Last year I started a blog series called the Happy Start-Up. I wanted to show how you can start a business without the stress and ick-iness that is usually associated with taking such a huge leap. That time, my intention was to have you follow along on the blog and learn from my journey starting up my product business and social enterprise, Happy Piece.
The response was fantastic (thank you!) but I realised pretty fast that posting the Happy Start Up on the blog wasn’t right for the series. I debated what to do with all this extra knowledge that I wanted to share. Should I turn it into an ecourse, a membership club, paid subscription service or even a book?
I finally decided on re-launching with a newsletter format so subscribers could receive exclusive access to insights I’ve gained, not just through running Happy Piece but also my service based business Noisette and my blog based business Noisette Academy (this blog!). Rather than charging for this I opted to keep it free for now so I could be more flexible with what I cover and more people can benefit from it. I know money can be tight for a lot of entrepreneurs so hopefully this will help some of you.
I’m in a unique position to be running 3 different types of businesses (product, service and blog based) and it seems remiss to not share what I have learned throughout all aspects of these businesses in a way that you can then use to build and grow a business that works for you.
I’ve always wanted to share more about running my businesses, how I decided to do things, mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned and now the Happy Start Up series will allow me to do that.
I hope you’ll sign up! First email goes out next Thursday.
It’s liberating when you finally realise you have the power to decide what to do with your life.
But how do you decide what it is you want to do in the first place?
Not everyone knows what they want to do right from the get go. You might be conflicted between what you think you should do and what others expect of you. Or you might have many passions and talents which makes it harder to determine which ones to concentrate on.
Through my consulting work I’ve noticed a rise in wonderfully strong-minded, creative women who feel lost and unsure about which direction to take. These same women are supportive of their friends and colleagues but they have stopped trusting their own instincts when it comes to their own lives and businesses.
As babies we start off as inquisitive little minds, enjoying and learning from the world around us. As we grow, we each go at our own pace and for the most part, we’re happy.
Then we reach school age and our creative energy is squished into a box. We’re taught to conform and copy. To write a certain way and get it perfect. We’re told there is a right way and a wrong way to solve a problem and to pass an exam we’d better use the right way. We’re taught that finding alternative creative solutions is a waste of time and that getting the job done in the way others want it done is the most important thing.
So we learn how to fit in, we lose our differences and stop acting on instinct.
We’re taught to play it safe and to look to others to guide us. If we’re different we’re reprimanded. As kids we’re told to stand in the corner, as adults, we’re ostracized or sacked from our jobs. Our survival instinct takes over and we learn pretty fast how to coast along without causing problems, standing out or asking too many questions.
Meanwhile, we lose who we are.
Trying to break free from the mould isn’t easy. Everything around us, from the media to our peers are expecting us to follow the road laid out for us.
When we start our businesses we look to others to guide us and lay this new path. What should I sell? What should my website look like? What services should I offer? How should I market myself?
Which of my talents should I pursue?
You need to know who you really are before you can find out what it is you really want.
How can we re-discover our true selves when our whole lives we’re encouraged to do and be the same as everyone else?
We look internally.
We sit and think. We journal. We paint. We draw. We explore. We create.
While we’re living, experiencing life and creating without pressure of right or wrong, we then find something. A small seed of who we once were, before the doubts, the confidence stealing moments and the let downs.
We cultivate it, we water it and we let it grow.
Into something beautiful. Something amazing. Something true to you.
If you’re struggling to work out what it is you really want.
Start by knowing who you are.
Every time I’ve achieved success in my life it’s been when I haven’t followed the rules or conformed to what others expect of me.
I started my first business with a 30 cents listing on Etsy, I had no products and no real plan and I just got started because I had to.
At university, I held down three jobs and still came out with a 1st class degree. I worked HARD. People said I shouldn’t do it, that I was jeopardising my grades but I had to do it to survive. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
When I started my marketing firm, I ignored my competition which goes against the majority of business advice and decided to create a business in line with my values and focusing on how I believe marketing should be done.
As my business grew, I limited the clients I took on so I could spend more time with my children. People thought I was crazy for turning down work and said I’d regret my decision when the work dried up. Instead of fearing that happening, I followed my heart, accepted fewer clients and designed my business model to fit in with my life.
If you really want to design a business on your terms, you need to do what you have to do to make it happen.
That means hard work, taking ACTION and actually implementing the things you learn but also defining what it is you want in the first place.
It’s easier to live a life on your terms if you know what you really want. I want freedom, flexibility and to spend time on what matters most. For me that means creating a business that allows me to be creative, experiment with different strategies and fits around my family and children. Knowing what is important to me makes it easier to make business decisions that will ultimately affect my happiness.
When was the last time you sat down and worked out what it is you really want for your business or career?
Forget about the box people have put you in, other people’s expectations, what your competitors are doing or your past experiences and skills. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean you have to follow them. Make your own rules. Define your own success. Don’t let your dreams be limited by what other people are allowing you to achieve.
From today you can take a new path but YOU need to decide where it is you want to go in the first place. There is no right or wrong answer here. It’s up to you to decide your destination and what will make you happy. No-one else can or should decide for you.
What do you want? I’d love to know your ideas and desires. Do you have a clear idea about what you want? How will feel once you achieve it?
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be part of a fantastic event here in Portland; the Mother of Reinvention conference for female entrepreneurs. As a panelist, the topic totally captivated me; the notion that as women, we constantly reinvent ourselves; as wives, mothers, friends, or as entrepreneurs. We may find ourselves ‘rebranding’ who we are as we enter different phases, drawing upon our resources to pursue our values and career paths.
