Hiring a coach does not mean you’re a failure. We all need support, but I resisted this fact for years. I thought I could do everything on my own. When I finally hired my first coach, I felt like I had someone who could help me put my dreams into actionable steps. If I could go back, I would have sought support much earlier.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Stoller. Jane is a Swiss-Canadian life-biz organizer, speaker, author and university instructor whose passion is in decluttering spaces and organizing business processes. Jane wrote her first book Organizing for Your Lifestyle in 2016 to help friends get more organized. It ultimately gained international attention, and this allowed Jane to turn her passion into a profitable business, Organized Jane. Stoller travels all around the world working with clients ranging from individuals looking to revamp one space, to large corporations needing a complete business overhaul. Prior to launching her organizing business, Stoller worked for the largest cement company in the world, which allowed her to live all over Canada and Europe. Jane had an invaluable experience, but decided to make a nerve-wracking jump to entrepreneurship after realizing she wanted to live life to its fullest and follow her passion for organizing. Stoller is currently writing her second book, Decluttering for Dummies, teaching, working with individual and corporate clients, and speaking at international events. Stoller lectures at Vancouver Island University in Canada for part of the year, helping students learn management skills. In her spare time Stoller enjoys traveling to exotic destinations, spending time with family, and staying active via skiing as she currently resides in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, and has a secondary home in Exuma, Bahamas.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Jane! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up on a dairy farm, and I organized everything — even my pet cats. I remember being continually frustrated when my cats would not stay put! I then began to field a steady stream of requests to help friends clean and organize their closets, and I would always happily oblige because organizing is my passion. I would follow up each organizing session with detailed letters outlining what my friends could do to sustain the sense of order I’d created. I also dreamed of the big city life when I was a kid, and I wanted to be a lawyer and write books about organizing. Turns out, I’m much more passionate about business than law, but the book dreams have come to fruition.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
Many people have asked me what my turning point was. For a long time, I struggled to step outside my comfort zone and overcome my belief that I needed to become a corporate CEO to be successful. My turning point or “ah ha” moment was gradual, the cumulative result of surrounding myself with a tribe of positive mentors, mostly through books, courses, and coaching, and through interactions with the business bloggers I followed for many years. Before I had this tribe of mentors, I started and abandoned the exact same business I have now. Looking back, it’s obvious why my first attempt to start my own business failed. After completing my MBA, and with a few years of work experience under my belt at corporations in the insurance and construction sectors, I thought I was ready to start my own organizing business. So I did all the usual things: I registered my business, completed my website, prepared content, and was ready to market myself. Or at least, I thought I was ready to market myself. Intellectually, I was comfortable with the fact that I would have to be the face of the company and drive my own profit. But emotionally, I was terrified. Also, initial reactions from a select group of corporate mentors scared me enough that instead of seeking out advice from a variety of sources (which is what I should have done), I just got discouraged. Looking back, I cringe thinking about how quickly I gave up. If I’d had the support that’s so much more readily available today, from Girl Boss Empowerment coaches and online communities of successful entrepreneurs, or if I’d been proactive enough to look for that support back then, I probably wouldn’t have given up. Everyone needs a good network to support them, and I’m no exception. I owe so much of my current success to the wonderful and inspiring growth of lifestyle businesses, so many of which are led by amazing men and women driven by an insatiable need to make the world a better, more welcoming, and — in the case of some of my favorite mentors — a more organized place.
10 years after abandoning that first business, I faced a more direct turning point, one that forced me to question my belief that success could only come from within the corporate world.
My corporate job was moving me — yet again — to another country. The old Jane would have moved anywhere, anytime, to climb the ladder to the next role. But after more than a decade in the corporate world, I’d traveled so much and I was starting to wonder if my home was really a home, or just somewhere I stayed for a few days or weeks between business trips. I’m also terrified of flying, so unnecessary plane travel — like flying from Zurich to Singapore for a one-day meeting — isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Don’t get me wrong: I’m definitely grateful for my corporate experience, which has given me truly global business skills and the ability to work with a diversity of cultures on both large and small-scale projects, restructures, divestments, etc. Plus, many of the people I met in the corporate world are still my close friends. Being forced to travel and adapt also widened my perspective on organizing, and informed my development of a simple, structured process that could be applied to a variety of situations and lifestyles. However, 12 years of being constantly at the beck and call of a huge corporation ultimately left me feeling burnt out. The fact that my new role would have required me to spend 50% of my work time travelling provided the push I needed to finally follow my true passion — which involved resurrecting that long-abandoned organizing business, this time with more drive, motivation, and tenacity.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
For me the biggest challenge was overcoming confidence problems and that my passion was not a “real job”. Once I overcame my confidence issue, I was able to turn my passion into a real business.
