Many of you don't know this about me, but I've only been part of the entrepreneur world for about 5 years. Prior to "jumping", I had a high stress career that paid very well but eventually made me miserable. I was unhappy but needed a push to move me forward. It took me many years to leave the safety net of a six figure job, and my reinvention has left me with lots of bumps and bruises along the way.
I started my corporate career at a young age, 18, working for Citibank. I put college on hold and poured myself into this job and started the slow climb up corporate ladder. Consumer Risk Management was fascinating when I started, but over the years, it wore me down. I left the industry and bounced around from one demanding job to another while I finished my degree in Business Administration. I worked in marketing, taxes, and financial services - I was able to learn a lot of skills and realized my problem solving abilities served me well in just about any area.
After a horrible break up with Simon (my boyfriend at the time), I found myself back in Dallas, and reaching my breaking point. It was 2am, and I’d just finished a conference call. The stress and exhaustion poured out of me in tears. This wasn’t what I wanted - not enough time with my son, working nights and weekends and holidays, feeling rundown and done. But I had no backup plan, so I kept working.
But I had ideas. I had dreams. And without realizing it, I had people who had my back. To be honest, I don’t know a single person who wakes up and says “I love having a boss!” Working for myself was something I’d always wanted, but it was a friend who convinced me to open my first franchise. It was a wine and painting studio that suited me well - combining art and creativity with fun and friends. It was perfect and it was going pretty well, but I was balancing the new business and a “real job,” so while I was having fun, I wasn’t feeling better. When my full time gig wanted me to relocate and I wasn't able to find another team to join, they laid me off. Best thing ever! Because now I can channel my energy into my backup plan. Scratch that - a better plan.
I opened another franchise, more work and more difficult than the first because I was starting the space from scratch. After Simon died, I dabbled in some real estate investing (that had its own ups and downs), decided to sell the first franchise and did alot of exploring - around the world and in my own head. For the first time in a long time, I let myself let go and started to listen to my passions. And that’s what brought my to my online boutique - Wander Wear.
I’m sure you know the saying “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish” but really it’s the whole process. It took me a long time to accept that it’s ok to shift gears, or even industries! It’s ok that I haven’t accomplished A, B, or C by “a certain age”. There are things I wanted years ago that just don’t hold any interest to me anymore. Making big changes can be so scary, even more so when I think about what my friends or partner or family will think about me or my decisions. The second guessing and self doubt can be debilitating… but letting go of them? Incredibly liberating.
Those were some of my fears - and there were lots of them! But as lucky as I’ve been, and as hard as I’ve worked, each new venture has gotten easier. Whether my next step ends in failure or success, I now have the confidence to take the leap because of some really important lessons I’ve learned along the way. And because I had people who loved and believed in me, and supported me along the way, I want to share with you some of the lessons that have meant the most to me. Because I love and believe in you, too.
1. Your network is your net worth. Keep the lines of communication open with the people in your circle (personal and professional), whether it's meeting up in person or even engaging on social media in genuine ways. I wouldn’t have started my first franchise if my friend hadn’t taken me painting! The challenge is that life will take hold and time will be scarce. But by prioritizing and nurturing relationships, you create avenues to fun and opportunities you otherwise could miss.
2. Never stop learning. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn said “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.” A big roadblock for a lot of people wanting to transition is the fear that they won’t know everything. I still don’t know everything! But I know that I don’t have to because I can learn along the way. Between YouTube and Pinterest I can find out how to do just about anything. Need to know how to edit in Lightroom?…YouTube! Need creative inspiration for a flat layout?…Pinterest! There is literally no excuse to stop learning when all of the resources are (quite literally) at our fingertips. Not knowing everything is hardly an excuse anymore.
3. Stay inspired. So easy to say! I’ve had my fingers in a lot of pies the last few years, so when I started Wander Wear I expected some teasing. I thought they’d joke “Here she goes again, starting another venture… Does she even know anything about retail?” I actually imagined them laughing at me, and felt nervous about telling anyone about my new idea. Of course, this was all in my head, because like they always are, my network of friends and family has been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic. Who cares if I’ve never tried retail before? The greatest business minds of this century (Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson) have all reinvented themselves and their brand every couple years, and I’m not building rocket ships! Reading James Alutcher's book Reinvent Yourself really helped tip the scales: “[Every] five years and you need to start learning new skills, practicing new efforts, trying on new careers for size." This was the inspiration I needed to move forward to turn my vision into reality.
4. Set the right expectations. I knew that once I left the corporate world, there was no going back. I also knew that it was going to be a tough road ahead- mentally, emotionally and financially. Sales from my franchises dramatically dropped over the last few years and bad investment decisions were made along the way, so starting this business for me, meant boot strapping and pinching pennies. Even though I knew in my mind that it would take time (and blood, and sweat, and tears) before I would make any decent profit, preparing myself for that reality didn't stop the self doubt and meltdowns. For those of you doing this for the first time, expect to run on empty. My brainpower, my emotional stability, my bank account- they were all running on fumes. This will happen. But then you get up, wipe the tears and keep moving because there are great things ahead.
5. It's okay to start small. I think I had this grandiose idea of being an overnight success. I want to do so many things, all at once, and I want them to be perfect and amazing. I have my pie in the sky vision, but I’m really trying to focus on each milestone. Starting small has allowed me to celebrate each success, even though my big vision hasn’t yet been realized . I poured myself a glass of champagne when I made my first online sale! And then that glass inspired my next collection of tops!
Wander Wear happens to be a passion project of mine, so it does make it easier to get back up when the days are hard. Sure, I've made some mistakes along the way that were costly and painful, and you probably will too. But it's okay, I learned from them. And you will too!
I look forward to sharing my process and my experiences with you, and I can’t wait to hear about yours too.