Zoe Rizokosta: Starting My Business After 10 Years of Being a Trailing Spouse and a Full-Time Mum
By Sujany Baleswaran
Touching upon both the corporate and entrepreneurial industries, Zoe Rizokosta has seen the best of both worlds. After her fulfilling time working with the inspiring organisation Greenpeace Greece, Zoe saw her hours and effort slowly transform the environment and the lives of others. Holding on to that feeling of helping others, she made the life-changing decision to step into the world of nutrition and became a certified nutrition coach. Zoe vowed to never fall into the life of a 9-5 desk job, and her determination has led her to not only find her purpose in life but work with others on their journey to wellbeing and self-discovery.
You have worked in both the corporate world and the entrepreneurial world. How was your early career, and how has it shaped who you are today?
My career in the Communications and Public Relations sector started coincidentally. My initial ambition, after I got my BA and MA in Politics & International Relations, was to become a Diplomat. Right after I rejected this option, I started sending CVs to companies and organisations and ended up landing my first job in Strategic Communications and Corporate Relations. I soon found out that not only did I like what I was doing and was good at it, but I had exactly the personality to match the essence of what I was doing. I was young and ambitious, so I was working many hours a day, until late at night; I even felt proud about it! The busier, the better, I thought back then. I was learning a lot and I was learning fast, not only regarding my field but also about how human relations work and how I could be flexible, resourceful, add value and bring results. At the same time, I often felt I had to put on a different “face” to get my way around and be respected and heard. This was contradicting my sense of freedom to express myself and show up as the authentic me. I decided, back then, that I would find a way to be “me” no matter what, in the future. I am grateful because I summoned “materials” which I later used to start my own business, build my brand and attract a community of people who resonate with who I am and what I am offering.
You currently consult entrepreneurs, and you are also a certified Life & Mind-Body Nutrition Coach. What sparked this change in career? Tell us more about your journey.
I went through a lot of changes and shifts in my adult life. I had planned to study psychology, but I ended up studying Politics and International Relations. I built a career in Communications, ended up working for an NGO, and then I went from an expat stay-at-home mum to building my own online coaching and mentoring business that I can take with me wherever I go. Change is a repeating factor in my life, and sometimes, I joke and say, “I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up”. I knew that I wouldn’t be sticking with just one “job” throughout my professional journey. During these past 30 years, I have witnessed first-hand the unpredictability that life embeds, and I learned to go with the flow, adjust and enjoy what I am doing, make the most out of what life offers me and be open to sense what needs to change and evolve. I started my business by getting certified as a Nutrition Coach, but I felt I needed more tools to support my clients. I went on to study and certified as a Life Coach, and then I took an extra course to learn how to turn my knowledge into a business. I take it step by step – I sense what I need and want, and I go with it.
I started my own business after 10 years of being a trailing spouse and a full-time mum. I was crystal clear on what I did not want as a person and as a professional: I did not want a 9-5 “desk job”. I wanted to be in charge of my time, my day planning, the time I was dedicating to my family and being location-bound free. I wanted to choose who I would work with and what project I wanted to work on. In short, I wanted FREEDOM of choice and action. Starting my own business came as a natural choice. The only thing I had to decide was what I wanted to do. I dedicated many hours to research on nutrition and how it was affecting our body and wellbeing. The next step was getting certified in nutrition coaching, sharing my knowledge, and supporting others in their wellbeing journey. That’s how I started my practice which evolved into my coaching and mentoring business.
Creating a new home in a foreign country and starting from the very beginning is always difficult. What challenges did you have to overcome when making this move?
