bianca zen

3 Years in Business Through 8 Pieces of Puzzle

© Photo by The Yellow Creators

Today I’m taking you with me on a tour behind-the-scenes, sharing 8 moments of breakdown to breakthrough in business.

This weekend is particularly special for me, as I celebrate Dana’s birthday, my Communication Manager, soul-sister + creative partner-in-business and the 3 years anniversary of Bianca Zen, my consultancy business.

I started my business in May 2019 after hitting an emotional and energetic rock bottom, dealing with burnout and an identity crisis.

I worked my whole life with total dedication and gusto and I loved being an Executive Search Consultant. As I said on many podcasts and interviews – I lived and breathed through my job – so much so, that at one point I didn’t know who Bianca was outside of her profession.

The gap months between leaving my beloved former job and entertaining the idea of building something from scratch by myself, were uneven, curved and challenging. The worst part, as I remember now, was the numbness part, were I didn’t feel anything: not sorrow, not joy, not anything in between. Just a big emptiness I couldn’t put my finger on and certainly couldn’t fill with anything material or outside of me.

It was like I was trapped in an ocean of numbness, though on the outside, people would see me as being a fulfilled woman with a great career and a beautiful family.

It took me nearly a year to crawl out from the depths of my mind, to find the way back home to myself and to the woman I am today.

I am sharing all of this with you because this is what ignited my business idea: I never ever want any other woman to feel what I felt in that period – especially the loneliness and the excruciating feeling of being broken. To this day I’m practicing my promise.

Since I managed to get on the other side, with a few scars and emotional bruises, yet resurfacing with my whole self, I am meeting all my clients halfway and we cross the bridge together. I am not only their trusted Business Consultant, but their rock and mirror. They can lean on me to rediscover their voice, their wings and untapped potential and by doing so, to cross over to a new, fuller and happier chapter of their life and business.

Puzzle piece #1: Allow yourself the gift of the beginner’s mind

Building a business from ground zero is an underestimated gift.

In our adult life, we hardly give ourselves the opportunity to be in the beginner’s place again. Our lives are linear, we go from kindergarten to elementary school, from secondary to high-school, university, maybe we enrol in a master or Ph.D. program. We start climbing the professional ladder and from there it’s just “the next step”: better, bigger, higher, more.

I loved this infancy stage of my business, as I allowed myself to experiment and to walk through unchartered territories. I learned a lot of new things, from basic accounting skills to refining my leadership style. Everything felt new and refreshing, like a door to a whole new universe opened before me.

I also enjoyed discovering personal things about me – great lessons about courage, surpassing money blocks and other limiting beliefs, about my endurance, resilience and drive to move the needle forward, one day after another.

My warm advice to you is to welcome this gift – the beginner’s place – and to see it as an amazing opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally.

Puzzle Piece #2: Your Business, Your Rules

I can’t emphasise enough what it means to create a business that is as unique as your fingerprint.

When you begin your entrepreneurial journey your vision is limited, almost myopic, because the world throws at you unsolicited advice, formulas, “have to’s”, business models and recipes, that may be one size fits all, but have nothing to do with you.

A quick example: I was told by many loving acquaintances to communicate and reinforce my online presence on LinkedIn because “that’s where your clients are…”.

I don’t like Linkedin, it’s nothing personal, but I just don’t like the energy there.

So, I said no. To this day I have to press “recover your password” as I hardly log into my account there, maybe every 3-4 months or so. What do you think? Do I have a business outside of LinkedIn or not? The answer is “God, yesss!”.

Please don’t fall into the trap of following everyone and their mother. Your journey is unique, what is good for you may be totally different from what is good for the person next to you.

Be courageous enough to stand up, step up and speak up. Break away from the norm and stop stepping into other people’s footsteps. You’ve got your own and they’re equally important in this world.

My biggest encouragement to you, no matter where you are at on your entrepreneurial journey is to build your business as an extension of who you are, mindfully cultivating what lights you up and what feels good in your body.

Ask yourself: when you started your business, did you aim at wearing a uniform just like everybody else? Or did you want to design and wear your own outfit?

There is only one way in business. It’s called the You-way!

