Let’s talk.

Lately I’ve read a couple blog posts about the rise of self-employment among bloggers. This is a movement I am proud to be part of and I love seeing the various ventures my friends have launched off of their blogs: consulting gigs, e-commerce sites, interior design firms, styling businesses, and more.

It saddens me then to read backlash from people who write public, negative, and thinly-veiled commentary about those who have left salaried positions to strike out on their own with limited business education and job experience. The life of an entrepreneur (one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise) isn’t the right path for everybody. I get that. But if it is your chosen path, who’s to tell you you’re wrong for pursuing it? While I like to think that my personal choices are just that — personal — I do feel compelled to reflect on the subject at hand.

I started blogging in 2009, graduated from Bucknell in 2011 with a major in French, and launched my e-commerce site in early 2012. My job experience at the time was limited to high school summer jobs in retail, college summer internships with Ralph Lauren and Jonathan Adler, a post-graduate internship with Rue Magazine, a stint in public relations in New York, and freelance writing work for Matchbook Magazine. I took a handful of business classes in college but nothing to suggest I’d be running a small business after graduation.

I’m honest about those things and always have been. I’ve never pretended to know more than I do and I’ve certainly never been shy about asking for help when I need it. I meet with my SCORE mentor every few weeks, have monthly Skype calls with fellow bloggers and small business owners, and just wrapped up a month-long business workshop to address questions I had going into my first holiday season. I run things by my amazing parents on a daily basis and have an accountant who handles some of the financial processes I never mastered in school. Everything I’ve learned about buying wholesale, managing inventory, and packaging orders has been learned entirely by trial and error.

And you know what? I’m really, really proud of everything I’ve learned and accomplished in the past year. Quitting my job and starting a small business wasn’t a decision I made lightly and I acknowledge that it wouldn’t work for everyone. For me, I was deeply, genuinely unhappy with the path I was on and I made a big change. If it was foolish of me to leave a job I hated and start something of my own, it would have been ten times as foolish for me to keep doing something that made me miserable, day in and day out. I’m cool with people who have desk jobs, people who raise their families full-time, and people who march to the beat of their own drum, whatever that entails. Blogging has opened up a world of opportunities for me and I commend anyone who’s taking similar opportunities and running with them. Whether that means landing your dream job, relishing a creative outlet outside of work, or, yes, launching a small business, I commend and support you.

Launching a small business has been a risk, financially, personally, and professionally. It’s something I always intended to do, whether at age 22 or 52. Realizing it would never be the perfect time and weary of spending my days wondering, “What if?”, I went for it. I took that risk and I’m working my ass off every single day to make it worth it. I won’t glorify the hard work or the long hours, but I love what I do and I’m more grateful than you know to each and every customer and reader who have lent their support. And if sales taper off after a year or five years, I’ll change course and reevaluate all over again. I’m less afraid of that now than I was a year ago.

Let’s applaud one another’s choices, support them if we like, and keep it to ourselves if we don’t. Madeleine Albright said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I think we can all agree the world is a better place when we do.

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  1. This is a well-written post. However, you must acknowledge that you are speaking from a place of privilege. Not everyone has the supportive parents and financial resources that you do. Not many people in their early 20s could quit their job and still have a roof over their heads, let alone the money to start a small business. You work hard, and you have a lovely blog, but I think it’s unfair not to acknowledge your luck and privilege. Not criticism–food for thought.
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  2. Hi Mackenzie, This is definitely an all time keeper..Thanks for encouraging others. When I started my blog, I started because I enjoyed and loved interiors and home décor , I was between jobs, and I decided to start writing about what I had always loved and had always seen myself going into business in. Whether or not anyone else agrees, it’s none of their business anyway and frankly, I don’t care. Who are you to tell me, what I can or cannot do. You never placed the dreams in my heart in the first place. I think the sooner women in general realise we are all more productive when we support each other especially and even through mistakes, the better it works out for each of us and for women all around the world. Thanks again for sharing your story Mackenzie. This also kinda reminds me of a verse which goes “And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” Congratulations Darling and success in all your future endeavours! I definitely would love to see Design Darling in London xXx

  3. GREAT quote at the end and wonderful reminder.

    You are taking the road less traveled (though I suppose more traveled these days bc the job market is much less stable than it used to be).

