Nettie Owens of Sappari Solutions: “Find your tribe where you can celebrate both the highs and the lows”

Find your tribe where you can celebrate both the highs and the lows. As human beings, we do not exist in isolation. Find the tribe of people that understand you, where you can talk about the highs and lows without judgment. Sometimes this is your family and friends, but more often, these are business colleagues that […]

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Find your tribe where you can celebrate both the highs and the lows.

As human beings, we do not exist in isolation. Find the tribe of people that understand you, where you can talk about the highs and lows without judgment. Sometimes this is your family and friends, but more often, these are business colleagues that get the risks that are necessary, the big decisions, and the high goals and standards you have set for yourself.

Your neighbor is not likely to understand what it means to you to bring on your first executive assistant, and your sister may think you are pretentious for sharing that you just secured a million-dollar deal. I have a business colleague that I connect with daily to share everything from each sale to frustrations with finding the next employee. No topic is off-limits, and no judgments are made.


Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nettie Owens.

Nettie Owens, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, is the founder of Sappari Solutions, creator of the Take Control System for Organization and Momentum Activators Program for sustainable business success. She helps high achiever business owners, create their blueprint to success, reconnect to their vision, take action and scale without burning out.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I began my company in 2004; I had just moved to Maryland from California with my husband, leaving a position as Assistant Director of Database Services for a child and family services agency. I hadn’t really intended to go off and start a business. My husband had already begun a consulting business on the side, and I was helping him manage that. We were planning to start a family soon, and I thought, naively, that having my own business would be easier and more flexible than being employed for someone else. I had not yet seen the meme that says, “I will work 80 hrs a week just so that I don’t have to work 40 hours a week.” The point of that meme is that we, entrepreneurs, would rather work our butts off for ourselves than go back to a 40-hour work week for someone else.

Originally, I built a professional organizing agency based out of Harford County, Maryland. Organizing, as a profession, was still in its infancy, and there were very few models to follow; there was no certification program available, and most people in organizing were doing it as a side gig. The tv shows Mission Organization, Clean House, and Clean Sweep were just coming on air. There was no Marie Kondo or Hoarders. My company started small, just me, and within a year, I had brought on another organizer. I had a business plan, having studied Entrepreneurship & Management at Johns Hopkins University, along with Computer Science but, I had no idea that my business would eventually specialize in Chronic Disorganization and then go on to train dozens of organizers to work with Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding or be the largest company in the area serving this specialized population.

Eventually, I created the Take Control System for getting and staying organized and wrote the book to accompany this system along with a planner, The 60 Minute Weekly Planning Guide, to help you organize for the week ahead.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

The “Aha Moment” was more of a series of nudges into the direction my company is now going. In 2017, I had begun to shift from serving individuals and small businesses with organizing challenges to corporations. I had several requests from companies to work with them on improving organization, systems, and productivity. In the summer of 2017, I awoke at 2:30 am with a clear map in my mind of what allows businesses to be successful. I was already moving forward on a research project to confirm my early morning mental ‘download’ when my big ‘Ah-ha’ hit.

The big ‘Ah-ha’ came in November 2017. I was up and getting ready for a 7:30 am BNI meeting. My best ideas seem to come when I am in the shower, and this was one of those days. It was a series of thoughts that culminated in an idea to provide high-touch accountability to business owners to help them reach their biggest goals. The people that I work with had often worked with coaches in the past that would assign tasks and then ‘check-in’ in a month. The coach would see the tasks were not done or that the person had rushed the night before to try and re-create a month’s worth of work in just a few hours. I knew I could help here as I had already been working with homeowners to break down big projects, do work that was boring or difficult with consistency, and create better outcomes. I just shifted to work with business owners instead and applied the knowledge of chronic disorganization into the business world where motivation, drive, and focus are supposed to naturally exist.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

For me, I think I was born an entrepreneur. As a little kid, I would put up lemonade stands, make butterflies magnets out of pipe cleaners, and weave friendship bracelets to sell to the college students from West Virginia University that would walk by my house. I always had a job and was always looking for ways to earn money to get what I wanted.

I didn’t have a role model in this. No one else in my family that I knew of owned their own company. I loved the idea that I could create something that others wanted or needed. I loved (and still love) the ownership that comes with being an entrepreneur.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

It’s always been my family. My dad specifically has been my go-to person to talk to about business and management. He was acting director of the FDA prior to retiring and supported me on how to be a leader for myself and my customers. I feel so blessed that my family has always been my biggest support. My sisters and my mom have all worked with me or for me in some capacity. My husband helped me design my first website, encouraged me to become a certified professional organizer, and helped me to understand how to work with men.. My sister-in-law gifted me my original company logo. My brother-in-law held the original server for the company website. I have always had a sounding board within my family that has helped me start and grow my business.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our care for the person over the results, and because of that, the results have followed. When I was hiring organizers and interviewing, I had a question that I would always ask. That question was, “You walk into the home of a new client, a person that wants you to help them with organizing; what do you see?” Most people would describe the environment, the cluttered space, papers in stacks, clothes everywhere, etc. These folks may have been great at organizing things, but they missed the point of the work we did. It was never about the stuff. I would hire only the people that said, “I see a person who is overwhelmed and reaching out for help.” If they didn’t see a person, they didn’t get hired.

