How Grace Gulley Created Her Business By Accident


How Grace Gulley Created Her Business By Accident

Grace Gulley is a fiber artist, teacher, feminist, writer and the founder of CYL Collective, a vibrant community for creative women around the world.

What do you do? What’s a day in your life like?

I run a website called CYL Community, as well as a coaching business that helps entrepreneurs build their dream life/business, minus the burnout. It’s essentially a female empowerment group that’s meant to help give creative business entrepreneurs the tools and resources to build their own business or level up. Most importantly, it’s a community so people don’t have to feel so isolated in what they’re doing. They can feel as if they have a safe space to go to and share their struggles and successes with one another. They can get advice from people who have been there, done that or are currently doing that.

Most days it’s a lot of admin stuff, lots of emails. I’m trying to get better about setting boundaries with that and keeping very specific time slots that I check emails or do behind the scenes work. The one consistent is that I’m very good about sticking to my morning routine. That period is usually an hour to 90 minutes. No tech, no phone, no computer, almost no conversation. I told my partner that I’m unreachable the first half hour of the day. I need silence because I like to do affirmations and visualizations, 10 minutes of meditation and a little light yoga, usually stretching.

Photo courtesy of Grace Gulley

I’ve been having bulletproof coffee which has been a super fun part of my day. There’s a science behind bulletproof coffee, but it’s supposed to be great for high performance and kick-starting your brain. It’s really interesting, and I’ve gotten into studying it. I’m lucky to have someone who loves to make it because it’s very time-consuming. That’s a nice indulgence every morning.

Usually while I’m drinking my coffee I will pick up a book and read for 10 to 15 minutes. I try to read something that is spiritually or mentally nourishing. Right now I’m reading Gabby Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back.

After all of that I can finally jump into emails. I try to get emails out of the way, first thing in the day. I don’t allow myself to spend more than a half an hour on that, because I could spend an entire day checking emails. I set a time limit and I answer the ones I feel are most urgent and the ones I feel I can knock out really quickly. I look at my day and make sure that I’ve prioritized and I know the three most important things that need to get done. I try to jump into one of those just after emails. By the afternoon, most of the heavier work – the admin, the behind the scenes stuff – is usually done. Then I jump into creative time, which for me has been writing copy and writing blog posts. That’s what most days tend to look like.

What path did you take to get started? Did you have an epiphany?

An epiphany makes it sound like it was a grand moment, but it was a not-so-grand moment. It was very dramatic. I had been working in post-production photography for nearly a decade and I was tired with a capital “T.” I was burnt out from that. I had been building up other people’s dreams, these photographer’s dreams, fulfilling all of their very demanding demands. I felt like there’s no way this can be what my life amounted to. The thought that maybe this is what life is was incredibly depressing. I think the whole last month I had a “real job” I was running off to the bathroom and crying every day because I did not want to be there.

Finally one day I drove up to my job and I sat outside for 15 minutes and just said nope, not going back. I quit that day; I did not have a backup plan. I had no idea what I wanted to do from there. At that point I ended up moving out of Los Angeles to Portland. My thought was, it’s going to be waterfalls and hiking and somehow that’s going to be the perfect life. Reality kicked in, and while it was beautiful it was lonely and I still didn’t have any purpose or intent in my life. I started CYL as an Instagram account on a whim, thinking that maybe I would connect with a few other local women doing creative things that I could look up to and admire. Maybe they could spark something in me that made me feel like I know what to do with my life and give me some sort of creative outlet and a purpose.

After a few months of doing that, it snowballed really quickly. I was getting emails from people telling me that CYL meant something to them. So I kept going from there. It took me about a year to realize I had accidentally created a business. At that point I started to take it a little bit more seriously. I explored a couple of avenues of income with CYL because I was spending 40 hours a week on this thing that wasn’t making any money. It was about a year after that when I started getting much more serious and realized that if I’m going to make this my business – and I absolutely should because this was the first time I’d ever felt fulfilled by something – that I have to have goals, I have to have a strategy behind this. I need to start treating it seriously. So, two years in was the point that I was like, okay, let’s sit down, let’s make a business plan, let’s figure out everything I need to do.

