When Cynthia Ferrie landed a job as a senior consultant at a firm six months before graduation, she saw her life unfolding before her—and it looked perfect.
Fast forward about a year, and the dream fizzled out.
Despite making it clear to her boss during the hiring process that she planned to have more children, the announcement that she was going on maternity was not well received.
“That was just another one of those kicks in the pants that started the snowball of wondering, ‘Why do I do this for other people if this is how I’m going to be treated?’” says Cynthia.
The kicks kept coming.
When her youngest daughter started kindergarten, for Cynthia, a single mom, it meant leaving work at lunch to pick her up from daycare and take her to school. She then returned to work only to leave again a few hours later to pick her daughter up at school and take her back to daycare. Then back to work again.
Even though Cynthia skipped all of her lunch and fifteen-minute breaks to make these school and daycare runs, she was frowned upon at work for leaving, as well as for the need to take time off for doctor’s appointments and snow days.
Out of necessity, she did the bare minimum—no school trips, no outings, no events. “I was the mom who wasn’t there, ever,” says Cynthia.
To add to the stress, something seemed to be going on with her boss behind the scenes, and around this time he started to take it out on her.
“I really started to burn out,” says Cynthia.
She went to her doctor, who encouraged Cynthia to start taking care of herself better. But nothing changed. It couldn’t. She still had her job, and she still had her kids.
About three weeks later she went back to her doctor and was told to quit her job immediately. “She just said, ‘Nope, you can’t go back there, don’t even go back there today. You’re done,’” says Cynthia.
Over the next few weeks, Cynthia took the time off to try to deal with the pain and frustration that had built up. The reflection made her realize she didn’t need to go back to her old position or any position like it.
“I was only making myself sick and it started to trickle down to my kids,” says Cynthia.
She didn’t want to be a role model who was showing her daughters that having a good work ethic means killing yourself in the process.
Cynthia had been working in marketing for years, from planning and research, to learning about different industries and how they work in various parts of the world, to website design.
She knew her stuff, and had the skill and personality to start her own business.
She remembers thinking: “I don’t need that pay cheque every couple of weeks because I know that no matter what I choose, I’m going to make it work.”
Her next thought: “What am I even waiting for?”
KEENi Web Design & Consulting was born, and Cynthia became a role model for her daughters she could be proud of.
Cynthia admits she gets “super excited about stuff all the time.” And working with her current clients definitely excites her. “It’s the energy,” says Cynthia, “the exchange of energy between me and the people I work with.”
The best part? Her clients get excited too.
Sometimes, especially for someone who has lost faith in their business or feels stuck in a rut or unsure where to go, talking to Cynthia, who is truly passionate about helping people feel renewed enthusiasm for their business, makes all the difference.
“They light up again,” says Cynthia. “It’s like that Christmas morning look … That’s my favourite part.”
Although the services listed on her website primarily focus on web design and consulting, Cynthia gives more holistic offerings to her client.
Sometimes that means rewriting or making suggestions regarding copy. Sometimes it means helping clients find the joy in their business, and other times it means guiding them toward those ‘aha’ moments of how to share their story in a way that resonates with their customers.
She doesn’t advertise each additional skill she offers, such as the ones above, branding, or developing icons.
“People aren’t always looking for all of those little pieces,” says Cynthia. “They’re just looking for someone to look after them and get their message out there.”
The rest, it seems, is a pretty sweet bonus.
As to the burn-out, running her own business doesn’t mean Cynthia necessarily works less, but now she controls her time, and works better.
“It’s okay to have a really good work ethic and work hard,” says Cynthia, “even to work hard for somebody else if that’s what you choose to do.” But she emphasizes there comes a time when that all needs to go to the back burner because you need to look after yourself and your family. Those are the people who will stick with you for the rest of your life.
And, of course, life isn’t always easy.
Cynthia feels her life is an exercise in constantly overcoming obstacles and finding creative ways to work around the struggles thrown at her.
“There was this one year where I moved to six different places,” says Cynthia. “I lived in six different homes … with my two kids.” Her youngest was one and a half.
It costs money to move and you have to change your address all the time. “There really wasn’t any time for making anyplace a home,” says Cynthia. “It was just a place to sleep.”
To give her kids a bit of stability and also to look after herself, she started hiking almost every day. Definitely every weekend.
She did other things too, to create stability, like a challenge with her children to eat well on a budget.
She didn’t have a coffee machine, so she sat in Starbucks regularly to give herself that rich coffee experience.
“Everything about that time was so up in the air that I really struggled to find the things that would ground me,” says Cynthia. As she was moving all the time, none of the things could be material because that would just be something else she’d need to move.
The experience changed a lot of things, says Cynthia. How active her and her daughters are, the way they spend their time, and their experience as a family.
“My kids don’t ask for material things anymore. They want to go for coffee or go for a hike,” says Cynthia. “They don’t ask for toys … they want stuff, sure, but they don’t care if they don’t get it.”
It was also a real shift in how she defines success. An unexpected result, but one she’s glad for. “It kind of sucked at the time,” says Cynthia, “but it worked out great.”
Now she looks at life more holistically as well.
During hard times she reminds herself: “this is the way the universe works. There are ups and there are downs, and when there are downs it’s probably because I need some rest or I need to take a step back.”
Rather than beat herself up over the the slow times, she tells herself, “Cynthia, you’re not a terrible businessperson, there’s a reason why there’s this slow period … you really need it to happen because you know you’re not going to take the time for yourself.”
She trusts that when she’s ready to start digging in again, the work will be there.
Her advice to those struggling to start or maintain their own business?
“Don’t waste your time trying to be perfect …. Nobody’s perfect. So if you’re waiting for that launch or that product, or the logo … it’s not worth the wait. Just get in, do it, and things will evolve with you.”
Need some full-service web and design consulting services in your life? Follow Cynthia on Facebook at KEENi Web Design & Consulting or visit her website. She’s launching a course soon that will be perfect for any entrepreneur who wants to jump start their online presence or learn how to map their client’s journey. So keep your eyes peeled for an announcement about her FAAB Website Planning E-course.
Have some thoughts about Cynthia’s journey or see parallels to your own? Scroll down to “Join the Conversation!”