SBM to Big Business: Interview with Anoushka Doughty, Founder of The Goddess Space
SMB to Big Business
The Goddess Space was one of the first businesses of its kind in the UK, offering women’s circles, spirit sessions and ritual gatherings. Anna Solemani talks to founder Anoushka Doughty about her unique journey, and how following her passion led to the creation of a successful business.
When did you start your business and how did it come about?
I started in 2015. It began really organically from a calling I had – a calling to gather with women who were going on a similar journey to me. I was in my mid-twenties and really searching and discovering myself, and it felt quite lonely to be on that path. I was wondering if other women were out there who were also a bit lost and trying to look for who they were.
And so I started inviting women to my living room. At the time, I was working for an online marketplace for creative experiences – my job was to find creative people and put on experiences for them. So I was constantly looking for people who had passions and who wanted to share that passion with other people through intimate events.
And because I was doing that every day, I began to think about my own passion – spirituality, and connecting women back to themselves through meditation and spiritual practices. I wanted to create a space for other women who shared that passion to come and gather with me.
So I set up events on the website that I was working for. We would gather every new moon, and women just started to come. I started to sell out, and it became the most successful event on the website. My boss was really happy for me to do it, which was really synchronistic and beautiful.
That’s how it began. I never envisaged anything – truthfully, I never set out to start a business. I just followed a calling that was within me, and something that I was seeking to create. I wanted to create it and hope that other people would want to receive it.
Can you talk to us about how you scaled from SMB and grew?
It was after about a year of me running these circles. They just got more and more popular, and I found myself wanting to spend all my time nurturing and holding these circles. With my other job, it was helpful because they were so interlinked – the circles were on the platform I was working for, which was really a blessing. But I found myself just wanting more and more to be working with the Goddess Space, and less and less on the other stuff.
And I was playing with it for about a year. I think at the year mark, from when I held my first gathering, I knew that I wanted to grow this. And so about a year and three months after my first circle, I left the company and went into this full time.
It was a huge leap. I lost my salary, I lost my security, the stability of my job and everything that gave me was gone. I just had to take a leap of faith, because I loved it so much – it filled me up so much. And that was what got me through the first few years of not making a lot of money.
At what point did you realise that this was no longer simply a dream or passion, but had become a viable business?
Probably not until about three years since I created it. For about three years, it was really passion – my heart knew that it would support me, and it did support me, but not hugely. It wasn't a growing, fruitful business.
It was a baby – I was tending to it, and it was giving me smiles back here and there, but it wasn't telling me it loved me. I use the baby analogy because I've got my baby downstairs!
But the smiles would get me through. And when I started my business, I made a really conscious choice to start a feminine-led business, which really went against the more patriarchal, masculine environments of the workplace. And that meant that I really had to trust and flow and surrender to the energy of this business and what was coming out of me.
The business changed a lot, and I let it change and just moved with it. I felt like it held its own energy. I just trusted that I was going to be supported. And even in those three years when I wasn't making much money, things would happen – like I really wanted some new clothes, but didn't really have enough money to afford them. And then suddenly a clothing brand would message me and ask if I wanted to collaborate, and suddenly all these new clothes would arrive at my house.
Just magical stuff like that. Things happened, and they signalled to me that I was being held and looked after. I had enough savings to sustain my lifestyle, but I wasn't “living the life” at all.
Truthfully, what happened was I got pregnant – the business was definitely growing by then, but it still wasn't financially hugely supportive. When I got pregnant, my business felt like it was really blossoming at this point. And I felt a deep calling within me to stop holding circles, because I was pregnant and it takes a lot of energy and space to hold a circle.
And so in my first trimester, I just let go and stopped holding circles and explained to my following that this was the reason. And then I had this dream: If I can't hold circles, then I need to teach other women how to hold circles themselves. And I woke up with this epiphany, and the whole training came to me in a day, and I wrote it all down. And the next day I announced it on my Instagram with no expectation of how it would unravel.
And that was the beginning of the true financial growth of my business. For the past two years I've been running this training – I've trained 1,300 women now. And it has been most financially supportive, beyond my wildest dreams, and I never expected it. It's been wild.
Wow, amazing – so natural! So at what point did you start thinking about marketing?
