*This article also appears in the April/May issue of the Fulton County, GA Women's Journal here: http://bit.ly/1wwnqfP
At 26, I'd recently graduated from law school and passed the New York bar exam. At my grandfather’s urging shortly before he died, I decided to take six months to discover what I was really passionate about in life before beginning my legal career. It was during that period of introspection when I discovered that education, not law, was the area where I wanted to make the most significant impact on the world around me.
That was my first “passion-driven” career move. The practical side of me wanted to me to take the road that had already been paved for me because it was safe and it made more sense. Yet, the curious side told me that I would regret not taking life up on the opportunity to make a living while pursuing my passion. In 2003, I chose to enliven my entrepreneurial spirit, follow my passion and establish my first company, Innovative Study Techniques (IST) in Largo, MD.
Ten years later, I found myself at another crossroads in my career. I was 35 and just beginning to lead IST in a new direction when I found out that I was pregnant. When my daughter, Riley, was born my entire world changed. Even though all I should have been doing was basking in the glow of motherhood in the early months, I nearly drove myself crazy thinking about how I was going to manage raising a child and running a business at the same time. After a lot of soul-searching, I decided that the two were not mutually exclusive.My focus then shifted from trying to fit Riley into my previous work life as I knew it to creating a new model based on what would work best for her. Although it was not my goal to start another company, I found myself drawn in again to the prospect of building a new career around something that I had become very passionate about—motherhood. It started when I began thinking about all of the products that I wished I had as a new mom, but couldn’t find. So, I started creating them myself and officially added “designer” to my resume with the launch of BambiniWare in October 2013 on Riley's first birthday. Within three months, I was invited to showcase the line at a Pre-Golden Globes celebrity gifting suite for Hollywood moms and dads.
I attribute the success of both companies to my commitment to aligning my passions—education, entrepreneurship and motherhood—with what I do for a living. Whether you are thinking about starting your own passion-driven business or looking to make a career move, you can follow the same five-step action plan that I used to bring my own ideas into fruition:
Identify what your passions are. First ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?” Write down a list of all of the things you do or experience that bring a sense of genuine fulfillment and joy to your life. Then, circle the items that you could envision yourself doing every day, with no other benefit awarded to you other than your own happiness. These are your passions—the things in your life that you live to do.
Use your passions to create a personal business plan. This differs from a traditional business plan in that it is not written for external investors, which should come later. Here, you should use the passions you identified as a starting point to lay out what your ideal business or career would look like if you could incorporate what you love into what you do for a living.
Expand your knowledge. In the formative stages of BambiniWare, I knew nothing about the baby accessories industry or launching a product line, so I spent months just soaking up knowledge from everywhere I could find it. Gather your resources, find out everything there is to know about your industry from the best books, websites, classes, conferences and recognized experts so that you are operating on full information.
Set SMART goals. Creating a new business or career from your ideas can seem like an insurmountable task at first. I was able to make the process much more manageable for myself by breaking it down into a series of specific, measurable, action-based, realistic and time-based goals that I held myself accountable for.
Execute. There will always be competing interests when you are trying to make a major change in your life. And often, things can seem so overwhelming that it is difficult to even get started. Know, however, that even the longest journey begins with the first step. Even if you have to force yourself to take it, it’s a step that you’ll never regret. The best part is that once you complete it, you’ve already put yourself that much closer to turning your passions into profits.
My Recommended Reads:
"Escape from Cubicle Nation" by Pamela Slim
"The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul" by Danielle LaPorte
"The Right-Brain Business Plan" by Jennifer Lee