Caressa Lenae is a blogger and online mentor at her self-named website, CaressaLenae.com. She is passionate about business and helping aspiring entrepreneurs find their paths and between coaching and blogging, she also hosts an online mastermind group.
The entrepreneurial bug bit when Caressa opened up a brick and mortar juice bar, and after her son was born she took the skills she learned from her physical business to create an online one.
Here's what she has to say...
Ashley: Hey everyone, Ashley over at Teachable. Today we are sitting down with Caressa Lenae. She has some wonderful advice for all of you, so I'll let her intro herself and say hello.
Caressa: Hello everyone, I am super excited to be here, it's always fun when I get to be in front of video, for one, and also be a part of an amazing group of people that Teachable has. So yay!
And we have so much to learn from Caressa. She started out with a physical business, working with smoothies in a physical store, and has then made the transition to the online world. So that's kind of where I want to start, with that entrepreneurial bug. Do you want to tell me how that happened?
First let's say I'm always a big learner. I like to learn everything about everything. And when I first started the job, I had two jobs, and I worked two jobs all the time, since I was 15 up until college, because after that it was just too much.
Then I got into residential leasing and I was leasing apartments and I loved it, I learned so much about sales and marketing, and it was a whole different type of sales than I did previously.
That's my first time ever having my hands in business politics. That was the moment for me that I was like, "Okay, Caressa, you have to really either hold your tongue and not say too much, or you have to find a way to do something else, right? You have to use what you know to do what you wanna do."
I was on a lifestyle change, I was eating more organic foods, I was leaving out meat in my diet, I was living a whole different lifestyle with my wellness and fitness and all of that together. And smoothies and juices were one of the things I incorporated on a regular basis.
I woke up with the idea, and I said, "You know what, I'm gonna do it." I told my mom about it, and then she was like, "Yeah, let's do it." She had no idea what I was I was talking about, she was just like, "Let's do it."
Within a month I quit my job. Thankfully I was saving up like, every penny. I quit my job and then six months later, I had a business.
Wow, that's honestly so brave, just going for it and doing it.
Yeah, it really was.
And I'm sure that carries over into the business that you have now. Do you wanna talk about that transition, how you went from smoothies to your online blog?
I had the juice bar for about two years, and within that, of course, I had a little baby boy. And I knew when I had him that I did not ever want to just have to go back to a job or have to put him in day care to do my business, you know what I mean?
I commend moms who do it any kind of way, of course, you have to do what's best for you, but I just knew that I really wanted him to be right there with me through every step, and that's one of my life goals, to be a mommy, and I made it happen.
So when it happened, though, it was a bit overwhelming, I was a new mommy, still kind of new business owner, and I literally was just exhausted.
I didn't want to do it all. And I had to make the decision, like, "Okay Caressa, can you leave the business and just be mommy and then come back to it when you're ready, or what?"
And that's what I ended up doing, I ended up shutting down the shop. We were still doing very well, and to this day I still get leads coming in on my phone and whatnot. I had to shut it down, and it was the hardest decision ever.
Oh, I'm sure...
If I did not shut it down at that time, there would have been crazy amounts of overhead and debt and all kinds of things because it would have just been too much, right?
I would have chose mommy over my business. And then after a while, I decided to start a blog. And then first it was a mommy blog, and immediately I knew that I didn't want to talk about mommy all day.
I love being a mommy, but I didn't want that - I had so much business inside me. I just closed a shop, I really want to talk about that experience and whatnot. So I think I only blogged for about a month or so, well, mommy blogging, and then I started my business blog. And that's when I just jumped into webinars and online coaching, and I didn't waste any time. I was like, "Let's do it."
I took some time, though, between closing shop and starting the mommy blog. It took a while because I had to go through a stage of loneliness, and slight depression and getting my head wrapped around what just happened.
What you were saying is really real. You went from a place where you were having employees and very independent, and now you're at home with a baby, starting this online business where, yes, you have a community, but that community is online, it doesn't look the same, it's not a real-life interaction. So that's actually really interesting, and really understandable, and I think something that everyone goes through.
I think the biggest thing is that we have a community online, but I used to interact with people all day, talk all day long, you know? And be able to educate them face to face, and teach them face to face, and all those good things. And now it's more so like, "Uh, I can't do it so much." It's more so I have to kind of figure out a way to kind of still be face to face, like I'm doing right now, which I love to do, but it's not all the time. But it works out.
How did you start to solve that problem? How did you set up a business? Did you set up systems and processes, did you just get out for interviews more, what did you do to fix that?
I started out three months after I started my blog, I started to do webinars. And I didn't even know they were at that time, I just was like, "Hey, let's do this little online class thing, and see how it works." And I partnered up with someone and we did it together, we did three of them together.
I love being on video and talking and teaching, so it just became natural. Being able to start with someone and to be able to build a business together really gave me confidence to keep going.
And that's literally how I started. That's how I grew my email list, that's how I decided what kind of content to talk about, that's how I validated my mastermind academy that I have right now, just from doing those series of classes on a regular basis.
I love that. And so can you tell me what your business looks like today? Because there are so many different aspects of it. Just so everyone knows.
Well, first I have a mini business partner, he is my little two-year-old, so he's my right hand, even though he doesn't do much. But he's full support.
He's a muse.
I have email coaching, it began to be just like virtual coaching, but I realized that was just not in my lifestyle. It was a little bit too much of being able to be present in a moment when I couldn't be all the time.
With my little guy who was a little bit younger at that time, it was just unpredictable. I transitioned to email coaching, and I went from there.
I do email coaching for new and aspiring business owners, so those that have no idea what they're doing or those that have their feet wet a little bit, but need some systems or some content or a step-by-step 1-2-3 kind of thing to get started. And then I started my mastermind academy, which is called Spark To Launch, and that's for the same group of people that really needs resources and expert advice and weekly mastermind calls and whatnot to dive into their business.
So those are my two main focuses.
That's awesome. And I know you're kind of playing in that online course industry a little bit. Will you tell me why you decided to create a course and what it's looked like since then?
I actually didn't even know that there were online courses the way that they exist now. I never knew there were these big marketing courses.
My very first course that I made is a five-day BizIdea course, where basically you kind of define your business idea and figure it out in five days. And I did it on Teachable, and I think you were at Fedora back then, though.
It was the best decision ever. I will say that the one con to creating courses for me is the time it takes to do it. Especially when your time is crazy limited and you're working in spurts of like, 30 minutes, and 15 minutes here, and a little during nap time.
Yeah, so I'm kind of interested in that, because there are pros and cons to coaching and teaching online and blogging and even the physical store, right? So do you want to talk a little bit about the pros and cons of each of those?
My biggest con with course creation is having the time to really put into it, because I tell you that I went over and beyond in this five-day email course, and it's free, you know? Videos and worksheets and audios and text. So that's probably the biggest con, the time part.
But when it comes to the brick and mortar thing, you're going to spend a lot of money. You don't have to have debt, but you're going to be investing in either people, or systems, or building things and buying equipment or whatnot. That's definitely a con compared to an online business where you don't really have to worry about an online storefront or a bunch of overhead.
Ashley: Oh, that's awesome. And honestly, that's so real and why I think when you were like, "Oh yeah, I took this risk," that's so brave. Because when you have the overhead and that investment, you're playing with real money before you really know whether or not you're going to make it back.
And not just little bitty money, either. We're talking a few thousands on top of thousands of dollars.
What was your up-front when you started your online business?
If I could start over, I would have done things a little bit different. I'm gonna be very honest, I started on a gift card budget. That's what I like to call it.
Because I was using gift cards that I had, little Visa gift cards, and I was like, "I'm gonna buy my domain name with this, or my Squarespace site with this," and every time I got some more money in, I would invest in something else.
