Member Story – Karen Liebenguth

By stuart duncan

This year, we’re running a monthly feature on one wonderful member. They’ll share what they’ve been getting up to, where their passions lie, and why they decided to join Echo in the first place to trade their skills and services for time, not £s and pence.

This month we shine the spotlight on Karen Liebenguth, founder of Greenspace Coaching

Karen so lovely to meet you. Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from

I moved to London 17 years ago from Germany and have lived Bethnal Green since 2011. I love east London and I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else – its diversity, creativity, the abundance of independent shops and the wonderful variety of green spaces including Victoria Park, the Lea Valley and the Olympic Park (to name just a few).

I love spending time in nature and feel very privileged to have been able to combine this passion with my work as a life coach and mindfulness teacher. I consider Victoria Park ‘my office’ and regularly meet clients there for life coaching while walking or Kew Gardens where I ran a 6-week mindfulness course last year and have more courses planned in 2019. 

I try to go on a long walk in the countryside at least twice a month on my own or with friends. It’s in nature that I have my best insights and ideas – it’s where I feel completely at ease and in tune with myself. Happy.

You have your own coaching business Greenspace Coaching & Mindfulness – tell us more.

My background is in linguistics (French and English) and film translation. A very demanding corporate job led me to explore life coaching to manage myself better and to learn new skills. I found it so helpful that I decided to continue the coaching training. In 2008 I started my own coaching business while working part-time at Friends of the Earth. Since 2014, I have been running my business full-time and have been offering coaching & mindfulness (outdoors in green space whenever possible) since then.

It’s taken 10 years to get to where I am today – a thriving small business which combines my passion for people and nature, something I would not have thought possible ten years ago! But, perseverance and self-belief can really take you places!

Have you had any lightbulb moments since starting the business?

Yes. When I finally managed to change my limiting belief from “I don’t deserve to run my own business (it’s only for other people) to “Yes, I am running my own business and it will work out.” When that shift happened, I started to value my work. It was like a door opening up, and work started coming through that door.

We heard you spent 3-months on a meditation and mindfulness retreat in Spain last year – what was that like?

I had been thinking about taking some time out for a while but doubt kept popping up; fear too about leaving my work and losing a good part of my business. Intuitively, I knew that I had to for my personal and professional development. I have no regrets.

With all the layers of busyness stripped away (work, e-devices, social media, news), I found myself in very conducive conditions to become more aware of and intimate with my own experience (my likes and dislikes, opinions, views, judgements of myself and others, biases), as well as learning and becoming more aware of others – there were 26 of us on the retreat, living as a community.

The experience helped me to loosen some of my limiting views – ‘how things should be’. I now feel more able to commit to the unknown without feeling fearful about what might or might not happen. I’m loving this sensation of freedom and release and the much broader perspective of myself and life.

You’re one of our longest standing Echo members. How did you first hear about Echo and what attracted you to join?

A friend of mine was raving about Echo and urged me to sign up. I was immediately curious because I like the Echo ethos very much. It’s different, it’s human. It brings the best out of us because money is missing. I think I signed up at the end of 2014 but only started trading in 2015.

What kinds of things have you traded in the 3 years? 

I’ve gained a lot from trading on Echo and met some wonderful people. Yes, I’ve saved money too but really it’s the connections I’ve made that have made the experience, Echo members are so helpful. 

I’ve had portrait photography with Kate E20 to refresh my website imagery and Nils Millahn has provided professional startup advice and generally how to improve my website. We’ve met up 8 times now!

In the past, I struggled with social media so I decided to seek out some advice and training and met Jo Sayers at one of Echo’s Socials. He’s been so helpful in boosting my confidence and sharing tips, and I’m now promoting my business on Instagram and Twitter.

Jo has gone on to help me with all sorts of technological things. It has been fantastic to have a regular “Tech Session” – as I call it – because I’ve learned a huge amount about my computer and has made my life so much smoother because I can now do a lot more by myself.

Bookkeeping has become much less of a drag after discovering Nicola Hearn. She’s an Excel whizz who has helped me create spreadsheets to stay on top of my business finances. She also runs Third Space Canteen in Bermondsey which serves delicious sustainable-sourced food.

Alexandra Lunn created some lovely flyers for me which I’ve been using to attract more people to my courses. I always need eye-catching flyers designed for my mindfulness courses and Echo is great for one-off design jobs. 

I should finally mention that I’ve also had several sessions of reflexology. They’ve been the most wonderful thing and delivered in the comfort of my own home, I’ve already got another one booked in with Lisa Squeak

It’s a long list but just goes to show how much you can get done with your Echoes!

What’s been your favourite Echo experience so far? 

The wonderful collaboration with Echo and Here East at the beginning of last year. Echo asked me to run three Mindful Morning sessions as part of Here East’s Health & Wellbeing Programme to kick-off the New Year. This gave me the opportunity to expose my work at Here East, a fast-growing business campus in next to the Olympic Park. The Mindful Mornings were really very well attended by Echo members and employee working at the many companies at Here East, and I loved that my Echo and Here East collaborators Stuart and Jasel attended the mornings too!

Do you have any advice for someone just joining Echo?

To let go of money and to enjoy a different way of equal exchange by swapping skills for skills, services for services, as well as, connecting with like-minded people.

When money is not at the heart of the trade, I find I have more freedom because the actual value of what I offer or what someone offers me is at the forefront rather than money and thoughts about money. 

When I offer my coaching services on Echo I feel excited that I get paid, for example, in a reflexology treatment which feels more meaningful and exciting to me than getting paid in money. You also get to benefit from the experience and because money isn’t involved you inevitably get to know the person providing the service on a deeper and more meaningful level.

For me that’s priceless!

What are you currently offering on the Echo marketplace?

I’m currently offering 1:1 life coaching and mindfulness coaching while walking in Victoria Park, East London, as well as mindfulness programmes for the workplace to help employees to better deal with stress, anxiety and burnout and to foster creativity, resilience, focus and overall wellbeing.

I also work with organisations to help them become more mindful entities, where motivation, creativity, mental health wellbeing, connection and wanting-to-do well prevail.

What are you focusing your energy on in 2019?

My highlight last year was growing my collaboration with Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place (which is part of Kew Gardens). As I mentioned, I ran my second 6-week mindfulness for stress course in the beautiful gardens of Kew as part of their adult learning programme. My 3rd course will take place in September this year: 10 Sept – 15 Oct 2019 14.00 – 16.30. Sadly, tickets are available just yet. 

In addition, I am exploring Retreat Days at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex. The idea is to offer an enjoyable, facilitated experience where you can relax, reflect and restore in a beautiful natural setting away from the usual work or home environment. So far they seem to like my idea. Fingers crossed!

What’s your favourite East London hidden gem that people might not know about? 

The Springfield Park Café with its beautiful garden in Springfield Park, Upper Clapton. I most like to go there on my own to read or reflect, or to draw out a new idea for my business. The food is delicious. When I sit in their garden, I feel as though I am out of London, somewhere completely different. The beautiful natural setting with wide open views helps me to relax, be creative and feel truly content.

You can find more on Karen and Greenspace Coaching: