Blogger #25 is Ntathu Allen who as you are about to read is a long-term CCF (client/colleague/friend). She knows how to spin quite the tale. It’s a long one (warning!) so get a cuppa and settle in!
Hugs and blessings gentle friends, today’s blog post is written in response to The Blogfest 2018, organised by Judith Morgan, business mentor, coach and author and The Small Business Oracle. It is also written to acknowledge and celebrate the publication of Judith’s delightful book Your Biz Your Way aimed at business owners and those interested in finding out more about what it means to run their own business. The brief for the blogfest is to write about your business and how you run it your way.
My blog post is one of 52 written by other small business owners who responded to Judith’s blogfest 2018 invitation. This blog post, alongside the others in this blogfest, is also featured on Judith’s blog where she shares her thoughts on our blog post entries, a simple strategy, which again highlights Judith’s skill in entrepreneurship and marketing and her commitment to supporting small businesses grow our businesses our way.
So, let’s start. I have known Judith for many years. I first came across her work around 2008/2009 when Judith ran the Money Gym with fellow entrepreneur Nicola Cairncross. The Money Gym was a source of inspiration and grounding for me as I was a newbie online. The group support and being part of the solid community of spiritual entrepreneurs helped to keep me sane and my head above water. Nicola also published a book, The Money Gym, which introduced me to the wonderful world of wealth creation.
I undertook a year’s coaching with Judith, and again she was a source of strength and quiet guidance as I started to think about ways to grow my yoga business. At the beginning of our coaching, Judith sent me a wonderful journal which I used to capture my hopes dreams and aspirations. That was a beautiful gift and surprise to receive.
It is now nearly 10 years since those days and here I am taking part in Judith’s blogfest 2018. How cool is that! The brief for the blogfest 2018 is to write about your business and how you run it your way. Read on to discover out how I run my business in my way.
It is nearly 14 years, 2004, since I sent that email. Strange how a six-sentence email can change the course of someone’s life. A concise email. Six sentences to let my boss know that I am resigning from my post as a Probation Officer to follow my dream of bringing peace to the streets of London by becoming a yoga teacher.
That email impacted the rest of my life and has led me to be here, writing this blog post, in sunny Grenada, a far cry from the chilly winds and cold days of south-east London where I usually live and work and where wrote that email.
Gosh, as I write the above paragraphs, I reflect on how naive I was. At that time, all I wanted was to be a yoga teacher. I didn’t think it meant running my own business, and being an entrepreneur wasn’t on my mind. I didn’t see that link. I just saw myself as a yoga teacher, someone with a dream that teaching yoga would help people, especially young offenders, who I mainly worked with as a probation officer, cope better with life.
I didn’t have a business plan, a marketing plan, in fact. I had no plan. No strategy or seven-step formula or six simple steps to follow. All I had was a dream. A desire to bring peace to the streets of London. A dream to stop the criminal gang warfare erupting on our streets and encourage young people to do yoga.
I had a dream to teach yoga in prisons, to run yoga-based programmes for young offenders, to teach yoga in schools, corporate organizations. In fact, anywhere where I could teach yoga and help others find comfort, peace, and beauty in life from practicing yoga and meditation.
That was my dream. Gosh, what a lofty dream! Yet, on reflection, I have done all of that, but the way it has happened, was not how I thought it would.
I still recall the joy when I got the call from the Prison Phoenix Trust, the same year as the movie 12 Years A Slave was released, that my local high security/category A prison was willing to run pilot yoga classes. Would I be interested in running these workshops? A resounding yes! It had taken me 9 years and 3 months to secure my first contract in teaching yoga and meditation in a prison. Resigning from the Probation Service to be a full-time yoga teacher was not the overnight success I thought it would be!
In the early days, I had no idea who my ideal customer was, what an avatar was, what a rate of return meant or the importance of conversion rates. All I knew was how to teach yoga, how to help people meditate to relieve stress, tension, and anxiety and feel better. Back then, I took any contract. Anyone who said yes, I was there. Initially, I was either teaching for free or charging so little it didn’t even cover the cost of travel.
I taught yoga in prisons, community mental health projects, schools, church halls, youth clubs, town halls, private hotel suites, sports centres and exclusive luxurious health clubs. I held private 1-2-1 personal yoga classes for stressed-out executives, ran corporate yoga classes, workshops as part of local community wellbeing events, held classes for pensioners as part of their over 60s Lunch Time Club, ran Chair Yoga workshops, gentle yoga classes for people recovering from major illness and medical conditions. I taught meditation and gave my all.
In fact, as I sit here writing this I can smile and think “Yeah, I haven’t stopped street crime, yet in my own little way I’ve touched lives, helped pockets of people get through their challenges and find a bit of comfort and ease and come out the other end”.
