Courage Crush: Brandi Bernoskie, Entrepreneur and CEO of Alchemy + AIM
by Sarah on August 1, 2016
Courage Crush: Brandi Bernoskie, not your average ordinary.
I found Brandi while stalking websites I love and couldn’t help but notice a theme – she is everywhere! (at least on all the sites I am drawn to and think are amazing). Since working with her to create two new websites and my first big program launch, she’s become a respected teammate, mentor, sojourner and friend. She is a force of whole-hearted goodness and awesomeness. That’s why I have a Courage Crush on her. Check out her inspiring story here:
Tell us your story about risk and entrepreneurship.
For a long time, I was in want of a husband. After all, that’s how the women in the blogosphere I was connected to were able to leave jobs and start new businesses. I was single at the time and working in a job just outside of Washington, DC. Every day, my grey cubicle felt more like a coffin, and 18 months after I started with the company I was ready to leave, husband (health insurance guarantor, really) or no. I had been coding websites at nights and on weekends for friends, and I felt (hoped) I had just enough work to pay my bills.
My family and friends thought I was crazy — here I was leaving what most people would consider a “dream job” with no security. I was making $80K a year with benefits and paid time off, working for a non-profit that was doing some great work in science education. And yet, I couldn’t imagine another year of the same routine, let alone another 10 years or a lifetime. So I quit with just a small handful of past clients and hope that more would come my way.
There was a steady trickle of small projects: a few dollars here and there, a full website to build, themes to code. Three months after I left my job, I realized I hadn’t even made enough money to pay my rent. What was I doing risking everything I had to chase a lifestyle of freedom and travel I had only seen other people living on blogs? All I knew is that I was sure I had to do what I was doing, no matter how strange or crazy or risky.
Fast forward three years, to present day. My work as a freelance developer has turned into a company of 12. I’ve gone from freelancer to entrepreneur to owner and leader.
“I choose to operate from a place of soulful centeredness rather than simply focusing on numbers or the bottom line.” Brandi Bernoskie, Alchemy + Aim
How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
The biggest and most exciting change has been in my role. My job when I originally started out was to code websites. Today, I coach entrepreneurs, strategize with them about websites, guide them to create systems that allow them to do more of their genius work. I’m also leading a team and shaping a company as it grows, and creating incredible relationships with my clients and creatives I work with.
Has this experience changed you? How are you different now than before this experience?
I think the greatest gift of being an entrepreneur is not how you’re changed by the challenges you face, but rather how those challenges and situations call you to become even more of your true self, to step fully into the power you have always possessed, to discover a confidence and courage within you that drives you forward even when you’re scared. My fear hasn’t left me, but my faith in myself has the stronger voice these days. I absolutely get anxious when I’m doing new things like pitching the biggest website we’ve ever worked on or salarying employees for the first time — it’s uncharted territory for me, of course. I simply now know I need to lean into the fear to find new courage beyond it.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
There are two crucial lessons I’ve learned in the past three years: trust my intuition and lead with my heart. Many people think intuition has no place in the structured world of business, but for me, it’s crucial. I use my intuition to decide which clients I want to work with, to hire team members, to create products and packages to sell. There are processes and systems behind these decisions as well, but if my intuition is firing and telling me that something is wrong, I listen to it. My intuition is picking up on signals that my logical conscious mind isn’t. That’s also why leading with my heart has become a guiding mantra for me. It’s why I do what I do: to guide more entrepreneurs, to create more beauty, to watch how building a website for an amazing client means their ideas are reaching and supporting and helping more people. I choose to operate from a place of soulful centeredness rather than simply focusing on numbers or the bottom line. This is what sets my business apart from other website developers out there. And one of the best parts is that we’re still watching our income grow.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
If I could send a message back to my 20-year-old self, I would tell her that it’s all about the journey and her own becoming, not about where she lands in the end. I spent most of my 20s desperately trying figure out what my purpose was, what I was meant to do. It led me through four majors, two degrees, and countless applications to grad school programs I never enrolled for. I thought it was about the destination or about being perfect and brilliant at one particular thing. It’s been about the evolution all along, about the synthesis of my natural talents and the skills I’ve learned from classes and programs and jobs. It’s been about really opening up to who I am and sharing my gifts and embracing change.
What advice do you have for others going through something similar?
Give up perfection. There’s still that streak of perfectionism in me, but I’m not waiting for things to be perfect anymore. Instead, I see every project, meeting, and event as an experiment. It’s a way for me to test a new process or system or learn something about myself. All I need is my curiosity and an acceptance that sometimes I’m going to be wrong, and that’s okay. I gather new information, I try something different, I adapt. If I had set in stone a vision of exactly what I wanted for my freelance career, I wouldn’t have the business I do now, which is more exciting and fulfilling than anything I could have expected.
What about Brandi’s story of courage inspires you? Feel free to comment below.