Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dyan deNapoli, founder of The Penguin Lady, located in Georgetown, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business name is The Penguin Lady. I'm a penguin expert, TED speaker, and award-winning author, and my clients hail from a wide range of settings, from grade schools and universities, to corporations, conferences, libraries, assisted living centers, expedition ships, and more. I'm also a frequent guest on radio, TV, and podcasts in the US and abroad. I travel locally and internationally (and now on Zoom) to teach children and adults of all ages about penguin biology, behavior, and conservation. I also give presentations about leadership and mentoring STEM careers, pursuing your dreams, how to give a TED talk, and more. And I write books about penguins for both kids and adults.
Tell us about yourself
I've always had a deep love of animals and a deep concern for endangered species. I went back to school in my 30's to finally pursue my lifelong dream of working with marine wildlife. While working as a Senior Penguin Aquarist at Boston's New England Aquarium, I flew to South Africa to help manage the rescue of 40,000 penguins from an oil spill. That experience really galvanized my desire to do even more to help these charismatic seabirds. After 9 years at the aquarium, I founded my company, The Penguin Lady, to teach others about these birds and to raise awareness and funding to protect threatened and endangered penguins. To that end, I donate 20% of the proceeds from my books and from every appearance to penguin rescue groups.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Can I have two? Because I really have two. On a more personal level, it's whenever I receive a letter from someone who read my book about the penguin rescue or who heard me speak, and they tell me that my story inspired them to pursue a goal or dream they've always had. I get choked up every time I hear this. Next to raising awareness and funding to protect endangered penguins, this is the most gratifying aspect of what I do.
And, on a more concrete business level, it was being hired as a Global Perspectives Guest Speaker for Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic on their ships going to Antarctica. This was a dream I'd had while I was still working at the New England Aquarium - but it seemed like an impossible dream at the time, and I had no idea how to make it happen. Fifteen years later, after I was well established as The Penguin Lady, that dream came to fruition. And it was the thrill of a lifetime! (And it happened after reconnecting with a high-school classmate at a class reunion. Six years later, his company was hired by Lindblad for an event, and knowing about my work, he invited me to that event and introduced me to someone from Lindblad, which led to my being hired 8 months later. You just never know what connections you have that might bear fruit at some point.)
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I'd have to say it's the administrative end of things. My brain is wired more for being creative and for connecting with audiences than for the details of bookkeeping and other paperwork involved with the running of a small business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Join local business networking groups. And be a regular participant - not just an occasional fly-by visitor. Really get to know the other small business owners in your community. I completely attribute the growth of my business to referrals I received from people I met (and who got to know me and what I do) in various networking groups.
- Keep learning and educating yourself! When I first started my business, I took a 6-week small-business workshop to learn the business end of things. (Something I now wish I had done when I started a business as a silversmith/jeweler years earlier.) And just a few years ago, I went through an intensive public speaking program for high-level speakers - even though I'd been a professional speaker for two decades already. No matter how much experience you have, you can always up to your game even more!
- Dream big! And then, dream even BIGGER!! With each goal you reach and each success you have as a business owner, your confidence in what you are doing grows. So, enjoy each success, but don't just rest on your laurels - keep aiming higher, and you may truly surprise yourself with what you can ultimately achieve.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
You are never too old (and never too young) to pursue a passion or achieve a dream! I think the most important keys are to believe in yourself and to pursue your goals with enthusiasm and dogged determination. Each time you accomplish an elusive or seemingly impossible goal, it emboldens you to dream of even loftier goals for yourself.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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