7 must-haves for my next business

I recently took a personality assessment

I recently took a personality assessment.

Caliper is similar to the Myers Briggs assessment. But, rather than lumping you into a four letter definition, Caliper measures your natural strengths, business acumen, and problem-solving abilities against an industry average.

I love this kinda thang, so I was excited to hear my results. I spoke to an analyst for an hour and, when I hung up the phone, I was dumbfounded. In fact, was shocked by how accurate the assessment was.


It felt deeply personal. It was like they’d crawled inside my head and unearthed all my gifts and insecurities in one fell swoop.


Caliper scores your strengths and weaknesses (or “development opportunities” as they call them) compared to others in your industry.

I am one of those competitive, type-A people, so I was most excited to hear about where I excelled.

I scored off the charts in a few areas…

My natural strengths:

  • 95% percentile for entrepreneurship (no surprise here)
  • 93% percentile for business acumen
  • 91% percentile inspiring team members
  • 87% percentile for problem-solving

But, there was the one strength that really piqued my interest…

  • 99% percentile for a sense of urgency

This “natural strength” gave me pause.

Was it really a strength?

Sure, my sense of urgency has driven many of my successes — I love getting shit done, and I have a gift for finding efficiencies that allow me to maximize my output so I can do more, faster.

But, this relentless sense of urgency was also one of my biggest weaknesses.

  • I would often set goals based on unrealistic timelines… and then feel totally gutted if I failed to reach them
  • I would compare my progress to others who are much further along in their journey or who have way more resources, and as result, I often felt like I was falling behind
  • I would move fast when I should move slow, sometimes with devastating results.

My sense of urgency was like the wind. On the good days, it would gently push me forward and I was grateful for its presence. But, on the bad days, it was like a tornado that could whip me into a frenzy and destruct everything in its path — starting with my self-confidence.  

I’d learned from past experiences that moving fast was amazing, but only when you’re moving fast in the right direction.


When I decided to close down my startup, I made myself — and my husband — a promise. I would not just jump headfirst into another business.


I’d take my time to carefully assess every angle before moving forward.

For now, that means that I’m working as a general growth consultant while I figure out where I want to dig in and go deep. (If you want help with your growth or marketing strategy, let’s chat.)

But, while I take on new consulting clients, I’m also working on my own side project…

I’m designing a business that fits my life.


Start with the end in mind

Steven Covey, author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, famously said you should…

[Tweet ““Start with the end in mind.” ~ Steven Covey”]

I’m obsessed with getting things done effectively — apparently more obsessed than 99% of people — so, naturally, this seemed like brilliant advice.


In the coming months, I’m going to design a business from the ground up — from ideation to market validation, to designing an MVP, through to getting my first customers. The fun part? I’m going to document every step along the way and share it with you.


First things first…

I sat down with my amazing husband for a brainstorming session. We asked ourselves, what are the must-haves for a new business?

Following Steven Covey’s advice, we were committed to starting with the end in mind. In the end, what do we all want? We want to feel like we fulfilled our life’s purpose. Like we lived our true destiny, right!? 


So, I asked myself, “What is my Ikigai?”


Ikigai is an ancient Japanese concept.

It loosely translates into “your reason for being.”

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What's your Ikigai? #bosslife #startuplife

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Your Ikigai is where your passion, mission, vocation and profession overlap.

I love this concept. It’s such an easy way to design a business that fits your life. Just answer these four questions, figure out how they overlap, and — BOOM — that’s your Ikigai.

Want to geek out? You can complete this exercise too…

Exercise: Find your Ikigai:

  1. Set a timer for two minutes
  2. Write down all the things you love (e.g. your passion)
  3. When the time runs out, read your answers aloud to yourself (or your business bestie)
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 for all four sections (passion, mission, vocation and profession)
  5. Use insights to choose your “must-haves” in life/business (see mine below)
  6. Work backward from “must-haves” to design your business

Optional step: Jason and I also each listed what we were good ourselves AND what the other person was good at. It was fun to hearing how Jason saw me.

I loved this exercise. It forced me to get really honest with myself about what I wanted… and what I didn’t.

We finished the day with a whiteboard full of ideas and bellies full of wine.

After hours of discussion with Jason and more quiet contemplation on my own, I came up with these 8 must-haves for my next business…


Must-Have #1: I get to make stuff 

Design is my passion. And, more than anything, I love 
experiential design.

I’m obsessed with designing products, spaces or campaigns that are interactive.

For me, design is about more than how something looks — it’s about how a person experiences the design and how that experience evokes action.

On the business side, this could manifest itself in so many different ways. I could focus on…

  • Interior design
  • UI/UX design
  • Product packaging
  • Designing multi-step / multi-channel customer journeys
  • Workshop design

So many amazing possibilities!

I don’t know what business I want to tackle next, but I know that it will somehow incorporate experiential design.

[Tweet “”Design is not just how to looks and feels. Design is how it works.” ~ Steve Jobs”]


Must-Have #2: It’s location independent

I don’t want to be tied to one specific place forever. I want a business that gives Jason and I the flexibility to live and work from anywhere.

That means that anything that requires a physical location — like a restaurant, hotel or retail shop — is out… for now.

This could mean I work with customers remotely or that I travel to where my customers are to work with them one-on-one.

