Talk about making lemonade when life serves you lemons! Meet cancer survivor Paula Holland De Long, as she shares her story about starting Coach for Living.
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Tell me about your current business.
I am a Survivor Life Coach and founded Coach for Living in 2001. I've created inspirational and motivational presentations, workshops, magazine articles and I've written an upcoming book, What's Next For My Life? I help cancer survivors take back control of their lives and set their priorities for the future based on what matters most to them.
My workshops for cancer survivors are done in cancer treatment centers and support organizations like Gilda's Club, and my women's teleconference action groups attract participants from all over the country.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was in advertising and marketing doing creative operations and print production management for advertising agencies for 20 years before. Two years after I became a cancer survivor I decided getting Taco Bell radio commercials on the air just didn't satisfy my need to help others and opened Coach for Living in 2001.
Where did you get the startup money?
A lucky break; when I decided to start my business the world put the opportunity to live rent free for 5 months so the money I didn't spend on housing got me going.
Who are your main competitors?
I don't really have a lot of direct competitors; survivor life coaching is a new area of healthcare management that is growing. How do you compete against them? I am the authority due to my personal and profession experience so I continually find ways to position myself as the first source for survivorship and life coaching support and information. But there are plenty of potential clients to go around unfortunately.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I didn't realize that getting funding would be so challenging. I am currently working on setting up a 501(c) 3 non profit organization to help with this challenge.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Started focusing on my niche sooner; the results of being known as an expert really helps generate interest, credibility and potential clients.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Asked everyone I know to try a sample coaching session and tell three people about it.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Create your niche around what you are most passionate about. It's your best shot at success. And, hire a coach. You have no idea how much targeted, outside perspective and accountability can cut though the barriers you create for yourself to get you going and keep you motivated.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Paula. It sounds like we could all learn a few lessons from you!