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Part of the series “Entrepreneurial Women Rocking the World”
Every day, I hear from professional women around the world who deeply long to leave behind their stifling, unfulfilling corporate careers and launch their own creative ventures. They have immense talents, passion and vision, and they absolutely have the ability to be successful. But they don’t do it. And there are two paralyzing questions that keep them from moving forward.
Those questions are:
“Do I really have what it takes to make a go of this when so many people fail in their creative ventures?”
“Will I have to risk everything to do this?”
As one who left my corporate career and launched a successful coaching and consulting business, I know it’s far more possible than most of us believe it to be. To learn more about how to transition successfully from corporate life to a launching a thriving creative business, I was thrilled to catch up this week with Avril McDonald, founder of Feel Brave and bestselling author and creator of the award-winning Feel Brave children’s book series. These “little stories about big feelings” are written to support young children to deal effectively with big challenges and also feel less alone and more supported throughout the process.
McDonald’s books have sold 40,000 copies around the world and have been translated into five different languages, including in Chinese in August 2019. McDonald founded ‘Feel Brave’ with a vision to give all children access to tools to help them manage tough emotions and reach their potential and she’s doing this through her free ‘1 dose/day’ Wellbeing Program which is in more than 250 schools across 10 countries and growing. She is now working with global broadcasters and music labels to take the brand to the world on a large scale through an animated series and music.
Here’s what McDonald shares:
Kathy Caprino: As an award-winning children’s book author and business founder having huge success leveraging your creatives talents and passions, can you share how it all started for you?
Avril McDonald: As a child, my dream was to write and perform music and although I had come close to following that from time to time, my life had taken different directions. I had been a primary school teacher (work I adored), a tour manager in the beautiful Greek Islands (which you can imagine was tremendous fun), then I went into digital entertainment where I worked my way up to Managing Director level. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these careers, but my true passion–to create and express myself–burned in my heart and the fear of not following that passion became greater than the fear of failure in trying.
Like many women at 40 who have risen to senior management levels in the corporate world, my heart was knocking. I craved more meaning in my work and the contribution that I wanted to make to our world.
When my mother got ill, I moved from the UK to New Zealand with my children to spend our last 6 months together, and it was that break from the corporate world which opened up a new way of thinking for me, and the opportunity to focus on writing books for children.
I also think that when you lose someone that you dearly love, their death can often be the birth of a new ‘brave’ in you to follow your heart, to feel the fear and do it anyway. This happened to me and I feel my mother, my grandmother (who was a very successful poet and writer but was a frustrated artist due to the period she lived in where mothers didn’t have the freedom to have a writing career) and all of their mothers co-creating with me now to give Feel Brave to children all over the world.
Caprino: I’ve seen in so many entrepreneurs and successful professionals I’ve met that one potent way to put your passions to work is to turn your “mess into a message” in the world. Did this happen to you?
McDonald: Yes, it did. I had my first panic attack at 8 years old when, at that time, nothing was spoken about anxiety disorders or mental health. I felt completely alone. In my late teens when I found out that others suffered from such experiences and that there were great strategies to cope, I saw a need to teach these and other great coping strategies to children to help them manage tough emotions and reach their potential.
From my own experiences and challenges, my book series, and subsequent creative initiatives around Feel Brave was born. My books, music and other offshoots are designed to help children not feel so alone in dealing with big emotions and hard challenges, and to know that there is help for them.
Caprino: Another behavior I’ve observed in very successful people who are doing work that matters to them is that they’ve “connected all the dots” of who they are and what they care about– meaning, they’ve tapped into all the deep, natural talents they’ve had for many years, using them to achieve important outcomes that are critically important to them. Would you say that you’re connecting the dots now?
McDonald: Absolutely. I had always wanted to be a professional musician and performer. And several years ago, I realized that I might in fact be able to combine my talents and passion for music and writing along with my business acumen to help others with their emotional well-being.
I think that when you combine your natural talents and passions with all of your experiences, you can be an unstoppable power because you exude enthusiasm which is contagious, and your passion helps sustain the determination, grit and resilience that you’ll need for the hard times (and there are many of those in a journey such as this I’m afraid).
I’m so excited to be able to draw on my abilities as a musician and performer for Feel Brave, and am thrilled to have just launched the first Feel Brave music video!
