The importance of connecting with your tribe

We spoke with our friend Paula Hagiefremidis from Mediterranean Wanderer about entrepreneurship, starting from the bottom and the importance of being your authentic self.

A must-read for all founders and self-starters, Paula’s honesty and insights into understanding your audience is an invaluable lesson for us all.

Q. Tell us about the moment you started. That moment when you realised you had an idea you were going to go all in on. Where were you? What was life like? When was it?

That’s an interesting question. I had actually been planting seeds without even realising it for about 3 years leading up to my full vision coming to life. But things really started to gather momentum for me when I hit an all-time low in 2016. I faced a massive turning point in my life the year before. Within the space of 6 months in that previous year, I lost my brother, said goodbye to an 11 year relationship and 8 years of living a life interstate, packed my bags, moved back to Melbourne and decided to dive head first into my passion for writing.

I became a freelance writer for travel and wellness magazines. This was the first step to everything in my world completely opening up — I had finally invited the change that I was terrified of to enter my life. But in 2016, I had a panic attack, thinking I had made the wrong decision. I hit a real low point, so much so, that I went back to my old life to reclaim it, only to find the door slammed in my face. This was another major turning point. It was at once the best and worst experience of my life. I know now, that this was the moment where the Universe decided that there was a different path for me to take.

This was when the framework of the business started to present itself to me. A series of unexpected coincidences happened around the same time, but I know now, they weren’t coincidences, they are the synchronicities that happen in life when you are on track. It was at the beginning of 2017 when I had a crystal clear picture of what I wanted to do and knew the steps I needed to take to make that happen…

Q. What is one thing you’ve learned that has changed your view of business?

The fundamental importance of connecting with your Tribe. Creating the right network of people around you that share the same values and principles. This plays such a big part in ensuring you have the right support as well the type of clients that you are likely to be inviting in.

Q. Tell me about your business: What do you do? Why is it important? Who is your audience?

I’m a Writer and Creative Facilitator. I offer one-on-one coaching for writers and creatives as well as those that are navigating change and are afraid to take the next step in their lives. I help them unlock what might be holding them back and support them through this process.

I also host Creative Retreats and Workshops that are all about using the vehicle of creativity to connect with you passion, get unstuck and reflect on the habits and patterns that are no longer serving you. The Retreats and Workshops are about offering people a complete sensory experience, so our location and the activities we do is hugely important in enhancing and cultivating the learning outcomes.

What I offer is something that resonates with me on a very deep level because I had lost my passion, confidence, voice and who I was for a good 15 years of my life. I had derailed from my life’s purpose and I was terrified to take the next step. The fear crippled me so much that I developed anxiety and sleep deprivation. When I took the steps to launch I was so overwhelmed, but what has emerged since then has completely transformed my life.

I know what it feels like to want to move forward but to not trust in your own abilities. I had huge self-doubt and self worth issues. I feel as women, we are reluctant to reveal our vulnerabilities, yet, my experience has been that the minute we do, we give others the confidence to do the same and this is when some of the greatest breakthroughs in our lives emerge. Which is why I really love that most of my clients are professional women who are experiencing a period of transition in their lives and need some direction and support in navigating this process.

I cannot stress enough the internal shift that happens when you find your passion and come into complete alignment with where you are meant to be.

Q. What type of experience are you seeking to create?

In my Retreats and Workshops, it’s giving people a chance to completely immerse and be inspired. It’s about giving them the opportunity to reflect on what they want to invite more of into their life — it might be on a creative level, a personal level or professional level.

Whether it’s as simple as inviting more joy into their life or how to overcome patterns and habits that are setting them back in their personal or professional pursuits and inhibiting them from taking the next step to move forward. It’s teaching them how to harness the tools they need to recorrect patterns and behaviours that no longer serve them and using the vehicle of creativity to facilitate and navigate that process.

