Our Journey to Starting a Business

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starting a business can feel and be very overwhelming. keeping a business is even more intense. december 12th is a day we celebrate in our household! on 12/12/12, my husband and i officially incorporated our first business – AveryToday, Inc!

this came a few months after he won the world championship of public speaking (with me as his bossy coach) in august 2012. shout out to randy harvey who provided great mentorship through the process and set up our corporation.

yes, our lives changed overnight but contrary to popular belief, you are not instantly flooded with paid work and there is not a direct path to success in this very unique industry. starting a business from this launching pad is not a guarantee by any means, though it did give us a place to start.

we both continued to work at our non-profit jobs while traveling to speaking engagements on the weekends. i distinctly remember being in vancouver, BC in february 2013. after a great speaking event, ravery and i were having dinner at the hotel restaurant. we were exhausted but fulfilled.

we got to talking about how we were good at speaking and good at our jobs…but we were not exceptional in either area. what would happen if we put all of our energy towards one industry? could we make it?

ravery convinced me we could. that’s what happens when you are married to a dreamer and doer. i was nervous. super nervous.

i liked having our consistent paychecks, insurance, working in the non-profit world (for the most part) and again, having consistent money coming in.

having graduated a few years prior with my masters in social work, i wanted to keep putting it to use. my husband reminded me i had been laid off months before and was currently super underpaid (even if the social work world) at my job so there really were no guarantees.

he was right. after more discussion and a literal pro/con list – we shook on it that we would go all in and quit our jobs in the coming months and go full time in our business.

he quit special olympics oregon in april 2013 and i followed soon after – resigning from girls inc. in may 2013. it was thrilling and terrifying and anxiety-provoking to say the least.

after talking with the few semi-professional speakers we knew at that time, we knew the money and connections would take time. therefore, we straight up sold everything that didn’t fit in our camry and left our friends and beloved city of portland. we headed to houston to move in with my in-laws. yup. married and livin’ with the in-laws (i know, it’s so millennial of us).

ryan avery chelsea avery avery tour NAT

relationship blog italian restaurant in st petersburg

thankfully i do have amazing in-laws who are entrepreneurs themselves so they welcomed up, cooked for us and gave us a roof over our head while we figured out what on earth to do. but like…you’re still living together and it can be hard because we encroached on their space and we lost our own space too. overall – it was a great experience to live with them. oh and having this pool in their backyard was a bonus. also, that’s my sister-in-law with the rockin’ bod – not me. #whitepeoplealllookalike.

the new wifestyle

part of the reason of moving to texas is that we planned to travel a ton and didn’t want to waste money on rent. we were planning what we called our ‘north american tour!’ where we hit up a bunch of toastmasters districts (shout out to everyone who supported us and came to those earlier events)!

we ended up going to 50 cities and putting on events (mostly of ravery speaking and me organizing the event and working the back table selling our products). those black boxes contained our ‘how to be a speaker kit’ and required SO MANY LOGISTICS to have my in-laws assemble new kits and mail them to us in different cities. the amount of times our carry-on suitcase weighed 50+lbs was too many to count.

see what i mean about taking over their space?! hah

travel blog chelsea avery packing

those suitcases contained clothing for all four seasons and were cycled through the 75 days we were on the road before coming back to houston. turns out a black and a white cardigan can change a whole outfit.

we had our fair shares of ups and downs during the tour. the first event, ravery got on stage with a fever and almost passed out…but the show must go on and your audience doesn’t care if you’re sick.

ryan avery workshop toastmasters district 37 north carolina

another one of our events was completely ruined by a leader of a district who decided she didn’t like us and canceled everything 2 days before the event. we had about 10 people in the audience and sold one kit…which didn’t even cover the cost to rent the room. we originally had 150 people signed up!

we learned that when you leave your banner, containing metal poles in a 20 degree car – it must be assembled with gloves on.

we also met a ton of incredible people, learned that selling from the back of the room so isn’t our business model and got to see so much of north america! if you want, you can search my archives back to 2013 and read about a ton of our adventures, including when my sweet husband made our christmas suck less that year!

oh and we also learned you shouldn’t get a banner made with your logo solely in the middle…where everyone stands (shout out to our HOBY fam)!

healthy relationship how to be a speaker avery tour

as stressful as it was to plan and orchestrate that 50 city tour around north america, it gave us a rapid education in event planning and public speaking! while we didn’t make much money on the tour, we broke even and that in itself was something to be celebrated!

we learned more about ourselves as a married couple and co-founders of a business. when you’re stuck in manhattan traffic, one of you is PMSing and both of you are hungry…you learn a lot about each other.

