My biggest risk was leaving a comfortable job to do something that hadn't been done before. - Tamiko Kelly, Sleep Well. Wake Happy.

November 10, 2015

The Hiscox “MyStartUpStory” series features entrepreneurs offering small business advice and discussing their own start-up experiences. We recently met with Hiscox Customer Tamiko Kelly, who runs a children’s sleep consulting business, Sleep Well. Wake Happy. For Tamiko, entrepreneurship is a family value… but she didn’t embrace it at first. Find out how she left her comfortable corporate job to following her passion when her clients just wouldn’t let her say ‘no’.

Hiscox: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Tamiko: Well, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs – you might even say that I have entrepreneurship in my blood. Growing up in Houston, Texas, my grandparents owned a grocery store and while my parents both had full-time jobs they both also had what we called “side-hustles”, or part -time entrepreneurial endeavors. So, I knew from an early age that I wanted to have my own business. I just didn’t know what it was going to be.

I think entrepreneurs are born with a special spark that enables them to see things that other people cannot see. Many people are told that they need to follow a traditional path – go to school and get a job after that, and trust me. I tried that but it didn’t for me.  I was miserable.  It took me being pushed to the edge in order to finally accept what I knew all along, I was made to be an entrepreneur.

Hiscox: Taking risks is one of the 10 Important Characteristics of an Entrepreneur. What was the biggest risk that you took to start your small business?
Tamiko: My biggest risk was leaving a comfortable corporate job to do something that hadn't been done before. I had a great career doing visual merchandising for large corporations, but I was frustrated because it was not perfect for me. On the side, I worked as a “date night nanny”, enabling parents to have a night out together while I watched their kids. My clients noticed that I had a knack for something they sometimes struggled with –helping their kids go to sleep, that’s how ‘Sleep Well. Wake Happy’ was born.

That fear of wondering if things wouldn’t work was constant. When I left my job I had literally no money saved and I was terrified. But it turned out that quitting my job was the best move I could have made. Within 48 hours of resigning, I had $20,000 in business. That fear of not being able to make it work was gone.  I realized that my clients needed me and they just wouldn’t let me say ‘no’.

What was the hardest part about starting your small business?
Tamiko: Undoubtedly, the pressure of having to duplicate success month after month.  You get concerned that you will fall flat on your face. To get over it, I continue to do what I’ve always done – provide an excellent, life changing service to my clients.

What advice do you have for people who are thinking of starting a business, but haven’t made the leap?
Tamiko: When you’re starting out, it’s important to surround yourself with a community of entrepreneurs. Sometimes your friends with typical 9-5 jobs won’t understand what it’s like to not have “the safety net” of a corporate job. Having an entrepreneur community can help you stay positive in tough times. I also encourage everyone to figure out their ‘why’ when they are thinking about starting their small business. “I want to help people” is a very vague reason to start a small business. Find the deeper, emotional reason. Is it because you want to take care of your aging parent, have freedom or send your children to private school? Then go even deeper, what would it mean for you to be able to take care of your aging parent, have freedom or send your children to private school? Having these specific reasons written down is all the personal motivation you need to start your small business. Finally, present what you have to the world and continue to work on refining it. Just getting out there is the first step. If you want to be successful, you need to do some research. Talk to people. Figure out what their pain points are. This will help you figure out how to market your business and make it easier for them to say ‘yes’ when you offer your business to them.

How important is courage for small business owners?
Tamiko: Courage is very important. It’s up there with tenancy and drive. You have to have courage to leave a comfortable life to do something others will never do.

What’s next for you and your company?
In 2016 I plan to start offering coaching to business owners who are struggling with monetizing their ideas.  I’m still working on what this will look like, but I’m excited about it! I’m also working on a program which will be designed to teach tired moms how to get their babies to take longer naps.  I have some ideas about a toddler sleep program.  So 2016 will be an exciting time for Sleep Well. Wake Happy.

Do you have professional liability insurance and why do you think it is/is not important?
Tamiko: Yes, I have professional liability insurance. For me, it’s because of the nature of my business. I go into people’s homes and because I’m in contact with small, beautiful babies, it’s important to make sure that I’m covered.

As a baby sleep expert, tell us, what is the most important thing about getting a kid to sleep?
Tamiko: My top tip is to put your child to bed at the first sign of sleepiness. Sometimes parents wait too long and then the child becomes become over-tired, which leads to meltdowns at bed time where children cry on end. However, if you get them into bed a bit earlier you’ll be surprised at how easily they’ll fall asleep