How One Woman Turned Her Passion Project into an Eight-Figure Business

By Dan Leberman, SVP, Head of SMB and Partner, PayPal

The pandemic has catalyzed millions around the globe to rethink personal and professional priorities, short- and long-term goals, where we want to live and work, and what we want out of our personal relationships. CEO and Founder Cathryn Lavery CEO and Founder Cathryn Lavery

Many of us have recently taken the time to reflect on our evolving aspirations, but achieving them can, of course, still be quite difficult. As serial entrepreneur Cathryn Lavery put it, people often turn to self-development books to improve their lives and figure out what they want their personal and professional lives to look like, but reaching new goals is difficult without a structured way to approach them. Seeing a need for products that can help people break down their goals into daily, actionable steps, Cathryn came up with the idea for

Cathryn’s company has already driven over $40 million in sales, and has expanded to include products from productivity tools and planning journals to relationship conversation decks. We spoke with Cathryn to learn more about how she got her start, how she’s overcoming challenges she faces in her pursuits, what advice she has for other entrepreneurs, and how PayPal has helped her business.

Dan Leberman: Can you tell us a bit about BestSelf? And what inspired you to start the business?

Cathryn Lavery: I became interested in personal development in 2011, when I emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. As important as personal wellness and development is, we don't really learn about it in school. So, people often turn to self-help and self-development books, but in my experience, I could never find any products that actually helped me put the things I was learning from these books into an actionable structure.

BestSelf Products
BestSelf Products

I wanted to create a structure for myself around things like effectively planning my day, time-boxing and breaking down my goals into actionable steps, so I created the “Self Journal,” a 13-week planner. You set a goal, break it down, and you know exactly what you need to do each day to accomplish that goal.

I designed the first Self Journal for myself. When I showed it to my friends, they all wanted a copy. I quickly realized that other people were dealing with the same issues as I was, and if I could create the tools and frameworks to enable other people to plan and organize their days and set and achieve their goals, I could turn it into a business. I launched my business on Kickstarter in 2015. It got funded within a day. And that’s how BestSelf got started. 


DL: You’ve been a PayPal customer from the beginning. Can you share a bit about how has PayPal helped your business?

CL: I’ve used PayPal Checkout as our checkout solution from the very beginning. I use PayPal Checkout because both my customers and I feel secure using it. From my customers’ perspective, they have two lines of defense when using PayPal – they know they can leverage our customer service, but they also have PayPal’s Buyer Protection on eligible transactions. From my side as a business owner, PayPal Checkout is fast, secure and I know eligible transactions are protected with PayPal’s Seller Protection. I’ve also used PayPal Working Capital, which in my experience is so much faster, more reasonable and affordable than the alternatives.

DL: You do a great job balancing both purpose and profit. Can you talk about that?

Self Journal
Self Journal

CL: Because BestSelf started really organically, I wasn’t focused on the profit side unlike other businesses that I’ve founded. BestSelf was more of a passion project for me, and I wanted to help other people who were dealing with the same issues that I was -- achieving my personal development goals, progressing in my career and improving my relationships. At BestSelf, our mission is to connect and inspire humanity to think bigger and achieve more, while enjoying today. 

Running a small business is really hard work and you’re constantly faced with new challenges – from supply chain issues to finding new customers to managing cash flow – but when we hear from our customers about the positive impact our products have had on their personal development, on their careers and on their relationships -- that’s what keeps us going.

Now, BestSelf has to generate profit for me to be able to continue. But not being able to rely on external funding just means that I know I have to create a lasting and impactful product and business. 

DL: Speaking of challenges that small businesses are faced with, how are the supply chain issues impacting your business? And how are you managing that?

CL: Shipping containers have increased by four to six times in price. They used to cost around $3,700 and now cost closer to $20,000. Not only are the prices higher, but there are so many shipping delays. We had a container, which contained many of our out-of-stock items, sitting at the port for six weeks. There was demand for the products, but we had no supply, and therefore lost those sales. It was a serious drain on cashflow. To get around some of the supply chain issues, we recently opened production facilities in Columbia, and we’re getting our supplies much quicker from Columbia than we were from China.

DL: This month we’re celebrating Pride Month. Can you speak to what this month means for you?

CL: I’m married to a woman, and we had a baby together three months ago, so the rights of the LGBTQ+ community is really important to me. We recently watched the documentary “Nuclear Family” about these two women who had children together, but one of the parents wasn’t considered a legal parent, which resulted in lot of issues when the sperm donor came back into their lives suing for paternity and visitation rights. I’m so grateful that gay marriage was legalized in 2015 and that gay parents have protected rights now. But there’s clearly a lot more work to be done.

DL: As a serial entrepreneur, what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own business? 

Core Values Journal
Core Values Journal

CL: First, don’t get overwhelmed trying to understand everything at the beginning. Practice “just in time learning” -- figure out the first step and go from there. Too often, people get stuck feeling like they need to figure out everything in the beginning and then they’re too overwhelmed to even start. Second, make sure you make a great product that people actually have a use for and want to buy. You can only know this if you talk to people – to friends, to potential customers. They’re the ones who will be buying your product so if they like the idea, then you’re on to something and if they don’t, be open to their feedback – it can only help you rethink and improve your product.

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