5 Lessons Learned In 5 Years of Entrepreneurship

Five lessons I’ve learned after being in business as an entrepreneur for five years. Inspiralized...

Five lessons I’ve learned after being in business as an entrepreneur for five years.

5 Lessons Learned In 5 Years of Entrepreneurship

Inspiralized is officially 5 years old today! Instead of calling this my “blogiversary” (as us bloggers do), I’m calling it my business anniversary, because after being in business for five years, Inspiralized is much more than a blog.

Aside from these super blogger-y, adorable photos taken with my girl Erin Dwyer, I’m celebrating five years by sharing five lessons I’ve learned in five years of entrepreneurship.

First off, if you’re new to Inspiralized, you can read my story of how it all began here. I love that some of you have literally been following since day one – I’m so humbled by that, and it’s you guys especially that inspire me to keep pushing forward and building this brand!

Many of these lessons I’ve learned, I learned early on, but they still hold true- five years later! And I’m not going to bore you with the “You’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked!” or “Don’t compare yourself to others!” lessons, because those are obvious by now. Here are five lessons I’ve learned in five years of entrepreneurship:

1. It’s okay to stall the speed of your success in exchange for some work-life balance.

This was a hard lesson to learn. There were many times when I was discouraged by how slowly my business was progressing, even though I was extremely happy with my life. During the daily operations of my business, I’d think, “Ugh! I should have accomplished X by now!” However, my business was still progressing, profitable, and successful and most importantly, I was HAPPY. I couldn’t figure out where this dissatisfaction came from and then I realized that I was me putting these added pressures on myself and comparing myself to other businesses that weren’t even in my league (like, larger, capital-backed companies!)

I started focusing more on my personal overall happiness as a PERSON, rather than an entrepreneur and then I realized, I much prefer the happiness as an individual rather than being EXTREMELY successful (whatever that means.) I love my life and the legacy I want to leave behind is that I was a kind, happy, loving person – not necessarily that I built an empire. Both would be great, don’t get me wrong – but I’m more conscious of the first one. Most highly successful entrepreneurs I know are sleep-deprived, stressed out, and not even happy even though they have so much success. When you have more, you want more (it’s a vicious cycle!) Plus, slow and steady wins the race, right?

5 Lessons Learned In 5 Years of Entrepreneurship

2. Define what success means to you early on and build your business plan around that.

To my first lesson above, I wish I had done this sooner – it would’ve saved me a lot of soul searching in the first couple of years of my business! I think every entrepreneur has their definition of success. For most, it’s money. Whatever it is – define it clearly and build your business plans and goals around that success mission. Otherwise, you’ll be very disappointed.

I learned after about 3 years that money wasn’t my motivator. It was the community. If I made less money than the last year, but my community was stronger, larger, and more engaged, I would be happy and feel successful. I have never said, “I want to make X dollars by X year.” I feel successful when someone recognizes me on the street and tells me I’ve changed the way they eat. That means I’m touching the world – people are listening, and I’m making a (healthy) impact on the world and my community.

If money motivated me more, you’d see me doing a LOT more sponsored posts (which I hope you’ve noticed, I don’t do many), doing more product roundups with affiliate links, being more salesy with the Inspiralizer (I should probably work on that, haha!), and hosting more paid events.

Just define what “success” is to you as a business owner. Save yourself the headache later down the road when you’re dissatisfied and can’t figure out why!

3. You can learn anything on Google and YouTube.

Every time I’m asked, “How did you build this company?” I always respond excitedly with, “Google and YouTube!” Seriously, guys. If you’re looking to start a business, you can literally serach, “How to start a business,” haha! I half-kid, because it’s true. I learned so many things by just watching hours and hours of how-tos on YouTube or reading articles found on Google. I’ve learned everything from food photography to how to edit videos, and I was never discouraged by not knowing how to do something in these past five years, I always knew I could figure it out. Where there’s a will, there’s way. 

5 Lessons Learned In 5 Years of Entrepreneurship

4. If something is crucial to the growth of your business and you are really bad at it (after trying it get good at it!), outsource it.

Another lesson I wish I had learned sooner. This is especially true with graphic design. I tried to design my own Inspiralized graphics with Photoshop and spend a couple years on trying to figure out how to make consistent brand images and graphics. Then, one day, I said, “Why am I wasting all this time making inadequate designs for my business, when I have the money to spend it on exactly that AND then I can invest that time saved in parts of my business I’m great at and will grow my business?” It was a heart-to-heart I had with myself and pursuant to lesson #5, I started outsourcing graphic design and it really did help grow my business and make my brand identity more solid.

It’s a fine line – don’t outsource everything! Try to do it yourself first and if you truly fail at it, outsource it. Don’t be lazy and outsource – try to figure it out yourself and then outsource. This is a lesson for beginning entrepreneurs and startups – if you’re in a different financial position and farther along in your business and have the resources to invest, do it!

An example of this for me was food videos. I tried so hard to learn how to do my own Tasty-style food videos (like these) and I literally spent HOURS prepping, filming, and editing (like, 8 hours a day) multiple times per month. After a few months of this, I decided to hire someone to come over and film me so I could eliminate the filming and editing. Then, after losing hours where I could be focusing on my business and knowing I had the resources to invest in a full outsource, I outsourced those videos. So now, if you see those quick-style cooking videos, those aren’t my hands! A lovely husband and wife entrepreneurship duo film them for me! And I have those hours to spend growing Inspiralized! Plus, I could never make those videos as beautifully, so it’s a win-win: better quality content and more time for me to work on other parts of my business.

5 Lessons Learned In 5 Years of Entrepreneurship

5. Invest your money back into your business early on.

When I first started off as an entrepreneur, I literally had $3,000 to my name (and that included my last paycheck at the job I had just left.) I was never a great saver and still am not (sorry, Lu!) I pinched pennies to get the business to run. About 6 months in, I was ready to throw the towel in (or at least get a side gig to afford my life) and I had a frank conversation with Lu at dinner one night and he said, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll make it work.” We were just dating (but living together) and he was/is a struggling entrepreneur as well – we didn’t have much money and every dollar counted (it still does, of course!) This made my heart swell for Lu and made me want to work even harder to make my business work.

It’s hard to shake the penny pincher mindset once you start making money. It took me a few years to realize that it’s better to invest (almost) every penny you make back into your business, because that’s what’ll make your business grow – as long as you invest in the right places in your business, of course. I’m not saying to spend money on Post-Its and cute wall decor for your home office, I’m saying invest in graphic designers, your website, SEO consulting, hiring, and marketing materials. Early on, once you first start making money. Looking back, I wish I had invested more money in the first two years. Now, it’s easier, because my business is profitable and there’s money to be invested, but back in the beginning, I regret holding on to my money personally – I should have put it back into the business. You live and your learn, that’s what entrepreneurship is all about!

All photos by http://erindwyerphotography.com.

