Running a successful business can be a very difficult path to navigate, but throw in a second business under one roof, one from a very different industry and most people would struggle to make a partnership work. Today on the blog we would love for you to meet Kieran and Michelle Rose, partners in life and business, who are succeeding in working in two very different industries as advocates, consultants and mentors.
Meet Kieran Rose The Autistic Advocate and Michelle Rose, from Michelle Rose Marketing
Kieran and Michelle, tell us about your respective businesses
Michelle - We work in partnership, offering similar services and advice but in very different industries. So, we both offer training, mentoring, consultancy, advocacy and speaking. We are also very active bloggers, emaillers and social media marketers.
That works well for us not only as a married couple and a family working mostly from home, but also as business owners, because we get to talk and support each other. This helps us grow one as business, instead of two if that makes sense.
What effect has Covid-19 had on your businesses?
Kieran - It has been difficult in that we are not only working from home, as self-employed business owners, but we have three children at home, who need home-schooling and looking after. So, in terms of the business that has meant things have taken a back seat to our children’s care, naturally. However, as you know, the way Covid has shaped our last year it has meant like most, we haven’t been able to set things in stone, or make solid plans. We have had to learn to ‘go with the flow’ more.
Michelle - The last year has been ok and I think that has been down to the fact that we are self-employed and not staff who have been furloughed. We can also work from home quite easily.
I think one of the biggest impacts was that in the autumn Kieran was due to travel to Australia for a whole month, with one of the most well-known australian Autism advocates. Not that money is a signal to success, but that opportunity would have seen us generate income in one month, that we would have both had to work all year for. So that has been difficult, but we know we can replan those opportunities… just not sure when yet!
What is your biggest frustration in your industry? And how do you solve that?
Kieran - It’s more complex in my industry, because the main issue around us is that lots of money goes to people who aren’t Autistic. There is a real undervaluing and marginalising happening to Autistic people. Whether that’s speaking and controlling our own narratives, or even where we are positioned in our own industry. So challenging that is extremely difficult, because as an Autistic person, when I go out to pitch myself as a consultant or trainer, I find myself having to work ten times harder than someone who doesn’t have Autism. That’s because it is thought that we can be incompetant, or childlike somehow. Smashing that ceiling is my (and our, as Autistic people) biggest frustration. The only way we can really change that is to challenge the bigger charities in the industry, because of their status they shape and set that ceiling, so working and advocating to them is where I am.
Stephen - So how do you break that glass ceiling?
Kieran - I make lots of noise! What is also helping us now is insight, not external view points. This has meant that things are starting to slowly change and that’s in part to those advocates before me who have worked tirelessly to be heard. It makes it much easier (although still difficult) for people like me to come in and continue that work and push forward. You know we hold a perspective about ourselves that no-one else can and it’s getting other non-Autistc people to hear that through whatever platforms we have.
It’s difficult, frustrating and exhausting, because this is a seven billion dollar industry where the people who hold those higher positions and don’t have an Autistic perspective, are wanting to shut down our true narratives. Breaking that powerhold down is our biggest challenge.
Michelle - In marketing I find that the biggest frustration is when marketers sell courses, or coach and preach just one way of working, one way of marketing. This prescriptive method of marketing just doesn't always work. So I see lots of people spending a lot of money and coming away feeling very disappointed. I want to be there to help them find their own marketing success with support at the beginning of their journey. I guess that is my biggest challenge, being heard in a loud industry and changing viewpoints.
If you could go back to the beginning of your business, what would be the one piece of advice you would tell yourself?
Michelle - I think I would probably do what I am doing now, focusing on helping the start-ups and the new businesses. That’s where my passion is. Back at the beginning, nine years ago, I got caught up in following what people tell you you should do in business - chase the big clients and deliver the big training contracts, but that wasn’t the fit I craved, or where my passion really lies.
When my kids ask me what I do for a living, I want to be able to tell them, “I drink coffee and eat cake with people and I help them with their marketing.”
What lockdown has really given me is a way to expand that same person-to-person training and support online. Which is something I would have liked to have done earlier, but I was busy being a mum as well as a business owner, so you can only do so much!
I think I was always worried about my pricing too, in those earlier days. I didn’t want to charge too much, or to be out of budget for people and whilst Kieran has always told me to charge your value, it wasn’t until later that I really took that on board. That’s why our partnership works so well, we have each other to bounce off of.
Kieran - I have to balance that, to say that we are both deeply rooted and grounded in our communities and because we are dealing with real people at the end of it, money isn’t our motivator. It never has been. For us it is about helping people.
I think if I were to look at my own work and how I started, I’d tell myself not to worry about chasing people and feel like I need to chase for things, or work. I am confident enough now, after those early tentative steps, in learning to accept payment for the value I provide and so, because of that, I believe that there are always going to be sustainable opportunities, even at slower times. I know what I do is reaching people, so I have taken the pressure off of myself. I guess I’d tell myself to relax!
Tell us about your proudest moment as a business owner
Michelle - During the first lockdown I got my first course out there and had an amazing cohort, which really gave me a boost to follow this digital direction. More than that I think the best bit about what I, or we do, is when people come back to you and tell you what they achieved. Our pride in them, and for their achievements, is a wonderful feeling as a business owner, particularly in the areas that we work.
For Kieran, it would be having his first academic paper published. It has just launched and already it is being accepted internationally, which has led to more opportunities for Kieran to speak about the Autism narrative on new platforms.
Kieran - I tend not to do praise and I think that’s partly because of the fact that I have a tremendous amount of responsibility to speak on behalf of the Autism community and push their narrative out there, not my own. I don’t want it to be about me. Having said that I would love to be able to look back and say that I have helped someone with what they are going through and normalising what is perceived as difference. That’s what really matters to me.
What would your advice be to someone starting out as a new business owner?
Michelle - There are certainly opportunities, even during lockdown for the average person on a budget. Think about what skills you have and invest a few hundred pounds in getting it out there, whether that's a training course, or something else that would be quite low cost. Reducing your risk at this time is probably best.
Get support too, whether that’s an accountant or whatever you need. Someone who can be an honest buffer to your ideas, someone you can trust. And don’t be afraid to sell!
Don’t feel pushed to reach for the stars out of the gate either, set yourself realistic goals and if you flash past them great, if not that’s ok too. Just keep going and working towards them.
Kieran - Recognise where your strengths and weaknesses are. One person starting a business isn’t going to be able to cover every aspect of what that business needs perfectly. It is about sourcing the help you need. I think the best small businesses are those who are really working as a community and it's a group effort to help each other, in order to strengthen each other.
A final word
Kieran Rose is also known as The Autistic Advocate, he is an Autistic, Autism Professional working hard to help Autistic voices be heard.
You can find Kieran at theautisticadvocate.com