What has been a success within your business and alternatively, a failure?

As far as a setback, right now I’m realizing that I’ve tied a lot of my ego and self-worth into my business, which isn’t healthy. I’ve been taking it incredibly personally anytime people leave the squad. It makes me feel as if something’s wrong with me or they don’t want to be my friend. In reality, it’s not the right community for them or they have one of a million other reasons. The bottom line is it shouldn’t be my source of validation. That’s been the biggest failure I’ve experienced the past year. I’m still actively working through it, I’m not 100% through that, it’s still a struggle, but I’m recognizing it a lot more so than I did a year ago.

The biggest success is a lot of small successes. The moments I get to really connect, especially through direct contact with people, hearing that something they found through CYL or something that I shared has positively impacted their life, empowered them or given them confidence to take action on their business. Those are the moments that get me the most excited and they’re the moments that I start to really feel successful.

Photo courtesy of Grace Gulley

What resources would you recommend for others looking to do something similar?

This is something new that I’ve been thinking a lot about. You do have an infinite amount of amazing resources, especially when it comes to the strategy and technical side of building a business. I think that people skip over the inner work and the personal development side, they feel that it comes later. I think that if we were to take the opposite approach and instead really work on ourselves, listen to what we want and get more in tune with our own thoughts, we’d be a lot better off. Now I recommend that people who are trying to figure out what to do with their life or how to start their business read things that help them turn inward and reflect.

One book has made a huge impact on my life. I read it for the first time about six years ago. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I recommend that book to people and every single year I reread it myself. Even now when I read it I’m still getting more information. It’s about breaking down the ego and learning to be a little more objective in life. That has been a huge game changer for me; especially in the past couple months. Most anything that Gabby Bernstein writes, which is a lot of stuff about listening to the universe, listening to signs and getting in touch with your own thoughts. I think that all of those things are going to help you get clarity on what you do and don’t want and what your values are. It’s going to be much easier to build a business in a way that aligns with you, that’s sustainable and that’s true to yourself.

Photo courtesy of Grace Gulley

Another thing that many of us have done in the past is, we start businesses and we don’t really have a lot of clarity about what our intentions and goals are. If we are constantly working on ourselves and we’ve taken the time to really get to know ourselves it’s going to be a lot easier to identify what we do and don’t want and what we’re trying to build.

That’s my recommendation. Pick up A New Earth or The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle or something by Gabby Bernstein. If you want to go way back, there’s a book called A Course in Miracles; that’s the foundation of what New Age people write about. Even books like How to Win Friends and Influence People. Even though it’s an old book, it’s about communicating with people and being clear in your communications and expressing what you want and doing it in a way that people will relate to and understand you. That’s incredibly important and foundational. And there are so many blogs that you can learn things from. Marie Forleo’s B-School is an incredible program. Melissa Griffin’s blog and podcast are full of good practical business information.

If you find someone and you connect with their speaking style, listen to them and follow their advice. First and foremost make sure that you are doing things that are good for you and understand yourself better.

It’s a matter of learning to manage your time, prioritizing things and working within those boundaries. Part of that is you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or elaborate on?

The number one excuse I hear about why something cannot be done is that they don’t have time, they’re busy. The truth is, you’re never going to be less busy than you are right now. It’s a matter of learning to manage your time, prioritizing things and working within those boundaries. Part of that is you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. You need relationships outside of work. You need friendships that are separate from business. You need friendships and relationships that are related to your business. It’s basically a community of people that support you, are uplifting and make you feel good to be around. We’re social creatures. Even those of us who are shy and introverted, we still suffer when it’s just us. We need social outlets no matter what. Running a business is incredibly difficult, so to have a team of people that have your back, are going to support you and cheer you on can make a big difference in your business. I would really recommend that anybody, as early as you possibly can, figure out how to better prioritize your time. And most importantly, recognize that it’s okay if you can’t get everything done today or right now or even in the immediate future. Learn how to break it down to the essentials and to the things that are actually going to move you forward but still allow you space for yourself and other things that are important in your life.


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