Even though Natalie Appleton had interviewed dozens and dozens of business owners in her former work as a journalist, and even though she had been getting paid to write since she was a teenager, in 2012 she had no idea how she would create a business around writing for companies.
“The mere idea of it all…registering for a business number, the bookkeeping…that all seemed so overwhelming and unknown to me, but I was excited about my idea, and I knew if I could get help with all those steps, I’d be OK,” says Natalie Appleton, founder and principal of Read Head Copywriting (pronounced redhead). She and her team write website content, blog articles, press releases and more for businesses across the Okanagan, Canada and even in the US.
“And then I had this amazing opportunity to participate in the self-employment services at Community Futures North Okanagan. Step by step, as we progressed through building a business plan, we ticked off all those kind of left-brain steps I was afraid of—along with the more right brain ones I was excited about, like marketing—and day by day my business started to come to life.”
Appleton credits amazing program facilitators, a strong program and a supportive cohort for the launch of her business and its ongoing success more than five years later.
“So many of the things we learned in those workshops still ring in my ears, especially when I’m working through the parts of running a business that can be hard. I have no idea how people run businesses without that kind of learning and support.”
For Appleton and her business, that relationship with Community Futures North Okanagan didn’t end at the beginning.
“They have a wealth of resources, so many of which are free and incredibly valuable, and I make use of them whenever I can.”
Over the years, as Appleton’s client list grew to include national and international accounts as well as some local “stars,” and her team moved into a space downtown, she found herself needing guidance around hiring staff, building a strategy for growth and being more profitable. In effect, she’d outgrown and fulfilled her original five-year business plan, almost to the day.
So, Appleton called over to the business services department, asked for Connie Viszlai, business services advisor, and made an appointment to come in for business coaching.
“When you’re a sole proprietor, you often find yourself facing these humps with no one to sound off to, and so several times Connie was that person, and she was so brilliant at helping me arrive at a solution by asking the questions I needed to answer.”
Viszlai also facilitated at SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) session with Appleton and her team as part of creating a business strategy for new opportunities.
“We really needed that outside leadership to get to the bottom of what we’re good at and how we can do more of it for the right clients—and it lit a fire that’s really inspired us and helped us achieve our goals.”
Writing content for a troupe of “amazing” clients is just one side of Appleton’s entrepreneurial endeavours. She’s also co-founder of Storymakers for Girls, a program that fosters writing creativity for teenager girls, and she herself is a creative writer.
She wrote a memoir about feeling lost in your twenties, being afraid to ask for what you really want, and abandoning everything in Alberta for Bangkok, where she ended up meeting and falling in love with a man from her hometown. Last year, Appleton felt the manuscript was ready for the world, and when she struggled to find the right publisher, she turned the hurdle into an opportunity.
Except that it was an expensive opportunity.
Appleton says she was lucky to come into contact with a publishing team based in Vancouver that gives non-fiction writers access to some of Canada’s best editors, designers, marketers and even distributors.
“Again, I had that feeling that I was going the right way. I just needed help.”
So, back to Community Futures Appleton went. This time she knocked on the door of Rob Short, loans coordinator. After a couple of meetings and submitting a business plan for the venture, Appleton was granted a loan for a portion of the project.
“It was really the leg up I really needed to get the project going, and it was so validating to have Rob and the organization essentially say, ‘We believe in this and we want to help.’ I’m incredibly, incredibly grateful.”
Appleton’s memoir, I Have Something to Tell You, is now available as pre-orders via Amazon.ca, with books available online and in stores Jan. 22, 2018.
Help your business reach goals with a variety of business services at Community Futures North Okanagan. From workshops and business coaching to loans and hiring programs, we’re here to help!
(feature image photo credit Heath Fletcher)