Ever wondered what it takes to ditch the cubicle and become a full-time girl boss? Our Student Spotlight Series interviews our students who have made the transition from 9-5 to remote CEOs!
From what inspired them to start their own business, their favorite podcasts, go-to morning routine, advice to aspiring girl bosses, and so much more!
Today, we’re sitting down with our student Demi Utley, Founder of Utley Strategies! Originally from Tell City, Indiana, Demi gives us a glimpse into her girl boss journey…
Q: What type of online business do you own and what services do you offer?
I’m the Founder of Utley Strategies, where I help B2B businesses create and convert leads with data-driven marketing strategies, client-focused sales writing, and strategic proposal writing.
Q: How did you discover the Bucketlist Bombshells?
My friend added me to the free Bucketlist Bombshells Community Facebook Group in 2017 after sharing with her that I wanted to start my own business.
“After five years in corporate, I was ready to have more freedom to create my own schedule and travel without having to count my PTO days.”
Q: What inspired you to enroll in the Bucketlist Bombshells courses?
I always knew I would start a business, and I had been seriously working through potential ideas before I discovered the Bucketlist Bombshells. After being in the free Facebook group and seeing so many successful women running their own businesses, I knew it was time to develop more skills so I could actually follow through on starting my own business!
Q: How have the courses helped you to become an online business owner?
The Bucketlist Bombshells Academy has been extremely helpful! Prior to taking The Design Skills Course, I had never used Adobe Design applications and found them very intimidating. I now use them every day even though I’m not a designer and feel confident that I can figure out what exactly it is that I need to do.
The Work Online and Travel Course saved me so much time when I started creating my processes. The swipe copy that is provided in the course has been a godsend and saved me so much time and mental energy!
“If I didn’t have a step-by-step guide to follow, I would have spent more time procrastinating and missing out on clients.”
Q: What type of job were you working in prior to running your own online business?
Prior to running Utley Strategies, I worked in marketing at a large consulting firm. I joined that firm to help with proposals and eventually switched to marketing operations. Prior to that company, I spent several years writing business proposals at a Fortune 500 technology company.
Q: How long did it take you to ditch your 9-5, and how much time did you dedicate in order to make it happen?
I technically started the Bucketlist Bombshells Academy in January of 2018. However, at the time I was also working on my MBA while working full time. I would wake up early and spend about 1-1.5 hours working on the courses before going to work during the day and class in the evening. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t able to maintain that routine for too long because my schoolwork was just too much.
I ended up working on the courses during breaks in my classes over the course of a year. I was also trying to build an outdoor-related business at the same time, so I was putting the skills I was learning through the Bucketlist Bombshells Academy into direct use. In April of 2019, I left my job to focus on my entrepreneurship degree full time for the last two quarters as well as growing my outdoor business.
In December of 2019, I decided to transition to consulting and spent about two full weeks working through The Work Online and Travel course to set up my business processes. I moved shortly after and then spent another three weeks updating my website.
“After working through the course, I was ready to start finding clients!”
Q: What was the final push in your story to get you to ditch that 9-5 job?
I went on a one-week study abroad course to Puerto Rico as part of my MBA. We were working with local non-profits to develop a data strategy that would make it easier to distribute supplies to people in need in the event of another major natural disaster. It was a really eye-opening trip and felt very rewarding to put my skills into practice for a cause that I was passionate about.
The Sunday I flew home, I checked my work email for the first time in a week.
“I ended up in tears because I knew I was on the wrong path.”
I needed to do something where I had more of an impact and flexibility to work on projects that were important to me. So, I spent a week forming a plan before giving my notice… I haven’t looked back since!
Q: How long was it until you landed your first client online?
I landed my first client before I actually started focusing on consulting. While wrapping up my MBA, a friend connected me with someone in his network who needed a simple website. My friend knew that I could help and passed along my information. It was quick and painless!
Once I decided to focus on consulting full time, it took me a few weeks to find my first “real” client. I updated my website and the first contract was signed two or three weeks later.
Q: What is your process for finding and landing clients online?
So far, my best method for finding clients has been through paid advertising. I allocated a small amount of start-up money for advertising, and I’ve seen good results from Google’s Paid Search Ads. I have also had some success with Facebook Ads!
Q: What has been your biggest setback, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest setback has been COVID-19. I launched Utley Strategies right before everything shut down, which made it difficult to know if I would even be able to find clients since everything was on hold.
The potential client conversations I had transitioned from me discussing my standard process to conversations about what they can afford and when and how we can work together when things become more normal again.