So I said, "Okay, well I should probably go ahead and get me a Google Apps Gmail account, so let me go ahead and get that, and I should probably go ahead and invest in ConvertKit so let me go ahead and pay for that."
And it went from there, and that's what I try to get across to people that have limited budgets, if all you have if $10 to invest in your domain name and your hosting, then do that. And then work your way up from there, and just make the best of it.
Of course reinvest in your business as you can, and then leave everything else alone until you can get to it. So gift card budget all the way.
Interested in starting your own online business? Caressa will help you set up the sales funnels in her Simple Sales Funnels class - for FREE!
I love that, everyone starts somewhere. It doesn't make much sense to start investing thousands and thousands until your business is taking off, and you don't really have to. So why bother?
I think people stress out about that a lot. I'm like, "Girl, you know, it's okay." We all have to start where we're comfortable at, and there's no point in stressing yourself out if you can't make it work 30, 60, 90 days from now. Just do what you can and then let it flow.
What were your first purchases? What did that nitty gritty look like, first it was this, and then this, and then this?
I had my domain name, caressalenae.com, and then I have a Squarespace site, so I invested in Squarespace. Those were the first two things I invested in.
And then, I'm gonna be real honest with you again, when I started off, I really wanted to just build community and get people to know who I was, so I really was active in my Twitter chats and Facebook groups. And that's where I found people to help me out with my website design, because I DIY'd that myself at the beginning, but I had somebody to help me out with that for like nothing compared to what they really cost.
That was an important step, but it wasn't the initial step, my website design wasn't the initial step, it came a little bit later.
Very cool, very cool. So now you're up and at it, I would say you're running a successful blog. How does it feel?
It feels good. I'm not gonna say it's easy, but I try to make it as simple as possible. I try to make everything that I do really simple and not conform to what people say you have to do.
Because you read so many blogs and stuff, listen to podcasts and videos and webinars and you're like, "Oh, let me write this down because I have to do this, and let me do this because I have to do that." And it gets overwhelming to think about everything you have to do, or you should do, or they say you should do, you know?
I have a Facebook group, and they probably don't even know it yet, but they have been my cheerleaders when I feel those hard times and those moments when you're like, "I can't do it, I just can't," they have been right there. The community and just the fact of having everything simple has really just made this worthwhile.
As we wrap up here a little bit what is the one thing that you see most people who are trying to start a business online mess up on? What is a common flaw?
I would say it would have to be overthinking it, like the mindset piece.
I think a lot of that has to do with just being overwhelmed with what they read and what they see, and not knowing, "Okay, if I do this, how are people gonna get there?"
And I just say, "Start." It shouldn't be a 9 to 5. I'm not joking, I literally worked on my business at my job. I mean, we had an "office," per se, but we were kind of sharing it at the time too, so I was low-key sneaking it, trying to find ways to do it on my phone, and I would take random calls from my designer throughout as I was doing tours and whatnot.
So you have to just make it work, and if you really want it to happen, it will. You can find the time to make it...30 minutes a day, if you have to start that way, start it.
Start something and the implement it for at least 14 to 30 days to see if it works for you, and then keep going with it or try something different. Just find something that's gonna work with your lifestyle.
Absolutely. I think that's really important advice for everyone to really hear. Any last bit of advice before I let you go?
I want anyone that's stuck in their 9 to 5 who really wants to start a business to make your decision that you want to be an entrepreneur today, you know?
Make the decision that you're actually going to do it, because we all know that the mindset part is critical, it's that first step to acknowledging that you're gonna do it.
And then create a simple plan to make it happen on a regular basis, and prep your days ahead of time so that you know exactly what you're gonna do the next day and have zero excuses as to why it didn't get done. And do it every day and make it happen.
And as you learn more, you start incorporating more, as you make more, if you're making any money as you're building your business, you start investing that back into your business to make things a little bit easier for you. And then yeah, you just start. You make it happen.
I love that. All right, y'all, so that was Caressa Lenae, and that was her advice, and I vouch for it. That's spot on.