On Wednesday, April 25th, we’re launching our professional development series, Small Business Self-Care, at Make Lemonade (326 Adelaide St. W). You’ll hear from a powerhouse panel of industry leaders and take part in breakout sessions designed to help you streamline your business with a smart strategy.

This series is meant for anyone who is feeling frustrated in their professional life, wants to make the leap into self-employment, is not sure how to take their side hustle or dream business to the next level, or is simply interested in engaging in thought-provoking convo and connecting with a room full of inspiring women! 

Meet Davida Gragor. She’s a brand strategist and speaker hailing from Montreal. With more than ten years of experience in communications and branding, this marketing veteran and certified event planner is passionate about helping others create their own rock star communities.

SDTC: What is the major issue that most of your clients face?

DG: Everyone faces losing momentum or going through a slump and that leads to losing confidence and excitement in your business. When things are slow, people question whether they’re doing the right thing and they try to change themselves or what it is they set out to do. Having a shitty month doesn’t mean you have a shitty business or that you’re bad at what you do.

That’s why it’s so important to have a solid support system of other entrepreneurs: they can remind you you’re awesome and empathize with you because they understand what you’re going through, but they can also keep you focused on doing the main thing you do well. Friends and family can be sympathetic, but they won’t really be able to relate on an authentic level the same way another entrepreneurs can.

What do you see as being the biggest mental roadblock to entrepreneurial success?

Self-doubt. There’s this glamorization of the entrepreneurial lifestyle that’s perpetuated by social media and “influencers” that is total BS. It can make you feel like you need live up to something that’s not real. Plus, as humans, we’re genetically programmed to take the path of least resistance, so we talk ourselves out of things by telling ourselves it won’t work or we’re not good enough.

I think being in film and television my whole life has allowed me to see through all the false advertising online, but it’s also shown me some of the most fake sides of humanity. FOMO is real. Doing it for the ‘Gram is real. Ignore all of it and just focus on you and what your goals are. There’s a reason why we’re in an era of #selfcare and life coaches are popping up everywhere: we needed something to counteract all the fake messaging that’s messing with our headspace.

What questions should we ask ourselves before embarking on a new project/business idea?

Everyone should ask themselves why, what, and who before starting anything new. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? Why this business? Why this project? What does your life look like because of it and who will it benefit?

“I want to be my own boss and make a lot of money” is not a reason to start your own business. It is harder, uglier, and way more work than working for anyone else. If you don’t have a solid reason why, you’re going to fail. You need to know exactly what it will do for your life and who it will benefit–both big picture and on a granular level. Will it allow you more time with family? A new car? The ability to give back to your community? Write down exactly what your life will look like, why you want these things, and who else it will impact, and then weigh whether the work it’s going to take is worth it. If your business idea only benefits you, you need to think bigger.

What are some tips that have helped you hone your focus and establish a plan for success?

I’m a multi-passionate person, so having a single focus is hard for me. I’ve had two or three seemingly unrelated careers (makeup artist, communications strategist, educator) simultaneously for the last fifteen years, but they’ve all had the same theme: everything I do is helping others and connecting people in some way. Every time I’ve tried to focus on just one of these, one of the others gets in my face and reminds me it’s still something I love to do. So for me it’s been more about balance than focus.

Whenever I’m starting something new, the best way I plan for success is to create a checklist of the benchmarks I’ll need to hit to get the project done and then just f*cking get started. The biggest thing holding people back from success is not taking action. Women take too much time planning to avoid doing until they think it’s perfect. When I started hosting events for women in business, I had no experience teaching. I set the first date and picked a venue and figured out the rest on the way. More than fifty women showed up and I still do business with a lot of those women now three years later. Just go for it!

What do you love most about what you do?

I love seeing other people succeed. Creating connections between rock star women who can kick ass together is immensely fulfilling for me. In my twenties, I didn’t have friends outside of my relationship with my boyfriend and it took me years to build a solid girl gang of women I could lean on. Now I try to do that for other women as much as possible because I know how important and rewarding it is.

I absolutely love being in a room of women who are making shit happen. It gives me energy and keeps me motivated. I used to be terrified of public speaking, but the high I get from connecting with other entrepreneurs outweighs the fear by far.

What is your advice to women who may be considering a major career pivot?

Do what makes you happy. It sounds cliché af, but you need to know yourself and what kind of person you are before making a big career move. I truly believe there are some people that are completely fulfilled working a 9 to 5 for the rest of their life or serving coffee like a boss at Starbucks. But whatever you want to do has to light a fire in you. We spend too many hours of our life working not to love the shit out of it most of the time.

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out in your career?

Time management is way harder than it seems when no one is telling you what to do. Figuring out a system that maximizes your time when you’re working for yourself is key, especially if you’re starting it as a side hustle in your spare time. I’m a visual person, so I keep a physical notebook for my meetings. I have appointments in my phone as well, but actually writing stuff down is how it sticks in my brain and I remember what I have going on.

Also, don’t get caught up in shiny object syndrome. As in, don’t get distracted. Stick to doing your main thing as your main thing and don’t try to offer everything at the beginning. You don’t need a podcast, YouTube channel and Instagram all at once or the newest apps and programs. Niche down to what you’re really, really good at and then build from there once you have a solid business out of the main thing.

Register for Small Business Self-Care here