How Shenee Howard Grew Her Business from $0 to Six Figures in Two Years

When we embark on a new business venture, as moms, potential downside of failure is clear: if our business doesn’t succeed, not only is it taking time from our families for no reason, but it directly affects our ability to provide for them.

Yet, for so many freelance Moms, the alternative—not striking out on our own—can feel just as dire.

Is there any way to guarantee that your new business will be successful?

Or to ensure that the niche you have chosen is not only right for you, but right for your customers?

I get a lot of questions about how to focus your business, especially when you’re starting out and it seems like hyper focus will only lead to lost income. One way—probably the best—is to start by finding out what your customers want, and the 100 People Project is a perfect way to do just that.

We All Have to Start Somewhere—Sometimes It’s at the Bottom

Business is an experiment. No one tells you about that. We only hear the success stories. The glossed over failures that result in out-of-this-world victories. We don’t hear about all the things that didn’t work.

When you look at her personal business timeline, you can see that, in many ways, Shenee Howard followed a typical 1000-day business journey. But what this timeline hides is how she started to skip the downward dips and get her business going up, up and away to where it is today.

Like any good businessperson, Shenee’s “About” page is more about her clients and what she can do for them than about herself. But the quote above—how she starts her bio—tells you the short version of her difficult journey.

At Pioneer Nation in Portland last year, she shared the story of her own personal struggle toward success.

A few short years ago, Shenee knew that she wanted to help people with their careers and that she wanted to forge her own path, but she really didn’t know how.

In November 2011, her laptop with all of her big plans for her business, including starting a creative podcast, was stolen!

She couldn’t get enough credit to get a new one and found herself at home using her dad’s desktop, putting her graphic design business on hold because her equipment wouldn’t support the software she needed. So she switched tacks.

While she knew that in her early twenties, she was a hard sell as a “badass business strategist”—her ultimate goal—she knew how to fix up resumes, so she started there. But soon she found herself stuck as weeks dragged into more weeks and into months.

For the first three years of the life of her business, she was “doing anything and everything within reason. Those were the working the pole days [figuratively]. We can’t all be Beyoncé right off the bat,” she said.

She found herself at one of the first World Domination Summits in Portland with barely $10 in her bank account. She had planned to rock the event and kick her business into high gear, but she had to borrow money from friends and family to make it through the weekend.

Going back to square one, Shenee spent 2012 desperately trying to figure out what she could create that people wanted.

However, along the way, she realized that, “instead of going to someone else to see what to do, [you have to] go to your people and ask them.”

So she launched the 100 People Project, spending the last four months of the year asking her people what they wanted, rather than telling them what they needed.

The 100 People Project: $0 to $100k

“Do the things you know how to do first.
Talk to as many people as possible.
If you don’t enjoy it, kill it.”

It began by simply putting the word out: come talk to me for 15 minutes.

Knowing that working one-on-one was a strength, she reached out to everyone she could think of that would benefit from the products she wanted to create—and asked everyone she knew to do the same—and asked if she could chat with them for 15 minutes.

She didn’t call it coaching. She didn’t call it market research. It was just connecting.

“I emailed people and said these are the things I’m good at; come talk to me. I’ll help you,” she said. “Clarity comes from talking to the people you’re here to serve.”

Then, in January 2013, she said to herself, “I can do this or I can get back on the pole.” She went through her notes from her calls and her plans and her research and put out a product based on the feedback she’d gathered from her people.

She made $4000-5000 that first launch. With a mailing list of just 100 people.

Her list at this point consisted of the 100 people she’d talked to. She simply emailed them and said, “hey, it’s out!” and they all signed up. “People kept wanting it,” she explained. “So I kept increasing the price until in August I had a $40,000 launch with a 500-to-600-person list.”

These were not launches of best-ever products to a well-qualified list with a comprehensive launch strategy and a network of partners to place launch content on and work on affiliate sales with.

Shenee went from nothing to her first $4k launch and then onward to a $40k launch in a few short months because she listened to her people.

Two Years and 10 Products Later

Once you drop that thing, people are excited about what else you’re doing. Create the things you want. All good things in my business came from doing what you want.

Today, Shenee has released a total of six digital products, put on four workshops, and runs a six-month-long mentorship program that provides huge results not only for her but also for her clients.

She’s gone from earning an hourly wage for clients she hated to building her own group of awesome doers in her $1250-per-year Secret Society of Done masterclass, $3000 six-month course Piece O’ Cake, and condensed $5000 business retreat Shazam.

Her Hey Shenee! Brand Chemistry Lab testimonials page is nearly as impressive as the long list of small business podcasts that have featured her on one-hour deep-dive calls.

She did it by:

  • letting her customers know she was there to listen to them—even when there wasn’t clearly anything in it for her
  • getting to know her customers’ whole story
  • listing all the problems they will have on the way to their goals
  • offering products for customers at different points in their own journeys
  • showing them she’s creating exactly what they asked for through her email newsletter

And it all started with talking to 100 people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Stein owns FreelanceMom.com, is a college business professor and a mom to Gabriela and Elle. Lisa is dedicated to playing a part in helping women and moms run a business they love, help support themselves and their family and create a flexible lifestyle. You can find her online on Facebook and Twitter or at home burning something in the kitchen.

  • Dusty

    Great article! Her website is unique and resembles what I believe is her true self! Thanks for sharing! Be brave!!

    • Thanks Dusty! She just went through a website redesign and I think it really reflects how she helps her clients. Glad to see you here!

  • That’s wonderful! I am very happy for her that she made it work and it just goes to show, our clients and potential clients are our best asset! :)

    • Stacey, yes, I agree. I love how she made it about what her potential clients wanted and made sure to really listen. Thanks for stopping by and let me know if we can do anything to help you here.

  • Eliza

    What an inspiring story, and a remarkable woman. I love to hear about the struggles as well as the successes.