How a Professor Turned Her Passion Project into a Multimillion-Dollar Online Store
Athena Perrakis is the founder and CEO of Los Angeles based Sage Goddess, the world's largest source of sacred tools and metaphysical education. Each week, the brand reaches over 2 million people across the globe through Perrakis's in-person workshops, online classes and social media.
Before launching her now-multimillion-dollar metaphysical store, Perrakis, who holds a PhD in educational leadership, had 15 years of experience as a professor, corporate trainer and consultant. As a corporate trainer, she traveled the globe and worked with CEOs and senior executives from Fortune 50 companies.
After her initial Sage Goddess Etsy shop began to grow, she chose to leave the corporate world and return to her roots as an expert in gemology, astrology, tarot, aromatherapy, reiki and herbal medicine. Her Etsy store was the first online metaphysical storefront to reach the Top 10 stores in the handmade category around the world.
If you're wondering how a corporate trainer transitioned into one of the leaders in the metaphysical space, you are not alone. I was excited to ask her exactly how her story unfolded and her advice for other shop owners and spiritual entrepreneurs. Here are my top nine lessons from my conversation with her.
Start with demand.
Perrakis began what would become an enormous operation with one simple order. A girlfriend out of state wanted to purchase one of her signature sage bundles she made for local friends and family. She decided putting the item on Etsy would be a fast, simple solution.
"I wasn't starting a business. I was trying to give a [single sage] bundle to my friend," she explained.
Starting a business because you love entrepreneurship or you love the product or service is not bad, but it's not enough; you need to have actual customer demand.
Understand and appreciate your audience.
Perrakis shared that her leadership training and study of psychology set her up for entrepreneurial success. "At the end of the day you're working with people ... their basic instincts and drives, and the more you can know about that and understand them, the more you'll be able to really adapt and figure out what they need and then respond to them." She went on to say that the foundation for a great business is understanding the answers to the following questions: What do people need? What pain point or challenge are you solving? Why will or should customers talk to you? Why would they buy anything from you?
Beyond understanding, Perrakis truly cares for her community. "They're not really our customers. They are part of our family. We see them that way. I regularly pick up the phone and will call people .... I've done that, and it happens every week that I pick up the phone and do that. I don't have time to do that. But, I also don't have time not to do that."
Once you have a demand for your side hustle service or passion project product, start to "get in the head" of your clients and customers so you can continue to solve their problems and show them appreciation.
Establish the business.
Though it's an exciting thought to take the leap and build your metaphorical parachute on the way down, Perrakis recommends a more conservative approach. She knew she was ready to transition from side hobby to full-time business owner when Sage Goddess replaced her corporate salary. Before you have added financial pressure, figure out as much of the nuts and bolts of the business as you can while still employed.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
Craft an authentic brand.
Even when consulting in the corporate world, Perrakis was in touch with her spiritual side and rocked hidden purple streaks in her hair. If you want to sustain your passion project through to a legitimate business operation, make sure you authentically love the products, services and brand. It will be hard to keep up your marketing efforts if you're projecting an image that doesn't match who you really are and how you really work.
"Who I am is what I do. There's really no distinction .... Even if nobody paid me, this is what I'm here to do, and I'm very aware of that. And so that's what gets me through really long days."
Listen to your intuition.
"I think as much as we think we lead our businesses, and we do, our businesses teach us and lead us, too. There is what I call the voice of the business. And what I've found is I have to quiet my mind and really work on centering myself so that I can hear what needs to happen," Perrakis shared. She explained that though she now has more tools and reach than ever before, they keep the heart of the business the same. She even continues to make the original mother bottle of all of the Sage Goddess perfumes herself.
In order to hear what she calls "the voice of the business" you have to take time to get quiet, get centered, block out what competitors are doing and experts are saying, and go with your gut.
Build a strong team.
Though she now has a large operation in Los Angeles, Perrakis started making sage bundles by herself in her home and has experienced her fair share of growing pains. She explained that people make a business, but they are also the greatest challenge that a company can face.
The Sage Goddess policy is to make sure all employees understand they're joining a conscious organization and that they're expected to bring their full selves to the table. "Which is uncommon, kind of," she went on. "Here, if you've had a bad day or something is going on, we actually want to know that, because that is energy that you're bringing into the building. And if we're aware of it, we can work with it. That's always our mantra." During a busy season, when an employee's father fell ill, the company paid for her trip home, even though she was a vital part of their fulfillment process.
"I think that's just an example of what it means to be leader of a conscious organization."
Take care of yourself.
We have all felt a project turn from a life giver into a life sucker. Perrakis believes self-care is critical to passion-fueled success. "I really believe that taking good care of me means that I create a long-term, sustainable business model, and I can be in this arena doing this for a long time, which is one of my goals."
She warns against focusing on building, building, building the business at the expense of yourself. She advises you to ask, What does the biggest, fullest, loudest version of me look like? How can I take care of my family doing that?
Again, when it comes to building, Perrakis warns against focusing on growth and change and what's next. "If you're always focused on what you think you're gonna build, you're not in this moment right now, which is the sweetest .... Don't set out to do something big. Set out to live your path."
This is a key common trait among the millionaires I interview. They find a way to stay present and fully enjoy the journey rather than hustling from one destination benchmark to another. Practice pausing throughout your day, and balance long-term vision with right-now problem solving.
Want to experience success inside and out? Take it from my guests and start what I call a "gractice" -- a gratitude practice. For some, this is a gratitude journal or a meditation, but don't overthink it. Perrakis says you can start simply. "Wake up every morning and just say, 'I am grateful for ... ' and fill in your own blank."
Find a way to incorporate gratitude into each day for a more centered, fulfilling entrepreneurial journey. Learn more about Perrakis and Sage Goddess at SageGoddess.com.
Entrepreneur Network is premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.
Click here to become a part of this growing video network