A question I get asked ALL the time is how (and why) I got into entrepreneurship. It’s always, for some reason, a question I try to avoid answering- because it is SO much harder to explain than what people expect. Today, I promised myself to sit down and write down my thoughts to really explain where I came from and how I got where I am today.
The beginning of my story starts right after college, when I graduated with my degree in Public Relations and Digital Marketing with a minor in Graphic Design. All I knew was that I absolutely loved design and loved CREATING. I started college pursuing my degree in Print Journalism when I then started designing the newspaper and realized I loved doing that and editorial layout way more than I actually enjoyed writing.
BUT, my last semester of college I was doing an internship that was focused on writing for a few national fitness magazines. While design was my passion, it was an awesome internship so I took it. And I got offered a full-time position in Louisville, Kentucky starting the week after graduation.
I moved down to Louisville from Huntington, West Virginia all by myself and started my career into the corporate world. I was excited, and proud, but still felt so unsatisfied…
I’d get so angry at myself for feeling that way. Did I not realize how lucky I was? I was SO lucky to have a job after college- let alone one that looks super fancy and sexy on a resume. A writer for national fitness publications- that is one hell of a stepping stone right after college. I thought I’d join this company and grow with this company for years to come.
Until that Monday in September, when I walked in and was told to pack my belongings and leave after my boss told me “You are clearly not happy here. You will do amazing things, but not here.” I was one of many people who were very wrongfully fired that year, completely blindsided.
I remember the car ride home- hysterically crying because it was the first time I felt like I majorly failed at anything. And what a shitty thing to fail at (the beginning of my career right after college). I was going through a really, really horrible time in my life at this point and crashed after hearing that.
I spiraled into a deep depression. I lost my apartment. I was in $10,000 of credit card debt. I remember Googling if I could feed my dog frozen hamburgers if I cooked them because I couldn’t afford her dog food. I remember going to the bank to get the rolls for quarters and pennies to cash in any change I had. I lost absolutely everything that was important to me. I lost everything that I worked for. I felt so isolated, alone, and scared.
I tried to think of it from a different perspective though… maybe this is somehow my rags to riches story. Maybe this is my come-up. Maybe this is when I finally become the boss woman I knew deep inside I always wanted to be.
Butttttt it wasn’t. It took a few months of me waiting tables and applying for jobs and semi-regular mental breakdowns before I finally landed a pretty good job. I was offered a position as the Director of Marketing for a few healthcare companies. I would be leading multiple teams, in a leadership position, taking on a lot of responsibility. I was so excited when I walked in the first day and sat down and introduced myself to all of the higher-ups. I was so excited to feel so important and feel like I was a part of such an incredible team.
The only thing was- even with a sexy title, and a comfortable salary, I still wasn’t happy. You guys have probably felt that entrepreneur itch- it literally feels like a voice inside your head or a physical gut feeling that is telling you you are meant for more. That this isn’t right. I don’t know how to explain it other than that. It is just an undeniable feeling that is in your gut.
I would create websites for major players in the healthcare industry in my position and these people were paying a really pretty penny for the work I did both with logo designs and websites. I wasn’t seeing any of the money, I was just doing the work. That’s when I realized- hey, I must be pretty good at this, so why shouldn’t I just do this and get the money for it? What they were charging for one website was more than I made in months, and I was the one doing the work.
SO, on my 23rd birthday, I hired a business coach. I didn’t even really know what a business coach was, nor did I have the money to hire one, but I did. I remember literally throwing up after hiring her because that was the biggest amount of money I’ve ever spent on one thing in my entire life. I still don’t really know what led me to do that, but it was the best decision I ever made.
I started out wondering how I could combine all my skills into one offering. I remember working full-time and hustling every evening trying to build up my side hustle and business. I remember getting my first clients and crying. I remember paying off my credit card debt and praising God. I remember so, so many things of that time because it was the most pivotal time of my life (even if I didn’t really realize it then.)
A few months pass and I decide that my life needs to change in a few ways. I ended my previous engagement and moved from Louisville, Kentucky to Raleigh, North Carolina in a downtown apartment that was way more money than I could afford. I indulged in podcasts, business books, and tried to uplevel myself in every way possible. I had successfully arranged a telecommuting agreement with the company I worked for in Louisville for a few months. I was just building my business in the evenings and on the weekends, though, and I knew I was ready to go full-time. So I did. Before anyone else believed I was ready (hell, before I even really believed I was ready) I put in a month notice to my 9-5.
Why? Because I wanted to be free. I wanted financial freedom. I wanted location freedom. I wanted to travel the world and TO LIVE while creating things that I felt (that I KNEW) mattered. And, frankly, I was tired of feeling like a worker bee to men who talked at me rather than to me.
After that, the stars just seemed to align. I started showing up as the person I knew I was inside and the person I wanted to be. I replaced (and doubled) my corporate income within the first year. I started working with my absolute dream clients. I woke up every morning feeling energized, excited, and inspired and ready to work.
Sometimes it’s hard to talk publicly about our failures and own them, but I realized that that failure in my first job is one of the single best things that has ever happened to me. Failing in that set me up for success in so, so many more areas of my life. And it’s my story. And I have to own, appreciate, and love that story that led me to where I am today.
So here’s to good times, hard times, failures, successes, celebrations, and everything else this journey and life will bring. Here’s to grace, love, compassion, and gratitude. Here’s to anxiety, struggles, and imposter syndrome. Here’s to recognizing the balance of life and entrepreneurship, embracing the not-so-perfect times and continuing to learn, push forward, and create every single day.
I wish I could predict the future and tell you where the next year (or three) would take me, but if there is one thing I have learned in this life is that whenever you plan out things, it never happens that way. I have learned to recognize and accept that life is happening for me, not to me, and that is a belief I will continue to hold close to me.
Wherever you are in your journey- try to remember that too. And please, please, please remember not to compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.