It still holds true today. My company stands out for recognizing the person in the business. We support them, and then the business success follows.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1 . Strategic Thinking & Planning — I have always been the kind of person to generate ideas and make plans. As a kid this meant I was saving for my first car starting when I was 10 years old, I put aside a quarter a week; saving the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge from drilling in middle school through petitions I sent to the White House; coordinating ski trips through my church youth group. I have an idea and then plot it out step by step.

In business, this has looked like listening to what my customers are (and are not) asking for, running the numbers on initiatives, and planning events that are centered around strategic planning. I feel like I have cracked the code on strategic planning and love to teach it to others. One of my favorite exercises is a visioning exercise that I then use as the starting point to walk back through a timeline all the way down to the 15 minute activity you can do today to create your success. Creating a way to plan and then following my own technique has been instrumental in my success.

2. Implementation — If you are familiar with the Kolbe A assessment, implementation could also be called, ‘Quick Start’. Once I have an idea I want to move it forward into action. All that strategic planning is for nothing if I don’t move into action. I think part of my success has been knowing how to create a plan that is implementable. So often I hear from others, I don’t know where to start, I don’t know what step to take next and so that feeling is the thing that stops them from moving into action.

What I know from my research on productivity is that the action has to be easy to take if you are going to do it consistently and determining that action is what happens in the Strategic Thinking & Planning stage. I am not sure which I love more and find more exciting, the planning or the doing. It’s probably pretty evenly balanced.

3. Trusting My Gut/Intuition — This is a quality that I had early in my business and life but then through experiences moved away from and came back to. As a high achiever, I think it is easy to get stuck in a point of ‘imposter syndrome’ and forget that I do know what to do, my life experiences and expertise are valuable, and I can trust myself to make the right decisions. For me, through my training to be a coach and being coached by other coaches, I came back to this belief in myself and my intuition.

Now, I believe that my (and your) intuition is the magic sauce. It is the one thing with all other aspects being the same, differentiates a person and therefore a business. My intuition has been the source of all my successes in business and in life including the Take Control System, the Momentum Programs, the shift in my business from organizing to business consulting, the books I have written. If I could give you any advice today it would be to listen to your gut and trust yourself, then make the plan and take action.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Great question. I will answer it with; it is the advice I sought and listened to when I should have listened to my own intuition. I am a learner. I love to read books, attend workshops, explore ideas. Unfortunately, about five years into my business, I began to seek advice from consultants on growing my business, and I thought, because they were the experts in their business, that they knew what was best for my business. I began to doubt my own knowledge and intuition and started furiously consuming teachings on how to grow and scale my business. It was a black hole. I was spinning through trying ideas but never long enough to see any one of them succeed. I see it now as imposter syndrome. Now I know and trust myself to make the best decisions I can in my business, and that is good enough.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

Your employees are looking to you as the biggest example of your company’s culture. You cannot lead them to thrive and not burnout unless you have a practice of doing this yourself. That means you set the standard of what work looks like, when you work, and how you work. You set the standard of communication and how you show up at work internally and externally. Take care of yourself, manage your time and your tasks, trust your team, and be genuinely interested in their success. If you cannot, then create systems to do it for you and bring on an assistant who can support you.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and authority in their industry?

It’s not one thing that you do; it is the entire package of how you show up. Create genuine relationships with people that you are actually interested in knowing, not just people that can serve you. Show up as yourself, not just as you think people want you to be. Go the extra mile to support others in their goals. Ask for support. It is just as important to receive as it is to give. More often, I see business leaders not getting ahead because they are unwilling to receive the words, actions, and support of their colleagues than because they are not giving enough themselves. The last thing, be focused on your area of expertise. You will not build trust, credibility, or authority by serving all people at all times but by being the one person or company that everyone thinks of for that one specific need.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Entrepreneurs are naturally curious and idea generators which is absolutely amazing and necessary, but it can get us into trouble when we try to solve every problem for everyone. With the global marketplace available and internet marketing abundant, it is easier than ever to shift from one idea to another without gaining traction. Knowing what you do really well and then executing on that thing is vital to success in your business space. I believe it is essential today because of the speed in which business is happening. You can have success more quickly now than ever before, but only if you stay focused.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

I see two mistakes. The first is that they wait too long to build their team of support. They bootstrap operating from a cash-poor position and mindset. They stay busy wearing every hat in the business, and it works while they are just starting as their focus is on marketing and bringing in their first customers. But they quickly burn out because, after that initial success and those first few customers, there isn’t a scalable foundation to the company.

The second is a founder that tries to automate too soon. They create a process and automate or outsource before that process is proven to be effective. This can be an extremely expensive mistake because they may wait to begin until the process is outlined and automated, only to find they have zero results from what they created.

The same solution works in both cases, and that is iterative design. Create the first process, for instance, how you work with your customer, and then automate and delegate that process once it is effective. Do it again for your sales process, then marketing, etc. — layering and expanding your team as you grow through both the cash infusion from your success and growing business capital and funding that is available as you invest back into your business.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

This is actually easy to articulate. At the end of the day, there is no one else that will ever care as much about your business as you do. You will always be the last one in the office, the first one there, and constantly thinking about what to create next, how to serve your customers in the best way, and what challenges are right around the corner. Your business is you, and its success or failure feels like a direct assessment of you as a human being. With a regular job, it is possible to leave “it” at work. You can turn off your phone and computer and walk away.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

There are lots of highs. I try to make a point of noticing and celebrating successes along the way. It’s one of the ways that I keep my head in the game. The reality is that most of every day is a success. There are a few moments that stand out substantially. But one was especially notable. In 2010 I found out a chapter of The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals in Texas had created an event, Clear Your Clutter Day. It was so cool! They set up in a parking lot, and collected donatable items and had a paper shredder on site. I tried to bring this to the organizers in my area, but with legal restrictions, they didn’t feel comfortable. So, instead, my company partnered with the local community college along with non-profits and other local businesses.

The first year, we had about 200 people drive through our drop-off center and leave donatable items, electronics, paper shredding, batteries, TVs, and plastic bags. They made a small donation, which went to Habitat for Humanity, and received a guidebook on recycling and donating they could use through the year. It was such a fantastic community effort, and I was happy to be a part of it. The next year, the word got out, and we had 623 cars come through to donate. The line went around the community college where we hosted it and out onto the main road and caused local police to get involved in directing traffic.

It was a crazy and overwhelming day, but I still feel the excitement now sharing it with you again ten years later. We did the event three more times after that before other groups started picking it up, hosting their own events, and providing resources year-round for the safe disposal of items. I still get calls every spring asking about the event, even though we have not hosted it for many years.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Absolutely, this is also a daily occurrence that requires remembering that the lows are only temporary and that they are the building blocks of the next opportunity for growth and success. The biggest emotional blow I experienced was in 2017. I started the year with my biggest team of organizers. I had already begun to shift into more corporate work but was on track with my professional organizers that worked in a residential setting plus the online program, The Take Control System, to have my best year yet by far. Everything seemed to be coming up roses, and I didn’t see how we would not be successful if we stayed on track. From January to May, my entire team quit.

At the end of April, I left for a professional conference where I was presenting, still on track to reach the business goals I had set, only to return and have my best organizer turn in her resignation, and the remaining four people on my team leave within about a month.

It felt like my world was just crashing down. The vision I had created was turning to dust, and I had a decision to either rebuild, close, or shift the business. There was a moment during this time that I was emptying our cat’s litter box, and I just stood over the mess sobbing. That’s one you don’t really forget. My husband came and hugged me, pooper scooper in hand. That time entailed a lot of wine, chocolate, and sitting and thinking on the couch.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

There were still clients to serve, and so that became my focus — along with a lot of thinking. I connected with business friends and mentors. I worked with Business Reiki Master, Victoria Whitfield.

I decided that this was an opportunity to move towards the intuition I had been receiving but not acting on to fully shift from residential organizing to working with corporate clients. I wrote a message to my customers, let them know I was no longer serving residential clients, and arranged for them to transition to other organizers in the area. I built a new website. From June to October I reclaimed the financial goals I had set at the beginning of the year, streamlined my processes, and only added back in the parts that were absolutely essential. By the end of the year, I had my best year yet in business, just as I had planned. In the end, it was following the guidance I had given to so many clients before, which was to take back control of my business, reveal what was essential, create systems, and shed the excess so that I could live and operate more purposefully.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Identify a “you” that is separate from your business

2. Celebrate everything

3. Follow the advice of Nastia Liukin, “Never Quit on a Bad Day”

4. Take care of yourself

5. Find your tribe where you can celebrate both the highs and the lows.

1. Identify a “you” that is separate from your business

If your identity is tied to your business, then when things don’t go well, and they will, the blow can be even more devastating. Set boundaries on your business time and create goals and relationships that have nothing to do with your work.