Here’s a look at Nothing Like a Good Friend:
Caprino: To help others who long to launch and build their own creative business venture, what specific steps can you share that made your transition successful?
McDonald: I’d say there are five critical steps that will help anyone make this type of transition. They are:
#1: Make sure that what you want to do is 100% aligned with your values, your passions and that you truly DO want to do it
I’ve met some people who ask me for help because they are stuck in transforming their idea into a reality and can’t seem to commit to taking the first steps. When we drill down to why this might be, (and I challenge them as to ‘why’ they are not taking action), sometimes we discover that they aren’t committing because they actually don’t want to do what they thought they wanted to, and there is something else there that they may be blocking or it’s a dream they feel they aren’t worthy of following.
This is when I recommend you find the right facilitators to help you do the inner work to open up some of your shadows and clear the way to make decisions and then take the first step to transforming your dream into a reality.
#2: Recognize that no one really knows what to do when they start on this the journey
Often, we think that everyone else just knows what to do to build a new business or launch a creative venture and that you might be some sort of fraud. The truth is, no one knows what to do when they start out. “Do stuff, the learning happens later.” It’s rare to be great the first time you do things, but you get great by practicing, listening and learning. Find good mentors to help give you the road signs along the way. Hold the vision and trust the process.
#3: Be flexible, pivot and tweak when you need to
It’s easy to become overwhelmed or to feel defeated if things aren’t working out the way you wanted them too or are taking longer than you’d hoped. When it feels as if everyone is saying ‘no’ and there is constant resistance, try and see this as a gift of a message to you that you probably need to pivot or tweak your product, service or offering. When this happens, refer to your mentors for ideas on where and how they think you should pivot.
Things seldom finish up looking like you thought they would so be open to changes along the way. As long as you stay true to your drivers and values, your end result will be successful and fulfilling.
#4: Get your family on board and stay transparent
Launching our own business or creative venture will always take longer than you think, and the time and effort involved will need to be supported both financially and emotionally by your family/partner/children etc. Whilst I’m making money now from my creative business through royalties, author visits, licensing deals, etc. I still have a way to go to match the corporate Managing Director salary that I left. Like any business, it’s a good idea to plan a commercial strategy with time frames and support needed so that the whole team is always on-board, and they don’t start resenting the time you spend away from them and pressure you for not bringing in immediate tangible results.
Share the little and big wins with them and be honest about what you all need to do to make it a success. If you live with a team, you need to work like a team on this precious investment of your time and effort.
#5: Find a side hustle that brings in consistent money
One of the greatest things I’ve done as part of my journey transitioning to my own business was being able to do a “side hustle” using my business skills and experience to work three days a week with a fantastic and innovative group of people at Brooke Global.
If you are juggling being a mother with growing a business and your partner is financing the operation, you can feel a lack of power and security as a woman which I think this is hugely important. Having a side hustle takes the commercial pressure off your creative venture, allows you to use your skills, remain in touch with other people/businesses, and gives you the financial independence and security and freedom that I feel every woman should have.
Caprino: What’s next for Feel Brave?
McDonald: I continue to grow the area of Feel Brave that I’m most proud of, the free ‘1 Dose/Day’ Wellbeing Program that we now have more than 250 schools across 10 countries involved in. All of these schools are seeing positive shifts of an average of 15% across self-confidence, resilience and response-ability in the six months that they run the program which are results I only dreamed of.
I am super excited too about our “Nothing Like a Good Friend” song about the one thing that we all need to help manage stress and our emotional wellbeing… good friends. The song launched in my home country New Zealand on March 3, 2019, live on the biggest children’s weekend TV show and I’m thrilled to now share it with schools and children all around the world.
I plan to record more songs, grow the ‘Feel Brave Music destination’ and get some amazing world class artists to make guest appearances and become their own Feel Brave characters. I dream of packing out stadiums with children for the Feel Brave live shows.
On the writing front, I’m writing a story which I aspire to be ‘The Alchemist for Kids.’ It’s a fable about following your dream.
For more information, visit feelbrave.com. And to learn more about how to publish and monetize a book, check out Avril McDonald’s practical guide How To Get a Publishing Deal and What To Do If You Can’t.
March 4, 2019 at 09:45AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs