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Women in Business – Surviving the First Two Years: “Be honest about what your strengths and weaknesses are.” Interview with Shelli Johnson

Interview with Shelli Johnson, founder of Start Where You Are Weight Loss, on her experiences being a woman entrepreneur.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, and describe your company.

I am a wellness entrepreneur, weight-loss expert and coach, and author. You can find me at shellijohnson.com. I am also the founder of Start Where You Are Weight Loss, which has been in business since January 2020. I’ve been using my voice and platform to empower women to heal their relationship with themselves and with food. 

At my heaviest, I weighed 304 pounds (size 26) and was a yo-yo dieter with two eating disorders (bulimia and compulsive overeating). Now I weigh roughly 130 pounds (size 2) and have been free of all eating disorders for over a decade. I lost the weight naturally (no surgery, pills, disordered eating, expensive health products/interventions, or anything along those lines) and have kept the weight off for 9 years and counting.

My book, Start Where You Are Weight Loss®, details in easy-to-understand steps the process I went through to lose the weight and maintain that loss. 

Women have said that my approach to weight loss has: 

  • given them hope.
  • helped them address and heal their relationship with food and with themselves.
  • allowed them to lose weight without dieting.
  • giving them faith they can reach their goals.
  • helped them stop abusing themselves with food.
  • set them free.

I am currently featured on the front page of the Half Their Size section on People.com. I was also featured on the cover of PEOPLE magazine Half Their Size in January 2020 and two covers of PEOPLE magazine, the Special Edition of the Half Their Size issue in April 2020. My book has been featured in PEOPLE magazine, PEOPLE TV, FOX TV, National Public Radio, The Charlotte Observer, among others.

What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the first two years of operating your business? How did you overcome it?

I found myself getting burned out not too long ago, and it was because I was doing far too many work things and not enough self-care activities. The burnout caused my productivity to plummet because I had little energy or desire to work on much of anything. So now self-care is a priority in my day, which means taking breaks and honoring my own needs during the workday.

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re an entrepreneur, especially if you’re solo and doing much, if not all, of your business tasks on your own. I make self-care a priority now and even schedule it on my calendar so that I take excellent care of myself and don’t make excuses not to (like I’m too busy). It’s also very difficult to be my best for my clients and meet their needs when I’m not doing my best for myself and meeting my own needs. Self-care is a priority in both my personal and professional life now. 

What are some of the biggest digital marketing challenges you have faced to date? How have you overcome them?

My biggest challenge by far was time management. I have hired an assistant to help with tasks that either I don’t need to do personally, that are not my strengths, and/or that I don’t enjoy doing. That has freed up my time to create content that matters to me and to connect with the people I serve.

Please tell us what led you to the path of entrepreneurship. 

I was standing in front of the refrigerator one day, deciding whether or not I was going to binge. I had already lost 100 pounds. But I still had so far to go to reach my goal of wearing a size 6. I wanted to ease my frustration and shame over the fact that I wasn’t where I wanted to be right at that moment. 

Then I got the call (as an insistent voice in my head) to write a book and teach others in easy-to-understand steps how they could eat what they want, lose weight, and keep it off. The book is called Start Where You Are Weight Loss® because I realized I needed to stop wishing I was somewhere in the past or in the future and instead to just start right where I was.

That idea has now grown from a book into a website at startwhereyouareweightloss.com, YouTube channel, coaching business, and I’m currently working on an online course that will be launching soon. I was also featured on three covers of PEOPLE’s Half Their Size issues as well as on PEOPLE TV.

What are the three most important things every woman entrepreneur should do, when first thinking about starting a business?


Know your strong reason why you want to start a business. Your strong reason why is a declaration to yourself as to why what you’re doing deeply matters to you. You need to know that strong reason why deep down in your bones. You also need to decide, right now (even before you start), what you’re going to do when the temptation to quit comes. That temptation will come; it’s not a matter of if but of when. And if you’re not ready with a solid reason as to why what you’re doing deeply matters to you when that temptation comes, then you’ll get derailed and you’ll likely quit.

Be honest about what your strengths and weaknesses are. There are things that you are naturally good at or that you have an interest in learning how to do; those are your strengths. Then there are those things you are not good at or that you have little to no interest in learning how to do; those are your weaknesses. We all have both. 

You will do yourself such a kindness and also save yourself a lot of time if you’ll just be honest with yourself about what your strengths and weaknesses are. Once you know that about yourself, then you can accentuate and play to your strengths and you can hire or delegate your weaknesses to someone else.

Clarify YOUR definition of success when it comes to your business. This goes back to knowing your strong reason why. Why does starting a business matter to YOU? Then from that, you can clarify what, exactly, a successful business looks like to you. It’s really easy to get sucked into a definition of success based on others (society, your community, other businesses, your family, your friends, and the list goes on). 

However, if you aim for someone else’s idea of success, you likely will not be fulfilled when you achieve it. You will also likely struggle to even achieve that success because it doesn’t matter deeply to you. So ask yourself what would feel like success to YOU, then aim for that.

Are there actionable steps a woman in business should take to ensure that her company is successful in two years?

1. Take an honest assessment of the goals you set for yourself. This isn’t about blame/shame. This is simply about information so you can make changes to get yourself where you want to be. Are you reaching your goals? If so, great. If not, what can you do so that you will meet your goals?

2. Ask for help. Delegate your weaknesses or things you just don’t like to do. Get a mentor or business coach. I belong to a business group. Hands down, it was the best decision I made when I became an entrepreneur:

  • It gives me a support system so I don’t have to go it alone.
  • There are people much more knowledgeable than me that can help me grow and not make mistakes I would have otherwise made without their help.

3. Keep going and don’t quit. People often vastly underestimate how long it will take to achieve success. So when they don’t reach success by the time they predetermined in their head, they give up on themselves and quit. Don’t do that to yourself. You will absolutely get to where you want to be if you’ll just keep moving in that direction, no matter how slowly, and you don’t stop. Just so you know: it took me 2 years to lose 174 pounds. I would have never gotten there if I quit. I simply refused to give up on myself and so I kept going all the way until I finished.

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