Consultant Profile: Sarah Schulweis, Owner of Anchor & Orbit - Oakland
Hi Sarah! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an animal loving, lake walking, dancing, spinning, family oriented, adventure prone, business owner living in Oakland, CA. My company, Anchor & Orbit Consulting, is in its fifth year of business. I found myself here because of my resistance (some would call it stubborn) to the typical paths of life. Everything from graduating high school early, wanting to skip college completely (though I did finish and am grateful I did), all the way through to now, doing everything I can to make sure that my business is sustainable. My big picture brain is always solving problems and finding ways to work smarter, not harder.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I spent a lot of my teens and early twenties working for small businesses and working independently. Coffee shops, vintage clothing shops, organizing closets, tutoring, being a nanny. I loved the hustle and this was when I started to learn what it really takes to run a business and how to get up the guts to ask to be paid what I felt I was worth.
First, in college, I studied dance but once I was injured and decided that it wasn’t my path, I found business 101 to be the most exciting class! I enrolled at SF State and finished degrees in entrepreneurship and communications. With the way I think and process information, learning to create a business felt simultaneously the most challenging and the most logical — a juxtaposition that might be the true meaning of life and happiness.
After finishing the entrepreneurship program I moved on to a job in marketing and PR at a tech publishing company. Little did I know that this was the final piece to the puzzle that would catapult me into my current life, filling in the gaps that simply planning a business couldn’t provide. For example, in school I learned about marketing strategies and in this job I learned what that implementation actually felt like. Eventually that company laid off half of its staff, including me, and that was my ticket into the dream life I wanted. When I say dream life, I do want to emphasize that it has been far from easy or cheap. Groceries were put on credit cards and I missed family events and friends birthdays. It was the hardest and it’s finally paying off.
My first “clients” were small businesses around the Bay Area. I helped them with everything from shipping to emails to production schedules to press releases. I shifted, they grew, and I saw a space in the market for someone who knew the nitty gritty back-end of businesses. I honed in on what I wanted to work on and made it public. Lucky for me those initial clients, my friends, and colleagues believed in my process and they helped get the word out and gave me beautiful testimonials that I still cherish to this day.
Why did you begin Anchor & Orbit? Was there a specific moment when you knew it was time to create a business of your own?
Anchor & Orbit was born from necessity, but I would say that its current iteration didn’t take form until 2016. I knew it was time for me to leap into a more significant role with more than just a few businesses. I saw a bright future in helping business owners be better at their job and grow their businesses. Once I figured out that growth, rather than sustainability, was really where my heart was, everything clicked. I also wanted to be a separate entity from my clients. I didn’t necessarily want to be in the spotlight, but I also wanted my legacy to be remembered.
What services do you offer your clients?
I work privately, one-on-one with business owners— these are usually 4-6 month retainers with room to grow.
I have a 4-month program that I run along with a few other talented facilitators. This program starts with discovery, moves on to goal planning, financial cashflow planning, and finishes off with market analysis and general system creation.
I am building a resource library with two of my most trusted collaborators. We’re writing these resources as well as having other authors and experts work with us so we can help them write valuable resources to help other businesses grow and learn.
What do you wish more people knew about what you do and business consulting?
01- When I work with people, even through my program, I make sure that what they’re doing and experiencing is tailored to their needs. Each person learns and experiences life differently, so anything I do is presented in as many ways as possible to help the clients gain a new understanding.
02- I’d love more people to know the return on investing not just in their financial or business growth, but their emotional growth, as well. The act of prioritizing and setting aside time in their busy life to think about their business strategically and embrace all of the steps that it will take to achieve their goals pays them back tenfold.
03- At one point or another my clients refer to me as a business therapist — I used to resist that qualifier, but I’ve grown to like it. Having the combination of those two words is enlightening when people are trying to figure out what I do. I simultaneously want to understand the emotion behind the business shifts we are making and insist on moving forward, even when fear is a factor. Thinking about the term more, I don’t know many therapists who will make you run a business cash flow!
As someone who spends their time helping others, is there a recurring theme in what business owners want to learn about?
What’s nice about what I do is that people are ready to work once they find me. I would say the recurring theme, even in those who are ready, is that they have not spent enough time discovering their new selves, as business owners. This isn’t a weakness - just a logistical fact. So when they finally come to me, there is a sense of something “missing” or that they feel a disconnection between themselves and the work that they love. They’re almost a clean slate again, which is really exciting when framed like that.
When did you begin your courses and programs? How has that helped your business and how did you navigate growing that program to encompass other facilitators?
Right now I have one program. I built the program because I felt that there was a newer, greener, more early-stage group of business owners that could benefit from the systems and thought process that I present. What ended up happening was I finally got my passions and lessons on paper. It was truly freedom and so exciting.
The first cohort started January of last year and the lastest, my fourth cohort, was the last time that I will be facilitating on my own. With the fifth cohort, starting June 25 this year, I decided that the talent and know-how of my alumni couldn’t be contained! And this didn’t come out of nowhere, those who I asked to participate as facilitators expressed interest early on in not only growing their business but somehow being involved in my business after the completion. I’ve also been paying attention to the subtleties and flow of the program, noting aspects of it that would be helpful in training first-time facilitators.
My program, unlike a lot of what people desire and are building right now, is far from passive income. I don’t really believe in passive income when it comes to education and business growth. How could each human, who learns and processes information differently have one set of solutions? Impossible. What it does do is provide some consistency for me and a routine. I don’t have to re-write the material (though I did do that a number of times), so that saves a lot of time for me, which I guess could be an aspect of passive income from a product.
The difference between the way I built this and the way that some people build their courses is that throughout the four months, we are with my participants every step of the way. I have added a level in which people can access the resources and assignments on their own, without facilitation, but I think this will be for a very specific group of people who are either very new or very experienced. I want everyone to have access, but I also know that each level of investment is always a significant investment no matter what stage of business one is in.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
That epiphany moment. I uncover a lot with my clients, so when they have the moment or shift or epiphany, we’re all excited. I go from presenting connections I see, to discussing those connections, to witnessing my client make the connection themselves. It’s awesome. Even the moments when they see the connection, but don’t agree or want to shift it.
I’m also passionate about small businesses in general. I do think they are an essential part of our economy, our creative experience, and connection to what we touch, wear, and do. Choosing the smaller cafe over the bigger chain has huge implications for the city and country you’re in. Each purchase means that you’re making another person’s dream stay alive. Each purchase is a small investment into a larger dream. I am very passionate about that.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
Self-funding, or really in my case, depending on my cashflow to stay afloat is a huge challenge. When I went out on my own it wasn’t planned and I had only some available credit and a small severance from my last job. To buffer some of the lost income as I found my footing, I went back to nannying in the evenings and working for any business that would take me.
A side note: I want to mention that my challenge was about what was happening in my own bank account, but I knew that I had a net. I am privileged to have parents who have good jobs and grandparents who are very supportive. I knew that I wasn’t going to end up on the street or starve, but I was also set on doing this all on my own. I think support, or a safety net, doesn’t get mentioned enough. I am self-made with a spoonful of support I had to take advantage of from time to time.
So, to avoid using that net, I took all of the work that came my way. It was when I started to say no to projects or people that weren’t a good fit that shifted my business. So the challenge was to take the work I needed while also being discerning. This is still hard to do, though I am clearer about what I do and my price point tends to weed out the people who aren’t serious about their own business growth. That particular shift and challenge is also something I help my clients with. We really work to determine what they do best, what kind of work makes them happy and finally how to make it work for both themselves and their clients or customers.
There is also a perpetual outreach challenge (or some would call that marketing). It’s busy out there and the challenge of finding your customers and hoping they will think of you when they’re looking for a product like yours is a forever challenge for me and my clients. It’s podcasts and organizations like The Glossary that will help build the audience so people like me can focus on our work. That work “challenge” comes up when I have to balance the outreach and promotion with running my business.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Women understand each other's experience. At each phase of life, there are specific and particular struggles that women have to surpass. Supporting each other means that we all benefit from a sisterhood of understanding and compassion for our unique experiences.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
I’m a little bit obsessed with the group of women who are facilitating my next program and working on this resource library. They are and will be compensated, but outside of that fact, they are truly leaping with me into my next growth phase of my business. They inspire me with their courage, insight, foresight and humor. I am humbled and thrilled to mentor them into the next phase of their own careers.
Claire Seizovic —C. Zeizo Studio
Kate Kellman — Of Note Stationers
Shannon Byrne — The Process Podcast
Devin Kate Pope — Kindred Word Studio
Brittany Luby — Hey Ma Goods
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
At the beginning of Anchor & Orbit there was a tendency to see everything, my own and others, as a potential business idea. What I’ve learned that can apply to any creative endeavor, is that whether it is creating a product for income or art as a form of expression, the act of prioritizing that time will lead to success more than any kind of luck or universal flow. Once the time is prioritized, use it to dive deeply and master your craft. Nothing bad has ever happened to someone by simply committing to exploration and the pursuit of creativity.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Here are some books I love:
Twyla Tharp — The Creative Habit
Jen Sincero — You Are A Badass
Zingermans Guide to Managing Yourself
The Sunday New York Times
Is there someone who helped shape your career path?
Every single person I encounter shaped (and shapes) my career path. Every conversation, referral, email and friend has taken part in my growth and understanding of my career. It really does take a village.
I love to inquire as much as someone will let me about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it. My curiosity about how everything works leaves me wanting to live a thousand lives, have all of the careers, take all of the courses and have all of the degrees. I know I can’t, so I make sure I learn as much as possible from other people’s experiences.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
Every year in this business has felt like the first year — nothing is the same with new commitments, new projects, and new goals keeping me on my toes. With each new year I recommit myself to my business, giving myself the chance to leave or move on when the year comes to a close. I think this helps my self-doubt, which inevitably surfaces, because I know what my deal breakers are and I know truly where I stand with myself. So, when doubt creeps in I have goals I can hold that doubt up against to make sure that I am heading in the right direction. Doubt and anxiety are actually really good compasses — the key is the use them to your advantage, knowing when they are there to help you or when they’re there to slow you down. A quick, “Thank you, I hear you, but I’m OK” usually does the trick.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
Well, the newest thing is working with this group of facilitators. So, what I’m learning is patience, a different level of
What are some of your favorite places in Oakland?
Cholita Linda — I’d eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here if I could
Boot & Shoe Service — Best cafe to hunker down with a latte and a computer screen (or a newspaper if my schedule allows it)
Hipline — dancing here is always the best therapy
Subrosa Coffee — My favorite bi-weekly business expense is their Matcha Latte