Moving to a new country, especially the first time, was challenging to say the least. Although it was a conscious decision, I was not prepared for what this move meant. I moved to Germany, a completely different country – I did not know anyone, I couldn’t speak the language yet, and I wasn’t working anymore. My job was a big part of my identity and gave me a sense of independence and purpose, and I was a new mum. I was raising my 10-month old baby practically by myself. I come from a country (Greece) where children are raised collectively, with extended family and friends helping through the whole process. That’s how I was raised, but moving away meant that I did not have “my village” to support me. I was a new, inexperienced and deeply frustrated mum who desperately needed her social circle. However, it was a huge lesson on how much I had underestimated myself and how much potential and strength I actually had. I became much more patient, much more resilient, much more open-minded and compassionate with people, and I understood that building meaningful relationships was the most important thing for me to feel ‘at home’. My identity, meaning who I thought I was before we moved, collapsed. I had to reconstruct my sense of self from scratch. Looking back now, this was one of my biggest blessings, because that’s what gave me the hints to find my purpose and support others on their journey to self-discovery and life re-purposing.
What has been the highlight of your career?
There are many highlights throughout my career. However, if I have to choose one, it was my 2-year tenure as the Fundraising and Corporate Communications Director for Greenpeace Greece, my last assignment before I started my expat adventure. Working for Greenpeace opened up a bright new world for me: the NGO world. I found out what it meant to work for a greater purpose, be in an environment where everyone was open-minded and walked their talk. I enjoyed the satisfaction that came with working hours that translated to serving other people and the environment. At the same time, I had the freedom to be creative, bring new ideas to the table and implement them. I felt free for the first time after a while. I was sad when I had to quit, to move to Germany.
The other highlight of my career was when I finally decided to start my own business. It was as scary as it was exciting, and it transformed me as a professional as well as a human being. Combining everything I learned during my corporate career in Greece, the skills I acquired as an expat, my journey as a resourceful mum, and the experience I gained connecting and coaching people from around the world, gave me the certainty that I was able to offer my clients a unique support system, the inspiration and the tools they needed to create the life they were longing for.
You organise workshops on various topics, from self-discovery to goal setting. What advice would you give to women struggling to find their purpose?
I would start by sending the message that is central to my coaching and my own life: our purpose is revealed to us when we go within and start digging, however painful or scary that might be at times. When we train ourselves to be brutally honest, stop making excuses and take responsibility, we realise that our lives are ours to shape. We need to train ourselves to listen to the voice inside – that’s where all the answers lay, ready to be discovered, seen and heard.
- Start by taking a detailed inventory of where we are right now; or else, who we (believe we) are right now. If we take an honest look at our life, we will realise what we have created so far, which parts we want to keep and which parts we want to release and re-create.
- Then, we need to focus on what we want to create. How do we want our life to look like in the near or far future? What motivates us, what do we dream of, what have we always wanted and never taken action because we believed we couldn’t?
- Take inspired action, coming from the place of our vision. No matter what this action is. It doesn’t matter if we get it “right” from the beginning. We just need to start moving, with our ups and downs. Persevere, develop faith in ourselves and the Universe (and/or God, and/or life flow) and take steps – little or large, take them.
- During the process, identify what holds us back – any situations, people, beliefs that get in the way. This is a process that we will be working on for a long time. We need to be “detectives” of ourselves and observe, realise, take action to remove, release, replace.
- Have gratitude for what we already have and celebrate even the small steps and wins. Train ourselves to honour and reward our efforts and results -even when we feel we failed.
That’s the process I went through (and still going through), and how I support my clients every step of the way. I was alone when I started, and I had to figure out everything by myself because I was too afraid to ask for help and did not know where to turn. I now know it’s much more effective if you get the support you need.
What inspired you to participate in this book project, and how has the book project experience been for you?
I have been a member of the Global Woman Club in Amsterdam, and I have experienced the unique atmosphere and connection that this community offers. I respect and admire the founder, Mirela Sula, who has built an admirable global platform that offers women the chance to express themselves and connect. So, when the Director of the GWC Amsterdam, Giovana Vega, offered me this opportunity, I immediately jumped in. Through this book project, I will be able to reach a wider audience of women with my message of empowerment that comes from within and impacts everyone around them. It’s the first time I have taken part in this kind of project, so I am soaking up the experience, and I am thrilled to be working alongside inspiring and like-minded people.