Building a business on your problems can be a problem

I have read, met, talked and listened to many wonderful people that had recovered from illness, addiction, accidents, traumas…and have been able to build a joyful and meaningful life. They had survived and thrived. They have healed and have learned important lessons. Most of these people, moved on and kept doing their things. Some others though, felt impelled to share their journey and to help other people in similar situations. Talking about their own challenges and helping others to navigate theirs is a well-known step of recovery, and for some people is truly healing. Mutual help groups, mentoring, sponsorship, hotlines run by volunteers…are based on that principle. The tricky bit comes when you think about building a business around it. Is that a good idea or a bad one? Let’s explore it.


In the news, in podcasts, in book stores, in the internet I constantly see businesses that package and sell programs and other services to help people suffering from the same they suffered. Addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, depression, weight loss, trauma, child abuse…Is not that they are public about their experience and write a book or a blog. Is that they actually sell services: coaching sessions, online programs,workshops, retreats…I don’t question the legitimacy of the service, nor the expertise. Most of these people have actually educated themselves in their own problems, getting degrees and specialization, and are really well versed in their own topic. But, when deciding to build a business and a personal brand around this issue, I think few other aspects need to be taken into consideration, for the founder and clients’ sake. Here are few questions it can be healthy to ask yourself :

  • You are more than your business, your business is more than you:  you and your story are one thing, but your business would be a completely different entity even if is based on you. You want to help people using what worked for you and your own learning, but ask yourself if that’s a business, or maybe just a project, such a blog or a community meeting. Ask yourself if monetizing your learning and healing is what you truly want in the short and long term. Why do you need to build a business? Why your need of an income needs to come from this issue, rather than from other skills and capabilities you have? Is this a business idea with a business model behind? It can be useful to look around to the competition and see how long they have been in business or how much their business has changedA business is also something complex and multi layered, that requires way more than a product or a service.  It requires a business model and a plan, a structure and a direction. Do you have those tools and the managerial skills to implement them? Do you even want to get those tools and those skills? If the answer is no, would the business you have envisioned survive without those?
  • You are not your customers: are you prepared to address a myriad of issues and challenges that are different or uncomfortably similar to your own? Are you prepared to take different approaches and perspectives, to be questioned and shacked in your own principles and beliefs? When your core business is based on a core problem you had and dealt with for years, things can become personal and tricky very quickly. But as a business owner, you have a responsibility with your clients’ safety and welfare, which can be difficult to maintain or guarantee at times. What mechanisms you’ll have in place to be aware of those issues and to address them? Are you able to step back, to take perspective, to grow or change your product line? Are you able to keep safe boundaries in place, to build on your personal experience but also to take a healthy distance from it?
  • Is your business sustainable or is just the last piece of your recovery? This is for me the most important question. What would happen to the business if you decide to move on? do you have an exit strategy? Would it be one day when you wake up and decide that you are in peace to whatever happened to you, that you are ready to turn that page and do other things? and how running a business based on that same thing you are trying to move away from would make things for you? If, for example, you have a coaching business to help women to recover from drug abuse, what would happen with those women you help? How long until you close down operations? How your well-being and health would be impacted from closing down the business or from not being able to? how long or how easy would be for you to find another job or another line of work that suits you best now?

The line between passion and work is very fragile, and most of the time tricky to figure it out. You want to do something close to your heart, and building a business out of your own recovery is a sensible option for a lot of people. My recommendation will be to make sure that there is more than passion to it. A strong business model will be the best way to protect yourself and your business, as it will serve you as a buffer, compass and boundary.


Three criteria to look for when applying to jobs or launching a business venture

One of the main topics I discuss with my clients is how do they know if the job or business venture they are about to embark on is right for them. There are many decisions to take and several aspects to consider, and the more complicated and busy our lives are, the hardest it becomes to get answers.

So in my conversations with my clients, I came up with the following set of questions to guide them in finding the best possible outcome.

First of all I ask them: what is the most important area of your life right now? Based on the answer, I articulate the following questions and the structure of the session.


