A year ago, I sat in my non-descript 3rd story office in Los Angeles, staring out the window at the people on the sidewalk below. They all moved about, oblivious in their routines, going about their days while I contemplated one the biggest decisions of my life.
I had just come back from my honeymoon in Bali, the first proper vacation I had taken in a few years. It came, somewhat serendipitously, after the most intense year of my life. A year in which I worked harder than I knew I was able to and endured stress levels that I am still shocked my body was able to combat. Those magical two weeks outside of my office - not thinking about work, enjoying the outdoors, meeting new people, having adventures, going out to meals, spending quality time with my husband, feeling the sun on my face every day - woke me up to what I had been missing. There was LIFE happening all around me, and I was so busy working I felt like I was missing out on it. My brain was having an internal conflict as one side of it was telling me, “Quit your job… get out and see the world… take a risk… LIVE your life… if not now, when?!” The other, more rational, side of my brain was telling that side to shut the f*ck up and be appreciative of what I had. After all, I had what I thought was my “dream job.” I was the “Director of Operations” for the non-profit I was working for, I was earning a great salary, and I was working for an organization that was making a difference in the world. I always thought those things would fulfill me career-wise, but as I sat in that office watching the people outside I knew that I needed more. I needed to carve my own path, be scared, and figure something out on my own. Most importantly though, I needed to LIVE, to have new experiences and see the world, to choose what work meant for me and to create the life I had always dreamed of.
I called my husband and told him, “I think I need to quit my job and I want to move to Bali”. After a long pause he replied, “Okay, I’m in”. (I knew I married him for a reason! ;))
From that point on, we spent every night at home working out the logistics and answering not-so-insignificant questions. What would we do with our apartment and all our stuff? What about our dog? How would we tell our bosses? Our families? Our friends? How were we going to make money?!?
The hardest one for me, of course, was if and how I could be away from our fur baby (and who would watch him even if I could). After talking to family and friends about it, everyone told me that I couldn’t let the dog stop me from having the adventure of a lifetime. “Think of it like sending him to boarding school,” they said (I’m not sure why this analogy made me more comfortable but it worked at the time). My in-laws graciously agreed to watch him at their home in Nebraska and all of a sudden the pieces started to come together. We were doing this.
At least once a day during the ensuing months, one (or both) of us would freak out about the idea and want to back out. When we finally gathered the courage to quit our jobs, though, it all started to become real. We began selling/giving away all our belongings, planned to move out our apartment and broke the news to our loved ones. We were really moving to Bali!
Luckily, Bali is a relatively inexpensive place to live, so you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a move there. We sold our cars, furniture, and anything else in our apartment that we could convince someone to give us money for. We used that money, savings, and some generous wedding presents to help fund the move (thanks to those that gave us checks, now you know how we spent them! ;). We packed up three suitcases and we were ready to go.
The next big battle was figuring out what to do to earn a living (we realized the assorted funds from the paragraph above would only get us so far). I read books, searched blogs, and talked to anyone that would give me advice. Foreigners aren’t allowed to formally “work” in Bali (at a company, restaurant, store, etc.) so the only real option is to start your own business. Scary – but I was up for the challenge. I had a few ideas but settled on starting an online store. During our honeymoon, I was blown away by the textiles, colors, and designs I saw around the island. I was so impressed by the incredible artisans we met and the unique goods they could create. Upon our return to Bali, I spent weeks exploring the crowded markets of Denpasar and Ubud to get inspiration. I finally decided to start with six products of my own, all of which embodied the spirit of Bali to me. I hand-picked every fabric, zipper, and thread myself and found different local artisans and manufacturers to help bring my products to life.
During this time, I started volunteering with the Bali Children Foundation (BCF) and learning about the incredible work that they do. They bring education to the remote villages of Bali providing an educational pathway for disadvantaged children. On a trip to Tiguwasa, a remote village in northern Bali where BCF had just recently implemented their program, the Founder, Marg, expressed that BCF was in need of English dictionaries for their kids. For these children, learning English gives them a huge advantage in life and is a way for them to obtain well-paying jobs that will ultimately benefit themselves, their families, and their communities. Since the dictionaries are in short supply, the kids cherish them (in some cases even going to bed with them). Graduates of the program often lobby to keep their BCF-provided dictionary to bring along with them to college or professional school. This attachment, however, means that there aren’t many hand-me-downs available for each new class of kids that enters BCF’s programs. Upon hearing this, I realized a perfect opportunity to merge my online store with BCF’s educational efforts. I decided to partner with BCF and for every purchase made on my site, we would donate a brand new English dictionary to a BCF child. Adding this element of giving made the company so much more fulfilling and exciting for me. It added even more fuel to my fire to make August Effects a success.
Starting this business has been a roller coaster. I have never felt so motivated and inspired, but there are days when I question everything. Will it work? Will I make money? Do I have this in me? Everything about retail, e-commerce, design, etc. is BRAND new to me. I am starting everything from scratch, and have had to learn things “the hard way” more than I would like (think – about 18 samples were needed of each product before I got the one I wanted). One of the greatest myths about becoming an entrepreneur, in my opinion, is that you have to be an expert in your field or have a life-changing invention to start a business. I realized, through this process, that it’s not really about the idea – it’s about the person and the passion behind ANYTHING you set out to do. Becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t mean having a pile of seed money or taking out a loan (I bootstrapped my business), and it’s not about waiting for the perfect invention to come to you. It’s about your drive, your desire to change your life, and your willingness to define (or re-define) what “work” means to you. It’s about learning to create your own reality.
As I sit here in a little coffee shop, drinking a fresh watermelon juice and writing this post from a balcony overlooking the ocean, I know now that the risk I was so scared to take a year ago turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of my life. Full disclosure: I’m writing this prior to launching August Effects, so at this point I don’t know if it will be a success. What I do know is that I have the passion to make it happen and that if anyone out there is thinking about quitting their job to travel, start their own business, or just do something different, my advice is to DO IT!! It WILL be scary. You WILL have doubts. It WILL be a roller coaster. You WILL have good days and bad days. In the end, though, it WILL make you stronger and it just may be the greatest decision of your life!