Chelsea started a business as a 20-year-old university dropout - here's what she's learnt

I was a 20-year-old university dropout with no entrepreneurial experience when I decided to start my own business. Was I crazy? Yes… but now after nearly 3 years of running my business - I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Throughout my final years of school, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing. I’ve always been fascinated by marketing, and as a naturally creative person, it was the only career I could think of that would allow me to use my creative skills daily as well as the business skills I loved. 

University was always the plan as both my parents had graduated uni, and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t follow suit, let alone abandon my degree. I’m not a quitter! The first semester of uni rolled around and I instantly regretted enrolling.

I had this idea in my head that everything I would learn at uni would be relevant and applicable to a real-life job, and that I would be enrolled in subjects that I loved – but that just wasn’t the case. There was so much theory, and my textbooks were decades old and written by grey-haired old men. By the end of the first semester, I did not love it.

I thought I could learn far more by getting practical, hands-on experience and so I made the tough call and deferred. I knew deep down that I didn’t want to go back to university, which is why I tried so hard to land a marketing position that would allow me to learn on the job.

After bouncing around in a few random jobs, such as a kid’s party host and a production assistant at a music company, I landed a fantastic marketing coordinator role at a B2B marketing agency. This was incredible for so many reasons; they took me on with next to no experience and trained me from the ground up. I learnt a range of marketing and time management skills which have since been a godsend in my business, such as multitasking, working to deadlines and marketing strategy – as well as how to deal and communicate with clients.

However, growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, I knew that working for someone else wasn’t something I wanted to do forever. 

Social media has always been part of my life as I belong to a generation of digital natives. When you grow up with social media, you just have a sense for what works and what doesn’t work in the social media world. I had also seen how social media had completely transformed brands into household names - so I knew the power of social media was pretty insane.

It didn’t occur to me until later that social media would be something I could do on behalf of others. Plus, I had no idea how to run a business, or even start one. What I did know was what I didn’t want to do. 

I’d had some pretty bad jobs throughout my teenage years, and I knew what parts I didn’t want to take from those experiences. I’ve seen bad leadership; I’ve dreaded going to work because of crummy bosses and I’ve seen how these businesses treat their staff and their customers. Witnessing all of this firsthand, I knew I wanted to do things differently. This meant I had to work bloody hard to build up my business in only a few short months and get it to where it is today.

I started my business ‘officially’ when a friend of mine asked me to run her social media for both of her businesses. She had seen me do it for myself and knew my range of marketing skills, and she wanted to help me get started which I am so grateful for. From there, due to our great results together, she referred me to some other brands, and everything grew from there. Of course, I used social media to build my own business presence and this allowed me to meet a lot of other business owners in my space and create a support network. Something I highly, highly recommend. Business ownership is very lonely if you go at it alone.

From there, my business just kept growing and never really stopped. It sounds like a dream come true in hindsight (and it was), but for someone who had never even sat down and wrote a business plan, worked out their values or goals, or their vision for their business - I was falling behind! I found myself really enjoying working with some particular clients and with some of my services, but really not liking other aspects of my business. Hiring a business coach was a huge investment for me, but something I needed and it helped me get super clear on my business and where I wanted it to go.

As a business owner, you quickly learn a lot about yourself and how you allow other people to treat you. I am a people pleaser, so I always want to go above and beyond for my clients to make them happy - yes, even if that means dropping everything to do last minute work for them or working after hours and on weekends. But while my business has grown, I’ve learnt that that really isn’t the best strategy for a business owner. Yes, I work hard for my clients and making sure they are happy comes above everything else - but boundaries are real, and if you don’t set those boundaries early on, people will take advantage of you and you will end up hating your business instead of loving it. Learn how to be a true CEO and don’t take bad treatment from anybody!

Battling imposter syndrome has also been a constant struggle as a business owner. I think ‘why would someone want to pay a uni dropout in their 20’s to run their social media or give them strategic advice?’ But then I look at the results I’ve achieved for clients and that belief goes away... for a little while at least! I know business owners who have been running their businesses for years and still struggle with imposter syndrome, so I don’t think it is something that is ever going to completely go away. But I am learning more and more every day to believe in myself and my abilities, and charge what I’m worth!

Finding people my age with the same work ethic to surround myself with has been a real struggle. This is also why the support network I have found through social media has been such a lifesaver. I have so many incredible female entrepreneurs I can turn to for advice (which I did not have when I first started my business) and always have someone to rant to or share my wins with. 

A lot of people my age have no idea what they want to do with their life, and I count myself lucky. Lucky that I’ve found something that I love doing that doesn’t even feel like work. But in saying that, I didn’t get here by luck. I worked hard, trained hard, and I soaked up all the advice and tips I could get my hands on. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

- Thanking Chelsea from Blossom Media for sharing her story with our community of like minded women in business, with ambition and goals in mind

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