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Shannon Etnyre
Founder, True North: Creative Business Planning

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“Each of us has our own story to be told through art, writing, and relationships.”

Shannon is the founder of True North Creative Business Planning, an online community & consulting platform. As a mixed-media artist, Shannon’s passion for creativity coupled with her expertise in strategic business planning and finance, partner well to form a balance of understanding & guidance for the creative-type entrepreneur. Shannon believes that by leveraging the strengths of a community, entrepreneurs can further guarantee their success during start-up, growth, and beyond.

After receiving her undergraduate in Business-Economics from University of California Santa Barbara and her Master’s in Business Administration in Entrepreneurship & Management Consulting, Shannon spent the next decade in Corporate Finance working with and for top Fortune companies, publicly traded medium-sized businesses, non-profits, private firms and start-ups.

While financial modeling has long been a mastered skill, her love for the arts, graphic design, photography, writing, and painting could no longer be saved for after-hours. Her success as a foodie blogger gave her the momentum she needed to move full time into the creative field and earned her features on Foodbuzz, Williams Sonoma’s Publishers Network, and BlogHer.

When she’s not digging into financials, you can find Shannon in the kitchen with her family, painting large scale abstract works with her two young boys, driving off-road with the Rover club, or setting up camp in the wilderness.

What inspires you? Authenticity continually inspires me. This is evident in the “True” in “True North”. To express yourself fully through your art, you must become vulnerable. For an artist, it isn’t just a painting on a wall, it’s you. To me, that vulnerability is beautiful. I’ve found the older I get the more I am drawn to authentic people, who see others & want to be seen. Each of us has our own story to be told through art, writing, and relationships.

I truly enjoy being around creative people, discussing possibilities, developing a new idea that never existed before. This concept can be taken to a whole other level when you leverage strengths & community & potential can grow exponentially.  Often this authenticity leads to thoughtfulness in the arts, design, & in others.

Do you have a favorite quote? My favorite quote right now is by Anais Nin – it feels relevant to where I am in my life:

“My life is not possible to tell. I change every day, change my patterns, my concepts, my interpretations. I am a series of moods and sensations. I play a thousand roles. I weep when I find others play them for me. My real self is unknown. My work is merely an essence of this vast and deep adventure.”

What are the most pressing issues facing women today? I have seen so many women held back by fear, myself included: fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of failure or judgment by others. I often tell myself, “comfort zones aren’t always comfortable”. I try to catch myself making fear based decisions & try to dissect the “belief” I am running through my mind. Is what I am afraid of really true? If it’s not true, then what is? This exercise has helped me “stretch” myself and has helped me grow. Without that, I would certainly be stuck in a rut.

What are the biggest keys to your success? In addition, to focusing on my own strengths, community has been the key to my success. Community in family, friends, and even people I have never met before. Launching a business is not easy, especially a business you care deeply about. Community offers encouragement, sharing of ideas, & the opportunity to learn from others. There are times when I’ve wondered, “should I really be doing this?” The resounding answer is always “yes”. This feedback keeps me going. Am I making mistakes? Absolutely! Am I learning from those mistakes? I hope so. But I keep going, one small step at a time. You have to keep going and you have to make sure to surround yourself with a community who cares, who will make sure you are moving.

What are the biggest keys to the advancement or success of women? These last 50 years have been so prevalent in the advancement of women. We have come such a long way in this lifetime and we still have a long way to go. “Belief” in ourselves and each other is what will propel us further; belief that together all things are possible.

Throughout my life I have been exposed to successful women, women who were kind enough to share with me, that it wasn’t without sacrifice, dedication, perseverance  and education. These elements coupled with a belief that we are enough, that we are beautiful the way we are, that we have something to offer, is key.

It’s amazing to see how “belief” can be amplified within a community. We need people to “see” us for who we really are, accept us, & to say “yes” when we need to hear it.

Creative Community BadgeWhere did the inspiration for your business come from? I was in an awful place and was searching for my purpose. I had the education, the great house, the great career, really great money & subsequently life threw me some curve balls to prove that none of that meant anything.

I was floundering, really. I wasn’t happy at all. I knew I had to change my life but I didn’t really know how or which direction to go. The most pro-found moment came to me when I was handed the book, What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson. I swear my jaw almost fell to the floor. I was speechless. I had only gotten through the first chapter when I realized that I already knew what I wanted to do. It was so obvious.

I wanted to create and be inspired and help others do the same. The more art classes I took the more people I met who were in need of business planning services. I quickly realized that a lot of the same questions were asked & that I needed to create some guidebooks for creatives to use to build their business. However, I knew that as creatives, we need support and encouragement, so I decided to couple the consulting with community. I also knew, the term “starving artist” isn’t a joke and I needed to present these services in a way that creatives could afford them, so they weren’t paying $200 an hour for a business coach, so we developed a membership platform. Wha-la True North was born.

Where is your product sold (if applicable)? On our online platform at, we give away access to our creative contributors’ posts on our site, access to basic community forums, and we offer free business templates to get started.

For a small monthly fee, we offer premium memberships which include access to all of our e-guidebooks, the business discussion forums where members get access to our business experts to answer questions for them, & thousands of resources to build a creative business.

In addition, we can build your business plan for you, review your business plan, offer consulting, and marketing/PR. For small to medium sized companies we offer the Part-Time Chief Financial Officer services. Oh & we make art too.

What advice do you have for a woman who is considering starting a business? My advice is to “find your people”. If you’re a looking for community come to True North. There are all sorts of communities depending on who you click with and who inspires you.  The key is to surround yourself with a balance of peers, mentors, & experts, in & outside your field. If you need to know where to find your “people”, start going to networking events and conferences or take classes, follow relevant thought-leaders & be open to learning.

What are the biggest hurdles you have faced in starting or growing your business? How did you overcome these? The largest hurdle I had was starting a business while working full time, with a husband, and a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Balancing work with home-life was a struggle so I had to schedule time to focus on the True North project & work with my family. I would “schedule” a few nights a week & a few hours on one of the weekends to plan, write, and connect. I also took my laptop over to Starbucks at lunch & did my research when the kids napped.

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