sleazy. The inspiration was to go back to basics and realize that sales and customer interactions are all about connecting with people and creating human experiences. In a world where we can find anything online (and often for cheaper), I help people take price out of the equation and create meaningful experiences that turn people into raving fans and loyal customers.

I launched The Amanda Wagner in 2020, with The Amanda Wagner Podcast, moving more into the world of speaking, wanting to impact MORE people. My mission is to help ambitious people who want more (lots more!) build confidence in getting off the sidelines and claiming their spotlight. I am fiercely ambitious myself, and I want to be at the scale of Oprah – speaking around the world to large audiences. I decided that I wasn’t going to let my ambition be my dirty little secret, and by sharing, it’s helped other people step into their ambition. There is no such thing as “enough” in my community – we are all settling for more.

What did your family & friends think about you starting your biz and taking a more “unconventional” path? 

Well, I was laid off from my previous job, so I think that the assumption was that I’d find another job and be on my way. I think my family proceeds with caution, and they trust that I will figure it out. Could I choose something more stable, or safe, or predictable? Sure. And that option is there. For now, I’m choosing to do it my way and running my own business.

I spent 20 years wanting to be a teacher, and while I’m not in a formal classroom, at my core, I’m still an educator, I’m just doing it a different way.

In late 2020, I sat my partner down and brought out my whiteboard (and no, this is not the first time I’ve done a whiteboard presentation of what I do for one person!). I have a business model that works with The Complement. So I was pitching that I KNOW I have something with The AW brand, even if I don’t know what it looks like, and that I’m going to put the marketing for The C on hold and start selling something else: my services as a business coach and strategist and move to spend more time speaking to large audiences. I asked him to hold some space for my ideas and to let me hold the worry and the “what ifs” and the fear. And then every time it worked (I got a client, my workshop was full, I had testimonials), I shared my proof and brought him along with me. On the days that I feel the weight of this worry, he’s the one that reminds me that I have something real and that he saw me talk it out to a room of one. One day, I will talk it out to a room of 30,000.

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit, or is that something that came about for you later in life? How do you work on nurturing that spirit?

I would never have considered myself entrepreneurial. And I don’t think one life is better than the other. There is no judgement on what is right – working for yourself or working for someone else. I get frustrated with the overused saying, “I would rather work 80 hours a week for myself than 40 hours a week for someone else” because I had great experiences working for someone else (and I don’t think an 80-hour workweek is sustainable or something to aspire to).

I knew I was ambitious and took the initiative, but until I lost my job, I took all the opportunities that came my way instead of creating my own. When I started The Complement in October 2017, I remember saying, “I just want to make $1000 by Christmas”, looking for proof. I made my first $1,000 and instantly said, “okay, let’s see if I can make $10K by Christmas”. By upping the goal and always wanting more, it seems natural to me now.

I nurture this spirit by talking about it and being open about my experiences as an entrepreneur and as someone with impatient ambition: I want it all, and I want it now. And perhaps most importantly, finding people who get this, who get me, and who are as invested in their ambition and goals as I am in mine.

A business awakening is a moment when you realize: “I think I am capable of something more, or different, or better than what I’m doing right now.” Tell us about what that moment was like for you and how it manifested.

I come back to the question, “what do you want to be known for?” This is often one of the first questions I ask my clients, too. 

I realized that I didn’t want to be known as “the customer experience lady in just under two years with The Complement.” When I was a teacher, I remember going to Teachers Convention and seeing the keynote speaker and thinking, “That will be me one day. I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I know I’m on that stage.” So while the specific content area has taken time to learn and develop, I always knew I wanted something big (even if I didn’t feel comfortable sharing it).

For better or worse, I’m a PROVER. I want to prove that I am doing what I said I wanted to do.

The first time I said out loud to a business coach, “I want to be at the scale of Oprah,” she laughed at what I said. I give the benefit of the doubt to this person; I caught her off guard with my big answer, or it was something she hadn’t heard before. It made me quickly realize that she’s not my person… so instead of second-guessing what I wanted, I found better people! (and in my petty, snarky way, insist that one day, said the business coach would buy a ticket to see me speak!)

better people Meme

What was the transition like from when you began to what you’re doing now? 

I am walking my talk more than ever before. If I am helping people get what they want and do big things, I need to be doing it too. I am in the thick of it with my clients, so there is tremendous empathy and understanding. I have less doubt and more clarity on what I want, and I’ve embraced that there is no such thing as “enough” for the people in my community and me. We will always want more, and that’s a good thing – we need to find the people who get us, who help us, and who dare not say “just relax” or “just let it go”.

