You’re listening to the Sigrun Show, episode #381. This episode is about how I went from being unemployable to becoming a self made millionaire.
Welcome to the Sigrun Show. I’m your host, Sigrun, creator of SOMBA, the MBA program for online entrepreneurs. With each episode, I’ll share with you inspiring case studies and interviews to help you achieve your dreams and turn your passion into profit. Thank you for spending time with me today. Building an online business takes time. I share with you proven strategies to help you get there faster. You’ll also learn how to master your mindset, up level your marketing and succeed with masterminds. Today, I talk about my journey during the past 10 years from getting sick for seven months, to losing my job twice in two years, and then building a multiple seven figure business for the last six and half years. I hope my story inspires you to believe in yourself and make your dreams come true. Before we dive into this episode though, I want to share with you something very special.
On March 9th, 2020, I decided to postpone my conference, The Self Made Summit 2020, which was supposed to take place in Reykjavik, Iceland, June 18th-19th, 2020. In hindsight, it was a very wise decision to postpone the conference. Although it felt scary and in some ways, premature of the time, I took it. To make it up to the ticket holders, I decided to do a virtual summit this year, plus add a mastermind day with the speakers to The Self Made Summit in 2021 in Reykjavik, Iceland. But in the past two months, we’ve all been flooded with virtual summits and the idea of doing yet another virtual summit, sounded less and less appealing to me. Instead, I want to do something much better; a five day course for free. Over five days, you will learn and implement strategies to succeed in the next normal in online business. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear from the speakers what they are doing to succeed during the crisis. You can go to show notes at sigrun.com/381, where you can sign up for the five day course, Next Normal.
“It’s going to be very hard for you to find a job.” That’s the words he used. I was in my second meeting at the unemployment office and my hopes of finding a job were not high. Not that I really wanted to find a job because I still felt sick. I still had pain in my neck and in my shoulders, and sometimes even a pinching ear pain. I was definitely on a healing journey and the thought of working a full time job possibly in a start up as a business development manager or even a CEO was partly very exciting to me and that’s what I was qualified to do, but I was scared. I was scared of getting sick again. But how did I get sick?
We have to go back to 2010. I had been working for a year in a medical technology company. I was one of the managing directors there writing business plans and doing what I was very qualified to do, basically business development. But the job was very one sided. Some doctors said it was dangerous. In a way that I sat at my desk the whole day, there were rarely meetings that I needed to attend. I would just stand up to have lunch and sometimes I had lunch at the office, so there was not much movement involved. Sometimes we went outside and had to do a little walk to get to a restaurant in the area. But overall, the job kept me stuck at my desk and what was worse is that the table was quite high and the chair low, and I’m not the tallest of person and this started to affect me. I didn’t realize it just creeps on you slowly and I started to feel pain when I was driving, so I didn’t make the connection to my office or the way I was working or my table or my chair in the beginning.
For months, I was just getting pain when I was driving. I had to drive for at least 15 minutes or 30 minutes to feel it, and then there was this pinching pain in my neck and shoulder area. I can kind of feel I as I’m saying it now. It’s really like this tough pain, and it lingered on for sometimes hours or even days. Then I thought to myself, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t drive. Maybe I can avoid it.” Now, unfortunately in my job, I had to drive for an hour to go to our other office, but somehow, I could share that this was maybe the not best thing for me or I could just tag along with someone else if they were driving over there. So, I started to avoid driving. I also told my husband even if I love cards and I love driving, that I prefer that if he would be sitting at the steering wheel. Then summer came and I thought to myself, the pain will go away because I’m not driving, my husband is driving.
And if it’s the office, I was starting to get some idea that it could be my office environment. I could then just heal. So for about two or three weeks on summer vacation back in Iceland, I was living in Switzerland already by then, we took summer holiday. I was not sitting at the computer. We basically had holiday and I was not driving, I was not sitting at a desk and I felt kind of pain free. I come back to the office in the fall of 2010 and it hits me with full force. The pain is back. I was not driving, I was just back at work. It got worse and worse. It lept over from the shoulder area into the back of the neck and then by later the fall, I started to have pinching ear pain like someone is sticking a needle into your ear. I was like, “This must be related to my working conditions.”
I started to talk with my boss and He actually bought me a chair. Now, the problem with this chair is it was meant as a good chair for your back. It’s one of those chairs that you lean with your feet on. Well, the problem is the desk was still high and actually, with the new chair, it was wort. so, just imagine for a moment you have to lift up your shoulder a little bit, even if it’s just a centimeter or two and if you do that for nine hours a day, yeah, it makes sense that you’re in pain. I knew by then, fall of 2010, that I was in pain because of the way I was working and it was basically how my setup was with the desk and the chair. I was starting to get headaches on Fridays, and then it was Thursdays and Fridays. I remember this like it was yesterday. Around November 23rd, 2010, I was literally having headache every single day.