    As an entrepreneur practically since I graduated from the University of Virginia (with a degree in English), I’ve also learned by doing.

    You are doing an amazing job and while no one else can see the hard parts (LOL I know that we entrepreneurs sometimes cry, wonder why we are doing this, and otherwise occasionally doubt our decisions) the bottom line is your choice is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway because you have a vision that cannot be contained in a 9 to 5.



    (p.s. I write about small biz for women biz owners:

  4. I am so behind in my blog reading but I just got to this post and loved every sigle word you wrote. I LOVE that you took a risk and quit your job to follow your dream! There arent many people who can do that (its taking me a little while to get my head wrapped around the idea of doing it myself) and I think its friggin awesome. Waking up for a job I hate everyday is awful, I just have to keep telling myself there is an end and to just keep chugging away till the day comes I say “I quit!”
    I love following your journey as you manage your own business and I cant WAIT to see all the amazing things you do in the future!
    Awesome blog post for sure!

  5. Thank you for such an inspired post! From the time I was very young I was told that if I just went to school and got good grades, I would get a job that would make me happy and successful. So, following the rules, I went to college and majored in business. One year later I decided to go to law school – a business and law school degree was a recipe for success! Turns out, the economy was hit hard by the recession and post-grads like me with a lot of education and very little experience weren’t top on the hiring list. It took me over a year to find a job, a job that two months in I hate. I hate going to work During the time I was searching for work, I started a blog to keep my friends and family updated on life. Turns out, I love blogging! Now, in the midst of long days working, I am trying to focus on what I do like and how I can be successful doing those things. I would love for my blog to take off. I also, turns out, am interested in opening my own online shop, even if its just an etsy shop selling handmade cards or crafts. You have been so inspiring with the success of your blog and the risk you took to start your boutique. Thank you! I wish you all the best! XO Misha from emerald city diaries {}

  6. I couldn’t agree more! Good for you, Mackenzie!!
    It´s JUST the kind of post I need to read. I live in Mexico City (although I am not Mexican!) and I’ve had a blog now for a few months. Inspired by my blog, your blog, other blogs and e-commerce in general I got inspired to embark on a new and totally unknown project for me: the launching of my very own online concept store in Mexico. I am absolutely terrified, I am working my behind off, but I am happy and so far it is the BEST decision I’ve made in years.
    So, Mackenzie, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART for your clever, sincere and insightful words!
    xoxo Susana

  7. I think I have told you before, you should be so proud for what you have accomplished, truly inspiring! And I couldn’t agree more with everything you have said, I like celebrating people’s successes, why not? That’s why we blog right?

  8. You are an inspiration and I really appreciate you writing this article. I literally got chills as I read it because a lot of what you said applies to me. I am in a spot where I dislike my full time job and I have been planning on the perfect time to strike out on my own. There are many things that plague me, especially when it comes to being financially independent. How did you deal with that? Family support? Savings? Loans? I am trying to figure out how to make it work and if you have any advice for me I’d be grateful.

    Thanks again for writing this.


  9. Amen sistah!! perfectly timed and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your experience and staying true to what you believe in. I admire your success, drive, and support for others. So happy to have you in entrepreneur corner with us small biz ladies. love watching you soar!!

    can’t wait for next blogger call.

    btw – I love that quote!

  10. haters gonna hate!

    keep up the good work, girl! i’ve found listening to extremely cocky rap music helps in these types of situations. 🙂

  11. Great post! I truly believe that there is nothing like on-the-job training, whether you’re an entrepreneur, stay-at-home mom or someone with a more traditional 9-5 job. So what if you didn’t go to business school, you’ve probably learned more in the past year than you would have in B-school anyways! Plus, you’ve obviously grown as a person in that period as well! Keep it up!

