Entrepreneur's Journey - My Business Story
Entrepreneur’s Journey – My Hero Story
The first time I took out an ABN (Australian Business Number) in 2001. I gave birth to my son the same year. It was also the same year I got my drivers license, days before he was born. We were living on my husband’s wage in a garden suburb of Sydney, Australia.
Paying the mortgage was a struggle but we coped, like many other young families.
Attila was born here, in Australia but we met in Hungary in 1993. Two years later we moved to Sydney to start a family. He went straight into a job and I went straight into labour.
The life I had planned for myself was interrupted by news of us being pregnant. By leaving Hungary, I left behind a half-finished teaching degree as well.
I knew I wasn’t ready to go back to the workforce with an infant. I also knew that if I wanted to improve on our financial situation, I had to find a way to make an income.
I searched the internet for weeks trying to find a work from home opportunity. Back in those days, they weren’t as easy to find as they are now. While scouring the local paper one day, I saw an ad for mystery shoppers.
I read everything I could find online about mystery shopping. I hatched the idea that instead of working for an agency as a mystery shopper, I can bypass the middleman.
I registered a business name and got my ABN. I took advantage of a free small business course the local council was offering at the time and signed up for GST. I was all set. I cold-called a bunch of local businesses with zero success until I managed to get through to the manager of a small local shopping centre.
I pitched my mystery shopper idea to him over the phone. He wanted a meeting with me the next day at the centre. When I got over my initial shock of someone actually being interested, I realised that I didn’t even have a presentation to show him. I knocked something together with the help of hubby that night.
The next day I set off with my infant in tow and presentation easel under my arm.
The meeting went well and we signed a contract to mystery shop all the stores in the centre. I enjoyed it. A lot. They loved the reports and feedback I wrote and paid me on time and in full.
I made enough money to finance a family trip to Hungary for all four of us. On my return, I resumed cold calling businesses to flog my mystery shopper services. All I got was crickets. I tried the shopping centre again.
The management has changed and the new guy was not interested at all in my services.
A few months of knocking on doors and having them slammed in my face I decided that it was time to call it a day with my mystery shopping venture.
The pressure to make money with that business was too high and I was better off finding myself a job. And so began a 14 year stretch of jobs in various positions. All of them enough to improve on our financial situation but none of them satisfying.
I drifted between jobs and companies for years. All with a common denominator. I was never satisfied. I’m not talking about the financial compensation. That’s a whole other matter. I’m talking about the knowing that there is so much more in life I could be doing.
I was working in jobs that didn’t challenge me for companies who never recognised my skills and talents.
And it was killing me. My mental health deteriorated along with my emotional state.
I have a great work ethic. I’m filled to the brim with creative problem-solving ideas. I can see holes in processes and I have the drive to take action where there is a problem. You’d think that it would be any company’s dream to have an employee like that.
Not the one I worked for for the last almost 9 years of my corporate career.
The insidious culture of a global corporation that would have you believe that you are not worth more than what they are paying you and that you have to tow the line and be invisible is what an ideal employee is was breaking down everything I believed I wanted to be.
I didn’t realise just how much it affected me until my doctor started asking me questions about my work when I saw her for my thyroid-related autoimmune disease.
The penny dropped.
The thoughts of owning my own business again started seeping back into my conscious mind. Naturally, I shooed them away. Taking that kind of risk did not make sense to my conditioned brain.
Remembering the failure of my first attempt at business made me want to not think about future opportunities. At least until a day sometime in November 2016.
The announcement came from my corporate management that my team of 10 highly skilled and experienced professionals will be made redundant. Our jobs were to be taken overseas. Outsourced to an untrained workforce somewhere in Asia.
As we sat at our desks, following the upheaval of the announcement and contemplating where to next, a colleague of mine just casually suggested that I should start my own consulting business.
I dismissed the idea as ridiculous, much to his amusement. On the train that day, while on my way home, it would niggle at me. By the time I got home, it was more like chomping rather than a niggle.
2 days later I would have a business name registered, my old ABN re-activated and a domain name and hosting for my website.
I calculated the exact amount of redundancy pay I was entitled to. Then I made a plan that would allow me to start Virtualissimo while I was still working full time.
I rolled my sleeves up for the 3 months following the redundancy announcement. I worked my full-time job Monday to Friday, 8 till 4.30. Then I worked another 4-5 hours on my business when I got home, almost every single day.
I wanted to make it work so bad, I could taste it. Mentally and emotionally I checked out of my corporate job as the new year of 2017 rolled in.
On my last day, not a single tear was shed. Well, a few tears of joy. I finally felt free to create the life I wanted for myself and to be the person I always wanted to be.
Almost immediately after wrapping up in my corporate job I took my business on the road. I bought a cheap re-conditioned tablet laptop that I knew will be just enough to get the job done while I was on the road.
I set off on another trip to Hungary with hubby and the kids for the first time in 14 years.
The trip proved a lot of things. I really needed a break. Also, that I needed to move out of the headspace I was stuck in. Most of all, it proved that my business model will work, no matter where I am in the world.
On my return to Australia, I found a new routine for myself. That was my first big challenge. The second was finding more female entrepreneurs I can look up to. Something I can strive for. The whole mum-preneur or fempreneur thing never worked for me.
I didn’t want to be defined as a businesswoman by the fact that I have a vagina.
At the same time, I wanted to connect with others in business who can relate to my experiences as a female in the corporate world as well as in business.
My third biggest challenge was a voice that regularly crept into my head. The one that questioned my decision to use my redundancy money to finance my business was an unwelcome daily guest.