Personally, I know I’ve experienced this; transitioning from a high school special education teacher to Etsy shop owner when my first son was born. I so wanted to be home with him, I knew I needed to reinvent myself to do something different. These transitions can be difficult and messy. We really benefit from support of those around us. Sometimes we have that already in place, but often times not. There’s a lot of talk about ‘finding our tribe,’ that is, creating a sense of community as we journey through life. Here, I’d like to chat a bit about who we need in our tribes.
For so long, my creative community consisted of amazingly supportive and positive women (along with my husband for good measure). These folks, my cheerleaders, gave me confidence and celebrated my successes.
But, I’ve discovered that in addition to these ever-crucial cheerleaders, we need truth-tellers too. Not to say our spirited friends aren’t honest with us, but we need people who don’t have a stake in the results of our success. Credible people who can share feedback, ask those deep, difficult questions, and offer honest to goodness critiques of our work. These truth tellers are rare gems– we’re not looking for opinionated chatterboxes, but an ally to treasure. These impartial people can push us farther than we thought possible and pose questions to steer us in new, better directions. During my recent venture into textile design, I’ve needed both; the cheerleaders to celebrate my achievements along with the truth-tellers to call for improvements.
I’m so incredibly grateful for my tribe, the cheerleaders and truth tellers alike! Together, they’ve accelerated my business growth and made the day-to-day so much more meaningful.
I’d really love to hear more about your creative community; how you connect and how it’s impacted your business.
Who makes up your support system?
Allisa is the dreamer and designer behind the Allisa Jacobs line of handbags and accessories. She delights in the process of making- sketch to finish and also has an ever-growing bridal collection. Allisa also shares her entrepreneurial insights in Rise and Shine, her ebook empowering others with their creative small businesses.
Overwhelm. Chaos. Pressure. Stress. We all experience it from time to time in our businesses, but when something big starts heading our way, like the holidays, it’s almost a given that those feelings are going to surface. They’re never welcome. They certainly aren’t good for us or our business, but there’s a way to deal with them. There’s a way to get the positive feelings you’d rather have. Feelings like… Clarity. Focus. Today, I’m going to tell you how you can take holiday pressure, stress, infinite to-do lists, overwhelm, confusion and chaos, and turn it into clarity, focus, peace, and calm so you can make the most of your business during the busy holiday season. First things first.
Step Back For A Bit
When you start feeling that sense of overwhelm taking over, the first thing you need to do is stop everything and get away from it. Take a quick break, and do something you enjoy. 10 – 15 minutes is all you need. Just enough time to get away from whatever it was that triggered that nasty overwhelming feeling.
Get It All Out
Once you’re starting to feel better, you need to recognize that you have too many things going on to keep them all in your head. It’s difficult for anyone to sort through all the things in their life and categorize everything in the right place in their mind. That’s what paper and lists are for. So grab a piece of paper, take 10 minutes, and write down EVERYTHING you’re thinking of. Don’t limit yourself to business tasks and needs only. You can include all your other responsibilities too.
Put Everything In It’s Place
Once 10 minutes is up and you feel like you’ve got everything out of your mind and down on your paper, take some time (and some more paper) to put everything you wrote down on different lists. For instance, you may have one list for business, one list for family, and one list for a holiday party you’re planning. The point is to take your big, messy, master list and to minimize it by making it smaller. You’re not getting rid of anything just yet… you’re just breaking it up into smaller pieces to deal with.
One Area At A Time
Now that you big mess is categorized into groups of like things, it’s time to pick one group to deal with first and leave the rest for later. Since we’re talking about business and preparing for the holidays today, let’s focus on that. Look over your list of all the things you need to do for your business. Is there anything else that has come to mind that you need to add? If so, add it. Next, is there anything on that list that’s out of your control? If it’s out of your control, stop worrying about it or only focus on the parts that you can control. If there are parts you can control, write those things down and mark off the part you can’t control. The goal here is to simplify, simplify, simplify.
Prioritize The Crazy
At this point, your list should only consist of business tasks and needs, and everything on it should be something that you have control over. What you need to do now is figure out what’s most important verses what’s least important. Grab a new piece of paper and pick one thing from your business list to write on your new list. Don’t write it at the top. Write it in the middle of the paper. Now pick something else on your list. Is it more important that the first thing you wrote down? Does it have to be done first before the other thing can get done? If you answered yes to those questions, write it before the first task you put on your list. If it’s not more important, then you can write it after the first task. Do this for everything on your list until you have a new list and everything has been marked off of the original business list. At this point you should have everything prioritized on your new list.
Set A Date And Schedule It
This is the last thing you’ll need to do. Now that you’ve got all the things you need to do for your business out of your head and in order of importance on your list, you need to decide what you’ll do today, tomorrow, this week, and this month. Write it out, color code it, transfer it to your planner, do whatever you need to do to make it work for you. The main thing is that you know what needs done and when.
Once you’ve done this for all your lists, you should be feeling much better. Those nasty feelings of overwhelm, stress, and chaos should be slipping away and you should be feeling nice and calm about now. You should have a clear idea of where you’re going and how to get there. All that’s left is for you to do is to get to work and kick some serious holiday booty! Best of luck to you!
Meagan Visser is the owner and resident herbalist at Growing Up Herbal, an organic skincare and herbal medicinal business for children. She also loves to talk business over at MeaganVisser.com, and is the author of The Customer Discovery Report, a guide and workbook that will help you discover the perfect customer for your business.