Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Astrid Bracke, Founder of Astrid Bracke | Small Business Mentoring, located in Nijmegen, Netherlands.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I mentor small business owners and freelancers, helping them create a slow, gentle, and profitable business without the hustle or hacks. I have three key phrases in my business. Slow means running a business without the need to be "on" all the time, growing at a sustainable pace, and without productivity hacks. Peaceful means a company that fits around your life rather than the other way around, that allows flexibility and lots of space. And finally, profitable: a business that makes the kind of money you want without having to work all the time.
My clients are freelancers and small business owners alienated by the dominant stories of how they should run a business. They don’t want to—or can’t—run a business that requires them to be on all the marketing channels all the time. They don’t want to be working all the time. One thing they have in common is that they started their own business or went freelance because they wanted to live away from the norm of productivity culture, overwork, and pressure.
Over the past two years, I’ve worked with clients on marketing. Many small business owners are tired of the algorithms of social media and the insecurity that marketing on social media brings with it. They’re tired of essentially doing all the work to support someone else’s company rather than their own. In my 1:1 mentoring, newsletter, and free resources, I offer a lot of support on intentional, evergreen marketing, marketing without social media, and other aspects of growing a sustainable business.
Tell us about yourself
I have a background in academia and higher education, and for at least a decade I was very much invested in working hard and in working a lot. The idea to start my own business came when I was beginning to question all of that. I realized that I didn’t want to be working so hard all the time—and that working hard in someone else’s company gave me less and less satisfaction.
It took me a while to find exactly what I wanted to focus on. Still, from the beginning, the work I did with 1:1 mentoring and workshops attracted small business owners and freelancers. I fell in love with this particular group of people, their specific struggles and motivations, the flexibility they crave, and how they often want things to be different from what they see around them.
I firmly believe—and know—that we can create and run businesses that nourish us and fit around whatever is going on in our lives rather than trying to squeeze in life around our business. I aim to be a role model for other small business owners, showing them that running a trade away from the norm of hustle, #bossbitch, hacks, and overwork is possible.
I also love the diversity of things I do in my business: I work 1:1 with clients, give workshops in online communities and workshops, create guides and resources, and write blog posts and my Substack newsletter. I love this variety and how I can use many of my skills.
And I love how my days are much more varied than they were ten years ago. I have the time and space for things that are important to me:
- Doing yoga in the afternoons
- Reading a novel before starting work, to garden, writing
- Meeting up with friends
My life has become multi-faceted in a way that fills me up.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My most significant accomplishments are the messages I get from people telling me that my work is meaningful to them.
When a small business owner replies to my newsletter to tell me that they love how joyous and calm they feel after reading my words. When a small business owner tells me that my workshops gave them the courage and tools to spend less time and energy marketing their business on social media (or leave it altogether!).
When clients tell me that I helped them sort out complicated thoughts and enabled them to take new steps in their business, I treasure every one of these messages. They are genuinely the reason I do the work I do.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things for me was dealing with the insecurity and the fact that there is no handbook to this whole running a business thing. When I started and saw all of the podcasts, books, and resources on building a business, I felt (or at least hoped) that there was a blueprint.
If I followed those steps, I’d get the clients, the newsletter sign-ups, and make sales. As any business owner knows, that is, of course, not the case. It takes time to create a business—often a lot longer than you’d thought.
I’ve learned that other people’s blueprints don’t fit me, and that even though I sometimes get impatient, I’m happy to be creating my blueprint—just as I support my clients in creating theirs.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Find a support network. Having a group of business friends has been huge for me. I found them through courses I took, through a mastermind I did, and through an online community, I’m part of. It is encouraging to have people to talk to who get it and know what it’s like to run your own small business.
Follow your intuition. If you’re like many of my clients and feel that the way you see other people build a business doesn’t fit with you, trust yourself. You don’t have to be on all the marketing channels. You don’t have to be working all the time. Yes, getting outside your comfort zone can be good once in a while, but the beauty of having your own business is that it’s your business, and you get to set the rules.
Start as you mean to go on: I sometimes hear business owners say that they expect to work hard for one or two years, and then they’ll allow themselves to take more rest. But if you build your business on a foundation of overwork, that is what you’ll get. Making it on a foundation of rest and space will help you hold on to that as your business grows.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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