Blue Ocean Life Nation Interview Series: Sharon Woodhouse

Sharon Woodhouse has taken an entrepreneurial approach to just about everything since first becoming self-employed as a teenager over three decades ago. She overlapped her first business, math tutoring (10 years), with her primary one, book publishing (27 years). At some point she overlapped that business with consulting, coaching, project management, mediation, editing, and freelance writing (15 years). During the Covid pandemic she began an ecommerce business devoted to her lifelong love of big earrings. She is also a student of philosophy and communication, with certifications in mediation and negotiation and coaching.Sharon Woodhouse owner Big Earrings interview
Thank you for sharing your story with us. What is your professional background? How did you end up with this career?
My current role combines most things I've learned throughout a career of self-employment: I'm the owner of Conspire Creative, which offers coaching, consulting, conflict management, project management, book publishing, and editorial services for solo pros, creative, authors, small businesses, and multipreneurs. My first business was math tutoring, which I started when I was 16, and my main business was publishing nonfiction books for over 25 years.
I had wanted to try an "easy business" after 27 years of owning an independent book publishing company. The sudden availability of the domain during the pandemic, after 15 years of watching it "just for fun," inspired me to come up with a viable concept—something I could easily do and enjoyed and something the world needed. After discovering that I could no longer find earrings on ThredUp (their selection had always been only a few pairs anyway), I decided on big and big-personality secondhand and vintage earrings. As I say on the site, "BigEarrings springs from the 10 seconds of joy I've experienced nearly every day for many, many years, picking out which big earrings I will wear for the day."

How did you begin your remote work journey? Where do you see yourself in the next year? What tips do you have for others who are working remotely?
While I previously always had my own office, I began working primarily from home when my son was born 12 years ago. It was the easiest way to be an involved and available mom and keep my businesses going. But, after two years of pandemic life with my spouse and son in one open-air!...I'd love to get out in the world again. Haha. I see myself getting out for more in-person meetings and activities as soon as possible. For others working remotely, my biggest suggestion is to build in the hard stops you need to protect your work life from spilling over into your personal life. A little bit of spillover is "convenience." More than that is a boundary violation!!

What is your self-care routine and how do you find time to integrate it into your daily life?
I make time for all the things that matter to me by building hard stops into my work and not working more than 6-8 hours in a day. This allows me to prioritize healthy habits, especially meditation first thing in the morning, as well as devote quality time to catching up with friends and reading books on most days.

Putting yourself first is important to your overall wellness. Given this, what are your best holistic wellness tips?
My best tips are just the basics: 
  • Get enough sleep. I sleep at least 8 hours most nights.
  • Meditate. I've been meditating for over 35 years and it's the best shield I know against stress. One 10-20-minute session a day can go far.
  • Eat healthy and enjoy food. For me this includes cheese, chocolate, and wine. 
  • Move a lot daily. I walk everywhere and for all reasons--errands, relaxation, reflection, phone calls, catching up with friends.
What was the toughest challenge you faced during your career?
A two-year recovery from a concussion that involved hours of insomnia nightly and extreme ongoing pain.

How did you get through that period?
Honestly, just barely and I don't know how. My son was six when the accident happened--workers five stories up in a bucket crane brushed building debris on my head--and I knew I had to get better to be the mom he needed. One day at a time. Lots of crying. Determined persistence, scanning hundreds of journal articles, and visiting over a dozen types of doctors. My recovery was hindered for months by multiple practitioners who thought I "was fine" or "would get better very, very soon," and it was ultimately successful because of other practitioners who listened to me, believed my experience, and figured out what was wrong and how to best address it.
What advice for people dealing with similar difficulties?
Get as much help as you need as soon as possible and for as long as necessary. Emotional support. Day-to-day life support. Medical support. Then, persist.

Mental health and feeling good are crucial to maximizing performance. How do you prioritize your mental health?
Mainly, I prioritize it! That is, I've come to not be able to tolerate not feeling good or eroding mental health. As soon as I notice any bit of anxiety or depressed mood or overwhelm, etc., I slow down and make it important to get back to a happier, healthier center. I hit some kind of rock bottom of stress from workaholism and worry years ago in my mid 30s that was so bad, I think my body installed a do not go there ever again switch. 

Before the pandemic hit, you may have worked in an office or corporate setting, but what do you foresee happening now?
I will continue to work from home as I have for 12 years, but I will also make more efforts to get out in the world.
How do you see companies allowing employees to work post-pandemic?
Now that traditional employees have had a taste of the flexibility and certain freedoms that small business owners and the self-employed have known about and enjoyed for years, I think they will not be satisfied to going back 100% to the way things were. It appears that many workplaces are figuring out ways to accommodate this.

If you could have lunch with one person in the world, who would it be and why?
Andrew Yang. I have come to agree with him about UBI (universal basic income) and like his pragmatic, innovative, and nonpartisan approach to politics and solving big problems.
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If you could inspire a movement, what would it be and why?
Any and everything related to small business, democratized wealth, an ethical economy, co-ops, worker-owned businesses, and UBI. I think more widely distributed resources, power, and control would be good for everyone. We humans alive now have inherited so much collectively from past generations of humans, yet it is all concentrated in the hands of the 1%--as if they actually earned and deserve that much more of all resources and collective human inheritance than the rest of us. Please! Time for the rest of us to find creative ways, ethical arguments, economic alternatives, and new political approaches to wrest our share of that. With a more dispersed distribution of resources comes a more equal distribution of power and influence comes greater human happiness and dignity. There are enough resources and enough knowledge for all 8 billion of us to live well, we just need the will to go out and make it so.
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