12 things I learned in my first year of business October 23 2015, 0 Comments

It's 16 months since my website and business went "live". The idea to start Yogamona came to me six months before that. I initially thought I might follow in my mum's footsteps and go into gift and home wares but I wanted to have a range of yoga wear as well. Under some good advice it was suggested to focus on yoga wear and accessories. A business with yoga at the heart of it seemed much more aligned with my interests and passion for yoga, meditation and holistic health. It made perfect sense.

I was so busy leading up to Yogamona's first birthday back in July that I didn't have the energy or the time to celebrate. I initially had a birthday celebration in my yearly plan but it kept getting left off my list of priorities. I was busy coaching my beautiful clients, working four days in my day job, packing and shipping orders out to beloved customers and doing all of the behind the scenes (and beating myself up for everything I wasn't getting done)! I'm only just stopping now in mid October to reflect (and celebrate) the year that has been.

Yogamona is my first entrepreneurial venture and for well over a decade I've worked in health care where I was paid a salary. Working in a hospital is totally different to running an online business so it has been a challenging yet extremely rewarding experience. It's always cathartic to reflect, particularly through writing and I thought you might be interested to see behind the scenes. It may paint a very different picture to what you see on the outside!

Here are 12 things I've learned. The good, the bad and the ugly! 

1. Running your own business is hard work.

It takes a lot of time, grind, patience and persistence. It is tiring, particularly when juggling a day job. My social life and "me" time has gone out the window! There is a constant pull whenever I get some spare time to spend it on the business. This has been challenging and I'm still trying to find the right balance. I'm realistic and fully accept that running a successful business takes some hard yakka along the way, particularly in the early days. I don't do things half-hearted and figure if I want the life I truly desire it won't be delivered to me on a platter. There is some (actually lots of) work that has to be done. Strategy, learning about how to run a successful business, reassessing, tweaking, more learning and implementing. It has been a lot to take in. If you're wanting to start your own business or side venture, don't let this put you off. Just be realistic and prepared. Everything takes longer (and costs more) than you think.

2. Being an entrepreneur is a spiritual endeavour.

Wow did this one come as a surprise! It was after my spiritual emergency that I became acutely aware of my desire to be my own boss and become an entrepreneur. I knew I wanted out of the hospital system for good as it wasn't serving me any longer. It felt soul destroying being part of a big machine, despite me being able to help others, which is what I love. I wanted to create a life on my terms and the shift in consciousness after my spiritual emergency equipped me with enough courage to go out and start. I often wonder had I not had this shift in awareness would I have realised just how much fear holds us back? I know most people don't start because of fear. The excuses and limiting beliefs overwhelm us... "but what would I do, I don't have an idea, but I'm trained to do this (insert job), I went to University for all those years so I can't change my career, what will people think if I quit my job or do something different?" The list of reasons why we can't outweigh the list of reasons why we can.

The last two years have been hugely transformational for me. I've been tested and had to grow. Starting my own business has shone a very bright spotlight on my flaws and quirks. My never ending tendency to overcommit, the difficulty I have in saying no and setting boundaries, my procrastination and self-sabotage, my ability to get distracted, the difficulty I have in following through, holding myself accountable and staying focused. 

Just like walking the spiritual path, once you're on you can't get off and I'm not sure I can go back to the 9-5 full-time. It doesn't make me crazy, better or worse than any one else it's just what feels right for me. I crave being challenged and growing. Building my own business certainly ticks those boxes.

3. Self-love is THE most important tool in my toolkit.

The negative self-talk doesn't go away when we start a business, the dialogue just changes. I somehow naively thought that running my own business wouldn't bring up so much of my "stuff". Yet it brings up my issues and flaws on a daily basis. It stretches me like nothing else I've experienced. The negative self-talk and limiting beliefs have just changed theme. Where it might've have been "you're not pretty/smart/funny enough" or "you're never on time, what's wrong with you" - it's now "you're not productive enough, you're so lazy and never get enough done." The inner work, particularly my commitment to a self-love practice is required more than ever. The constant (usually very loud) noise of my inner critic hasn't stopped just because I've started my own biz. I can still hear it loud and clear! The principles of self-love, which my yoga and meditation practice form the basis of, are so so important. I constantly check in with myself to see how I can be more loving, forgiving and accepting of myself. I try as best as I can to practice what I preach. I don't always get it right but self-love has been what has kept me going.