People think they are coming to learn to write better or how take nice photos, but they end up walking away with huge insights they had previously not realised about themselves. Participants have experienced some massive personal breakthroughs during this process and there is such a hunger and desire in their want to change. I think that makes a huge difference, when you are willing to step into change, you are ready to receive the learning and I think this is why they get to experience such a profound impact during our time together. Seeing the shift that emerges and knowing that you have contributed to making it happen, is incredibly rewarding as a facilitator.

Serifos Island, Greece

Q. How important is building a personal brand to launching a successful startup?

It is absolutely critical. People want authenticity and they want to be able to resonate with who you are. At the end of the day, regardless of the fact that we live in a digital world, people want connection. This means you need to be very clear with your message and what you are representing, otherwise you are going to get lost amongst the masses. Be authentically you. Find your voice and trust in that. The minute you self doubt, you lose the trust of your community and clients. We’re emotionally sensitive beings and are attune to the slightest shifts we might experience in others, so always back yourself and make the necessary adjustments that are always steering you back to your place of truth. When in doubt, get quiet and listen. Don’t rush or panic, this creates more turmoil and confusion.

Q. What has been your biggest hurdle to date?

If I can be completely honest and uninhibited here, I would say that on a personal level it would be overcoming my self-doubt in my strengths and abilities. One of the greatest rewards about launching with this business is how much it has forced me to confront some of my biggest personal setbacks that lurk within me. This has been a huge gift. I cannot stress enough the internal shift that happens when you find your passion and come into complete alignment with where you are meant to be. Your self-sabotaging habits and patterns no longer have room anymore because this journey you are on serves to demand that you operate from a completely different mindset or frequency to what you’re used to.

Serifos Island, Greece

It’s been a huge lesson in recognising it doesn’t serve any of us to be or play small, particularly when we are in service to our clients and community. People are coming to me for a particular experience and service, it is my responsibility to give them the maximum value of that service.

From a business perspective, being a solo operator is incredibly testing. You need to be adaptable. As a result of juggling so many different tasks and processes you develop a range of skills that you never knew you had!

Q. And your greatest opportunity?

Ha! This is a tricky one, because somewhere the answer also lies with what I shared above. My biggest fear became my greatest strength. As a result of feeling the fear and going for it anyway, I have completely opened up my life.

This business has gifted me some of the most incredible experiences and I often think how close I came to missing out on journeying this part of my life. I came so close to shutting the door on it because I was terrified to launch and I doubted my strengths and abilities. But I cannot emphasise enough what happens when we are invited to change and step into being in complete alignment with ourselves. The greatest synchronicities suddenly begin to emerge. This is what led to my greatest opportunity. It was a kind of domino effect. One decision opened up another door and then another. This is not by chance, this is what happens when we are living from a place of truth.

Be attentive to which doors are being closed in your face, these are signs that you are being invited to explore and experience a completely different possibility that may not necessarily present itself immediately, but it is on its way. Be patient.

Q. Many entrepreneurs who choose to go it alone face isolation — how do you combat this?

Being a writer and creative, I have always been comfortable in my own company, so isolation doesn’t impact me so much. Also, because much of what I do is so heavily driven by social media, I feel that on some level, there is a constant means of communication happening, something that I try to regularly give myself a break from.

I have noticed however, that I get such a shift in perspective of both myself and my business the minute I physically remove myself from my environment. It’s as though being in a completely different place rewires the way I look at my journey and gives me a much greater sense of appreciation about where I’m at and what I have achieved. You need to give yourself the chance to step away from what you are doing. Have a change of scene, otherwise you become so heavily engrossed in the world you are creating that you fail to recognise the enormity of achievements and credit yourself properly for all that has been happening along the way. We need to celebrate our wins and how far we have come in the process of starting, this is what encourages momentum in the work we do.

Paula’s Greek Island Workshop.

Q. Mentors? Yes/No/Why?

Everyone is different. You know what’s right for you based on your personality type. I am hugely indebted to my Mentor and I feel an overwhelm of gratitude for having her in my life.

