Jul 5, 2021
My parents wanted me to get a job. So I did, just not how they expected: I created a company and hired myself.
I have several employees (besides me) and growing my business to the point where I could hire anyone has been a lifelong journey.
Business owner, Geraldine Convento during a typical workday.This isn’t my first business; I’m a serial entrepreneur, and I wanted to run my own business from the time I was a child. Of course, this went entirely against the grain of my Filipino cultural upbringing. I was expected to tread the safe and time-worn path of tradition and convention: go to school, get a degree that would secure me a 9-to-5 job with benefits, and stay there for life.
Instead, I went completely the opposite direction. My life has been an exploration of what I can do that makes me happy, keeps me interested, and creates more time for myself.
“Time for myself” was always my goal. I grew up mostly among adults, and I soon observed how inflexible their lives were and how little time they had apart from their jobs: they all worked for other people, on structured schedules, nine to five or later, always busy; some even had two jobs.
None of them had time for doing the things they aspired to do, or even for being with family. I circulated among family members who took turns babysitting for periods of my life, and sometimes one or another would not be in my life for a time because they were off focusing on their job or career.
As a little girl, I decided that when I grew up, I would have my own business because that’s how I would create time for myself.
Of course, being a serial entrepreneur is not for everyone. It’s a long road, and like the saying goes, the journey is the destination. You need encouragement, and if you can’t get it from others, you need enough self-will to get it from yourself.
I’ve had my supporters, sure. But in the end, I had to get most of my encouragement from inside.
Paradoxically, what I’ve learned on my self-driven entrepreneurial journey is that my business is about so much more than just me.
I’ve always been self-willed, and also an introvert, so you’d think starting a solo business would come naturally to me.
At first, it did. My first business was an online vinyl record store. I was passionate about records, and I did the whole process from start to finish. I’d buy collections of records, clean them, research them, post them online, and then fulfill the sales. I sold to people all over the world. It was awesome.
My first successful business was a home business.
But I reached a point where I was tired and overwhelmed, and I couldn’t grow or go any further because I was limited to doing whatever I could do myself.
This happened again and again until I finally understood what was holding me back: my limiting beliefs.
Among them, I didn’t think I was good enough, or that I had the skills or experience to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Over time, I learned I was far from alone in this. In one form or another, self-doubt — a lack of self-esteem and confidence — plagues many entrepreneurs.
I think women are more prone to impostor syndrome. As a result, we tend to set prices lower than a man would, just because we believe we don’t have the skills or experience.
To break through my limits, I took seminars on spirituality and classes on communications — which I mention because I never used to talk about my spiritual practices. Now I share them more because I’ve realized they’re part of who I am, and a critical part of my business.
In between meditation, sage, crystals, and Epsom salt baths, I turned to mentors and coaches, and my community. I’ve always reached out to people who seem really successful; Along with their formulas for success, I’ve learned they go through the same trials and tribulations as I do, and face the same limiting beliefs.
Spirituality and networking have taught me to see both within myself and beyond myself. That’s benefitted me personally and in business. I’ve learned to access both my inner genius and a community of people who know firsthand what I’m going through.
Still, as a solopreneur, I kept facing the reality that I can only do so much by myself. That made me face my limiting beliefs around teamwork.
Like I said, I started as an introvert. I resisted the idea of teams and team building because I hated that process. It’s so structured; in short, a grind.
I know now that this was my ego resisting: the idea that somehow I was above it all, above needing other people and their own egos and agendas. I was arrogant, expecting things always to go a certain way, and only I knew what that was.
I dreaded the seemingly endless conversations and meeting after meeting to discuss systems and team processes. In my mind, all these people and their processes were just taking my time away from me. I wanted more time for myself, not less. I felt malcontent at work and so I avoided it.
And yet, these conversations were like medicine that tasted bad but made me feel better. They forced me to see through other people’s eyes and be open to other ideas. Once I overcame my ego resistance, I realized that a team in fact gave me the formula for doing all the things I wanted to do. Namely: creating time for myself.
