Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Caroline van Kimmenade, Owner of The Happy Sensitive, located in Heerlen, Netherlands.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I teach sensitive, intuitive, empathic women how to stop taking on everyone’s pain and problems, so they can break the overwhelm cycle, enjoy their life again, and do what they’re truly here to do.
I have amazing clients who have lots of intuitive gifts, but those gifts tend to feel more like a curse because it's just too much. My clients tend to feel bombarded by feelings and 'odd knowings' and also lots of things they can't put words to, let alone decipher.
Some feel really held back because they want to do lots of things but keep feeling like maybe they just can't because they're too sensitive. They have that drive to make things happen, but they tend to crash, feeling overwhelmed yet not sure why or what to do about it. I help them understand what they are picking up on and why, and prune back all that overwhelm.
You can be super intuitive, but that doesn't mean you're supposed to know what's up with everyone and everything! Let alone feel responsible for fixing everyone's problems! Yet when you're in the middle of that, it can be hard to even imagine there could be another way. There is! And I've worked hard to develop techniques and solutions that get to the heart of what's going on and help my clients go from Highly Sensitive to Happy Sensitive.
Tell us about yourself
I used to work as a teacher - an assistant professor - at a university. I really loved it, but it was also super stressful because I was constantly picking up on all kinds of things that I technically "couldn't know" about my students and colleagues.
On the one hand, this was a great help in teaching because when you can sense why or how someone is stuck and you can intuitively pluck the right metaphor from the air to explain something, it helps your students a lot. And if you're in a meeting and you're brainstorming based not just on what people are saying, but also based on what they are thinking and not saying... you come to new solutions much more quickly. But all of this also led to a huge and constant information overload, and eventually, I burned out and had to take sick leave.
In this way, I was catapulted into learning about sensitivity and intuition quite dramatically! How I did that is a long story, but essentially, I was stuck resting most of the day to cope and couldn't find anyone who could help me get back up again, so I started learning as much as I could about whatever thing I intuitively felt I needed to learn more about. All this took several years, but I came out of it with techniques and approaches that allowed me to keep my intuition focused on what is manageable and useful (as opposed to randomly picking up on anything and everything), and that helped me build up my energy and understand what my Highly Sensitive nervous system truly needed to thrive. Along the way, I also learned how to let go of everything that wasn't truly mine. I was carrying so many burdens! Not just psychologically but also energetically.
Eventually, I decided to start teaching that instead of trying to go back to teaching Cultural Theory or Philosophy of Science. This made sense because I'd always felt that while I loved teaching, ultimately I wanted to teach something different than the theoretical topics at university. I love being able to explain something to someone in a way that they truly get it, but it's much more satisfying when what they're learning actually helps them in their day-to-day life!
I launched my business in 2014 - quite a while ago now! Meanwhile, the internet has changed drastically. When I started out, there was very little information available on sensitivity and intuition. Now there's a lot of info available, but there is - pardon my French - a lot of spiritual bullshit out there too.
There is much spiritual bypassing, many ungrounded approaches, and well-meaning people who are just passing on what they were taught but don't really understand it. It's not easy for truly sensitive, empathic, intuitive people to find healthy and effective ways to deal. That's a huge motivator for me. This work is needed. There are people looking for help the way I was once looking for help.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I've developed my own techniques and approaches. The coaching programs I offer are ones I built from scratch: what I teach, how I teach it. I think that's pretty big!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
In the beginning, you can get help pretty much everywhere. There are great courses on how to build an email list and how to write a sales page, for example. It's easy to find commonalities with other business owners. Once you get further down the road though, and if you have a pioneer business like mine, something you built from the inside out, not based on a formula or what others are doing... there comes the point when most other people don't really "get" what you're doing or dealing with.
My current business advisor is my own intuition. I've been in courses, groups, coaching programs, etc., in the past, but at some point, you start to feel a disconnect because what you've developed is different, and your challenges are different. So this is not necessarily a hard thing for every business owner, but I think it's one of the hardest things when you are developing something quirky and different.
In my case, much of my business logistics has to do with how I manage the subtle energy that comes with my work. How do you encourage the right people to reach out and filter out the "wrong" ones when right or wrong is determined by things that people can't self-diagnose? How do you put yourself out there and market your business when you also want to avoid being inundated with "spiritual bullshitters" (because dealing with them is exhausting, and there are only so many hours in the day). How do you present who you do and don't help when you know that the clients you're perfectly suited to help also tend to be the ones who worry that they're probably too weird, or that maybe they are the narcissist, or that you're probably too busy helping other people who are "more deserving."
I once used a popular business "trick" to encourage people to join a free call by mentioning that seats were limited (which was true). You know what happened? Few people joined because they didn't want to take the seat of someone who maybe needed it more than them! I know this because I went and asked many people who'd previously shown interest why they didn't join.
I have tons of examples like this. Common business "know-how" teaches you that you should set things up in a particular way, and it's all very logical and reasonable, but in my business, much of that doesn't work out that way in practice. So I continue to pave my own way, and it's o.k., but it's definitely one of the hardest things about being a business owner for me.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Run towards something, not away from something. What I mean is, if you want to have your own business so that you don't have to deal with a bunch of tough things at work... believe me, those same tough things will show up in your own business! So pick something you believe in, something you deeply feel the world needs, and run towards that because it deeply matters to you, and you feel you're the right person to do it.
- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. You need good boundaries to have a smoothly running business. This means letting people know upfront what to expect and sticking to the "rules and procedures" you create. If you think people are nice and it will all magically work out, you'll get hurt a lot. People have wildly different expectations about what is "normal," so you need to spell out upfront what you expect from clients and what will happen if they don't do that. You need that caring yet decisive mom vibe: 'we're doing it this way so that we'll all have a good time!'
- Expect your business to challenge you personally. You need to (constantly) do the inner work to make sure that you're doing what you truly want to do and not just what comes easy or what you've always done. Having your own business brings up big emotions, it's intense. It's totally doable, but you need to take the time and make the space for inner alignment and healing work as well. Your business will evolve, and you will too.
Where can people find you and your business?
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