4. The fear doesn't go away, you just get better at pushing through it.

Fear is what stops most of us from moving in the direction of our dreams. It can stop us dead in our tracks. Had I not been on a spiritual journey, I may never have had the courage to leave the hospital system. I may have kept working in the traditional healthcare system because I thought that is what I was good at and what I "should" be doing. It was only after I deepened my self-love practice and decided to find out what it was I really wanted in life and what brought me joy that I started tuning in to my higher self through meditation. I started to hear the signs and follow them. I am still faced with fear every single day, largely linked to my business. "What if I do that and it doesn't work? What if I look stupid? What will people think of me if I write what I'm really thinking? If this blog isn't perfect how will I cope?" And so the list of fear-based limiting beliefs continues. They can be crippling some days. I could go back to a full time job where my work and expectations were more predictable and most of these fears would diminish significantly. That would be safe but I'm not prepared to do that. I won't let these fears stop me anymore. I'm kinda hoping they quieten down a little soon though!

5. Building your own business amplifies your flaws and shortcomings.

I'm not sure this is the case for everyone but it certainly is for me! I feel I'm very harsh on myself for my shortcomings. Rarely is anything I do ever enough. Even though deep down I know I am enough. An example of this is having a business called Yogamona and not practising asana for most of the winter due to total exhaustion - due to pouring my heart and soul into my business - crazy huh? This last year, I have procrastinated far more than I'd like, I've become distracted and lost focus at times. I've overcommitted SO many times I've lost count but I can accept my limitations and choose to work on them every day they greet me. Sooner or later I will successfully retrain my brain and shift my energy, be better at saying no, be more focused and productive. Well that is the aim ;-) Just like my business, I'm a work in progress!

6. I've never worked so hard but enjoyed my work so much.

Working hard isn't necessarily something to be celebrated and I know balance is essential but when you love what you do, work doesn't feel like work. It drives and inspires you. Family and friends sometimes tell me to make sure I'm looking after myself and take more time out. While I recognise their concern and genuine care for me, my business really does drive me. It's my passion. It's like a baby. It needs feeding, nurturing and tending to. It needs my unconditional love. My commitment to my business baby is 100%. I won't apologise for that and I don't expect everyone to understand. 

7. Those who support your business will surprise you.

I initially had some unrealistic expectations that every Tom, Dick and Harry would support me by liking my social media posts, buying copious amounts of yoga leggings and sharing the love. While some have done this and so much more, there have been others that haven't. Initially I was a little disappointed and couldn't understand but I've let it go. It was my unrealistic expectation that was setting me up for disappointment. Not everyone understands your desire to set-up your own business. Not everyone understands the best way to support you and how little signs of support can mean so much. That is totally ok. Life is going at such a fast pace and I'm not the centre of everyone's Universe. When strangers, friends and old colleagues pop out of the wood work to cheer you on, to send a beautiful email or return as a repeat customer that lifts my spirit and keeps me going. Finding my own tribe of supporters who trust and have faith in me has been key. Support comes in different forms. I'm grateful for it all. I'm grateful for you reading this right now.

8. Finding your own entrepreneurial tribe is essential. 

I think most people in my life who work 9-5 must think I'm crazy! It might look crazy from the outside, leaving a secure profession and wonderful job but I have a vision of where I'm going and that is what I'm focused on. Finding support amongst other entrepreneurs has been invaluable. Knowing that I'm not alone and being able to debrief about the issues that come up when first starting out, particularly as a woman in business has been so important. I'm part of a Beautiful Business Mastermind where I know 10 other women and the two experienced facilitators working in soulful businesses have got my back. I've also joined an entrepreneurs program recently which will continue to provide me with a like minded tribe and support from people who understand. I'm in a number of online groups where I can also tap into support as I need, whether that is to celebrate a win or raise a challenge I'm experiencing.

