Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Paul Duke, Founder of Hard-Boiled English Media, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My very small business (truly a one-man show) is largely providing online English language tutoring/coaching services. In addition, I create educational videos and online courses and host a weekly live-stream grammar show. My customers are mostly either young academics or professionals working around the world in businesses that require the regular use of their English skills.
Tell us about yourself.
After a long and successful but deeply unsatisfying career in Private Investigation and Security, I moved into language instruction at an ESL school. In 2018 I began shifting my work online so that I could continue my career as I aged and so that I could work from home and free up more time for my creative projects (writing, video), activities that had been my childhood passions before I 'lost my way.'
When the pandemic closed my school, I was positioned for the shift to online work and began developing it in earnest. This enabled me to combine my education in language education, my work as a mentor/teacher, and my creative passions for the story, filmmaking/video creation, and even a little performance.
What motivates me is to have a significant impact on people, especially young adults. I want to help them achieve their potential in a way that I had never been able to at that age.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Without a doubt, having my weekly live stream grammar show seen around the world by viewers in dozens of countries, knowing that I am helping them understand the complexities of this crazy language that is so important for the improvement of their lives. It is extremely humbling.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Without question, you must do everything yourself, especially the things you are not interested in or skilled at. In my case, this means marketing and accounting.
But this extends beyond the business chores. Being a solopreneur means that when you encounter problems, you alone must come up with solutions. There are no colleagues or mentors to brainstorm and share ideas with, and no one person can have all the answers.
This makes the problem-solving nature of business development and growth slower than is optimal. Every creative person or entrepreneur needs a champion, someone who believes in their vision and can and wants to help them achieve it. The most discouraging aspect of my entrepreneurial experience has been not finding my champion.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Just start. Accept that the early versions of your business are going to be rough, even garbage. Be prepared to throw them away and revise them. Release yourself from the pressure to make a perfect first draft it doesn't happen. Let your first draft be garbage--this gives you a foundation from which to evolve.
- Get direct help early. If your business vision is truly innovative and authentic to you, then there exists no manual for how to build it. Therefore, generalized lessons, courses, and advice from 'gurus' like that found on Youtube will only be of limited use. Get expert help, even if you have to pay for it, so that they can address the specific needs of your unique vision and help you create a plan or pathway applicable to your specific vision. In other words, they help you create the manual you need for your unique idea. If you don't get this help, you'll end up spending all your time learning and trying to figure out what to do and less time actually doing what you need to or want to. Even if you have a clear idea of your target, you'll be shooting in the dark, hoping to hit it.
- Keep going. If it really matters to you, don't give up on it, ever. If it doesn't deeply matter to you, then why waste your time and energy even starting it? If it does matter to you, deeply, stake your life on it. Do what you dreamed of. Nothing else will be worth the years of your life you are going to sacrifice and lose forever.
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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