Movers and Shakers | Adanna Onuekwusi | Invicta Writers
Adanna Onuekwusi is the founder of Invicta Writers
Shes run 1:1 and group writing courses that guide women in using creativity to access deeper self-connection, fulfilment and all round wellness. Adanna also teaches a range of tools to dismantle common feelings of being overwhelmed, uninspired and disconnected, and instead, literally rewrite our stories to be enriched with more soulfulness, passion, power and joy. She officially set up Invicta Writers in September 2018.
What drove you to start your own business?
At its core, my business has evolved out of my own personal journey of using writing to explore and redefine my identity and to reconnect with my true voice.
As a Nigerian-Jamaican woman born in Nigeria, raised in inner-city Manchester, but settled in London; as someone who is sensitive and introverted but ambitious and determined, there’s a lot of labelling to unpack!
I know how powerfully creative and expressive writing has allowed me to reach into the depths of me, release old, unhelpful narratives and instead create one for myself where I make choices in alignment with who I really am, instead of who I ‘should’ be. I want to lead by example to show my young daughters the importance of daring to follow your passions and betting on yourself, your skills and your sense of purpose.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
For 12 years, I was an English teacher working in several “challenging” London schools. I had progressed fairly quickly to middle leadership (Literacy Coordinator, Deputy Head of English) and was always fuelled by my first-hand experience of the power of education to offer life options that would otherwise be out of reach. I loved teaching young people to tap into their own talent and potential and make a long-lasting difference in their lives.
I also did an MA in Language, Ethnicity and Education as a way to learn more about the history, policies and structure of education, to give myself the knowledge I needed to empower myself and my students to thrive in the education system. However, the more I learnt, the more frustrated I became by the limitations that exist and the requirement to work within certain restrictions that didn’t best suit me or many of the kids I taught.
That was when I first started to consider leaving the profession in order to create something on my own terms, but it took the experience of motherhood to pin down what that ‘something’ would be.
Tell us about the business planning stage (for example: did you write a business plan? did you contact any business support agencies?)
One of the best things I did was a short course for teachers who want to change careers. I was on maternity leave, with my two-month-old strapped to my chest, and my four year old tucked away in bed, while I completed training sessions. It really helped me to identify what I wanted to do and how to build a viable business based around my experience, skills and passion.
I’ve always been someone focussed on tangible structure and goals, having clear plans and ticking off lists. With this venture, I have followed my intuition much more, thought about how I want to feel as I work and the impact I want to have, and then gone back to apply that to a concrete structure, including a business plan.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I have an overall idea for what and how I want my year to look and feel – including a vision board, word/s of the year and any big goals. I then work backwards from there. I try to focus in detail on 3 month periods to avoid overwhelm. The heart-warming feedback I get about the long-lasting impact my courses are having really keeps me motivated.
Can you describe a typical working day?
Pre-Lockdown, my mornings were a flurry of getting two active young girls up and ready for school. My working day started after the school and nursery drop off (after 9). Work can include 1:1 client calls, writing up my newsletter, or creating content for my group programmes.
My working day ends by 3pm for school pick up (or 4ish of there’s an after school club on), then it’s making dinner, catching up with the girls, homework, then bath and bed. Evenings could involve running an online workshop or simply tying up any loose ends from earlier in the day. Lockdown-life has been very different kind of juggling act, though!
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
Featuring on the front cover of Motherdom magazine at the end of 2019 – plus my article inside the magazine on how writing can support maternal mental health. I’ve never been one for the ‘cover girl’ fantasy, but seeing my own face there, as a black woman in the UK, and being able to show that to my daughters, was really special.
What has been your scariest moment?
The sheer act of putting myself out there to share my idea and offer a pilot course when I first started out was absolutely terrifying! I had no idea if there would be any response or interest. I was so excited to get 10 people signed up and it was a real insight into the need for wider wellness support for women; something in between short-fix experiences like a massage, and more structured support from mental health professionals.
It really spurred my commitment to being a women’s wellbeing advocate and develop tools for maintaining the day-to-day wellbeing that creates fertile ground for emotional fulfilment.
How do you work on making your business grow?
Being committed to continually learning – reading lots, getting business mentoring, developing my coaching skills – keeps me inspired, which keeps things moving forward.
Reflecting carefully on what is working and why, and what I need to develop further in order to constantly improve the quality of my service and build a community of women passionate about using creativity to live more enriching lives.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
Flexibility to work around my children is really important to me. I have been able to attend plays, sports day and parents’ meetings at random times of the day over the past few years. This is impossible as a teacher – you can’t reschedule an A Level English Lit class so you can to go to your child’s nativity!
It’s also really empowering and liberating to be in a position where I am driven by my own sense of vision and purpose, and not having to compromise on my personal values.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
Working alone. I’m a classic introvert, so I actually like and need lots of quiet, alone time in order to stay sane. But, it has taken some adjustment, and it can sometimes feel lonely, particularly compared to working in buzzing London schools, surrounded by teenagers all day!
Joining networks for ‘in real life’ and online business support has been really helpful and allows me to be autonomous but still be part of different teams.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
Any woman who is building a business where ambition and integrity co-exist. There are so many: including friends (e.g. Stacy Moore of The Nesting Coach), mentors (e.g. Nicola Rae-Wickham) and big-name celebs (Michelle Obama). But generally creative women, especially black women, who are demonstrating the heart-centred leadership of using their talents and gifts, daring to take up space in the world, and bringing other women along with them.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
The importance of always coming back to my ‘why’ in order to get clarity on what directions I want to take. It’s an idea that is shared a lot, but it helps me maintain focus and integrity.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes – which was the first time I saw really saw a model of unapologetic professional ‘badassery’ combined with committed motherhood on your own terms – but without the need for martyrdom.
Playing Big by Tara Mohr – which gives some very powerful and practical tools and ideas around freeing yourself from habits that prevent you from fulfilling your potential.
Purpose by Jessica Huie – which is such an honest, soulful read about connecting to your true self, that was particularly inspiring and relatable being from a UK perspective.
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
Quiet time doing things that truly nourish my soul brings me joy and helps me to relax. Reading has always been my first love and writing is both passion and therapy for me.
I also love a good laugh with my favourite people – especially if you throw in great music and, most importantly, great food!
Connect with Adanna @invictawriters on Instagram and Facebook