We are taught at school that success is like following a well-lit, straight path through the woods.
You get good grades, go to university and then pursue your dream career. If you fall off the path and get lost you might not be able to get back on. But I believe we often have to forge our own path to success, overcoming the dead ends and barriers we all come across.
I saw myself as a good student…until I went to Sixth Form. The responsibility for my learning shifted from my teachers to me, but I didn’t realise this until it was too late. The workload increased but my effort didn’t. My friends overtook me while I couldn’t cope. I finished Sixth Form (just) with low grades but I had become disenchanted with learning and convinced I wasn’t good enough for university.
So, I did what every sensible young woman should do after failure – I moved to Barbados! I spent an amazing eighteen months there before coming back to the UK in 2010 where I started an office job – that was a shock to the system! For a while I enjoyed meeting new people and spending all my money on clothes and weekend plans. But there was a niggling doubt in my mind that I wasn’t happy with where my life was going. A promotion at work increased my confidence, but I felt I was missing the skills to keep progressing.
I decided to investigate going to university to study Business. I knew I wanted to continue working full time which led me towards distance learning. I saw an advert on TV for The Open University and the next day I enrolled to start my first module just a few weeks later!
I was terrified to go back into education, as I still didn’t know how to study, but I knew it would be different this time as I was motivated and willing to work hard. The OU’s flexible and accessible study options also allowed me to fit my studies around my full time job, without having to put my life on hold.
While completing my studies I also started researching and experimenting with different study techniques. My grades climbed and I learned how to fit studying into my already busy life. I then started helping other students by sharing the study techniques that were working for me. During my third year I completed an entrepreneurial module, which is when I decided to explore the idea of creating my own study skills business.
I graduated in June 2016 and the same month, started my blog and business focusing on helping busy university students achieve higher grades with lower stress. The first six months of my business were really hard. I spent a lot of time creating blog content but I was struggling to build an audience. I was speaking, but it felt like no one was listening.
I started to worry I wasn’t good enough to run a business or help others achieve high grades.
If I hadn’t studied with The OU, I think these doubts would have resulted in me giving up. I would have let my gremlins beat me. But completing my degree while working full time taught me to push through the tough times.
Now my business is almost eighteen months old, I can see that these initial worries were completely normal. I have yet to meet a business owner who doesn’t regularly experience imposter syndrome and soul-crushing doubts. I’m going to keep falling down in my business, but I now know that I MUST get back up and keep going.
My business started to gain traction at the beginning of 2017 and it’s grown rapidly since then. I’ve built a fantastic audience, launched two online courses, and ran study skills workshops for the OU in partnership with Channel 4. I’ve worked with amazing students to help them break through their limits and achieve university grades they never thought possible.
The OU gave me my second chance at gaining an education, but it also skyrocketed my confidence and gave me the opportunity to start a business I love. I earned while learning, so I graduated debt-free, and I cultivated the discipline and drive needed to build and grow my start up.
So I want to share with you my three tips for starting and running your own business.
Pay attention to what you’re good at
If you’re struggling to find your business idea, have a think about the skills and experience you already have. What do your friends and family come to you for advice and help with? What do you love learning about?
Find some business buddies
Like studying, running a business can be a lonely experience. But there are incredible online communities of entrepreneurs, so get involved. I’m now part of two mastermind groups and I don’t think I could run my business without them. They’re my sounding board for new ideas, my shoulder to cry on when I’m feeling low, and my kick in the butt when I’m struggling with motivation.
Make friends with failure
We see Instagram influencers and think it’s super easy to make a million with pictures of your breakfast or cute puppy. That may be how the 0.01% become successful but, for the rest of us, we have to grind and persevere to get where we want to be. And that’s ok because with each setback you will learn and bounce back stronger.
Finally, to build a great business you have to overcome challenges and not be afraid to make changes. I’m currently pivoting in my business as I’m changing my messaging and services. It’s hard and it’s painful, but long-term success will be worth it.
About the author
Chloe Burroughs is a First Class Business graduate on a mission to help ambitious, busy students achieve higher grades with lower stress. Chloe provides coaching and online courses to help students improve their study skills to achieve the grades they never thought possible. Whether you’re going back to school or university after time out, or looking to fit education around work or family commitments, Chloe can help.
Visit Chloe’s website here.