A Story About Taking the Road Less Travelled: Starting a Business That Aligns With Your Life and Values

A Story About Taking the Road Less Travelled: Starting a Business That Aligns With Your Life and Values
  • In this interview with Melissa Sharman, Director at Grow to Succeed, we ask her about what inspired to set up her coaching and project management business for creative startups.
  • Melissa shares some of her highs, lows and the challenges she has faced as an entrepreneur.
  • Read on learn more about her story and to get advice if you're in the process of starting your own business.

Tell us about your business

Grow to Succeed provides coaching and project management support for small business start-ups and creative ventures. Through friendly, holistic and personalised support, we help people who have a business concept but don’t know how to turn their idea into a viable business.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am very blessed to live on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, and be a Mum to two gorgeous children, 4 and 5 years old, who I raise mostly on my own. I graduated last year from a BA in Political and International Studies, and followed that up early this year with a Cert IV in Small Business Management.

I have a passion for social justice, particularly in the developing world, and I occasionally travel and regularly volunteer for a couple of international aid and development organisations that I believe strongly in.

I also work 1 day per week as Business Manager for an international non-profit. That role is perfectly congruent with what I do in my business, and I love that I get to experience a sense of flow and unity of purpose in everything I do.

Why did you start your business?

The unifying factor in all of my work is a deep sense of calling to be a ‘platform builder’ – one who works to help others find their voice and step up to their own greatness, in whatever way that looks for them. I founded my business out of this deep passion to see people be all that they can be.

On a more practical level, I found myself mid-last year in a fairly defining season in life: turning 30, freshly graduated and divorced, with two small children. As far as I could see, I had three options:

  1. I could have embraced the single mother stigma, raise dysfunctional children and struggle to make ends meet;
  2. I could have sought out a graduate position with a government agency, moved away from my home and community to a town I don’t love, to work inflexible hours in a job that suited my ego but kept me from my family; or
  3. I could take the road less travelled and create the life of my dreams. I ran with this option as starting my business gave me the flexibility to invest in the things that really matter to me.

How has your life changed?

The biggest change is that I have the daily joy of doing work that excites me and matches my talents and passions, in a way that suits the lifestyle that I value. All of the challenges and uncertainty are worth it for this. I also love the personal growth that is a necessary part of being in business; I am a better and bigger person for it.

What are some of the challenges you have experienced in starting your business?

The greatest challenge I experience in my business is mindset. Often we imagine limitations that don’t really exist, and I have found that when my business becomes stale, it’s usually because I have stopped dreaming, or have lost my confidence or clarity in a particular area.

Making a conscious effort to surround myself with positive, successful people helps to shatter those pre-conceived limitations, and reminds me to think of larger possibilities.

When you manage your own micro-business, you are your business’s greatest asset. That means that taking care of your physical and mental health is imperative, though often difficult under the demands of a business.

The operational aspects of business can also be challenging, particularly when you’re starting out. Learning how to charge clients, how to communicate with them, how to set appropriate boundaries with work flow, these have all been challenges for me.

I learned to listen to my intuition; if something doesn’t feel right, don’t just put up with it. Being in business requires consistent reassessment and growth. I have found that clients appreciate honesty and integrity, so don’t be afraid to communicate with them about changes that you need to make, and why – as long as you can show them the benefits.

What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are in the process of starting a business?

I often work with micro-enterprises and solopreneurs, and I usually suggest to these kinds of clients that it’s great to keep at least a part time job while starting out. If you know you can cover your basic living expenses, the pressure is off your business to perform, anything it makes is a bonus, and you can enjoy the adventure.

I also say often that it doesn’t need to be as complicated as we often make it. Do your research and plan, yes. But also know that you can’t see every eventuality before you launch; your plan will change and adapt over time, and that is perfectly ok. In fact, it is imperative.

Lastly, the best piece of advice that somebody gave me when I started out: plan to fail. Failure is an inevitable part of business life – some things will work, some things won’t. Again, we adapt and grow along the way, and failure is sometimes our impetus for doing so. Don’t fear failure, make it work for you.

What is the vision for your business going forward?

Our vision is to increase our influence in the local small business community and to grow our professional networks. For 2013, we will focus specifically on growing our coaching and training services, and will begin to offer on-line coaching, as well as group seminars and workshops.

We started strong this year, and it is now time to consolidate, focus and grow.   

Melissa Sharman

Director at Grow to Succeed

Melissa Sharman is a coach and speaker who leads professional people to effectiveness and fulfilment, by uncovering the place of genius where unique purpose and strategic implementation converge. With 15 years of experience structuring organisations for growth, Melissa works with on-purpose business owners, social entrepreneurs and community leaders across the globe, from corporate settings to developing communities.