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Michaela: Welcome back to the show. And today, we're looking at successful intuition mindsets with Shayna Oliveira. And we'll talk about what the first time she consciously used her intuition in her business and why. And a mindset shift it's helped over many years to use your intuition more. And we'll also talk about when her intuition failed her. And finally, we’ll look at joy versus profits; which one should you go for? So welcome Shayna.
Shayna: Thank you, I'm excited to talk about all this stuff.
Michaela: Yes, me too. And in case you don't know us she is both an English teacher and entrepreneur. And she divides the time between Brazil and the United States, and a lot of other countries. I think I've met her in Spain, and maybe in Thailand. And she is also host of an amazing podcast ‘Entrepreneurs in Motion’. So we'll talk more about that later. But first, let's talk about what the first time you consciously used your intuition in your business. We should have implies that prior to that, you wouldn't.
Shayna: Well just a bit of brief background. My business is essentially selling online courses, and e-books, teaching English as a second language. So my students and customers are immigrants or folks who work in multinational companies. And that's a really diverse audience. I've got people from multiple countries, multiple cultural backgrounds. And so the first time I could think of that I really used intuition in my business had to do with setting a price for my products and services. Because you have lots of different currencies, people all different economic levels. And when it comes to pricing, that makes it really difficult. And I know that there are scientific studies about pricing.
There are best practices, and there are analyses that you can do. And I would look up these things when I was trying to come up with a price for my very first product. But it would just kind of make my head spin because some people are saying, “Always price premium”. Other people know make it accessible. And I couldn't decide. And eventually, I just picked a price that felt good according to my intuition. I was going to be selling travel English course. It was going to be 30 lessons. And so I said, “30 lessons for 30 dollars.” It has a nice little resonance. And I also knew that that priest was accessible enough for a lot of my students in developing countries.
I understand not everybody, but having taught English in Brazil, I knew that that was possible for your average Brazilian middle class English learner. Yet, it was high enough that I felt like it would still value my time appropriately. In other words, I wouldn't just be selling myself short, and it worked. And to this day, most of my courses are priced like that. 30 lessons for 30 dollars, 45 for 45 dollars.
And so that decision which I made really five and a half years ago now was primarily led by intuition – what felt good, what felt right. And I still use that pricing model, and it's something that I often tell other entrepreneurs who are struggling with pricing. Pick something that feels right. You can always adjust it later. That's the earliest I can think of when my intuition really led me to make a decision. And it turns out that I'm still following it when it comes to right pricing.
Michaela: That's great! So I'm curious when you said it felt good. Did you literally have a feeling in your body, or did you hear the number 13 in your head, or did you dream about it? You know different people get their intuition different ways. I'm curious how you got that particular message of intuition.
Shayna: I don't really like things that match as you can tell from the name my business; ‘Espresso English’ has alliteration. So I kind of like that symmetry and I only realized after someone asked me about it. Did you do that on purpose? No, it just came to me and then I realized that ring to it.
Shayna: And I think the similar thing with the pricing. You know it seemed logical. 30 and 30, there's just a balance there. I don't know about once there it's easy for prospective students to understand, right. Because if your pricing is confusing to people, then that's barrier against them purchasing. And I guess that that's maybe the root of why it felt good. And I guess when I thought about selling it at 30 dollars, like I kind of projected it out what it would be like to ask someone to spend 30 dollars for this product. It felt comfortable. I felt like I could do this. I could ask for this amount of money for this product as opposed to either feeling like, “Oh wow! That is way over reaching.” Or, “Oh that is so low that I really… it's not even worth that.” So that was the sweet spot.
Michaela: When did you name your business? Was it after you launched your first products or?
Shayna: I guess that's going back even further. So that would have been one of the first things I did before I even registered the domain name. So yeah, that was possibly decision number zero. I mean that was the genesis of everything. I knew I wanted to have an English teaching website. And I was debating names, I was… do I want my name to be part of this? You know English was Shayna type of thing. And then one day while walking, it just came to me; popped into my head – ‘Espresso English’. And what's interesting is that… and I didn't think about this at the time. But my teaching style, my lessons are very short, and sweet, and concentrated just like a shot of Espresso.
Shayna: Yeah, and people have asked me if I picked the name based on the style, or if I adjusted my style based on the name. Neither; it was kind of altogether. It wasn't a conscious decision, but my lessons ended up being short, and small, and powerful just like a shot of Espresso. So I'm really happy with the name which is amazing. And yeah, it's a great reflection.
Michaela: Yeah because you've had this business six years. So how long is it or?
Shayna: Six years just turned six on January first. So fairly recently.
Michaela: Oh! Happy birthday to your business.
Shayna: Oh! Thank you oh yes. Still going strong, still loving it.
Michaela: Yeah, so I love how you… You know thinking about what a good name would be and then you just let it go, and went for a walk, and the name just popped into your head and…
Shayna: I remember exactly where I was it. I was in Brazil at the time. I was passing particularly fancy hotel on my way home. And I just I don't know, Espresso. I hadn't even had espresso that day. I don't know where it came from. But it ended up being a good pick.
Michaela: And I think that's good for anyone listening is having a thing they're trying to figure out in a business. Sometimes, it's better to stop thinking and just let it go. Take a walk, take a shower, have a nap.
Michaela: See what comes. So what about your mindset, and how is that helped you use your intuition more?
Shayna: You know the word mindset is so interesting because you know, like a [inaudible] [7:38] I'm a very practical person. And sometimes, I'd read about business mindset, and I think, “Oh this is just a bunch of I don't know. Like it sounds really abstract to me. I don't think this is really something I need to focus on.” But it was only later that I realized that this does mindset has a ton of practical effects. Whether things that happen in your business, the decisions you make, how you feel about them. And I didn't really believe in that at first.
But one of the biggest shifts that I made was okay, so after I came up with this product and this price, it still took me quite a while to get comfortable with marketing and selling it; kind of essential to a business. But as a teacher as someone who has worked in education, and helping, it was hard for me to reconcile that with a lot of the Internet marketing tactics that I saw which just seemed either aggressive, annoying, slimy; just I…
Michaela: all three
Shayna: Yes exactly I could not bring myself to use those especially as I purported to be helping people with my product, and with my website. But what really clicks for me was when I changed my mindset to seeing selling not as pushing or imposing. You know something on someone that they don't want, and it's a bad experience for everybody. But instead is inviting the person to go deeper with you. It's a deeper relationship, a value exchange. So when someone signs up for my free lessons, works changing value. I'm sending them some free tips, they're getting value. Hopefully, they're implementing them and using them. And then if they want to go one step deeper, then I invite them. Just like inviting someone to a party to further your friendship. I should feel like that.
And who doesn't like getting invited to a party? Everybody likes getting invited to a party even if you don't really like the person, you just say, Oh no, thanks for thinking of me, but I have other plans.” But if you want to develop that relationship further then you would accept the invitation. And so in all of my sales pages, all of my email marketing, that's essentially the approach I take. I provide some value and then I just invite the person very naturally to go deeper if they would like to by joining one of my paid courses. And that really now instead of dreading marketing, or trying to sell I love it. And it seems to work well for me. I again I've used it ever since all my email communications, that is my selling style.
And talking about practical affects that so that I change my mindset. And the practical effect is that I'm making sales, and I'm comfortable with the way I feel good about the way that I'm making sales. I don't feel like I'm cheating people or whatever I might have felt if I had adopted those other more aggressive tactics. And my refund rate is extremely low because I think people see the honesty in that invitation, and they're comfortable with me. We've developed a bit of a relationship. So those are the practical effects that came out of the mindset shift. So I just found that fascinating study. I used to believe in mindset stuff, and now I can really see the effect that changing my mindset has had on my business.
Michaela: So that one shift in mindset over the last six years, how much to think that it's made for you in your business?
Shayna: Poof! Well let's just say full time living for full time living expenses. For the past four years that's for two people; my husband and I. So I'm not sure in a parallel universe what path my business would have taken without it. But I can say that it contributed not only to the growth; healthy growth of my business I’ll say, but also to me being able to sleep well at night knowing that I'm using a selling strategy that is honest, and a good experience for both me and my customers. So that I guess you can't put a price on. But I would say it's had those two benefits.
Michaela: So, it's important to you and your business not just how much profit you make, but how happy and joyful you feel about owning the business, and running it.
Shayna: Yeah, definitely. So I mean we spend probably a great deal of time, mental energy, and everything else. You know investing into the business. If it's not working for you, if it's causing you negative emotions instead of positive ones, that's not good. It's also not sustainable I don't think. So it is important for me to be feeling good about the business that I'm doing, and the work I'm doing on a day to day basis.
Michaela: Have you experienced work in the past that made money, but it was energy draining, or have you seen that in other entrepreneurs?
Shayna: Yes, I have seen it in others. I've seen a few articles. You know my whatever drop shipping, not to not drop shipping, but selling whatever. You know business was in the seven figures. But I really felt like I wasn't contributing to the world, and I shut it all down I've read. And those that takes guts. But my own experience was before Espresso English, way ancient history. I was getting into a business, selling, trying to sell jewelry made in Brazil because there are some interesting artisans, and jewelry made with natural materials. And I thought to be a great business to sell this jewelry and export it to people in other countries. One problem, I don't wear or use very much jewelry. I'm not excited about jewelry.
So how could I possibly sell it effectively? And that business has made a few sales, but never got off the ground because I could not bring myself to work on it. I just heart wasn't in it. And someone else who did have that passion, or who was really into that area I'm sure could take it very far. But I think about, okay, if that had become successful let's say by some miracle, would I be happy making say the income I'm making now, but doing that? And I would not be as happy because that's not what I feel my call is to contribute to the world. And so I… But it was amazing how hard it was to motivate myself to do something that I thought could be a profit maker, but that I wasn't into. And it was like a daily struggle, and finally said forget it. This is just not for me clearly.
Michaela: Right maybe you just weren’t into it to paraphrase the title of another book.
Shayna: yes exactly
Michaela: So it sounds important to you. You balance both the joy and the profits in your business. Is there anything else that's important to you in you having a business?
Shayna: Well, kind of the flip side of that would be what if you enjoy the work, but it's not profitable? And that is what I was experiencing right before starting Espresso English. So I was teaching English offline, in classrooms, and one on one in Brazil. And I loved the teaching part. It was very fulfilling, I could see my students making progress. I enjoyed the process of helping. I mean I think learning a second language is really powerful in terms of what it can do for your confidence, and your opportunities. So I loved helping people getting through that process, but the wages were not great. I was being paid in Brazilian currency, and just not great.
I was putting in a lot of unpaid hours between commute time and horrible traffic, prep time, grading. I mean that teachers around the world often face the same problems unfortunately. But it was draining me instead of energizing me even though I love the work. And we were on a shoestring budget at home. So living in Brazil, I was not able to. We were able to sustain ourselves. But we did not have enough to travel, visit my family in the US. So that was a situation where I love the work, but the profits were not there. And so when I started Espresso English are just perfect meld of work I enjoy, I'm good at, it's fulfilling.
And selling courses online is much more scalable and profitable than teaching one to one where your income is limited by the time that you can spend in those lessons. And so now, it's perfect for me because I get to do what I love. And it's very profitable it's growing in addition to me having another aspect is the freedom and autonomy to work on the projects I want to work on. I don't have to be constrained by a school or a curriculum. So all these things came together to be the perfect job for me, or the perfect profession. Even though I was doing it before, but it wasn't really paying off.
Michaela: I think being conscious of the business model that we have is something that a lot of beginning entrepreneurs don’t pay attention to. And I'm curious how you became aware that you need to shift your business model.
Shayna: Well, the model I was doing for was these one on one lessons, private lessons. And there was literally no way for me to increase my income because there are only so many hours in the day, and my income would also take a hit based on cancellations. I was always dealing with scheduling whereas with online courses, as well as a number of other businesses between software and products, you can scale. Because there's not a direct relation between what you're selling in the time you're investing. Now you have to invest your time of course, but it's not a one to one correlation. And when I kind of did a little bit of Math I thought, “Okay for that first product, if I can okay it's 30 dollars. If I can sell say 30 of them, 30 times 30, 900.
Okay, that's basic living expenses for me where I was in Brazil. And that's about the same amount as I was making per month in the classroom.” And I said, “If I can just get that and then after that I could keep selling it and I don't have to recreate the course each time, that could be really good.” Now I didn't end up getting 30 students my first round. I got about 18. But I figured if I can get 18, I can get 180, I can get 800, I can get 8,000. Haven't reached that last level yet, but you can see how different that is as opposed to over scheduling myself just trying, and trying, and trying to get as many classes as possible. Because it's not possible to work that much in your income has effectively a ceiling to it.
Michaela: I think picking the right business model is key for a business being successful not just profitable, but joyful for the owner. I know we have some mutual friends who've gone through several businesses. Now I’m forgetting her name. She has the social media business with the octopus as logo.
Shayna: Laura Roeder
Michaela: Yeah Laura, so she that's a business I believe. And she deliberately designed it to be able to grow whether or not she was present there. Because she knew she was going to take time off do other things like have a baby.
Shayna: Exactly, I’ve followed her story a bit and I love watching her talk about that because to some really smart moves that I think we can all learn from.
Michaela: Yeah, so what about when you're intuition has failed you?
Shayna: Okay, so I have a very recent example of this. I've let my intuition guide me through all of creating all of my products really. I have about 14 or 15 different courses. And the way I come up with the topics for those is just based on all the correspondence I have with thousands and thousands of my students. Eventually, a topic emerges and that's what I make the course on. Now recently, I was going to try to do a membership program because I wanted to try a recurring revenue type of thing. And I felt really strongly that a winning premise for this membership would be English as taught from news events. So I had done a few English in the news videos on YouTube, and they were always super popular. And people always said, “More please, I really want more of these of these lessons.
I love learning English from news articles.” I would take the article out explain the vocabulary and so on. And so I thought, “Ha, that's a format that it looks like my students are into. I'm getting good feedback on it.” And so I came up with this scheme you know, how many lessons per month, how much it would cost, if we're gonna have a Facebook group to discuss it. And then I decided to actually survey my audience. And I'm so glad I did because I floated this idea to them basically. I explained what I had all planned out, and I wanted to gauge their interest. I said, “Are interested, what you think would be a reasonable price point?” And just fell flat like a lead balloon.
First of all, not many people even responded. And so that's an indication that although I was getting great feedback, people want to excited enough to really want to invest in such a program. And a few people proposed other things that had nothing to do with the premise. Unfortunately, the ideas were all over the place. And so my first reaction was just intense discouragement because I was really sure that this was a winning idea, or a winning idea for a program, and my students were not responding the way I wanted them to. So I was frustrated.
Well I let a few days go by, the survey responses are trickling in. And after I kind of cool down a bit I thought, “How good is it that I tested my intuitive idea against then what my customers wanted”? Because that saved me from could you imagine if I had launched this thing put hundreds of hours of work into it, and then only you know three people joined. You know those three people who join everything that you start. And then I would have lost a lot of time, and I would have been even more upset. So I'm really glad that I surveyed people. But I was genuinely surprised by that response or lack of response. So I guess that's an example when my intuition was a little bit off. But that's okay. I learned something from it.
