This article was originally published on July 31, 2016, and has been updated on November 2, 2019.
This is the easiest time in history to be an education, heart-centered, support-focussed 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.
It took me a while to develop what I’d call a successful business, and my business still wouldn’t qualify as “successful” in many people’s eyes because I don’t earn a lot of money. I earn as much money as I need and I’m passionate about what I do. I have skills, resources, and a dream to continue 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 few different consultants to give me some advice in one-to-one sessions, and I’ll happily employ another consultant if I feel I need it. Consultants have helped me think about the finances, create a business plan, project my expenses and income, develop my website, define my niche, revisit my articles and blog posts, and develop my social media.
- 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 have relied heavily on the advice of Leonie Dawson. 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 put my virtual shingle out, I bought books as references, did online courses in topic areas of interest and went to live trainings. This continues to be 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 my business is up and running I need to focus my learning on topics that I can incorporate into the training I’m going to offer. So any 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 people who are starting their own business. I like to be a heart-centered business cheerleader. When I hear another person talk about starting their own small business, I pull the pom-poms out and start sending them links to resources and suggestions for mission, vision and business values. The common humanity between courageous souls willing to give their small business a go is what inspires me.
- Recording ideas as they come to me. 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 as it’s unfolding in my consciousness allows me to let it go so that I can birth the next one. I’ve done voice recordings on my phone during walks and in the middle of the night so that I didn’t lose an idea.
- 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 have actively worked on learning more about them through materials on Brené Brown’s books and 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 (a strength) once I find something that I’m passionate about, and right now I’m passionate about becoming a more confident leader in the area of trauma-informed mindfulness teaching (a challenge).
- Joining a group of peers in business. There are a number of groups and organizations that support small business owners. One of them is the “Little Black Book,”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 people 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 giving in to feelings of scarcity. 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 running 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 used to have a post-it note on my desk that asked me, “Am I being opportunistic?” to try to keep me grounded when I started to think about taking advantage of situations to benefit my business. I currently revisit a reflection question in my to-do list every day: “For every decision: What can I afford to do, in terms of finances and energy expenditure? Be clear about when I am motivated by a need to be special to the detriment of my comfort and health.” Old ways of surviving and old wounds won’t disappear overnight, nor will they disappear because I am my own boss, but through being my own boss I have a good chance to take responsibility for my own healing and for the way I am in the world as a small business owner.
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