To illustrate the depths of my confidence problems: When my first book, Organizing for Your Lifestyle, was released in 2016, I was so proud, and shared it with everyone I could. Well, almost everyone; I still found the need to hide it from my corporate circle, scared my work colleagues wouldn’t think the subject was “professional” enough. The irony is that the exact opposite is true — the more organized you are, the better you can succeed professionally! Instead of promoting my book to my extremely large and well-connected corporate network, I actually downplayed it. This turned out to be one of the stupidest moves I’ve ever made. Two years later, when I finally did find the courage to promote the book to my entire network, almost everyone was extremely supportive — much more supportive than they’d been ten years before, when I’d created that first website for my original organizing business. In fact, most of my business has come from my corporate network, and connecting my organizing life to my business life has improved my skills in both spheres. It’s also, of course, invaluably informed my 4-step organizing process.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Whether your passion is a side hustle, a full-time business, an idea for a business, or even a hobby, never discount its value, or think it isn’t worthwhile. In fact, most passionate side hustles or hobbies teach you plenty of transferable skills, and they almost always help you grow a network of people who want to see you succeed — which is the best kind of network to have!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
This is a tough question as I grew up with very hard-working parents, some even said they were “workaholics,” but on the contrary they were always happy following their passions. My parents were hard-working entrepreneurs after leaving corporate roles to follow their dreams, first as organic farmers, and then as owners and managers of a fishing resort. Through their modeling, I saw the constant stress, hard work, and extreme dedication it takes to make an independent business successful. For decades, my parents had no weekends off; they were constantly working and dealing with unexpected variables and crises. On the flip side, however, my parents were always happy; there was never a time they weren’t passionate about their work and focused on building the kind of life they truly wanted, one where hard work is rewarded both financially and emotionally through the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re responsible for your own success.
You will not love or enjoy every moment of running your business, but if it does not become enjoyable eventually, then maybe a change is necessary. Prepare yourself to have many ups and downs, and then enjoy the rewards of continually stepping outside your comfort zone.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
Once I realized that very few people are as passionate about organizing as I am, I knew I had something worthwhile to share. It seemed like there was a niche I needed to fill, and I slowly started trusting that I had the expertise to write books and speak about it. The most enjoyable part of running my own business is helping others and seeing how organizing saves people time, money and stress. I also love sharing my wealth and employing others so that we can help each other grow.
The drawback of running my own business is marketing myself; this has always been a big fear of mine, but I’m slowly becoming more confident with putting myself out there. Promoting myself was a drawback until I change my mentality and realized that self-marketing my passion is a privilege. Once I reframed this part of my business, I’ve started enjoying the process and am happy to share content in hopes of helping and inspiring people. I’ve gained so much confidence and feelings of empowerment through speaking about my passion. I’ve started owning the fact that I’m in this business because I am an expert.
Remember that no matter what topic interests you, you have the skills, talent and resources you need to get it out into the world. Trust yourself and own it!
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The most striking difference is that it is not as glamorous as it looks on Instagram. Most of my daily job involves sitting behind a computer writing and strategizing, but on Instagram it looks like I spend most of my time travelling luxuriously while doing a few speeches between glasses of champagne! I definitely underestimated the time it takes to gain momentum and create a network. I feel like I’m now where I want to be in my business, and I have to remind myself to celebrate each little and big success that comes my way.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes, especially around starting an unusual business around my passion.
Making your passion your business has its downside. For a long time, I didn’t treat organizing as a business. I downplayed the importance of what I could offer people and I still sometimes struggle with this. At first, asking people to pay for something I love doing seemed crazy and unfair. Over time, my passion had transformed from a mere hobby into a well-honed and researched skill. Without really realizing it, I’d become an organizing expert. And experts in a field deserve to get paid for that expertise. But, as we all know, what we deserve isn’t always what we get — more often than not, we need to fight for it. And in that fight, your own worst enemy is sometimes yourself.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started this business 10 years ago I thought the business would come without having me market myself. I was terrified to own my talent. I didn’t believe in myself… so I let myself shrink, thus failing my first attempt at running my business. I sometimes wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her not to care so much what people thought about her. But even though I don’t have a time machine, I can pass this message along to others who have the same fears and doubts, and hopefully make a difference in their lives.