Yet I got burnt out, exhausted and overwhelmed by the constant running around and being at everyone’s beck and call. I had no boundaries. No system. No way of scaling my business, no one to share the load and I struggled to make ends meet when life got in the way. I truly was a one-woman show, with mounting bills and three children at private school. Things had to change.
Looking back, I wonder how I managed to fit in 20+ yoga classes a week. How did I manage to teach two private clients in exclusive apartments in central London from 7.00am, jump on the tube, teach a community health yoga group, nip back onto the train to teach a corporate lunchtime class, grab lunch and do a mad-dash to make it for an after-school yoga class? And then do my full-time job as a mum, wife and daughter and friend.
How did I do it? Where did that energy come fromt? It took its toll and somewhere along the way, I lost my way. Lost my drive, my dream, my energy. I was weary, worn-out, and worried. Coping with the fall-out of a painful divorce was the final straw. I still had bills to pay and children to feed and, on the horizon, I was mindful that my parents, who retired to live in Grenada, would someday require support and help. The way I was feeling, living my life and running my business, there was no way I would be able to support them and be there for anyone.
So, what happened? How was I able to transform my business from being that yoga teacher who said yes to everything and everyone (except myself) and who ran around all over London to being someone who is now peacefully sitting in sunny Grenada writing this blog?
In the words of the immortal Frank Sinatra, I did it my way. And here, in a nutshell, is how I’m doing it. I reconnected with my childhood dream of being a writer. Yes, a writer.
As a child I went to my local library three times a week. I devoured The Famous Five, George was my fictional best friend, Malory Towers my make-believe world of living in a boisterous boarding school, The Secret Seven fuelled my pre-puberty years and stoked the fire for my enjoyment of murder mystery movies, like Columbo, Miss Marple, and even Hawaii Five-O!
Whilst all my other yoga teacher friends where being applauded and opening yoga studios, setting up private yoga and mindfulness meditation enterprises in the corporate world, running popular retreats, or travelling the world, I continued to hustle teaching and dreamed of writing. I dreamed of ways I could take my years of hustling out in the streets teaching yoga, into the online world. I dreamed of having the courage to share my words with others. I dreamed of a time, where I could make a full time living as a writer.
As usual, I had no clear plan or strategy other than a dream I wanted to write. I knew it was something I could do, something I enjoyed doing, yet didn’t know how to make that transition from being a yoga teacher to being a writer. Along the way, I realized I could be both. I could be a yoga teacher and a writer. I could write about yoga, how it can transform your life and make your heart sing. I could do that. I could write books, set up a blog, write blog posts and articles. The sky is the limit.
I held onto that dream, the dream of being a writer. I scaled back my yoga teacher classes so that I could learn the art of online marketing. I took business mentoring courses, worked long shifts in Marks & Spencer as a Customer Assistant, cut right back on living expenses, swallowed my pride and borrowed money from my parents because I had too many debts to secure any type of loan and the bank manager didn’t quite get my dream of being a writer.
Hands down, since sending my resignation email, 14 years ago, it has been a super-crazy roller coaster ride of adventure. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s all been worth it, all part of my journey to be here today, spending time in Grenada with my parents and sharing this blog post with you.
I am still finding my way as a writer and author, still in this transitional phase of earning a full-time income from writing, still learning the tricks of the trade, finding my voice, learning the art of book marketing and monetising my blog. But I am happy. And I am here in sunny Grenada.
On 3rd January 2018 I received a phone call from Dad that Mum wasn’t well and by 5th January I was here. No boss to ask, no colleague complaining about me not pulling my weight. I am here, writing this blog post and spending time with my elderly parents. My daughters are all grown-up now, graduated from university, holding the fort at home in London and making their own way in the world.
That’s what owning my own business means to me. Freedom to travel and work as I please, to touch hearts, to support others and have fun with family and friends, all the while growing my business as I share the spirit of yoga with you, and doing it my way. And that feels great. Thank you, gentle reader and dear Judith, for reading this post and steadfastly following your path as you empower me to follow mine. Thank you. Finally, as we are taught in yoga, take a moment to breathe, to reconnect with your breath and allow the spirit of peace to light your path.
WOW! It’s a stonker. You win the prize (so far) for the longest contribution and I’ve done my best to edit a few words out. I hope everyone sticks with you to the end ‘cos you sure know how to tell ’em. I am so happy for you that your business has brought you to a place where you can, like me, another Malory Towers girl, pursue one of your very earliest loves alongside one of your later ones too, and especially that you can be with your Mum at this time in her life.
One of the things I appreciate about you is that you are always up for stuff like this. And that you found time for it too when you are in Grenada with your family. I’ve watched those girls grow up and it is wonderful that they can hold your fort, a special place you have carefully crafted and which supports them even in your absence. WOW, again! Love to you. Thinking about you in the sunshine supporting your family and sending you top vibes always.