My Year of “Try Everything”

Last year I put out into the universe that my Big Hairy Audacious Goal was to speak on the TED stage. I mentioned to a few key people that I was keen to start talking at events. Kim Knight being one of them. Kim mentioned she may have space for me next year. A couple weeks later she invited me to speak at her networking meeting the following month. My second speaking gig in a month! This blog post is the content of the talk I gave in August 2019.

Be careful what you put out to the universe. It usually gives you what you ask for and faster than you anticipated!

The universe and speaking your truth.

Speaking about the Universe, I’m not a New Years Resolution kinda girl. Honestly, I hate the pressure of having to share what your resolutions are with everyone. I hate how everyone jumps on the band wagon in early January, and by mid February no one is sticking to them anymore. 

It’s interesting that 61 of ParkRun record attendance events are from January (28%). The next biggest months for attendance records are February and March each with around 10%. So almost 50% of the attendance records for ParkRun happen in the first 3 months of the year. There are only 7 attendance records in July! 

As I was starting my business journey I joined various online business networking communities. Hello Boss Community was a community of female entrepreneurs that I really felt at home in. We had quite a heated and engaging debate about having a word of the year. I quite liked the idea of a word theme, rather than specific resolutions. Words are definitely my thing! 

I’ve worked in a fair number of industries and jobs in my life. As Emilie Wapnick explained in her TED talk, I’m a Multipotentialite. I a variety of fields and then get bored. Moving on to something else taking my new skills with me. 

Music and Motivation

Charlene & I at Discount Cruises (now Cruisabout).

In 2011 I took on managing the first store in Durban of a new brand within Flight Centre. Our staff consisted of myself and 1 staff member. We were the only branch outside of Jo’burg. We needed to find something to help us feel part of a community. We both loved music and the emotions it evokes. We decided a song would be a great choice for us to connect over. We chose a song that was super upbeat – Hello by Martin Solvieg & Dragonette 

It helped us to connect to our each other and our team as it grew. We could use it as a way to feel connected when we went to group functions with other brands and we didn’t quite fit in. I still remember most of the dance we choreographed in our chairs! We played that song almost every work morning for more than a year! 

Choosing “my” Song.

So when choosing a word of the year, I wanted to choose something that I could find a song for. I wanted something that would resonate with me. A song that would be able to spark the joy over and over throughout the year. 

We’d just watched Zootoptia (Zootropolis in South Africa) with my then 3,5 year old son. For those who haven’t seen it, the movie is about a rabbit who goes off to the city to become a cop, and is the first small mammal to pass the academy. 

I realised the theme song was pretty motivational. The chorus goes “ I won’t give up, no I won’t give in. Til I reach the end, then I’ll start again…. I wanna try everything, I wanna try even though I could fail!” 

So that’s how the year of Trying Everything began. A song and a word (or two). 

2018 and Try Everything

When 2018 started out, I wasn’t sure how Try Everything would manifest. I just knew that I was going to try and stick to it. It turns out it was the most incredible year! Having the mantra to TRY everything, meant I didn’t have to succeed at everything, but I did have to TRY.

I used Try Everything as both my personal and business themes. 

In my Personal Life

On the personal side I started well!

  • I joined a weight loss program and did really well. Losing 14kgs in the first 3 months of the year. I even did a few Parkruns. Yep I helped a couple of those record attendances I spoke about earlier.
  • I began working with a money coach, Marnita Oppermann, in the January. We met through the same online networking group. We were making progress on my money mindset in my personal capacity. As we worked together though, we realised that it was really in the business capacity that I needed to find ways to adjust my mindset.
  • I implemented more boundaries around social media and technology. 
  • Protecting my time with my children became a priority for me. I got better at setting and sticking to boundaries. 

A few months into the year I realised that I was doing well on the personal side, but things weren’t looking that great in the business side. 

In the Business

You see up until this point, WAHM WorkSpace was going to be a physical coworking space targeted at Work at Home Moms. The more I looked into coworking and the idea of building a physical space, the more I realised that there weren’t enough of the right people around to make it work. And that there were under utililsed coworking spaces all over Durban. My adding another one with a unique twist wouldn’t necessarily make it a success. Having a physical space required a fair amount of cash flow. Which I wasn’t going to be able to supply by myself. Additionally I was unlikely to find it through funding options. 

I was starting to feel like I’d been putting all this effort into creating a business, and I was yet to actually make any money out of it at all. 

