Finishing high-school feels like yesterday, but I know so much has changed over the past eight years. I went to college (for starters), started and ended my longest relationship as of today, moved to NYC on a whim to “make it,” ended up starting my first, real business at the age of 23, and have been proving to this male-dominated world, (yes, I dared to say it) day in and day, out that I can do my job as well as they can.
You know — the simple life.
During our twenties, life changes so quickly and drastically; sometimes it’s hard to keep up. This is when we start digging into big questions. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Although these heavy and daunting questions often keep us awake far past our bedtime, they are the ones that shape our experience here on earth.
One of the first, important, big-life questions of my twenties involved the idea of choice: I was 18 at the time and I was having a love affair.
One candidate was fun, spontaneous, colorful, energetic. He was so charismatic with his charm and his grace; it was so easy to be with him. I could spend hours with him and time would fly by, leaving me begging for more. But his love for life made him a bit hard to tame. He was a free spirit with a bad reputation of being penniless. Nevertheless, his glamour and glory were so enrapturing, it allowed me to live the moments with him as they were, in the Now.
Then there was the second candidate — a lot more serious. Imagine him as the Christian Gray we all fantasize about. He’s serious and he’s talking business. Automatically parent-approved. He’s tall and gorgeous and can provide the life I dream of which involves last minute, first class plane rides to Italy and fancy dinners with feathered dresses and champagne.
I was torn. Both we’re amazing, but I felt like I needed to choose. Right?
I know what you’re all thinking at this point, but let me paint you a different picture. This love affair I’m referring to was not with two men, but with two college majors. My love for art and design versus my love for business and marketing.
After I left college, I started working as a sales representative for a marketing software company. A few months in, I remember feeling like I was going crazy because I wanted to play with something, create something, do something fun and significant.
I was coming back from a meeting and passing through the design district in New York when I saw all these beautiful, wholesale, costume jewelry stores. Imagine all the very best jewelry from J.Crew, Forever 21, Zara – whatever you want – collected in hundreds of stores in a line that seems to last forever. I was a twenty-something female in a candy store – a candy store glittered with beautiful earrings and the latest fashion handbags… ALL FOR 75% BELOW RETAIL PRICE. I remember feeling like I was in heaven and I got excited for the first time in a while.
Hurricane Sandy hit that weekend and I hadn’t been able to sleep. I was tossing and turning in bed asking myself “What am I going to do with that jewelry?” As soon as the hurricane ended I ran through flooded streets, back over to 34th and 6th in my rain boots to find just a few stores that had actually opened that next week. I packed my basket with goodies, only to find I needed a wholesale license to buy the damn things. I applied later that day and received the license a week or so later.
I cheerily and excitedly made it back to the stores with a stupid-big smile on my face, gathered up my first round of inventory, built my own website using Wix, and called it ShopLyke — an online store that takes celebrity fashion and trending jewelry and finds their look-a-like for much less.
I fantasized how it would be a big success because all the jewelry in my online store was dope (no joke).
Using my photography background, I used regular NYC girls walking down the street or relaxing in Central Park as models for my inventory. (I’ve attached some photos to satisfy your curiosity.)
But the website didn’t take off. I was selling maybe $200 worth of goods a month and lord knows I wanted to leave my sales job to do this full time. ShopLyke was fulfilling my need to be artsy and creative, but the money wasn’t there.
I left my sales job in order to try to devote more time to the idea, but a few months after that, as the thought “failure” grew, I got a great job offer doing sales (again) for another company. Eight months after taking this “new, great job” I found myself with the exact same problem – my sales job was boring me and I’d fallen in love with a new idea and wanted to get it going.
I remember asking myself what I was going to do? This new idea needed to take off because otherwise it would look really bad on my resume. I’m jumping from job to job and failing at everything else in between.
February 2014. I gathered up the courage to start Wekudo, a marketplace for corporate events and activities. Our mission is to inspire happiness at work using fun and engaging activities that don’t necessarily involve alcohol as the main focus.
Today, Wekudo is going strong at one and a half years old with nearly 400 vendors on our network. I have investors who are interested in contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to be a part of my dream, I have Fortune-200 customers to startups — but the most amazing part of all of this is this: I genuinely am happy with my job and excited to be a part of this journey.
I owe this happiness to my stubbornness and unwillingness to settle for a life that involves only one of my passions.
My day-to-day responsibilities with Wekudo jump between the design of marketing materials and our new website, to sales and investors meetings. Some days I work in my pajamas with headphones and other days I get to put on my power suit and show the world who’s boss.
Creating new things daily has been the essence of my life and continues to be today. Sometimes when we are searching for ourselves, we discover things we didn’t know we were capable of doing and achieving. One of those things, for me, was believing I could find a career that allows me to balance all the things that drive and excite me.
Following your passion doesn’t necessarily mean changing majors or jobs. It just means thinking outside the box when you look at your career.
Ask your boss for a one-on-one and say, “Hey, do you know I’m pretty good at ________? I’ve been following the new project the ________ department is working on and I would like to see if I can contribute.”
My last bit of advice is this: be open to failure. It’s a natural part of life. Failures and successes are just research we’re collecting so we can learn more about ourselves. There is no “right path” – life is a series of turns we take with the hope that we’re heading in the right direction.
Don’t be afraid of getting lost. From my experience, those are the places we end up finding ourselves.