Kayse Gehret, founder of Soulstice Spa, which has Sausalito and Santa Rosa locations, recently received the first Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Women Talk Biz conference in Santa Rosa.

These are her thoughts on forging ahead in business, even when you are not sure where the road leads.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women who want to take on leadership roles? What steps would you take to solve it?

I believe that women in today’s leadership roles help inspire young women by being as visible as possible and normalizing seeing a woman at the CEO desk. Women are natural leaders, but we too often believe we need to be an expert in our field before asking for the position we want ... we’re less likely to speak up and ask for what we want, or for the help that will assist us in pursuing our dreams.

So inspiring confidence and capability in young women is very important. It’s amazing the difference it can make in a young woman’s life by simply believing in her and setting higher expectations for her life than she may have ever dreamed possible for herself. All of us have the power to give this gift to the next generations....

What is an example of a time you helped another woman foster her career or were helped by another woman do so?

Being a part of and witnessing the growth and personal development of our largely female team at Soulstice is one of the biggest blessings of being our founder. It’s been incredible to watch them gain confidence, discover their gifts and talents and learn how to support each other. I try to balance being very involved, hands-on and communicating our mission while also giving them the safe space to stretch, pursue their own ideas, make mistakes and learn along the way.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the support and friendship of so many inspiring women leaders. Janeen Murray — co-founder of GoLocal in Sonoma County — was one of the very first people I met after our opening and has been a steadfast friend and connector.

Roni Brown and the team at Summit State Bank go above and beyond to support women-owned businesses; we’re so grateful for their efforts and partnership. Susan Griffin-Black, Steve Kaufman-Fox and their wonderful team at EO Products have been there every moment I’ve needed help when our growth stretched me into areas of business I felt out of my depth.

And Joan Barnes — founder of Gymboree — has been present with timely tough love and wise advice at significant turning points.

Of everyone, though, it is our Soulstice team that has helped me grow the most. I can be very open and vulnerable with them — they have seen me at my best, and my worst — and it is their deep belief in me and the work we’re doing together that allows me to stay strong during challenges, take creative risks and feel inspired to be better every day.

What can women do for each other to advocate closing the gender pay gap in the workplace?

I think we need to work to be more open and advocate not only for pay equity, but also for changing the larger paradigm of what we value in society in terms of compensation. Women are the teachers, the caregivers, the healers ... and these fields have been underpaid and undervalued for decades.

It’s critical that we work together to change the mindset of what we attach meaning and value to in society and work to prize and take pride in learning, caring and those professions that add value, positivity and beauty to people’s lives.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned working in business?

I think I’ve been most surprised by — and have come to value most — the deep impact we are able to have on other people’s lives through our small business. As business founders and leaders, we have the ability to touch so many: our employees, our vendors and partners and our thousands of customers. Creating an organization and community larger then oneself provides you with an ability to influence, educate and connect people way more than I knew was possible.

Our clients are always surprising us with how much their time with our team means to them — it’s always humbling, inspiring and a gift to know we are making such a deep difference in someone’s life. Our local business community has tremendous power to effect influence well beyond our goods and services — we can be the catalyst for social change.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

I would encourage my younger self to develop and listen to my intuition. Opening my business without a business background or training, I lacked confidence in myself and deferred to people who had more business experience and advanced degrees. On more than a few occasions I made decisions based on their advice even though instinctually it felt wrong.

Today, I feel like my lack of an MBA has been more of an advantage than a detriment.... Sure, I keep a very close eye on our cash flow but I am equally concerned with knowing are we making a difference? How are we making people feel? Is my team happy, growing and thriving? Sometimes not knowing how to do things in the traditional way allows you to come up with a better way — as you grow to trust yourself and your intuition, decisions and directions become effortless.