Destini Copp had years of experience in corporate marketing and working in higher education before she decided to strike out on her own. She’d had the entrepreneurial bug for years but notes that it was very different starting your own online business in the 1990s than it is today. In 2005, she decided the time was right and she began her company, Destini Copp that very year. Copp works with entrepreneurs who offer specific one to one services, like coaches, web designers and social media strategists. Often these types of entrepreneurs will find themselves taking on more clients than they can handle just to make ends meet. Copp helps them create online digital programs that large numbers of clients can subscribe to and learn skill sets from so that her clients can focus on bigger projects while maintaining a steady stream of income. Today the Atlanta, Georgia-based entrepreneur is practicing a sustainable work/life balance after a year of personal and collective loss, and returning to the things that inspire her when she needs the inspiration.
Copp’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I’ve always wanted to own my own business and be an entrepreneur, it just took me a long time to get there! Even back in college and shortly after graduating, I started researching what kind of business could I start. Keep in mind, this was back in the mid-90s and it wasn’t as easy to start an online business like it is today. There were many barriers to entry, most of them related to tech. After working in the corporate world for a while in several different positions, accounting, finance and later in marketing, I then left to teach in higher education as a faculty member. This is where I found my love for teaching and helping others. The entrepreneurial bug never left me and after 12 plus years in higher education working in several faculty and administrative positions including an Assistant Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, I left higher education to finally fulfill my dream of starting my own business. I think the moral of the story is that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams!
How do you define success?
To me, success is defined by work/life balance. It’s always been very important to me. When I left corporate marketing, I wanted to pursue a career where I could work out of my house. This was around 2005 and working at home was not “normal” like it is today. I found an online faculty position where I could teach at the university level from my home. It was perfect! I stayed at the university for many years mostly because of the flexibility my roles at the university afforded me. Work/life balance is something that I won’t compromise on. Even now, in my business, I make sure that I make time for activities that are important to me such as playing tennis and spending time with my family.
Tell us about your biggest success to date.
Just recently, I self-published a book on Amazon titled, “Launch Your Online Course Business in 90 Days or Less.” This has always been on my bucket list. At the end of this big launch, I thought of the quote, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” That’s how I felt when I hit the publish button on the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing website. One thing I will say, is if you have a big goal like publishing a book, break down the steps into small micro action items and get help where needed. For instance, to publish my nonfiction book, I repurposed content I’d always published in blogs on my website. I hired someone to help me consolidate that content. It was such a huge timesaver and it helped me move toward accomplishing my big goal.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Hands down, my top challenge is marketing. It’s crowded in the online world and hard to get your message out there especially if you’re not investing constantly in paid advertising. My time, energy, and effort are placed on optimizing my sales funnels, driving traffic to my website and gaining visibility for my business. I’ve found that there is no magic bullet; it takes a combination of marketing levers to grow and scale your business online and you have to test things out to figure out what works best for you and your audience.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Last year, I lost my son to cancer. He was only 23 years old. To say the least, it was devastating. This happened in March of 2020 as the whole world was crashing down during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 was hard for many reasons, but I didn’t do much in my business to grow it last year. It almost came to a standstill and it’s been ok. I want everyone to know that you can take breaks, you can pause, and then you can pick back up when you’re ready.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
My biggest start up tip is to get started sooner than you think you’re ready. You don’t have to have your website completely built out. You don’t need a full product or service portfolio. Just start with a simple landing page and business social media accounts like a Facebook page and Instagram. It’s so much simpler to get started today than it was 15 plus years ago. Once you start, your audience and customers will help direct you on what they want. This simple action provides so much clarity.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks. When I’m looking for inspiration, I’ll search for podcasts where I can learn something new, find inspiration, or even get mindset coaching. There are so many great (and free) resources that anyone can tap into.
Who is your most important role model?
Years ago, back in the early 2000s when I worked in corporate marketing, I went to a luncheon in Atlanta at the Clark Atlanta University campus where Sara Blakely was the speaker. She spoke about how she started her business and ran into roadblock after roadblock, but she just kept going. Every time I get frustrated or want to quit, I go back to the luncheon at the university campus and just tell myself, “No one promised it would be easy!”
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Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31.
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