I’ve never described myself as savvy, in any respect. In many ways I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself as knowledgeable, or even capable. So why would I, in the middle of a global pandemic, start a business? Here’s the thing about global pandemics, while all the madness is taking over the world and terrifying its inhabitants, I found myself in a bubble of calm for the first time in as long as I can remember. Yes, I had a day job, two children under three, a husband and a house to run, but for the first time in forever, I could think. The hustle and bustle of drop off, meetings, traffic, lunch prep and report writing had somewhat vanished overnight. Now, I had two children to entertain while trying to facilitate zoom meetings, but it was strangely calmer than before. I found myself taking long walks (often in circles due to the 2km restrictions) with my girls and just thinking, a luxury I realised I hadn’t afforded myself in quite some time. To explain why, let me just give you a brief run down of the previous 39 years.
I have always suffered with anxiety, both generalised and social anxiety, for as long as I can remember. It was only in researching anxiety for a group of teens I was taking on that I encountered my aha moment and came to the realisation. I was 28 years old at the time. I was 34 before I started to learn the skills, I needed to manage it. When I had my eldest daughter, I suffered with postnatal anxiety, but with counselling and the support of my husband, I overcame it. When my daughter was 9 months old, I fell pregnant again, and after our youngest arrived I succumbed to postnatal anxiety and depression. I sank to my lowest eb and yet could not admit it. Only in the darkness of my darkest night did I disclose to my husband what I was experiencing. This recovery was much harder, but with the support of my husband and doctor, I began to recover. I returned to work and then Covid arrived. So, as you can see, the quiet which allowed for my covid contemplations were badly needed and overdue.
As we faced into our first lockdown, I began to see tell tale signs that my eldest was following in my footsteps. Anxiety was creeping in and taking hold of her, even at just 2 years old, it was glaringly obvious. Devastated, I decided I would not allow her to trace my steps all the way to her 30’s. I set about creating a programme to educate, inform and prompt her behaviour in the face of anxiety. As my idea’s usually do, it consumed by every spare thought. I spent weeks devising a format, creating the dialogue, and designing the supports. I knew she was too young yet, but I wanted to be ready for when she could assimilate all the information. I would be ready to catch her before she fell.
I cannot describe how proud I was when I finished the programme. So proud in fact, that I shared what I had written and designed with a friend. The minute she saw it, she was straight on the phone, telling me I had to publish this for other children. Now here’s where the self-doubt crept in. It was everything my daughter needed, I was confident of that, but why would anyone else possibly trust my programme? I am not a businesswoman. I am not an author. I am not really anything. Or so I believed.
For months I could not think of anything else, but I could not get past the feeling of unworthiness. My supportive friend kept pushing, and as a result, I took one step. I made an appointment with the business clinic in my local enterprise authority. That meeting would turn out to be the catalyst in my business journey. The facilitator was not what I expected, and I doubt I was what he expected either. I explained my “product” and he enlightened me to terms such as business plan, financial projections and target market, all new terms for my business vocabulary. This was an invaluable awakening for me. On leaving the meeting, he gave me some advice, recommended who I should speak to, and wished me luck. I felt invigorated and jumped straight into action. I began to search for printers and suppliers and when these fell into place, I now had a physical product to hold. Something I had never imagined, nor even dreamt of, but it was real.
My next step was to seek financial support for my website, so I completed the online trading voucher webinar with the LEA and set about finding a web designer. I approached the designer who had given the webinar and we set up a time to chat about my needs. In the initial chat, I told him that I had an existing website for a private autism consultancy I operate part time, and he said he would look at that also. On the day that he rang me, we talked through my existing online presence and came to the conclusion that the perfect solution was Shopify.
I began my Shopify store design the following Thursday morning at 8am. I was on holidays, so it was the optimum time to give it my full attention. By 4pm I had a functioning site. While it needed further attention, it did function. It was now October and while the momentum to date had been sharp, I was now hitting a wall. How could I possibly launch a business? Who would possibly buy from me? What if my investment is not returned? So many questions, so much confusion. Then one evening I was on Instagram, and I saw someone advertising Life Coaching and realised that this could be exactly what I needed.
Our first appointment laid out why I needed guidance. She learned about my prospective business, the “product” and my own fears and doubts. My coach challenged me and made me understand my capabilities were far more reaching than my own interpretation of them. This was priceless. Over the next 6 sessions, she reminded me that I have 21 years working with young people in a variety of settings, that I have written 3 award winning educational apps for children on the autistic spectrum, that I designed a highly acclaimed personal and life skills programme for children which is in operation 11 years, that I lecture in UCC on the Diploma in Autism Studies, that I have operated a successful consultancy service since 2014 and that beyond that, I am writing from personal experience, I was that child and I am that adult who manages their anxiety daily. It was my coach that helped me to be able to believe that I was more than capable, I was exactly where I was supposed to be and this “product” was the sum of not only years of study and practice, but also hands on experience. I started the journey wondering, why me? I thought I was mad to even contemplate a business. But here’s the question, If not me, then who? I had the experience, I had the know-how, I had the “product”, I just needed the last ingredient, self-belief.
Self-belief has probably been the hardest of all the skills I have had to learn on this journey, but I have no doubt it will be the most valuable. I launched Connect to the Moment Anxiety Programme for children in March 2021 and added Connect to Calm, Anger Management Programme, in July 2021. I am now gearing up to launch two more programmes to market in the coming months. For the first time since this process began, I stand firm and say that I am capable, I am knowledgeable, I can make a difference. No matter what you are doing, what your area is, without self-belief, you cannot succeed. When you question your ability, you subliminally tell others that you are not capable. It seeps out in your interactions and in your public presence. My Life Coach made me realise, if not me, then who? There are people half as qualified, knowledgeable, and passionate doing what you want to do right now. Think about that. Believe, even when every fibre of your being is questioning, that this is your path. You can do it and you deserve to do it. If not you, then who?