Self-Starter Stories: From hitting rock-bottom to getting back up and thriving.
By: Nadine Burzler
This week's #selfstarterstory features Stephanie Chivers from iChange21, a website that offers various training programmes for individuals who struggle with addictive behaviours to food, drinking, gambling, drugs etc.
#PickYourselfUK caught up with Stephanie to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.
Stephanie, looking back, what lead you to be where you are today?:
I had my first child at 19 and I quickly realised I had to figure out what I wanted to do so I could support us both. I lived in Devon and had a lot of family support, so I had to figure out something I could do that meant I could support a child. I went back to school and studied art and fashion as I spent my time buying clothes from charity shops and recreating them.
I gained employment as a pattern cutter but soon learned there weren't many jobs in Devon for what I wanted to do. After being made redundant twice I decided to run my own design business in my 20's and loved it. My entrepreneurial spirit was born.
I then changed direction for lots of reason, mostly because I felt that the fashion industry wasn't really benefiting anyone at the time, apart from earning me money. I spent time on volunteering and doing jobs where I was supporting other people. I wanted to make a difference, sounds cheesy but true.
My life taught me some lessons along the way; I married the wrong man, had a really difficult time, drank too much and got into quite a lot of trouble. When I hit my rock bottom, I got some help.
I spent time sorting myself out, then went on to do a lot of training and learning about behaviour, habit, addiction and change. I ended up specialising in addiction and habit.
I worked for 10 years in many different services and job roles, as a practitioner through to service manager, working with 1000's of people, supporting and training many other professionals to work with people struggling with addiction.
I now run my own business teaching others how to live happy healthy lives.
What was the most challenging part of starting a business?:
Knowing what I wanted to do and why. Creating the products was easy, however the bit that has been most challenging was realising I had no idea about digital marketing and just promotion in general. Learning how to get my message out there.
What did you want to be when you were a child?:
An actress or waitress. I spent my time dressing up, creating plays, choreographing routines in my leotard and recreating old black and white movies.
What was your last job?:
Managing a drug and alcohol treatment service.
When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?: Well I ask people to help me a lot, vote for me, share my posts etc, and people are really helpful, but sometimes its good to pick yourself.
What did you learn from your worst boss?:
How not to be. I think that's the biggest thing I learn from other managers. Not to be over emotional and the importance of being consistent. Its important that I am my word when I am leading a team or a service.
That people can rely on me to deliver, to support them, to listen, to help them be the best they can be. If you invest in your team, they do the job for you. Particularly in my line of work, even more important. If your team are good, then the work they do is good and the customers benefit.
What is your favourite business book and why?:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It just makes perfect sense to me. Who you are as a person in all areas of your life, how you can be the best you. Its a great reminder of how we can, if we want to, keep developing, growing and learning.
Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?:
No most definitely not. I am quite small at the mo, so I cant outsource an awful lot. I would like to do more. At the moment I outsource; copy writing, editing, design work, editing videos, advice on marketing and promotion. For me its about outsourcing my weakest areas. Focusing on my strengths.
What is your productivity secret?:
Planning, focus and time frame what I am doing, focus on outcomes, why I am doing what I am doing what is the purpose, so I am efficient with my time.
Its easy to get drawn into something that isn't really of benefit. So for me its making sure I stick to the plan as much as possible. Sometimes its good to deviate, but its being clear as to what that will give me.
How do you market your business?:
I use Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. I've written a book. I guest blog, interviews for the media and do talks whenever I can. I am in the process of developing my marketing. Build relationships with people, put as much good information out there as I can to help people make better choices.
When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?:
I posted on Facebook and twitter for testers for my new website. There where people who didn't get to me in time, so they paid for an online programme.
How did you get your first traffic to your website?:
Facebook and Twitter, - also using my blogs.
What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?:
Make sure its a passion, you need to love it. Because it can be tough. If you love it, believe in it, keep going, don't give up, you need to persist.
When things go well its the best feeling in the world. Also find someone you can learn from, someone who has done it.
A mentor is good if you can get a good one. Don't be afraid to try things, make mistakes. Sometimes you just have to do.
If you could have dinner with one entrepreneur, who would it be and why?:
Sara Blakely, I love what she has done with Spanx, its a great brand and 100% her own business, she has built herself from the bottom.
Huge respect. Also she gives back by supporting other female entrepreneurs.
To stay up to date with Stephanie's entrepreneurial journey, follow her social media channels below:
Stephanie Chivers has qualified for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2017. If you'd like to enter yourself or nominate a small business entrepreneur for this award, please submit your story below.
Voting for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2017 will take place in November 2017 so make sure you get your entry submitted to qualify.