Business Sideways

I have a confession to make.

I came into online business sideways. No business plan, no SBA loans. I didn’t have a grand plan to have an online business.

I started after stopping. A full, complete stop. The “I’m absolutely sure I’ll never take on design work again” kind of zero. From a batch of local clients to zero.

It was a full stop because I had taken on the most important job in the world to me. I was a MOM. Responsible for two tiny beings.

It was all I ever wanted. Everything I’d been dreaming of since I was six years old and saw my sister for the first time wrapped up in a pink, striped hospital blanket, next to a bulky baby boy with wild black hair.

“That one?” I asked my dad point to the boy.

“No that one,” he said pointing. There she was, one basinet over, wispy blond hair and a pixie nose: my introduction to the yearning for motherhood.

I knew, knew, KNEW I wanted to be a mom.

When my girls came along 24 years later, even though I gave up all my design clients, I was perfectly content to be Mom.

Who would want to spend all day with this kind of cute?

Business to zero made perfect sense to me.

For a while.

Then it turned out not working wasn’t fine with my creative soul, with my must-help-provide-for-the-family upbringing, or with my brain, which was starting to exhibit signs of losing the ability for abstract thoughts, beyond choosing which muy bien Skippyjon Jones book to read next.

I needed a way to prove to myself that I hadn’t lost my creative skills but I was certain that I wasn’t ready to juggle meetings with clients, which often meant an hour drive to the city.

I didn’t feel like I could step straight back into business, so I went sideways.

Through Volunteer Match, I found a few nonprofit organizations who wanted help with marketing, virtually, no driving required. Around naps, I wrote newsletters, designed websites, and created flyers.

I celebrated each project. My brain, it seemed, still worked. Pro bono work rebuilt my confidence and the realization that I could work from home made returning to business seem doable.

This business had to grow slowly, though, and be flexible enough so that I could be the mom I wanted to be. Design had to be wedged around trips to the park, snacks, and crazy nap time schedules.

It could work. It did work. It does work.

I’m telling you this because we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves and our businesses to everyone else’s. Too much time spent thinking they must have had a straight line to success that is somehow alluding us.

But we don’t stop and look at our story and see the choice we’ve made, the winding, twisty, around-the-mountain-and-back approaches to business that we’ve taken because they allowed us to honor all parts of ourselves.

So, today I want you to look at your business journey and see what you can celebrate. Celebrate the starts and stops, the zero, the sideways, backwards, and vertical approaches that got you where you are today. And please share below. We all need reminders that it is o.k. to approach life sideways.