Monique tells SecretBirds-Caribbean in 10, what it's like to be a female founder, building a business from day-to-day.
Monique is no stranger to launching brands. She’s a serial entrepreneur with a passion for empowering others to start their own businesses. With nearly a decade of experience under her belt, Monique is who business owners call when they need a step-by-step game plan to transform their ideas into services that customers are eager to buy. She works exclusively with bright, driven, talented service providers who need to know how to connect with prospects, convert conversations into dollars and deliver exceptional work that makes people refer their services like crazy. Her ability to quickly develop strategies to monetise ideas is why she’s known as the Idea Alchemist. Monique’s business portfolio includes an Award Winning Spa Brand, the first 100% offline tourist guide app in the Eastern Caribbean, a Top Rated Dessert Restaurant and a highly sought after business consulting practice.
Monique is the author of Start Your Thing: A Guide for Introverts Who Want to Start A Service-Based Business and has been featured in two other best selling books on Amazon. When she’s not working on a business idea, mapping out a user experience design or working on marketing campaigns, you’ll likely find Monique enjoying the outdoors or making vegan desserts. Monique can be contacted via her website www.ideaalchemist.com
The Life of a Female Founder
I. SB-C: Tell us about your typical day. What time do you start? What do you do? How does your day end? MW: In my life there are no typical days. I’ve read tons of articles and books about success habits and to be honest I’m still working on developing my own. The things that are constant are - me waking up and checking email to see what my team across the globe has done while I’ve been sleeping. After breakfast, I approve everything or request revisions if needed, share what has met my standards with the client for final review. Then a good part of my morning is spent assigning new tasks to my team and reaching out to new clients. Beyond the operational management, my business heavily relies on my creative and strategic thinking; something I can only do when I’m feeling inspired. When in the zone, I can spend hours sketching wireframes, design marketing campaigns and doodling logo concepts but some days, I just have to unplug, lay across the bed, walk through the neighbourhood, listen to music or read.Most nights end with dinner, a chat with my husband about our day, then I set a list of priorities for the following day. Sometimes I go to bed at 4am and sometimes I’m in by 10pm. I’ve tried to create a routine for myself but I’ve found it best and more productive for me to go with the flow instead of having a rigid schedule. Whenever inspiration strikes (even if it wakes me up at 2am), I act on it right away.
II. SB-C: What do you do to preserve your health as you run your business? Do you have any rituals, for example? MW: There are a few things I do to stay sane, especially when business gets stressful. Meditation is at the top of the list. It can be a guided meditation on Insight Timer or just my walking and talking to myself, sometimes it’s as simple as stopping to take several deep breaths… whenever stress or fear creep up these are my go-to practices. I don’t have a ritual, it’s more of a toolkit and I pick what makes sense for me in the moment. Cleaning my space often is also very important. Sometimes, I’d be working and feel stuck and it’s a trigger for me to clean the entire house. It may not look dirty or messy but even taking out the garbage, sorting the papers on my desk, discarding notes that I’ve already processed, all help me to feel a lot better. One of the biggest things that has helped me is having a very small circle of optimistic friends with similar goals. This is totally different from someone who is a “yes man”. My circle is small, honest, kind and generous with their time and opinions. It’s a reciprocal relationship that’s incredibly important to me. In tough times, my circle reminds me of the good times, the success and what I’m capable of. In good times, we celebrate together and it’s a beautiful thing. Finally, I have creative days and work days. Mondays and Fridays are creative days, which means essentially I have a 4 day weekend. Generally speaking, on these days I don’t talk to clients but I do talk to my mastermind circle, research new ideas, plan the week or just do something fun outdoors.
