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  • Writer's pictureValentina Zanetti

The Crafting of an Agile Coven

Updated: Jan 14

There's nothing particularly original about this story. Another burnt out millennial starting their own business after years of grinding away as a corporate cog... Really derivative stuff, honestly. But, it's my story. And you can read all about it.

Alchemist's Desk

How it All Started

Honestly, it was very obvious to me early on, and everyone around me, that climbing the corporate ladder was never my cup of tea or my shot of whiskey, I always knew I'd go out on my own some day. Nevertheless, I had tried several corporate career paths in different industries in my 20s, but nothing resonated with me. Until I landed my first position in IT and learned about agile. That's when sparks started flying...

I spent quite a few more years working, learning everything I could about agile and gaining hands-on experience. And then, one fine winter evening in 2021, between Christmas and New Year's, I had some wine, went online, and I bought the domain. I'll always remember that moment, because I knew that it was in that moment the decision to finally start my own business had been made.

So I "just" needed to follow through, right? By this time, I was already an experienced, certified, award-winning project manager and agile professional, with experience in marketing, sales and business process creation, so I had all the know-how I needed. Should be easy, right? Keep reading...

The Toils and Troubles of an Agile Coven...

Now, mind you, I've been aspiring to start my own business since I entered the workforce, so I've been preparing for this for decades in the background, consuming management and entrepreneurial materials whenever I could get my hands on any. However, and this is what every other entrepreneur will also tell you: nothing can prepare you for starting your own business.

At the time I thought I was as ready as I'll ever be, so I left my steady job at a digital agency on Valentine's Day 2022 (quite symbolic). I did my due diligence, of course, I created a business plan, identified my target audience, I did the market research, created a marketing plan, sales channels, defined OKRs, I outlined project plans on how to achieve my goals and everything, and it was nothing I haven't done before. I got a small business grant, had my visual designs done, created my website and social media accounts, and on August 1st 2022 my agile coven was ready to start working. I did all the things 'by the books'.

Now, you'll hear a lot of talk about how business management requires a lot of know-how and experience, and it does, but there's little talk about how emotionally hard it is to put yourself and your idea out there and make others believe in your idea, when you're so riddled with doubt yourself. So, it's very easy to lose confidence and motivation, take the 'easy road' and make all the standard mistakes young businesses make. So, even though I did all the prep-work, knew all the traps, and I just needed to go through the steps I outlined for myself - I didn't. Instead...

I made all the mistakes.

Detail from The Explosion in the Alchemist’s Laboratory by Justus van Bentum (1670–1727)
Detail from The Explosion in the Alchemist’s Laboratory by Justus van Bentum (1670–1727)

I chose the wrong business partner (tale as old as time - don't partner with your best friend), I didn't network with others in the industry, I didn't trust myself and I didn't follow through with my own plan, so things just weren't happening. I also didn't practice mental hygiene, I worried too much, didn't eat well or sleep enough, so by the end of August, just as my company launched, I got really sick. I wound up in the hospital for two weeks because of complete mental and emotional burn out. After that, I was seriously questioning whether or not 'I've got what it takes' to do this, so I took the 'easy way out' again and just partnered with one client to have a steady stream of income. I started to feel comfortable and stopped doing any marketing or sales activities for my business for almost a whole year. On paper, it seemed I was doing well, the business was profitable, but on the inside I felt a lot like a fraud. I knew I had to move forward soon.

It took me a while, though, to sift through all mistakes I've made, gather learning experiences and translate them into actionable goals for improvement. But my business is still here, and I'm still here, as passionate as ever to learn and move forward. It's not easy to learn from one's mistakes, but if you're not learning from them - then what's the point?

Do I still wonder if 'I've got what it takes'? Yes, every day. And every day, it's the same answer: 'You won't know until you try'.

What's Next?

A year and a half too late, I decided to finally start taking my Agile Coven seriously. If I don't, who ever will? And starting this blog is one of the first steps I'm taking.

What's next? It's simple:

  • Keep experimenting, learning and expanding my knowledge

  • Share my hard-earned know-how and experience and help grow happier and more productive teams and create better digital products

  • Find like-minded professionals to connect with and share knowledge and advice

I still don't know where this road of mine will take me, but hopefully, I'll be able to make a sustainable living doing this. I know I have a lot of knowledge to contribute and that's all I'm really passionate about: contributing to the transformation of the way we approach work and our professional lives.

If you'd like to join me, reach out, let's make mistakes, learn, and work better together!

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