2. Celebrate everything

Celebrate and be grateful for everything, the good and the bad. This can look like finding ten things to be grateful for every day or taking time on a monthly basis to celebrate the top 10% of what is going well in your business and personal life, as well as recognizing the bottom 10% of what is not going well in your business and personal life. These exercises create a perspective that can help shift your mindset and elevate your thinking.

3. Follow the advice of Nastia Liukin, “Never Quit on a Bad Day”

American Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin shares that her parents, who were her coaches, told her that she could not quit on a bad day. If she went to the gym or competition and had a great day and still did not wish to continue, then she could leave the sport. As an entrepreneur, it’s normal to feel like quitting every single day while also loving what you do and being excited about your work. If you quit on your worst day, you’ll never know if you could have turned things around, solved the problem at hand, and created a better outcome. You will not have learned anything from your experience.

4. Take care of yourself

When you care for your physical body, your mental health follows. Likewise, when you are in good physical health, your brain is supported, which means you are operating and making decisions from the best place possible. For an entrepreneur eating well, sleeping, drinking water, exercising, and meditating are not optional. You will even out your emotional state and be more clear thinking if you have a healthy body and mind.

5. Find your tribe where you can celebrate both the highs and the lows.

As human beings, we do not exist in isolation. Find the tribe of people that understand you, where you can talk about the highs and lows without judgment. Sometimes this is your family and friends, but more often, these are business colleagues that get the risks that are necessary, the big decisions, and the high goals and standards you have set for yourself.

Your neighbor is not likely to understand what it means to you to bring on your first executive assistant, and your sister may think you are pretentious for sharing that you just secured a million-dollar deal. I have a business colleague that I connect with daily to share everything from each sale to frustrations with finding the next employee. No topic is off-limits, and no judgments are made.

BONUS: Continuously refocus on the vision you are creating.

It is easier to even out the highs and the lows because everything you do is leading in the direction of your desired outcome.

Everyday, I take a few moments, usually just 1–3 minutes, to envision the future I am creating. This process helped me navigate a move to Pittsburgh with a family of five in just forty-five days and to create and launch a new event, publish a book and host another event with only two months of lead time. It’s easier to let go of the day to day ups and downs when you know where you are going and can see that outcome. Don’t overthink this activity, just take the time while lathering in the shower, walking your dog, or before writing out your plan for the day.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilient people have what Carol Dwek calls a ‘growth mindset’; they embrace ‘failure’ as a means of growth and learning. They focus on the process or the journey; they expect a positive outcome and are willing to adapt and work with others to achieve it.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

I am very thankful for the family I grew up in. I think my parents’ parenting style was instrumental in developing a growth mindset that leads to resilience. My sisters and I were expected to do our best based on our interests and capabilities. My parents were happy when we received good grades but never rewarded them, and they took the time to inspire us to be interested in learning and exploring ideas. This focus has enabled me to see every experience as an opportunity rather than to become stuck when things do not go as planned.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

I do. It can be extremely difficult at times. I think it is important to remember that a positive attitude does not mean you do not allow yourself to feel the feelings; it means that you allow yourself to feel and trust yourself. For me, I allow myself time to experience the difficult situation and will then typically do something that is grounding like: taking a bath or shower, journaling, going for a walk in the woods. I need to be able to think and process and diffuse the emotion that is coming up. From this point, it is easier to have a greater perspective of me in the situation and others that may be involved and be more positive about finding a solution, if there is one.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

Going back to the time when my company fell apart in 2017, I know now that there were signs that the end was coming. Even though things looked great on the outside, there was a lot missing within the company. One of those missing pieces was my own leadership within the company. I was being supported by my employees instead of the other way around. I do believe in transparency, but your team, like your children, should not be your support system. For them, you must stay in the leadership role and provide both a positive attitude and the tools and resources for them to do their job well. As a leader, it is your responsibility to manage yourself and your emotional well-being. Part of that management is ensuring that the five things mentioned above are in place.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

When you pray, move your feet.” (African proverb) It was about 5–6 years ago that I heard someone utter this proverb, but it spoke to me. Praying or thinking about what you are creating, asking for it, etc., is not enough; you also have to take action or implement the ideas that are coming to you. You never know what will work, which idea will be the one to create success. But just taking action is also not enough; you have to pray. I loved the interplay of thought and action. I love the way it feels balanced but also that there is a flow to it. When I catch myself thinking too much, then I know I need to move to action and, likewise, if I am just moving from task to task, I need to stop and visualize or meditate.

How can our readers further follow you online?

They can find me and lots of ways to connect further at NettieOwens.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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