  12. Mackenzie, thanks you so much for sharing this! It certainly inspires and amazes me how much you’ve done just a year out of school, but it doesn’t surprise me– you clearly are a fantastic writer and businesswoman! I can’t help but admit I’m a bit envious myself 🙂 WIshing you continued success! xo

  13. Mackenzie, thanks you so much for sharing this! It certainly inspires and amazes me how much you’ve done just a year out of school, but it doesn’t surprise me– you clearly are a fantastic writer and businesswoman! I can’t help but admit I’m a bit envious myself 🙂 WIshing you continued success! xo

  14. This post could not have come at a better time. Yesterday I signed a contract and bought an online business. I think I might be crazy, but I’m so excited for it. Reading something like this helps me to know I’m making the right call for me!

  15. I can see this from both perspectives. Blogging has traditionally been an exceptional platform for promoting small business and an extraordinary catalyst for those with entrepreneurial spirits to strike out on their own. No one should judge that, as far as I’m concerned. We’re all trying to make it, and all of our callings play out differently.

    Running your own business and/or career blogging is not as easy, fun or intuitive as it looks. It takes crazy amounts of time, business know-how, networking and talent to get a business or blog off the ground. Some see it with stars or dollar signs in their eyes and that’s just not how it works. Sure, there are “overnight successes,” but you typically don’t see how hard they’re working behind the scenes. And I THINK that’s what others are trying to say. That it’s hard work and it comes with time.

    You knew it was the right time, and you have the right attitude about changing course if (God forbid) ever necessary. As evidenced by the number of comments to this post, many of us applaud you, lady! You’re workin’ hard for the money! 🙂 There’s nothing better than women supporting women or helping each other get where we want to be. On the flip side, just as you’re fully entitled to state your opinion, others are too, right?? Just remember that it’s never about you; we’re all speaking from our own experiences and they teach us very different things. Keep doing you and don’t worry about the rest! ox

  16. This is a well-written post. However, you must acknowledge that you are speaking from a place of privilege. Not everyone has the supportive parents and financial resources that you do. Not many people in their early 20s could quit their job and still have a roof over their heads, let alone the money to start a small business. You work hard, and you have a lovely blog, but I think it’s unfair not to acknowledge your luck and privilege. Not criticism–food for thought.

  17. Well written post, thanks so much for sharing! You should be so proud of all you have accomplished! I too would like to open my own boutique store one day and commend you for all you have done in a short time! Love your shop and blog!

  18. Mackenzie,

    This is one of the most inspiring things I have read in a while. I am still in college but have always dreamed of beginning my own fashion line down the road. I started my blog because of this crazy dream. Seeing young women like you make their own dreams realities is inspiring and gives us all the push we need to see if we can makes those dreams successes.

    Obviously it takes a lot of hard work, but clearly you have put in that work and continue to do so. Thank you so much for sharing this with us all. Good luck in the future with Design Darling, I know you have so many rooting for your success!



  19. Mackenzie,

    I wanted to comment as I really hope you didn’t think my Birthday Thoughts post was directed towards you. I think you have done an amazing job building the Design Darling franchise and growing your blog, especially as someone so young. I personally just think that our industry can encourage bad decisions at times. People see what you have done at your age and just think they can easily do it too. It’s not my job to judge or say who will or won’t be successful, I just want people to make responsible decsisons. Anyone who knows you knows that you’ve been blogging for years – far longer than many, much older bloggers – myself included. You’ve achieved the success that you have because you worked your butt off at your blog, built up a huge following, and then launched your business. It was a responsible and sound business decision, and like I’ve said many a time, you are wise beyond your years.

