I’m going to be running some interviews from time to time, with business owners both old and new that I meet to help share their insight and hopefully inspire others to take a leap and follow their dreams.
The other week I did a workshop at Mount Druitt Library on ways to make money. One of the attendees, Matt, has recently launched The Psoriasis Huddle for those who suffer from or know someone who suffers from psoriasis. There are fortnightly audio huddles, a fortnightly newsletter, a blog and more.
I started The Psoriasis Huddle because I saw a simple but powerful opportunity for people with psoriasis to support one another and facilitate meaningful personal change through online conference calls. In terms of timing a recent marriage breakdown and some paid leave gave me the chunk of time I needed to get started. It wasn’t hard for me to find motivation, I have a gorgeous son Harry and basically the more successful The Psoriasis Huddle is the less I have to work on other things and the more energy I can have for him. I knew that if I was going to start a business then I wanted it to be online. Digital businesses are easier to scale, cheaper to launch and allow you to work around other priorities.
I chose psoriasis because I have had the condition myself for 18 years and I know how it can run havoc in peoples’ lives. Psoriasis is most evident in the red scaly patches it leaves on the skin, but what is less visible is the impact it has on mental health, career aspirations and relationships. The fact that people with psoriasis are 39% more likely to have depression than the general population gives you an indication of how this condition effects its suffers.
The idea for The Psoriasis Huddle came from two separate ideas that gradually dawned and overlapped until that sweet spot of opportunity went “BING”.
The first idea was the power of habits and routines in personal change. I knew that a single conversation between people with psoriasis wouldn’t have big impact over time, but what if, as with the Audio Huddle, that same conversation could happen for 20-30 mins once a fortnight for as long as a person needed it? What if people with psoriasis could easily huddle together as part of little teams all sharing one another’s struggles and pain, cheering each other on and celebrating together? What impact could the habit of regular reflection and encouragement have on the lives of people who experience social isolation and a sense of inferiority because of their visibly red flaky skin? How many people who normally give up on their psoriasis diet or treatment plan would find the strength to persist if they had that kind of regular meaningful encouragement and engagement? Those questions excites me. Actually they excite me a lot.
The second thing that started staring at me was the ease of gathering people and connecting through the internet. As part of my former job I was part of a regular conference call with people from Bangkok, Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney. Even though we were in separate countries I often left those calls with a strong feeling of togetherness and encouragement. The internet makes it so easy to find people and bring them together. I basically wanted to create a simple but powerful way for people with psoriasis to come together. I mean the whole idea of the Audio Huddle is that people can be part of a fantastic support group with just a couple of clicks on their laptop, tablet or smartphone. A lot of people with psoriasis would love to be part of a support group but they just aren’t that easy to find, until now because I just made it easy, super easy.
How long did it take from when you thought of it to when you launched The Psoriasis Huddle?
All up it took me about 4 weeks. I spent between 3 – 5 hours a day on it, which not many people will have when they are starting out with a side business. Most of the time was divided between writing, researching applications that could help me run The Psoriasis Huddle, creating the web page and signing up for different things I was going to need along the way. I started blogging after about two weeks and the newsletter after 1 month.
What steps have you taken to promote it?
Basically I have hunted around until I’ve found where people with psoriasis meet and engage. So far I have relied heavily on Facebook groups and pages. Every time I write a new post or put out a newsletter I leave links to it with a question attached on 5 or 6 psoriasis Facebook groups and pages. Most of them are really active and I always get a spike in traffic when I post on Facebook. I have the Twitter handle @psoraisishuddle and I am following everyone I can find who has anything to do with psoriasis. I post the same links to Twitter as I do to Facebook. There are a lot of people trying to make money out of people with psoriasis, often manipulatively, so almost all of the forums don’t allow you to leave links, so I have avoided them for the time being. The direction I want to branch out into next is meeting other bloggers who are writing about psoriasis and see if I can do a blog tour (which is an idea I got from you Kylie – THANKS!). I had my first blogger get back to me yesterday so I think we are on the way with the blog tour or at least a handful of guest posts.
What future plans do you have for The Psoriasis Huddle?
Well in the immediate future I am aiming for 100 readers for my fortnightly newsletter and to have 10 Audio Huddle’s up and running. I am also focusing on writing great content and building trust. I’ve already started changing some of my personal habits and working towards healing my own psoriasis, in fact I just passed 16 days without caffeine, a habit I haven’t been able to kick for more than a couple of days for 15 years! I am really excited about blogging that journey of healing and I have 2 e-books brewing. I think there might be a recipe book in me as well because the kitchen and the garden are my favorite places. I’m also considering training as a Health and Wellbeing Personal Coach over the coming years so I can better serve the psoriasis community.
The thing I am most excited about though is just the thought of people, hopefully loads of them, coming together, getting encouraged and supported and taking meaningful steps towards lives that are increasingly free of the negative effects of psoriasis.
What 3 things would you recommend to someone thinking of starting a business?
Alright, here they are:
1. Do the things that scare you first, they often bring the biggest breakthroughs.
I remember calling a company to get a quote for an online meeting room for the Audio Huddle (I was exploring video options at the time). I was so scared because I really didn’t know what I was talking about. The quote they gave me was $19,000 for 10 people for 1 year. Can you imagine that! I felt a bit silly after that conversation but I also felt a whole lot more courageous. By that afternoon I had found a much much MUCH more affordable online meeting room that had just the features I needed (without the $19,000 ones I didn’t) and I felt like I had made a big leap.
2. Put More Energy Into Action and Reflection than Meticulous Planning
It is really important that you don’t over plan at the expense of action. Some planning is important, but there comes a point when you just have to start doing something. You could become an expert in your niche, read every book out there on starting a business, but if you don’t actually get your hands dirty and do something then it all means nothing. In the start up phase of The Psoriasis Huddle I have relied heavily on SWOT assessments (reflecting on the Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Every time I feel stuck or like I’m not sure what the next move is I pull out a fresh piece of A4 and spend about 20 – 30 minutes reflecting through a SWOT assessment. By then end of that time the direction I need to head in shows up really clearly and I can move forward.
3. Tell Some People You Know Are Going to Discourage You and Observe Your Reaction
Everyone who starts a business, particularly one that is promoting a new or novel idea, is going to face naysayers. I am not an especially confident person so I knew that discouragement would get to me. So here is what I did, I told some people about The Psoriasis Huddle who I was pretty sure would have a lukewarm or negative reaction. These people are not hard to find, the trick though is not to focus on what they say but to focus on how you react. Personally I get a sad feeling in the stomach area and I can’t think clearly. When I meet a naysayer I can predict how I will react and even better than that I know how to get back on track. When I’ve just met a naysayer it is not time for me to do something like brainstorming ideas for the blog, but I’ve found that if I tidy anything up for about 5 mins I usually feel better. Sometimes I tidy my mobile office or even tidy up my inbox by deleting a few emails and then I can often get back to more high-end work.
Oh, and one more, laugh as often as you can, starting a business is hard work but it should also be a source of enjoyment, it has been for me anyway.
Thanks Kylie. Really glad I could share what I’m up to with your readers. Hope they find some encouragement to get that business idea that’s been brewing out of their mind and into reality where the rest of us can admire, enjoy and support it.
Check out The Psoriasis Huddle for more info, or to ask Matt any questions.