Puzzle Piece #3: Serve 1 as you would serve a whole group

Several months into my first year of business, I had the idea of offering a one-day group workshop called “The Intuitive Entrepreneur”. I organised it at my welcoming office pictured below and was happy to receive a lot of support through shares and cheers via social media. It felt amazing.

4 acquaintances confirmed their presence. I was willing to host 5 people at my steady wooden table and share with them my discoveries, strategies and ideas in creating a business using intuition and our inner wisdom. I created and printed out workbooks, bought flowers, pastries, coffee, infused water and whatnot and could barely keep my excitement at bay.

The night before the workshop, 2 acquaintances dropped out – one because her youngest came down with the flu and the other one because her car broke down. Number three mixed up the dates and didn’t show up.

That morning I was faced with a dilemma: to cancel the workshop or to continue as planned. I chose to continue and offered my only participant a VIP treatment and my full attention. It was a beautiful experience for both of us.

To this day, whenever I launch something free or paid – a program, a masterclass, a mentoring session or a workshop – I have the same philosophy: no matter how many participants show up, I will treat them with the same respect and consideration as I would a whole group.

Don’t pull down the blinds and don’t hide under the blankets. One, two or three participants doesn’t mean that you’re a failure or that your program is useless. Take this opportunity and learn from it. Deliver an extraordinary experience to these people. Focus on what is, not on what isn’t.

If you want your business to thrive and pass the test of time, know that these moments are inevitable. And it’s not about surrendering to shame or fear, but about training your resilience muscle.

“There is no failure. Only feedback.”

Puzzle piece #4: Unfreezing and marching through a business valley

In March 2020, we entered lockdown. The first thing I did was to offer “Pay What You Can” career and business consultancy sessions. It was an intuitive decision, as most of my decisions are, but after delivering those sessions I entered a freeze period.

The whole world was at a standstill and I felt that talking about business or careers would be out of place. Also, I was never a fan of baking banana bread or posting pictures of myself in yoga positions, so I didn’t say much on my social media accounts.

Discretion was my choice back then and I regret it slightly, I would do things differently now, but at that time my focus was on my family, our time together, reading a lot, listening to music and learning a new language (Turkish).

However, my discretion and freeze mode came with a price. In April 2020 my bank statement showed me a glorious income of €50. That didn’t feel quite right after riding an abundant financial wave the months before.

Again, the answers were within. I started communicating again, first via private emails with my clients, checking in with them and sharing how I dealt with isolation.

Business started picking up again slowly, but by putting one step in front of the other every day, I started gaining momentum.

My warm advice to you are actually two: never stop moving, even if it is at turtle’s speed and have a back-up plan. Nowadays, Dana and I have a crisis plan with several scenarios – it’s nothing complicated, but we put a lot of thought into it.

Ask yourself:

  • what do you need in times of crisis and how can you serve your clients?
  • do you even have access to your clients if something out-of-the-ordinary happens?
  • what (free) resources can you create for them, what kind of support are you able to offer them, so that they don’t feel abandoned?

Puzzle piece #5: Sales and selling with integrity, a love story

In September 2020, I realised that selling wasn’t my forte, that I always did it from afar, hoping that clients would ask me, instead of me presenting my services proactively.

I also understood that my business needed help from my part. If I wouldn’t step up my game, it would never become more than a beautiful and expensive passion.

So, I turned, once again, to the beginner’s place and started learning about selling. I invested in mentorship and business courses and took out of them only what I found to be totally aligned with my values and business philosophy.

The challenge here was not the learning or implementing part, but the overcoming of limiting believes that I wasn’t good with numbers, that as a creative/ humanist I had nothing to do with the financial aspects of my business and that, selling was a series of manipulative activities I wanted nothing to do with.

Turns out that I love selling and that I’m pretty good at it actually.

In fact, my signature program as of this year is called Effortless Sales and throughout the 4 weeks we work together, it shows a totally different side of selling. One that stems from integrity, authenticity and that you too can fall in love with!

My heart-felt encouragement to you is to allow yourself to become good at – excellent even – at things you thought you were inferior at.

Lack of experience and exercise do not equal incompetence.

