Back in August I launched a new series on the blog - Flourishing Entrepreneurs.
The series will introduce you to incredible women who have started their own businesses. I'll talk with them about how they got started, what jobs they were doing in a past life, what the voice inside their head tells them and dig into the resources and tips they can offer you on your entrepreneurial journey.
Today I’m introducing Flourishing Entrepreneur #5 Lea Tierney, a chocolate maker, Indian Head Massage Therapist and wellness coach and writer. Lea is a vey dear friend and I’m so pleased to be able to share her thoughts with you in this interview.
Who are you, what is your business and what job title do you have?
There’s no easy-fit box, concrete or short answer to the question – I wear a lot of hats (some of them appear fancier than others).
I explore all of my interests and endeavour to fulfil my purpose to empower as many people as possible to live fiercely and fully, in harmony with their bodies and the earth. I do this through my work as an Indian Head Massage Therapist, Holistic Wellbeing Coach and Writer. I’m also Co-Founder and Chief Maker at Rosemary & Robert; bringing handmade, vegan, allergy aware cacao treats to chocolate lovers in my local area of Kent and beyond.
What were you told about work growing up?
One of the main threads I’m aware of struggling with is that you should work hard - and that work itself should be hard. The whole notion that you’ll be respected and “get somewhere in life” if you are seen as a hard worker and have a “strong work ethic” has stayed with me quite strongly; that you have to sacrifice yourself in so many ways to get such and such thing and then one day you’ll be happy.
It was quite a clear theme to me that people didn’t like what they did for work; that this was perfectly normal and that you simply worked as a means to have nice things and go on holidays.
I was always encouraged to take a different path to the rest of my family: to work hard at school, get good grades and strive for bigger things. I think most of the people I grew up with were told that we would essentially walk into a great job and have our pick of what was out there if we had a degree.
I felt at that age that I wanted to “break the mould” and be the first in my family to go to university but I had no real idea what I wanted to do (in fact it took me another decade to figure some of that out). I opted for a degree that was very “me” and came incredibly naturally: English Literature. Everyone I told immediately asked if I wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t, but I was asked the question so often I did have a period of self doubt about whether I was missing something obvious.
I left university at the peak of the recession with no clue what to do next, so I worked in retail for a few years before discovering a talent for marketing. I then worked in marketing for a bunch of different companies for about 5 years before realising that I was still trying to contort myself to fit in a box of someone else’s making.
I ditched the 9-5, corporate world a little over a year and a half ago now and haven’t looked back despite contending with other people’s fears about my “lack of financial security” in striking out alone (like there ever is such a thing!)
How has your mindset changed around work since then?
I don’t believe that work has to be hard, that you should have to sacrifice yourself for it, or that the purpose of life is to go to work so you can pay bills and take the occasional holiday.
Personally, I feel like I need to do work that is an extension of who I am; I don’t want a “life” I have to escape from through a holiday and I don’t believe anyone else should either.
I’m terrible at being told what to do and will always dig my heels in if someone tries, so working in a well-worn groove created by someone else and being told how to do that work really isn’t for me. Looking at the work I did before and how I’m trying to live my purpose every day it probably seems like a bit of a jump: marketing to making chocolate and giving massage treatments?! But that misses out a chunk of the bigger picture – that chunk being my personal health journey which has been hugely winding since discovering I have Coeliac Disease in my early 20s and this had the most profound impact on where I’ve ended up.
The funny thing about the work I did is that most people assume that’s a great base to start your own business as “you already know all the tricks of the trade.” But the biggest hurdle I’m having to get over in this phase of my life is being able to market my own creations: it is SO much easier to sell something someone else has made!
How do you prioritise your health as a busy entrepreneur?
Confession time: I got to this whole entrepreneur thing because of my health and I’m dedicated to empowering others in their journey to holistic wellbeing. But, I don’t always manage to prioritise the health that got me here!