Michaela: What did you learn from it?
Shayna: That it's always good to combine approaches. You know intuitive ideas are great. Sometimes, you do need to test them in the market, or test them with your potential customers, or basically get feedback. And I think I use my intuition also when evaluating feedback. So for example, you might ask for feedback and someone might tell you something, but it actually isn't gonna work for your situation. So you can't say, “Oh, but so and so said that wouldn't work or that would work or to do something else.” Whenever I receive feedback, I kind of take it all in first. I consider the source. You know is this person… how I guess how seriously should I take this feedback?
I'm gonna weigh feedback let's say from a very experienced entrepreneur different from someone who's never had a business. And then kind of a conclusion emerges. So I like you know, I think I'm sure I'll use that again in the future. This blended approach of having some intuitive ideas, testing them out, and then evaluating some of the results and feedback, and figuring out if that's a goal. You know move forward with the idea, or if that's a no go, or maybe there's a slightly different direction that I should take.
Michaela: I mean I find it helps what question I ask my intuition. No, rather than saying should I do this product? I ask how it much money and joy is the product going to bring me in the next year? Because sometimes, our intuition will encourage us to do stuff that gives us big life lessons, but wasn't necessarily enjoyable or profitable.
Shayna: That's true and one reason I guess I'm glad I didn't go ahead with this project at the moment is that. You know a monthly membership is great for recurring income I mean many of our friends have very successful programs like this. However, the flip side it does create a monthly obligation hanging over your head. So that's kind of the double edged sword I suppose. And I realize that if I had gone ahead with this, yes, maybe it would have brought a lot of profit. But I would always have that deadline, that obligation constantly hanging over me. And maybe not something that that I don't want in my life at this point. So it ended up having a surprising, but happy ending.
Michaela: Right, so let's talk about your relationship with money. Because I know you have a good relationship there, and I'm kind of curious to hear more about it.
Shayna: Oh well, I'm very much a numbers person. I love crunching my numbers. And just doing those analyses, and figuring out all those geeky things like the average customer value, and time to first purchase, and all these things. And I mean I think it's important that every business owner at least have a sense of what's going on with their numbers even if you don't get into the nitty gritty because that's essential. I mean without that knowledge, how can you make decisions about what to invest in, who to hire, and what salary level, and are you over extending yourself, or are you under investing in your own business?
And so that's I guess an example of how data can inform your intuition. You might not make decisions based purely on the data or on the numbers, but having that in mind. Like we said earlier in our conversation, when things kind of percolate, then you can… I think it improves perhaps the quality of your intuition. Because you have more information in your head to make some of these decisions.
Michaela: So what would you describe your money mindset as then?
Shayna: Oh! Don't think anyone's asked me that before. I mean I see… let's see. I mean I see right now for me, money is both what is enabling me to live this very free and location independent lifestyle which is honestly perfect. I never dreamed of living this lifestyle, but it's turning out to be just ideal for me. And at the same time, a tool to use in reinvesting, and growing the business further. And this year, I just finished doing all my financials for the previous year.
And now armed with that data, I feel like going forward. Now I know okay, if I hire and I haven't hired yet; that's a chapter I haven't reached quite yet. But now I know if I hire, okay what can I afford to pay, what is a fair salary? I can take all that into account. So I love the fact that the money generated from the business is being used both to fund a great lifestyle for me, and to reinvest in a couple of different ways into growing the business itself.
Michaela: You mention hiring for a full time staff. But what about… I'm assuming you must have hired contract staff to help you.
Shayna: Yeah, just on a usually on a project by project basis. You know that's a good way I think for entrepreneurs to dip their toe into hiring without taking on the commitment which is more serious commitment of a full time employee. I've had pretty good experiences with hiring. I usually find people through your typical sites. Like people per hour is a good one or Fiverr sometimes.
And I always… I'm not sure if I've walked out of my intuitions just lead me to the right people. But I've always had people who are communicative, effective, they get the work done, some of them even get it done ahead of time. I don't know if it's just a matter of like attracts like because that's the way I tend to work. But it's been a great experience. And so when I do eventually hire full time, I hope I can find someone with those similar qualities to be a full time part of the business.
Michaela: So when you're hiring people to do things tasks like that, are you just evaluating on a logical level, or do you get a gut feeling that someone's not a fit or?
Shayna: Well, I do use logic in the sense that I look at their ratings. If you're hiring off of one of these freelancer sites, you can see ratings from past clients. I look at their portfolio if I'm hiring what say for design to see if the style seems to be a match. And occasionally, I will exchange a message or two with them before pulling the trigger, and hiring just to see what their communication style is, and the level of responsiveness. So I guess those are a few of the more logical criteria I take into effect. But if everything seems good on all those fronts, then I don't hesitate. I usually say, “Okay this sounds great. Let's do a project together.”
Michaela: All right! So let's end the interview by looking at, why you're proud to use intuition in your business? And I'm kind of curious about.
Shayna: So it's always a bit of a battle in my mind between intuition. I tend to be more of an intuitive person in life, but I also have this very practical scientific bent. My background is actually in science, so I always want to know all the data. I want there to be a specific plan to follow. So these two things are always kind of coexisting in my mind. I think one of the reason I'm proud to use intuition is because the more I'm involved in entrepreneurship, the more I realize that there is no formulaic specific path to business. Every entrepreneur I've met has a totally different story.
Every business has its own particularities, and tweaks. And what works for one might not work for another. And in my early days, I really craved a step by step path to follow. But now I realize there isn't one. And so given that, the only way to move forward is really through using your intuition. Because you have to navigate what is essentially uncharted waters with every single new business. And so that's why I'm proud to use intuition because I think it's a great guide given the fact that we can't. There's no entrepreneur or university, we can't follow someone else's path. Each entrepreneur has to kind of blaze their own. So that's why I like using.
Michaela: That's great! So as you know, I'm on a mission to help all entrepreneurs openly use their intuition in their businesses, so that they become both make more profits and joy. And also just from a planetary level, I think businesses… If everyone was using their intuition as well as a logical mind, it’ll make less silly decisions and hurt other people on the planet as well. So what would it take to have every business leader openly using their intuition?
Shayna: Well listening to your podcast for one. I think you know kind of like I was in the early days, a lot of people might not even think that this is necessary. They might be taking too pragmatic of a view in terms of okay, it's only about profits, it’s only about the bottom line is. And as you mentioned that can lead to poor decisions, unfulfilled entrepreneurs burnt out, business people.
So I guess the first step is simply recognizing that it's necessary to use intuition. And in fact, it can be better. I think that's done by education through this podcast through books, as well as entrepreneurs meeting other entrepreneurs who are guided by intuition. Because then you can see that there's actually a different way to do it. Maybe then you've been trained to think, so that's why I think entrepreneur communities are also really valuable.
Michaela: Great! So if people want to find you online Shayna, know one of the best ways to do that?
Shayna: Yes, so if you'd like to see the business I've been talking about; my English teaching business, then you can check out Espresso English dot net. If you want to see how I sell softly and ethically, check out my sales pages or get on my mailing list. And then if you want to hear the behind the scenes; my thoughts on entrepreneurship. I talk about experiments I do it Espresso English that either work or don't work. Then I have a podcast specifically for entrepreneurs called entrepreneursinmotion.com. And so you can find me there talking about all things entrepreneurship.
Michaela: Fabulous! We'll put the links to those in the show notes on our site intuitiveleadershipmastery.com along with the other things we mention in the episode. And thanks so much for joining me today, Shayna.
Shayna: It's been a pleasure Michaela.