This is Kaela Leone – a self-taught portrait + lifestyle photographer based in Toronto and the co-founder of Common People Shop, a queer-owned general store with a goal of providing thoughtfully curated goods by small makers.
If you ask me what my day-to-day looks like, I’ll share that in between running a small general store and endless hours spent editing photos from my latest shoot you can find me tutoring kids in French, working as a part-time legal assistant, and managing five Instagram accounts. The life of the dabbler isn’t for everyone, but it keeps me interested and engaged and has fuelled a deep sense of commitment and drive needed to start my own businesses. “Self-starter” was a term I’d throw onto my CV without much thought – it’s what I knew employers wanted to hear without truly believing it was a skill I possessed. I now know that I do. It’s how I built-up a small business with my fiancé, Steph, from one with very little product into a well-stocked shop and community space. It’s also how I taught myself photography and editing and less than a year later, built a career out of it. Being a self-starter takes commitment, drive, and the tenacity to come back to the thing you started over and over again, even when you don’t feel like it. Here are some of the ways I stay on track that I hope will help you, too!
The timing will never feel right and there will always be that little devil we call self-doubt creeping in the corner. Just start. START! Let this be your sign. Taking the first step is undoubtedly the most daunting but it’s one step closer to your goal. In a year, you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t take it sooner.
Instead of thinking you can’t, believe that you can
I once had a call with a friend who had just started off as a career coach. She asked me what I loved doing and I told her it was taking photographs. I quickly followed that remark with “but I can’t make a career out of it”. She asked me, point blank, “why not?”, and that changed everything. Believe there is room for you to take up space and that most people who 'make it' get there because they know this to be true (and of course, work their butts off, too).
Break up your day like a high school timetable
Remember back in high school when you’d get SO much done in a day because it was broken up for you? Start to look at each of your projects as its own “class” and schedule specific times you will work on them followed by short breaks (and lunch! Don’t forget to eat lunch!). Add them into your calendar so you know what your day looks like and don’t "skip" class. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and at the end of the day you’ll be amazed by how much you accomplish.
Make yourself a “power list”
Every night before bed, open your notes app (or grab a good ol’ piece of paper) and list 5 things that are non-negotiables for the next day. These 5 things aren’t regular to-do items - they should be tasks that either support your mental or physical health (meditate, take a walk, have a dance party in your favourite Mary Young set). If one of those items is “take a nap”, take the nap! You know yourself best and this list is a way I honour the things my body and mind tell me I need so that I can show up at my best.
Connect with other entrepreneurs you admire
Someone once told me not to take or accept advice from someone who doesn’t have what you’re seeking to achieve. It all makes perfect sense when you think about it. Instead, I highly recommend connecting candidly with people who have achieved what you’re working towards to get a better sense of how they got there. They’ve done the thing, and in my experience, if they’re decent folks they’ll be more than happy to share how you can, too!
At the end of the day, I truly wholeheartedly believe that there is space for all of us, and that when we really tap into what gives us joy and stick to pursuing it fearlessly we can and will succeed. Steady on, and remember, you’re farther today than you were yesterday!