with love, Ali

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  • Congratulations to the amazing Ali on 5 years of Inspiralized! I think I've been following along for about 4 years of it, and am so eager to see where your journey goes next. Thank you for always supporting female entrepreneurs and for sharing your candid story!
  • Looking forward to seeing what you have in store for the next 5 years!
  • Congratulations! Love following you along on this journey! Best wishes
  • Yay!!! On 5 years. I have been following Inspiralized for about a year now and loving every moment of it!!!
  • Congrats Ali for the 5 years! You are an amazing professional and also an amazing mom! I follow for about 1 year and I just love all your recepies and your stories!
  • about 2 years! as a college student didn’t think i needed an inspiralizer for my apartment but i was so wrong... BEST addition to my kitchen! & baby luca was definitely the best addition to your instagram :) congrats and best wishes for the future !!
  • Been following along for just over a year. Thank you for inspiring others to make healthy choices!
  • I have been following for the past year. Love all the new healthy additions to my meal plans!
  • I haven’t been following you for that long, but I love all the recipes I have tried off the blog! And the daily pictures and videos of Luca make me so happy!
  • I’ve been following for 4 years and have all three cookbooks!
  • Hi! I have only been following you for a few months, but I wish I had discovered you sooner! Your recipes all look amazing, and although I am not a mom yet, i think what you’re doing with Luca is great, esp to help him develop a healthy relationship with food. I hope to have a similar menu for my children one day ☺️
  • I’ve been following you since right before Luca was born. I have been enjoying the recipes and now the BLW! Cheers to five years!
  • Congratulations on 5 years. I have been following for a few months. Enjoy all the recipes and pictures!
  • I’ve been following about 3 years I think. I have your first cookbook and lots of printouts of recipes from your website. I got the spiralizer you suggested before yours came out...hoping to replace it soon with yours.
  • Congratulations! Love following you for healthy meals, business & mama inspiration!
  • Congratulations! Great recipes, information, and pictures I have seen since following the last several months.
  • I have been following Inspiralized for maybe 3 years maybe 4 ? I think you were my first food blogger I followed. ? congratulations on 5 years!
  • I think I followed for over 4 years already! Congratulations Ali! Looking forward to many more years!
  • Congrats on 5 years! I've been following for about 4 years and love everything about your brand from the recipes to how real you are! Love incorporating your recipes into our meal plan!
  • Congrats!! I have been following along since your very first year — I’m always proud to say I knew of you back before you were famous! :)
  • 5 years wow! I've been following for a years now! After your wedding but a bit before Luca. ??
  • Congratulations :) I've been a happy follower for more than 4 years and even though I follow a plant-based diet, I find your blog and books to be very inclusive to all - thank you for that :)
  • Congrats!!!! I've been following for a little over a year now and love every moment! I have learned so much! Thank you for always being so willing to share with us!
  • Follower for the past year or so and love how real you are and open about your family and life!
  • I just started following a few weeks ago! We are new to vegetarianism and your site has been very helpful in finding delicious recipes. My daughter, who has followed you for a long time, enthusiastically told me about you!
  • Congrats on such a significant milestone! It's been fun, educational and interesting watching your business grow for the last four years!
  • Congrats
  • Congrats!! I’ve been following you for a year!
  • Congrats! Been following a couple of years now- love your recipes!
  • Yay congrats! Been following for 3 years and got at least 3 people to start and buy your products!
  • I’ve been following you nearly two years! So inspiring!!
  • Congratulations on 5 years! Been following for a year now and love following along my on Instagram!
  • I’ve been following for about a year! Congratulations!
  • i’ve been following for 6 months!
  • Happy anniversary!
  • I have been following inspiralized for 3 years! I love your blog and cookbooks so much ❤️ I have an inspiralizer but my mom doesn’t and she always steals mine! Would love to be able to get her her own!
  • Love your recipes❤️ Congratulations on 5 years. Sad that the contest is not open to ??
  • Congrats! These are great tips as a new entrepreneur myself :)
  • Congratulations! I started following about two years ago when we moved to the US (from Australia) and needed a healthy lifestyle change! I have grown to love your content and the way you deliver messages, you seem so natural and transparent! I really appreciate your recipes and the fact that you're constantly being innovative and sharing food ideas because success in the kitchen is my biggest weakness!! Can't wait for the next 5...and beyond!
  • I have been following for maybe close to 2 years. I wish I knew I how came across your IG page, but have been a fan since.
  • Congrats on five years!
  • Congratulations, Ali!!! How exciting ? I’ve enjoyed following you for the past 3 years. You’ve inspired me to eat healthier and make my meals look a lot more appetizing!! Thank you!! Felicia
  • I have following for about a year. The blog post has great advice!
