The 4 Life Lessons I Learned when I left my 9-to-5 to Build a Business so I could Stay Home with My Kids

This is the story of how a girl from Kansas stepped out on a limb to create an opportunity for herself. These are 4 of the lessons I’ve learned along this road of entrepreneurship and risk. If you have a corporate career you love, I’m happy for you! You have found a rare gem. Hang onto it! But for many, the road of pursuing that “dream job” has led us to feeling burnt out, confused, lost, frustrated, unused and defeated. This is my story. I truly believe we all have different callings and it is not meant to shame anyone who finds great purpose or fulfillment in your coporate job. But me? I needed out. And this is the story of how I created my own opportunity when there was nothing else in front of me. I am telling it in hopes it will encourage another mom to reach for what she wants and find the courage to do the same.

PART 1: EVERYONE STARTS SOMEWHERE

I remember the feeling of my first “real” job. I had moved to Maryland, 20 minutes outside the nation’s capital, to pursue a career in digital media and web design. I got a job at a large healthcare organization as a Web Designer.

I shared an office with another girl whose name I now can’t remember. Moving to a big city for a job in web design in 2010 felt bold. It was exciting! I was taking a big step in the right direction for my career… I thought. The job was not high paying. I was making $38,000 a year in a city that was WAY more expensive to live in than where I had come from.

I got a roommate from Craigslist which was a big, bad, terrible idea and another story entirely. She spent most nights in her room drinking warm Rolling Rock beer alone by the 6-pack.

It wasn’t more than 6 months into my new career when the shimmer and shine began to fade.

Me standing near my desk at my first job with my BFF. Did I mention we worked together for a year? That was the one and only PERK of that first job!
My boss, who seemed ultra cool and laid back in the beginning, I found out was actually a complete control freak and had major delegation issues.

One of my main jobs was managing our email marketing. My job was to write, design and send the emails to our list every week.

That was great! I loved it! Except just one problem. My boss didn’t let me do my job.

He would stand over my shoulder and watch as I clicked every button, designed every section of the email and nervously hover over my shoulder as I prepared the email to send. He was so afraid of me making a mistake.

“Uhhhh, Uhhhh, hold on, hold on. Wait. Are you sure it’s ok? Let me check. Uhhmmmm… let’s see.” Over and over and over.

He would even take the mouse from my hand and scroll through the email checking it before I sent. I mean, I understand checking someone’s work, but this guy was OVERKILL.

He made me dread Wednesdays (the day we sent the emails). He started giving me busy work so that he wouldn’t feel like I could “mess anything up” that had legitimate value or was really contirbuting to anything real. I was designing web pages, and then he was coming in and redoing them.

I couldn’t stand it. Was THIS what I moved to DC for?! Surely not. Was this what everyone was dealing with out here in “the real world”? Was THIS what I was expected to put up with for the next 3-5 years until I could “move up” in the world, and then for 40 more years after that until I could retire?! This didn’t feel like ” real life.” It felt totally and completely fake! Every time I walked into that office, I felt like a little part of my soul die.

And thus began the unraveling of my tiny, recent college grad dreams and perceptions. It had to happen somehow, right? I began to realize my hopes of using my skills to make the world a better place were a little rose-colored for this model of living. How did that fit into my day to day? I wasn’t making the world better or anyone’s life, really. I was using my skills to waste 8 hours a day to earn a salary that allowed me to continue to eek out an existence in a dimly lit office while pretending to build someone else’s dream.  

Seem dramatic? Maybe it is. But that’s how I felt. I began wondering how I could find a way out. I wanted out. 

A

LIFE LESSON #1: YOU WON'T MAKE A CHANGE UNTIL YOU HAVE A REASON TO DO SO

PART 2: A LIFE EVENT DISRUPTS MY MUNDANE

About 3 months after I moved there, my boyfriend flew to visit me and he proposed.

3 months after that, he moved to Maryland and got his own place. We began planning our wedding.

In the day to day and regular mundane of life, we get comfortable. We get stuck. We often need something to push us out. To shove us out of that comfy every day and into unknown, scary uncertainty.

Sometimes it’s a marriage proposal and planning a wedding. Sometimes its having a baby. Sometimes it’s something at the office that tips you over the edge of sanity and you find yourself thinking and then saying out loud, “I can put up with this. I WON’T put up with this.”

Sometimes it’s financial strain or stress. But whatever it is, I believe everyone who makes a big, risky change has something motivating them. Something behind the curtain that is causing them to ask, “What if?”

