The work I do gives me the opportunity to meet interesting people. The other day I received an email from Jo Briggs introducing me to a new website she and Barb Hazelton have launched. I was blown away when I visited the site and you will be too. These women have created videos on divorce, every subject you can think about when it comes to divorce. Check them out at Single Process. I promise, you’ll find a video that speaks to some issue you’re dealing with.
The above video hit home with me due to conversations I’ve had recently with women interested in starting their own business. Us women who were stay-at-home Moms and have been available to our children find it hard to fathom going back to work after divorce. And so, we start pondering what we can do to bring in income and remain as available to the kids as possible.
I remember the angst I felt after my divorce and working outside the home for the first time in 14-years. I’d leave the house before my boys caught the school bus and return home in the evenings 2-hours after they’d been home from school. It took me less than a month of feeling detached from my children to decide I wasn’t the least bit interested in doing the 9-5 thing. No matter how much fun Jane Fonda and Dolly Pardon made it look!
I put my thinking cap on, became determined to start my own business, one I could do from home and, the rest is history. So, for you Moms out there wondering how you too can become a “Venture Mom” here is my story. I hope you take something helpful away.
How I Became a Venture Mom and Started My Own Business After Divorce
I have two post-divorce career paths/businesses. Starting my first business and succeeding paved the way for me to easily transition to a new business once that was needed. I’m going to give you the reader’s digest version of how I managed to start two successful post-divorce businesses.
Taking a Skill and Turning It into Income
For decades I’ve been an acrylic and watercolor artist. Before, during and after my marriage I painted for pleasure. I had a skill I enjoyed and eventually would use to enable myself to become my own boss and not disrupt mine and my children’s lives too drastically.
I was in a local upscale gift shop one day and noticed a lot of hand painted glassware. A light bulb came on! I could do that. I could make money doing that. And that was the beginning of my first post-divorce business.
I left the gift shop that day. Stopped at Walmart and purchased $60 worth of cheap stemware. I went home, did some research online about using acrylic paint on glass. Ordered some mediums I would need to be able to do this and as soon as it was delivered I went to work painting that stemware.
Stepping Outside my Comfort Zone
Once I had my stemware painted I had to sell it. I didn’t want to be online, I wanted to be in local shops. That meant making cold calls and actually selling my product. I’m not a sales person. I couldn’t sell an epidural at half price to a woman in labor. It’s just not a talent of mine.
I remember packing up my painted stemware, putting it in the car, sitting in the driveway filled with anxiety. I had finally come face-to-face with the hard part of starting my own business. I had to conjure up confidence in myself to do something that meant stepping outside my comfort zone.
I went that day to the gift shop I’d first seen the painted glassware. It was the best shop in town and if I were going to do business I wanted to do business with the best. I walked into the shop, pulling my carrying case full of stemware behind me, on legs that felt like noodles. I still feel that anxiety when I think back on that day. Shudder!
Kari, the shop owner was welcoming and, although, she probably thought I was in over my head agreed to take a look at what I was selling. And, she LOVED my work. I left her shop that day with a $3,000 order and an exclusive contract to provide my product to only her shop, no other shops in town.
I felt like Sally Fields on Oscar night 1984. “You like me, right now you really like me!” And, ya’ll that is one damn good feeling when you’ve been dealt the blow of being left behind by a husband and royally screwed over by the family court system.
I learned two important lessons that every venture mom needs to know from that first cold call.
- If you have a great product, it will sell itself, you won’t have to.
- You’ll never succeed if you aren’t willing to step outside your comfort zone. If you let doubt in yourself, anxiety and discomfort over doing something you’ve never done before determining what you are and aren’t willing to do your business will never succeed.
I named that business, Pigment of Your Imagination. Within two years my product was in shops in Atlanta, Birmingham, Orlando, Tampa, Seattle and Chicago. Plus, many small shops within a 100-mile radius of my home. And, I was working my ass off, at home, with my kids painting glassware.
I had taken an idea, a skill and $60 and turned it into a business with a yearly income of close to $100,000 a year. I was a success and it turned out to be a HUGE pain in the neck, literally.
I was in and out of the doctor’s office with pain in my neck. I have a genetic predisposition to arthritis. And, the ugly beast decided to hit me at the worst possible time and in the worst possible place for someone who spent her days bent over painting glassware. I had to let go of my business or reconcile myself to becoming the hunch back of Wentworth Drive. What can I say, I was way to vain to ever live with a hunched back!
Where Do You Go When You Can No Longer Do Business?
I had to change paths but I knew it couldn’t be a drastic change. For my own mental health and enjoyment, I wanted to continue to be my own boss and at home when my children needed me.