Puzzle piece #6: Bring in help by hiring based on impact, talent & mutual trust

As a positive consequence of me learning how to sell, developing my own selling style and experiencing financial takeoff, I was able to create space for the first team-member in my business.

I knew exactly with whom I wanted to share this beautiful entrepreneurial journey, because I always take mental notes when I’m meeting amazing people.

I’ll share with you a small, yet impactful secret: always be in hiring mode! You may not be able to afford/ support hiring someone in your business now, but be open and watchful when you meet someone special.

As they say in my professional world: hire the character, train the skills.

© Photo by The Yellow Creators

In my case, I knew from the first moment I met Dana, that her and I will be working together at one point in a shape or form. Dana, for me is the sister I never had, I could move mountains with her and travel to the end of the world. I know she has my back and I have hers and that is something precious and irreplaceable.

Even before you need help, be a talent scout. Cultivate relationships with people you’d be honoured to work with and be patient. You will have the opportunity and financial means to hire that someone special.

Puzzle piece #7: Learn how to lead

I was always a team-player and for many years I considered myself to be the perfect soldier. Not a leader, but a loyal follower. My previous history supports my argument: I returned not once, but three times to the Executive Search company I worked for more than a decade.

But once I started collaborating with Dana, I discovered how much I enjoy perfecting and refining my leadership style. As a leader, my aim is for both of us to shine in those areas that come natural to us.

A true leader – in my eyes – offers opportunities to grow, to experiment, to try out new things. A true leader cultivates the spirit of Possibility. Even if it hasn’t been done before, especially if it hasn’t been done before.

Dana knows this and will probably smile when she reads these lines – I always ask her “how can we do this differently?” And by differently I don’t mean harder.

Different can mean easier, quicker, with twist, with our personal, creative touch.

Something else I want to add here is that leadership comes both with freedom and responsibility. For me the responsibility part has served me immensely well: I’m more courageous, I’m quicker and overall more confident in my decisions, because this isn’t just about me, it’s about my team and our mutual wellbeing.

Being a leader isn’t a burden, even when you don’t hold all the answers or winning solutions. Being a leader is an amazing opportunity to expand your wings and grow emotionally, intellectually and professionally.

Puzzle piece #8: Pivoting and closing down a business line

I saved the most recent piece of the puzzle for the end of this post.

In March 2022, I officially announced during my Effortless Sales program that I won’t be taking any more 1-to-1 clients. Individual career and business strategy sessions were my most profitable line of business. At least in financial terms. From a time and energy perspective, I started feeling tired, worn out and dried out.

Of course it is very satisfying and ego-caressing when clients book you for 2 months, 3 months in advance. Of course, my professional heart was jumping up and down when I saw my agenda fully booked and had the privilege of working side by side with amazing women.

However, I would be a hypocrite not to tell you that there were days when I hardly had time to eat, to use the restroom or to enjoy time with my loved ones. My body helped me a lot during this time, but I wasn’t helping her. I was just asking for more energy, more ideas, more speed and that is not a fair or loving relationship to have.

It took me somewhere between 6-8 months to actually implement my decision, because I kept on hoping that people will eventually stop asking to work with me 1-to-1. They didn’t, so I had to press that button myself. To this day, I still receive emails and private messages on this subject and every time, I have to recommit to the decision I took.

Was I afraid that I won’t be as profitable, successful, accomplished (you name it) by offering only group programs? Of course I was afraid. That’s why it took me so long in the first place.

Did I manage to catch up or balance my income exclusively with group programs and masterminds? No, not yet, but I’m in the process of building that.

However, the most important question to ask here is this one…

Did I ever regret making that decision? Not even for a second! As much as I appreciate, admire and value all the women I crossed paths with in the last 3 years, this decision brought me so much lightness, easiness and peace of mind that there is no space even for a trace of regret.

My loving and last advice for you in this post is to follow your heart, your intuition and inner wisdom.

Things may look different – logical, better, more profitable – on paper, but if you feel like you’re shrinking, if you feel captive or trapped behind the walls of your business, then something has to change.

Don’t forget: your business is not a 15 minutes success parade or a showcase for others to admire, applaud or give their blessing to. Your business is a love letter you write to yourself. So make it the most beautiful, extraordinary love letter there is!

Thinking of you, with all my love,


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