Lessons learnt on the journey to success

Amelia Sordell, Founder of Klowt, the personal branding agency, and Hustle Awards judge, started her business in a small corner of her bedroom in the middle of a pandemic. Now, the business is getting ready to move into its fourth office in less than three years with a plan to reach £20 million in revenue by year seven.

A personal touch

Sordell started her career in PR but very quickly decided that it wasn’t for her (ironic, considering she now runs a PR agency!), so she decided to start her own business – a fashion business. However, this went bankrupt in year two and, after re-entering the workforce at age 23, she went into recruitment.

“I very quickly learnt that you could generate a lot more leads by putting content out there than by making 100 calls a day,” notes Sordell. “So, I inadvertently started building my personal brand because it was the most effective way to generate business.”

As a result of this, Sordell was promoted to Marketing Manager and was very quickly headhunted to join a private equity company. But it was during the pandemic that Sordell decided to kickstart her own career.

“I really do believe that [the pandemic] was the best thing that ever happened to me because, like many people, I was faced with a mirror into my life like ‘is this what you want to do for the rest of your life?’ and ‘do you really want to be working for this company for the rest of your life?’

The answer was no.

“As I had already started building my personal brand … I decided to quit my job and set up Klowt. I had my first two clients within four days of launching the business and since then I’ve incrementally grown,” said Sordell. “I didn’t set out to build a massive business … I guess because I loved what I was doing, it kind of attracted more opportunities.”

Defining an entrepreneur

The entrepreneurial world is always something Sordell has been familiar with, but she’s got some very important distinctions to make.

“I think a lot of people misinterpret entrepreneurship as business ownership,” she notes. “We’re different things. You can be an entrepreneur and not own a business. You can be a business owner and not be an entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneurship is like that little bug that sits in your head thinking ‘I know how to do that better’ or ‘wouldn’t it be interesting if…’. So, during that period of time I wasn’t in the workforce, I still had all of those ideas, I still had all these little side hustles that I wanted to do.

“I just hustled my way through life!”

Sordell feels that the thing that binds almost all entrepreneurs together is that they understand that everything can be done better – they look at that big picture.

“That’s just how my brain works. So, the journey itself has been a wild ride, but I think it’s pretty standard for most people in a similar position.”

Lessons learnt

There were a lot of hard lessons for Sordell to learn early on in life, when her first business collapsed. With no money, she had to move back home with her parents which she described as a “very humbling experience”.

But the number one lesson she learnt was that you can’t do everything by yourself.

“The quicker you can learn that the better off you’re going to be,” Sordell notes. “I tried to do everything and control everything, whereas now I’m like if I need help doing something, that’s fine.”

In fact, Sordell’s favourite part of the journey has been hiring a team.

“When you’ve got a team of people that you trust … it becomes quite a fun process! Even on the bad days, you’ve got a bunch of people that can actually pick you up and support you through it.”

Sordell also notes that having more life experience has been really helpful.

“Losing that business taught me that nothing is that serious – it’s not life or death. I really tried to apply that through all aspects of my life. Obviously, sometimes it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows but I think we can take a pinch of salt with everything.”

However, Sordell wouldn’t change a thing. “Everything I have in my life right now I am absolutely grateful for, but I don’t think I would have any of it if I hadn’t [made those mistakes] before.

“Sometimes, you can do all the research in the world … but you still won’t learn the lesson until it smacks you around the face.”

Flirting with burnout

The biggest challenge for Sordell so far has been reconciling to the fact that life is imbalanced and that when you strive to equally distribute your time and energy, what you actually end up doing is depleting it completely.

“I flirted with burnout,” said Sordell. “And I really wish entrepreneurs are more honest about this. I don’t mind admitting that I’ve burnt out at least three or four times quite significantly whilst running the business – to the point where I’ve been on the floor crying, not knowing what to do.

“I don’t buy into this idea of when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I actually think quite the opposite. I think when you love what you do, sometimes you put so much into it that you forget you’re a human being. You need to take a break.”

Sordell is still trying to reconcile what this looks like for her, as some days she’s “on fire” whilst other days she’s “a total wreck”. But that’s fine. It’s just part of the journey and the chaos that exists in life.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe