1 year in business


I’ve made it to mark a full year since I’ve started Penner Collective. A lot of me is asking, ‘What are serious?!’ while the other part of me is going ‘Ummm, yes. That tracks’. It’s easy to lose track of actual time in this COVID world, so I’ve taken some time away (marched down to my local coffee shop with a filled-up stamp card burning a hole in my pocket) to reflect.

A lot of ‘one year’ reflections are filled with the highlight reels of new business. They might list their growth percentage, the number of employees they hired on, their social following, the list goes on. I’m applauding, (but if they’re continually obnoxious, muting), as I KNOW every business is a journey. ‘Overnight success’ is never what is seems. There are highs and lows to it all. And that should be celebrated, not talked about in hushed tones or disregarded completely.

So when I think about this year, some of it was amazing. Some of it was really hard. I expect that to continue! What I can say, is that I have spent this year feeling fully alive. With that, comes the range of human emotion. But, what a feeling. To fully experience the highs and the lows, embracing the waves as they come, is how I want to live.

This experience of entrepreneurship has made that my reality.

As a kid and as a teen, I was well entrenched in the ‘camp scene’. Either as a camper or counsellor, one of favourite times of day was the recounting of ‘highs and lows’. ‘Roses and thorns’. (Add a ‘bud’ in there if you’re really committed). It gives pause for a moment of thankfulness and an acknowledgement of what was painful. So I’m all cued up for reflection: I have my coffee, airpods in, fingers poised above the keyboard ready for some insightful and wise words…


  • The freedom and flexibility – I get so much satisfaction over deciding how my day will go. It’s in the little things, from when I take a break, when I exercise, when I work well into the night, etc. It doesn’t need a check-in or a courtesy approval, I just get to do it. Living apart from the must-do, must-be-at, must-wear- etc. has felt wonderfully freeing.
  • Speaking of freeing, there’s a rush in being ‘unleashed’ in potential. I am only capped by my own drive and ability. That can be overwhelming, but mostly, it’s freeing.
  • The joy of a new client – oh, the happy dances my flat has seen! There’s nothing like getting a new client, of having someone put their trust in you to deliver the value you promise. I didn’t sleep a wink the night I got my first new client (one that I didn’t already know!). I was nervous, overwhelmed, but mostly, excited. I was on one of those highs where you feel like you’re at the start of something wonderful. 1am turned 2am, turned 3… still up at 7. …made for an interesting 10am briefing call!
  • The focus on personal growth and learning. I love how much I’ve been challenged, forced to grow, skill-up and evolve. Outside of it being another year of COVID, there has been nothing static about this year. I’ve learned more professionally in this year than potentially any before it.
  • The variety. Each and every project is different. I get to immerse myself in new industries, meet new people, read new things, take different courses, try different approaches and tactics. No project or day is the same.


  • It can feel isolating. While I’m regularly talking with new people, it’s all through a screen. I miss the chats while making a tea, the outings to get lunch, the after-work drinks. I know so many of us are dealing with the same realities, but not having that ‘home team’, even through the screen, has felt dis-regulating at times. I’ve had to be particularly careful because I’ve spent much of the year quite immunocompromised due to my colitis… I can’t wait for the day I can waltz into a WeWork and set up camp. Just try to shut me up.
  • The never-ending (and ghosted) pitch. It’s a necessary but exhausting part of the process. The hardest part is when you invest significant time and effort into the process – often several meetings, some research, a beautiful pitch deck, all to receive… nothing. I’ve been ‘ghosted’ by far too. many clients. It truly is ok if the project doesn’t work out. Circumstances may have changed, my fees may not be in budget, etc. It’s a defeating experience to put all of that work into the process to hear absolutely nothing in return.
  • Never being done. There is always more to do, something else to get to. The irony of having all of the freedom and flexibility is that I am working more than I ever have. So, yes, I need a break, but it’s more of a ‘refuelling’ that is needed rather than an ‘escape’.
  • Saying goodbye to paid vacation. ‘Time’ truly is ‘money’. Though I budget for my holiday time, I am always aware of the opportunity cost that it is. How many day rates is that? Would that be another project? It takes a concentrated effort to let that go.

I’ve encountered every emotion under the sun. I had the ‘honeymoon high’ when first beginning, the three-month slump, the acclimatisation of levelling off somewhere in the middle. The lows are low, but the highs are amazing. It certainly is a ride.

Ultimately, I love what I do, and it’s a privilige to get to do it. Through every hard day, I have a deep confidence that it’s all worth it. It takes a lot of grit and perseverance but, luckily, I’m stubborn. (Comments are closed to my husband on this one.)

My coffee is now cold but that year was on fire (‘head in hand’ emoji but I’m not editing that out.) I’m thankful for it. Every damn wonderful, hard, exciting, monotonous moment of it. Thank you for being here for the journey!

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Hi, I'm Emily!  My entire career goal has been to build brands that I'm proud of, who have a strong story to tell and are making an impact on the world. 

Taking learnings from the big player clients like Google and TD Bank, I'm most passionate about building the brands of tomorrow, and I know what that takes for startups.  I would love to learn more about your company and discuss the possibilities! 

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