The Two Reasons Online Businesses Fail

Seventy-five percent of women-owned businesses struggle to reach $50,000 in annual revenue before calling it quits. The sad reality is that while women are bad*ss business owners and leaders, women often struggle to combine the psychology and science of selling to build a business they not only love, but will financially improve the lives of those around us as well.

So while Forbes called entrepreneurship the New Women’s Movement, very few women are able to get their businesses to stand out in order to be financially sustainable.

After nearly a decade in the online business world, I break down the top two reasons why businesses fail...and what we can do to succeed instead.


Walking the Talk: My #1 Business Failure & How I Fixed It

I started an online business back in 2008 as a Virtual Assistant. I had no idea what I was doing but I had the skillset and the job provided me a chance to travel the world (my ultimate goal at the time) . I wasn’t chained to a desk like most of my friends but with little experience in sales I struggled to find clients.

Through trial and error, I got into a groove and within twelve months of business I was making enough money to survive each month. Notice I said survive, not thrive.

I ate Ramen noodles, made late payments and juggled my lust for travel with paying rent.

I hustled hard.

Here’s where I made my first mistake. I made it about money.

Money became my motivator. I was obsessed! I spent days chasing leads, billing clients and worrying about paying bills. It was exhausting, both physically and energetically. I wasn’t having fun and worse, I wasn’t making the money I needed (and knew I deserved).

It wasn’t long after that I hit major burnout.

In one grand gesture I walked away from all of it for a 9-5 job. It ate me up inside to have to do but at that moment, it saved me.

Fast forward eighteen months and I was longing for freedom once again.

This time I had some savings and more biz savvy, so I jumped into entrepreneurship a second time. I had spent the last two years doing courses, reading and attending events on building an online business, so I figured this time I would easily succeed.

This is where my second mistake occurred. I had the passion, the business idea and the networking but I didn’t know how to share it in a big way. Dropping a few links on my Facebook or Twitter feed wasn’t cutting it.

But instead of quitting, I paused.

I took time to dig into what wasn’t working, I enrolled in coursework to better understand emerging trends and the digital space, and experimented with new ways of presenting content.

It was in this time (note: not overnight) that I got clear on what worked and what didn’t work and you know what? The thing that worked was right under my nose the entire time! (Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in a moment.)

The two reasons businesses fail

  1. They are in it to make money, not meaning

  2. They have purpose but don’t know how to make a profit

Let’s start with the first point: businesses often fail because they’re in it to make money, not meaning.

When we become obsessed with money and create a product or service just to make moolah, you can bet that business will fold rather quickly. If it doesn’t (think large corporations with unethical business models) then they’ve most likely got great marketing, PR and stock pile of cash somewhere.

When you make it about money, you miss the point.

Businesses succeed when it becomes about the meaning you make for the people you serve.


It’s no wonder that the most successful businesses make great products that genuinely help their customers succeed in something (think Apple, Nike, etc.). If you want similar success, keep the customer always in mind.

Now, what do you do if you have the purpose (and operate from meaning), but don’t know how to turn a profit?

That’s what I learned in my second mistake above and it was a game changer.

Once I incorporated this ONE thing into my marketing, everything turned around.

I was invited to speak at online summits. I was asked to write guest posts for online magazines. And I was better able to connect with my ideal customer group organically and without the stress that can often come with marketing a virtually unknown service.

Can you guess what it was?


Turns out, telling a compelling story amplifies your marketing more than any sleazy sales funnel, opt-in or paid advertising. Of course, telling your story through these channels only elevates your success that much more, but simply telling a stand out story from the start is enough to change things around and start making money.

As a writer, I was already aware of the ideas behind Plot, Conflict, Characters and Message. It wasn’t until I combined my love of writing with the power of business storytelling that I was able to gain traction in my industry.

If you are wondering how you can start making money from the meaningful work or products you create, start with story!

The StandOut Story Lab is a great place to start. This four week online course is a chance to work with me to write a brand story that compels and captivates your ideal target market and turns them into raving, paying super fans. Read more about it here.

Have you failed at business before? Share your experience in the comments because guess what?! Failure is normal! Let’s celebrate it instead of hiding it. #womensupportingwomen

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