III. SB-C: Can you discuss some of the major changes that have occurred between starting your business and where it is now? For example, business model or management changes? MW: It always feels like things happen REALLY fast in my world and there have been many changes over the years. Because I launch something new at least once a year, there are always business model changes but the biggest thing for me would have to be discovering the book The Millionaire Masterplan by Roger Hamilton. The book showed me my leadership style, helped me to truly understand my strengths, who I need to have on my team if I want to reach specific goals and what areas I need to strengthen in order to get to where I want to go. This inspired me to hire an Operations Manager to help me execute my ideas more effectively. I finally embraced the fact that starting new projects is my strength and it was ok to have someone else pick up the momentum from there. A lot of things about myself made sense after reading that book and I’m forever grateful to the author for writing it. Also inspired by the book, I’ve decided to shift my main business into an agency where I can wear my creative hat as a member of the team instead of a personal brand where everyone expects me to be involved in all areas of their projects. This is the latest business development and I’m excited to free up my time and rely on my team to handle things that aren’t in my zone of genius.
IV. SB-C:What are some of the challenges you are facing or have faced this year? MW: This year was one of the most challenging and yet most successful years so far. I had a 3 month period where I didn’t have any new business come in and a handful of my existing clients put projects on hold for personal reasons. My pricing structure prevented me from getting paid while those projects were on hold, even though we had completed most of the work. It meant that I had to pay my team from my pocket while waiting for the cash flow to resume. This was a tough time but it showed me some holes in my operation and I plugged them. In the moment, it was stressful. I almost had a moment where I needed to choose between paying rent and paying the team but I am so grateful that it happened. You don’t want to go through that situation when you’re scaling your business up; things could have been a lot worse. The experience led me to evaluate every aspect of my business and create a new operation protocol that I’m very happy with now.
V. SB-C: Describe what innovation means in your business and how do you go about it. MW: In my business, innovation is a race against yourself. My mission is to do it better than I did the last time. That’s it. I look at the industry, I look at my own performance and I continuously ask how can I make this better? Often it’s incremental growth; we don’t have to drastically change the world or our approach because innovation is the result of small tweaks.
VI. SB-C: How do you balance being a “big dreamer” vs setting realistic goals for your business? MW: I don’t believe in being realistic. Impossible things happen every day which tells me that my big dreams are possible too. The key is the belief that you can get there, the patience through setbacks and the good judgment to ask the right people for help. As a dreamer, I have realized that it’s important for me to set the vision, make the plan and to have a team that is skilled in execution. You’re not being realistic if you’re trying to do it all yourself.
VII. SB-C: Who or what motivates you to keep going with your business? And Why? MW: I am unemployable. For a long time I resisted it but my last job made it abundantly clear that my best work happens outside of a 9-5 timeframe. When I’m not doing work that excites me, that stimulates my creativity, I get depressed. Having my own business gives me the freedom to be my happiest, most productive self. After 10 years… there’s no chance of me stopping now.
VIII. SB-C: Has your definition of success changed since you have started your business? If so, How? MW: I always thought success was about building a multi-million dollar company, being on tv, getting interviewed, having “accomplished friends”. Even though I’ve hit most of those milestones, I now define success very differently - it’s the notes I get from clients celebrating the results of our work together, it’s being able to pay my team fair compensation for their work, it’s having the freedom to work 3 days a week and even then take lots of breaks, it’s having money left over after all the bills have been paid each and every month, it’s being able to walk into a store and spend a few hundred dollars on something you need without stressing about how you’ll pay for it, it’s being able to take spontaneous vacations with your family… You can be and feel successful even when things aren’t perfect, simply by choosing a positive perspective.
IX. SB-C: What would you say is the most important skill required to run a business? MW: Now more than ever, the most important skill to learn is patience. We live in such an instant world, it makes waiting for the right time, the right opportunity very hard. You will see people all around you doing big things and you’ll feel small but you have to remember that THEIR time isn’t YOUR time and your time will come. When you get impatient, you lose focus and you do things that set you back.
X. SB-C: There are a lot of myths about entrepreneurs. Now that you have started and are successfully running your own business what would you say is the biggest myth? What have you learned most from it. MW: I think the biggest myth is that it takes money to make money. We have so many excuses for not going after what we want.The right attitude will get you much further than a big bank account. It will be a long time before you have “enough” money in business, you have to decide you’re going to make what you’ve got work and get creative when it comes to how. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that once you are in action, the people and resources you need will show up. If you sit on your butt thinking about all the things you don’t have and feeling sorry for yourself about how inadequate what you’ve got is… that’s exactly where you’ll stay.