    I am all for applauding each other’s choices – and supporting each other – nothing makes me happier than seeing my blog friends pursue their dreams and succeed at it. That said, I often think the blog world is in need of a little bit of tough love. It is wonderful and incredibly supportive community, but thousands of blogs launch every week and not always for the right reasons. The most successful bloggers I know started doing this like you, because they love it, and then money and working with brands came later. Today, it feels like people’s motivations for starting a blog are different than they were 3-4 years ago. I have friends who blog full time and get approached by new bloggers basically asking them how they make money and how they can do that too. I see it at my day job too – you would not even believe the pitches I get from bloggers who have no readership and want money and sponsorships from brands. It’s just not realistic. If I were making the wrong decision I would want someone to ask me if I was truly ready for it. And if we’re being honest, I have thought about it a lot and have had a few important people in my life make me realize that no, I am not quite there yet. I’m all for following your dreams – I just think it’s important to have a business plan, to have the readership and following built up,to make responsible choices, and to your point – to be ready to work HARD. On the other side of the coin, as a blogger who is still working a desk job, I often feel criticized too – and as though my blog is somehow less significant/serious than it would be if I were doing it full time… despite the fact that I am putting 20, 30 hours a week into it on top of my “real” job.

    I’m writing an essay here, but I just felt compelled to respond. 🙂 Anyways, keep doing what you are doing – you are doing an amazing job. But I hope you can understand where I was coming from – and who knows if you even read my post, but I worried that you might have taken offense to it.

  20. Hello Mackenzie,

    Congratulate you on your business, your efforts and staying true to your dreams:) Your blog is lovely and you definitely have great taste in everything. I’m sorry there are always people who find the need to put down what wonderful young people do. They are just envious, so don’t pay attention to them.
    There will always be people like this. Just continue to pay attention to those who love and support you 🙂

    I want to add something and hope you won’t mind. It’s about your quote of Madeleine Albright… It’s not just that I find her words quite aggressive and unfair (there are a lot of women who want to help others but can’t because they are struggling with personal issues, so why wish them in hell?? that is not nice at all), but this particular woman is also the one who said half a million murdered Arab children were “worth the price*. And she encouraged the bombing of thousand innocent children and women whenever she had a chance. That is who she was, no matter how she tried to “cover her butt” afterwards. Please see the details below.

    I don’t mean to argue with you at all, but it was hard not to think of it, when I read your otherwise wonderful message on your blog. I just have to add this, in memory of all the children and women who lost their lives with her approval. I hope my comment will not be deleted.

    In any case, I wish you a wonderful future 🙂 keep up your beautiful work and thank you for the great inspiration of your blog!



    * On May 12, 1996, Albright defended UN sanctions against Iraq on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” and Albright replied “we think the price is worth it.”
    * I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.
    Stated on CBS’s 60 Minutes (May 12, 1996) in reply to Lesley Stahl’s question “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time.

  21. you should be incredibly proud of yourself. you are so talented – and always have been – and i knew from our days in neirad that you were off to do big things. love this post – miss reading your writing!! xox carv

  22. Very inspirational post! I have been thinking about going out on my own and while I know if I do it there will be some realities that I didn’t plan on but at the same time I want to be more inspired then I am right now. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  23. I absolutely love bloggers (and people) like you who share so honestly. I couldn’t agree with you more about this. I have been feeling the negativity, the stepping on the toes, the getting taken advantage of, a lot lately and it has really gotten to me. Thank you for being such a great reminder that it pays off to be nice to people.
    Keep up the great work, friend!

  24. i love this! i’m guessing you’re referring to the crazypants comments on bailey’s blog. honestly, one of the reasons i love blogging is how supportive and encouraging everyone is of each other. we make “blog friends” and are there for the big moments in life like weddings, births, businesses… with the friends i’ve made, i’ve come to have a vested interest in their businesses. i want them to succeed and celebrate their success. and if i were to enter into a similar adventure, i would hope that the community would rally around me as well.

  25. I’ve been having a lot of the same thoughts lately! I feel like a lot of people look down on me for working from home. Like I failed to get a ‘normal’ job and had to settle for this. But no, I chose this. I want to do this and make a proper go of it and see where it can go. Love this post and love your little shop! All the best with it! xo

  26. Well put. More power to you! I find Design Darling very inspiring. I am truly impressed with what you have been able to create at such a young age. I love your products and will continue to support your venture when I need future gifts.

    Best wishes for continued success!

  27. Hats off to you my darling friend.. What a fabulous post and a fabulous topic. Those ugly people out there that feel the need to comment on our lives, our product and our posts are JEALOUS. They didn’t have the ideas, the skill, the talent or the drive to do it themselves. So instead of doing something about it they feel they should knock us down a little bit. How awful.. just know you have me and thousands of other fabulous ladies out there that do support you and applaud your success 🙂 Love you miss! xo

  28. So inspiring Mackenzie! I am a fellow Bucknellian! I’m so impressed by what you’re doing and would love to follow suit someday in the near future!
    xoxo, Kelly

  29. Amazing post Mackenzie, and one that I couldn’t agree with more! Who is anybody else to tell you or anybody how to live their life?! We all have to do what makes us happy, what makes us fulfilled, and what keeps us popping out of bed each morning excited for a new day. One day I hope to launch my own design firm, and you are such a role model for this! Congrats on all of your hard work and successes xox

  30. Mackenzie – You should be VERY proud of all that you have done in a very short time – you are a wonderful role model for all young girls just graduating from college. Keep doing exactly what you are doing – I have no doubt you will be VERY successful (you already are!)

  31. What a great post! As a teacher who is scared to death to leave her salaried position to pursue a self-employed business, it was wonderful to read.
    Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration.

  32. I had no idea that you graduated in 2011! That’s when I graduated too :)(I always assume that everyone is older and more qualified than I am, so I get really excited to find bloggers who are my age- is that just me?)

    I really love this post. I think that ultimately, people questioning other people’s life choices comes from a place of insecurity and says so much more about the person saying it than the people that they are criticizing. Basically, I’m with you 100%. I wish more people would focus on supporting others rather than tearing down the life choices of others.

  33. I am so glad you wrote this. I have been seeing a lot of the comments you mentioned and they were rubbing me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, I think its important to remember that just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you should start a business (as you said, it isn’t for everyone) but why not applaud the people who do take that leap of faith? Blogging empowers people and isn’t that a positive thing? Congratulations on all of your success. It is incredibly well deserved and I am honored to be part of a group of ladies who can share these thoughts!

  34. Hear Hear Girl!…some of the most famous companies we know today are founded by people who don’t even have a college degree period…getting the education is important but it’s not everything…most of the time drive out weighs education…keep up the good work girl we are all here to cheer you on!

  35. Seriously wonderful post, lady. Although I don’t fall into the blogger self-employed category, I do respect those of you who do. I cannot even imagine the amount of work it must take, and the worries about things like finding Health Insurance. I think a lot of the backlash from people comes from the fact a lot of so claiming “self employed” bloggers with boutiques/styling business, etc make it seem like they took a HUGE leap of faith, when in reality they are living off their mom/dad/grandparents’ money, thus it’s not such a LEAP of faith. more like a puddle jump. Good for you for posting this, and I love that Albright quote!!

  36. I admire anyone who strikes it out on their own, business degree or not. Honestly, how many people are in a job that directly lines up with their college degrees? Life doesn’t work like that and no one should give you grief for how you make an income.

    I don’t get people who put in the effort to write criticisms about other people when it does not affect them. Way to speak back!

  37. This was an inspiring and well written post! I agree, you never know where life will take you five years from now, and you can’t spend each day worrying about the future. Take care of the hours and the days, and the years will take care of themselves. People who are miserable in their jobs but continue to stay often do so because of financial reasons, but sometimes they just don’t want to take a huge risk in doing something they love when there’s not a guarantee they’ll make money. I applaud you for doing just that!

