I joke around that I am a bit of a mutt in business. My background in corporate and intellectual property law did not really have me on track to be an entrepreneur – it had me on track to sit behind a desk and bill hours of my life my entire career. Which isn’t a bad thing, and I actually love a lot of aspects of what I do with my legal clients, but it wasn’t enough for me. I have always known I was meant to do more than help others grow their businesses, but needed a catalyst or a nudge in the right direction to embrace my entrepreneurial side. I want to share my story of straddling a transitional career in law with my entrepreneurial journey, in hopes that others will consider the importance of creating a village to support and inspire entrepreneurs when they need it the most
My foray into entrepreneurship started out in the fall of 2010 when I learned of the Launch L-A young entrepreneur contest accepting applications for a business plan competition in my hometown. At first I began researching the requirements to see if I could recommend any of my legal clients to apply. Then as I began researching the requirements for applicants – I realized that they were fairly narrow – and that my age, geographic ties, and other factors placed me smack dab into criteria qualifying ME to apply.
I had often thrown around business ideas with friends and loved ones, and often found myself inspired by my clients to consider ways to fill needs and niches I saw unmet. But I had honestly never considered being involved in a start-up or small business personally. Yet I couldn’t help imagining the excitement of carving out some time to put together a business plan and see where it went. After scrapping a few ideas, I shared the concept with my sister and this started the wheels turning on teaming up to submit an application for a business plan she had been working on for years. It was time to join forces and play to both of our strengths to bring a business into fruition that she had been modeling and formulating to fill a need in the community of Lewiston-Auburn.
The deeper we got into drafting the business plan, making projections, and creating the marketing material specs for the application requirements, the more real the plan became and the more committed we became to the project – win or lose. Long story short – we did end up winning that competition, and on September 9, 2011 Revelation Massage opened as the end result of that planning process.
The reason I wanted to share this story is that this event really represents a pivot point in my career, my entrepreneurial vision, and in my life. For my involvement in this process didn’t end just in one business opening. It also helped me to open my mind to other ways of generating money and how to diversify my investment of time and money into my legal career and budding career as a businesswoman. I sought out training in the coaching sector to gain critical communications and coaching skills that I knew would serve me in the long run in all facets of my career. I started a side hustle implementing my new coaching skills by launching a private coaching practice focused on working with lawyers, law students, and professionals on intentional career planning. I launched a weekly blog and podcast, and began getting inquiries for local and national speaking engagements on the topic of work life balance and career planning. And once I was in that space, lots of other opportunities and ways of generating income in the business world were falling into my lap. I became a voracious learner of all things start-up and marketing for small business. I wanted to understand new industries, gather lots of information, and find what would best suit me.
As my role with Revelation Massage minimized once it was up and running, and I sold my online coaching brand to an existing coaching company, I began to realize that practicing law just wasn’t enough for me anymore. It didn’t feed my soul the way creating businesses and implementing a vision from scratch did. I became really clear on some of the factors I wanted in my next business venture, and luckily an opportunity that was the perfect fit for me fell into my lap, and has been my growing focus for the past 3 years.
I share my story as a snippet into the ripple effect of supporting and inspiring entrepreneurs. There is no effort in supporting entrepreneurs that falls flat. Maybe the immediate results won’t be apparent, but it doesn’t diminish the long-term value. If I had not learned about the Launch L-A contest – perhaps I would have explored my entrepreneurial penchant eventually – but it may not have been for years. I am not saying that I am the most successful business owner around, or that I have reached all of my goals. But I will be forever thankful to the Lewiston Auburn Growth Council for creating the Launch L-A contest that opened my mind to alternative ways of being in business. Huge changes have occurred in my life over the past 5 years since the end of 2012 when I took a leap of faith and became self-employed entirely to have the flexibility I need to pursue my endeavors while managing my law practice. These changes have played a role in the creation of two businesses that collectively employ about 30 talented professionals in the massage therapy, customer service, and legal industries.
So here are a few items I hope my story might encourage you to focus on:
- If you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body – embrace ways to explore options. Surround yourself with inspiring people. Consider putting yourself out there and participating in a contest, a start-up weekend, or getting involved in a small-business contest. The potential worst case scenario is that you decide to stick to your day job. Best case scenario could be that you fall in love with a new method of doing business that lights up your soul and adds more to your community.
- If you are in economic development – don’t focus only on the immediate results of inspiring and supporting entrepreneurs. The ripple effect of your efforts will translate into life changes, new businesses, job creation, and benefits back into our communities. Your community needs more thriving business, and the budding entrepreneurs need community. It’s a win-win.
- It takes a village – play the role that best suits you. Maybe you are a mentor willing to give back in the form of time and expertise. Maybe you are a service provider who can offer support to entrepreneurs. Maybe you are a budding entrepreneur who needs inspiration. The role you play is unique to you, and a part of the integral fabric of weaving a vibrant entrepreneurial community.
I hope that my story may spark someone’s assessment of what their role is in the village of entrepreneurship in their community. There are so many amazing resources in Maine for small businesses, and I appreciate the role each organization, mentor, grant program, and contest plays in supporting and inspiring entrepreneurs. I look forward to partnering with the LAEGC and with MCED in the expansion of the Top Gun program into a new market. I am intentionally carving out multiple roles in local and statewide support for entrepreneurs and economic development, and am thrilled to meet others of like mind to team up with.
Chelsea Fournier is a lawyer, a serial entrepreneur, and a professional network marketer. She bases her work and her community out of Lewiston-Auburn after 11 years of living and being part of the vibrant start-up community in Portland. She will be working with the Lewiston Auburn Economic Growth Council to expand the Top Gun program into the Greater Lewiston-Auburn market, and is also a board member of the Libra Future Fund grant program for young entrepreneurs. She is passionate about travel as a way to gain perspective and appreciation for one’s community, and is constantly looking to connect with like-minded people to add value to one another’s networks.