I believe most of us set out on the path to entrepreneurship with a lot of hope, energy, and excitement but it doesn’t take long on the journey to realize we’re not just expected to be great at our craft, there’s a lot of other tricks we have to add to our bag. Marketing, sales, pitching, PR, bookkeeping to name a few. Not to mention the tough skin needed to overcome obstacles, comparison, hurt feelings, and setbacks.
It’s a bumpy road we’re traveling and with time it can be hard to hang on to the hope, the excitement, the fun, and most of all —the creativity.
In a black and white business world that says success is … Money, achievement, power. Do it this way! Follow this formula.
How do you hang on to the wonder and creativity?
In today’s interview, Anita shares a compelling story of starting, pivoting, and starting again. Even though the path may look like wrong turns and failures, how each part of her journey taught lessons she would need for the next part.
If you’ve ever felt you were losing your creativity, stuck in a role that no longer seems to fit, or just a creative robot for hire… I hope Anita’s story of bravery and courage to start again is just what you need to hear today.
Anita Cheung is no stranger to starting over. Like most entrepreneurs, her path has been filled with plenty of pivots, plans, and preparation to chart a new course when necessary.
“I started my first business fresh out of university at 23 years old. I called it a yoga and wellness mobile studio, but essentially, I was a yoga teacher who led retreats and classes.”
With a passion for health and wellness, it seemed like a perfect fit for Anita. She networked with local studios, worked hard to collaborate with others in the industry, and built a business on word of mouth alone. However, the work caught up with her, and soon, the focus on the wellness of others meant her own wellbeing was at risk.
“It’s what I thought I wanted, and I really did love it in the moment. But after every class, or retreat, or meditation, I would find myself zonked out. I was extremely exhausted all the time and spinning my wheels to figure out how to fix it.”
Eventually, Anita hit the point where the only solution was to start over.
“I got out. I wish I could say it was simple and super easy, but in reality, the ending of that chapter was definitely messy. But even in the middle of the mess, I knew it was the right call.”
On the other side of the closing of her business, Anita wasn’t sure what the next right step would be for her as an entrepreneur. So, she fell back on some of her other gifts and talents while she tried to figure it out.
“I learned to code when I was really young. It’s honestly a skill I never thought would be useful, but when I was sort of in between businesses, I fell back on it.”
Having done her own website and branding for the studio, Anita had clients reaching out for help with their own. So, she said yes here and there, designing websites, working with clients on their branding, and slowly dipping her toes in the world of self-employment once again.
“Once I started on clients, something clicked. It was just like one after the other, and each time, it felt good. It was like I remembered that I was good at branding, and design, and aesthetics. And that gave me a sense of confidence I hadn’t felt in a long time.”
Still, Anita was hesitant to dive back in to full-time entrepreneurship.
“I was nervous of course! I had been burned before with the previous business, and I didn’t want to have that feeling again. So I went into it slowly, and bit by bit, I just sort of followed the trail that led to this full-time creative work.”
Working almost exclusively on word of mouth referrals, Anita’s business exploded. She became the one-stop-shop for all things creative, marketing, and branding.
“My primary client is the small business owner in their first couple of years in business. That person needs somebody who knows it all, so I made myself that person. My clients put a lot of trust in me to help create the brand they’re passionate about, and I don’t take that lightly at all.”
Since starting in this new field, Anita’s made plenty of shifts along the way. The closing of her first business and the pivot to start something new left her with the courage to lean into change rather than away from it.
“I think we’re really lucky as entrepreneurs that we can pick what we love doing as we go and then we can leave the stuff we don’t on the table. For me, I’ve pivoted away from web development over the years and into design and branding specifically. I’ve changed my services to offer full design days rather than projects that last for months at a time. Because of all that, I’ve been able to create a business that serves both me and my clients well.”
That ability to adapt as given Anita the courage to step out and try new things in her field. Along with design and branding, she’s dipped her toe into storytelling, illustrations, photography, and more. She even gave a TED Talk on finding the courage to start again—something she’s all too familiar with as an entrepreneur.
“My parents actually fled Vietnam during the war and came to Canada. They started a fresh, new life in a new country with nothing but each other. So I think finding that courage to do the same in my business is only natural. It was passed down to me from my parents and the experience I saw them have growing up.”
Now, Anita is working hard to keep the business going and growing without sacrificing her own health and wellness along the way. One way she’s doing that? By making herself a priority every step of the way.
“Money comes and goes. There will be seasons in life where there’s more of it and seasons where there’s less. These days, I’ve shifted my mindset on making money in this business away from stress and toward opportunity. Now, I see it as an opportunity to connect with other people, to take care of myself, and to build the life and the business that I love.”
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Anita Cheung, aka Neets, is an artist, illustrator, and designer based in Vancouver. By day, she works with small businesses to create impactful branding and visual identities, as well as dynamic and unique websites. Also by day, she creates illustrations and artwork that is playful and warm- for the young and young at heart. Since starting her creative entrepreneurship journey in 2017, she has a Tedx talk, a collaboration with Saje Natural Wellness, and a few children’s books under her belt.
November 3, 2022