Growing up, I had the best high school art teacher ever! He brought out the most creativity in me and allowed me to put that creativity on paper in ways I never thought possible. I wanted to be him, I wanted to bring out the best in others. So, naturally, I majored in art education, also wanting to be a high school art teacher. Senior year of college, on the first day of my student teaching, I realized, very clearly, that I did not want to teach kids. I wanted to connect with the kids as a peer, friend, but not as a teacher. That led me to want to work with adults, but the question was, in what capacity.
My dad had a connection with a big restaurant group and I was hired for an entry level sales position organizing the catering for sporting arena sky boxes and suites. I was a glorified order taker with a headset in a corporate office. I loved my co-workers, and this company opened my eyes to other opportunities. My people skills were recognized and I was quickly moved to other venues and promoted to positions with more responsibility and more interaction with others. I worked a lot and enjoyed it, but wasn’t sure this was what I wanted for the long term. At one of the locations to which I was assigned, the wife of the executive chef took an interest in me and in my plans for the future. She was a Realtor, and I remember her saying, many times, “You work all the time, you are great with people, but you don’t make much money. I think you would be a great Realtor.”
That advice sparked some interest within me. About a year later, I joined the same company as the chef’s wife and became part of a group led by a different Realtor. Wanting to learn from a successful agent and in an area of the city that was close to my home, I was ready to take on this new journey. Although this Realtor was massively successful, she was not nice and I realized right away that her way of doing business did not work for me. I thought that if she could be that successful treating people rudely, imagine what being nice and respectful could bring. I lasted with her for only a few months and then went off on my own. She did teach me a lot and gave me the confidence to go about growing my own real estate business.
I ended up being a real estate broker for almost 15 years and enjoyed it very much. My business was 100% referral based, which meant that my clients enjoyed their experience with me and referred their friends, family, and colleagues. I was blessed with wonderful people. I never considered myself a sales person and always worked in the best interest of my clients, even if it meant losing a deal or walking away from something. My clients saw that my attention and care was in their highest interest, and they felt comfortable. I surrounded myself with other Realtors and business partners who shared the same values.
During this time, I gave birth to two children and developed some more health challenges along with my pre-existing condition, type 1 diabetes. My clients needed me, but so did I. As I started to help myself and pay more attention to myself and my family, I realized that, at that time, I felt more joy and satisfaction helping other Realtors. I had always volunteered to teach classes in my office and was recognized as a resource to other agents and was often sought out for my advice and counsel.
I transitioned into the role of managing broker of a branch office of my company. I was excited to lead and grow the 90 agents within the office. I was ready for this new challenge, which meant more to me than continuing to make a lot of money. I took a pay cut, but the job involved fewer work hours and a definite focus on what interested me at that time-—helping others grow their careers. I was good, it was a natural role for me. I made a point of getting to know every agent in the office. I wanted to get to know them well, so I could help them individually succeed. I cared and they saw that. Usually when a new manager takes over an office, there is a mass exodus. That didn’t happen. No one left because of me, in fact, more people wanted to come in the office for meetings and counsel. I was proud.
Being a Realtor requires an entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of drive. But management was a little different.
As I indicated earlier, I had been diagnosed with another health problem while I was a broker: celiac disease. Over the years, I had been spending more time in my kitchen learning new ways to bake because I could no longer eat anything with wheat, rye, or barley. My food choices had been significantly restricted because of this diagnosis and my pre-existing type 1 diabetes, so I sought to create treats that I could eat and that made me happy.
Creating in the kitchen became more of a side project while I was a managing broker. I started to share my treats with friends, family and people at my local gym and the response was amazing. People started to ask me to bake my creations for them and it lit a spark in me that took over.
It became clear to me and a few others that I was more excited about the food I was creating than I was about real estate.
To me, food was universal, and I was determined to throw myself into creating delicious foods that were healthy and that everyone could enjoy. I was naive and didn’t think things through fully, but I was enthusiastic and absolutely determined to build this from scratch! My treats had made MY life so much better; I no longer felt denied or isolated when everyone else was indulging. I wanted to share that with others.
I had a story and great products, so it was time to take a leap of faith. I stepped away from the management position and did not look back.
I’m sure people told me how hard the food industry was before I began, but I’m convinced I was wearing earplugs and blinders. I had succeeded emotionally and financially in real estate doing it my way, the nice way, so why couldn’t I do this too?
I brought together three excited friends, raised a little money from family, and went head first on this journey. I received praise, press, and accomplished so much in the beginning. I consider myself a creator and innovator. When the creating and innovation moved on to production, that’s when my mood changed. I tried very hard to find production partners, but nothing panned out, mostly because of the size of my company and the money required. I did what I needed to do and found a commercial kitchen and started producing healthy treats myself. That is where the burnout occurred. Over 3.5 years of building and doing, the doing started to make me miserable. Toward the end of this journey, I was doing everything myself and it brought on a feeling of loneliness. I am a true people person who thrives when others are around me. The problem was, I had no one around me. The women who started this journey with me went on to get other jobs because the money wasn’t there to support them staying, and a few had visions very different than mine.
I created products and brought them to life. I sold a lot, made a positive impact on many others’ lives, and am so proud of what I did. But I knew it was time to change course. I truly believe that one of the most successful personal traits is to realize when something isn’t working. In December of 2019, I closed the doors of my business. I am leaving it open a crack to pick up as a side passion project, but not with financial necessity and full time consumption attached.
What I have learned over the past 20 years is that I love people and collaborating with others. I love creating and solving a challenge. I am a doer who can also support and help others grow. I know I need to be doing something that aligns with my values (kindness, giving, advocating, helping) and will never be engaged in something just for the money. I need money to live, but money doesn’t drive me. I need to advocate for myself and others on a continuous basis. I need to be doing good for others. I need to be needed and I need to be loved. I need friends, family and a lot of acquaintances in my life. Neglecting these needs will cause me to be unhappy and unfulfilled.
Now my challenge is to find a work opportunity that matches.