9. The healer attracts what they are needing to heal in themselves.

The Universe has a funny way of working. It is often said that healers attract what they need to heal in themselves and clients can act as mirrors, providing rich opportunities for growth. I definitely find this to be true with a number of my clients. Some conversations are as if roles have been reversed and I should be the one sitting there having the conversation. Clients raise similar challenges to some I experience including difficulty in making decisions (check), being held back by fear and procrastination (check), struggling with the "I'm not enough" story on repeat. It's almost uncanny the clients you attract and working with these beautiful women is certainly very healing for me as a coach and as a human being. As much as I hope my clients benefit from their interaction with me, I too learn so much from them.

10. Failure is not failure.

Ah that f-bomb. Something that we all fear. I believe failure is all about perspective. Failure is not a dirty word. Sure there have been many things I could've done differently or better if I had my time again. I took months to decide on my logo. My poor graphic designer! If I had my time again I would probably decide in a day! I don't see anything as failing though. I see it as a learning. I'm new to running a business so I have to be open to learning and getting things wrong. I'm only human. We are only human. We're always learning from our errors, if we allow ourselves to see the lesson. I hope Yogamona continues to evolve and expand for many years to come, but I won't spend too much time being disappointed if she doesn't. I will simply see it as me being redirected to something bigger and better.

11. Getting help is good.

I couldn't have done this on my own. As I wrote earlier, I came from spending my days helping patients in hospital re-learn how to do their daily activities again after a stroke. More specifically, I taught stroke survivors how to shower and dress themselves again, use their arm again, return home safely and adjust to their life after stroke. While I would say I was relatively tech savvy, I've had to learn all things online - social media, Shopify websites, how to publish blog posts and load stock, communicate with suppliers, manage cash flow, open my eyes to my finances, get clued up on basic marketing and how much to charge for coaching and workshops. It has been a huge learning curve. 

I've studied a number of short courses and programs along the way such as Marie Forleo's B School, coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Facebook Ads with Bianca van Meeuwen from Have it All Academy, Workshop Wonderful with Jade McKenzie from Event Head. I've also participated in a 10-month long Beautiful Business Mastermind with Julie Parker and Jade McKenzie and I've recently signed up to Scalable and Saleable with the Entourage. I recognise to make the process of running my own business smoother and to give myself the chance of making it as successful as possible so I can eventually give back and help more people, investing in myself with ongoing training is essential. If we don't back ourselves who else is going to?

12. Follow your dreams, you can't go wrong.

I can't recommend following your dreams enough. Back yourself in whatever it is you dream of. It will be worth it. I promise you. Don't let fear hold you back. Hire a coach or talk to a mentor to help you bust through the fear and get clear about what it is you want in life and business. We only get one chance at life. Why let "you" get in the way of doing what you desire!  

While I've not made much (if any) profit in my first year, thinking about how far I've come in such a short space of time, makes me proud. I've learned so much and grown so much. I've met some incredible women through my coaching, workshops and the online world. I wake up feeling inspired to have the opportunity to be creative every single day in my business. There is plenty to celebrate! Additional opportunities arose in my day job because of my business. When you get serious about following your dreams and clear about what you want, the Universe truly does conspire to support you! I can't wait to see where I am in another year!

The highlights:

+ getting my first beautiful coaching clients

+ running self-love workshops

+ starting a weekly meditation class at the Habitat Space 

+ speaking at a showcase event for Inspired Women in Business (Eeek! It's less than a month away)

+ becoming the Health and Wellbeing coordinator at my not-for-profit day job

+ co-facilitating a 28-day Personal Transformation Challenge at the Habitat Space

If you enjoyed this blog post and have just started or want to start your own business you might also enjoy reading Denise Duffield-Thomas' blog on her first year in business

To celebrate my first (VERY belated) Birthday and my way of saying thank you, I'm offering FREE shipping worldwide* until the 31st October. Enter HAPPYBIRTHDAY at the checkout to redeem. You can also enjoy a sale of up to 30% off selected items online.

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