As a serial entrepreneur, Lola’s first business was a chocolate company where she hand-made all of her chocolates. She then started Barter Entrepreneur on the back of Chicks Who Code (her web design/development company), which is a free online platform for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs to swap skills with each other without having to exchange money. Barter Entrepreneur went on to win some awards as well as get published in the papers.
Lola Conrich // Chicks Who Code // Technology // UK // 30s
What motivated & inspired you to start your business?
I was a chocolatier. I had a chocolate company and I had paid a web designer to build a website for me. Unfortunately, I never received the website and I was really upset because I had spent money on it and it all felt like such a waste. Through my disappointment, I decided I wanted to learn how to build my own website, so I started with basic drag and drop features. Eventually, I wanted to do more complex things with my website and decided to teach myself how to code. I found myself really enjoying the process. People started asking me to create websites for them and I began making an income.
What steps did you take to get things going in the beginning?
It wasn’t something I had planned. I was a victim of circumstance in all of this. Deciding to take matters into my own hands and teach myself how to build websites, I got compliments on my new website and although it was a side thing, people started asking me to build a site for them and I started making an income from it, as well as enjoying the process of it.
I was planning to be a Chocolatier but the business model wasn’t working for me, and I wouldn’t have come to this point if I hadn’t started my Chocolate business in the first place. So you start with one idea and naturally other ideas fall into place. Eventually, one screams for your attention the most.
The key thing is not to try so hard, look for things that bring you joy. You can spend hours on it and you’re more than happy with it. Some things are better off just being hobbies (which is what I realised with my chocolate biz).
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
This was purely through word of mouth. I hadn’t planned for this. I didn’t have any intention of turning it into a business but it was generating an income. I didn’t even have to work so hard to get attention. The work came to me based on people seeing my work and recommending me to other people. I just focus on building friendships with people and sharing my lifestyle and tips – over time relationships and trust is built with me as the brand.
What have been the obstacles for you and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle was recognising that this was a viable business that I could take seriously despite there being so many other designers out there. I realised that I had my priorities swapped around so my chocolate business was meant to be my hobby/side thing and the website building was meant to be the business. In order to build my confidence, I took a part-time job building websites for a big client who is still a client of mine today. Consider finding a job in the skill set that you enjoy and see if it’s something you would like to turn into a business. Is it something you would like it to be a hobby or a business? Speak to someone who already does it as a business and
Can you tell us about any habits you have/things you do, which set up success every day?
I make sure to stretch every morning or do some yoga. Spending time in nature is something I’m trying to do more. Meditation and prayer are also a must for me to get me in the right mindset for the day.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to let go of a business that is not bringing you joy. Some things are best to be kept as hobbies and other things come so easy to you and people literally throw their money at you without having to try too hard to market yourself and your business. Also, try and get inspired by nature, it’s energising and a great way to recharge your batteries so you can give 110% back to your clients when you come from a really inspiring place.
When I face a big challenge, I…
do a lot of journaling. After doing that and crying and releasing it all, I then put my thinking cap on to bring balance back into my life.
The most courageous thing I’ve ever done as an entrepreneur is…
decide to close down my Chocolate business. I had worked so hard to build it up so letting go was tough and took a lot of courage.
If I could go back in time to when I started my business I would tell myself…
don’t try so hard! If you feel like a hamster on a wheel – not really getting anywhere – it’s a red flag that your cup is empty. You can’t give from a place of struggle.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is…
grow your list. Building a relationship with your following over time is one of the best ways to make things happen.
My favourite business tool/resource/book/podcast is…
a meditation app called Mediation Oasis. I have downloaded so many meditation apps but this is the one I keep going back to over the years.
My favourite quote is…
“You can do anything but not everything.”