Contributed by Lauren Messiah, former president of EO Los Angeles, and the founder and CEO of Lauren Messiah Inc. She currently serves EO as president of EO OneWorld, a virtual membership platform with the goal of creating a more socially conscious, culturally diverse and inclusive experience for all EO members. Because a diverse EO is a strong EO. Lauren shared the following realizations from her entrepreneurial journey:
(Photo credit: Chris Beyer)
There is a moment in every entrepreneur’s life when you realize you are “unemployable.” Not due to a lack of intelligence, but because we’re like wild horses that can’t be tamed. We have to go off on our own and do our own thing; it’s the only way for us to thrive.
My unemployable moment arrived in 2004. After graduating college with a degree in fashion design—it was always my dream to work in fashion—I experienced the rudest of awakenings: Earning a degree did not guarantee a job in your industry.
That was news to me. I thought if I did the time, got good grades, and graduated, I’d have my pick of the litter when it came to employment. Not so. I ended up working retail at the mall where I shopped as a teenager.
I was not living the dream.
In a desperate attempt to live out my dream, I got a job as a “stylist,” aka a sales associate at the Betsey Johnson boutique. My job was to get women to buy clothes. The problem was, I was a wild horse! If an outfit didn’t look good on a customer, I’d send her to another store. I was more concerned with making sure women looked good and felt confident.
Needless to say, I wasn’t hitting my sales numbers. I was miserable and embarrassed. I had dreamt of being successful since I was a little girl, and here I was choking at a retail job.
That moment in my career, which felt so dark at the time, turned out to be the spark that ignited my entrepreneurial journey.
One of my customers suggested I leave retail to make some “real money.” I desperately wanted to move out of my parents’ house, so I took her advice. I got a series of jobs in tech, both with big companies and small startups.
I was making good money, but that “unemployable” thing kept creeping back in. Why did it take so long for other people to take an idea and turn it into a reality? This drove me crazy, so I set out on my entrepreneurial journey in 2009 with no savings and no plan. I was determined to make real money without abandoning my dream of working in fashion and helping women find confidence.
My first business was a fashion school for aspiring stylists. I muscled my way to the US$350,000 in annual revenue mark, and then I discovered EO Accelerator. Within 2.5 years, I reached the US$1 million dollar mark and joined EO.
I started a second company which enabled me to live out my dream. Today, I help women find confidence, style and success through online courses, coaching and books. This is all thanks to EO: Having a community of people who “get it” changed the game for me.
Here are the five biggest lessons I’ve learned along my entrepreneurial journey:
- You don’t have to do it alone. Entrepreneurship was a lonely place. I swore I had to play every role, wear every hat, and deal with every issue on my own—until I found EO. Being part of a community of like-minded, driven and thoughtful people took the loneliness out of the equation.
- Nobody else knows what they’re doing either! I was so intimidated when I first joined EO. Imposter syndrome was in full swing. I thought I was the only business owner who hadn’t gone to business school, the only one who didn’t know what to do when X,Y or Z happened. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one. We’re all figuring things out as we go; that’s the beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur.
- Always come from a place of service. I let money drive me for years. It felt like pushing a boulder uphill. Things shifted when I moved the money metric down on the priority list and focused on being of maximum service to my customers. Money flowed more easily, I enjoyed my work more, and I also had time to enjoy life.
- It’s okay to change your mind. Do you how many times I’ve changed my mind in business? About 100. It drives my employees crazy, but building something new and innovative requires a fluid mind.
- It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Anyone who tells you working for yourself is easy is lying! Entrepreneurship isn’t just about not having a boss, having flexible hours and money to burn. It is hard work, but I love what I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.