A few months ago, I joined a meetup group for Christian entrepreneurs. This was before the COVID19 shutdown, while I was passionately investing my energy in developing a new business idea.
Because this new venture kinda came out of nowhere, (more about that later) I couldn’t help but think that maybe God wanted me to take a new direction with my work. For those who don’t know my story, here’s a bit of background…
About 5 years ago, while working as a psychotherapist, I became ordained as a minister so that I could solemnize marriages and facilitate other life cycle events (funerals, welcoming a child, etc). It’s actually a very cool story because it came at a time when I was a bit burned out from almost 20 years as a therapist. I had been considering what my options were when a couple I was counselling asked if I would officiate their upcoming wedding ceremony. I describe the experience as “God dropping the answer in my lap” because not only was it so well suited to my nature and abilities and the perfect next step for me, it also was something I would never have dreamed of doing on my own.
As you can imagine, I fell in love with weddings, and as that side of my business grew, I gradually began to downsize my counselling practice so that I could focus more on building my business as a wedding officiant.
While I love every aspect of officiating wedding ceremonies, and even though I was fully booked during the wedding season, I found it really wasn’t very lucrative so I started brainstorming ways that I could make it more profitable. In time, I decided that the best direction for the business was to bring other officiants onto my team and expand the business. In an effort to transition people from booking with me only, I raised my fees slightly and kept the new team members’ fees in line with the competition. We created a new brand (XO. Life Celebrations) and designed a new website where couples could choose their preferred officiant based on a photo, bios, availability, and price. We put a lot of thought into it and felt it was a great platform.
After the launch, I continued to pray about it for some time, asking God for guidance but I was noticing that, even with a great vision and all the hard work I had put into it, I was still getting the majority of the bookings. No matter what I did, it seemed that I was working even harder for pretty much the same results. My goal was not to get more bookings for myself but to create a system whereby I could do fewer weddings, promote other officiants, and still generate enough income to support myself.
The problem? I was still the brand.
Fast forward to January 2020 when God dropped another opportunity into my lap.
By this time, I had been developing my skills as a mixed media artist/painter for several years and had some success selling my work. I had a lot of support and encouragement to continue to grow as an artist but I found that I had the same problem as with my wedding business (and, looking back, with other businesses in the past) and that is this:
a) Everything I have tried to earn a living on depends on me. My ideas, my skills, my time, my energy.
b) For some reason, I only seem to be interested in or good at businesses that depend solely on me.
Now, I know an argument can be made for learning how to delegate and, yes, I admit that I’m not good at that (believe me, I’ve tried) but, lately, I’ve come to believe that it’s not necessarily a good idea to go against our nature in certain things.
For instance, I could learn to delegate but maybe the reason I have so much problem with it is that I’m more at peace when things are simple and manageable.
My whole life, I’ve been drinking society’s ‘Koolaid’ which wants me to believe that “bigger is better” but, the truth is, every time I have more, it requires me to do more and every time I have more to do I am more stressed and have less time to focus on things that really matter to me.
If there is one thing this shutdown has taught me it’s that I don’t want to go back to that way of being. My business is virtually shut down now and I’m living on a shoestring budget but I’m much happier living simply than trying to figure out how to make “more”.
Which brings me back to the new business venture I was talking about earlier.
The idea for the business came to me because I happened to see a posting for an Entrepreneurship Program for Women in the Arts called WE-Hub. It was being offered by Scadding Court Community Centre in association with the Ted Rogers School of Management, The Diversity Institute, and the Ontario Government. I don’t know why but, for some strange reason, I knew I needed to apply for that program.
When I realized I’d have to write a detailed proposal for an arts-based business, I almost let it go but then, even though I hadn’t previously considered starting any kind of arts-based business, a complete vision for it came to me all at once. I even heard the name for it, what it represented, and what the logo should be.
So, I wrote the proposal, submitted the application, and literally forgot about it.
A few weeks later, I got a call for an interview and was subsequently invited to join the program.
As I said, it kinda came out of nowhere so, once again, I thought it must be something God wanted me to do.
Once again, he had dropped a unique opportunity into my lap, and once again, I knew I had to say “yes”.
I had no idea where it was going to take me and I kept asking “God.. are you sure?” and “God, why this business?” To me, it didn’t make any sense and it almost seemed frivolous.
Finally, He answered.
All He said was “It’s a platform. That’s all you need to know”.
Suffice it to say that, throughout the WE-Hub program, I came to see that God was developing me in very significant ways. He put me in situations that showed me how little I know about Toronto’s diverse culture and how our identity as women and as creatives is so very subjective. In many ways, I was way outside of my comfort zone and it proved to be a very humbling experience.
Because of this, I knew that God was requiring something new from me and I felt it was important to approach all aspects of this new experience from an entirely Christian perspective.
For that to happen, I knew I needed to be mentored but I couldn’t think of any Christian entrepreneurs I could talk to about it. I was able to find inspiration through the “Called To Mastery” podcast with Jordan Raynor but the more I listened to him interview his guests, the more I realized that I needed to find my own community of peers.
Born to Fly
While I was searching Eventbrite one day, I came across an event called “Morning Talk for Christian Entrepreneurs” hosted by an organization called “Born To Fly”. It was taking place that Friday morning at Creeds Coffee Bar on Dupont Street in Toronto. It was a free event so I decided it couldn’t hurt to check it out. I imagined it would be a formal seminar-style “talk” and a good way to get my feet wet without having to commit to anything right away. I already had a lot on my plate so I was reluctant to put any more demands on my time.
When I arrived, however, I found it to be a small, intimate gathering of people sitting around a harvest style table, chatting about their experiences, and enjoying coffee and snacks. I hadn’t expected to be interacting and sharing my story with a group that day but I immediately felt at ease with everyone. The facilitator (Jane) had a really lovely demeanor and did a great job of guiding the meeting. I left with a strong sense that I had found something very special in this community.
Shortly after that first meeting, I did a pre-launch of my new business at an ‘idea testing’ event sponsored by WE-Hub. The event was a great success but, only a few days later, Toronto went into shutdown and the business was put on hold indefinitely. Because my idea involves intimate, immersive, artistic and cultural experiences, it will be a long time before I can pick up where I left off so when all the momentum that I had been building over the past several months suddenly ground to a halt, I started to wonder if I had gone through that entire process for nothing.
But then I realized that even though I couldn’t proceed with my business as planned and even though I felt at a loss as to how to go forward, I still found myself drawn to Jane’s ‘Born to Fly’ meetings.
Since then, I have continued to participate in the meetings (which have since moved to ZOOM during COVID) and have found them all the be very supportive, inspiring, and affirming. I have attended many similar types of entrepreneurship and leadership meetings over the years but the fact that ‘Born to Fly’ members are connected through faith brings a sense of greater purpose to our meetings. Since my business venture never really got off the ground, I don’t always have much to share at the meetings or know what to ask for in terms of support. All I know is that…
It has a name.
It has a brand.
It has a website.
It even has social media accounts.
But it may never fully launch.
If that’s the case, I suppose I should be disappointed but I’m really not. I couldn’t have known it before, but my experience since COVID has given me such a different perspective and I realize now that I don’t want to waste my time on anything that God isn’t calling me to do.
Even though my idea may never come to pass, I can have peace around it because, through every step of it, I know I was following God and His design for my life is better than anything I could imagine myself.
And here’s the best part… This week, Jane introduced a new ‘Born to Fly’ course she’s designed and I volunteered to test it.
Guess what it’s for?
To help people find their true calling.
They say the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Indeed, He does :)