Am I good enough to start a business?

Can you relate? You have a great idea for a business, or a blog, or a podcast. You feel so excited, so alive. And then, doubt sets in.

Imposter syndrome

When I have an idea (and I have a LOT of ideas) I usually start with a quick Google search. If no one is doing what I am doing, my first instinct is to go “oh, no one will be interested, there is no market.” But if someone else is doing something similar, I go “oh no, there’s already someone doing this, I won’t be able to make it work.”

I’m more than aware that this nagging sense of doubt is what is known as imposter syndrome. Simply put, your intuition is often what puts exciting, new, possibility ideas into your head. Then your voice of doubt, the imposter syndrome, likes to play devil’s advocate.

I’ve been struggling with this a lot over the last week or so. You see, I’ve had this idea percolating in the back of my mind for around 18 months. I kept reading information about economics and business trends when I was still in my full-time, secure job. One day, while working on an urgent deadline (as happens), I had a sudden and clear vision: “what if I could develop a platform to support women in business, by providing access to finance?”

Women in Business

There’s a growing move towards embracing what is known as gender lens investing. The finance world tends to have a male view. Traditionally, there weren’t many women bankers and while there are now a few, it’s certainly not yet mainstream. And when people think of lending to businesses, we usually think of successful MALE businesses. Consequently, many female-led start-ups struggle to get financing and women with small businesses struggle to get loans (and end up putting things on their credit card instead). According to Startmate – Australia and New Zealand’s premier startup acceleration program – in 2019 only 2.7% of funding went to female-led startups.

I see an explosion of women wanting to go into business for themselves. People who, like me, are fed up of feeling like a cog in the wheel, bumping up against a glass ceiling, struggling to balance mother/wife/worker roles, feeling like my their ideas never get traction and wondering why they are instilling so much energy in trying to change a workplace culture that doesn’t really care about change for the good anyway. (Yes, big vent there.)

Like me, many women I know suffer from anxiety and the top-down, the boss-is-always-right so work long hours, be quiet and suck it up work culture is probably part of the issue. Basically, I wanted to be my own boss and develop my own ideas. I wanted to help make the world a better place by empowering women, and I wanted to do things that were aligned with my values.

When I quit my job last year (last day at work was Halloween – I didn’t even pick that out of a sense of fun although I *almost* went in costume the last day), I thought setting out in business would be easy. Actually, I didn’t really feel comfortable with the term ‘business’ even though I had an ABN and was selling services and issuing invoices. Once again, I subconsciously viewed ‘business’ as a man’s game: a physical shopfront with a male boss in an office with subservient employees – even though I work in the digital space and know that the future of work and services are changing.

The Joyful Frugalista Journey

A former work colleague messaged me this morning as she had seen an article online that I was quoted in. “Seeing your name pop up everywhere Serina!” she said. “So proud of you and well done.” From the outside looking in, it DOES look like I am super successful and maybe even famous. But that doesn’t stop the self doubt: I should be earning more, I should be writing more, I should be pitching more, I should be a better mother, I should be doing more housework, working less on weekends etc etc etc.

When I left work, I started out with a vague idea about writing more about personal finance, building The Joyful Frugalista brand and podcasting. I worked like crazy and turned up to speak at events and do whatever freelance writing work I could. I also planned to ‘someday’ develop this idea I had of supporting women in business but shelved it as I didn’t feel it was the right time.

But then I split with my podcasting partner. It was terrible at the time – I was filled with so much self doubt – more than usual – but close friends encouraged me to go solo. So four months later I did, launching The Joyful Frugalista podcast. A few weeks after launch, it was featured in The Canberra Times and I haven’t looked back since.

Last week, I launched my first online course. Again, I was filled with a sense of “am I good enough,” even though it was SOLD OUT a week before it started, and the vibe in the group is amazing. I feel so privileged to be facilitating discussions with these incredible women.

The Magic of Thinking Big

I was out running (well more like walking – I’m doing the Couch to 5 km challenge) the other morning and was listening to one of my favourite books, The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. And wouldn’t you know it, the topic of imposter syndrome came up (in the book it is labelled ‘excusitis’).

There were numerous excuses and their cures, but the story that resonated for me the most was one of a college graduate the author knew. He kept talking about how he wanted to start his own business, but in the end, he talked himself out of it. Basically, he was ‘too intelligent’ and kept making up seemingly rational reasons for why going into business was too difficult, or wrong, or risky.

Yet in the end, he regretted it. He’d chosen the safe, secure path but hadn’t been happy. Instead, he’d seen other people go out on a limb and lean into starting their own businesses. He’s seen how successful many of them had become, but now he was so filled with self-doubt he knew he was never going to start.

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Hearing this was the confirmation I needed to push through some specific imposter syndrome stuff I was dealing with. You see, I had split up with (yet again) another potential business partner. We were going to work on my idea of helping women in business, but I had concerns about the direction it was being pushed in. “Why didn’t you just go solo,” my husband asked me. “Well, I didn’t think I was good enough to do it myself,” I replied.

Doh, there you go. Lack of self belief and lack of confidence in my ability to implement my intuitive vision.

Well, firstly he affirmed to me that I am good enough (and other lovely friends and people I network with have said the same thing). And secondly, he made it clear I am NEVER alone. And he’s right: I’m not. I feel incredibly supported by my family and the community I am in. And as will be clear to anyone who has worked with me, I value collaboration and I genuinely want to help others – especially women – succeed.

When I was listening to The Magic of Thinking Big, I had just created this website (many thanks to 4Data for their help). And having done that, I had this flurry of fear worries: I don’t have enough time as I’m busy enough as it is, it’s already been done, I won’t have anything interesting to say, no one will want to be in the community, and my perennial excusitis favourite, it’s a dumb idea.

But I decided to push past this imposter syndrome. I felt the fear and I did it anyway. Today I feel called to implement imperfect action by taking the first step to write a blog post on my new website. Ready to not, today I’m launching my new business.

The Joyful Business Club

What I am learning is that building a business – whatever business – takes time. Some people have overnight success, but I’m not one of them. You have to be really clear about what your ‘why’ is. People can spot fakeness and greed a mile away.

And ‘success’ is not just about monetary award, although from a place of self worth, it’s important to know that you deserve to be compensated fairly for the value you provide others. You can be really, really successful in doing what you love and making change and you don’t have to be a millionaire to claim the title of ‘success’. (Yep, I’m still conditioned to seeing success in terms of a dollar sign so this is work in progress for me.)

I am now opening The Joyful Business Club for business. It is going to be operating in three stages, and the first stage is creating a collaborative and welcoming community for any woman who is interested in doing business – whether it is a full time, part-time or side hustle gig. You matter and your dreams and aspirations matter. I get that, and I want to see you shine.

In this community, no question is too stupid and no idea is too small and insignificant. I want you to feel supported not just by me but by the community.

I still don’t know exactly how stage 1 of The Joyful Business Club is going to evolve, and I welcome your advice and feedback. These are some questions I have:

  • When you think/thought about starting a business, what scared you the most?
  • What networking groups work for you?
  • Do you feel comfortable navigating the digital landscape?
  • How did you make your first sale?
  • Are you yet to make your first sale?
  • What courses/training would be useful to you?

In coming weeks, I will be putting more resources on this site. I also plan to run and promote training courses through the website and on Facebook.

Thank you for reading this and thank you in advance for being part of this community. Make sure you also join on the new The Joyful Business Club Facebook Group to connect with others.

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