  • Is this new job or founding opportunity aligned with your life goals? If, for example, you want to launch a business but also start a family at the same time, it is important to understand how this will take place, and if it would be possible or enjoyable for you and your family to run both. In most cases, the client hasn’t really taken the time to think in depth about their life goals, so coaching helps them to truly understand their priorities and to do some soul searching around their values.
  • Is this new job or founding opportunity sustainable and compatible with your current life situation? Imagine you are really interested in a role that requires travelling, but you don’t want to travel because of a health condition, family needs or any other aspect. You know it will be stressful and won’t work for you, but you still take it because you think you will figure it out. Very likely you won’t enjoy the role, you won’t perform at your best, you will feel stressed, resentful and tired and you will be out of that job pretty soon. When we talk about sustainability, we need to take into consideration all the aspects of the role, from logistics to self care and family/personal needs. If the role or the business has a mayor clash in one of these areas, it won’t work in the medium term. So unless you just took the role to make quick cash for six moths or less, it ends up in a waste of time and energy for you and the company. Not overlooking the sustainability of the role/venture is key, and it is important to not go into “I will cross that bridge when we get there” mentality. Because the bridge will be there. You are just postponing a vital decision because you are afraid of the answer. (Hint: if you are afraid of the answer it is usually because the answer is no. I challenge you to think of a time when saying no sooner than later wasn’t a good idea :))
  • Is this new job/funding opportunity feasible?What’s your timeframe? This question is for the folks out there that need money in exchange of their time. Not all of us need to work for money, for different reasons. But if you do, and money is an important motivation when seeking jobs or launching a business, then you need to be very honest on the following:
    • how much time per week do I need to work?
    • how much do I need monthly? can this number be revisited?
    • do I need to make all the money from the same job/venture?
    • If I don’t make as much as I need, how long can I keep earning less for? How much less? Where the rest of the amount will be coming from?
    • Is this plan sensible? Will I feel comfortable with this plan in three months time? Is my family comfortable with it?
    • What’s my plan B if this doesn’t work out?

Of course, the decision can’t be taken in just one session, or in one conversation, but these questions help to face clients with their reality and with what they truly need. If you find yourself unhappy at work, hopping from role to role or unmotivated with any single project you start, I think you can benefit by answering these questions. 

Let me know how that goes for you, I would love to listen to your experience or to your feedback and comments on this post.

Thanks for stopping by today.


Fail fast, yes…but don’t rush!

In this video post I reflect about the pressure entrepreneurs feel to test their ideas to decide whether to stick to them (pursue), tweak them (pivot) or let them go (perish). Sometimes the pressure is so high that leads them to seek external investment too early in their journey, which can backfire. If you want to know more about the benefits and drawbacks of getting investors too early on board and other less risky alternatives, watch this video!


Hope you find it helpful! Please leave a comment with your suggestions, ideas, feedback, or email me at

See you soon again!




Find your own voice when introducing yourself or your business

In this audio post I talk about the importance of finding your own genuine, authentic voice when pitching to investors, talking to customer or going to an interview. I also share three strategies that can help you to feel more authentic and empowered when presenting yourself and your business. Finally I talk about the importance of authenticity to be a strong, reliable leader and to create a positive and transparent culture in your company or at your workplace.


Hope you find it useful and if you feel like it, leave a comment to keep the conversation going.



I like listening to podcasts when I am out and about with my ten month old daughter. She lays in the pram having a nap or just enjoying herself and I listen to all kind of podcasts, from Corporate Finance (I got a great grade in my MBA finance final exam thanks to a wonderful podcast), to Parenting, Psychology of Eating, History of  Greek Philosophy, Coaching, Entrepreneur stories or Eastern Philosophies. It’s a great way to learn, explore topics I don’t have any prior knowledge on and, on blue days, to keep myself motivated and grateful. But, to the point: as I usually have one hand busy (carrying the baby and her stuff or pushing the pram) I never have time to store the headset properly. So every time I pull it out of the bag to connect it to my phone, the cables are more and more tangled. I do my best to put them in my ears, even if the cable is full of knots and the sounds is not great. I don’t have free hands, not even the free time, to stop and untangle it. If I stop the pram, the baby will cry, and that’s uncomfortable. For both of us. So I keep pushing it and keep using them until it is so tangled up, the ends don’t reach my ears. Then I have to stop and spend more than five minutes untangling the whole thing. The baby cries. I get nervous. Most of the time, I give up and try to remember to do it when I get home.


This experience of mine is a good metaphor of two behaviours we engage in quite frequently: we don’t deal with something until it gets really bad and we let other people’s needs to come before ours. Both behaviours can go hand in hand or on their own. I am sure you have seen these behaviours in many forms.

With the people I work and talk, these issues keep coming up. We are busy, we have limited time outside work, family/social commitments and household chores. So the limited amount that is left to take care of the people we love and ourselves is quite small, and our loved ones tend to get the first place. So we don’t have time to deal with our own stuff. To untangle. To unpack. To reflect, to check in, to take the mind for a walk, to leave us the space to think about what we want. To enjoy our own company or to deal with something that is bothering us.

This of course also apply to business owners and entrepreneurs: how many times the operational stuff, the admin craziness, the useless meetings take valuable time to plan, to strategize, to design, to talk to your end costumer, to have a relaxing talk with your business partner or to connect with your employees?

