Monday, December 29, 2014

Celebrating A Year of Entrepreneurial-Ville: Part One - What Took You So Long?

20+ years in the making it took me to take The Great Step.  I have taken many Leaps along the way, many attempts, and 3 years ago I took The Biggest Leap towards this goal, leaping off of my comfortable- large open space in the beautiful countryside neighborhood of Haiku, Maui, Hawaii to do precisely what I am  doing now in New York City.  (I might add now in a small, non-private setting in da Bronx and Greenwich Village…but I’ll get to that part later).

The journey is Life-Long.  The story is volumes in the making and I want this tale to be more pared down to the “juice” of 2014.  But it is all important.  Each step I have taken, each choice I have made along the way…that is what makes up The Story of My Life just as each step and choice you have made makes up Your Story.

Recently I had a fellow Milliner ask me “why” it took me so long to take “The Step” (so to speak).  At the time, walking in cold weather with a large group, I couldn’t really give an answer.  But it got me thinking…”Why?”

But as I reflected, I realized that as many Leaps as I take, and as much as friends and family might think I am flighty, definitely a free-spirit, a “struggling” artist (I often hear), and so on…I am only one of those things.  Proudly a Free Spirit and I am ever thoughtful in each and every step I have taken.

Why has it taken so long?  Well, I guess I would say, at this point...

      1. It’s been a skill gathering journey and I now possess the skills I needed to reach the goal.
      2. There has been some deep inner fear, so deep that I couldn’t quite see The Path to follow.  NYC is a BIG place and as much as I wanted to be here...could I survive or more importantly...thrive!  It scared me deeply.

In the end what scared me more was staying in precisely the same place “sort-of” living my passion as a side kick.  That ended up scaring me so greatly that I HAD to Leap.  I had to give myself the chance to fail, frankly.

When I moved to NY I had just been offered unemployment for the first time ever in my working life (working since 15yrs. old).  

The last (non-millinery) job I had was as a manager of a family run country store.  There I was ordering and selling gasoline, beer, cigarettes, veggies, Levis, feed, and canned goods, dealing with scheduling of the employees, hiring, being expected to solve all the issues… that was God fully at work in my life preparing me for My Destiny.

The environment was perfect.  In my neighborhood, working with friends and people I had known for what seemed like forever, working for the best boss I ever had (besides myself of course) and what I realized from this experience is that I was being trained” for the back-end of the Business World.  Skills that seemed so far away from my Dreams were actually going to be of such superb value soon enough.

When the business sold and I found myself on unemployment I knew I had to take the chance and GO NOW to NYC or never, ever go.  And so I did.

There was still more skill learning to take on.  And once again I found myself working for someone else but at least this time…in my desired field.  I found myself blessed within 3 days of arriving working for an established Milliner in the East Village.  All the missing skills became clear.  I had 20+ years of experience creating hats under my belt but this final Master Course was truly my Doctorate in preparing me for my current life. 

And as any course or school, it came at great expense to my spirit.  Incredibly humbling and often frustrating, I found myself working harder than ever and STILL struggling.  But that “struggle” became my greatest Ally.  It pushed me to realize that I can take this chance…because every Leap is just that…A Chance.

I had 20+ years of preparation…I had the Skills I needed, learned from every side job I had along the way.  I had been a maître d’ from 15 yrs. old at 4 star restaurants, I had been dealing with high end clientele since the very beginning.  I had allowed myself the gift of Free-Spirited-Ness as I found my Artist and, more importantly, my confidence as I painted and sold my wares in swap meets, craft fairs, and eventually the Venice boardwalk. 

back in the day!

I became a commercial set painter where I learned to work long hours and became very skilled at being precise and fast.  I had worked as a faux painter and muralist where I learned the language that put people’s trust in me to create artwork permanently in their homes and businesses.  I had worked at a winery where I learned how to sell without any pressure, just being me (one of the Best Skills I have ever learned).  Learned the back-end of business as a manager for that beloved little Haiku country store.  And finally learned the technical hat making skills and how a hat shop functioned and ran.

My tool belt was loaded!

But what really was the “nudge” off the edge of The Great Cliff was my Father’s end of his journey.  This was 2 years ago now.  It affected me greatly and in the most positive way.  I had no issue leaving my job at the hat shop to go to the aid of my family as my Dad dealt with finding out he had stage 4 untreatable cancer.  It wasn’t even a decision that I had to make.  It was as natural as breathing.  My Dad going into hospice meant I was going to be with him, period.  No position is more important than spending the last months of my Father’s life with him, partnering up with my Mother so she didn’t have to do this journey alone.  And certainly I was struggling anyways financially as I worked for someone else in my “field of choice”.  I was, however, ever grateful that my boss understood that I needed to go.  I was gone for about 3 months.

When my Dad passed and I knew my Mom was settled, I headed back.  I still, gratefully, had a job but my hours and income were basically cut in half.  Businesses had to run nevertheless, and I understood.   Again another Ally in my Journey.  Because I was now with less hours and less monthly money it all became clear.

Whatever am I staying here for?  I don’t want to grow someone else’s business.  I don’t want to work for someone else.  I don’t want to be under someone’s ideas of what they are willing to let me do or not.  And what of Life anyhow?  Once it is over, it is over.   What am I waiting for?

Honestly, Katherine, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

I did two things.  Two things I had ALWAYS wanted to do and was “afraid” that I couldn’t do.

First, I took my tax refund and went to Paris!  Ten days, by myself, in a foreign country, in a studio apt I found, where I didn’t speak the language and I had…the most amazing, marvelous time.  And I went knowing that when I came back…oh…it was ON!

And once I returned, I gave a healthy notice to my job.  If I am going to fail then let me fail.  I will at least know I gave it my best.

And with (I think) about $300 and (I thought) 3 holiday fairs lined up (turned out only 2)…I launched.  Because I had misread the fine print regarding the fair I thought I had booked, I started off already going under.  I knew where I wanted to set up my 1st shop.  A venue called The Market NYC.  

It would only take $180 to get started but missing that extra fair meant I had to wait…and wait…well, really I only had to wait about 3 weeks longer than I had wanted, but that is 21 days in NYC without a job, hoping to sell enough to actually take that step.

But I got there.  I stepped in.

And that is where the story now brings me.

My next post tells the tale of  

What exactly has happened in this Great Year of Solopreneurhood?


  1. Stopped by to read your story Katherine, after seeing it posted at the RBBP page - I LOVE THIS!! This mirrors my own long journey of accumulating many skills over the past few decades, but as we launch our creative businesses, NOTHING will be wasted in our life experiences =) Looking forward to reading part 2 and seeing what unfolds in the RBBP group! BTW: you are in my Etsy fave list =)

    1. Thanks so much. I'm so glad this resonated with you It's easy to beat ourselves up often feeling like we aren't accomplishing our dreams, when in fact, we are always building our skill set. A skill set that will benefit those very dreams. :)