Take the First Step Today: A Q&A With Natalie MacNeil
Leaving a successful career to pursue an entrepreneurial venture is a scary step. But, once you’re passionate about the business you’ve been planning in your mind, it can almost be harder not to make the leap.
If you’re currently grappling with this decision, tune in over the next few weeks for advice from women who have been there before. Daily Muse contributor Eva Werk has talked to three entrepreneurs about their experience and asked them to share their wisdom on overcoming fears, shifting gears, and starting companies—all right here.
Even if you realize early on in life that entrepreneurship is the path for you, you may not exactly know what your venture is going to look like—or where that path will take you years down the road.
Natalie MacNeil, founder of the online destination for entrepreneurial-minded women She Takes on the World, certainly had no idea. Natalie’s foray into entrepreneurship began just two years after she graduated from the University of Waterloo, when she co-founded digital media company Imaginarius. She served as the producer on the projects, and ultimately garnered an Emmy for her work on interactive documentary Out My Window.
She Takes on the World is what Natalie considers her “accidental business.” What started out as a personal blog to rant about her entrepreneurial journey took on a life of its own, rapidly growing to over 50 contributors and 20,000+ subscribers. The site recently earned a spot on Forbes’ Top 10 Websites for Female Entrepreneurs list, and Natalie is now growing her vision even more with “Conquer Clubs,” hybrid on- and offline networks to support female entrepreneurs all over the world.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Natalie to chat with her about how it all got started and uncover the important lessons she hopes to share with other female entrepreneurs.
How did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of taking a more stable career path?
I was really torn between starting a business and getting a job. It was a war that waged in my mind for a long time, and it was on a trip to Europe that it all fell into place. I went on this trip to give myself the space I needed to make that big decision. I was visiting the Czech Republic and I was listening to this song by David Guetta called “The World is Mine” and suddenly I drove by a giant two-story globe that said “The world is yours.”
As crazy as it may sound, that moment gave me all the courage I needed to follow my heart and start a business instead of taking the corporate route. Up to that point, I never believed that one moment could shift your mindset like that. I now really believe that the best way to land your dream job is to create it yourself—and that’s exactly what I did.
How did you start your business without any experience?
The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you get to create something from nothing. It’s scary because it’s a new territory, and you’re always walking into it without a roadmap. Once I made the decision, I thought, “I don’t really know how I’m going to do this, I just know that I need to do it.” I decided just to take one step every day and figure it out. Instead of worrying about what I needed to know in a year, I focused on what I needed to know that day to make it to the next. And so I started taking baby steps.
How you were able to grow She Takes on the World so quickly?
When I first started, I only had an audience of 10 people, but something just felt really right. Soon after, an editor called me from Forbes asking me to write a round-up of female entrepreneurs on Twitter. It was wildly successful, since not many of those lists existed yet in 2009, so they continued to syndicate some of my content after that and eventually asked me to be a columnist. Things really snowballed from there. After a couple years of letting my blog grow, I decided that it was going be that one thing that I focused on. I see a lot of entrepreneurs that get paralyzed because their ideas pull them in too many directions. Once I made the decision that this was going to be my focus, things just started falling into place.
There’s a saying I heard somewhere that when you walk toward your dreams, your dreams walk toward you. And I feel like ever since I made the decision that She Takes on the World was it for me, it all unfolded.
How would you say you’ve grown as a person since starting your entrepreneurial journey?
I am a very different Natalie than I was when I started. I used to care a lot about what other people thought and now I’m much more confident. For example, when I make a decision, I don’t second guess it anymore. I’m able to make a decision and say that it was the right one. And those are things that I used to fret over when I was starting out.
Whenever you put yourself in a space where you’re being challenged, there is always going to be so much personal growth that happens. They say the magic always happens outside of your comfort zone—that’s where you achieve the really big things. You grow into challenges and you figure things out as you go. It’s all about recognizing that you’re always going to be learning. I’m never going to reach a point where I feel like I have it all figured out, but I’m a lot more comfortable with that now.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business and do the work they love, but are scared to make the leap from where they are?
It’s going to sound really cliché, but you just have to take the first step today and make a commitment to do it. If you’re reading this right now and have decided that you need to make a change your life, then you’ve got to take action in the next 24 hours or statistically you’re unlikely to do it. So if you’re thinking, “That sounds great,” or “I would love to see if I can start something,” then I urge you to take at least one baby step toward your goal in the next day. It doesn’t matter if it feels like the smallest step forward—in six months you’re going to see how far you’ve come.
You don’t want to wake up two years from now and say, “I would have liked to have done that.” I don’t want people to have regrets. I don’t want them to look back and think of who they could have been. I want them to just work on stepping outside of their comfort zone, and taking those little steps day by day, because that is how successful people become successful.