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.