Formerly an overwhelmed, jaded startup employee, I made a vow to change.
I was enough. I had enough.
In fact, I had more than enough.
You might say I was a hoarder (of clothes, relics, notes, photos, side projects, relationships, stories, you name it).
I invented a new motto:
I decided to apply an abundance mindset and stop buying new things.
Money and time were my rewards. I could never revert to old habits.
That took care of the “consume less” piece.
But I was not a “creative.” A finance major with a bizdev background, I was labeled a “suit.”
I embraced my coworkers’ description, took pride in being the loudest one in the boardroom. But I no longer felt like myself.
I hoarded ideas inside and meanwhile tried fixing myself and my situation piece by piece, to no avail.
For the first time, I wrote down audacious goals and tracked them daily.
Kaizen — a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvements — was instilled.
To focus more, to create more, I left home.
8,040 miles from Brooklyn to Hong Kong.
On the other side of the world, a simpler, healthier lifestyle and commitment to one side project filled white space instead of my usual hodgepodge of activities.
I worked weekdays, hiked weekends, and otherwise set out to define my mission.
By February, I publicly declared my project idea for the first time.
I dove headfirst into a new industry and trusted whatever I didn’t already know, I could learn as I went along. Mark Twain had my back, as always:
I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Searching for my unique way to make an impact, to solve a problem, I decided to create and sell timeless garments with a closed-loop system, to improve the value proposition for the customer and help minimize the startling amount of waste in the industry.
Blazers were my forté. Vision boiled down to one product. Simple enough.
I met hundreds of people. Made samples, tested fabrics. Every meeting, email, tradeshow, book, and follower got me closer.
Family and friends offered to help. Acquaintances came out of the woodwork to cheer me on. I was grateful but scared to accept it as real.
Industry people let me in with (mostly) open arms. Anyone telling me “this will never work” added fuel to my fire.
People were excited. Supportive. Curious. Cynical. Onlookers were everything but apathetic, which encouraged me that this was a problem worth solving, and I was the one to solve it.
I came back. Reacclimation pains were masked by activity.
I ran workshops:
Drafted business plans:
I attended events and panels, underground meetups, joined accelerator programs, shipped 15 projects as part of a month-long altMBA course:
With momentum on my side, I decided I had enough savings to bring the minimum viable version of this idea to market.
I quit my job before I was ready. I gave myself 24 hours to cry it out, and I did.
Outside a factory in Bushwick, on my first “solopreneur” bike ride back to my apartment, in a WeWork bathroom. But I knew my decision was sound.
The next day, I was reenergized and confident despite having no roadmap, no deadlines, no one telling me what to do.
I felt like I was the main character in a video game and I just unlocked a secret advanced realm. I was really doing it.
I gained control, freedom and flexibility. Exactly what I wanted.
Fears rushed back in. I could no longer decide what counted as “work.”
Which tasks were vital? Which meetings mattered? What was my role?
Communicating a vision was hard. Boiling it down to the smallest possible version to “ship” was even harder.
Fortunately, my confidant LUKNS was always there to protect my business plan whenever I wanted to give up and start anew.
The more people I met and interacted with, the worse my identity crisis grew. Well-intentioned questions left me scrambling for answers on the spot.
Was I a Designer? Entrepreneur? Creative Director? CEO? Unemployed? Declutter Coach? Writer? Female Founder? Why does the title matter?
I still felt more alive as I continued to learn, play, create and share.
I tried to help and encourage as many people as I met to do the same, seldom wondering what it would all lead to or worrying about collecting experiences and new leads, too stockpiled to process.
I had all of the time in the world to follow up.
Travel was a familiar outlet. I ran away.
On the West Coast, I met the inspiration behind this entire pursuit:
I was happy and having fun. But it was lonely. I lost clarity.
I got worried. I got restless.
My brain couldn’t shake the desire to make money, to prove worth, to have a team. I was rewiring my judgment, reprioritizing my life, uncomfortably forcing myself to keep focus on what mattered instead of what was natural.
Nonstop meetings and idea-generating sessions with new contacts had me searching for answers to questions I never needed to ask.
Research overload. Concept fatigue. It became too much.
Goals and timelines were set with comically unrealistic expectations.
Shiny objects crept in — instead of one blazer, why not a mini bizwear line? What about hats? Stickers? Clothing swap events? Clothing wellness centers? Reusable coffee sleeves? Recycling partnerships?
Distractions were easy to find and hard to shake.
Months later, with no product good enough to sell, I confronted my mistake.
If I intend to build a long-lasting company, a quality product comes first. No excuses.
It was simple, but not easy. This year I learned that distinct difference.
All along, the blazer was enough.
I decided New York was the only place I could get this done on my own terms. I banned aimless travel and bi-coastal dreams to put down roots.
I founded a thing:
I made my first (and hopefully last) pitch deck for a speaking engagement:
I found my dreamspace on Craigslist and filled it with love, karaoke mics, and disco balls.
I was back where I needed to be.
Jenny once said when we are doing things for the first time, we should not apologize for mistakes, not feel guilty about requesting help.
“Sorry” becomes “thank you” and confidence peeks back through the clouds.
I try hard to show up and stay honest but not callous. Pay attention to wrong turns without letting them hold me back.
Fellow creators tell me to just keep going. Pa’lante, always move forward.
I set a cheeky year-long goal to sell one blazer. I now realize the naïvety.
I could list a hundred things I want to go along with that blazer. I wonder which would be most effective.
Nevertheless, as Hemingway declared,
Armed with a bigger collection of puzzle pieces than ever before, 2017 is time to be more realistic, time to stop trying to do it all on my own.
I’m still not sure how long things will take to kick off. Or exactly what a launch will look like. But I will find out soon enough.
If I have my health, family, happiness, and hope — I have enough.
There will always be one more thing.
There is a contagious enchantment to bringing ideas to life, long before they are fully fleshed out.
Not being afraid to find out means never wondering “what if?”
One year in and no plans to stop going.
This week, I burned 2016 nonsense and penned intentions for 201`7.
What are yours?