Tara Agacayak is a coach for creative entrepreneurs, and an American living in Turkey. After marrying her Turkish husband in 2002, Tara followed him to their first home in a small town near Istanbul on the Marmara Sea. Battling culture shock, isolation and an identity crisis, Tara tried to find herself in a series of unfulfilling English teaching jobs and web-based endeavors. The end result was that evolving her professional self became a personal journey – and that is why her own coaching enterprise ‘Turquoise Poppy’ suggests that we “bloom where we’re planted” – to thrive despite the circumstances. Here I talk to Tara about life as a businesswoman in Turkey, and what she has learned working with her clients as they have grown their creative enterprises.
What do you love most about being an expat living in Turkey?
I always say that I found myself in Turkey. In America I was on autopilot and couldn’t tell you if I was happy or not – I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing, not necessarily something of my own design. Culturally speaking, there were things that were missing in my life that I didn’t know were missing until I started living here. Ways of being, ways of relating to others, ways of communicating – even ways of eating and spending leisure time. My life was enriched by adapting these cultural habits into my own.
What is the enterprise scene like for women in Turkey? How easy is it to set up and run a business?
The process of setting up a legal entity in Turkey is intimidating but not too complicated, though I have found that there are less support structures here than there are in the US. More and more though I’m seeing financing and training programs designed specifically for women to encourage them to start their own enterprises. What I’d like to see even more of is support, financing and legislation that makes it easier to start small businesses, not just larger corporations.
How did Turquoise Poppy come about?
Turquoise Poppy started out as a personal blog. I wrote about my experiences in Turkey and how I was trying different entrepreneurial projects like Citara’s and Behind the Bazaar. About a year ago I participated in a virtual conversation with nine other women about our experiences as hybridized global citizens and I realized that what I’ve been doing all along my own professional journey was coaxing others along theirs. I named my blog for the turquoise of Turkey and the native poppies of California and explained that blooming where you’re planted is about always finding a way to make your situation workable despite any compromised circumstances.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Holding up the mirror for people to see their own vision of themselves. When people come to me for guidance they usually have a list of things they are trying to achieve, or at least a list of what’s not working that they want to change. Wherever our natural-born talent comes from, I have come to recognize that mine is about taking that list of things my clients give me and handing it back to them as a list of what’s possible. It gives me great joy to see people I’ve worked with create amazing projects that are meaningful, fulfilling and viable – I believe when we do that we’re doing our best work in the world and the world benefits immensely. This is the whole idea behind building one’s global niche.
What issues do you find keep coming up time and again for creative entrepreneurs trying to grow their business?
– Not believing that what they really want to accomplish is possible
– Not knowing the steps they need to take to make it possible
– Getting overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to not give up until you succeed
– Fear that they might fail and fear of what would happen if they actually succeed – both of which result in immobility
– Time management
– Cash flow problems; not understanding how to finance the way to make their business happen
– Being too attached to a specific outcome that they can’t create multiple paths to achieve their goals
– Being afraid to take risks – like quitting a job, charging for their products or services, saying no
– Feeling unworthy
– Thinking they have to do everything themselves
What is the most useful piece of advice you have ever received?
“Fake it until you make it.”
You were an inaugural member of Third Tribe, and are a member of several other major professional networks, including the Global Women’s Leadership Network. What do you find most valuable about being part of such communities?
Access! It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to know everything. But through each of my online and offline networks I know I can get to the person who has the expertise or the answer I need when I run into a problem or access to the person who can open a door for me. We don’t do anything by ourselves. We don’t get anywhere alone.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t wait. There is nothing to be afraid of. You have everything you need to realize the dreams that are written on your heart. Listen to what its telling you and trust its wisdom.
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