Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Alice Chen, Founder of Wayfinding Wisdom, located in Oakland, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I'm a coach and learning designer. I believe that we all have moments in our lives where we reach the edge of our known world and want to be, have or create something that we’ve never experienced before..., and I know that it is both scary and exhilarating to realize that we are called to change and required to grow beyond what we know and create something new.

We all need encouragement, guidance, and support when we are here. I work with leaders who have reached inflection points in their lives and career. I help them develop the mindsets, skills, clarity, and confidence they need to navigate through the uncharted waters in their lives and to discover the next version of who they want to be and the life they want to create!

Tell us about yourself

I started this business because back in my 20's, my life kinda fell out from underneath me - a long-term relationship ended, I burned out of a job, didn't have much of a financial cushion, and didn't have great relationships with my family...and I really felt alone and lost in the world. I knew I wanted a life that was pretty radically different than what I had, but I wasn't sure how to create it for myself, and I sensed that to do so, I'd need to both educate myself on a lot of things and also heal myself from some of the experiences I had growing up. That felt really daunting.
I knew it wasn't a quick fix to what I wanted but a real commitment to walking a different path in a different way.

I remember wishing there was someone who could help me discern and piece together what I needed to do and provide wisdom and encouragement as I did what I needed to do...and I struggled to find someone who could both be with me through the emotional experience of change AND help direct me with some of the practical habit & skill building, financial challenges, mindsets, etc. I needed to pull myself together and figure out what kind of life, career, relationships, etc. I was going to create. I felt like I needed a therapist-consultant...this was back before coaching was part of the mainstream. I couldn't find this person, so I had to become this person for myself, but as I grew threw this moment in time, I knew I wanted to be the person I hadn't had for other people who were in a similar place.

And so that's what I do now and what motivates me - I'm emotional support, encouragement, real talk, a lexicon of all sorts of ideas, frameworks, exercises, and resources for people who are navigating significant moments of change and upheaval in their lives. It's such a gift to be with people in the most tender moments of their lives and also to celebrate and support them as they strengthen their confidence and really act towards the life they want.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Having and sustaining a business is my biggest accomplishment. Years ago, when I was working inside of organizations, I had a dream that I wanted to work for myself...and I've been able to do that. It's been a lot of hard work and tradeoffs, but it's also been worth it, and it's given me the confidence that I can do hard things and that I can take an idea I have and turn it into a reality.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Being a business owner requires you to attend to all sorts of things that aren't just the work you do. I work with clients for sure, and also, there's lots of other "stuff" that's not about helping people that you have to do to run a business - from marketing to biz dev to taxes...all of these things. That's not the stuff I love the most - I like being with people - but it's important and a big part of running a successful business.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Don't be afraid to dream - sometimes, we don't give ourselves permission to really envision and claim what we want out of life. To me, a business starts out as a dream...and then, over time, it becomes a reality. You can't create that reality if you don't allow yourself to first imagine it.
  2. Understand the tradeoffs of running your own business and be honest with yourself about whether you're willing to own the unsexy parts of having a business. A lot of people I know say they want their own business because they want the freedom of working for themselves, and they want to do what they love. Yes, a business can give you more freedom and opportunity to do what you love, AND like all things in life, it comes with its own set of challenges. For example, I have a lot of freedom to set my own schedule and chart my own strategic course...and also, I have ALL the responsibility to do that. I have no boss that's providing that accountability or direction to me. That's a tradeoff. It's one I'm willing to work with. Make sure you think about your tradeoffs and make sure they are worth it to you.
  3. Don't be afraid to evolve what you do over time. When I first started out in business, I largely focused on career transition coaching, offering one-off coaching sessions. Over time, as I've learned more about what my clients are working with and want and what I have to offer, I've evolved what I focus on with people and how we work together. My offerings have changed. My processes have shifted. This is natural. So give yourself permission to learn and evolve as a business owner.

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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