What a group

One year into running my first start-up I really wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing; the idea I had left my corporate job for wasn’t getting quite the traction I’d hoped for and I was getting more and more worried.

Add to that the fact that I’d never run my own business and the arrival of Covid, a mere 6 months after I started, and things were incredibly tough.

In fact, thanks to Covid, my business ended up with 6 months without any revenues that first year — those were unpleasant days I can tell you.

I felt so alone, struggling to reconcile my ambitions with reality.

Having spent most of my career in reasonably sized corporates, and being a social person, I felt incredibly alone.

Sure, I had plenty of friends and my family were an amazing rock but I didn’t quite feel that they understood what I was going through as a start-up founder.

Loneliness as a strategic problem

One day, when I was in the right headspace, I decided to tackle the business loneliness using my strategy skills.

All I needed to do was come up with all the possible options available to me, no matter how leftfield.

I undertook my own whiteboard session identifying ideas: from “re-join your old company” to “sign up for an accelerator” to “start working at a shared office space”.

From this I narrowed in on one idea that basically was: Use your network!

“Hang on a minute,” I thought, “You must know other people going through similar experiences”

And so my search began; I was already doing a fair bit of networking looking for work but now I was also on the hunt for people also building their own business or going their own way (people I labelled Solopreneurs).

Person number 1: Pamela

It all started with my friend Pamela who, a couple of years before had started a Coaching business; I decided to reach out to her.

She and I agreed to meet regularly for working sessions in random coffee shops across London.

It was a godsend, as each week I got to have someone to share highs and lows with. Someone to vent with, someone to get tips from, someone who could empathise and might genuinely introduce me to people that might help.

Once you start looking, you can’t stop finding

It turns out that was just the beginning. Within about a week of that first coffee with Pamela, I found a second friend doing their own thing then, a few days later, a third.

I agreed to meet with each of them on different days to repeat the pattern I had now established with Pamela.

It was great; each of the three of them gave me different perspectives as well as a sense of community.

The only downside was that, as my business began to turn a corner, I was finding less and less time to meet regularly with them.

Add to that the fact that once I’d popped, there was no stopping; I was literally unearthing new Solopreneurs every week and trying to meet up with everyone of them.

Eventually, it became unmanageable to continuously meet with each of them regularly on their own so I began to combine the coffee shop sessions, throwing 2 strangers together with the only commonality being me — amazingly everyone got on and, after the initial getting to know you, these random mash-ups would help each other out too.

A good idea is often staring you in the face

One day, I was talking to Tim, one of these initial Solopreneurs, when he casually asked:

“Why don’t you just combine ALL the solopreneurs that you know into one group?”

Genius! Not only would that help me with my logistics issue but it meant that all of these fine folk could support each other and expand the wisdom of the group.

So, once I finally pulled my finger out, The Solpreneurs Club was born.

How does it work? Who is involved?

Initially with 6 members, we would meet virtually once a month to discuss what we had been up to that month, what good things had happened, what challenges we had each faced and any tips/questions that anyone had.

Not one to stand still; I was still unearthing new Solopreneurs and adding them to the group. Every week I would find a freelance consultant here, an up-and-coming new coach there, a one-person financial advisory firm, a special needs advocate, a CSR expert, an innovation guru, a green entrepreneur and many more.

In fact, since I started the group 2 years ago we have added approximately 50 members join (most of these have stuck around but some have moved on as they outgrew the group, it didn’t fit their schedule or it just wasn’t quite right).

Nowadays we still meet once a month virtually but it has spawned into a whole community: we now also have a regular WhatsApp channel plus a microsite; and best of all, individual solopreneurs now buddy up to deliver work and support each other, and so much more.

Meeting in real life

About the only thing we didn’t do in the last 2 years was meet in person.

Well, we’ve done that now; I was so overjoyed last week when our first social in London had a grand total of 17 people. It may be relatively small but I literally wept when I got to see all these amazing people in one room together [maybe it was the beer 😉 ]

We’ve come so far on our respective journeys together that this felt like a key milestone. For many in the group, it was actually the first time that they had met in person [I often forget that I’m the only one who knows everyone of them all individually even if some do know each other from before]

I’m so grateful to have this group in my life; as a solopreneur they feel like my team and they make me stronger as a result.

You may have heard me say: Go find your tribe especially if you don’t have one!

I wholeheartedly endorse this, and if you’re a solopreneur or freelancer that I know who is still looking to find their tribe then drop me a line as you can join ours 🙂

Faris is the CEO and Founder of Shiageto Consulting, an innovative consultancy that helps firms and individuals sharpen their effectiveness.

Success = IQ x EQ x FQ

Originally Published on https://farisaranki.medium.com/

Faris Aranki Strategy & Emotional Intelligence

Having spent over 20 years delivering strategic change for the corporate and non-corporate worlds, Faris has experienced first-hand the fine differences between strategic success and failure.
His work has spanned numerous companies (from global behemoths to small start-ups), in numerous countries, across a range of sectors, supporting them all to unlock strategic success.

He came to realize that often what hinders institutions from achieving their goals goes beyond the quality of their strategy; it is their ability to engage effectively with others at all levels and remove barriers in their way. This has led to his passion for improving strategic effectiveness within all businesses and individuals and the foundation of Shiageto Consulting.

Over time, Faris has worked to distill his knowledge of how to solve complex problems in a structured manner combined with his skill on engaging effectively with others and his ability to quickly determine the barriers to a strategy's success. This knowledge has formed the foundation of Shiageto’s workshops, courses and methodologies. Faris believes that any firm or team can adopt these improvements; all it requires is a little of the right support -something Shiageto provides!

On top of leading our business, Faris is now an accomplished speaker and contributor for a variety of outlets.

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