  38. Mackenzie- What a fantastic, thoughtful post. It saddens me that other people would question or mock your decision to start your own business. I applaud you and you are right- we as women should be supporting each other. Karma’s a bitch. 😉

    You should be proud of the risks that you are taking and even more proud that you had the intuition at such a young age to make the leap. Most people twice your age don’t have the guts to do what you’ve done. You are phenomenal, and I for one can’t wait to see what’s next in your journey!

  39. Could not agree with you more! So proud of you for taking the leap, and thank you for always being someone that I can chat with about the life of a small business owner. Sometimes those good days are few and far between, it is so comforting to know that we are not alone. xo

  40. AMEN. I believe that everything we have done contributes and is important to what we are doing now. Your business wouldn’t be what it is if you had waited to gain more experience. And my business wouldn’t be what it is without the years I spent at a couple desk jobs.

    Really, no matter how much experience you have, no one knows how to run a business until they are actually doing it. It’s all trial and error, asking questions, learning as you go no matter who you are.

    And I totally agree on applauding each other’s choices and keeping it to ourselves if we don’t like it. There is absolutely nothing to be gained through negativity towards others.

  41. those who spread negativity and judgment about the ones who go out and do are the ones with the underlying wish that they were courageous enough to do it themselves – bitter that they want something more, but don’t feel like they can have it for whatever reason. definitely agree with your post and I applaud you for taking the risk and WORKING YOUR BUTT OFF =) because I do think that a lot of people think it just happens… but what’s that quote? “Luck is preparation that meets opportunity”

  42. What an incredible post!! I loved reading this and I think you have done an amazing job with everything you do. It’s so important to support people in what they do, and I think you have worded that perfectly. Everyone needs to find what works for them and makes them happy, and it’s so wrong to judge people who follow their hearts. 🙂

  43. such a great, well-written post. thank you for sharing your perspective! part of the reason i recently started blogging was a desire to engage with what seemed to be an amazing community and i’m sad to read/see/hear that there are times when this isn’t the case.. but glad to know this is the rarity vs. the norm!

  44. So agree with this! Beyond it boiling down to the idea of “live and let live,” I also think we all need to remember that everyone’s doing the best they can. My path isn’t your path, and vice versa. We should celebrate our friends and colleagues taking risks and trying to get the most out of life — better that and maybe fail than to wonder forever, right? Great post, Mackenzie! xo, vmac

  45. great quote. I’ve used that one numerous times on my 14 and 16 year old daughters. never too young to learn that or start a business. I’m giving it a go at 44 and it’s no less scary.

    well said and well done!

  46. What a fabulous post, and very well said! The blog world is constantly amazing me with opportunities it gives bloggers, the networking, the ideas, and the community we form! I always think women should help others and empower each other instead of looking down upon each other! Which is one thing that drew me to the blogging community- the wonderful encouragement it brings! I’m always so proud when I see bloggers accomplish things–whether it’s 500 posts, a review, a boutique, or landing their dream job through blog networking! What a great life us bloggers lead 🙂

  47. AMEN! Really – what it boils down to – is why are we evaluating others choices and critiquing them anyway? It’s not our duty, we don’t always know every part of the story. If someone is doing they something they love, succeeding at it or not, well balanced or not, that’s really none of my business. I applaud people for making the choices right for them, whatever that may be. We should all, instead, be supporting each other for making choices that fulfill us.

  48. Love, love, love this. In my MBA class the other day we talked about women supporting other women, along with risk-taking. I’m not a risk-taker by nature, so I have to commend those who are. And to be able to wake up everyday loving what you do – well, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

  49. I really love this post. As a blogger there are so many ways we can support one another and so often you see negative comments instead of positive reinforcement. Seriously love this post and DD 🙂