“I had to be flexible and willing to work with clients while maintaining my standards.”
Q: What’s the most challenging part about running your online business?
The most challenging part about running Utley Strategies is not having a team. I’m very much an introvert, but sometimes I wish I could just turn around and talk to a co-worker about the crazy good or bad thing that just happened.
It’s also hard because until you get going, you don’t know what you don’t know. That uncertainty can be very nerve wracking. Developing a community is definitely key to avoiding feeling lonely or overwhelmed. I rely on the Bucketlist Bombshells Facebook communities a lot for any questions that come up or even just to connect with other girl bosses!
Q: Looking back on your online business journey, what is something that you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud that I didn’t give up! Comparing where I was when I first enrolled in the Bucketlist Bombshells Academy to where I am now, it’s insane to envision everything I would have had to learn and the work I would have had to do in order to get to where I am now!
It’s so easy for me to find something new and exciting to focus on, so I’m proud that I stuck with it to achieve my personal and professional goals!
“I’m so grateful I have the freedom to create my ideal life and choose the projects that I want to work on!”
Q: If you could speak to your past self, what piece of advice would you give her?
I would tell my past self to focus on your strengths and not what everyone else is doing. Just because they started a company that way or chose to offer that service doesn’t mean you have to. Also, stand up and stretch more often!
Q: How do you stay inspired and motivated to run your online business?
I have a few different ways to stay inspired and motivated. First, I use The I AM Journal almost daily. In the journal, I write out my big goal and three steps I’m going to take that day to achieve it. It really helps me to feel accomplished and motivated even if I’m just checking off small tasks on the way to my goal.
I also have a vision board and a collection of inspirational quotes that I keep on the wall by my desk to read when I’m feeling defeated or lost.
“Sometimes just going on a long walk outside with my dog reminds me that this business and lifestyle is worth it.”
Q: Tell us what a “day in the life” looks like for you now that you’re running your own online business!
I wake up without an alarm clock (my favorite part!) around 8am unless I have an early client meeting or project due. I do about five minutes of yoga and take my dog outside before making a smoothie and writing out my goals for the day.
Then, I work for a few hours, take a break for lunch, and read for 30 minutes or take a short walk. Typically, I work all afternoon until about 6pm. After that, I either head off to my Spanish class or go on a hike before dinner.
“On days where I completed a client project, I stop working once I close it out to celebrate!”
Some days I decide to completely throw my routine out the window because I need a change, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I weren’t in charge of my schedule and projects!
Q: What’s the best part about being your own boss?
I love the flexibility. I’m able to work when I’m motivated and take time off when I’m feeling overwhelmed!
“I love that I can set my own schedule, decide what projects to take on, and set requirements for how and when I want to work!”
Q: What do you love most about the work you do and the clients you work with?
I love working with small businesses because even slight changes can have such a huge impact. There are also fewer approvals and smaller teams when working with small companies, which makes the whole process easier and more enjoyable.
The best feeling is learning that a client saw an improvement in their business from our marketing plan or that they won a new contract because of the proposal I wrote!
Q: What is your favorite destination to work remotely from?
I love working from my family’s house. While working in corporate, I always had to choose between using my vacation time to visit my family or to travel and have an adventure.
“Now, I can work while visiting my family, and I can vacation whenever I want!”
Q: What’re your favorite business tools that you’d recommend to other girl bosses? Why do you love it?
Asana has been an absolute lifesaver for keeping me organized! I always have it open in a tab when working, and I check the app on my phone if I’m not at my computer to know what I need to do. Canva makes simple designs super easy, and I love Calendly for my scheduling!
Q: What is one of your favorite business books that you would recommend to another girl boss and why do you love it?
I highly recommend Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer: The Evolution of a $1M Web Designer by Liam Veitch. He shares his experiences working as a freelancer and the exact steps he took to turn his business into a million-dollar web design agency. I keep it handy and reference it all the time!
Q: What’s your go-to favorite podcast that you’d recommend to other girl bosses?
Skimm’d from the Couch by theSkimm. They interview all types of successful women, but many are executives at major companies. I love the questions they ask and that they always do a “Skimm Your Resume.”
It’s really inspiring to hear the history of these women who seem so successful and intimidating. They experienced a lot of the same doubts and obstacles, and they always provide really solid advice for overcoming them!
Q: What is your number one piece of advice for aspiring Bucketlist Bombshells?
Do a little bit every day and don’t spend too much time worrying about what everyone else is doing.