One day I remembered a conversation I’d had with my ex’s divorce attorney the day we went for our final divorce court hearing. He said to me, “I hate to see this case come to an end, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of reading those emails you’ve sent to him. You are a fantastic writer.”
You see, I loved my husband, I wanted him to come home. In an attempt to make that happen I made a complete fool of myself by sending long, rambling emails that I thought would make him see the light, love me again and beg to come home. I threw “playing hard to get” right out the window and instead threw myself all over a man who no longer wanted me. And, he had the audacity to share that with his attorney. Oh, the shame!
Anyway, that comment from his attorney started me thinking. What subject did I know a hell of a lot about? Divorce. How could I take that knowledge and put it to work for me? Writing. I started doing more research and was introduced to the concept of “Life Coaching.” I thought, “If someone needs a Life Coach, why wouldn’t someone else need a Divorce Coach.” So, I took a Life Coaching certification course, built a website and started writing and Coaching clients going through the divorce process.
What Goes into Writing and Coaching Online?
Since doing business online was a whole new ballgame and one I knew nothing about, it didn’t come as easy as painting on glassware.
Below are steps I had to take to become successful in my second business online.
- Learn how to build my own website. I had little start-up capital. It was imperative I do as much as I could with as little financial outflow. Free WordPress courses are all over the internet, thank goodness!
- Learn how to attract traffic to my website. Knowing how to brand and market yourself and your business online is knowledge that is a must. I learned about search engine optimization, how to write a blog post that would attract readers and motivate them to click on one of my coaching packages.
- I had to write for my own website plus, write for other sites. I went from painting all the time to writing all the time and Coaching clients on top of that. I had to learn which websites to submit writing to. If you want to brand yourself you have to associate yourself with websites that rank high in Google.
- I had to learn the proper way to use Twitter and Facebook to promote my business and my brand.
- I had to learn patience and then some more patience. Many are under the impression that if you put up a website you’re in business, the money will start to flow. Wrong. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.
- When I found my Coaching wasn’t earning me the income I needed I had to figure out a way to supplement that income with my writing.
I desperately wanted to manage the Divorced Support vertical on About.com. Another woman had that contract and had been doing it for 15-years. I wanted it, though, and determined it would be mine the moment she left the position.
Every day for 18 months I checked the Divorce Support vertical on About.com. Every day I’d see her image and bio. She was still on the job. And then, one day nearly 12-years ago I checked and her image and bio were gone. I quickly checked and they were taking applications for that position. I applied, got into their “training class” with 4 others who wanted the same position. I had competition! Nothing causes me to kick into high gear like competition. I smoked all of them, was offered the position and wrote for About.com for 11-years.
Writing for About.com gave me more exposure as a divorce expert and Coach. It drove a lot of traffic to my Coaching website and that put me above where I wanted to be income wise.
One Opportunity Leads to Others
In 2013 I was contacted by the owners of Command Media Inc. They had purchased the domain name, “Divorced Moms” and wanted me to join them, as partners in building a new website. I let go of my Coaching practice, continued to write for About.com and went to work with Laura Peck building DivorcedMoms.com. In 2015 we sold DivorcedMoms to Divorce Marketing Group in Ontario and I stayed on as the managing editor.
And, here I am. I work daily from home, have for a bit over 14-years. Most days I work in yoga pants and a t-shirt. I determine my own schedule and best of all I find what I do rewarding, affirming and fun. I built this and “this” is something I’d never had faith in myself to do if that errant husband hadn’t one day walked away from our marriage. What a favor he did me!
What have I found to be the upside of owning my own business?
- I answer to only myself.
- The tax write offs are phenomenal.
- I was able to start both my businesses with a low financial investment on my part.
- It’s provided me an avenue to help others, the thing I’m most passionate about.
- It’s like milk and honey for my self-esteem.
- I’m able to choose who I do and don’t want to work with.
- It’s allowed me to feel completely in control of my own destiny.
- I’ve built strong relationships with people I would have never met.
What have I found to be the downside of owning my own business?
- No employee benefits. No retirement plan, no healthcare. It’s something you have to take into consideration and make sure you secure on your own steam.
- The hours can be long. When building a business that business must become one of your main focuses. You must be willing to always be “on the clock.”
- I risked failure when building my second business. That’s daunting for a single Mom with a mortgage a kid in college and one in high school.
- When I first started my Coaching, and writing career the inconsistency of income caused much stress.
What I Tell Other Moms with a Desire to Start Their Own Business.
Don’t ignore your desire. Focus on your skills and what you have to offer that others are in the market for. Don’t allow a lack of money to hold you back. Most importantly, if you have a passion pursue it. If you fail you can at least say you tried. If you succeed you’ll learn valuable insights about who you are and how tenacious you can be.