Starting Your Own Sh*t 101
There are two very distinct types of people in this world: ones who are perfectly comfortable living their lives and working a 9-5, dedicated to a certain brand or business; and ones who literally cannot wait to break free. We’re not here to judge either one, but if you find yourself in the latter category, we gotchu—because when you start feeling that itch of doing your own thing, it’s hard to shake it. Felt it before? Good. You’re at the right place. We sat down with three inspiring entrepreneurs to find out what it takes to start your own business. Here’s the rundown on these insanely inspiring ladies:
Christina Lonsdale, Founder of Radiant Human: Radiant Human is the first of its kind—a roaming, fully adaptable aura photo laboratory based in Portland, Oregon.
Erica Chidi Cohen, Doula + Co-Founder/CEO of LOOM: LOOM is a wellness hub for pregnancy and parenting opening in Los Angeles next spring. Erica is also publishing her first book with Chronicle Books on pregnancy and early motherhood debuting in Fall 2017.
Tabitha Tune, Founder of A la Mode Media: A Nashville-based company focusing on restaurant and specialty brand management and marketing.
Did you ever have a full-time position? If so, how did you transition into owning your own business?
Christina: I had a corporate creative job for about ten years and was really happy with the stability a career like that represented, but it turned out it was just a false sense of security because I got laid off after I wasn't willing to relocate. It was all for the best though, I learned a lot of skills and professionalism from that time of my life that I still use today and I'm really grateful for that.
Erica: I had two part-time positions when I decided to make the leap and pursue being a doula. I worked as a communications associate at a non-profit and in retail at a parenting resource center. But transitioning wasn’t easy; I left my communications job but stayed on with the retail position because I knew their customers—mostly expecting and new parents—could potentially become my clients. That conversion happened pretty fast and my business grew quick quickly.
Tabitha: Before taking the leap to start A la Mode Media, I had worked in marketing communications and media communications for eight years. My very last full time job was at a financial planning firm handling marketing and operations. I decided to go out on my own—not because I didn’t enjoy working in an office and that particular job wasn’t as fulfilling, but because it was a job to make ends meet. By then I’d spent a couple of years working side projects that I enjoyed and was really good at. So I went for it.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in that transition?
Christina: I was really lucky because my transition was forced. There was no grey area, no murky work hours where I had to balance working a day job and then a passion job. It was just a clean slate with an unemployment check. Don't get me wrong, though; I'm not trying to romanticize getting laid off, because there's several levels of bummer you have to go through to be able to find your light. I'm just naturally an optimist and an all-or-nothing type of person, so in retrospect that was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. As far as running my own thing, I would say establishing my own internal structure has been, and continues to be, the most challenging and exciting part of this new phase of my life. You definitely have to become very comfortable with being in a leadership position in less-than-perfect circumstances.
Erica: My top challenge was refining my skill set and focusing in on that element of being a doula. It took a minute to figure that out, especially since unlike a traditional job, no one is supervising you and helping you fine tune. As soon as I figured out the best combination of services and cut out the more distracting elements of my business, everything took off. The second challenge was quelling my own anxiety; as a freelancer, you're always wondering, "Where is my next client?" It took me about a year of being freelance for that not to bother me every day. Now, almost a 8 years later, that voice in my head is more of a whisper than a shout, because there’s no shortage of clients.
Tabitha: As someone who hates selling and is the farthest from a salesperson, I had to step out of my comfort zone and call on businesses to find work. That’s the thing with freelancing, especially when you first start: it can be feast or famine and I learned quickly that I was going to have to work harder than I’d ever worked if I wanted to be successful.
What are the biggest rewards to owning your own business?
Christina: I think building relationships through realizing my dreams is an unexpected aspect of this that I am enjoying now. I've worked with so many creative, inspiring people that I normally would have never met and I can't even begin to explain how fulfilling it is to see your inspirations become tangible. I'm not a mother, but I feel like one. I eat, sleep, and hustle for this baby, and there is no greater joy than seeing it flourish.
Erica: The biggest reward is watching your business grow and knowing you created that momentum. My favorite part is the ability to constantly curate and reinvent objectives and reinvent within your business. Since I’m steering the ship, I can always keep things fresh. That’s something you don’t typically get with a 9-5.
Tabitha: I’ve gotten to connect and work with great people and businesses on my own terms. I’m six years into it and I still wake up every day energized and excited to get started on work because I get to do what I love for a living—not everybody can say that!
What advice do you have to aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers?
Christina: The worst anxiety happens when you are holding back, so just identify the next step and hold yourself accountable to it. In the end, this is your life and your happiness, so it's your responsibility. You would be surprised by what you can live without—I still don't have health care or a 401K, but I feel like my quality of life is the best it's ever been and I feel more secure because my future is in my own hands, not someone else's.
Erica: Listen to you intuition, make sure your work makes you happy 80% of the time before you leap into freelancing, because you need to be passionate about your work in order to self-motivate. Lastly, get comfortable admitting when you don’t know something. When you work for yourself, you often think you need to have all the answers, but sometimes the best answer is to ask a person you trust and respect for help or advice. It’s important to get out of your own head.
Tabitha: Be receptive to criticism and learn from your mistakes. Learn to say no. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. And seriously—have fun!
Interview by Zarna Surti