Category Archives: Business

So I decided I am a Solopreneur… A Small Business Story

{7 minute read}

I am an entrepreneur. A solo-preneur. Solo, the only employee in my coaching business. My small business.  So small I don’t need an office. Just a laptop, wifi, and a phone. And a lot of idealism, willingness to listen and to be coached and mentored, a lot of patience, inspiration, resilience, fearlessness, and trust. Trust that I am where I am supposed to be in my journey, and that all my work eventually will pay off.

My small business is just blossoming. I am a Transition Strategist and Certified Professional Life & Business Coach. I work with professionals who are experiencing the challenges of a major change in their lives. This can be a career transition or a transition in their personal lives. My clients are moving through lay-offs and break-ups; they are on quests for their purpose and driven to define their legacy.  Amidst all these different transitions, I treasure cross-cultural career moves, because they come with their very own set of challenges, especially for the trailing spouses.

Entrepreneurship has changed my life! I love every part of the process, but it is hard work. Thinking about it, I have always been an entrepreneur, a solo-preneur. At age 14, I hijacked my parents’ living room and the grand piano to give piano lessons to an 8-year-old girl from our village. I continued taking students for the next five years and eventually had two whole afternoons blocked off in the living room. Thank you Mom & Dad! Thank you, brothers Andreas and Johannes – your willingness to share and understand was supporting me in ways I can only now fully appreciate.

When my students advanced beyond my level and I happily referred them to my prodigy brother, I started a new entrepreneurial identity and became a language tutor for ESL and French, and private ESL teacher to adult learners. I went on to offer translation and interpretation services in my home country Germany, and was more or less accidentally discovered as a voice talent. I took on voice over jobs for commercials and dubbed tv documentaries for a local tv station. My radio show “Cult and Culture” was a volunteer project that earned me a Sunday morning show on a local radio station, again as a freelancer. Throughout all these ventures I kept my day job or went to school. Later, after moving to Alaska, I worked as a freelance photographer and made minute amounts of money selling prints.  It was a perfect world, as I usually enjoyed my paid work tremendously and my small freelance projects just enhanced the fun.

However, after my most recent full time position, teaching at the university, was -by supervisor’s order- reduced to just retaining students and not letting anyone fail, whether they reached the class goal or not, I realized if I don’t want to compromise my values and ideals any longer, I will have to find a way to serve others with my full skillset independent of an employer. I did a lot of soul searching and applied to many different positions that I thought might fit, underwent a few assessments and finally came to the conclusion that the most honest and straightforward way to honor my gift and give my all to my global community would be as a life and business coach.

So I sold my house and moved my belongings into a storage unit or my son’s home, and took what would fit into my car and two suitcases, and signed up for coaching certification training with iPEC in Toronto. I went back and forth between Alaska and Canada for tour guiding work, but focused on coaching, practiced, learned about the business, practiced, studied, and practiced some more. I coached remotely, via Skype, with willing clients in Germany, Austria, Italy, Brazil, and several U.S. states, and of course Ontario, my training turf. The more I saw results, the bigger my passion to give 110% – give my all and that extra mile, if necessary.

I had to learn everything about being an entrepreneur, and I am not done learning. I have to work part time to make ends meet but this does not deter me from my goal. My biggest obstacle was a spoof ban from Canada that so far no one has been able to fully make sense of. Ten days after my certification I was stranded in upstate New York after trying to re-enter Canada to wrap things up before flying back to my home state of Alaska. I wasn’t allowed to even go back to grab a couple of clothes, let alone taking the time to talk to our attorney and making a decision on how to proceed properly.

Since I was prevented from driving home through Canada, I stayed in the Buffalo/Niagara area until my personal belongings had been brought to me from the place I had stayed near Toronto. It took several months, and during this time I worked part time in Niagara Falls. My remaining waking hours were invested in building The Ki Line, my coaching business. In the past six months, I learned about marketing and client creation in two entrepreneur bootcamps, built my presence on several referral platforms, expanded my website, pro-bono coached six clients, created three new clients, wrote 47 proposals and nine articles, posted 17 youtube videos surrounding my own forced transition and thus created a space where my clients can identify and find their own journey reflected, even if only in parts.

Over the next years of growing my client family, I will develop a transition facilitation model that will help anyone in transition to simplify their lives and thus facilitate any transition. It will impact mobile entrepreneurs as well as professionals who are making a permanent move to a country considerably different from their home.

My biggest “helpers” and tools have been several entities and platforms. Most prominently,  the entrepreneurial culture of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with its Innovation Center and d!g, the co-working space that stands for “Design-Innovation-Garage”, and all the genius people who create magic there; the supportive team of coaches from my training group, but also Noomii and Thumbtack,  free advertising on virtual platforms such as Craigslist and Kijiji, and most recently LinkedIn ProFinder. Out of all the referral programs, LinkedIn ProFinder stands out. It helps a lot in this continuous process of business building as the ProFinder leads are so much more detailed than leads and requests on other platforms, and the options for pros to respond are also more liberal and expansive. If LinkedIn continues to improve and weed out bots and less sincere, ill-intentioned requesters, ProFinder could be an excellent tool for me to connect with my ideal clients. I am inspired to learn more and work more with LinkedIn as I continue to explore other advertising strategies. In my situation, as a Transition Strategist working through transition as a solopreneur, having one referral program to focus on would be a blessing.

So yes. I am an entrepreneur. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life. There are cloud 9 days, then again days when I question whether this can possibly work.  A day in the life might start hopeful at sunrise, but by 11AM and a look at the bills vs what’s in the bank the joy curve plummets below zero. Lunch might bring a new networking connection, by 3PM a new lead signs and I am near the entrepreneurial heavens again, but by 7PM my website kills the “About” page for no obvious reason and the article I worked on for 3 hours disappears, unretrievably.

In honor of balance, I continue and ride this solo-preneurial fever curve. I am singing with Alanis Morissette in my head…I’m broke, but I’m happy. I’m poor, but I’m a fired-up coach who makes a difference. I am kind, and determined, both as a coach and an entrepreneur. I’m scared beyond description sometimes, but my heart is fearless. I have to keep moving, as I push my clients to keep moving.

So far – it’s been propelling me forward.

Where are you going?

Not sure?

Would you like some help figuring it out?

Call me!

 

*My “BoomingModel” experience deserves its own article. Check back soon!

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