 

For me, it was that job, and this wedding and upcoming life changeprovided the perfect opportunity for me to break out of my mental rut and the consistent pity party I was beginning to have for myself Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5pm. Praise God for discontent. Without it, I wouldn’t have dared to imagine another life.
About 30 minutes after we got engaged. The disrupting event that sparked the flame that would turn into my first business.
My husband (fiance at the time!) and I in Annapolis, Maryland during the 6 months we both lived in Maryland, before we moved back to Kansas City, my hometown.
A

LIFE LESSON #2: IT TAKES A DISRUPTING EVENT TO OPEN OUR MINDS TO ANOTHER POSSIBILITY

PART 3: I DARED TO IMAGINE ANOTHER WAY

As I was dreaming up what I’d want my bridesmaids to wear in their hair (like, really, who cares? But 21 year-old-haley cared a lot and I was determined to love it.) I couldn’t find something for the price point and of the quality I wanted. So I decided to make something myself. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of how I did that, but if you’re curious, I share the story in my podcast Kindled on Episode 3: How I Started My Business The Yellow Peony on Etsy. 

I started my firts business on the floor of my apartment floor sewing fake plastic pearls onto cheap silk flower petals I had dismantled. And the rest is history. (But really, if you wanna know the details, listen to this episode!)

At the time I found myself faced with the question: stay in the job I hate, or find another one.

However, I did not feel that either option was right for me. I quickly realized after listing a few items on Etsy, there was a third option. Build a business.

For some of us, this realization comes naturally. Or because we were raised by entrepreneurs and we’ve seen the inner workings of owning a business. Or because our dad asked us growing up, “What could you do to make money some day? What business could you run?”

True story. I grew up with a dad who asked me questions like that regularly. Frequently, even! It built into me this understanding of the world that was not binary and black and white, but multi-faceted and very colorful. The answer to that question was open-ended. And there was no right or wrong.

I won’t go into the story of how my dad’s own story in building a successful multi-million dollar business started with him losing everything, having our car reposessed by the bank and borrowing $20,000 from my grandparents to start his business at 24. That story is for another day. But it was his ingenuity and will to thrive and my mom’s creativity that bred in me the understanding that there was a variety of options and pathways available to me. I just had to imagine them and then pick one to follow.

A

LIFE LESSON #3: THERE IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS A THIRD OPTION

PART 4: I FOUND A PROBLEM AND SOLVED IT

Though I know it feels trite to skip all the “how exactly” questions that are coming to your mind about how my business actually went down, I want to get across the most important aspect of what enabled me to find success.

I found a problem and I solved it.

Granted, the world of Etsy at the time in 2011 was very different and part of my success was due to the fact I was early-ish to the custom bridal accessories game online and so therefore, got a piece of that pie.

But the details of a business’s success are not as important as you think. The key thing to take away is that I found a problem (my own, in this case) and solved it.

I reached a point where I believed I was capable of creating a solution and I did so. That’s really it.

Which brings me to life lesson #4. I took agency over my own life and risked failure to create an opportunity that didn’t previously exist. It was the audacity of my belief that I could change my situation. That I took the reigns of my own circumstances and refused to be limited by what I saw. But rather, I stepped into a realm of what I could not see to pursue that which I believed possible. It is this last step that most people miss. Most people will not take the risk. Take the next step. Make the move. Believe another reality could exist other than the one in front of them. And it is this practice of believing better, and then taking steps to make it a reality, that I continue to find elevates me in my pursuit of goals and freedom in my work and life.

Me at The Piers in New York for International Bridal Fashion Week. I took my bridal accessories line to market in 2016 and added about 10 retailers to my list of stockists carrying my line.
A

LIFE LESSON #4: IT TAKES AUDACITY TO MAKE YOUR LIFE WHAT YOU ENVISION IT CAN BE

So, what? 

Does this story resonate with where you’re at? You’re not alone. My hope is not that this condemns or leaves anyone in a fulltime corporate job feeling less-than. But rather, for those who it speaks to and see themselves in part of my story, that you would see that there is always another way.

To that end, I have created a free guide to help you find your ideal business idea too!

GRAB MY FREE 12-PAGE GUIDE
“4 WAYS TO FIND YOUR IDEAL BUSINESS IDEA”

Already have a business idea?

Here’s the long and the short of it.

You can figure this all out on your own.

You can google and test and trial and fail and edit and redo allllll day long. You know the drill.

But I imagine there are many who would rather not guess and check their way to success. Who would benefit from learning what worked for me and what didn’t. So that’s why I created The Busy Mom’s Business Quickstart course. 

This is all stuff I figured out (eventually and slowly) how to do, even with young kids. And it’s totally and absolutely stuff you could figure out too. But I also recognize, not everyone has time or 7 years to mosy their way to success.

You need to take the next step into your dreams and make something happen more quickly. You don’t have time (or money) to mess around. You are willing to work hard enough to create opportunity for yourself.

In this course, I give you everything I learned and used to work my way to success. Business strategy, how to develop effective and clear messaging and a step-by-step plan for how to set up your business in today’s digital environment.

Let’s connect!

Hi Friend! I’m so glad you’re here. I’d love to find you online – here’s where I hang out the most.

I run a podcast called Kindled all about work and motherhood and I’d love for you to check it out.