Chela’s Story

I learned too that the beliefs we grow up with, like ‘working has to be hard’ or ‘it’s dog eats dog out there’ or ‘going out on your own is less safe than working for someone else’ aren’t real. They’re just not real, they’re ideas.

Chela’s Story

Please share your story… what was your leap?

Totally shifting careers. I owned a hair salon for eight years. I had plans of opening more locations and building a product line. But really, all the dreams of growth that I had within that industry were about getting out. I saw having greater success as a means to finally doing what I really wanted to do which was be a writer and work in personal development. My favourite part of owning the salon was empowering staff as well as the intimacy that can exist between a stylist and client. While there were elements that I loved about running the salon, most of it was gruelling and draining, the environment full of toxic chemicals and at the end of the day, the money was only ok. I felt the industry to be superficial and I craved more depth, but I felt trapped. We were in an old heritage building that didn’t have a lease, it desperately needed renovation and so I couldn’t see a way to sell what we had and move on. And I felt a tremendous loyalty to my incredible staff.

What inspired you to take this leap?

I’d honestly not even considered selling it. I was in the midst of negotiating a lease with a new location to build out and move into. It was a Thursday morning, I bolted upright in bed, out of my sleep and the words “Aru will take care of the girls,” dropped out of my mouth. Aru was a beautiful salon and spa not far from our own. My aunt and mother were over and I was getting ready for my 45 minute commute. All I wanted to do was stay home with them and with my nine month old baby boy. I had an appointment with my business coach that morning, to go over all of our expansion plans and was hustling to get out the door, my boy clinging to me and crying. Since having my son, my capacity to move as quickly and handle what I’d previously handled was torn to shreds. I was mostly home with him and my manager was doing an excellent job of keeping the place humming. But our expansion plans were weighing on me. I realized that morning that all the plans were just a vehicle to get to where I wanted to be- coaching and writing and time with my boy. But this vehicle was feeling slow moving, heavy and burdensome. I walked through the door of my coaches and said “I’m selling the salon to a salon/spa up the street. None of our assets (they’re worthless,) but our client list and then move the staff into their salon. I’d noticed that their spa always seemed busier than the salon and it was a beautiful salon. I knew the owners a little and thought that it would be the kind of stunning environment and energetic team that my staff deserved. I declared I was going to do this in just a single moment, hadn’t spoken to these other owners, but this became my exit strategy.

What is it that made this a leap for you?

Mostly the leap was in the change for my staff. They’d always been my biggest focus. Our team was like a sisterhood, I cared so much about their well being that options like this I’d never considered. I feared letting them down, hurting them, abandoning them. I felt like making a decision like this was selfish. Many of them had said they never wanted to work for anyone else again, that if anything happened to the salon, they’d change industries. What we’d created together was so special, so loving and supportive.

Additionally, I had no idea what this would look like. Without a lease or decent assets, I didn’t know if it would be worth anything. I was carrying some debt and had poured almost a decade into this place. My entire identity was wrapped up in being a salon owner. My whole adult life I’d been doing this and while I knew what I eventually wanted to do, I also knew I wanted to just be at home with my son for a while. It was a leap to go from a young success story to stay-at-home mom and I don’t say this to negate the importance of motherhood, but such a leap felt like a cultural demotion.

Overall, the leap was mostly to do with my fear of damaging relationship, of making choices that might hurt others. This has always been my Achilles when wanting to go in a direction that works for me, it’s impossible to do without considering the impact on everyone around me.

How long would you say you thought about taking this leap before you did it?

I’d been fantasizing getting out of that industry and the salon for years. But my actions never aligned with it. Well actually, for a short while, we were in peril financially and there were some issues with a change of landlord. For a while we were facing the possibility of having to move out. I remember secretly wishing that would happen, so I could just walk away. Once I became conscious of this though, I changed my tune and fought to keep it. So I just kept expanding and building even though I wasn’t loving it (I did love parts of it!) But from the moment I woke up with the idea until the day that papers were signed and I was having a drink to celebrate was less than two months.

If you thought about it for a while first, what changed that allowed you to take action?

It was really that bolt of an idea in the morning. I’d always known I wanted change and to get out. The leap I was planning on making was moving and expanding.

What had me change directions was simply seeing that there was another option. I think that’s usually how leaps work for me, it’s always a moment. I see something as possible that I hadn’t seen before.

As soon as I see it, it becomes an obsession to move towards realizing it.

What was the hardest part before you took the leap? Was anything challenging after you did it?

The hardest part was the staff. They actually took it really well, I think they could feel my intention with them. I found a place that was beautiful where they could all stay together, where they would make more money and there was even a promise of benefits. As it all rolled out, things didn’t run as we all thought they would and they weren’t taken care of in the way that I would have. While I’m certain I don’t know about everything they went through internally with the changes, I do know that many of them had their moments of feeling sold out or abandoned. This has been painful to reconcile within my heart and yet I know that it was the right thing to do for me and that had we stayed together and done what we were doing, things would have become more stressful for all of us anyway.

How did you keep yourself motivated to stick with the change as it was happening?

Freedom. I could see freedom. Those two months were intense, staying up all night reading books on negotiation, negotiating with two men was a trip. My relational ways had to get parked to get a bit hard hitting and down to the numbers. But once I got started, I didn’t doubt myself. But until it was done I lost sleep and was so anxious it wouldn’t go through. After all of that was done, I spent two years in part-time schooling getting my Integral Coaching certification, which was the next part of the leap. During that time I went through a divorce (another leap.) I think my motivation came from both my son (my desire to create a life that I love, that expresses my passion and skill while having the flexibility to spend as much time with him as possible,) as well as sheer excitement that I was actually going after what I’d wanted for so many years.

People kept me motivated. When I felt overwhelmed, scared or deflated, I reached out for help.

As I drew on the connections I had and built more with loving and supportive people, I felt I could stay the course when I was wobbly or exhausted. Relationship have and always will be the centre of my motivation for everything I do. Relationship are where most of my energy goes and where most of my energy comes from.

What was the best part of the experience?

Taking my dreams by the balls. Stating, out loud, this is what I’m going to do and then doing it.

Looking back at the leap you made, is there anything you’d do differently if you were doing it again?

Not a thing. Well, maybe I’d have gotten a little more sleep and been kinder to myself through the growth process of building a new company. I’d often have this feeling of being behind. If I could do it over again, I’d work to establish a relationship with time that allowed me to feel spacious and know that these things take time, take the pressure off my poor body a little.

What did you learn about yourself from taking this leap? About the world around you, if anything?

That I have a very low tolerance for doing shit I don’t like. I used to believe that this is because I’m fickle or lazy. Now I see it as a quality that helps me succeed. It’s like a fierce compass that points toward my joy. I learned too that the beliefs we grow up with, like ‘working has to be hard’ or ‘it’s dog eats dog out there’ or ‘going out on your own is less safe than working for someone else’ aren’t real. They’re just not real, they’re ideas. Taking this leap has strengthened the ideas I was musing on like ‘pointing towards joy and passion opens the floodgates of opportunity’ and ‘do what you love and worry about the logistics as you go’.

This experience showed me that the world is friendly and people are mostly good, that most of us are cheering for each other and that people get inspired by courage and vulnerability both of which are super important in taking huge leaps.

If you had to describe what making this leap has done for you in one sentence, what would you say?

It’s liberated my soul to dance in her rightful place.

Is there anything else you want to share about your experience?

The theme I see around taking leaps for me is that it’s in order to get out of pain. I hate feeling trapped more than anything else. That big open and unknown future is way less terrifying than staying in a known hell for me. The second I start to smell constriction, I want to bust out. To make an effective leap, I first need to know what I won’t tolerate any more. I recognize what I need to get away from. From there, what I want to move toward usually becomes clear. Sometimes it takes a while though. I’ve learned to be okay with saying no to what’s not working even when the yes hasn’t yet arrived. It always does arrive, as soon as I give myself permission to not want what I don’t want and to want what I want.

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