The Startup
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The Startup

What I’ve Learned About Building a Heart-based Business

Easy? Not exactly. But necessary? Absolutely.

Photo by Ben Mater on Unsplash

👋 I’m on a mission to build a heart-based business that I love — and this is what I’ve learned.

Building a business is emotional. For a few, success happens sooner rather than later. (Lucky f*ckers!) But for most of us (including ME), it takes years of pure hustle and grit and, even then, only a few fulfil their dreams of building a profitable business. There’s so much standing in the way of that becoming the reality. Financial struggles, mental struggles, team struggles, product struggles, life-f*cking-struggles, and all the expectations society slams on the table that makes us want to scream.

Let me tell you a little more about who and where I am. I’m turning 35 this year and honestly? I feel like I should’ve MADE IT BY NOW. I’m getting married this year, I have no savings and the plan is to have children soon after we tie the knot. But the thought of having children scares the shit out of me. It scares the shit out of me because I feel like I’m not ready to be a mother.

I feel like I can’t do both — build a successful business and raise a family. But I want to. I NEED TO. Not for anyone else. For me.

“Here we go again!” feels like the story of my life as an entrepreneur. And I never really talk about it. Instead, I bottle it up, keep going, and then, every now and again, I have those BIG moments of doubt and tears because I feel like “I’m not there yet.” “I’m not where I want to be, yet.” Where I think I deserve to be after years of showing up before I’m ready. Putting my ideas and dreams out there and making them happen, turning them into businesses leading with purpose, grit and integrity.

If you lived in my brain for a day, here are some things you would likely hear:

🤔 Can I actually do this?

🤔 Am I good enough to do this?

🤔 Would I be happier with stable, regular income?

🤔 Should I just give up now?

🤔 Maybe my vision is too big or too early?

🤔 What if no one wants what I’ve made?

But while I have my doubts, I STILL DO THE WORK.

And I’ma KEEP getting up and SHOWING UP to do the work. The work I BELIEVE needs to exist in the world. The work I BELIEVE we all need to help us navigate and show up as ourselves, for ourselves and our businesses in this messy and confusing world that loves to pull us all in all these MAD (and annoying) directions.

Because I didn’t come this far to only come this far. And if you’re reading this, I have a feeling you didn’t either.

There’s been MANY times where I thought about working for someone else’s dream and getting paid consistently every month. But no. It’s NOT ME.

There’s been many times where I could have taken the easy, well-paved route. But no, I’ve always chosen to take the hard, scary, “THAT’S HIGH AF, HOW THE HELL AM I GONNA GET THERE”, messy, bumpy and shaky route. And you know what? I’m so f*cking proud I did. (Because, between you and me, I think the views along the way are better…)

Today, I feel like showing up to share my IMMENSE 10 YEAR journey as an entrepreneur. Not for you though. FOR ME. Because I NEED to acknowledge my consistent courage, persistence, patience and vision for the future I want to see. I need to take this moment to see myself and thank myself FOR MYSELF.

*Tears are streaming down my face as I write this because I’m so incredibly proud of myself for showing up AND NOT GIVING UP.*

From 2012 to 2022, I’ve always had a vision. I’ve always had a dream and it’s always been to create something meaningful. Something universal. Something that makes the world a better place in some way. And no matter what, I’ve never lost sight of that dream. Even when I lost everything and had to get up, dust myself off and go again, that dream, that vision for a better, more emotionally connected world has never disappeared. It’s been beating 100,000 times a day and continues to lead the way.

“Above all else, guard your heart because everything you do flows from it.”

2012: I dreamt up an idea for an app that gave people a way to swap, borrow and lend clothes with each other

2012: I persuaded the company I was at to invest and help me build the app.

2013: I launched the app and realised no one actually wanted it (just me then? 🤣).

2013: I discovered my audience was wrong then rebranded and relaunched my business again.

2014: I raised a chunk of money from a VC and pivoted the business (again) to align with THEIR vision. They wouldn’t invest if I didn’t. I was young, naive and went with it. But didn’t feel 100% good with it

2014: I built the third version of my business, rebranded (AGAIN FFS!!) and got ready to launch…AGAIN!!

