• Ly Aunapu

My first year in business: the real story

Updated: May 25, 2018

What do bleeding nipples have in common with your business and how getting bashed only makes you stronger?

Photo: Marita Mones

When I was 6 years old my parents asked me what did I want to become when I grew up and I answered a CEO. 24 years later I made my dream come true. I was smart enough to realize that applying for a CEO position in one of those Fortune 500 companies might be a long process and none of the personality tests that I’ve taken have ever outlined patience as one of my strong traits, so I figured starting my own business would be the best way to go about it.

I gave birth to Zensual Woman a year ago, 26th of May 2017. The conceiving process started earlier of course but that was the day I walked out of the hospital and showed my baby to the world (imagine Kate Middleton and Prince William in front of St Mary’s Hospital). I launched my website, my phone started ringing, my bank account clogged up with $$$ and everything started to go uphill from there. Rightttt…..

Let me tell you the truth.

The reason why I created Zensual Woman at first place was to inspire people to show more of their authentic selves, so let me walk my talk here.

I’ve chosen some of the best memories and lessons that I’ve learned while building a coaching business online and offline in 12 months.

Warning: this is not a full circle of the Hero’s journey, the Hero hasn’t returned with the elixir yet, meaning that there hasn't been an overnight success (yet).

1. Money is overrated, right?!

I remember those university days when taking the bus back to my hometown to my parents' house on a Friday evening also meant taking all the used plastic bottles from the previous week back to the supermarket, so I could earn some money for my bus ticket (in Estonia there’s a deposit for plastic bottles). So yeah, that memory doesn't seem to be too distant anymore. I made 2000 AUD in the first two days of my business but let me tell you, the cash flow didn’t continue to increase at such a rapid speed. Although business is not called business until it makes you money, I find it extremely important in the early stages to find a way to measure your success and progress also in other ways. If money is the main motivation, you might get discouraged very easily.

2. Breakdowns turning into breakthroughs

Having a breakdown felt like eating pancakes on a Sunday morning, it happened quite often but somehow still felt special. Those were the moments that helped me to see the importance of having a strong mindset and not be overwhelmed by my emotions. I wish I’d learned it quicker. In reality, I had to make sure first that I cry pretty much in every corner of my flat: bathroom floor, bedroom floor, in the living room, in the shower, I think I only missed my kitchen (it’s not because I didn’t have enough tears, I just have a very small kitchen, so it’s not super comfy there). Being able to deal with your overwhelming emotions is crucial for growing your business and reminding yourself that your self-worth is not equal to the money you earn.

3. Having an accent is sexy

One of the biggest hurdles that I had to overcome is the fact that English is not my first language and I have an accent (and I often speak Estonglish). I knew that I wanted to run workshops and be a speaker and the truth is I was so freaking scared to start doing it because I thought people would not take me seriously. I often felt limited by my vocabulary and my Estonian accent sounded to me like I’m having a hot potato in my mouth.

While pursuing my dream of running workshops I had to suck it up and accept where I am right now. In reality, nobody ever said a thing about my language skills, I got invited to podcasts and found clients from my workshops. I’ve been told many times that my accent sounds exotic and is actually my strength. This experience showed me how our own perfectionism can hold us back, something that I created in my mind. We always have a choice to choose our own reality in every situation.

4. Becoming a social creep

I came to Sydney with zero network and building my community from the scratch is one of the things that I’m the proudest of. I met people in all sorts of ways and learned to become an extrovert (or a social creep in some cases). If you received a message in LinkedIn from me and found it awkward, I apologize :D Although most of the people who know me personally would think I’m an extrovert, I’m an introvert by heart.

Going to networking events and approaching strangers felt so freaking uncomfortable in the beginning but I’ve got so used to it that there’s no shame in it anymore. The worst thing that ever happened while approaching people online was that they didn’t get back to me but the best thing was that I found new friends. Connecting and collaborating with people is something you just gotta do and if you reframe it for yourself, it can be super fun (mostly). I’ve never cared about big numbers, for me, it’s about the quality connections.

5. Getting verbally bashed

During these 12 months I have been quite blessed with hearing positive feedback but don’t assume people will easily tell you good things (they usually tell you when something is wrong). I’ve been receiving encouraging messages from old acquaintances and strangers who have found me online and been inspired by my work. But I’ve also been beaten up by some angry feminists (an important note here: I mean feminists who were angry, not that all feminists are angry) because standing for women’s right is not what I’m doing, right?!

I got publicly criticised in some FB groups by people who have no clue about the work I do. I keep telling myself that others' opinion don’t matter but it’s a pile of s*it. Criticism hurts like your first boyfriend dancing with another girl in a school disco. It’s brutal. Once you pick up your pieces and see that you’ve been bullied by a group of people that are not out there publicly showing their heart and soul, it feels great and you feel stronger. Little slap on the face doesn’t kill anyone.

6. Your business is your baby

The ugly truth is that most people decide to start their own business because they want to have more freedom in their lives but they end up having so much less time and often become slaves to it (a little exaggeration here). I’m no different. I’ve always done things my way and freedom is my number one value in life. Understanding that my business needs my attention all the time, not only when I’m feeling great but also when I am down, has been a priceless lesson. It’s your baby and you gotta breastfeed her even when your nipples are bleeding (too much information? Yeah, people often tell me that).

But there’s also another part to it. In order to show up for others and really help them to transform their lives, I have to take care of myself first. Finding the balance between hustle and flow is my life-long lesson and I’m now teaching it to women too. Getting shit done but also switching off your mind is not the easiest to embody.

7. People steal from you (if you let them)

I’ve had some incredible moments, crying with my soulmate clients on Skype, seeing people transform their lives in front of my eyes, ending up on a magazine cover (as a second violin, not the main cover girl) without doing any PR, getting over 50 people join my workshop after writing 2 FB posts about my event, finding clients from a FB post...etc but there has also been a huge amount of s*it I’ve eaten.

When you are in a business where you sell your time and knowledge, people often think they can get it for free without showing any respect. This is where you need to set strong boundaries and the earlier the better. You don’t walk into the supermarket, take some milk and butter for your brekkie and tell the cashier to pay next week, right?!

If you read it until the end, you are my hero (or a stalker or you had nothing better to do with your time). No kidding, I really appreciate you taking the time to read it all. If you ever considered starting your own business, having a side project, working on your passion, just go for it. It’s the best thing you can ever do, no personal development seminar will teach you so much about yourself than running your own show.

Now, this is the part where I tell you to like my post and also share it with your friends. I think you should definitely do it. Also, if you get annoyed by my imperfect English, I’d love to have you as my proofreader (no joking here).

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