Time for another interview, this time I had the opportunity to interview Carmel Finnan, who is based near Clarinbridge in Co. Galway. Carmel’s interview was of particular interest to me as I enjoy reading stories of people in business, and learn of their experiences, challenges and their successes.
If this your first visit to my blog, glad to have you on-board! This is the 13th interview in a series of interviews with small business in the West of Ireland. I used to run a business, and one of the parts I found most challenging was to promote my business, as I had little funds and lacked the contacts to get featured. My new year’s resolution was to help small business in the West of Ireland by interviewing them on my blog, to give them an opportunity to tell their story. Please share this interview, as it’s one of the easiest ways to create awareness! Would you like to get featured? Drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be in touch!
Tell us a bit about yourself & where you are located in the West of Ireland.
Hi everyone, great to be here. I run my own business from my home near the village of Clarinbridge, Co Galway. Before moving to Galway, I lived and worked in Limerick (as a lecturer in Mary Immaculate College) and before that I lived, studied and worked in Germany – Munich and Berlin. The thread running through my whole life is language. I was a reading addict as a child, I studied literature, worked as a language teacher, copy-editor, translator, lectured in linguistics and literature. And now work as a Communication Consultant.
Can you provide me with a description of your business?
I help people communicate in an authentic way whether it’s for their business or their personal life. That means I show people that the basics to authentic communication is developing your unique voice and telling your authentic stories.
How long have you been in business?
I started in 2014 with the idea of just running creative writing courses and workshops. That is now only about a third of my business. My disenchantment with the standard marketing strategies on offer led me to dive deeply into what I was teaching already – authentic communication – and apply it to marketing. I now specialise in teaching people how to use authentic storytelling as a core marketing tool and as an effective and time-efficient alternative to the constant hype and 7/24 media presence so many people are caught up in. ‘Less is more’ is my marketing mantra – for myself and for my clients.
Is this your full time job, a hobby or a bit of both?
It’s a full time job, so failing or stopping is not an option. I had been waiting for the ‘right’ moment to leave my safe, secure lecturing job and do something that gave me the autonomy I longed for and would also enrich people’s lives in simple, yet profound ways. My years in education has taught me that when people find their true gifts are able to develop them, it can really transform their lives. I would probably still be ‘waiting’ for that right moment if fate hadn’t intervened in the guise of a student who responded to my request to ‘reflect’ on a question I gave the class with: “Don’t ask me to think, tell me what to learn.” That very same day I sat in HR making enquiries about leaving, because I knew I couldn’t compromise my role as a teacher to a system that saw exams and the rote-learning of information as the prime measure of education any longer. Less than a year later, I was out on my own. It took time and plenty of free-lance work in my old job to get to the point where I had the experience and credibility to devote myself to it full-time.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
My experience as a teacher, lecturer and researcher gave me the communication and foundational expertise. I trained with a number of marketers in the US and Canada about ethical marketing, or as I call it, ‘authentic’ marketing. Which boils down to being your authentic self as a way to differentiate your business and connect with customers in a meaningful way. I’ve also done coaching and facilitating training which blends in very well with empowering people to trust who they are, what they do and deliver a message to the world that embodies that trust.
How do the social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments impact your business?
I’m not really long enough in business to answer that in any great detail. However, as someone who is not really IT-savvy, I am amazed at how the internet is just a well of possibilities and chances, ranging from re-training to getting customers from all over the world.
Do you know who your competitors are?
I don’t have competitors. I offer communication services to people in an authentic way, which means it’s unique to me. People who are drawn to do business with me are looking for what I offer – more meaningful communication and less ‘fluff’. So, to quote one of the gurus of ethical marketing, Seth Godin, I am building my tribe and others are building theirs. My goal is to expand and grow my own tribe in an organic, authentic way.
How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business? Where can people find you?
It started with word-of-mouth and now that I’ve got my new website up and running, I am using social media and technology as well. As personal, one-to-one help is what I do best, being ‘live’ is an important way of connecting and getting the word out. My media presence is still very much a ‘work-in-progress’. I practice discernment regarding social media. Two platforms, plus website and e-mail. That’s enough.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
I do see myself moving into online sessions, programmes and courses. Like any service, it’s the quality of the service and the commitment of the ‘teacher’ that defines good value and successful learning.
Do you plan to compete in the global marketplace? If yes, how?
I’m putting together two online courses this autumn: ‘Crafting a Bio/Profile/About Page that Connects’ and ‘Your Signature Story: How to Differentiate Yourself and Resonate with your Audience’. So, when these courses are ready, I’ll market them globally. I’ve also had one-to-one clients via skype, so geography is not really a huge issue.
What do you love about the business you are in and the area you live in.
I’m doing work I genuinely love. I have been able to build a business that is aligned with my own inner values. I don’t just offer others ‘authentic communication’ to others, I’m raising an authentic human being as a parent, I practice authentic relationships as a friend, neighbour, etc. I’m originally from Co Longford, so living in the West is a whole different experience. It’s the combination of barrenness and richness in the landscape, e.g. the Burren, that never ceases to take my breath away. Also, the sense of living on the ‘Edge of Europe’ hasn’t diminished in all the years, despite new technologies and improved roads.
Whom do you seek advice from for your business/ do you meet up with other business owners? If so, where?
Other people who are on a similar journey and from friends. I’ve joined a few networking groups locally, nationally and globally. I have also contact with people I met on marketing and coaching programmes, so sharing experiences and advice with like-minded people is something I really value.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
My customers are looking for a different way of marketing their business to simply spending more and more time feeding social media platforms with the same hype and outsourcing their own voice just to keep up with trends. Social media is a great tool, but it’s the message and the voice that carries that message that really matters, not the medium itself. If you’re looking for a way to market your business that believes integrity, honesty, character and authenticity are key values in how you connect, then we can be a great working partnership.
What are the biggest challenges for running this business?
Keeping clients/money coming in. It’s still the early years for me, so I’m learning all the time about how to get the word out to those looking for my services.
What keeps you going, when the chips are down?
I know what it’s like to have a secure, well-paid job in a reputable institution and to feel trapped by the financial and parental responsibilities of having to stay in that once ‘dream’ job after I’d moved on internally. I now know what it’s like to do work that makes my heart sing. Having to change my consumer habits is a small price to pay for this kind of fulfillment.
Do you support local charities? If so which is your favourite charity and why?
Yes, In small ways such as running a mini-marathon for local charities, to doing voluntary work in primary schools on the importance of storytelling for living, learning and teaching. I also commit to working with adults with learning disabilities on enabling them to tell their stories.
Any tips for someone who is thinking of starting their own business?
Know what your natural talent is (what comes easily to you that you enjoy doing) and get the expertise and skills to be the best you can be using that talent. Then just go out and do the work. Do it for free initially to gather experience and credibility. Build up your tribe at a pace you can maintain and soon you will start to earn money doing work you love. Don’t expect success as an entitlement. Commitment, luck, perseverance, reward, failure, enjoyment, frustration etc. are part of the journey. Work at getting the balance right!When the going gets tough, remind yourself that it’s a privilege be so autonomous and do work that you care about.
What did you learn from this interview?
A good exercise on getting clarity on where I’m at right now and how far I got here. Thanks for the opportunity.
Please share this interview, as I’d like to start a small movement to highlight the brilliant businesses in the West of Ireland! If you would like to be next, please drop me an email to email@example.com and I’ll be in touch.
Thanks for reading & sharing!