The Nathalie Virem Foundation Helps Leaders Rediscover Their Purpose

UPDATED: February 19, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 19, 2024
Nathalie Virem in black and white tuxedo suit

On the surface, everything appeared to be going wonderfully for Nathalie Virem. After growing up in Europe, she arrived in the United States with a full athletic and academic scholarship to Jacksonville University in Florida. She earned her MBA while playing NCAA Division I soccer, and then she went to work for a Fortune 500 company.

It was a life many would envy, and Virem was proud of her achievements—but there was occasionally, in the back of her mind, a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. “I was lost,” Virem says. “I was like, ‘Well, I’m doing what society thinks I should do, but I don’t feel fulfilled.’” And then, in 2014, her mother died. It was one of those life-changing moments that makes you rethink everything.

“I felt like I had achieved the things that I had in mind when I was young, but I was like, ‘Something’s missing, and I’m not quite sure what that is,’” she says. “I started taking the time to really figure out a little bit [of] my purpose… and that was the beginning of everything else.”

In 2015, after some time spent musing over what her calling actually was, Virem started her first company, Nathalie Virem Inc. The goal was to help guide leaders who were going through the same process she was at that time: connecting with their hearts, reflecting on their desires and discovering their purpose—“and through that, being able to have a more positive impact in their community,” Virem explains. It was in helping others find their purpose that Virem, at last, felt she’d found her own. This, she realized, was her calling.

Nathalie Virem connects with her true calling

The following year, Virem published her first book, Live With Purpose: Creating Positive, Lasting Change. In 2018, she created the Nathalie Virem Foundation, a nonprofit with the same purpose as her company: to empower leaders to discover their purpose, both for themselves and to affect positive change in their communities.

The foundation donates scholarships to Virem’s workshops, a value of around $2,000 each, to leaders, social business owners and students. “Just like I had a full ride,” Virem explains, these full-ride workshop scholarships go to conscious leaders throughout the community, “which was mostly in the area of Los Angeles.” To date, the foundation has awarded more than 200 scholarships to leaders and business owners in the Los Angeles area.

Nathalie Virem notes the foundation primarily looks for people who want to have a positive impact, but the requirements aren’t strict. People of all ages and experience levels are eligible. Some go to high school students, others to college students (today, Virem teaches on several campuses in the Cal State LA system) and some even go to existing business owners or people who are otherwise leaders in the Los Angeles area.

In order to identify scholarship recipients, Virem has interested parties fill out a questionnaire and speak with her on the phone. But the things she’s looking for aren’t those that are easily outlined on a job application; what’s important to her is that the recipients want to make a difference, whether through a leadership position or with their own business.

The Nathalie Virem Foundation inspires conscious leaders

Virem’s work continues to concentrate on the Los Angeles area, where her foundation also offers workshops and trainings for conscious leaders. The focus here is a little different than what you might expect from a typical leadership workshop—the aim is to help people develop tough-to-teach skills like insight and perception.

“What’s very unique about us is that we also help them develop their intuition [and] identify their soul and life purpose, which is vital,” Virem says. “So, really learning to connect intuitively, to become more conscious, to discern when they make business decisions.

“The specific training is three-dimensional; let’s put it that way,” she continues. “Or holistic, in a sense.”

Take someone like Pyet DeSpain of Pyet’s Plate, who started her personal chef business in 2015. In 2019, she attended the Nathalie Virem Foundation’s workshops, where she learned the ins and outs of operating a business, “but also,” she said at the time, “the purpose behind my business and kind of realigning my purpose with my business and how to correlate the two together.”

Like all foundation workshop participants, she was encouraged to consider whether her work, as it was, was really fulfilling her purpose in life. She felt empowered to honor her Native American and Mexican heritage and to weave that storytelling and culture into her experience in the kitchen. And since then, it’s been a rocket to success for DeSpain. In 2021, she was named among the 25 best private chefs in Los Angeles by Entrepreneur magazine; in 2022, she became the first winner of the Gordon Ramsay competitive cooking show Next Level Chef.

Successful businesses don’t just make money—they offer value

Virem has heard countless testimonials and stories like these, which is part of what continues to drive her work. “It was almost like, wow, I didn’t think that we’d have the impact we had,” she chuckles. “I think the [feeling] is: fulfilling for the soul.” This is work that comes from the heart, and it’s deeply important to her.

“It’s a desire to help others in the way [people] helped me. It’s very personal, obviously,” Virem says. “And it’s also the desire to help people become more conscious to the option of not just creating a business that makes money, but a business that fulfills their heart and adds value and is sustainable over time. It just goes beyond the leader—it’s more the collective drive of consciousness.”

It’s work that shows how just one person can make a tremendous impact in their community, uplifting new people who in turn uplift others. The empowerment and joy spread and grew—all because Nathalie Virem took the time to reconsider her own purpose and realized, in doing so, how much that could be a help to others.

“It’s so important…. To me, it changes everything,” she says. “And that’s what also made the success of this mission, is it’s something that’s so important and not easily accessible to people.” 

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by ©Bradford Rogne/Courtesy of Nathalie Virem.

Cassel is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor, a co-owner of Racket MN, and a VHS collector.