“My name is Sandra Bird and I have worked for myself for a little short of four years, although you could say that I started working towards that some years before. I took a complete change in direction, which required me to study a full-time degree course whilst working part-time for somebody else and alongside my children studying for their GCSE’s. At that time my husband was working away from home for most of the week – fun, hectic times!
Something surprising about me? Well, more of a claim to fame really – I once sold a bottle of champagne to Helen Mirren and a beautiful purple velvet jacket to Stephen Hawking (I was working in Marks and Spencer in Cambridge at the time).
My business is an acupuncture practice – An Shen Acupuncture. “An Shen” translates as Calm(ing) Spirit and I think this describes both the practice and practitioner. I have often been told that I have a calming influence and acupuncture calms the mind and spirit, as well as easing the pain of the body. My treatment room is above a hairdressing salon in central Lincoln and it is a haven of peace in the midst of all the chaos of a busy location.
I don’t have staff, as yet. I have a very strong belief that what is meant to happen will happen, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all down to fate or luck. It requires openness to opportunity and effort to be in the right place at the right time. I have a clear, if not strictly detailed, vision of where the practice is going.
There is no short-cut. The cliché “after … (pick a number) years of hard work, I became an overnight success” is true. The secret is to enjoy every minute of it along the way. Relish and celebrate all your achievements and when it’s not going quite as you planned don’t worry – that just means you have to try a slightly different approach. When you find yourself in a place where you cannot see which way to go, and believe me you will be there more than once, call on a friend who you can chat, cry and laugh with about it. Always believe in yourself; always believe there is a way; eventually the way will show itself to you.
The weather conditions of winter 2010 (my first year in practice) caused a few problems for me but that was nothing compared to the following winter. My mother became ill in November 2011 and died in the December. As a consequence I had to take quite a bit of time out of clinic. January and February 2012 were particularly quiet months and it was a huge struggle to regain momentum with the business. I basically had several weeks of rent to cover with no income and cash flow was non-existent.
I got over this hurdle by doing a Groupon offer and not thinking about the individual fees per treatment (that would have been too depressing). I knew I had to view the whole thing as a marketing exercise and fortunately it paid off. I managed to bring in enough money to catch up with my rent and expenses and even gained some regular clients from it. A couple of them still see me regularly to this day. What kept me going was the belief that this is what I am meant to be doing and Mum would not have wanted me to give up. That and an enormous amount of support from my business networking buddies.
I believe that I really can achieve whatever I decide I want to. And if I cannot do it on my own I will know somebody that can help me.
Self-employment chose me. At the age of 42 my hips just seized up. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and put on a waiting list for a hip replacement. Wanting to avoid medication I tried acupuncture and the rest is history. By the time I was 43 I was enrolled on a full-time degree course and studying traditional Chinese medicine. I am now 50 and no, I have not had a hip replacement. Regrets? Never!
In addition to my practice, I am the volunteer network leader for Women in Rural Enterprise Lincoln. WiRE is a fantastic supportive network for women. If you would like to know more take a look at the national website.
Although I work alone the very nature of what I do means that I am in constant contact with people. I am happy to be on my own but I think overall I am a people person. I like to be with other people even if we are sitting in comfortable silence. If I do get a quiet spell in clinic and I feel the need for company I go downstairs and chat with all the ladies having their hair done. Having said that, it is vital to chat and share ideas with other people in business. I believe that networking is key to this. In fact, I have been told that my networking ethic is like no other and I have even won a business woman of the year award because of it.
I love social media but nothing can replace face-to-face interaction. I attend a few networking groups on a regular basis. Some of them are for women only and some are mixed. I think it’s true that men and women do things differently and that it’s important to maintain and respect those differences. As with everything in life, it’s all about Yin and Yang and harmonious balance.”
Read more about Sandra and her work at her website: AnShen Acupuncture
AnShen on Twitter: Twitter.com/AnShenTCM
AnShen on Facebook: Facebook.com/AnShenAcupuncture