So how to untangle a little bit every day, so you don’t find yourself with a big mess that drains your energy? This is what I try to do on ongoing basis, at personal and professional level:

  • Schedule CONNECTION time the day before: let’s be honest, you are not going to find yourself with free time if you don’t put an active effort in making it happen. Routine and status quo will take over. So before going to bed think where you can fit your CONNECTION time for the next day
  • But what CONNECTION time means? CONNECTION time for me means an opportunity to check in and think and feel something that I need. It could be a business opportunity, an uncomfortable feeling I don’t know where is coming from, or something more basic and mundane…I try to set up a space where I can feel comfortable and not being disturbed (=my en suite), and have things to support me like a note pad, a candle or a nice herbal tea. As much as I can I try to do this while walking, as the movement keeps me focused. Try not to tell yourself you need to do research about the business opportunity or you’ll be on your laptop checking FB before you know it. You can always do that later. Now, give you that space to think and be on your own. Just a quick note: connection time is not meditation. When you are connecting you are following and engaging with your thoughts and feelings. Buddhists call our mind the monkey mind. So make sure you let the monkey have a play everyday or it will keep bothering you (waking you up at night for example)
  • Start small: being with yourself and a notepad can sound too corny or too overwhelming or boring. I get it. I have been running away from myself for years, so I understand that ME time can be terrifying. I would suggest to give yourself a time frame that you feel comfortable with and take it from there.  It can be two minutes. Soft music as background noise helps to deal with the intimidation. If you need to talk to someone to think better, as the conversation helps you to organize your thoughts, you can talk to the video camera of your phone or laptop. It’s like self-Skyping without the mess of unstable internet connection.
  • Connect with yourself through others and with others: I do this with my three year old son, but it can be done with however you feel safe. When I put him to sleep we go over what we have done during the day. Not just facts, but also things we have thought and feel. I explained to him how I felt about things he did and do some reflective listening on how I think he felt. I think this is a good thing for his emotional intelligence. And then I briefly explain to him the things I am grateful for. This gives me lot of peace, grounding and perspective, and helps me to be more focused and to prioritise better. And it helps him to fall soundly asleep.

If still you don’t know where to start from, is always good to talk to someone with expertise on the matter. So as much as you can, reach out for professional help to support you in navigating any difficult issue.



The future of entrepreneurship in tertiary education

I believe entrepreneurship is a great vehicle to provide employment opportunities to everybody, whereas they are small lifestyle venture owners or the founders of high growth startups. There is much more we can do to support entrepreneurs, beyond the necessary incubator programs that are already in place in many universities and colleges. And a lot of people are working on this direction already.  By offering tailored and short entrepreneurship programs embedded in the curriculum, we will be equipping the students and the researchers with the tools and the confidence to start their own businesses using their craft, their skills and their passions. They will graduate from University knowing that they can work for others and/or themselves, and feeling more empowered as they have gone through the entrepreneurial experience under the safe umbrella of the University. While at Uni, they can test, try, start building their business, getting feedback from professors and students and using the resources the campus provides. They can use their businesses ideas and skills as the subject of many of their assessment, which will be more meaningful and relevant.


Universities can do more to promote the idea of sustainable entrepreneurship, or what I call, slow-cooking entrepreneurs. Beyond the incubator/accelerator model, that support rapid growth companies in a particular set of industries and for a particular set of backgrounds, a more comprehensive entrepreneurship program will focus on supporting students along the way, in each course they take, in each internship, in each exchange program. It will help them to change their mindset and to feel confident or capable of creating a business out of what they know to do best. With no need of becoming a tech wizard or a data analyst magician. By inviting and promoting a diverse range of speakers, mentors and entrepreneurs to campus, students will get more exposed to a diverse group of founders and business owners, that will help to make the idea more accessible, attainable and appealing.

My vision is for the University to become an Incubator itself, where there is a tailored entrepreneurial journey for each student, matching their skills, their lifestyle and their goals.

Do you know good entrepreneurship initiatives and programs? Please share them with us, leave a comment!


Not-so-helpful questions entrepreneurs get frequently asked…and six better alternatives

In this audio post I  talk about six not so helpful questions founders and potential entrepreneurs get asked a lot. In my opinion these questions can be rephrased to be more powerful and meaningful. Those questions are narrow-minded and see entrepreneurs as alpha individuals, workaholics and lonely.


These questions depict entrepreneurship as a privilege, rather than an affordable opportunity that can change lives and communities. The questions I propose in the audio post envision entrepreneurs as gentle leaders that take care of themselves and their teams and that prioritise long term results and impact. They make money AND have a life. Still stressful at times, but overall a healthy, enjoyable life.

Find out what those questions are by clicking to this audio below

As always, I would love to listen to your feedback and comments.