  • Been following for about a year and a a half. Enjoy it so much!
  • I've only been following for 2 months and I'm loving it!
  • Congratulations! I've been following for a while and love seeing how your business and life has progressed! Especially loving inspiralized kids content!
  • Been following for 3 years!! It’s been so great to watch your journey as an entrepreneur and now a mom. I am expecting my first child now and love watching your IG stories every morning. So excited to try to encorporate BLW when the time comes!
  • I love your blog and Instagram and brand. I have been following about 2 years or more. I have your cook books and Love your recipes! Thank you!
  • Congrats on 5 years! Been a huge fan of these posts and now loving the kids page helps me so much with my 9 month old!
  • I’ve been following for a few months now! Stumbled upon your Instagram and have been watching since!
  • You are an inspiration!! Congrats!
  • This post is fantastic and so helpful! Sometimes when we are passionate about what we do, we can be hard on ourselves for not being perfect. Thank you for the reminder that we don't have to be perfect, uber successful (in some people's eyes, although I feel you are super super successful!) and to not beat ourselves up over things. I've been following you for about 2 years now I think? I love how my diet and overall health has changed due to following you... you're leading the way! Thanks Ali! :)
  • I cant remember when I started following you but it was a few years ago long before you got engaged (loved that post!) or had baby luca! I started following you when I was searching for healthier recipes in my life! Congrats on 5 years!
  • Congratulations on 5 years!
  • Happy anniversary! I started following Inspiralized about 3 years ago.
  • Love your blog! I’ve been following along for just a few months- since February maybe? Thanks!
  • Hi Ali, I’ve been following you for a while (pre Luca) and want to say congratulations on your 5 years and successes! Hard work and perseverance have paid off for you! I sadly have a non inspiralizer at home and struggle with all of those features that you so smartly put into your product :) All the best to you and your lovely family.
  • Just this past year and I'm so happy I started following!
  • I have been following Inspiralized for about a year! Thank you for sharing great food recipes, your honest life posts, and your sweet Luca with everyone! Can’t wait to see what the next 5 brings!
  • I’ve been following for a few years and absolutely love how your social media has evolved through your business and family life. Congrats on your 5 year mark!! Can’t wait to see how everything evolves at your 10 year mark! Zoodle life forever ☺️
  • Happy 5 years!! I started following you about 2 years ago. It's been awesome getting to watch you grow your business and your family. Not only are you an inspiration to our dinner table, but you are also an inspiration for setting and achieving career goals. I'm at a crossroads in my career right now, whether I should stay or move on, and this makes me think I should take a leap! Best of luck to you in the next 5 years and more!
  • Congratulations on 5 successful years! I’ve been following for about a year.
  • Congratulations! I have been following Inspiralized since fall 2017!
  • Congrats!! Love your healthy recipes, I use your inspiralized cookbook all. The. Time. I would love to have one of your spiralizers
  • I've followed along since your first cookbook. Thanks for having great recipes that I can use!
  • 2 years & love everything about you & your lifestyle
  • Congrats on your continued happiness and success! I have been following for 3 years at least and absolutly love your content ?
  • I started following in the summer of 2014 when I was pregnant with my first daughter!
  • I've been following for a couple of months, I can't even remember where I came across your blog, but I love the recipes and reading about Luca since my son is only a few weeks younger than him!
  • I’ve been following for about two years! Love seeing your healthy posts and your journey as a new mom. My daughter is 2 months younger than Luca so it’s all such timely info!
  • CONGRATS ALI!!! You've accomplished so much and gained so many Inspiralized followers- you have a lot to be proud of! I've been following along for a little over 3 years and can't wait to see what's in store for you! (PS these photoshoot pics are adorable!!)
  • Congrats, Ali! I have loved following you over the years.
  • I've been following for 2 years. My favorite recipe is the Chicken Lo-Mein! Never fails!
  • Congratulations on 5 years! I've been following you for 3ish years and I've enjoyed watching your journey and new dinner ideas for my husband (Lou) and I:) Lisa
  • A HUGE congrats, Ali to 5 years of pursuing your dreams!! Can't wait to see what the future has in store for you and your beautiful family! I've recently been introduced to the AMAZING world of inspiralizing, and I'm just beyond excited to join the rest of the inspiralizer fans!!
  • Love seeing your recipes and all the amazing stuff you come up with! Keeping it interesting in the kitchen is so important!
  • I’ve been following you for about a month now. You have Inspired Me with your Inspiralizer Posts sooooo much!!!!! Thank you!!!?+❤️+?=?
  • Congratulations on your five-year anniversary!! I've only been following your journey for about a month or so, but I wish I had been for much longer- I probably would've been inspired to invest in my health by following your recipes a long time ago.
