The following is a guest post written by Andrea Runnels. Thanks, Andrea!
I’m going to start this blog post the way I used to tell my 5th graders NEVER to start a writing piece.
“Hi, my name is Andrea Runnels and I am going to tell you about finding your place in the entrepreneurial space.” I made an exception for y’all (spoiler, I’m Southern) because chances are you don’t even know who I am and I felt an intro was the polite thing to do. If you do know me it’s probably as The Social Studies Whisperer and yes, that’s true.
It’s true I have a mission to help teachers (or anybody who will listen) make teaching American History like Christmas morning and a day at Disney World all rolled into one. And that lofty vision is important to me but the truth is I have two registered LLCs. Pause for dramatic effect and cue the suspenseful, melodramatic music…
I’d love to offer you some practical tips for finding your “unique value proposition” that will make you feel like you can take over the world (with data to back up those tips of course), but #1 you probably just rolled your eyes when I used that buzz phrase. And #2? No, just no. That is so not this girl.
What you’re going to get is real talk about my journey over the past 10 months to build one business while keeping a dream of another one quiet until now.
When I think of 2016, the image of a snow globe comes to mind. Everything changed. I took a huge leap of faith and this permanent resident of the #islandofmisfitteachers abandoned ship to go full-time entrepreneur.
Last school year started out in the worst way possible when I was viciously attacked by a dog three days before school started, leaving me with battle scars on the inside and out (and what so far is a permanent arm injury). Talk about making a person self-conscious. That was the beginning of the end of my teaching career.
All of the signs pointing to leaving were the awakening of the resulting exodus to pursue entrepreneurship.
You don’t need any more self-proclaimed experts giving you tips. And no, you don’t need any more courses. #recoveringcoursehoarder
What you need to know that those highlight reels you see on social media, like those perfectly curated flowers and rainbows Instagram feeds I fly past as I throw up in my mouth, are not the full picture of what it means to come into your own as an entrepreneur.
I always say people are the character they choose to be on social media, and I choose to be the real me as I discover who I am as a “gingerpreneur.” I don’t have everything figured out. And that’s so hard because it’s human nature to want to fit in and have that sense of belonging. I still feel like a floater within the teacher and entrepreneurial world because I’m both. Not to mention it’s a little unnerving to have total freedom after being so restricted. I’ve come to realize that this path we travel is not about figuring out exactly what niche we fit into, it’s about having the courage to make our own!
Chances are, if you are a true creative like I am, what you envision doesn’t exist already.
It can be an amazing thing to be in a blue ocean marketing-wise with little competition, but it can also be scary because you are a pioneer.
People look at you weird when you say, “I’m igniting a revolution to make history hip!”
So what do we do? We try to force ourselves to do things the way everyone else is doing them or get so caught up in the sorority girl mentality and cliques that can emerge within any group of females. And in doing so, we lose sight of who we really are and what really matters.
We worry that we will be living in a cardboard box if we can’t craft some narrative we really believe about our ideal customer being “Sally from Lincoln, Nebraska who has 2.5 kids and drives a mid-sized sedan.”
And we worry people will judge us if we take ownership of those things we excel at. So the “impostor syndrome” sets in.
And geez, when we try to be a little different, we are afraid the brand police are going to show up at our door. (Because maybe we published two poems on our site about entrepreneurship when our “brand” is creative teaching ideas.)
If you aren’t confident with who you are, you can’t succeed in entrepreneurship.
This fall, I decided I needed to step back and deal with my mental clutter because it was holding me back. I knew I was on the right track in some ways, but hadn’t really gotten to the core of what I wanted to do.
To paraphrase my spirit animal Grant Cardone (hear me talk when I get fired up and you’ll see why I say that), “If you feel uncomfortable with sales, it is because you aren’t sold on yourself.” Trust me, I know.
It’s not an addiction, an affliction, or an ailment that holds me back. It’s bigger than that. And it can make or break a person in the entrepreneurial space. It’s self-doubt. And contrary to what my brain tells me, it doesn’t matter why I have it. I don’t need to spend hours playing armchair psychologist.
What matters is that I arm myself with weapons to battle it, because it may not ever go away.
And I’m not tolerating it anymore because I want to tell you about the new project I have. The one I’m in love with but not too romantic about like I am with history.
It’s no secret I really love social media. And that I’m fascinated by social media marketing and obsessed with all things entrepreneurship. And what makes me happier than anything is empowering and inspiring others. If I could change the world for free I would, but “people gotta eat.”
Just because you love something doesn’t mean you have to be a consultant. I thought about doing that but I don’t want to give away my trade secrets. And I don’t want to have to change who I am as a personal brand.
What I haven’t put out there because of insecurity and worrying that others will judge me by the number of followers I have, is that my passion is sharing my story to inspire others and to help them build their businesses while I’m in the trenches building mine. And through validation coming from someone in my community hiring me for a consulting session, a star was born. I know this is what makes my face light up and shine, hence the star reference. I knew I was making a difference. Sharing my story authentically works for me, including my struggles with ADHD consistently on Periscope. It’s not dead, y’all.
So almost a year and a thousand a-ha moments, podcasts, books on Audible, and life lessons later, the rubber is starting to meet the road with my “resignment” money cushion. I needed every moment along the way to get to where I am now. And that’s not going to be in a mold of what others have done or “what you’re supposed to do”. Nobody else has built my business. And that’s true for you, too.
Only one person has the answer to the question of where you belong in this life. Sure isn’t me. I don’t want to go out with Eminem, but “You only get one shot…” Stop living someone else’s life.
It’s ok to blaze your own trail and take the road less traveled.
And guess what? Now when people ask me what I do, I won’t stammer and say “Umm…” followed by some incoherent mumbling. It took me a year to realize I can work with kids. And it doesn’t have to be in a traditional school setting. I can use my love for social media marketing to spread awareness. I will hold my head up and say confidently, “I’m a teacher gone rogue. I’m building a virtual community with my Creativity, Connections, and Content Project to support kids with ADHD so they have a place to fit in.”
Andrea Runnels is a quirky former teacher and mom from metro Atlanta who prides herself on her creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. She’s passionate about writing, graphic design, social media, American History, talking, and being an advocate for English Language Learners and Gifted Learners. Andrea is a champion for kids with ADHD. She aspires to create a foundation to help kids with ADHD and entrepreneurial tendencies find their passion so they avoid facing crippling self-doubt. You can follow her on Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram.