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The life-changing lessons 2023 taught me: A juicy look behind the scenes of scaling my business

by Michaela fong

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The life-changing lessons 2023 taught me: A juicy look behind the scenes of scaling my business

3 THINGS I DID TO GROW OVER 150K FOLLOWERS ORGANICALLY
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I'm MICHAELA!

I am a small European town gal with big dreams who immigrated to Canada and built a multi-six-figure business from my living room floor and kitchen counter! I accidentally grew it into a small business community and became a small business educator along the way.

Now am here to empower, teach & inspire you to grow your business and create the life of your dreams with strategy, confidence & without burnout.

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The life-changing lessons 2023 taught me: A juicy look behind the scenes of scaling my business and creating more freedom in my life - Small Biz Babes Community Podcast

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I’ll be honest with you — this year has been A LOT. I’m ending the year as a completely different woman than I was when the year started.

That’s because this year, I refused to run my business and live my life in anxiety. This year I gave myself space to explore a direction in business that would excite me the most. This year I chose to stop pursuing things that I didn’t enjoy anymore.

To make this possible, I took a deep dive into every single thing I was doing in my business. I got real honest about how much time each task was taking up, whether it was profitable, and most importantly, if I still enjoyed doing it and could see myself doing it for another year. 

For the first time in a long time, I prioritized freedom and joy, and today, I’m the most fulfilled I’ve ever been as a business owner. That’s why I want to give you the behind the scenes of this transition, along with the life-changing lessons I’ve learned, and the changes I’ve made to reach this point. 

So if you feel like you are ready for more —more freedom, more joy, more fulfillment in your life as a business owner and human — make sure you have your notepad close by. I’m about to give you an inside, honest, and juicy look behind what it took to scale my business and create more freedom in my life.

The biggest changes I made in 2023

This year, I chose to put freedom over profits in my business. Now, I’m not saying profits aren’t important — of course they are! I’ve still been able to maintain multi-six figures, but I didn’t focus on doubling or tripling my profits. Instead, I shifted my focus to “how can I create more freedom in my life” and building a business structure to support that.

I used to work 12-16 hour days in my business, including weekends. I was stressed. I was neglecting my health. I always felt a constant pressure, like there wasn’t enough time in the day to do it all. And I couldn’t relax either because I felt guilty for not working. 

Now I’m down to 7-8 hours on average a day, taking most weekends off. If I work on my business during the weekend, it’s only if I feel completely replenished, and try to do it in no more than 90-minute blocks at a time.

I’ve also been saying “no” more often to things that would take away from my bigger business and life goals. I feel the most peaceful I’ve ever been, even during days when nothing goes as planned. 

What I learned during my end of year reflection — to respect my time, prioritize my big-picture vision, and create more boundaries

Like I mentioned before, I did full inventory on my business and my life. I took note of where I was spending my time and what I was giving my attention to. I mean this in a literal way — I was walking around with a notepad for over a month, writing down everything I did during the day, how long it took me, and how it made me feel. 

This exercise alone helped me identify what was no longer aligned with the way I want to run my business.

As you probably know, I used to have a wedding product business which got me into entrepreneurship. In the first two years, I hit the $700K revenue mark, and it was awesome! I learned a lot from that business, and it grew fast. But maintaining it meant I’d have to give away most of my profits to manual labor. Plus, I never wanted to deal with a warehouse or managing employees. It didn’t align with my goal of having more freedom in my life.

So in January of this year, I decided to close the product part of my business. I celebrated that chapter and shifted my focus to the aspects of my business that didn’t need me to exchange my time for every sale.

I wanted to build a business structure that allowed me to work from anywhere in the world, to live internationally, and spend more time with my family in Europe. Focusing only on the online education part of my business allows me to do just that. 

This exercise also helped me identify all the things in my business I wasn’t enjoying anymore

I realized that if you do things just to make a profit, but you don’t actually enjoy it, you’ll run out of motivation quick At least, I did.

And in this season of my life, I don’t want to pour my time into things I dread. For example, I used to have a print-on-demand store for extra income, but I dreaded every task related to it. Was it nice to earn the extra income? Sure, it was. But was it worth the dreaded energy and maintenance to keep up with it? For me, it wasn’t. So I shut it down as well to build more time into my schedule.

Just doing that alone — freeing my weekly schedule of things that didn’t align with my goals or didn’t excite me — allowed me to create space. 

That’s when I also realized, I’ve never really given myself space to think before. I had been subconsciously avoiding space because I was afraid of what I might discover. I was scared of facing the feelings I hadn’t dealt with, like unhappiness, unresolved childhood confidence issues, and the emotions surrounding my fertility struggles. I hadn’t realized before that these unprocessed feelings created unnecessary baggage that held me back. 


Ultimately, I discovered I had been living in fight-or-flight mode my whole life, always running away from failure and unhappiness. But I never stopped to figure out what would actually make me happy and bring me peace.

Physical, mental, and emotional health are all big parts of being an entrepreneur

They’re something we can’t avoid if we want to truly thrive, both as humans and as business owners.

I think a lot of entrepreneurs put on a brave face every day to work hard and deal with the challenges of entrepreneurship. We often use work as our coping mechanism until we feel completely empty. And then, we might think, “Well, maybe all entrepreneurs feel this way, I guess I’ll just keep going.”

But this year showed me that it doesn’t have to be this way. If we’re brave enough to create space, face our feelings, and cope with them while making intentional changes in our lives, things can be different. 

This year taught me I need to heal before I could become a better version of myself and grow the way I want to.

