iPlume Writing’s CEO and Founder Amanda Rogers on Helping Businesses and Non-Profits Reach Their Goals
Hi Amanda! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
I’m Amanda–a proud Canadian mom of two who left the non-profit world to start my own 100% remote writing business and spend more time with my kids. Now, I’m the CEO of iPlume Writing Inc.–a team of skilled writers and editors passionate about helping businesses and non-profits reach their goals and share their stories with the world. Since 2017, we have secured over $15 Million in grant funding for our clients. From grant/RFP writing to academic editing to technical writing, my team and I do it all–and we have a ton of fun doing it! But here’s the thing: we’re not just here to write. We’re here to make a difference. Through our Change Program, we’re committed to helping non-profit organizations achieve their goals and create a positive impact on the world by offering discounted rates that make our services accessible and affordable for underresourced organizations and underrepresented groups.
So Amanda, what excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
I am so excited to be joining a community of like-minded businesswomen. Already since joining, I have made amazing connections with other members. I am most excited about collaborating with other Entreprenistas, helping them find and submit grant and RFP applications for their businesses or create content that perfectly captures their needs. As an online business, having the ability to connect with other business owners across North America is amazing!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I had worked in nonprofit my entire professional career. In my latest position, I was a director at a prominent women’s organization. I had a permanent position with benefits and a pension, and I didn’t see myself going anywhere else. My husband and I relied on my job and its permanence, as he was working contract to contract at various universities. Even when we decided to start a family, I still expected to return to my position one year later. However, there’s no predicting what life will throw at you. During my 38th week of pregnancy, I went to a routine appointment where I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and was told I wouldn’t leave the hospital until my baby was born.
Over the next four days, I experienced obstetric violence and birth trauma until I delivered my son via c-section on July 2nd. I was sent home with my newborn with no follow-up care or mental health check-up. I didn’t realize just how much this experience truly affected me until I returned to work. I was fortunate enough to be able to have my son in the daycare below my office, but all I could hear were his incessant cries. My heart ached to be so close to him, yet so far away. On my third day back to work, I had to listen to my gut, so I scooped him up, brought him home, and never looked back. I took a major risk leaving my job, but there was no other choice. I had to listen to my heart and know what was best for him, for me, and for my family.
Once I had my daughter 10 months later, I knew that I needed to do something to contribute to our household income. So, I started freelancing here and there, late at night after my children went to sleep. My focus was being a mother during the day, so I freelanced at night. I had very little left in my cup at the end of the day. I was lacking in sleep, self-care, and mental stability. However, 2016 was a fairly profitable year for me, so I was advised to incorporate as a business. iPlume Writing (my third baby) was born on March 21, 2017. And, while I continued to parent by day and work by night, I was only making enough to get by. Then, in 2021, I hired my first employee through a 12-week wage subsidy–BEST business decision I’ve ever made! Now, just 2 years later, I have eight employees, have increased my revenues 20-fold, and work with hundreds of clients in over 20 countries. So, while my business began as a necessity, we are thriving today and continue to grow in size, diversity, and sophistication.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I worked for various non-profits for over 20 years in various roles, including Director and Executive Director. My time in the non-profit industry taught me many skills that have translated into my business, including program development, budgeting, grant writing, and team leadership. I also have a Master of Arts degree in Child and Youth Study and an Advanced Major of Arts in Sociology that have been instrumental in developing my critical thinking and writing skills. I also spent three years teaching English in South Korea, which enabled me to travel to over 20 different countries and experience many different cultures that have shaped me into who I am today.
So Amanda, did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I have always been a self-starter and passionate about coming up with innovative ideas, so taking the leap from working for someone else to working for myself made sense and still feels right nine years later. I am passionate about the work we do, and I love my team! I am excited to start work each day, and it’s so invigorating to meet new people and take on new challenges. Every day is different, which makes things interesting and keeps me motivated.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Since I began as a freelancer, I already had a handful of regular long-term clients who continuously referred others to me. Then, four years after I incorporated, I launched my website. However, I would say that 99% of my clients have found me through word of mouth. I was fortunate enough not to have to struggle to gain clients. So, while I have a website and am active on social media, I would estimate that very few clients find me through these channels.
Entreprenistas are resilient. What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?
Our most pressing challenges has been attracting new high-quality clients and growing our partnerships. We are incredibly grateful for the strong partnerships we have already created, but to become the top writing company in the country, we must continue to diversify our markets and reach new clients. Until fairly recently, I was still doing a lot of writing and editing for clients myself. The need to diversify our clients and develop a stronger marketing plan made me learn to put myself out there, try new things, and lean on my networks (like Entreprenista!) for support. I have learned I am capable of more when I have a team I can trust. Having time to spend on the creative aspects of running my business has given me the clarity I needed to expand our services, hone our direction, and gain new clients.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I am extremely proud of the team I have formed. For the first seven years, it was just me. But, in 2021, I took advantage of the Canada Summer Jobs Program, which at the time, subsidized 75% of a staff salary for 12 weeks. That was the best decision I have ever made. I made connections with a local employment program which subsidized a couple more staff members, and now, just two years later, I have a team of eight employees, and we’re busier than ever! Taking the leap to hire staff is scary, but I now rely on them completely, and I am seeing my business grow in size and sophistication because of them. Most recently, my team’s skills and dedication led us to secure a grant-writing contract with a prominent Canadian university.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Achieving work/life balance has been a game changer for me. When growing my business, I was a mother by day and a business owner by night. I survived on very little sleep and LOTS of support from my husband. This period of my life may have been necessary to get my business off the ground; however, it wasn’t sustainable. Thanks to my dedicated team, I am now in a place of near balance. The female role models I looked up to throughout my non-profit professional career sat on several committees and were highly accomplished women. However, I saw everything else take precedence over their families and their own well-being.
As business leaders, I truly believe we have to lead by example and start practising work/life balance to influence future generations of workers and entrepreneurs. Practicing work/life balance myself also sets a precedent for iPlume’s work culture. It is important to me that my team is able to unplug from work and have meaningful rest. As the CEO, it is my job to lead by example by setting my own work boundaries. My best tips are to listen to your gut about whether a project or client is right for you, ask for help, and remind yourself that you don’t need to be perfect. Achieving work/life balance is an ongoing journey for many of us.
Learning from tenured entreprenistas is key. Now that you can walk the walk, what’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
Know your value and stay true to yourself. When I was just starting my entrepreneurial journey, I would take on clients who consistently undervalued my work and time. If I had listened to my gut and trusted that I knew my value, I could have saved myself some sleepless nights. That said, I think growing pains are a natural part of starting a business. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but it was necessary to go through those experiences to get to where I am today. I learned valuable lessons about sticking up for myself and saying no when an opportunity doesn’t align with my goals. We all have to start somewhere, and my previous decisions have only helped me to realize where I want to go.
Amanda, what have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
We’ve been honoured to be nominated for several awards recently, including as finalists for Small Business of the Year from Canadian SME and Entrepreneur of the Year at EY, plus GOLD GLOBEE winner for Startup of the Year. In the past year, we’ve also helped our clients secure over $3.5 million, which has helped fund women’s entrepreneurship programs, innovation in autism education, and capital improvements for daycares.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
iPlume has big plans for the next few years. Our future goals include securing more RFPs to work with big-name clients and expanding to make the Western US a key client sector. To do this, we are currently undergoing a huge rebranding effort to match the growth iPlume has had over the last six years. Keep an eye out for our brand-new website, logo, packaged rates, consultation offerings, and more!