The important thing is that if we want to pick up and go, we can.

[Tweet “”Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” ~ Anonymous”]


Must-Have #3: I find the right biz partner

Entrepreneurship is too hard to do alone.

Believe me. I’ve tried.

But, choosing the wrong partner can be even worse than going it alone.


I watched in horror as my husband’s business partnership fell apart. It was heartbreaking.  


On paper, my husband and his co-founder were perfect for each other. They had complementary strengths and were each rockstars in their respective fields.

But, having the right skills wasn’t enough. The problem? They didn’t share the same vision for the business. Eventually, Jason’s partner turned on him and pulled some dirty shit to force him out of the business. It got really ugly.  

Watching the whole thing go down scared me. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes. So, when I recruited a partner to join Vendeve, rather than focusing on skills alone, I chose someone who shared my vision and who I knew I could trust implicitly.

It still didn’t work out. My partner worked hard and was uber passionate, but there was just too much to learn in too little time.

My next business partner will be the perfect trifecta:

  1. Perfectly matched, complementary skills
  2. Shared vision for the company
  3. A relentless drive to make it happen

I don’t know who he/she is yet, but I’ve got my eyes open 😉

Must-Have #4: Find a niche in an emerging market

I believe that niches build riches.

Facebook started with students. Amazon started with books. Ryan Lavesque, the author of the best-selling business book Ask Method, started with Scrabble tile jewelry.

It’s hella noisy out there. As a marketer, I know that the last thing I want is a “me too” business. I want to find a cozy little niche in an emerging market and become the dominant player.

By default, that excludes a ton of business ideas.

For instance, I’m NOT interested in…

  • Creating an online course that teaches others how to build an online business (yawn)
  • Starting a microbrewery
  • Offering general web design, marketing or PR services
  • Launching the next “Uber for [x]” tech startup

I’ve always defaulted to originality.

When I came up with the concept for Vendeve, we were pretty much first to market. But, being first to market wasn’t good enough.

As a social network, we needed to raise A LOT of venture capital to play the game. Ultimately, Vendeve died because we ran out of money, which brings me to my next “must-have”…


Must-Have #5: Low startup costs

I bootstrapped my first two businesses. It felt good to build something from nothing and grow on revenue. It felt 

When I launched Vendeve, a pre-revenue social network, growing on revenue wasn’t an option. Every social network you love — Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn — raised 1os of millions of dollars in venture capital and operated for years before releasing their first revenue generating feature.

I thought this was just “the way it’s done” in startups. So, I crossed my fingers and went all in. I invested every penny I had, I took loans to grow, and I brought on investors.

Being reliant on other people’s money was a gut-wrenching experience — one that I doubt I’ll ever try again.

Study after study after study shows that female founders face downright terrible odds of raising venture capital.


I may be persistent, but I’m not a masochist.


Why would I start another business where I’m 86% less likely than dudes to get funded? No thanks. 

The next business I build will have low startup costs and won’t require venture capital to get off the ground.

Must-Have #6: It’s scaleable

I don’t want to go back to only exchanging my time for money or tracking billable hours.  I’m happy to work one-on-one with clients for the next while, but it’s not my ultimate goal. 

And, I’m not really interested in building another consulting agency where I need to hire expensive specialists to service clients.

I’ve been there, done that.

I’m also not keen to build another tech company (see must-have #5 above)


My goal is to create a business that’s designed to scale and has low overhead and high margins.


Scalable business models could include…

  • Group training and workshops
  • Selling information products or tools (e.g. webinars, ebooks, done-for-you funnels, etc.)
  • Creating unique IP that can be sold through partner channels (e.g. franchising)
  • Product arbitrage (i.e. buy low, sell high maybe via drop-shipping)
  • Affiliate or advertising income

I can’t wait to dig in and explore different business models. I know there are plenty of businesses other than tech that work at scale, and I’m gonna find me the puuuurrrrrfect one.


Must-Have #7: I get to work with other entrepreneurs

Ok. I’ll admit it…

I’m just instinctively drawn to other entrepreneurs. They’re my tribe. I love surrounding myself with other foolishly ambitious people who are hellbent on making a dent in the universe.

I love talking business over beers while sharing war stories and words of wisdom.

And I love the one-of-a-kind high that comes from a really good brainstorming session.

Honestly? I think I’m addicted to business.

I have no idea what this looks like in practice —there are endless possibilities for B2B businesses. What I do know is that whatever I do next, working with other entrepreneurs is a must-have for me.


What’s next?

Now that I’ve spent some time getting clear on my must-haves, I’m ready to start brainstorming ideas — weeeeeeeeeeee!

I have a few ideas already whirling around already. And, in a week’s time, I suspect I’ll have about 162,720 more ideas.

Why, you ask?

Me and my business bestie Menna Riley are hot-tailing it to the Dominican Republic this Sunday!!

We’re spending a whole week drinking mojitos, sunning ourselves, gushing over how lucky were are to have found our hot hubbies (I’m looking at you Greg and Jason), and, inevitably, talking business for eons.

So stay tuned, folks…

Because this lady will be back in a week with a wicked tan and some killer business ideas.

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Now I want to hear from you…

What is one of your must-haves for your business? Leave a comment below!

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