Nikki YeagerIn second grade, all I wanted to do in life was bartend like my sister, mostly so I could save my tips in velvety Crown Royale bags like she did. In fourth grade I decided I’d be a speech writer for the President of the United States (spoiler alert: never happened). Then, in high school, I rapid fire switched future career plans from criminal psychologist, to artist, to modern day Mother Theresa.

Things that never made my list of dreams? Anything in technology, running a proper company, public speaking, and mothering. Guess what I do now?

Here’s how I got here:

One day my mom, a former Nursing Instructor, came to me with an idea for a charting system she wanted to build for Nursing and Allied Health schools. Before she finished explaining the concept, I was already hatching plans for how I’d help her grow the company. We launched in 2012 and I learned by trial, error, and lots of reading how to do sales and digital marketing. We were bootstrapping the business and working long hours for zero financial reward.

I still remember the first client I got. I’d sent out about a thousand emails. I’d tested at least three different formats before finding one that got responses. I did my first three demos and, miraculously, got a school to purchase our product. I did tech support for our clients, helped with UX, developed online training materials, built our knowledge-base and managed our public website. It was rewarding, and challenging, and just plain exhausting.

Then I added a baby into the mix.

Through a series of now inexplicable decisions on me and my husband’s behalf, I found myself with a four month old baby rolling around on the floor behind me while I worked to close a partnership with a major publisher via video chat from Thailand. The company we’d started had finally taken hold and the sales were pouring in, our active users were growing and our development demands were at an all-time high.

The deal with the publisher was successful, me and my husband eventually moved back to the states, and I aged at the rate of a president. But, I learned a lot. I became confident in my sales savvy despite having started from nothing. I discovered that although things like Instagram befuddle me as an individual, I love using technology when it comes to marketing. Everything from building a website, to running monthly webinars, to graphic design, gives me an immense amount of satisfaction. Even more so, I found myself looking forward to sales presentations. When I had to speak in front of groups larger than 20, I was happiest. It didn’t matter if I was selling our product, training our partners on what our company did, or presenting webinars on teaching ideas — I loved it all. Getting in front of a crowd became my drug of choice. I started seeking out speaking opportunities based on my experience. After all, how many people have started a tech company, with an infant, in a foreign country, on a bootstrap budget, in their early twenties?

I started speaking anywhere I could. Tradeshows related to our products, small meetups for women in business, personal finance workshops, webinars on how to stay focused when your big ideas balloon out of control — I did it all.

I found that sharing my experience and making complex concepts easily digestible gave me more satisfaction than my tech company. So I started shifting my responsibilities to another employee. Outside of work, I began bartering with local entrepreneurs: I’d give them startup coaching services in exchange for whatever they specialized in. That barter-consulting project turned into paying clients. What I taught my clients led to more speaking session ideas, and my speaking sessions led to feedback that allowed me to help my clients even more.

Now here I am. I’m not a bartender, or a speech writer, or a psychologist. I’m just a tech entrepreneur, turned startup coach, turned public speaker. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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