Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Fiona McAllister, Founder of Style By Fiona, located in Calgary, AB, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am an image consultant and counsellor who teaches the connection between fashion and psychology to help women feel confident and dress beautifully. My customers are women (and sometimes men) of any age who are struggling with fashion and confidence and knowing what to wear.
I help professionals, stay-at-home moms, retirees, students, entrepreneurs, and anyone in between to get to know their body, with all its natural beauty, so they can let go of the narrow cultural beauty standards and feel at home in how they look and how they dress.
Tell us about yourself
I started my business ten years ago after taking my image consultant training. I first took the course for myself, so I could learn exactly what works for me and why and then I thought this would be really fun to do with others. As I helped my clients with external style concerns, I often found these were intricately connected to internal emotional concerns. I became interested in the emotional reasons behind how we choose to dress, and I did my master's degree thesis research on the connection between clothing, emotions, and identity for women. Now I am equipped to help women with both style and emotional concerns so they can truly hone their personal style.
I am motivated to do what I do because I personally know the pain of looking great but feeling empty or feeling great and looking terrible. I experienced both of these things on my own journey. I turned to the fashion industry to help me feel good, and I certainly learned how to look great, but clothing and style alone couldn't help me believe that I was beautiful and worthy and deserved to look and feel confident. So I had to learn how to work through letting go of old limiting beliefs about myself and cultural beliefs of what is beautiful so I could look in the mirror with love and confidence.
Now, most days, I look great and feel great. Naturally, I have my ups and downs as a part of life, but learning to use fashion as a support rather than an exercise in frustration or feeling inadequate to help boost me has been very healing. I am motivated each day to be a voice of change in the fashion industry to help other women to do the same as I did for myself to let go of negative views of self and toxic cultural views of beauty so they can feel confident and dress beautifully.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is learning to believe that I deserve to be here, in business, and that I have a unique voice and service to offer clients. It has taken me a long time to really know that I am an image professional and counsellor who can offer unique, valuable, and fulfilling services to my clients.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I would have to say the hardest part of being a business owner is the ups and downs that naturally come with client work. Sometimes you get lots of business all at once, and other times business is slower. It can be hard to keep your confidence up with these ebbs and flows. So I have had to know that my worth and skills remain constant no matter how many clients I currently have. We are taught in our culture that worth is net worth and success is booming business. But as Maya Angelou said, "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." So I am working to know that success is an internal feeling, and the money and external results stem from that place of self-acceptance, just like truly discovering and honing personal style.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don't be afraid to build a business while you keep a part-time or full-time day job. The ebbs and flows of starting up are challenging financially, so having a steady income to help you along the way is a good idea. The book The 10% Entrepreneur by Patrick James McGinnis really helped me understand this.
- Believe in why you are building your business. It is a real challenge, and you will feel like quitting so many times. You need to have a very solid why to keep you going. The book Start with Why by Simon Sinek helped me here.
- Know that this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Sure, a few like Mark Zuckerberg hit it big quickly, but for most of us, starting and running a business is like raising a child. It can be a gruelling long-term commitment. Make sure you validate your own worth every step of the way while you work towards the results you want. With slow daily growth, eventually, you realize all that effort has culminated in something (or someone) you are very proud of.
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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