When people talk about entrepreneurship and starting their own business, they will often focus more on hard work and sacrifice rather than joy. Yet joy is the very thing that, when you put it at the center of your life, will help you build the life of your dreams.

This was true for entrepreneur and ice cream maven Erika Pierson. She tapped into her love of ice cream and her passion for bringing joy to others to create a successful business in the midst of a global pandemic that grew and is continuing to evolve rapidly. The first ingredient for her success was joy.

“I never thought that my love of ice cream would turn into Paisley Creamery—especially during such a challenging year,” says Erika. “But it brought together all the different parts of me while aligning with my values.”

Joy was not always at the center of Erika’s life. As recently as two years ago, she was working at a job that was fulfilling other people’s goals and dreams but not her own. She felt that her talents were being wasted. She was following the path that she had been told would lead to success: work hard and make money. But it wasn’t enough. “At the end of the day, I would have everything crossed off my to-do list yet would leave work feeling unfulfilled.”

She did what many people do in that situation, which is to try to fix the problem by adding more self-care. It didn’t work. What did work was diving into what brought her joy.

It started with one blue KitchenAid mixer in her kitchen, a bunch of books and recipes, and supportive friends who were all too willing to be her guinea pigs. Her guinea pigs turned into fans and soon were encouraging her to take it more seriously. She decided to give it a try and invited some friends over to take pictures of her making ice cream and then emailed everyone she knew about her ice cream. Soon, the orders started coming in.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people is a crucial component to success (and joy.) As Erika rightly puts it, “The people who didn’t believe in me back then are not around me anymore.” Her personal life started to fall into place because she was doing what she loved—and it was paying off. That’s when she realized she had much more than a hobby on her hands.

“With a regular and growing customer base, I needed help making this into something bigger,” says Erika. She joined my Small Business Accelerator, and as she puts it, she “dove into the operations of the business.” This is often where joy meets fear, so it’s helpful to have a coach to help you navigate the growth and accompanying emotions.

“It was scary,” admits Erika, “but I was surrounded by successful role models who inspired me.”

Like many small business owners, Erika’s fear of spending money to make money was real, even though it was clearly holding her back. She was overextending herself timewise to simply get the minimum done. I showed her with projections and hard numbers how to scale her business by working smarter and making small changes and investments in areas that would yield immediate ROI. Automating tasks (like creating labels) and purchasing an industrial ice cream churner would allow her to increase her sales in no time. “After we did the numbers, we saw that a week and a half of sales would pay for the equipment,” adds Erika.

Erika’s vision is still expanding, and the expansion is fueled by her joy. She wants to inspire other business owners, particularly women of color, so they too can turn their joy and passion into a thriving business. “Following my passion for something as simple as ice cream is my brand, I guess you could say,” Erika says.

You don’t have to sleepwalk through your day or life. You don’t have to feel unfulfilled. Start with what brings you joy and incorporate it into your life even in the smallest of ways—and then watch what happens.