I haven’t yet had a holiday this year and I don’t think I’ve had a single day not thinking about the business in some way. Learning to switch off completely is still a work in progress.
I’m still learning to find balance in my own personal energy cycle each month – maximising the high energy points (whilst leaving something in the tank, so to speak) and planning for the lower energy points – and I think that’ll always be a bit of a project for me as it’s so easy to get complacent.
Some of the things I do try and keep up regularly because they make me feel good include:
lots of colourful home cooked meals
time out for coffee and vegan cake with my partner
daily time out in nature walking the doggo
shorter “to do” lists
being able to say no
wrapping my head around the fact that I don’t have to work “harder” or longer to grow my business.
How is your relationship with food?
For a while, food pretty much was my whole life; I had a gluten free blog, I spent long days preparing everything I ate so I could be sure of no cross contamination and the most nourishing ingredients. Now, I run a food business and I still love food but I spend a lot of time in the kitchen making cacao treats, so am much more appreciative of someone else cooking for me or less elaborate meals that take very little preparation.
Being a jedi level label reader courtesy of being a Coeliac Vegan, I’m a lot less trusting of food manufacturers and a lot more choosy with where I spend money on food. Having founded a food business of my own, I’m much more likely to choose an independent or start up and I have so much more of an appreciation for the work that goes into hand crafted food products. I can’t stand most of the chocolate available in the supermarkets as I find it far too sweet and it seems like I can sense the conveyor belt it came off of: I’d much rather eat a bar where the ingredients have been thoughtfully sourced and hand worked to make a one of a kind experience.
What is your favourite meal, something you would recommend others learn to cook or prepare?
Probably a black bean Bolognese. You can pop all the ingredients in a slow cooker or cook it on the stove top, depending on what your day looks like. You can also freeze leftovers to save time on another day and the ingredients can pretty much all be kept at room temperature so if you’re doing a self catering trip and need a simple, hearty meal to whip up you can have all the goodies needed without a fridge.
We probably eat a variation of this once a week or fortnight and I usually chuck in handfuls of different veggies that are hanging around in the fridge.
The voice in your head - we’ve all got one! What negative thing does it say to you most often?
When my inner mean girl comes out, she comes out in full force and there will usually be a stream of things running round in my head for a day or so before she gets put back in her place.
The most common theme of her narrative tends to be around my being an imposter and not being worthy of people paying for what I have to offer.
In honesty, those days are usually when I’ve been neglecting my energy stores and need to take a breath and rest: she tends to get drowned out by some sort of Netflix binge and a social media break.
Self-care. What does it mean to you and what self-care practises do you have to look after yourself as a busy entrepreneur?
The recipients of my regular “Fierce Love Letters” will know that I recently decided to commit to reclaiming selfishness actually: focusing on and prioritising myself is something I’ve always struggled with so during September I’ve been asking myself every day what I can do that’s just for me/that will make me feel good. That’s been different every day: some days it’s unleashing my creativity by writing or by dreaming up new cacao creations, other days it’s been taking the afternoon off to go for a walk.
What one book, video or podcast would you recommend to entrepreneurs?
I have told everyone I can, including Vicky, about Tara Mohr’s Playing Big and I feel like this is the first book every woman on a self development or entrepreneurial journey should read.
I was nodding my head most of the way through (apparently quite annoying to the partner who was sitting next to me), chuckling at reflections of myself in the words and found myself super powered up at the end of the book. I might have to go and loan it from the library again actually!
What one tip, quote or resource would you share with other entrepreneurs to help them on their journey?
I rely so much on my support network and cannot stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with a group of people breaking the mould like you when you strike out away from the 9-5 norm.
There will be a lot of time on your own and sometimes you’ll be paralysed by all the decisions you need to make so having your own team of cheerleaders and sounding boards to chat things through with, even if that’s a monthly skype call, is so very important. You do have everything you need already inside you, don’t doubt that, only sometimes you need people around you that get the journey.