This year showed me I’d been living in desperate energy for most of my life, which made everything feel so hard. I’d been holding myself back because I was always questioning my skills and potential, and worried too much about what others might think or say without even realizing it. I was also making things much harder for myself than they needed to be.

Making room in my life to see things clearly allowed me to be kind to myself and begin asking questions like…

  • What if I didn’t have to feel desperate to make things happen, but I genuinely believed I had what it takes?
  • What if I treated today as a blank slate?
  • What would I do if I could achieve my boldest dreams? 
  • What do I need to start doing and stop doing to make it happen? 

So, I began taking small steps to make those changes.

Prioritizing my health

After asking myself these questions, I knew first and foremost, I needed to prioritize my health again. So I…

  • Focused on getting better rest
  • Built better sleep habits
  • Established an evening routine
  • Started acupuncture and working with a reiki healer
  • Stopped stress eating and drinking wine and chips on Friday nights
  • Started planning meals based on my cycle to support my hormonal balance 
  • Prioritized daily movement — yoga, walking, exercising
  • Set strict boundaries with social media, avoiding it on the weekends 

That’s when I realized the next item on my list to focus on should be…

Making more space in my schedule

I also knew I needed to prioritize making space in my schedule. At the start of this year, I messaged all my friends and family, canceled commitments for dinners, trips, and lunches. I even refused to go on weekend getaways. I wanted to make space to rest, to be, to think — because I needed to take a step back, escape busy mode, and create room for a life that makes me feel energized, not drained. But first I needed to figure out what that life would look like. 

So, I gave myself space to…

  • Explore what recharges my batteries and found my passion for home decorating
  • Dream bigger than ever before — to dream about the perfect year and the perfect day in my life a few years down the road 
  • Figure out the direction to take my business that gets me the most excited. This meant shifting from helping the handmade product community to helping all online women business owners — service-based and product-based — who are committed to themselves and their goals 
  • Learn how my mind works so I can spot weaknesses, work on them, and identify where fear and old ways of thinking could be holding me back 
  • Get rid of the dreaded “I have to” energy in my life so I can become a thriving version of myself and focus on the things I really want 

Thanks to this year, I learned to rest without feeling guilt and a constant urge to do something productive. I began to value myself and my work a lot more. I found peace within myself, even during the most stressful days.

Overall, this transformation has helped me commit to building a business that gives me the time and location freedom I’ve always wanted. And since working harder and longer to make it happen is beyond my capacity, that’s why I took the leap to build a team.

Outsourcing and building a team

Outsourcing and building a team is another huge step I took to cut down my working hours and bring more balance to my life. Specifically, I’ve outsourced many of the tasks in my business that I didn’t enjoy, didn’t have to do personally, or honestly felt sort of scared to outsource before. 

What stopped me from outsourcing in the past was thinking I wasn’t ready or I couldn’t afford it — but I’m so glad I took the leap anyways.

I can honestly say that this year, I’ve become an outsourcing machine. It’s like a new part of my brain has kicked in, and now, whenever I’m working on something, I stop and think, “Why am I still doing this? Is there a better way? Is there an easier way? This task needs to be outsourced, automated, or streamlined!” It’s been incredible. 

On my team, I currently have…

  • A virtual assistant who is actually my sister! She helps with content research, finding trending sounds, repurposing my content, saving receipts, designing e-books or action sheets in Canva — so many tasks to help me save me time and make my life a whole lot easier 
  • A podcast manager 
  • A pinterest manager
  • A copywriter that repurposes my podcast content into blog posts 

Some other people I’ve worked with…

  • A brand designer to help me finalize my aesthetic vision for the Small Biz Babes Community
  • Contractors on Fiverr when I need technical support 
  • Soon, I’ll be working with someone edit my reels, which I’ve been doing myself years, so I can streamline that process even more 

Speaking of streamlining, that leads me to the last major lesson I learned this year: the importance of…

Systematizing my business 

This year, I streamlined my business by transferring all my task management to Notion. Notion is where I track the systems and processes I do all the time in my business — whether that’s podcast production, content creation, or planning out offers. 

Everything is saved into a database with clear, step-by-step instructions so I don’t have to search through multiple files or guess where things are stored.

Plus, I’ve given Notion access to my assistant so she can update the calendar, create action sheets for my courses, or other admin tasks. Everything is saved where it belongs because everything has a place.

I feel like Notion is my second brain and honestly, I don’t know how I functioned before without it. I used to rely on paper planners, sticky notes, and remembering everything else in my head, not realizing how much it stressed me out. But now, Notion keeps me organized and supports my business so I always work from a place of calm.

The biggest lesson I learned this year is…

If I want to live my dream life and truly enjoy it, I first need to change the relationship with myself.

I no longer wanted to live my days with desperate energy. Cultivating these routines and rituals has helped me show up as my best self so, instead, I live in more thriving energy. As I step into the role of CEO and build a lifestyle that gives me freedom and true joy, I want a business that isn’t just successful on the outside. I want a business that flows from what I’m passionate about and what I’m excited to show up for. I want the same thing for you.

If you take one thing from this blog post, let it be this: If next year was a blank slate, how would you make it look like? What would you free yourself of? What would you stop doing? What would you start doing? How would you stop holding yourself back from being tied to the past — past business ventures, past ways of thinking, or past commitments you no longer want to commit to?

And most importantly, answer this final question: What is that one thing you really want? Say it outloud. Then, open the notes app on your phone and brain five things you need to change in your life to go all in. 

If you want to hear honest, behind-the-scenes lessons I’ve learned this year that helped me scale my business and create more freedom, tune in to today’s podcast episode here 🎧

Talk soon,

Michaela

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