Today on “How They Did It” I feature the Idea Alchemist herself, Mrs. Monique Mayers. Monique is an entrepreneur extraordinaire from Barbados, based currently in Toronto. Today we talk about the journey she went through to become who she is today.
Tell me a little about who you are?
I’m still discovering new layers of what that means, but professionally I’m a visionary who sees problems in the world and creates businesses to solve them. Those businesses include a skincare company, business consultancy, a fashion brand and tea business. Personally, I’m an introverted creative who loves hiking, photography, a good laugh and deep conversations. I’m also a wife, sister, daughter and a Bajan living in Canada.
What is your business about?
I have multiple businesses and for a long time and I’ve felt pressured to focus on just one. So, I’m going to speak about Idea Alchemist, my business consultancy and what we’re up to. I created Idea Alchemist because I got REALLY frustrated when networking. I kept meeting smart, talented people who were hiding from the customers who really needed them. For whatever reason, fear, funding, lack of confidence, and uncertainty about the value of their work. They weren’t doing the work it takes to build a profitable business. They were stuck in the idea part of the process. My company gives them the tools and the courage to grow that idea into a business that makes a positive impact in their customer’s lives and generates revenue for them.
What were you doing before you started your business?
I’ve been operating a business before I knew what a business was. Selling candy on the playground, taking orders for Valentine’s gifts from the boys who wanted to impress a girl and then I started my first Greeting Card company at 12. So, in between then and my very first venture (a skincare brand called Mixology), I worked for three years as Geographic Information Systems Analyst for a consulting firm. Most people won’t know what that means but if you think about the lines on your GPS, the road lines, and building outlines. I spent a lot of those three years drawing them on a computer… the antithesis of creativity.
What inspired you to start your Business?
As you can imagine, my job was mind-numbingly boring until I completed my Master’s Degree and some classmates convinced me to bid for a consultancy job which meant working and traveling to St. Vincent and St. Lucia. I thought it was “smart” to let the company I worked for bid for the job, knowing I’d get to manage it.
The project was fun! Leading a team, working with stakeholders and trekking through biologically diverse parts of the Caribbean. It was great until the paycheck came and I realized that as an employee my hourly rate was 10% of what the consultants on the job were getting. So after the project was done, I told myself never again would I let someone else control my money. I went to work every day and did what I was asked, but each morning, before starting work I’d pray to get laid off. It took three months but eventually, I got my severance package and used that to start my first venture.
What obstacles did you face in starting your business and how did you overcome them?
Business is a series of hurdles, there are so many, and I know there are more to come. I don’t think that we ever really overcome them, they just show up in different ways and we learn new coping skills. What I’ve found is at the end of the day 80% of it is mental and 20% is action.
I deal with a lot of fear – fear of being seen and judged, fear of my failure, fear of bad timing, fear of managing my business poorly. What has helped when these things show up is learning from others and remembering the stories they’ve shared about their journeys through these times. I remember when my mentor shared a story about someone who created an entire website dedicated to judging and shaming her because of her revolutionary work on in her industry. That’s a big pill to swallow, but if someone can go through that and come out on the other side, I’m inspired to keep showing up!
Most of the times, reading and listening to stories, talking to other business owners does the trick but sometimes, especially with big ideas, the funk is strong, and my best way of dealing with that is just to stop. Take a break – shower, walk, cook, nap. Everything is always better after you step away from it.
Once you can get out of your head, a lot of other stuff seems possible. Then you can go after the clients, the funding, the promotion opportunities.
What’s next for you and your business?
My focus for the coming year is to build leadership teams for my ventures. It took me a long time to realize and accept that as a creative; I’m most energized and valuable to my company when I’m developing new products and services within the company, not handling the day to day operations. I’ve had employees for the last six years but never had a leadership team.
What is your best advice for young people looking to start a similar business?
Don’t do it alone. Whether it’s finding people with similar ambitions on Facebook and building a virtual support group, hiring a mentor or having imaginary conversations with people you admire (I’ve done all 3) you need to create a space that supports, inspires and empowers you. You won’t ALWAYS feel like you’ve got it all together and that’s ok. Your success is the sum of several imperfect actions.
I also have to say read Millionaire Master Plan by Roger Hamilton. A year ago, this book changed my life, and it has influenced every business decision I’ve made since. I recommend it because it will help you to discover what you are good at so that you can build a business based on your strengths.
To see more, click here to find out How Tech Entrepreneur Cenus Hinds Built Technology Company in St Vincent and the Grenadines