To stave off the dark, I decided to revive an old practice I haven’t used in a long time. I dug out an old notebook from the back of the bookshelf. It was my gratitude journal and the day was 11th August 2017.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the last entry from 5 years ago, to the day. This is what it said:
“Today I realised just how independent and loving my kids are when they said how much they love Sunday family breakfast. It just warmed my heart. I would love to be able to serve breakfast to them every day and then work from home and be home when they get home from school.
I get immense joy out of being able to give practical guidance to my clients. It’s my ultimate goal to be able to do this full time and make a comfortable living out of it.”
Date: 11th August 2012
6 Month Milestone
I knew then, that no matter what happens after this, I made the right decision.
The challenges haven’t stopped. I was still dealing with some issues from the fall out of the redundancy. Financially it worked out well but from a self-confidence and self-worth perspective, it floated a lot of other issues right up to the surface.
I realised that over the last two decades of working for someone else, that someone else has decided what my time, knowledge and skills were worth. Now I had that responsibility. I could no longer whinge that I was underpaid. If I was underpaid for a job, it was on me.
I also discovered that my voice mattered.
The advantage of a content management business is that I generate my own content. There is no dimming my own brightness to pander to anyone. There is no tiptoeing around to navigate office or company politics.
I cannot express to you how liberating that is!
One of my biggest struggles is, and I’m saying “is” because I’m still working on this, is pivoting from an employee mindset to a business owner’s mindset. Undervaluing myself was a classic example of that.
Some of my first clients got insanely good rates for the type and level of work I did for them. I severely undervalued myself and so did they. I confused giving good value and great service with being a complete doormat. And that is how I was treated.
I didn’t treat myself as a business owner, so my clients didn’t treat me as one either. Slowly a picture started emerging. A picture that I didn’t like. I allowed myself to be treated like a dogsbody by some of my clients.
That is not what I was in business for. That was a turning point for me. I did my best to turn that around with those clients. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try things just don’t work. I had to fire my first client.
It wasn’t pretty but I knew that I needed to grow a pair and behave like a business owner of equal footing. I researched “how to fire a client” on Google and took the steps I needed to take.
That was a big decision to have to make so early in my business but it was the right one. It felt good.
And so I moved on.
Learning from this, I have put measures in place to ensure that the clients I now enter into working arrangements with are ready to work with me.
It was now September 2017.
I was looking at my overflowing inbox one day. I signed up for every single freebie I could put my hands on that had anything to do with running a business. My inbox was now filling up with daily mailouts from every man and his dog.
All flogging their business courses, webinars, workshops, programs and who knows what else that is “the only system that will make me a six-figure business in 3 months”.
I was devouring content like crazy, some free, some paid and I realised that while I was telling myself I had no idea how to run a business, I let all those people whose stuff was filling up my inbox essentially tell me the same thing.
I realised I was looking up to the wrong people. I started seeing through the bullshit that is coming out of the myriads of marketers and “coaches” and I realised that the only person benefiting from reading and paying for their stuff was them.
I unsubbed from most of them and only kept the ones who actually provided helpful and free content I could put to use for my business immediately.
And I found new people to look up to.
One of the biggest epiphanies in my first year of business was when I realised that I had the right and opportunity to choose who I worked with.
Contrary to how it is when you work for someone else when you run your own business, you can pick your clients. You don’t have to take a project or a client if you don’t think it’s a good fit.
The most important thing my first year in business taught me is that I determine my worth as well as my path. It also taught me that I am now fully in charge of expressing my own brilliance.
This last one was more of slow simmering and growing idea that took a little while to form and for me to comprehend it.
I am Andrea Kaldy, content strategist, my voice and expertise are valuable and I am able to develop myself in my niche.
These are 75% of the goals I wanted to achieve in my first year of business.
I produce a lot of free resources to help other businesses with their content strategy. A few days ago someone said they loved my content and were looking forward to reading my weekly blogs and the resources I produce weekly.
That is what success looks like to me. The ability to reach people and make accessible to them free materials they will use for growing their business.
Because that is what helped me. I am just keeping the generosity cycle going. Instead of a cycle of dependence, fear of missing out and manipulative marketing, I choose to pay forward.
These days, after Virtualissimo’s first birthday, the challenges haven’t stopped and the obstacles are still constant. That’s just business. That’s just life. I’m just more aware and conscious of the power I have to flourish than ever before.
I have finally worked out my niche but every day I acknowledge that I still have a lot to learn about running a business.
And that’s OK.
Talking myself up is still a challenge and I still stumble sometimes when people ask me what I do out of the blue. Elevator pitches sound great on a website or your Facebook page but in a real-life conversation, I feel like I’m reciting a menu to a customer at a restaurant.
I’m working on that.
My biggest challenge right now is on the homefront. The mental load of running a business while raising a family and being in a marriage can often be overwhelming.
Working for myself meant a lot of adjusting for me as well as for my family. Self-care often goes out the window when you’re self-employed. Roles within the family needed to change to make it work effectively. That presented its own challenges and obstacles.
We are still getting there.
I’m looking forward to my second year in business. The growth, the wins, the fails, the hard work. All of it. I take it as a complete package because I know that this is my shot at showing the world who I am and what I can do.
And I’m going to throw damn well everything at it too!
I have a great work ethic. I’m filled to the brim with creative problem solving ideas. I can see holes in processes and I have the drive to take action where there is a problem. You’d think that it would be any company’s dream to have an employee like that.