  • Congratulations Ali, I have been following Inspiralized and your personal Instagram/blog for about 2 years now. I love your recipes and your positive attitude! Looking forward to your next 5 years and beyond!
  • I’ve been following Inspiralized for a year now!! Order the Inspiralizer for myself, one for my mom for Xmas, have the app, and now Ali’s lastest book. Love all of them. Thanks Ali! Congratulations on five years!!!
  • Happy Anniversary
  • Been following you from the beginning and it just gets better EVERY year. Cheers to the next FIFTY years!!!! (Baby Luca will grow the empire, I have no doubt)
  • Congratulations! I believe I started following 3-4 years ago. I was following right before you started your weight loss journey. Your blog convinced me to try noodles!
  • I have been following since 2016! I had no idea this kitchen gadget and blogger would change the way I looked at cooking health meals forever! You made me fall in love with cooking! <3
  • Looking forward to what you come up with next! I've been following for about 2-3 years. Congrats!
  • Happy Anniversary! I’ve been following for about a year and have 2 little boys who I like to be healthy for and with. Thank you for all the yummy recipes
  • Happy 5years! Started following to get more ideas to add veggies to my husband's diet, but have since been referring your blog to my patients who require low protein diets. I go through your recipes and teach my patients how to adapt your recipes to be low protein.
  • CONGRATS!! I’ve only been fill following the pasta 3 months or so but love your content!
  • Congratulations on 5 years! I’ve been following you for about 3 years now. Love your recipes and your Inspiralizer, especially my red one! Best of luck and continued success!
  • Congratulations! I've been a follower for about a year but you've already inspired me to someday start my own business. We'll see if it actually happens. :)
  • Congrats!! I’ve been following these past two years and love your positivity!
  • This was SO inspiring and reassuring to read. My husband recently started his own business and it has ups and downs. It’s exciting and scary-all at the same time! But the most important thing is that he’s happy. And that makes me happy! Why be stuck doing something you don’t enjoy?? I’m a HUGE saver and it makes my panic when money is tight. But we always make it work. Thank you for all the tips! Maybe my husband can look back and reflect 5 years from now with the same mindset :)
  • Congratulations on 5 Years! Love your recipes and your Instagram and blog posts. Wishing you many more wonderful years of inspiralizing.
  • You’re so inspiring! Thank you for all you do to be such a role model :)
  • Congratulations on five years, Ali! I remember your first blog post! I’ve been following along since your first post, it’s been incredible and inspiring to watch you grow and your business go from the ground up! I still have your blog post bookmarked on tips on how to work from home. You’ve inspired me to start my own website! I’ve purchased my domain, hosting and put up a mailing list landing page. Thank you for all of your encouragement over the years. You are a pioneer!
  • WOW! Simply amaozng! You inspire me!
  • i've been following for about a year and a half now. i've been wanting to get an inspiralizer for forever!
  • Love following you and all your yummy recipes! Congrats on 5️⃣!
  • I’ve been following for about 6 months. Just got the new cookbook and am excited to try all the recipes!
  • I've been along for the ride since year ONE! Congrats!
  • Congratulations! Your site inspires me to make healthy choices every day.
  • Congratulations! I have been following you for about a year!
  • Congrats Ali! I have been with you since the early years and will never stop! I looove your recipes and thoroughly enjoyed watching you grow your business AND your family!! Keep on trucking because you have built something special here!! (And you are so right, I wish more people put more ‘value’ towards experiences and happiness rather than material things and money. I think it’s a hard lesson learned by most as we age. Glad you have that mindset because so many people chase the money for so long next thing they know they look back with regrets. While money is a necessity, there has to be a balance. We all won’t be millionaires and frankly, that’s ok. Because money does not make you happy.) Good job girl! I always knew you would make something of it!
  • Congrats! I’ve been following about 2 years now!
  • I’ve been following for the last 1 year and LOVE everything. I look forward to your Instagram posts everyday. Had spiralized meals all week so far (albeit it’s only Tuesday, but it’s likely to continue). 1 year ago I got rid of my old (and “fancy” spiralizer) and bought yours instead. Best move ever! It stunk. Thank youuuu Congrats Ali, you rock!!
  • I've been following you for about a year, congratulations!
  • Congratulations. I've been following along for several years but I still don't have an Inspiralizer. I drool over your recipes!
  • Congrats on 5 years! Here’s to 50 more!! I have been following for several years!! I enjoy your posts so much!!
  • Congratulations!! I have been following you for about 9 months now. Your my top account I actually make recipes from love your ideas!!
  • I started following you earlier this year...you had me a potatoes.
  • Congratulations! I've been following along since the beginning. Your journey has been inspiring to watch. Love spiralizing and trying your recipes. Looking forward to what the future brings to you and your family.
  • An ideal jumpsuit for a laidback resort vacation! Kisses, Lina from http://fashionmakestrends.com/