I’m a huge HUGE fan of Susannah Conway. Vulnerable, authentic, graceful and courageous, Susannah infuses everything she does in business with her true self.
After a devastating tragedy, Susannah has built a soulful business founded on creativity, healing and sharing her experiences online (and organic, aligned growth). As a published author, photographer and teacher this heart-centered entrepreneur helps people reconnect to their true selves. Thousands of people have already been transformed thanks to the beacon Susannah shines out into the world. Truly, it’s no surprise this incredible woman’s been interviewed by Brené Brown and featured by Danielle LaPorte, Chris Guillebeau in his bestselling book – The $100 Start Up – and Cosmopolitan.
I just know you’re gonna love Susannah and the wisdom-soaked golden nuggets she shares here. Dive in!
Tell us about your journey into entrepreneurship.
I have two degrees —in journalism and photography —and in my previous existence I was a freelance journalist and fashion editor. However, the path I am on now began in 2005 when the man I loved died very suddenly —everything I thought I knew about life changed in that instant. I found my way back to myself through my cameras and journals and in the second year of my bereavement I discovered blogging — it opened up this whole new creative world to me. Being able to share my thoughts and feelings online was incredibly empowering —it was my way of ‘getting back out there’from the safety of my living room.
In 2008 I moved to a new city and was given the opportunity to teach a photography class at a local adult education centre. As they already had a technical class I decided to create something more meaningful drawing on everything I’d learned through my healing journey. I called that first class “Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self”and was excited to share my ideas with the 10 brave women who’d signed up. As we shared tears and revelations week after week I knew I was onto something, so I followed my intuition and offered the class online —within just one week I had 100 women signed up. That was back in January 2009 and after the creation of seven online courses, two traditionally published books and month-long book tour across north America I guess I should finally call myself an entrepreneur! None of this was planned and it all happened very organically, which I now realise was a blessing —if I’d known what was coming I’d probably still be on the starting blocks.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever got?
In that first year I read a lot of business and marketing blogs but none of it felt very “me”. I had a Fire Starter Session with Danielle LaPorte in 2009 and when I think back to that call I see I was really just asking for permission to do what I was doing —I had no business experience and felt a bit fraudulent. She was very encouraging and said: You’re doing good work. Keep going. It was what I needed to hear.
From where do you draw inspiration?
Everything I do in my business is a result of what’s happening in my own journey through life. I read a lot of books and ask a lot of questions. I put the world to rights with my friends and read widely on the internet. I’ve always been interested in personal development but it wasn’t until my bereavement that I really started to do the work. Now it feels as if my life is one big experiment where I get to tinker and see what works and what doesn’t. I test things out in my own life then bring the results to my peeps. So I guess what I’m saying is: I draw my inspiration from everywhere. Nothing gets wasted!
What advice would you offer to someone just starting out (or dreaming of starting out) in your field?
Creating an online business seems to be all the rage these days and we’re definitely lucky to be living in a time where it’s possible to create a business with such low overheads. Having said that it’s not as easy as just launching a course or product and hoping people will sign up. In my case I’d been unintentionally creating the path to what I do now long before I started.
The key piece that helped the most was building an audience and connecting with my readers in a really honest way. I’ve never tried to be anything other than who I am and that’s reflected in my blog. A lot of my readers have been with me from the beginning and have watched me heal and grow over the years. E-courses were still very new when I tentatively offered Unravelling online but because I’d already been blogging for three years my readers knew they could trust me and were willing to take a chance on my course.
So don’t be afraid to be unashamedly YOU in your business. You don’t have to share your darkest secrets but infusing your personality through everything you do makes you so much more relatable to your audience. There’s a reason why we click on about pages when we visit a new site: we want to see if we can relate to the writer. We want to feel a connection. Let yourself be seen and give people a chance to know the real you. It builds trust and good feeling, something that’s so essential online.
How would your besties describe you?
Funny. Emotional. Sensitive. Big-hearted.
What do you use, if anything, to help make business decisions?
My journal and my intuition. I’ve never really had an overarching plan for my business and I actually really like the fact that it’s grown so organically. It means I’ve been able to follow my interests and keep evolving the way I do things. When I have to make a decision I chew it over in my journal and check in with myself to see how it *feels*. If it feels good I do it; if it feels not so good I don’t. It’s really as simple as that and so far this method hasn’t let me down 🙂
I especially love her overarching message of bringing your authentic self to the table. Opening up and sharing your story can definitely make us feel vulnerable. Even so, personal experience tells me that – even when I feel nervous about sharing my story – it’s usually worth it.
In fact I’ve found that somehow just consciously considering your truth and the parts of your story you want to share can be freeing, gratifying and even transformational.
What about you? How comfortable are you when it comes to sharing your whole self online or with clients? I’d love to hear from you!
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