I repeat two things over and over (and have prints of – on my wall and the walls of strangers). “Don’t ask, don’t get” and “Show up and show off.” We want more, so we have to ask for it. And being coy about it isn’t helping either – I’m reclaiming being assertive, asking for what you want, and showing off.

(After all, we want the spotlight, don’t we?)

How did you resolve to listen to your gut instinct when you were met with that moment of: “Wait, is there more for me?”

I have bad guts. I’m learning to trust them, but I’m someone that historically asks for a LOT of feedback and direction from others. 

I had to start believing that the people I look up to didn’t crack a secret code or have a little black book filled with phone numbers of people who could make them famous. They did the work, and somebody’s gotta do it, so why not me? I’m going to be that somebody. And for too long, I got caught up in trying to find the perfect subject area; when I was a teacher, I loved to teach, I wasn’t particularly interested in Math or English, but I was enthralled with the impact and performance of teaching. Just like I love training and working with teams, but customer experience isn’t the only thing I want to talk about. That’s why my second business is my name – because I’m allowed to change my mind and talk about a variety of ideas based on what I want. There is freedom and flexibility in that.

What is the one obstacle that stands out to you when looking back at the transition from your business awakening? That movement from the moment to changing your business plan, what was in your way the most that you worked to overcome?

The one obstacle was that I thought I had to follow someone else’s path. I felt that if I wanted to be the next Mel Robbins, or Brene Brown, or insert-thought-leader with-name-recognition, I had to do precisely what they did. I thought I had to take my unemployment to bankruptcy and addiction and depression (the Mel story). Or get a Ph.D. and research for 20 years before doing a TEDTalk (the Brene story). And THEN (and only then!) would I be on the TED stage and build a community of people who want to live impactful, full lives, embrace their ambition, and have strangers know my name. Turns out, what I have to do is write my manual. There is no one way, and there is no instruction manual for what I want (or for what you wish to, person reading). There is the tremendous terror that I have to figure it out on my own, but it’s paired with the world’s biggest sigh of relief – I can do it my way. *queue Fleetwood Mac’s “Go your own way*

If you could offer one piece of advice to Amanda, who started her business x amount of years ago, what would it be?

You are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to want more.

Taking my foot off the gas with The Complement and putting both feet on the gas of The AW was a scary transition, and I felt like I was somehow going to be perceived as giving up or that I couldn’t hack in. And in reality, I wanted more. There is no such thing as “enough” and as soon as I believed that, I ditched the dissatisfaction and just went for more. The limit does not exist. (Thank you, Cady Heron).

Last question, for fun: If you could have brunch with three people (dead or alive) whom you’ve never met, who would they be?

Tina Fey – I think we’d just have fun and twin being brunettes with glasses and being funny ladies. I’d like to go shopping and for cocktails (and I assume she’d bring Amy Poehler, so that’s a twofer).

Bruce Springsteen – I use him as an example in a lot of my talks when I share my ideas about “making it,” cry every time I listen to Born to Run and Rosalita, and his music made my husband believe in love (whoa, that took a turn I wasn’t expecting). 

Oprah – I believe that in the world of the internet, one day, Oprah is going to hear about this woman from Edmonton, Alberta, who says daily, “I’m going to be at the scale of Oprah,” and she’s going to be curious. We would have a great conversation about what it means to write your manual. I’d ask her to bring Gayle, and I’d bring my best, Danielle.

  1. I have a severe dairy, and egg allergy and avocado gives me a rash (I’m a terrible millennial, no avo toast for me!). So brunch sucks for me (unless it’s a plate of bacon, in which case, I’ll devour it). Can we go for a steak dinner instead?

About Amanda

Amanda Wagner portrait

Amanda Wagner is a fiercely ambitious speaker and business strategist for entrepreneurs and leaders who are hungry for achievement and ready to get off the sidelines and claim their spotlight.

With a Masters in Educational Psychology from the University of Alberta, Amanda eats, sleeps, and breathes, leading and teaching. She helps her audiences learn to ask for more of what they want, take the stage as leaders in their industry, and embrace that ambition doesn’t have to be a dirty little secret. 

Like her clients, Amanda is rolling out her own red carpet – with over 3,000 downloads of The Amanda Wagner Podcast, she is currently writing her book, Big Ambition, and has her sights set on a TEDTalk.

Share this on: