I have a confession to make.
I never created a business plan for my first business.
Do I think it’s the only reason my first business stalled out? Absolutely not. But my lack of clarity certainly didn’t help.
Some entrepreneurs argue over whether business plans are really necessary, especially for online business owners who often begin as solopreneurs. Historically, entrepreneurs have created business plans to pitch their ideas to investors to secure venture capital for their companies. I didn’t need startup capital for my second business (thankfully!), but I still sat down and wrote a business plan for my new idea.
As a self-proclaimed “company of one,” I didn’t create my business plan to impress investors or convince others that I was ready to give entrepreneurship one more try. Rather, I used it as a tool to help me slow down, to thoughtfully reflect on every area of business I had once overlooked. And, to my surprise and delight, it worked.
Making it as an entrepreneur has never been about whether I’m a good enough social media marketer or writer. It’s about knowing how to run a sustainable business.
People often think running a successful business means being the best at your craft. That’s part of it, surely, but practical business knowledge is a much bigger indicator of whether or not a business will survive its first few years.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. As you know by now, my first business was in that 20% because of the downturn my mental health took, among other reasons.
How I wish I could go back to tell my 24-year-old self how brave she was to go back out there and try again. Instead of running to a job that was comfortable and safe (which was tempting!), she was willing to face her challenges head-on, notice how she contributed to them, and create a plan to move forward. I admire her for that.
At this point, you may be wondering what I did to change the course of my business plan. Interestingly enough, all of my insights came from journaling, prayer, and self-reflection. Slowing down was the secret—it wasn’t enrolling in business classes or joining a mastermind group (although those things can be helpful, too).
See, I’m the kind of person who learns best when I’m thrown into the deep end as I learn to awkwardly doggy-paddle and navigate my way through each wave that tries to knock me out. I’d rather learn something by practicing it over and over than learn from someone else’s instructions. (This is why no one asks me to help them build furniture or cook elaborate meals.)
This defining trait meant I had to prepare myself to get things wrong again—that was only natural—but I was going all-in with this second business, double or nothing.
As I began writing my business plan, the first sections came together easily.
I knew my mission statement and core values, and I knew who I wanted to work with. This gave me the same naive sense of confidence I had at the start of my first business—but then I had to tackle packaging and pricing.
When I revisit this memory, I can almost hear a record scratch in the background while considering possible price points. None of my pricing strategies felt right, causing the momentum I built up to quietly disappear into the night.
One question wouldn’t stop rumbling in my mind:
“How much is this worth?”
This can be a tricky question because worth is relative, and it also isn’t meant to be attached to your worth as a person. However, “charge your worth” is often repeated by influencers who want to give a “quick fix” answer to a very complex question.
I decided to return to my business plan another day, closing the page with its blinking cursor so I could sort through the anxious thoughts swimming in my mind. It wasn’t until I blocked out all the noise that I was able to discover the source of my doubt and fear: unhealthy money mindsets.
Developing an unwavering work ethic is a necessity in the Midwest. It’s almost a spiritual practice out here, something that helps people navigate yesterday’s disappointments and anchor their vision for a better tomorrow.
My grandparents on my dad’s side were shining examples of what hard work looked like. In middle school, my grandpa left to work on the farm, his hands already calloused and smeared with dirt from long days of back-breaking work in the North Dakota sun. His mother already worked two jobs to support them, so he was on his own for most of his childhood and needed to contribute when he reached his teen years.
My grandma dreamed of going to college to become a bookkeeper or accountant, but with a growing family depending on her labor, she felt the weight of responsibility to stay in town and milk the cows at their dairy farm. Even now, at 86 years old, you can still see the strength and tenacity of her hands.
My dad grew up as one of seven siblings, third in line. Every day, he saw the sacrifice of his father in the field and the sacrifice of his mother at home. Over time, he developed the same Hollatz work ethic, which he then passed down to me.
I’ve always admired my dad—how he worked more than twenty hours of overtime each week and how much everyone at work relied on him. As a young girl, I didn’t see how this hard work became a heavy burden that he carried, like all the generations before him.
With my first business, I was working more than eighty hours a week, but I didn’t think much of it since I was surrounded by the greats of my family who did the same thing. I put this kind of work ethic on a high pedestal, as something to aspire to, but when my mental health took a turn for the worse, I was forced to rethink its role in my life.
As I explored my beliefs around work and money, I stumbled upon a mindset that was so deeply woven into my being that it felt impossible to let go of.
The limiting belief I discovered was that making money had to come from hard work.
Taking the path of least resistance isn’t the Hollatz way. It’s not in our nature. It’s not what we do. We put in our hours (and then some) before we come home, collapse, and do it all over again.
Earning money had to be difficult. That’s why it’s called earning instead of receiving.
I began to struggle with the idea of starting a writing business and making a living with a skill that came so easily to me. Choosing to pursue copywriting felt like a betrayal of my family. They had sacrificed so much, and here I was turning away from the grit and grime of hard work. At least, that’s how I saw it at the time.
Filled with guilt and shame, this belief is precisely what kept me from pricing my services and confidently walking into the new season with a business plan in hand. By challenging these feelings and setting a higher price for my work, I set off to book new projects and rebrand myself as a copywriter.
Fast forward to one year later.
I ended up earning FOUR times the revenue I made with my first business.
It also happened to be double the amount of my last full-time job’s salary. I didn’t realize I could dream that big for my copywriting business, so I was shocked by its unexpected but very welcome growth. Thank you, God!
As tax time approached, I remember going to my parents for advice on tax write-offs and retirement strategies. As I sat down on our eggplant-colored couch with beams of sunlight streaming in from behind my parents, I confessed through tears that I felt guilty about making a comfortable living from something that came so naturally to me when they worked so hard for everything they have.
I remember my mom and dad sharing a quick, misty-eyed look while trying to hide their slight chuckles of delight. They held each other’s hands and told me how they worked hard to give me a better life. They said I didn’t have to carry the weight of everyone else’s career decisions, and that they’d always hoped work would feel easier for me than it did for them.
I left feeling like they were proud of me—not for how much I earned but for how I found something that didn’t require the same strife and hardship as the generations before me. Instead of feeling ashamed, I was taught in that moment to feel grateful, all because my parents were kind enough to help me challenge this mindset.
I never chose a brand name for my business. I use my personal name, Kayla Hollatz.
People have asked if this was a strategic move, an intentional way to personally brand myself so my name is always synonymous with what I do. I used to respectfully nod along and affirm their assumption, but I see it differently now.
I believe it’s a reminder that I can honor the legacy of my family while rewriting the beliefs that no longer serve us. I can be mindful of the messages and mindsets I carry into the future, paving the way for other hopeful entrepreneurs in my family line.
After all, a Hollatz is defined by more than their hard work—and you are too.