A huge lesson for me has been to exercise patience and not rush into making decisions about who to go with. I cannot stress this enough. It was during one of these moments of feeling pressured to choose a mentor that I came so close to picking the wrong one. I know the experience of launching my business and everything that has transpired since, would have been a completely different experience had I chosen someone else.

I am a firm believer in timing and how intricately it can play such a huge a part in effecting the outcome of everything that unfolds and what’s invited into your life. I know that the synchronicity and serendipity that has happened since launching my business has resulted in that way because of making the decision of who I wanted to be guided by. Don’t rush into this decision. It will play a fundamental part in everything to do with your business, its execution and your results.

Q. What is the most rewarding thing about entrepreneurship?

Navigating your own path and the overwhelming joy at being in service to your clients through work that you are passionate about and seeing the way it affects and transforms their lives. There is no greater reward than this. The experience becomes far more than just about having money in your bank account, it becomes about the relationship you form with that client and the level of integrity in which you are working from.

When you are coming from a true place of authenticity within yourself, then you are operating from a completely different frequency, so the impact your work is having on another becomes far more amplified in that moment as a result of the depth of value you are offering them.

You need joy in everything you do. People so often forget to add joy in their life — particularly when it comes to work. But your passion, what you love, that is joy. That is what drives, enhances, inspires and empowers us and brings sheer delight to what we do.

Enough already …. Serifos Island, Greece.

Q. It has been said that routines breed success; what are some of your most important routines?

My mornings are golden. This is the most important time of the day that is absolutely critical for me, in that is sets the foundation of how my entire day is going to go. Typically I am up at 6am and this is when I journal and self reflect. It’s the time I get really quiet, focus and plan what I need to do for the day ahead. I savour my mornings and I am very selfish with making sure no ones imposes on that space. That is one routine.

At the end of the day I will always go for a huge walk along the beach and clear my head of screen time. I sometimes might go for a second shorter walk late at night to get some fresh air from the beach before I go to sleep.

Another thing I do (which is more a rule rather than a routine) is I will never work when I am fatigued. That is your body saying it’s time to down tools. I am completely unproductive and no good to anyone. What is the point of churning out work when you are not fully invested?

I make sure I have very clear start and finish times for each day. Of course sometimes you have to be flexible, I often Skype with clients and collaborators in Europe, but having a framework around your start and finish times creates a clear structure.

Q. What has been the best piece of advice you have received to date?

To trust myself and always listen to my gut instinct. This has proven in the past to be the greatest barometer in measuring whether or not I am on track. If something doesn’t feel right, even in the slightest way, I will back off. Your instinct is your acute, internal warning system reminding you that something isn’t right. Energy is palpable. The minute you go against it, you always regret it.

Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to other solo, female entrepreneurs?

Never forget — YOU are in service to your clients and your community. What you are offering is about THEM not YOU. This should always be at the forefront of your mind and is the reason why we need to be constantly fine tuning what we are doing as a way to ensure that we are offering the best possible service and value to our clients. There is a great quote I love from author Wallace D Wattles. He says, “You must give every person more in use value than what he gives you in cash value”. This means that what you are offering through your product or service, extends beyond the dollar value exchange. What benefit are they getting from you and on what level is this going to transform or help their lives?

Ask for help — you will sink and exhaust yourself if you try to do it all by yourself and the quality of your work will be compromised. You are doing yourself a huge disservice by not asking for help.

And just one last piece of advice — always, always, always ask for testimonials and offer feedback forms. They are invaluable. There is no greater way to get into the head of your client and truly understand who they are, what their needs are and how their experience with you has impacted them. This helps in the way you you refine and communicate your brands message. These small details are what distinguish and elevate an average business owner into becoming a great leader and business owner.

For more information about Paula, be sure to visit the Mediterranean Wanderer.

To learn more about how we can provide you with advice, guidance and mentorship, check out our Creative Leadership: Consulting Sessions

This article was first published on Hello Tomorrow. All photographs featured in this article are courtesy of the Mediterranean Wanderer.