No one wakes up and brightly declares, “Today I will build my own business and call myself an entrepreneur.” Usually there are several small steps and circumstances that leads someone to launch a business.
Unlike most people I know, I’ve always felt deep in my gut that I wanted to own my own business. This feeling has danced in the back of my mind ever since I was a kid. The trouble was I never knew exactly what that business would look like, what I’d sell, or the service I would provide.
Oddly enough I was never interested in studying business in school. Accounting courses were a snooze and I had to drop the economics class I took my first year in college because I was failing it. Although the formal study of business seemed tedious and boring, I thoroughly enjoyed spending my free time reading books on different facets of business, marketing, and leadership and attending workshops and lectures. Although self-taught, I knew that one day the “big idea” would eventually appear. But it didn’t.
I spent my 20s in the corporate world. I had a great job and was continuing to rise up the ladder. I worked in San Francisco then New York City, and there was talk of moving to a European office. It all looked good from the outside but when I would close the door to my office and stare out the window at my gorgeous views, I was miserable. The job itself did not resonate with me (that’s an understatement) and was actually creating an exorbitant amount of anxiety. The stress clearly showed in my health. I turned to both a psychotherapist and an acupuncturist for help in relieving the anxiety and plethora of health issues that were surfacing.
Acupuncture ended up being a solution not only for my health issues but as my “out” from the corporate world. I realized in visiting the acupuncturist each week that there was a business and life outside the typical corporate route. My dream of starting a business that had quietly buried itself for so many years became a possibility again when I decided to open my own clinic – after four years of intense education and training. I love learning so that was an easy sell.
After graduation my husband and I moved back to the Bay Area from New York, and I started my own acupuncture practice from the ground up. It was exhilarating and incredibly fun meeting other business women also starting out. I hustled, worked hard, was the queen of coffee dates, and during the first year of my business also got pregnant.
If my 20s were the “corporate” years, then my 30s were the “acupuncture” years and, although I enjoyed being an acupuncturist, after four years I began to feel restless again.
I did find, however, what I was most inspired by was my fellow women entrepreneurs. All those coffee dates and befriending other women business owners made my heart soar. I intimately knew the problems women faced when they wanted to follow their dream and make a living doing so. I wanted to work with this group but I wasn’t sure how exactly to help them.
I realized that acupuncture was simply a stepping stone to the next chapter of my life, but I was unclear what the next chapter looked like. I knew who I wanted to work with but I wasn’t sure about the how.
I realized that I was pushing and struggling incredibly hard to figure out my big idea. I was forcing inspiration to deliver on demand. I was trying to create a business out of my background and expertise but every idea just didn’t feel right. I felt exhausted and dismayed and decided to simply stop.
I might have ended the struggle, but I traded it in for something much more powerful – surrender.
I was never keen on this word as it sounded like giving up. I wasn’t about to give up on my dream (whatever that was) that’s for sure, but what I was going to do was stop the struggle and allow the inspiration, the muse, the opportunity to saunter in.
Instead of pushing a boulder up a hill I decided to step aside for awhile and just listen to the stories of others. I spent a year interviewing over 100 women entrepreneurs and business owners to understand what made them unique and successful and the role models in their lives who influenced them. I researched. I networked. I asked for help. I interviewed. I analyzed. I wrote. And, I wrote some more. I spent months outside myself and inside the lives of others. I absorbed all their beautiful wisdom and their tough words of advice. It was humbling and inspiring and in the end, I had fulfilled a lifelong desire to write and publish a book: Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch.
And just like that my muse arrived one fall afternoon while relaxing and reading a magazine. I always knew who I wanted to help, that wasn’t the problem, but the how had eluded me for years. What I realized in interviewing others is that I wanted to build an online education marketplace and community for women starting out in business (and those a few years in as well). This virtual hub for education and connection was often missing in my own life and the lives of the women I know. I felt like I had surpassed the hardest part of my journey which was the beginning. I was ready to move quickly forward.
Within a few short months of having my “aha moment” I brought on a co-founder, sold my acupuncture practice, moved my family to the Pacific Northwest and officially launched LearnSavvy. It has been an amazing year as I begin the next chapter of my life. Who knows what term I’ll use for my 40s. So far I’m loving what I’m seeing from my first year of this prime decade.
Will this be my last iteration? I highly doubt it. I have other dreams (including writing a screenplay and bringing women’s stories to the big screen) and, I have so many interests, I never know the direction my life will take. But I’m loving every surprising twist and turn.
The one thing I’ve learned during my last costume change (see, getting ready for writing that screenplay) is that quieting the mind and mental chatter can produce amazing and unexpected results if you’re open to the challenge.
If you are interested to take one of Learn Savvy’s many great classes, you can use the coupon “Career2friends” to get $5 off any class until June 1st.
Jenn Aubert is an author and entrepreneur. Her first book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch! (Balboa Press, 2014) explores the mindset, motivation and behaviors of successful female entrepreneurs and the role models in their lives who have influenced them. She is also the Co-Founder and CEO of LearnSavvy, an online education marketplace and community for women business owners and the Co-Owner of the site Showcasing Women. Personally, she adores inspirational quotes, all things French (yes, that does include wine), Deepak Chopra and a comfy pair of ballet flats. She has recently relocated to Portland, OR with her husband and adorable son and is spending her free time exploring everything her new city has to offer.