Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lia Avellino, CEO and Co-Founder of Spoke, located in Brooklyn, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Spoke Circles are designed to help modern adults purposefully engage with others, explore ideas, and clarify their life's direction. We welcome people of all faiths, cultures, ages, ethnicities, genders, and sexualities. With low time commitment, but high emotional return, our goal is to help people unravel complex life situations with the healing power of collective support—to live with more authenticity and joy!
We do this in a variety of ways, in our brick-and-mortar emotional wellness space and outside of it—bringing care and connection to the community rather than expecting them to come to us. For example, this month, our offerings include a rage release circle, tuning into your body/intuition and practicing deep listening with support of sound healing, a fireside chat aimed at supporting our community in body liberation, and journal writing for healing the inner child with a writer from Cosmopolitan and Black Love.
Tell us about yourself
I have always been obsessed with understanding how people feel and connecting across differences. I started Spoke because I had a deep yearning for a more meaningful connection in my life and wanted to be in communion with others who wanted this too. I am motivated when I hear our community share that they are feeling more alive, free in their bodies, and judging themselves and others less. So many of us are in an echo chamber—going through the motions and spending time with people who are just like us—Spoke offers a place for reflection, change, just being, growth, and real AF people to speak their truth.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Opening an in-person connection business in a pandemic that encouraged social distancing! And also holding myself accountable for being real with my community—I share when we need to slow down the frequency of our offerings, when our team is overwhelmed, or when we've made a mistake. I am committed to revealing my cracks, not hiding them.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Keeping the doors open while trying to challenge the tenets of capitalism. We have a sliding scale, we pay our facilitators well, we don't expect perfection, we cancel offerings if our leaders are sick or need a mental health day, and these are non-negotiables for me: humanity over money. At the same time, we have a brick-and-mortar space with big overhead and want to provide high-quality care, which means enough money has to come in to support output. This balance can be tough, but it is worth every ounce of energy to figure out.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Spend time dreaming and spend time being in reality: I spent a lot of time envisioning and less time considering logistics. We need attention to fantasy and to reality (considering worse-case scenarios, changes in your capacity as a leader, and the cost of things like water!) when starting a business.
- Rely on the community from the start: You cannot do it all. Separateness is at odds with our biology. Make sure to consider what you do well and what you don't, and be clear on your needs/abilities and things outside of them. Trust the community to help direct your service delivery.
- Do not be afraid to say, "I don't know"—this is how we find our way, admitting when we are lost. And you will have moments of feeling lost. It's part of any worthwhile journey.
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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