During one of my sessions with Marnita we were chatting about ways to increase my income. She made the suggestion about VA work. 

Virtual Assistant Service

She offered to be my first client, letting me take on admin tasks like setting up email campaigns, and updating some info on her website. As I started working with her, I realised how much I enjoyed the work. Money coaches are all about getting you out of trading time for money, and making a passive income. She suggested I see if there were other people that would want to join me. I could coach and mentor them, and make some money off them.

I was nervous, but since I was Trying Everything, I put out a WhatsApp message. Receiving a staggering 17 applications in a just few short days. Clearly there was a need for mentoring and I would never have known it, had I not been in the mindset to Try Everything. 

Mentoring and other WAHMs

After a bunch of calls, I had a group of 11 work at home moms who all wanted to be involved. I started out by working on some training materials for them. Many of them I mentored in working online for the first time. A few have gone on to start their own businesses and have had great success with that. 

I started to get more enquiries for my skills, and I started to really work on establishing who the ideal client was for the business. Granted, because I was in the Try Everything mindset, I didn’t say “no” to much. There were a few things I probably should have said no to though. Some of them clients who weren’t a match. Some of them team members who weren’t right for the business. Some of them projects I couldn’t really be successful with. The one benefit though of Trying Everything was that when things didn’t work out, it didn’t feel like a failure. I could say I’d tried. And that is of immense value. We all know how many things go wrong or fail in a small business, so it’s a useful mindset to have as a business owner. 

Coworking and Events

My original business idea was still very much alive and well for the first half of 2018. I was on all the coworking business group, I was taking courses and trying to expand my knowledge. My desire was to create the community around me who would one day be my clients. I tried, and failed at, many event types trying to find the community of people. One of the things I saw in a coworking group I was on, was the suggestion of the Lunch & Learn event. Since I was already trying other things, why not try this too. 

Turns out they were a wonderful success. A bunch of like minded women gathered over a healthy lunch, networking with each other and learning something from a speaker. I had a monthly meet ups and we had some delicious food, and some really fun talks from exceptional speakers. We covered everything from dress sense, to money mindset, to business networking. I built a really wonderful community of women around me who were supporting my events, but I still wasn’t really making money in the business. 

My next hare brained idea, turned sought after event, was the Best Face Forward days. Professional hair, make up, styling and headshots in 2 hours. 

This came out of my need for professional photos that reflected what I looked like after my weightloss. Since I wasn’t making money in my business, I needed to find a way to get these done, for free if possible. Since I was doing ok on the whole Try Everything and risk failure idea, I put my idea out there. I posted in various networking groups, and I managed to build a team of creative female entrepreneurs who thought I wasn’t mad! Initially we were all going to trade services, and everyone got professional headshots out of the deal. We soon realised that we could probably sell some spots and make a little money out of it. Turns out it was a fantastic success. We ran 8 events in 2018, and 2 in 2019.

What did Try Everything change?

One thing that did come out of my Try Everything mindset was that I ended the year feeling stretched very thin! I had done all the networking events, I had tried every business idea I (and others) could think of. Some had been successful and I felt the need to run with them for the whole year. Some had been fun, and although not a financial success, had been an emotional and community building success. 

The VA work was starting to take off. Our two retainer clients were giving us multiple referrals each. Although I was working fairly intense hours for them, it was because I was trying to do all the things, for all the people, in all the different spaces I was working in. 

I realised as the year end was approaching that some things needed to be paused while I focused on the things that brought in money. It was time for me to scale my networking back and only attended ones where I felt I was connecting with the right kinds of people. As fun as the Lunch & Learn events were, I put them on the back burner and chose to give myself grace to come back to them when I was ready. I focused on the VA side of my business more and more and got really clear on who I wanted to work with. 

And I chose a new word for 2019 – Happy (blog post to follow soon on that).

My business would not look the way it is now, nor would it be making the money it is, had it not been for the year of Try Everything. 

My business is thriving. We signed multiple retainer clients in the last quarter of 2019! We have a team of 5 VAs who service clients from all over the world.

WAHM WorkSpace was 2 years old in September last year, and we celebrated with an extra special Lunch & Learn. 

Try Everything, changed everything!

How will you take on the Try Everything mindset in your business? 

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Bianca Johnson

Bianca is the CEO of WAHM Workspace and is passionate about empowering women. She's brilliant at translating ideas and loves to people grasp concepts. She lives in Durban, South Africa with her husband and two children. She survives thanks to coffee and red wine.