we made it back to houston after the majority of our tour was over and learned that my in-laws were headed to live on the beach! one thing i love about the family i married into is that they are doers. yeah, lots of people say they want to live on the beach but how many actually make that happen?

they do:

circa july 2015

they wanted to be on the beach to ring in 2014 so we took out a loan from them to be able to afford to move back to portland. we decided our time wasn’t done in that fine city so we moved back…on new year’s eve.

this time we towed our car because my generous in-laws gave us a ton of their gorgeous furniture and a bed, which we still have in our home today!

of course we continue to have our highs and lows and learning moments, despite now doing this full time for the past few years. i’m going to share lessons learned in another post but felt the desire to share how we got started in our entrepreneurial adventure 5 years ago on 12/12/12 (mostly because i still can’t believe this is my life sometimes)!

if you would have told us that we’d break world records, one day actually get a consistent paycheck and be able to buy a house with our words (both written and spoken) – we would have been wide-eyed and cracking up!

turns out taking risks and dreaming big really can work out!

thank you for being a part of our journey.

18 Comments

  1. Jo Burns

    December 13, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Chelsea, Congratulations to you and Ryan on your business birth-aversary (yeah, i made that up). It was just what I needed to read today. The struggles of starting a business are very real and very slow at times. Congrats to both of you on your business success, your marriage and your family.

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      ohhh business birth-aversary is a GREAT one. maybe you should trademark that 🙂 i hear you on the struggles of starting a business jo, hang tough! it continues to ebb and flow but with more flow as the years go on. congrats to YOU for taking the plunge!

  2. Marc Gabris

    December 13, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Thank you for sharing and inspiring. I’m proud to have supported your journey. And that How To Be A Speaker out has taught me a lot.

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      yay! so glad to hear the HTBAS kit has benefited you so much marc! hope you are doing well 🙂

  3. Jennifer Haston

    December 13, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for posting your story!!

    What an incredible accomplishment!!

    Happy Birthday to y’all’s business!

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      thank you jennifer and thank you for being a part of the journey!

  4. Penny

    December 13, 2017 at 10:21 am

    wow… thank you for sharing your wonderful story, the highs and lows, and the learning experiences of starting your own company. you guys are amazing as individuals as well as a couple. i am so proud of you both and so blessed to now be part of your family. hugs and love aunt penny

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      i appreciate your kind words, penny! it’s been quite the journey (and sure continues to be)!

  5. Audrey

    December 13, 2017 at 11:10 am

    This is the sweetest. And that last photos of three smiling dreamers is EVERYTHING. Man, Atlas has some wonderful, brave, ambitious parents! I can’t imagine what kinds of records she’ll break with both your AND Mr. WS’s genes! Watch out, world!
    I love reading about people taking a risk and pursuing their own dream. The world needs people who want to work for other people, but it also needs people that see a rocky, new, exciting path and choose to follow it. In the moment those initial steps (or initial tour) are tough tough tough but when you look back 5 years later you can visible SEE the ladder you were climbing and the slow success you were building. Great job, guys!!

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      ha! we often talk about how we will handle it if atlas is like “mom, dad, i want to be the youngest person to climb mt. everest!’ ahhhhh so stressful but we obviously have to support her big dreams 🙂

      you know all too well the rocky, new, exciting path of entrepreneurship! thanks for your kind words and support audrey!

  6. Sara | Mrs. Imperfect

    December 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Your story has definitely been an inspiring one to read over the years. You guys have accomplished a lot in 5 years as a team!

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:22 pm

      thank you for reading and i’m glad you can take inspiration from it sara (it actually helps me to write it out to be like ‘whoooa we did it!”)

  7. Vivien

    December 13, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey, the highs and the lows, and showing what can be achieved with support, hard work and dedication! And thank you for the little recap and reminder of some of the great memories of times when you and Ryan visited Vancouver!

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:22 pm

      we had a great time with you all vivien (i still remember your speech)! thank you for your continued support over the years!

  8. Christina @ Hugs And Lattes

    December 13, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    I loved reading this! This sounds so stressful but you guys did it! You’re such go getters! Yao admirable. ❤️

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      oh my goodness it was sooooo stressful for a whole lot of it, especially in the beginning when money was so tight and every dollar truly mattered!

  9. Elyse @ Just Murrayed

    December 17, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Thank you SO much for sharing your journey, Chelsea! You’ve worked hard and deserve all the success in the world! I loved the recap of when you visited Vancouver with ravery!

    • chelsea

      January 16, 2018 at 9:20 pm

      thank you for your kind words, elyse! we are headed back to speak in vancouver in june so stay tuned!

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