This is the easiest time in history to be an education start-up. Online offerings aimed at personal development are growing at a crazy rate because business is global and folks have disposable income for things that make them more spiritual, emotionally resilient, and more grounded. And business theory and practice has never been more cutting edge. This is a great time to start a compassionate business.
I don’t have what I’d call a “successful business”, but I’m passionate about building one. I have skills, resources, and a dream to create something unique and useful to people. I don’t plan to go to business school, but I am willing to work hard to learn all I need to learn. Here are 12 things I’m doing to grow an online education start-up I can feel happy about:
- Lots of journaling, writing, building spreadsheets, brainstorming. I have multiple documents of ideas that come in fits of creativity or after I hear some advice from another business owner that resonates for me. It’s all a bit of a jumble, but every now and then I review it and shape it into something that makes a bit more sense. It’s like creating art – I go where my creativity takes me, I’m not sure of the finished product, but I know down to my bones that I want to plan something that is wholeheartedly me.
- Seeking one-to-one advice from professionals. I’ve paid a business consultant to give me some advice in a one-to-one session, and we’ll get together again once I have something else to show him. He helped me think about the finances, to create a business plan, to project my expenses and income.
- Taking an online business course. I’m not interested in doing an MBA (nor do I have the money) but I am prepared to spend some money on a self-paced program created by a very earthy Australian mogul who speaks my language. I rely heavily on the advice of Leonie Dawson of Shining Life and Biz Academy. Leonie built a business up from scratch, and is now “wildly successful” (as she would say) working part time at something she is passionate about. As well as being a great role model, she offers some great courses on how to build a business.
- Talking with other business owners. When business owners hear that I’m starting something up, they get interested because we have a common goal. And those folks who are further along in building their business are great people to lament to or ask questions of. In depth conversations are not necessary – just finding out some basics about how they run their business, like whether or not they have a business plan or how they use social media can be really useful.
- Gathering resources. My business model will revolve around online education about topics, some of which I am still learning about. To learn I need books, online courses and training. So, way before I really put my virtual shingle out, I’m buying books as references, doing online courses in topic areas of interest and going to live trainings. This is one of the most satisfying parts of what I’m doing – the research and personal development.
- Focusing my learning. I’m a lifelong student, and I’ve devoured learning like it’s going out of fashion, but now that I’m getting my business going I need to focus my learning on topics that I can incorporate into the training I’m going to offer. So that online course that was great in the beginning but is now reaching beyond my area of interest – I can put it out to pasture and focus on other courses that are more relevant. Same goes for books – if I get past the first few chapters of really amazing new material and then into the later chapters that go into more detail than I need, then I can put that one back on the shelf (to use later as a reference when I’m doing research) and focus on something more immediately relevant.
- Encouraging other women who are starting their own business. What I Iack in experience I make up for in cheerleading and enthusiasm. When I hear another woman talk about starting her own small business, I pull the pom-poms out and start sending her links to resources and suggestions for mission, vision and business values. It’s that common humanity between courageous souls willing to give their small business a go. This is the beauty of women in small online business – the community is amazing!
- Recording ideas as they come to me. My creativity comes to me early in the day, so when I’m doing my early morning walk, I take my iPhone so that I can record ideas as voice memos. My mind is very methodical and can only hang onto one idea at a time – the budding ideas can get backed up behind one I’m trying to not forget – so capturing an idea in a recording allows me to let it go so that I can birth the next one.
- Watching reality TV (!) and sit coms. What do “The Profit,” “Fixer Upper,” “The Real Housewives of New York City,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep” and “Project Runway” have in common? They’re all about people making it in business. They’re about psychology, strategy, personalities, power, leadership, design and finances. Like courses and books, I devour these kinds of TV shows. It’s doing research with a fun twist!
- Identifying strengths and challenges to capitalize on strengths and work on my challenge areas. I have a number of challenge areas, and I’m actively working on learning more about them through materials on Brené Brown’s CourageWorks courses as well as mindtools.com. I’m keeping it all in balance by using Dennis Saleeby’s “Strengths Perspective” – using my strengths to help me meet my challenges. For example, I’m pretty determined (strength) once I find something that I’m passionate about, and right now I’m passionate about becoming a better leader (challenge).
- Joining a group of peers in business. There are a number of groups and organizations that support women in business and small business owners. The “Little Black Book” is a national organization that supports women business owners, and has a membership program that’s worth looking into. One of the ways to get away with not having an MBA is to have a group of gals who’ve been there before and can offer the wisdom of what they’ve learned.
- Remembering that business is about passion, creativity and authenticity, not taking advantage of situations. I have a tendency to be competitive, to be dogged and to act from a place of scarcity to try to get ahead. And while these things are not necessarily bad, remembering that I’m starting a small business so that I can do something I love that is valuable to the community helps to keep my competitive tendencies in check. I’ve put a post-it note on my desk that asks me, “Am I being opportunistic?” to try to keep me grounded when I start to think about taking advantage of situations to benefit my business. Hiro Boga’s words have been a real touchstone for me:
“Love is not a strategy. It’s a quality of soul, a gift of essence. So are generosity, gratitude and appreciation. When you harness these qualities to an agenda — whether that’s building your list, promoting your offers or growing your networks — you disconnect from the deep sources of support and nourishment. The real danger isn’t lack of authenticity — it’s the suffering caused by disconnection.”