Share on LinkedIn
Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted in Behind the scenes , Business

Lessons from 3 years’ creative business building — Part 1: Finding my tribe


This is the first part of an honest retrospective. Sign up at the end of the post if you’d like to know via email as soon as the remaining 3 parts are published (and receive a bonus gift).

Portland, Oregon USA: 4 July 2013

I tried to quicken my step but slow my heart. Striding through afternoon sunshine, not long off a flight from LA, I was trying to play it cool on my way to a downtown café.

It had been a cold summer weekend the first time I’d come to Portland from Australia, 2 years previously. I froze. This time I was dressed too warmly and it wasn’t only the heat making me perspire.

It’s just Dave. At the café. It’s just a guy. You’ve been talking to him on the phone for 10 months. It’s not like he’s a stranger. It’s not like this is a date; a blind date. No, it’s not like that at all.

There will be other people there. You’re just friends. Perhaps? I don’t know.

For once, Sara, just meet a guy and have a conversation. That’s it. It’s just talking — you know how to do that. You’re friendly.

It’s okay.

It’s just a chat with some nice people. It’s just Dave.

It’s actually pretty funny he’s come from Sydney, you’ve come from Brisbane, and you’re meeting for the first time in America!

Oh good. No pressure then.

I double-checked the café address; my 5-block walk from my hotel was done. My heart rate was sprint-fast.

It’s so hot. Do I look sweaty? This is not how I planned it. Breathe.

I was at the café window; then at the door. There was nothing more to do.

Smile. Walk.

Don’t smile like a crazy person.

“Hi! We finally meet!”


Creating a business has forced me to dig, fumble, work, cry, despair, resolve, experiment, share and shine. You might know the feeling?

During the past 3 years I’ve been pouring myself into We are the Treasure Hunters, I haven’t been alone. Even though it’s felt that way some days — and on several dreary nights.

This is my tribute to the generous people who’ve helped me get this far.

Whether we’ve only contacted each other briefly; or you’ve cheered me on from the other side of the world or my kitchen table: this is the largest forum I have in which to share my gratitude.

This is also an antidote to ‘instant 6-figure business!’ stories.

Before the beginning there was confusion…until

In 2007 I read Tom Hodgkinson’s How to be Idle and realised 2 things:

  • My life had to change
  • I wasn’t crazy after all

In 2009 I re-routed my Australia-UK holiday at the last minute to attend a School of Life weekend retreat in the wilds of North Devon. On Tom Hodgkinson’s farm. Serendipity, you’re an imp!

My delight was absolute — and I found generous kindred spirits there, including travel writer Dixe Wills , and Teresa Loy.

Teresa told me about her friend John Williams, who was running Scanners Night in London. [John went on to write Screw Work, Let’s Play : a top read.]

Life cartwheeled again when I found the work of coach, author and champion for multi-passionate people: Barbara Sher.

I lay in the bath one night, happy tears roaring and pages blurred as I choked through Barbara’s Refuse to Choose . She saw me! Her vigour and dedication still hit my core.

Finding my tribe had begun.

What I didn’t know then: there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle. A life of unquestioning conformity wasn’t for me. But I had no experience against which to weigh the cost of seeking an alternative path. I was just aglow with a sense of possibility.

More clarity = terror and delight (the beginning)


Marianne Cantwell of Free Range Humans sashayed into my life.

While working fulltime, I retreated to my secret, rumbling creative world during evenings and weekends.

It was my first foray into making connections online with like minds; Marianne had picked her course participants well. [One of them was the Dave I would meet at the Portland café.]

Gemma of Jane&Philbert captured my wild imaginings about “exploration, adventure and courage” when she designed the ship featured on the home page. formatted my first opt-in gift and was kind about the content.

Jenny’s gumption-fuelled alter ego, Webtech Wonder Woman , helped me navigate cyberspace — without an IT department. She sagely answered several pleas via email when tech gremlins appeared.

We are the Treasure Hunters was born in December 2012.


A fledgling all over again; at the foot of another learning curve, I took comfort from conversations with fellow creatives about work. Milo of Clear-Minded Creative ; Dan of Sodaville ; and Anna Sansom — who lovingly ran The Ladygarden Project for several years, kept me buoyant.

Ang Meadows helped dig me out of a few dark patches — for which I’m ever grateful.

During this formative stage I also met Vicky. It’s since been a treat to watch her evolution as globetrotting artist ( Vix Harris Designs ) and philanthropist.

What I didn’t know then: this was just an acorn of a start. I’d need stamina and substance to anchor the high I was riding most of the time. Creating a satisfying business would be a consuming job.

Free fall: world domination and finding (more of) my tribe

3 July 2013

I crossed the Pacific for Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit.

“It’s not for despots and dictators, is it?” joked Mum. (She knew exactly what WDS was — and thought it a fabulous idea.)

Nope, it was just me and almost 3,000 others with a dream.

We shared a vision of a life with adventure, community and service at its heart.

The intensity of the gathering rocked me, unexpectedly. But by the end of the weekend, I’d tamed a slick mix of fear and euphoria.

I’d met ‘Free Range Marianne’ in person, the irrepressible Karen, of ; indefatigable Rob, of Rethink.Work ; and the unfailingly lovely Margaret Pinard and Audra Wilke .

I ‘got my Bollywood on’ at the closing party and completely surrendered to the music engulfing Portland’s Pioneer Square and several surrounding city blocks. Dancing with new friends, oblivious to anything but those electrified moments…

That was the juice of life, and by god I was parched.

What I didn’t know then: wanting something badly wasn’t enough. There was no causal link between effort and success. It was possible to work extremely hard and not get the desired results. I needed direction, focus and business nous.


Enjoy this? Please share it!
Like to comment? Come on over to the to do so.
Part 2 will be along soon — sign up below to make sure you don’t miss it. 🙂


Photo credit and thanks to Joshua Seaman and Armosa Studios (and Darren Rowse for being a good sport at WDS: Superman was a hit.)

Fun and free: your essential blog and e-book editing toolkit

71 1 Share on LinkedIn 2 0