A few weeks ago, a group of my friends from SCAD and I gathered for brunch to catch up on what's been going on in each other's lives and encourage one another. My SCAD friends are so dear to me because they are all so uniquely and individually driven. It's easy to celebrate each other's ambition.
As we began to tell stories about how our careers have progressed, one friend's story left a big impression on me. I was so inspired by my friend Briana who has navigated a ton of adversity in career the past couple years, but it has ultimately led to her having a ton of confidence in her own business, which has thrived during COVID-19.
I asked Briana if she'd be willing to share this journey and her mindset with me for the blog because I'm sure it will encourage you! There are so many different people who I think can benefit from this story whether you are a new grad entering the job market, a seasoned pro looking to change professions, or an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to take the big leap. I hope you enjoy the interview below!
First, describe the journey when you were first starting out in your career after you finished school.After I finished school, I thought that I would get back into the agency life. I have a background working in PR at various agencies and enjoyed the work previously. With my newfound level of education (M.A. Luxury and Fashion Management from Savannah College of Art & Design) I thought that it would be fairly simple to get back into the industry after a 2 year hiatus while in grad school and even anticipated a higher pay rate. I was wrong! It was extremely difficult and with the world becoming more and more digital, most of the methods and strategies I had learned during my undergrad years just simply didn’t apply anymore. So now, not only had I accrued $40,000+ in additional student loans, I was also overqualified for entry-level positions and not an ideal candidate for associate level positions. I kept a running document of companies, positions, and interviews that I went on. I had totaled over 175 job positions that I either applied or interviewed for, and that’s after deleting jobs I had gotten denied for immediately. I felt stuck.
I started doing some freelance digital marketing work on the side while I continued my job working at a high-end outdoor wear and European goods store. I actually made the job my own. They increased my pay and allowed me to tailor my job description based on the job that I wanted to get, which is working in communications for an agency. Seven months later, I received a job offer from a small digital agency for a higher position than what I interviewed for. While I was considered a manager, my pay was barely acceptable for an entry-level employee. I endured an extremely stressful and toxic work environment under harsh and unattainable management conditions. I received little to no training and didn’t feel supported. After just 2 months, I resigned. I didn’t feel like I was in a work environment that would teach me or allow me to thrive. I didn’t believe in the clients or the work and took a leap of faith and went out on my own. I thankfully had already gotten my freelance business established before resigning and managed to maintain my livelihood using money I had saved over the course of the last few months from my freelance projects. This was the start of my (now thriving) business and journey through entrepreneurship.
What kept you going during those times when you realized you weren’t where you were supposed to be?What kept me going were my dreams and my faith. I’ve always been a BIG dreamer and have felt that I was always capable of greatness. I knew that if I worked hard enough and stayed dedicated to my dreams then I would achieve great things. I also had a lot of support from my family and friends. Without that support, I don’t know if I would have stayed as motivated.
Did you always want to have your own business some day? If so what did you think that would look like? Or if not, what made you want to work for yourself?I think I knew I wanted to be a boss but I didn't necessarily always know that I wanted to own my own business. I’ve always known that I wanted to have control over my career, but didn’t necessarily connect that with owning a business, however I’ve also always known that I didn’t want to just always do one thing and call it my career.
Describe how you started your business.I started my business by doing freelance work. When I became unhappy with my day job, which was working high-end retail, one of my clients/mentor told me that she saw me owning a business one day and that I should start looking at making my freelance work more official. Thus, my business was born.
How has your business adapted or pivoted with COVID-19?Selfishly, my business has been thriving during COVID. With the huge shift in remote work and the desire that people are having to start projects that they never formally had the time to do, I’ve been been fortunate enough to benefit from. I work in virtual administrative assisting and graphics so with everyone having newfound inspiration for creating something new for themselves, the additional work has just been pouring in.
How do you see the business evolving in the next few years? Any big goals?In the next 5 years, I’d like to see my business expand in a way where I don’t have to be a one-woman show. I’d like to be at a place where I have a few employees doing the heavy lifting, so that I can spend my time managing and working more on my passion projects, which are a little more personal to me. I’m a creator at heart so I intend to put my business in a position that it can be mostly self-sufficient. The biggest goal I have is to transform the business to being more of a resource for digital creation.
What's your advice to new grads or people working a job they don’t love?To all the people working a job they don’t love I say this: you have 2 choices. Either you can MAKE it a job you love, or put yourself in a position to FIND/CREATE a job you love. Meaning, if you are a good employee working under good management, you can sometimes craft the perfect job for you out of what you’re currently doing. For example, I made my retail job into a communications job by simply being the best employee. That gave me freedom to make particular demands for myself even though I never had any intention of staying in that position; which ultimately made the job more bearable. Although my leap of faith came from a toxic work environment, that pressure forced me to create the job that I love. Now, even if I don’t like certain aspects of my job, I’m still overall petty satisfied with the choices that I’ve made in creating my career and enjoying the process along the way! I encourage others to do the same.
What's your advice to those working on starting a business?
My advice to those starting a business is to really enjoy the process. Every aspect of starting a business is a learning curve. No one person’s experience is going to be the bible of how to do it. You have to find what works for you and sometimes it’s frustrating. But if you can get it through your head that there will be hard periods of time, the good periods will be even more worth it. Also, trust in yourself. It sounds like such a little thing to do, but makes all the difference in your journey. You have to have an undeniable confidence within yourself, so much so, that no one can ever tear you down. Lastly, offer an exclusive experience. You are the only person who can do what you do, how you do it; embrace that!
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