Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kelsey Neff, Founder of By Design Consulting, located in Sacramento, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

By Design Consulting helps you fuel your people power by offering professional development, strategic planning, assessment, and evaluation services. Our focus is on building safe and equitable company cultures run by authentic visionary leaders. Many of our community are first-time or new managers looking to develop their skill sets, but we work with businesses in a variety of industries and across different sectors.

Tell us about yourself

I started developing the vision for By Design in 2020. The pandemic escalated two critical factors in our society - quality human connection and the shifting power dynamics from employer to employee. I grew up professionally in the non-profit sector and have experienced firsthand the impact toxic work culture and poor leadership have on every level of the org chart. Companies get stuck in survival mode, spending all their time reacting and not enough time preventing. Employees are left feeling drained, demoralized, and powerless to change it. I realized that I could either spend the rest of my life as a part of the same system of toxicity, or I could wake up every day and fight to change it. Knowing that I am a small part of a movement that is working to disrupt harmful systems and restore balance is what motivates me to keep pushing, growing, and building.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

There are a few milestones that I can point to as my biggest accomplishment thus far, but what really makes me feel successful is when people connect with the messaging of By Design. People will reach out via social media and ask for insight or advice on what they're dealing with or guidance on how to solve a problem. Sometimes these messages are sent from such a desperate place, and it's an honor that they trust me to support them in those moments. The goal has always been a connection, and feeling that is the biggest accomplishment I could ask for.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

It's challenging to know how to invest your time as a business owner; you have to work both IN the business and ON the business. The latter being things like marketing, networking, and administrative tasks. There's no direct financial payout for those things, but they are essential to growth. It's difficult to balance that side with things that you can actually bill and get paid for. I also seriously struggle with social media - it constantly changes, and it's a lot of work to keep up.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. The internet is your best friend! As a business owner, there are always things you don't know or need to learn. If you're in a meeting and they are throwing around terms that are unfamiliar, write them down and go home and Google. Don't know what kind of license you need? Google. How to write a business plan? Google. Be diligent in educating yourself, but picky in who you are looking to provide you with that information. Trust in yourself and follow your gut when choosing your teachers - but know that you can learn everything that you'll need to be successful.
  2. The second thing is to find your community. Being a business owner can be very lonely and isolating at times, so it's important to find people that you can connect with. Don't assume that people who are currently in your life will be your biggest supporters; sometimes, you need to extend your circle to include people who are going to understand this crazy new adventure you're embarking on.
  3. And lastly, JUST DO IT. If you're looking for a sign, this is it - start the business, even if it's only a few hours on the weekend. Once you get the idea for the product or the service, it never really leaves you, it will hang in the back of your mind, and you can either act on it or deal with the regret that comes from not doing it. The world needs people who are fully alive and in alignment with their purpose, and that includes you.

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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