I tried out teamwork by co-founding a video production company, working with filmmakers and other creative professionals. But the first company where I developed a fully functioning team was MeetGeraldine, a website development company that pivoted many times first into a full-service marketing firm and now a WordPress website maintenance company.
Because we had a team, a structure, and processes, my business partner and I could actually take turns being gone for six months while the other ran the shop. It was awesome, I’m grateful that we’re still in business today.
In the end, my experience with MeetGeraldine showed me that what I most resisted was the very thing that gave me the freedom I wanted all along.
Learning about teamwork was part of the ongoing business education that’s been foundational to my success.
Entrepreneurship is not a linear path. It’s not the same thing day after day, year after year. You have to be resilient. To do that, you have to keep learning.
Dreaming of entrepreneurship as a child, I knew I had to learn what makes a business work. So when I worked at corporate and small business jobs before starting my first company, I studied their operations so that I could do better. I kept learning as a solopreneur.
Even though I no longer do everything myself, the fact that I know what all the pieces are, how they work together, and how to do them, helps me make better business decisions as to the head of a team of employees and partners.
And business practices change over time; as the most obvious example, consider how the pandemic has forced companies to adapt. Changing technology, changing markets, and a changing world all require us to learn new ways of doing business.
The point is that good business education is critical, but the experience is every bit as valuable as book learning. You gain just as much expertise. The school of life is a phenomenal teacher.
This ongoing education is also an opportunity for personal growth and self-development. It’s what I love most about being an entrepreneur.
When I think about spirituality, it’s not only about praying; it’s about understanding the degree to which there’s something greater than us out there. I don’t mean a particular religion or traditional God.
I mean that when you embrace the idea of something greater, then you can be inspired to do what you do every day, but also use it as a tool to get through tough times and uncertainty, of which you will experience plenty in business.
Paradoxically perhaps, I believe uncertainty is the only thing that’s fully in the present. When you’re thinking about the past or future, you’re not being present anymore. The uncertainty of living in the present moment is what really drives you forward in business.
Spirituality to me means being okay with uncertainty — because uncertainty keeps me present and learning.
Spirituality and entrepreneurship are alike because they’re both journeys of self-discovery. They both require that you take care of yourself.
I’ve had to learn about my physical, mental, and emotional needs so that I can literally keep going day after day. I take breaks and time off, and no longer guilt-shame myself on days when I’m off my game. I take care of my other employees the same way.
I’ve learned to focus on my breathing. Breath is the one thing you control that no one else can, and it’s been a great resource for me.
At the same time, I’ve taken care of myself externally through a supportive network of fellow entrepreneurs. I’ve alluded to that previously.
Networks and communities are vital to an entrepreneur because, to be blunt, you will not get much understanding or sympathy from anyone else, i.e. people with jobs, people like my family.
Sure, your family and friends will be supportive. They’ll be glad to hear you got a new client, landed a big contract, or were interviewed on a podcast.
But they’ll never really get what you do, much less what you go through every day. Not like another entrepreneur will get it. One day my dad asked me, “So how’s business?” I said it was good.
“So you make money every day?” he said.
“I work on projects.”
I know my parents are proud of me. They just can’t relate. And like I said, they’re not the only ones.
As a result, I feel disconnected from people sometimes. But my business networks are full of people who know what I go through every day because they go through it too.
Some people fall into business because an opportunity presents itself, or maybe they’re desperate to find another way to make money.
But some people (like me) proactively choose entrepreneurship because they want more time and the freedom to control it. Or more money and the freedom to earn it. Or both.
I’ve described the main things that have enabled me as a serial entrepreneur to accomplish this: teamwork, education, spirituality, self-care, community. It’s been about me, but also much more than me. To learn that, I’ve had to look both inside and outside myself.
In the end, though, it’s the passion that has carried me through every day and every challenge. Entrepreneurship can be very difficult, especially in the beginning, and it’ll always be challenging. Your passion gives you the strength and fire to endure.
I hope my personal experience helps you feel less confused and more empowered to begin your own entrepreneurial journey. Maybe you’ll find you’re not a serial entrepreneur after all. It’s worth trying to find out.
Have a similar story? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about it!