Have I ever told you about how I became an entrepreneur? It might seem like I have all my sh** together these days, but believe me, it wasn’t always so.
It all started when I was in College and one of my favorite teachers told me I should forget about majoring in Art History. I remember his words as if it were yesterday. He said:
“I’ll speak to you as if you were my daughter Catherine because I truly believe you have what it takes to have a brilliant career. Don’t go into the arts, you’ll struggle all your life.”
My teacher had hit a nerve. My family had been struggling financially for as long as I could remember, so there was no way I was going to let that happen to me.
No way José!
So I listened like the nice young woman that I was and majored in PR and Marketing instead.
As soon as I got my diploma (in fact a couple of days before graduation) I was hired by a major brand to do PR and within a few months, I was promoted to a high profile PR position. That’s when the phone started to ring and head hunter were offering me jobs all over town. I finally accepted one which had everything I was hoping for: new exciting projects, travelling opportunities and of course, a crazy high salary.
At 25 years old, I was head of the PR department of a major multinational corporation.
But I was more miserable than ever.
Of course, nobody knew about this. I was doing my work, performing and showing results but a few times a week, I would close my office door so I could cry for a few minutes. I could not keep it all inside, I had to let it out.
It quickly became unbearable. I knew I could not continue living like this for the next 30-40 years. I was only 25, how could I have become so sad and cynical?
Everyone thought I had it all, how could I disappoint them?
I knew I wanted something else for my life. I also knew I could not make the leap all by myself.
The first thing I needed to do was to gain clarity about what I really wanted and how I could get it.
That’s when I decided to seek help.
And it all started to get clear to me, I wanted to work in the arts. That’s what I had always wanted to do and that’s what I was going to do.
What happened next? Within a year I quit my job and moved to Paris where I studied the business of art at Christies’ Education. While I was there, I networked my a** off and got a part-time job working in a gallery in The Marais neighbourhood and a short internship at Christies.
In the meantime, I had met the man who would eventually become my husband and the father of my children, so once the program was completed, we moved back to Canada where I started working for one of the top modern & contemporary art galleries in Montreal, promoting the work of artists at international art fairs and working one-on-one with artists to help them grow their business.
Since then, there have been many ups and downs. At some point I even had to go back on the job market to get a “real job” because I needed to pay rent.
But I always kept my eyes on the prize.
Today, I own a profitable business and spend my days doing what I love, helping artist grow their art business + career and contributing to society in a meaningful way.
Why am I telling you this? Because if it was possible for me, it can be possible for you.
- I did not have family or friends or any contacts whatsoever working in the art market
- No one paid for my tuition or studies, I had to work my way through it all and all the investments I made, I would make them again.
As someone who has been through it all, here’s what I’d like you to take away from my story as you make your way as an entrepreneur:
- Seek help. At first I was overwhelmed and thought I could simply not quit my job. I reached out to a professional and she helped me get back on track personally and professionally. Today, I still continue to seek help through coaches and mentors as my business grows because there is no way I can do it all myself AND have perspective.
- Have a plan. I had a vision for myself and a plan to make it happen, including a budget. I knew I had to spend money to go to study in Paris, network and start this new chapter of my life. So I created a spreadsheet and started tracking every dime I was spending so I could afford what was really important to me.
- Network. The first thing I did when I arrived in Paris and later when I was planning on coming back to Montreal was to connect with as many people as possible to grow my network. I was surprised at how much people were happy to help me and connect me with people they knew. Many opportunities started knocking at my door but none of those would have happened if I had not put myself out there.
- Push through resistance. Was it difficult? Yes. Did I want to quit? Of course. As I mentioned earlier, I even went out and got a “real job” at one point, but as soon as I did that, I started feeling miserable again. Although I was as scared as ever (and sometimes still am), I decided that being an entrepreneur was non negotiable for me and I stopped making excuses for myself. That’s when things really started shifting for me.
- Stop listening to everyone’s advice. Trust me, everyone has an opinion: raise your prices, lower your prices, be on Instagram, don’t be on Twitter. I’ve heard them all. You can’t listen to everyone’s idea of what you should be doing to sell more, especially those sitting on the sidelines waiting for the perfect storm to start their business. Unless we are talking about people who’ve actually been there, forget it and focus on your goals.
My teacher was right, I was going to have a great career (he was just wrong to think it wasn’t going to be in the arts).
I’m not smarter or more connected than you, I just got up and did the work every single day.
What has your entrepreneurial journey been like? Any tips or lessons you’d like to share? I’d love to know about your story. Hit me in the comments and let’s chat! You know I love to hear from you…
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