One of the things I wanted to do this year as an entrepreneur was to connect more with my audience. After all, people are not only investing in your business but they are investing in you as well. What we see online isn’t always what we get. Social media distorts reality and breeds group thinking. Social media illustrates the milestones but doesn’t showcase the journey.
Last year was one of the roughest stretches for me. There were so many times I felt discouraged, unmotivated, uninspired. Life began to feel real mundane and it took a huge toll on me mentally and physically. I was putting on a mask around people but was mentally breaking down inside. I was putting so much pressure on myself to prove myself to me to the point where I couldn’t even enjoy the blessings I was receiving. I had to learn get out of my own way and be kind to myself to find that happiness again.
The New Year’s ball has just dropped and it’s officially 2018! I’m turning 30 this same month (the “milestone year” lol) and its year 2 of the business. So much euphoria and anticipation surrounding the year. Just started a new IT contract role and I am already envisioning the exciting year ahead for Kids Next Code. This was going to be the year I can finally leave corporate and operate my business full time. I don’t see it any other way!
As the first quarter of 2018 progressed, I found it a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. I had just created an ad to start offering private coding classes for kids & adults, but I wasn’t get the response I had hoped for. My thought process was by now, after hosting a few coding events in the city the past two years, surely I was able to draw a consistent weekly audience for my private tutorial classes. It proved to be the opposite though. It was very difficult finding ways to establish consistency and offer classes on a regular basis. Looking back on this, I hadn’t even identified who my target audience was. What platforms are utilized by my target audience? What are the behaviors of my target audience?
“When you don’t have a defined plan as an entrepreneur, you find yourself not growing your business, but instead, doing a lot of busy work”.
In the midst of not having a defined plan, adjusting to my new IT contract was a struggle. The role was not what I had anticipated and I found it to be very demanding. This was my 5th IT contract in 2 years and I start beginning to feel very discouraged in my field. Things were very mundane and life was starting to feel like a never ending maze. I grew very disgruntled in my IT career and started putting even more pressure on myself to have Kids Next Code be my main source of income.
This mundane pattern was beginning to take a toll on me mentally and physically. It was getting harder to get excited about waking up to start the day. I was in a very negative space and found myself relying more on vices such as bad eating habits, alcohol, and partying as coping mechanisms. Even the milestones the first and second quarter of 2018 such as hosting an adult Sip & Code event, and hosting a kids coding workshop at the Fulton County library branch, were just temporary highs for me. I wanted that long term feeling of happiness again but I didn’t know where to start.
Summer of 2018, I got a call from 1380 WAOK radio host, Amanda Cooper, to be a guest on her radio show in Atlanta. This was a very exciting opportunity! 1380 WAOK has a strong following and the interview was also going to air on one of the most popular radio stations in Atlanta, V-103. This was a very big opportunity for me to promote the business.
Walking into the radio station gave me chills. To see the pictures of so many entrepreneurs and entertainers who I grew up following was very motivating for me. During the radio interview, Amanda kept reminding me of how powerful and impactful my Kids Next Code organization is.
It moved me to tears to hear her say that because at the time, I found myself so busy trying to prove myself to me and others, that I didn’t even realize the impact of Kids Next Code and how it was affecting the lives of the youth. The interview was the beginning of me finding that happiness again. One question Amanda asked me during that interview was what were the next steps for the business and what was my long-term plan for getting more kids exposed to S.T.E.M. education? It was a great question because it really made me strategically plan the next direction I wanted to go with the business.
For the first time, I sat down that following week and mapped out a detailed plan for Kids Next Code to close out the year. My attention shifted towards devising a plan to establish partnerships with other youth organizations and establish an online presence so I could reach more kids. This plan would reduce the pressure and stress I was putting on myself to host weekly workshops. It gave me a focus and a direction, but most importantly, something to look forward to again. I found happiness in operating the business with the familiar phrase: “Work smarter, not harder”.
With the focus now on shifting Kids Next Code to more of an online presence, the first order of business was writing out my teaching content. Fall of 2018, I wrote my first book: Introduction to Coding & Web Design for students ages (5-18). This book outlined all of the learning material covered in my workshops. This helped me tremendously because it offered some flexibility within my business model. Now, Kids Next Code could sell curriculum to schools and other organizations. As I started marketing the book, I received interest from organizations that wanted to partner together to host a coding workshop for their students. Of all the organizations that reached out, two stood out the most: Galore Urban Tech which is located in Queens, New York and DeKalb County Jail.
Being able to partner with those organizations this year to host workshops in Queens, New York and DeKalb County Jail have been my proudest moment as a business owner. It gives me a purpose and validates why I am here on this Earth, and that is to serve the underprivileged.
I have found happiness again knowing my purpose on this Earth and I have a plan for the business, which gives me so much to look forward to as I close out this year!
· This is easier said than done, but BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Ways to Be Kind to Yourself:
1.) Write down things you have accomplished. You would be amazed at how much you have accomplished when you actually sit down and reflect.
2.) To relax and take your mind off work, have at least one day out of the week where you create a new experience for yourself such as trying a new restaurant, a new hiking trail, a new book, a new workout routine, a new recipe, etc. It doesn’t have to be over the top. You want to have things you constantly look forward to in life outside of work.
3.) Have at least 30 minutes out of the day where you have silence. Being able to reflect daily is powerful. I often find myself riding to work in silence. It helps me reconnect with myself because in a world filled with negativity and distraction, it’s easy to lose that connection with yourself.
· Set small, achievable goals and avoid setting unrealistic expectations. I was setting unrealistic expectations around the business being my main source of income in year 2. There was still a lot for me to learn and I wasn’t ready to take that next step like I thought I was initially. However, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say “I’m not at this point yet and that’s okay”.
· Always have positivity within your household, your relationships, and your friendships. When I was going through that difficult stretch, a constant positive was that I had very positive people around me. Going to work every day and knowing that I had my coworker there, who I formed a close bond with. He was always there to motivate me, encourage me, and give me a laugh when I needed it the most. I don’t know if he realizes the affect his positive energy has had on my life. My family and friends play a huge role as well. They are always encouraging me and very supportive of everything I do. And last but not least, my beautiful wife J. She is so loving and supportive of everything I do and she has made the first two years of marriage very exciting and peaceful. When you look forward to going home every day to tell your significant other how your day went and even more eager to hear how their day went, is so refreshing.
We are all going to experience times where we feel unmotivated and discouraged, but having positivity around you becomes contagious. It can get you through any difficult stretch.
Thanks for allowing me to share my story with you!