Inspiring small businesses: Wholly Aligned

In our ‘Inspiring small businesses’ series, we share and celebrate great stories from fellow small business owners who started and run their own business. By bringing you closer to these inspiring businesses we hope that you find motivation, tips, and ideas for building yours.

Today, we bring you the story behind Wholly Aligned, a business specialising in yoga, nutrition, health coaching, and reiki, shared by its founder Ciara Jean Roberts.

What is it that you do?

Growing up in the abundance of Zambia and having a mother very interested in natural health, planted a powerful seed in me on the link between the food we take into our bodies and how we feel. Thus I had a turning point following a hectic decade in a banking career and in my early thirties I yearned for something deeper and richer for myself. Coming across a naturopathic nutrition course with the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, it just sang out loud and clear to me. And so I enrolled and spent three years studying nutrition whilst still working full time in banking. It was a sacrifice of weekends for that three year period and instead of it feeling overwhelming, it was a nourishing antidote to the current banking crisis and stress of that time. I loved it. Having also been a long time yoga practitioner, I instinctively felt it was important to partner movement with nutrition to aid deeper healing and understanding hence I also studied for a yoga certification and have since completed a number of in depth trainings. 

And so Wholly Aligned , my purpose driven business featuring the tools of yoga and nutrition, was born.

What’s the story behind your business?

Feeling in alignment with one’s dreams and visions set us on a path that is more meaningful. Wholly Aligned encompasses that each person is a unique individual with their own hopes and dreams that they need to align with. A huge influence on the birth of my business has been the journey with my own health. I caught a strep throat at the tender age of 4 that unusually traveled down to my kidneys and prompted a rare form of nephritis (kidney tissue inflammation) that was progressive. It culminated in renal failure at the age of 14 which was enormously difficult yet I discovered an inner resilience that helped me to navigate these tough experiences. At 21 I got the call for a kidney transplant. I had a wonderful nearly two decades with that gift and then as often happens in organ transplantations, the rejection process began. I had to face many old fears and wounds around life relying again on a dialysis machine. I was extremely ill in 2016 yet recovered in a very short time due to all the inner work I had done, to rise back up with a sense of freedom and purpose. It is this experience that compelled me to write my first book – to share the profound journey through a heartfelt story on what it truly can mean to be Wholly Aligned and indeed Wholly Alive. Part of my current self-care is 8 hours of peritoneal dialysis treatment each night which also means I have an abdominal catheter. I share this with you as it is proof that challenges come and we can tap into such a sense of strength and belief that nothing stops us from living a beautiful life. Each day, each moment we can choose to look at things through a fresh and hopeful lens.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Having walked through this fire of experience and also having had the wonderful liberation to travel widely during the years I had a working kidney transplant means I now have so much to share with you. I also had another significant influence in the form of a holistic and wise doctor as a child when we lived in South Africa and Zambia. He treated me so kindly and with such humanity which very much informs the work I now do. It is this memory that has lead me now to turning a bigger clinical focus to medics.

In terms of the inspiration to start my own business, it really was a calling to be of service and a vision for how much transformation I could facilitate for others having been through the journey I have and emerged all the stronger and wiser for it. The process of losing the function in my transplant kidney was also an opportunity to reflect on what I really wanted to offer in this lifetime. It gave me the courage to step away from the corporate world and follow my heart. I have never looked back. I absolutely love what I do. A big benefit for me too was being really clear on what I wanted to do and having a compelling reason to execute it. It was incredibly helpful to have money in the bank from a successful corporate career as it took a lot of pressure off – so it was a process and not something that suddenly just happened.

What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?

It can be a lonely path at times as it is just me. I do everything – accounts, admin, promotion, teaching, consultations, research, writing, retreats, workshops – so variety is certainly there, but also one has to maintain focus to ensure things don’t get neglected. I have had a few late fee fines from HMRC for example as it can be easy to drop the ball on occasion. So being organised and methodical is important. There will come a time soon when I will need help, especially when my book comes out (June 2019! Wholly Aligned, Wholly Alive) and I recognise that I have got so used to doing it all myself, I need to also trust someone else to help me. That can be difficult when it’s your own business and you care hugely about the work you are doing. The tricky thing there is also firstly to acknowledge you need help and then to call in the right kind of person that will fit with your vision and ethic and to know what work you want help with.

What is the best thing about running your own business?

Oh so much! The freedom to choose. The fact there are no imposed rules and I can decide what to do with my days and importantly build in rest when I need it. I can meet my Mom in town for lunch and chats or I can help out my sister with the kids when she needs it or I can spend a whole day writing. It’s the gift of balance. I can also be creative and explore different ways of doing things. I find it useful to set intentions per quarter now so there is a focus to some extent without getting too fixated on one thing. For example, I worked with an amazing business coach, Darieth Chisholm, last year who really helped me stay accountable to myself on the completion of my manuscript to submit to the publisher. It’s fun to reach out and find extraordinary people to work with that will push you well out of your comfort zone. We stagnate and even start to crumble in a comfort zone. 

We must keep looking for ways to expand and explore. Running one’s own business also provides the possibilities of collaboration or to support other one person/small businesses. For example, I recently had my website www.whollyaligned.com revamped and decided instead of doing it myself I would pay for the expertise for someone to do this for me.

I look back on the 7 years of Wholly Aligned and am so proud of it and all the joy and growth it has allowed me. I feel like there is so much more to give and to enjoy and to experience. May we all be Wholly Aligned!

To find out more about Wholly Aligned, visit their website and follow Ciara on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube.

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