13Jan 2015

Achieving Dreams through Adversity – My Rocky Road to Entrepreneurship

Posted by at in Guest Blog, Motivation, Running a Business

Today we have a wonderful guest post from Catherine McManus, where she shares with us her personal journey that has now built the business she has today. We hope Catherine’s story inspires you as much as it did us.

Achieving Dreams through Adversity – My Rocky Road to Entrepreneurship

Achieving Dreams through Adversity - My Rocky Road to Entrepreneurship

It all started because of a boy.

It was a breakup that almost broke me. Looking back, it all seems so silly. Hindsight, right? Especially now that I see that this heartache strengthened me.

I have that boy to thank for my career, really. I look back on my first breakup as being the time I grew my first layer of thick skin… and when I was first introduced to web & graphic design.

To distract myself from the sadness, I took an introductory photography class. I also taught myself HTML, and my first website was “an aspiring artist’s homage to her muses”. On that website there was a page called “Inspiration” that displayed photos and descriptions about how certain artists inspired my creativity. The Beatles and The Police are memorable inclusions, because that’s what I was listening to at the time. Message in a Bottle! Those lyrics resonated post-breakup.

This website was my happy place, though I don’t think it ever saw the light of day! I remember showing it to my friend Maria, who also made a website titled “Chakra”-something. How funny that back then I had no idea what a chakra even was, and now, years later, I work with a lot of clients who implement the chakras into their daily routines and businesses.

During this adventure with web code and graphics, photography was also a big part of my life. I loved taking photos, and loved the class I took. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college, Photography sat down next to Graphic Design and said, “Hey, let’s hang out”. So I politely told Web Design what was up, and she gracefully took a step back so I could focus on the other two for a few years. Web Design became more of a hobby, a way for me to share all my creations with the world.


For 6 years I worked in a photo lab, gradually paying my way through college. Eventually, my self-taught web design skills and graphic design education landed me a job at my college assisting the web administrator.

One day, my boss made an observation that stuck with me. She said that working on the web has such little overhead that she could see herself being perfectly happy and able to survive working from home doing just two web design projects per month.

And I thought, “I can do that”.

So a year later, I did.

When I started out, I wasn’t bringing in two new projects every month. Sometimes, not even one! It took years to get to a point where I could get by on my own without super frugal living and family support. I’m still living as frugally as possible today, but am now bringing in much more work than I did in the first 5 years. It’s all the more sweeter when I think of what I was up against…

I faced a lot of adversity, but never from my family or friends (which I’m eternally grateful for). A cross-country move, the economy sinking, a rare cancer diagnosis, a move back across the country, taking care of my husband and eventually losing him to cancer…all of this was happening during my first years in business.

I was trying to build my little empire, claim my slice of entrepreneurial pie amongst some pretty extreme conditions. I didn’t realize how difficult it all was while in the midst of it. Does anyone realize anything when in survival mode? I felt numb and afraid.

All I knew was that I was never meant to work in a cubicle. And thanks to a lot of hard work, my awesome late husband, my family and my amazing clients, I stayed out of one.

When I found myself alone and bereft, I was able to take time off work without fear of losing my job. I did lose a client who seemed to drop off the face of the earth when I explained what was happening, but I couldn’t expect everyone to understand. I held on to some wonderful working relationships with all of my other clients (again, so grateful).

If I did not have this time to grieve, and the quality, life-changing months leading up to my late husband’s untimely death, I would not have bounced back so quickly and so well. If I had not grown that thick layer of skin all those years before, when I grieved my first breakup by teaching myself HTML and taking photography classes, I would not have healed so well. It helped me gain the additional strength needed for grieving a loss like that at such a young age.

Let’s backtrack a bit. In my early 20’s, after my teenage “muses” website, I started designing websites for my photography. I went through about 30 different designs to see how much I could teach myself. I was also writing in a journal about my hopes and dreams to one day photograph all the ancient ruins and landmarks in Ireland and the UK. It was a big dream.

Amazingly, when my dreams were all but lost, I jumped at an opportunity to visit the British Isles. There, I finally fulfilled my photographic dream. I liked it so much that a couple of years later, I actually moved there! Ok…falling in love again was mostly to do with that 😉


Through teenage drama which was the catalyst to starting my business, and then when real trauma hit at the beginning of my entrepreneurial career, I developed the strength needed to achieve my dreams. I never thought I could. But I kept going, and kept dreaming. Even when it felt like my dreams had died along with my first love, I had the spark still in me. I was open to all possibilities.

I wanted to travel.


I wanted to be successful in my business.


I wanted to create my own life.


So, I did.

CatherineMcManusCatherine McManus is a Web & Graphic Designer who loves working with creative entrepreneurs that are as passionate about their work as she is about her own.

Catherine works with clients to develop and design beautiful brands and websites that honor the beautiful work they want to share with the world. She specializes in assisting practitioners and studios in the holistic wellness industry, as well as artists and other entrepreneurs who are dedicated to their work, their lives, and with helping others.

After teaching herself HTML in high school, Catherine went on to earn a degree in Digital Communication & E-Marketing while working full-time. Evenings were spent practicing for hours in Photoshop and Dreamweaver, which allowed her creativity to flourish.

Before she started her business, Creatively Designed, Catherine established herself as a freelance designer & website manager for a number of Healing Arts professionals in the USA. She’s now based in Devon, England, working with clients all over the world. She lives with her artist & architect husband and two “helpful” feline office assistants.

You can find out more about Catherine on her website and on Facebook.

Would you like to contribute to the list of fabulous contributors over on the Female Business Hub blog? See HERE http://femalebusinesshub.com/write-fbh/


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2 comments leave one →

  1. Thank you so much Janine and Jess for the opportunity to share my story! I love what you have going on over here in the Female Business Hub and I’m honored to be a contributor 🙂
    Catherine McManus recently posted…Brand Clarity: How to be Consistent with your BrandingMy Profile

    • Janine

      Thank you for sharing it with us! Well done you for pushing through everything you have had to deal with. You must be so proud and I am sure your Husband is too!! xxxx


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