I remember the last week that I still went to work, I was attending a seminar and I forced myself to go to the seminar because we had signed me up months earlier, paid a lot of money and I just felt… I was so contentious, I couldn’t skip this. I could not go. I couldn’t just say I was sick, so I went there in so much pain. And all these tablets I was taking, different headache tablets and nothing helped. I remember after a three day seminar, I basically came home and I was just lying in bed with pain all over. Now, it was not just my neck or shoulder or the ear, it was my whole head that was exploding. And yes, this was the start of a seven month sickness. I had basically pushed my body so far that my body said, “No. I’m not willing to do this. Now, you better come down and not work.” I understood it and I’m not going to go into all the details of my medical journey because that’s way too long for this episode, but basically, I went from doctor to doctor trying to get a diagnosis.
Ultimately, came down to me having repetitive strained injury. It is not a disease or an illness that is accepted in Switzerland, but basically, that was the summary. There was a series of things wrong with my posture and how I had been holding my hand to be able to work on the computer over a long period of time and my body was just sick and tired of it. Internationally, you call this repetitive strain injury. I started to look it up, the medical profession, basically the doctors I went to didn’t have a real recipe for me what I should do. So, I figured it out myself. Yeah, Google is great one and I started to kind of do a lot of things that I thought could help. Unfortunately, they didn’t and I was going to physical therapy three times a week. I was going to trigger point therapy two times a week. I was doing stretched three times a day. I was taking a hot bath before I went to bed. I was lying on a mattress in my living room, stretching out.
I was not sitting at the computer, maybe 10 minutes a day max to answer some emails because I was still employed. Then, of course, I got fired for being sick. Luckily, I was offered immediately another job from Icelandic company that needed a representative in Switzerland and I had to tell the person who was offering me the job, one of the owners, that unfortunately, I had something called repetitive strained injury and I couldn’t take that job, right away at least. I was still healing. Turns out, he had the same condition so that gave me some sympathy or empathy. I always wonder which word you should use there. We were in touch and as soon as I started to get better, I got that job. But in the beginning, I was able to work maybe a few hours until I was full time after seven months. But how did I really heal from this? That is so weird. After trying all different methods… Once we even drove to Germany. We drove an hour. My husband drove me an hour to some physical therapist that was supposed to work magic, but it didn’t work.
All the things didn’t work. Not until for some weird coincidence, maybe coincidence, my homeopath doctor, the one that was doing the trigger point therapy suggested Kinesio Tape. Kinesio Tape was out on my shoulder and neck area, and within a few hours, it started to work. It’s like magic, but still not. All the therapies actually started to work. So, yeah. Over a seven month period, I had to wait for my body to get back. My brain was on full force thinking of that this must be happening for a reason. There were a period, but very short period, where I felt a bit sorry for myself for not being able to work and having to sit at home. But honestly, that was very, very short period. I realized quickly, that this is happening for a reason. This is a wake up call for me to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life.
I was scared to start a business because I was sick. So, I was very grateful for the job opportunity that I got right after I started to feel better. Now, this new job was actually working from home and that is the first time I experience that feeling of waking up in the morning and just walking over my office. Meanwhile, I had bought a height adjustable desk and a very nice office chair. So, I created my own perfect solution at home. My home office was designed for me to actually take on a job where I could work from home, and I loved it. There were a lot of things that I loved about my new job as country manager for an Icelandic software company selling software to schools in Switzerland, but my customers were at least an hour away. I thought I had healed so much that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting all these horrible pains back. But when I was driving one hour, the pain started to come back.
I thought to myself [inaudible 00:15:01]. Now, I have this job, which is kind of amazing. I can work from home and I can go for a daily walk, which was one of the recommendation from doctors. Now, I can’t do it because I’m getting these pains. But at the same time, there were also other parts of the job that I didn’t live so much and that was basically, having to do cold calling. It wasn’t like the customers were just waiting for us or that we had a fantastic freebie or anything like that that people wanted to sign up for. No, I literally had to be cold calling the schools and asking them if they wanted to learn more about the school software. I had never done anything like that before. Honestly, I did not like it. It was not the best way for me to shine in my job. I was good at business development. I was good at building up a business. But cold calling was just not what I liked doing.I thought to myself, “That is not a job for me.”
So, things came together and the company was going through some refinancing and we were having to do business plans for new investors coming. I used that opportunity to reach out to my board and tell them, “I think you should actually hire someone that is maybe a little bit less expensive than me. Swiss salaries are quite high. Maybe you can find someone in Germany that does this job because it doesn’t look like you have to actually have an office in Switzerland.” Well, they took my by the word and within a couple of months, I had lost my job. Actually, I got fired just before my honeymoon. I wouldn’t say that’s best time to fire someone, but yeah. That is exactly what happened.
In June 2012, I got married. In July, we went our honeymoon, and right between getting married and going to honeymoon, I lost my job. Now, I had lost my job twice in two years. If anyone was looking for a sign, and I was definitely looking for a sign, I knew that this was the sign I was looking for because I knew I was very good employee. I had always put the needs of the companies that I’ve worked for first, and my needs seconds. Who says, “Fire me,” or, “Get rid of me”? Yeah, that was just one of my values that I would put those needs first. But the question was, why was I always helping other people build their businesses?
Now, I had been doing that for 10 years. I had started in 2004 with the first CEO job. I had been doing turnarounds and mergers and working with start ups, and consulting start ups and writing their business plans and now, I found myself in Switzerland, not my home country, Iceland, happily married, but losing my job twice in two years, there was a message in there for me. I was ready to listen. I started thinking about all the business ideas that were possible for me. I was a passionate photographer. I even had a little photo studio at home. I was taking pictures and charging a little bit for it if it wasn’t my friends and family. I loved traveling and every time we went to Iceland, we would explore a different area of Iceland. I would take a lot of pictures obviously, and we would travel with the kids, so I thought of travel books.
Then I thought, “Well, I’m kind of fascinated by eCommerce. Could I not just put up some kind of an online shop and sell something online?” I had all these different ideas and I didn’t know what to do, so I picked the eCommerce idea. That sounded something within my area of expertise. I had been running businesses. I had a degree in computer science, as well. Yes, let me tie the eCommerce idea. So, as I’m still getting paid because I was on a three month notice, I start to explore this idea with a couple of friends in Iceland. We thought to ourselves, we could start this a little bit on the side. They were both full employed, and I thought I could start it and with their help, we could find some vendors in Iceland and sell Icelandic design. That was the idea I had in fall of 2012.
I started to set up a Shopify site and I loved that part of it, exploring how I set it all up, which kind of products we want to sell and I kind of got kind of serious about the idea. Suddenly, I was no longer getting money from my previous employer and November 2012, I had to go to the unemployment office. I admit, there was pride. There was a part of me feeling like, “Is this really me? Do I really I have to go now and ask for money?” But another part reminded me that I had been paying diligently to the unemployment office so that I would have the opportunity to get money back whenever I needed it. So, I got over myself. I went to the office and I applied. I had an initial meeting just before Christmas and that was just like the entry meeting where they ask a lot of questions, they’re figuring out what do you want to do and what I need to do to receive the regular money from the unemployment office.
I had to apply for jobs and of course, that was what I was already doing even before I applied. But I was not getting interviews. I felt this was weird. There were even positions that I was perfect for; managing director or CEO of a start up that needed someone with IT experience and start up experience, yet they didn’t even reply to my application. So, when I had the second meeting with the unemployment office in February 2013, these words, “It’s going to be very hard for you to find a job,” I got it. I got it. I was getting the sense myself. I was noticing the jobs that were out there. There were not so many that fit in my profile. If I applied, even if it was perfect, nobody answered me.
So, I had been reading up on the unemployment website that they actually help people start their business. I kind of thought to myself, “This is almost too good to be true.” So, you get paid for starting your business. I decided to ask the guy, my go-to person at the unemployment office, “Is this an option for me? Can I do this?” And he said, “Well, with your background and seeing how difficult it will be for you to get a job, I think it’s something for us to explore. You have to bring me a business plan that makes sense and if we accept it, you will be doing a special course, a start up course.” I didn’t like that sound of it because I thought to myself, “I don’t need a course, I can start a business.” But yet, I would do anything, anything to get the help to start my business. I still didn’t know what that was, but I thought to myself, “I’ll figure it out.”
I decided to write a business plan about the eCommerce idea. I wanted to sell Icelandic design online. I had the Shopify platform already. I had a few contacts and I thought, “This is a great idea to present to the unemployment office so I can apply for getting paid three to four months unemployment without having to look for a job.” So, then I had to do the start up course. I was not excited about it, not at all. I thought to myself, “I have 10 years experience as CEO. I have an MBA from a top business school, and now, I have to do some start up course with other unemployed people?” I didn’t like the thought of it. I also still had some pain, so I was trying to use that as an excuse. That didn’t fly with the unemployment office. So, I did that three week course and actually, to be honest, it turned out to be great.
I learned the specifics about start ups in Switzerland, so legal issues, insurances, employment and other stuff that of course, I didn’t know. Then there was the general stuff of writing a business plan, which was pretty much what I had been doing as a consultant, as a CEO before. Overall, it was a great experience and at the end of it, I had my plan ready. But exactly as I was wrapping up the course, I was starting to doubt the eCommerce idea. I went to Iceland to a special fair. It’s called a design fair, actually is the right word. I approached a few people who were creating something and exporting it from Iceland. We have this saying in Icelandic, I had these two masks in front of my face when I started to think about returns and shipping. I had been thinking about the exciting part of an eCommerce like the Shopify site and the social media, and the actual physical shipping of the products was something I had not considered enough, at least.
I started to like the idea less and less. When I handed in my final business plan after the start up course in order to actually get funding for three and up to four months where I didn’t have to look for a job, I put in some other options just in case. So, I had my eCommerce idea, but I said, “Well, maybe I’ll do some photography or maybe I’ll do some business consulting.” It was a weird business plan, but they accepted it and off I went to my home office thinking about how can I now start my business? The deal with the unemployment is that if you take this opportunity of starting your business with their help, you have up to four months, but then you have to start your business and there’s nothing else you can do. Now, you could go back and say, “I didn’t start my business,” or you closed down your business, but basically, you have to start the process.
So, I started the process, the legal process of actually starting a limited liability company. I was very serious about starting my own business. I was no going to have a hobby. I was not going to be a side-prenuer, wanna-prenuer and just run the business under my name. I also did not like the idea of being a sole proprietorship because then, I would have to call my company Gudjonsdottir something and I’m like, “That is horrible.” I wanted to name my company, “Sigrun,” and the only way I could do that? Limited liability company. I went through this whole process and I was on the way to start my business, but my business idea wasn’t there. I gave up on the eCommerce idea because the shipping and refunds, and you know what the final straw was? I went to Google keywords and I looked up, “Icelandic design,” and there were about 30 people a month looking for it. That is not a good business idea. So, there it was, I had no business idea and I was about to start my business.
There was one light at the end of the tunnel here. My previous employer, the one who had hired me for the Icelandic software company where I had been a country manager for a little bit over a year, he came back to me. He knew that I had been doing business development in the past and he hired me for a project. This is happening as I’m starting my business, so I had my first client before I even started the business. But I was not the dream project, but it was a client and that was important to me. So, June 2013, I incorporated my business. I had my first client already and I worked hard for this one client. I was not very smart at getting any other clients. In the fall, I had a couple of photographic clients, but that was like $100 there and $100 there. It was nothing to talk about. By the end of the year 2013, it did not look like a very successful business. It looked like a complete failure. I was unhappy being stuck as a business development partner, someone who was writing business plans for this one client that I had.
We wrapped up the project. It was a success in my opinion, but it was not what I wanted to do. I did not want to be writing plans, slides, or business plans for other people. I wanted to see some results. If you have read the book, “The Alchemist,” I felt like that was exactly it. I had been looking for my treasure all over the world, only to realize it was right within me. Ignoring the fact that I had been a successful CEO for 10 years and had a MBA from a top business school, the obvious choice was a business coach, but I had been avoiding it at all costs and I had lost a lot of time. I had lost the whole year of 2013 and a bit of 2012, to be honest as well. Suddenly, it was January 2014 and I thought to myself, “No more wasting time. I am a business coach. I am good at it. I’m good at helping people. I am also very tech savvy, but I’m so good with business and strategy. I had been a certified Dale Carnegie trainer so I know how to coach people.”
Finally, in January, which is the official start of my current business, I focused on building my list and I thought, “Yes, that’s what you’re supposed to do.” You’re supposed to build your email list and I thought to myself, “I have to create some sort of a freebie so people want to sign up for my email list,” because the only people on my email list were my friends and family. I had about 30 people on my email list starting 2014. Then I thought, “Yeah, freebie.” I started to create freebie and I created a freebie around growing your Facebook page, and 70 people signed up. It was great, except I realized I didn’t want to be known for organic Facebook traffic. I’m a business strategist. I help people start, build and scaled businesses. I’ve done turn arounds and mergers and fast growth. I didn’t want to do organic Facebook reach.So, the freebie I created was great, but I put it away because it was not what I want to be known for.
The next thing I did, I created a small course, Passion-A-Thon: a course to find your true passion and the right business idea. And that I loved. The first time I ran it, it was for free and 134 people signed up. It was amazing. But then I thought to myself, “What do I sell?” To make a long story short, in my first year of business, I had no plan. If there’s anything I would like to change about my first year in business, is to get help. I thought because I had a degree in business and business experience, that I could just do this all on my own. I had done an online course in 2013, How Online Business Works, and I thought, “Now, I can do it on my own.” But without support, I was all over the place. I was not really trying to sell anything. I was not super clear who I was serving. By the middle of 2014, I felt I was no where. I had made a few single sales. I was charging $180 per hour.
Luckily, one of my dear clients told me my price was too low. So, I raised it to $350. But by July, I was really, my email list with 300, but I was not making money, not really. The only thing that saved me during this time is that an old acquaintance reached out to me and asked me if I could do his website. Under the radar without publicly talking about it, I accepted this project and that feeded me through several months. In the beginning, we all have to do something that we may not want to be known for or want to be the main thing in our business. But yeah, July came along and I thought to myself, “I got to do something. I got to reach more people. I got to figure out this online business.”
I started weekly webinars. I had actually wanted to start back in February, weekly webinars, well not weekly webinars, just webinars. You know what happened? I had 17 people signed up for my very first webinar, February 2014. I was super excited. Google crashed that day. Imagine that. I don’t remember Google crashing ever since, but the day that I wanted to do my first webinar, Google crashed. I didn’t even know how to email the 17 souls that had signed up. I was so disappointed, or actually, discouraged and a bit scared of the whole thing that I returned in my webinar license and said, “I don’t need this software.” Well, luckily I got over that. So in July, I thought to myself, “Let me try this webinar thing again.”
I decided instead of talking about passion and how to find a good idea from your passion, I’ll do a webinar on Canva. I’ll teach some people something practical. Canva was the new tool that everyone was talking about and some people didn’t know how to use it. I found it super easy to use, so I did a webinar on that. I had no plans of doing weekly webinars. I just did one webinar to see if I could do it. It was weird to look at your face for an hour and just see people through the chat, but I liked it. Two weeks later, I did the same webinar again and even more people signed up. I thought to myself, “This is cool. I like this. I can reach a lot of people and I can teach them what I know.” I’m very tech savvy and it’s easy to get people to sign up for technical tutorials. So that became my thing.
I didn’t one webinar after the other, teaching people everything about the tech and online business. I realized that was not really what I wanted to be known for, but at least it was a little bit closer to business strategy than organic Facebook reach. By September, I had 1500 people on my email list, but what I was still struggling with was asking for the sale. I didn’t really have anything to sell on my website besides one hour business coaching or from time to time, my Passion-A-Thon course for maybe $100 or $200. I was still not really in business, and that’s when I finally hired a business coach, which I should have done way earlier.
It was six weeks of coaching. She actually asked me when I was signing up, “Do you want to work for these three months or six weeks? It’s the same price.” I thought, “That’s cool. Six weeks. I want to do this fast.” Just when I had made the payment and I was very scared, it was $5000 was lot of money, just after I made the payment, I got an email from a guy who had been reading my blog posts, which I had been writing since the fall before for a whole year about how to find a profitable business idea from your business. He wrote this email and he asked me, “Do you do coaching?” Yes, I actually made it difficult for people to buy from me. It is so weird when you start to sell under your own name instead of working for someone else. You kind of self sabotage without knowing it, and that’s what I had been doing.
There was no way of actually working with me and this guy had to send me an email and ask me if I had coaching. “Yes, I did,” I told him, “Six weeks, $1500.” I had the money in my bank account the same day and I hadn’t even started to work with the business coach yet. This was game changer for me and I felt I was already on my way to solve this problem of how to ask for the sale. I did a launch. She taught me how to launch, the business coach, 600 people signed up for a webinar. I learned how to do Facebook ads. Well, I figured that out on my own. But basically, what she helped me with was to get over this mindset issue of asking for the sale because you just gave me some email templates, and slide templates and I’m like, “Okay. I’ll use it. I’ll just do what you say.” The only thing that I didn’t follow was that I wanted to sell an online course because I thought online business is about online courses.
She advised me to do one on one coaching, basically sell coaching packages on the webinar. I thought, “No. I went into online business to do online courses.” Yeah, she couldn’t convince me. What happened was, of course, she was right because after the webinar, one person bought my online course, the online course that I had not yet related, so that was good. But basically, she was right and we decided to shift the launch and say, “You can book a free online business strategy session with Sigrun.” 90 people booked, and for the next three weeks, I was busy with calls, helping them in their online business. What a joy that was. I was finally in my element of helping people. Quickly, because that’s one of my [inaudible 00:38:54] of geniuses, is to actually be able to give someone advice just in a few minutes. People loved it so much. I was fully booked for the next six months.
I started to make so much money that I actually had some money mindset issues. I made $55000 in three months. Then the following January 2015, I was in shock, thinking I’m an imposter or this is a fluke or this cannot be happening. Of course, I self sabotaged. I didn’t send out any emails. I didn’t follow up on those who wanted to work with me. Basically, I ended up making $1700 in January 2015. It’s embarrassing. I know, but that’s what happens. Your mind messes with you. I guess $25000 in December 2014 was just a threshold. It was more than I had earned before, even as a CEO. I couldn’t deal with it.
Once I realized what was going on, I sought some help and I read some books. In February, I was back at five figures. Then my income went up from there. This issue comes back from time to time, but now, I know how to deal with it and I don’t let it self sabotage so much. In the middle of 2015, I finally offered a group program. The thing behind my business, I always knew that I wanted to scale. I think a lot of people go into a coaching business and they get stuck in a one on one coaching and they become fully booked, and they cannot get out of it. When I was fully booked, when I was doing one on one coaching, I didn’t have more than 10 clients because a lot of part of online business is marketing. It is if you’re not doing a podcast yourself, it’s going on podcasts or having discovery calls with potential clients, or writing a blog post, or doing weekly webinars like I was doing.
You need a lot of time for that, and you can’t have too many clients. You cannot fill up your whole week because that is something that is very difficult to get out of again. But I started to charge hire rates. So actually, I was having a very good living just doing one on one, but I was always thinking I want to scale. The reason in because when I was a CEO, the only way to grow the business, especially when I was running a website agency back in 2004, was to hire more programmers. I swore to myself that whenever is started my own business, I would not set up a business that was based purely on people. I would have a business that was more scalable. Yes, I didn’t mind hiring people, but I wanted it to scale beyond and not make it so dependent on the number of people I had on my team.
I had no idea at this time that I would grow a business to seven figures or multiple seven figures. I was just trying to get to six figures. Actually, in March 2015, I reached the goal. In 12 months from my first sale on March 26th, 2014 to March 2015, I had made over six figures. That was a huge milestone and I felt, this is it. It’s working. But now, I knew I had to start to take the next step, which was to scale because constantly raising your prices or taking on more clients was not sustainable. I had had the idea for group coaching for a while, but I hadn’t really followed through. I had made one Facebook post or sent out one email, but in July, I was traveling in Iceland and I got this idea that now was the time to actually prove that you can sell in July, in the middle of the summer where most coaches figure they can’t sell. I had already proven to myself you can sell in December. Actually, December is always the best month of the year for me.
Now, I wanted to prove it to myself you can sell in July. I came up with an idea for a coaching program. I contacted my virtual assistant who had been on my team already since May that year. She helped me create a sales pitch, pretty much over night. I did some seating in my free Facebook group that I had since fall of 2014. And I sold two times six spots, totally of 12 spots. Wow, I was able to scale. Now, why two groups of six? That’s funny because I thought group programs were people of six. I should of course, put all these 12 people into one group, but I didn’t dare to. This was my first group coaching program and I thought, “I have to keep them separate.” I actually had them together in the Facebook, but yeah. I thought this is the way group coaching works. You have six people in a group.
Well, after the successful launch in the middle of the summer while I was traveling, I thought to myself, “I can do more of that.” So, in the fall of 2015, I sold multiple other group programs and I started to make them longer. mY first group program was eight weeks, and then I went to three months. I started to call them, “Masterminds,” because what I liked most about my group program was the interaction in the calls. It was less about the content. It was more about really helping people with whatever was going on in their business at the time. It was impossible and not even needed to create so much content. It was just about coaching in the moment on the call, and I loved that.
2016, I continued to scale and I started to question the number six people in a group. I thought to myself, “Can I maybe have 10 people or eight people?” So, in April 2016, I launched a nine month Mastermind group. I think, if I remember correctly, I had at least eight people in the group, or even 10. Again, in summer of 2016, I asked the question again to myself, “What if I could have more people? How much time do I really need with each person?” I actually need a lot less time than people think. I need only a few minutes to change somebody’s life or business.
In August 2016, I decided to launch a 18 people group and this group stayed with me for three years, the same people. The group went down from 18 to 10 over the years, but the group would always come to me when the time was up and say, “Sigrun, we would like to continue with you. Here’s our offer. Instead of two calls a month, one call a month and we’re going to pay you the same price as we paid for two calls because we know you raised your prices.” Three years in a row, the same people. So, to say that the 18 people was a success; yes, It was. Absolutely.
By the end of 2016, I had definitely matched the group programs were making for me was becoming more than one on one coaching and I was starting to think of stopping one on one coaching completely. I had only few select clients now. I was not trying to get 10 anymore because I didn’t have time for that. But yeah, I started to announce that this was going to be very last time very soon. I think actually, in 2017, I kind of signed up a couple of people. They were the last one on one coaching clients. I honestly didn’t have any time anymore. So, end of 2016, I’m gearing up for a massive launch of group coaching programs. I had been running this 18 people group coaching program since August. It was going great and I thought to myself, “I can do multiple groups of 18 people on multiple levels depending on where people are in business.”
So, I had this idea of momentum, accelerator, VIP and I would of course, have less people there for the people were in business so they would have a little bit more time with me. At the same time, my husband lost his job. He had been working in the IT industry and 10 years with the same company. He lost his job and I said to him, “You don’t need to go back. You don’t need to find a job. I will figure this out.” I was making $340000. Actually, I ended up making $340000, 2016. I’d gone from $72000 in the first year to $164000 in the second year, and then $340000 in the third year. I didn’t know yet it would end at that point, so I didn’t feel it was safe enough. You understand when you run a business, you have costs and it’s not really a profit. So, I felt I did not make enough money for both of us yet. But, I was going for a very important launch. I was going to sell four group programs. I did that and I got this extra energy from him losing his job.
End of 2016, I gear up for this big launch and it takes me into January. I have a $220000 launch of these different group programs. Actually, I was starting in a new Mastermind and I come on the first call and I say very proud to my business coach on the call with the other Masterminds in the group, “I just had my biggest launch ever, $220000. I sold out all my group programs.” And he said, “And you have nothing else to sell now?” That’s when the idea for SOMBA was born.
Not literally on the call itself, but I had announced the webinar where I would share how you do a $220000 launch. A lot of people signed up for the webinar because they wanted to know how. Then on the webinar, just the same day I came up with the idea of this new one year program, and online business program called SOMBA: Sigrun’s online MBA, where I would teach women and maybe a few men everything they need to know about online business. We announced the inaugural class, and for a lower price, we said we would raise the price later, 50 people signed up within a couple of weeks and off I was with my new program. Which now, I’ve been running since three years already. The price went from $1000 to $3000. Our launches have gone from the first test launch being $50000 to $100000 proper launch later that same year, to $550000, $575000 launches when we opened cart.
We normally open cart twice a year and typically, we have about 500 students at the same time. A lot of people renew for another year because they want to have longer access to the content, community and my coaching. This comment from my coach was crucial to me. I didn’t have a scalable business. I thought I was scaling with bigger group programs, but a really scalable online business is when you have an online course or online program where you can have as many people as you want and it wouldn’t cost you extra resources. Now, of course, when you have hundreds of people in your programs, you might want to have a community manager or some mentors and things like that, but ultimately, it doesn’t cost you any extra resources.
I hadn’t created that yet and I finally created in 2017, and actually before that, I had been a bit frustrated. Where is my signature program? Everyone in my bubble, in my online business bubble was talking about a signature program. I’m like, “I don’t have one.” What is my signature program? Now, I had one with SOMBA. It was a fantastic feeling. Finally, I was able to scale down the groups because actually running those groups, these high number of groups, that was a lot of work, a lot of calls, a lot of people to keep in my head. So, yeah. 2017 was very exciting with SOMBA. We did our first official launch in June, and then the second on in September. And I decided to do my first live event.
I had seen other people who were selling signature programs that they had a live event, that I thought, “I think that would be great to bring the community together.” So, I did my first live event in September 2017 called, “Sigrun Live.” I did it in [00:52:27] Switzerland and it was two day event. The room had space for 90 people, 90 people signed up. So I thought, “I have got to do this quickly.” Actually, January 2018, we did it again in the same space, again, 90 people showed up. I was onto something and I realized I love live events. It really gives me the energy to meet my clients and to see this community come to life, to see the fruit of what I created over the years because online business is quite abstract. Actually seeing people in person and realizing these are all real human beings and we can touch each other and we have something to discuss, we have something in common, that was amazing feeling. This all happened because I finally had a scalable program and I wanted this community to meet up.
2017 was also special for the reason that I announced in February, that I was going to make a million dollars. I emailed my list and said, “This is the year I’m going to make a million dollars.” The reason is not the money, it is what it means to me. It means that I am accelerating gender equality that I am proving to myself that I can do it. I’m proving to other women that we can do it, that you can do it. But in August, I had only made $340000. I had announced the live event. I had actually also announced the launch of my podcast, but the money coming in was only one-third of my goal and I thought, “How am I going to achieve that?”
Well, when you have a goal that is important to you, you make it happened. I launched my podcast on August 2nd, 2017. About a month later or six weeks later, we had the first live event. I sold for $170000 in one day at the live event upfront for my groups for the next year for 2018. Starting the podcast and doing 100 episodes in 100 days helped me really get the attention of the audience that was already out there and wanted to join one of my programs. Of course, with the scalable programs, we finally had something that we could really sell at scale.
January 2018, I had one of the best launches I’ve had in my business. We had a 5% conversion. Typically, in an online business, about 3% buy your program. You can have more sales if you have a low price program, but when you have a program that costs about $2000, 3% is pretty good. We had a 5% conversion. Actually, the internet went out. The oven went on fire. All kinds of crazy things happened during the webinar and probably that made it so exciting. 2018 was really a year for me to realize my business has grown quite fast. I had to catch up on different fronts in terms of my team, in terms of my processes and just taking care of my clients. I was finalizing the content for SOMBA.
I feel looking back at the year, it was just a lot of catching up to do and when you’re scaling, you also have to have the time to kind of catch up behind the scene, the things that people don’t see, but actually take a lot of time. By the end of 2018, I was actually a bit tired. I realized that around October, we had just done our life event again. This time, 230 people in [inaudible 00:56:32] Switzerland. Now, we have moved our event to a conference hotel and that was great. But I felt something was also missing and I’d been working with a male coach for two years. I felt I needed a woman. I needed to make a plan how I was really going to take this to the next level. I’d already made the million, so I was like, “What’s next for me?”I didn’t really have a number or a goal.
So, at the end of 2018, I decided to work with a female coach to really kind of think how do I take this business to eight figures? I also announced that I was going to do my first ever conference in 2020. Yes, I decided that already in October 2018. My clients, my VIP clients were on a retreat with me in Iceland. I took them to the conference center. Just imagine the Sydney Opera House, but more modern, more beautiful with 3D glass as the harbor in Reykjavik, Iceland, and then the main hall fiercely red. My favorite color is red so I know this room was made for me. My clients asked me, “When are you doing it, Sigrun?” I said, “Well, I’m going to sign up now.”
I decided to do a conference in 2020 and I thought, “This will give me enough time to prepare.” Now, I had this big goal of the conference, but at the same time, a lot of catching up with the fast growth of my business. So, I felt it was really good to work with a woman coach going into 2019. Actually, because I was a bit tired, I decided to reduce my groups. I went down to two groups instead of three the year before, or actually, even more. I changed one of the Mastermind groups into group coaching program end of 2018, which was a very fast decision and it’s now an amazing program momentum, group coaching program. I decided to have fewer programs.
This was good. We had some catching up to do, but it’s interesting coming into 2019. I was in the hot seat in one of my Mastermind retreats that I do in the US. I listed all the things that I was going to do in 2019 and ’20. Everyone said to me, “Sigrun, you need more people. You need to grow your team.” I felt this resistance, this huge resistance to growing my team. I knew I had to do it, but I had this huge resistance on it. Then one of the women who only speaks up when she has something important to say, she said, “Sigrun, I think you want to prove to the world you can do it all on your own, or you want to prove to other women they can do it all on your own.” I’m like, boom, that was so correct. That lifted the resistance. I actually realized, yeah. I have already proven that I can build a seven figure business, but in order to go to a multiple seven figure business, I need to expand my team. I need to get over that, and I need to hire help.
So, 2019 was really about that. We hired a lot of people and I really feel I started to get the support I needed. Now, I feel there’s always more that I could hire for, but of course, you have to kind of feel what is fitting to the revenue that you’re making. But yeah, I felt, finally, this is starting to be a company. Or actually, I have to stop being an entrepreneur and constantly come up with new ideas and start to behave like a CEO of a business, be a business owner. I was so excited 2019 to promote Self Made Summit. I did some self sabotage. I was slow in coming up with a concept and I was going back and forth on the name. But basically, I finally put it out there at Sigrun Live in October 2019 that people could come to Iceland to my conference and we would, together, accelerate gender equality through female entrepreneurship. The resonance was amazing.
I was so excited to do this event. So, I was pitching myself on podcasts and it was actually easier for me to get exposure through this big idea of the conference and just generally talking about my business. I felt it was very easy to PR and media. [inaudible 01:01:30] What happens in 2020, well, it all looked good beginning of the year, but on March 9th, I made the decision to postpone the conference to next year, to 2021 and actually, was quite scary at the time that I announced it. Not many things had been postponed or canceled, and I was one of the first. I am so glad I did.
My intuition was right. We were going to go into a global recession. Actually, I did podcast episode in beginning of March about us heading into a recession. I did not know it would be exactly like this. I’m not a futurist, but something told me that things are going to change and it’s better to postpone my conference by a whole year than just a few months. I’ve been going pretty fast through my story in the past two years because I feel the beginning years are the most important ones. That’s where really, a business is born and that’s where you make a lot of decision, which direction your business goes.
I also felt like I didn’t have really, goals, not like the million dollar goal in 2017. So, I made $1.5 in 2018. I made $2.2 in 2019. Yes, for 2020, I had a big goal of five million because I felt I need a big goal again. I need something to really strive for because I want to change the world and I want to help more women. Now, we have coronavirus and a global recession. I decided to dial down my expectations, which I think any business should do unless you’re maybe selling hand sanitizer or toilet paper.
But actually, we are doing about 25% more depending on where we were last year at the same time. So, I do think this will be an amazing year for my business and amazing year for all online businesses. If you’re an online business and not doing well right now, there is something you need to tweak. You need to pivot your offer, your messaging. If you have an offline business, take it online. The world has changed and we’ve talked about, or some people have talked about the new normal and next normal. I want to talk about the next normal.
Things are going to be different. A lot of people have experienced home office. They will not want to go back. If the companies don’t allow them to go back, they want to become entrepreneurs. We will get used to more services being virtually delivered, as much as it can be delivered, and online businesses are just going to thrive. This is the time for you to start your online business if you haven’t already, to go from offline to online if you haven’t already. If you have an online business, this is also the time to scale your business. I have shared my story in the hope to inspire you to think bigger and take action, make your dream come true.
Go to the show notes at sigrun.com/381 where you can sign up for the free five day course, Next Normal. Thank you for listening to the Sigrun Show. Did you enjoy this episode? Let me know that you listened by tagging me in your Insta story or Instagram post using my handle @Sigruncom and the #SigrunShow. See you in the next episode.