2015: Two weeks before launch, a board dispute happened over a supplier contract and my investor suddenly pulled the plug on my investment and left me to deal with the debt and the mess and all the emotion that came with it. I was startled.

2015: I was grieving and hurting BAD. 3 years of pouring my heart, hustle and soul into my business then suddenly, I lost everything. I felt broken and exhausted. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

2015: After some reflection and inner work, I figured out what I loved most about building and running a startup. I loved creating the energy and vibe around a business. A brand look, sound and feeling all packaged up in a story that people feel connected to. I became fascinated with understanding the stories that connect with people. The stories that help us see, hear and understand each other and the things we create and make for each other.

2015–2018: I immersed myself into the world of brand storytelling and strategy and worked as a brand strategist in a few agencies to build up my skills and knowledge. I learnt HARD AND FAST.

2018: I started and built my first creative agency for startup and scaleup companies. It was growing and making money. We had a strong, creative team and worked with some really cool companies.

2020: Covid hit. Clients stopped spending. I had to let my team go and it was a BIG emotional mess. I didn’t get the emotional support I needed from my co-founders and realised we were on VERY different pages.

2020: I resigned right at the beginning of a global pandemic. I know it sounds crazy. It felt f*cking crazy.

2020: I started up another agency and went for it again. This time with one co-founder, not three. Everything moved so fast. Too fast.

2021: The agency was growing, winning business and making money. But something wasn’t sitting right with me. This business didn’t feel enough for me.

2021: I paused and asked myself some big questions about what I wanted and needed from my life, my work and my relationships. It became clear that I didn’t want to run an agency anymore. So I resigned. AGAIN!

2021: I went on an eat, pray, LOVE MYSELF adventure in Portugal to reconnect with myself and get to know myself. I got clearer about who I was and what I wanted to do next.

2021: I Started up my storytelling consultancy, 5 Stories. No co-founders. No investors. No bullsh*t.

2022: My vision for 5 Stories is MASSIVE. I’m clear. I’m focused. And I’ve never felt so sure about anything. This work is my calling and my heart is wide open and listening.

So here I AM.

No, I haven’t…

❌ Made a shit load of money

❌ Got the 30 under 30 title — and never will because I’m 34 now

❌ Won any fancy awards

❌ Done a Ted Talk

❌ Published a book or started a podcast

But I have…

✅ Mastered the art of patience

✅ Mastered the art of persistence

✅ Mastered the art of integrity

✅ Started and built FOUR businesses

✅ Ran two profitable businesses

✅ Made hard decisions to put myself before my business, for my business

✅ Prioritised the meaning before the money

✅ Helped HUNDREDS of founders and businesses tell their amazing stories

✅ Designed and ran storytelling workshops with some of the world’s top startup communities

✅ Continued to fight for my vision

And I do…

❤️ Know my worth

❤️ Wholeheartedly believe in my work with 5 Stories

❤️ Know what I need to do

❤️ Know where I want to go

Only love can get me to where I want to be. I need to love myself into being that person I want to be. I gotta trust myself into being that person I want to be.

I am not in charge of anything other than me.

I have me and I will never give up on myself.

I’m my own safety net.

Whoever you are and wherever you are. Hold tight! Open your eyes WIDE. And enjoy the ride. Trust me, the scary and uncomfortable bits won’t last long.

And every now and again, I encourage you to take a moment to pause and turn around to look at how far you’ve come.

I promise you, you will see that you are so much further than you think.

Writing this list has helped me remember exactly that. Maybe it’s time you wrote yours.

👋 Hiiiii! I’m Amanda, founder & creator of 5 Stories a methodology that helps businesses tell stories that connect with people. I work closely with founders and marketing leaders to help them fulfil their vision through storytelling.

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Amanda Baker

Amanda Baker

Founder & creator of 5 Stories, a methodology I use to help businesses tell stories that connect with people. I write about storytelling and entrepreneurship 💫