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SHEsfirst: From Dream to Launch: Marisa Donnelly on Being the First Business Owner In Her Family

Marisa Donnelly is a writer/writing coach, editor, and dreamer originally from Suburban Chicago, now based in Southern California. She has been drafting stories and poems since age four, and now has five years in the writing industry, with her work reaching over 21.2+ million views worldwide. Marisa is the author of the poetry collection, Somewhere on a Highway, and the founder of a writing coaching, tutoring, and editing services company, Be A Light. When she’s not doing anything writing-related, she’s cooking, attempting to grow plants, and taking her dog on adventures.

Name: Marisa Donnelly
Company: Be A Light LLC, a writing coaching, tutoring, and editing services company dedicated to encouraging, equipping, and empowering individuals to their highest potential.
Industry: Writing & Editing (Online/Southern California)
Age: 26

Who are you, where are you from, what do you do? I’m Marisa Donnelly. I’m a hybrid between freelance writer and coach, but what that really means is that I do content and creative writing for websites, brands, and companies all over the world. And when I’m not writing, I’m coaching people on how to find and develop their creative voices, strengthen their own content, and communicate with confidence and authority.

I’m originally from Naperville, a big suburban town outside of Chicago. In 2016 I moved to Southern California (San Diego) to follow my heart and the sunshine. Now I work remote and for myself out here and enjoy every minute of the beautiful weather!

What inspired you to start your business, and what path did you take to get there? I’ve always known that I wanted to write. And I’ve always been passionate about teaching and helping others achieve Don’t be afraid of the potential that is within you. don’t doubt what you can do.their goals. When I started my first full-time Staff Writer/Editor role with Thought & Expression Co. (Thought Catalog) I realized that blending the two passions was my ultimate dream.

I launched my business in 2018 to be both a company and a community dedicated to helping people with the written world. From tutoring in English/Language, to reading assistance, to resume writing, college essay editing, cover letter creation, etc. my goal is to help people become better writers and communicators. And to be an editor who is invested not only in the work, but who my clients are as people.

I pondered my business idea for a long time before actually taking the first step. Once I took the first step and researched the legality of obtaining an LLC in California, everything came naturally. I started separating my business and personal accounts, registered for a business license, obtained an LLC, got my business credit and debit cards, etc.

Because I already had an online audience, growing my business wasn’t as difficult as it could have been, but the marketing, connecting with people, and building my client base came from there to develop what I have now—a little corner of the internet I’m so incredibly proud of.

What about running your business brings you the most joy? What challenges you the most? I run Be A Light as a one-woman show (for now). I’m the lead editor, the website designer, the social media poster, the ‘email-answerer,’ the newsletter sender, etc. Although I’m so fortunate and thankful for the I’m still pushing back against a culture that doesn’t always recognize female-owned businesses.ability to do so many things, it’s been a crazy struggle to find balance between work and my personal life and to keep up with all that I need/want to do.

My biggest challenge has been to learn that I can’t, and won’t be able to do everything. And that’s okay. Because I’m so passionate about this, I’ve learned to give myself grace in the process. I will get there.

What brings me the most joy is being able to work with people directly, to build relationships, and to have the privilege of helping people with the most intimate parts of themselves—their thoughts and words.

I’ve made incredible bonds, changed people’s career trajectories, given confidence, and helped turn messy websites into beautiful site experiences. I’m proud of the 110% effort I put in, and waking up each day pursuing this dream has truly been more that I could have asked for.

What obstacles have you faced, internal or societal, in your path to business ownership? I am the first business owner in my immediate family, and even parts of my extended family as well. I’m the first female business owner in my circle, too, and this both humbles and excites me.

I think the biggest obstacle in starting a business is not knowing as much as I’d like. There are gaps in my expertise, especially related to finances, funding, taxes, expenses, etc. that I’m completely clueless about! (And I also need more hours in the day, but don’t we all?!)

I can’t, and won’t be
able to do everything. And that’s okay.
Outside of that, I’m still pushing back against a culture that doesn’t always recognize female-owned businesses. My boyfriend is a business owner as well, and I’ve noticed that people will inquire more about his business than mine, misunderstanding my role to be under his company, rather than my own. Though so much has changed for women and feminism, there are still issues to fight against. And I’m always fighting for my voice to be heard on those topics.

What advice would you give SHEs considering a career path that involves being a first? Take the time to research what it is that you’re passionate about, especially if you don’t have any guides or mentors paving the way. After researching, do what you can to get into that career field in whatever way possible—whether that’s college, internships, volunteer hours, part-time work, etc.

If you’re thinking about getting into the writing industry, I’d highly suggest starting a blog and social media site(s). What helped me tremendously, as well as built my online profile, was having a blog I could point to for my current and best work. I also started building my social profiles to showcase my favorite quotes, behind-the-scenes information, and of course, to share my writing.

Don’t be afraid of the potential that is within you. Don’t doubt what you can do. Don’t be afraid to fail and fall down (it’s normal and healthy). And don’t let what hasn’t been done scare you from doing exactly what it is that’s on your heart. Find those glass ceilings, and shatter them.

For more #SHEsfirst check out our latest post by Gabrielle Davis, a first-gen college student.

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