Well, it was never about how to push this out into the world. For me, it was my way to share what I was passionate about. But not on my private Instagram – seven years ago, Instagram wasn’t what it is now. It wasn’t this huge marketing tool. It was really a place where people were posting their personal lives. I had a personal account, and I didn't want to share these new passions of mine there, because I thought people would think I was weird and crazy.
So I started an incognito account called The Goddess Space. It was just a free space for me not to be afraid of what other people thought, and just post what I loved and what I was getting into, without fear of judgment. So it was never a plan or a marketing tool – it was just my secret space. And then it started growing.
Would you say now that it’s transformed into a marketing initiative? Or it just happens to be the way that you share?
I think now it's a place where I can share my voice. Because my following has grown, and it’s a space where I can now share all the things that I'm doing –my training, my book coming out and all these beautiful offerings that I create. It feels like it's my platform to share my messages.
So it's your voice and your path, rather than a business brand. It's just yourself.
I've had a lot of fun with it. I have a lot of fun finding creative ways of expressing myself and my world through the lens of Instagram. I really want to create a sacred space for people online, and so I try and find ways of doing that. Whether it's stories with little snippets of my world, or imagery or poetry that I write, or musings or interviews with other sacred women, I really try and find ways to bring my world into the space. So people can really feel me and feel the work that I create.
What do you think is the core thing that connects all your customers? That draws them to you?
I think a longing to be seen and to know how to truly see one another. That's what I feel is the calling – to create beauty. The circles are all about creating beautiful, sacred spaces – like temples for women to step into and be witnessed, seen, held, heard and honoured.
How has COVID affected your business? What did you learn from this experience?
Well, it all kind of aligned for me, because I wanted to stop physically gathering when I got pregnant. And that was just a few months before COVID happened. My training was already all on Zoom. So it was really divinely orchestrated.
And then when the pandemic hit and I was five months pregnant, I felt a really big call to hold a circle for pregnant women, because it was a very intense time for pregnant women, birthing in a pandemic. They were put in this high-risk category, and suddenly there was a lot of terror and fear. I felt a call to gather with pregnant women and just be together, but we could only do that on Zoom.
So I was running pregnancy circles on Zoom and inviting different wise women to come and do meditations for us – or just bring us wisdom and insights and healings, which was really beautiful. Now, the physical gatherings are starting to return again, but slowly, slowly, slowly.
Where do you see it going from here? What are your goals for the future?
With the Goddess Space, it changes as I change. Now, my focus is directed to motherhood, and cultivating and longing for this idea of building a village –they say, “it takes a village to make a mother”. So that's what I'm working on now. I have a mama's village that I've created in London, and we gather every week with our children and plan retreats – mother-and-baby retreats, where we support mothers to feel a sense of freedom whilst mothering.
I think for a lot of mothers, including myself, it can be a very isolating, lonely place if you're not mothering together. So as much as we can mother together, we want to create that and build that.
One of our dreams is to hold retreats where mums and babies can come. We're planning to go to Mexico as 12 mums and 12 babies! And just get on a plane – because we want adventure, we want fun, we want to drink coconuts, and how can you do that as a mother alone with your child? You can’t. But you can do that with a group. If you’re all together, you can break the constructs limiting mothers, and create spaces for mums to gather and feel held.
What do you think has been your biggest mistake or learning curve?
I think my biggest learning is to really check in with my energy levels. The Goddess Space is driven by me and me alone, always at the wheel. And if I'm tired, it's dangerous to be driving! It’s about letting go, taking a break, allowing myself to step away when I feel like I'm getting to a place of burnout. And reminding myself that anything I would have created in that space would have been not powerful, not potent.
So really honouring that need for rest and that need to replenish myself and fill myself back up. So that I can give from a flowing cup rather than from an empty one. Trusting the moments when I need to step away has been my biggest teaching.
If you could give just one piece of advice to people looking to start their own business, what would it be?
To just stay authentic to the vision you hold, because that's what's needed in the world. It’s your authentic vision of what you want to create – even if you're up against challenges or criticism, it's your vision that you carry. And that’s what will make it unique, authentic and successful.
The Women’s Circle: How to Gather with Meaning, Intention and Purpose by Anoushka Florence will be published in March 2022 by Hardie Grant Books
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