It’s funny because I now love public speaking, even to huge audiences of over 100,000 people, but I am terrified of Instagram and Facebook Live. Every week, I try to face my fears, be vulnerable, show up exactly as I am and find my courage. So far, it seems to be working!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Too many to list! Everyone needs a good network to support them, and I’m no exception. Specifically, I need to name my personal branding coach Think Natalia who helped me not only develop a personal branding strategy but helped me get over my fears of self-marketing. And various authors such as Jen Sincero, Tim Ferriss, and Nicole Lapin.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I help people have the confidence to tackle anything life throws at them by being organized. I know that custom-tailored organizing systems and routines will massively enhance everyone’s work and personal life. Through every book I write, event I speak at and class I teach, I’m helping people to reduce stress and increase their overall well-being.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You don’t have to have a perfect plan — just start. I used to waste so much time in what I call ‘overthinking paralysis.’ Sometimes, you have to just begin and change gears along the way. Nothing will ever be perfect, so take that pressure off yourself.
- Hiring a coach does not mean you’re a failure. We all need support, but I resisted this fact for years. I thought I could do everything on my own. When I finally hired my first coach, I felt like I had someone who could help me put my dreams into actionable steps. If I could go back, I would have sought support much earlier.
- Get prepared for rejection. Avoid taking ‘no’ personally. Rejection is feedback, not failure.
- Everyone will have an opinion, but it does not mean it is the right one. Be careful who you ask advice from. Keep your integrity, and stay authentic with what you truly envision for yourself.
- You will have bigger highs and lows in business than you can imagine! It’s all part of the journey. When you can accept this, it becomes a lot more manageable. Remember to celebrate each of your little and big successes, and enjoy the process.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement, it would be for everyone to take ten minutes a day to organize one aspect of their lives. It would also be for people to be more gentle with themselves; I don’t think your passion has to be a business or even a part-time side hustle. It could be something that you do just for fun that brings you joy. Prior to launching my organizing business, I worked at many different jobs. Although I had discovered my passion at an early age and wanted to share it with the world to help people, it was a nerve-wracking jump into entrepreneurship. I did this after realizing I wanted to live life to its fullest and follow this passion for organizing. It hasn’t been an easy road, and I’ve had plenty of struggles and setbacks, some practical, and some related to self-doubt. I don’t always find it easy to talk about myself, but my branding coach tells me authenticity is the new perfect — let’s hope she’s right! Like all of us, I’m still a work in progress. But with each year that goes by, I grow more confident that in our ever-busier world, we need a simple process to keep us organized. And I know from experience that process needs to start with us taking a long, hard look at ourselves.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“For every minute spent organizing an hour is earned” — Benjamin Franklin
I like this quote because it gets down to the true meaning of planning and how it truly saves you time and energy. You can only reach this level of organizing bliss by making sure your organizing systems and routines are perfectly adapted to your goals, personality, and needs. Again: organizing is a lifestyle, but it needs to be your lifestyle. To start, I would set aside time daily to organize, even if it’s just ten minutes at the beginning or end of your day. If you do this, you’ll instantly feel like you’ve achieved something. And, yes, I said every day; if you continue to make organizing a daily goal, it will become a priority, and soon enough, you’ll be organizing naturally.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Martha Stewart has always has been my idol. She made home-making a business. Her consistent brand, useful tips, and ability to continually develop new ideas is truly inspiring.
Over the last three decades, the organizing trend has become a big business. We’ve become obsessed with doing more in less time while posting it all on social media, making our lives look effortless and perfect. 20 years ago, there were only a few books about organizing and certainly no websites, TV shows, or organizing gurus. Throughout the 1990’s, Martha Stewart presided over all things domestic, including organizing. In 1995, New York magazine featured her on the cover as “the definitive American woman of our time.” Where Stewart discussed organizing as just one facet of an empire that spanned cooking, wedding planning, and Christmas crafts organizing has transitioned from a trend into a bonafide movement with its own economic boom and I credit Martha Stewart to much of this.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.