Exactly How I Became an Accidental Entrepreneur
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If I could see the future just a couple of years ago, I never would have guessed that I’d be a (successful) business owner and entrepreneur.
When the company I worked for went belly up a couple of years ago, I did just what they told me to do – I took my clients and ran. And what seemed like a catastrophe at the time actually became the best thing that could have happened. In that moment, an entrepreneur was born.
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was in elementary school, I used to make perfume in the schoolyard at recess and tried “selling” it to my friends (who had their lunch money in their pockets). Flash forward to high school, I start purchasing things at the local thrift stores to flip on eBay for profit. I still do this today and joke that if I could do that full-time, I would in a heartbeat. It fulfills my desire to shop and find the best deals while also making a little money. I still do this “side hustle” now and love it. There are periods of time where I was bringing in a grand or so a month thrifting for profit.
If you had asked me at any given time what I want to “be when I grow up”, you’d get a different answer each time. I’m pretty sure I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur before I really knew it was a thing. I remember beating myself up over this for years. I always envied those that knew exactly what they wanted to be. It’s a tough choice to make, especially for young people with the whole world at their fingertips. Universities and 4-year schools were never an option, as my parents simply couldn’t afford for me to go when I was fresh out of high school. I have taken a few semester in community college but never finished my (undecided) degree.
I worked several mundane jobs before this. I fumbled my way through 6 years of waitressing (and now have a much deeper respect for those in the restaurant industry). I worked with people with developmental disabilities (also a very tough job that takes a lot of patience). I also worked at an auto auction in their telemarketing department (talk about hell…). That last job? I was pregnant and knew after I had my daughter that I never wanted to go back. It really was the worst. I consider my resume a list of things that I never want to do again. And I’m okay with that!
While I was on my Maternity leave, I spent what time I had in between entertaining a newborn, changing diapers and late night feedings digging around for a legitimate work-at-home job. Did I want to do direct marketing or MLM? Not for me, though I really envy those who do it well. There were freelancer sites that I could market myself on but I knew that wasn’t it. So I start pouring through forums on BabyCenter.com for reviews and threads around some of the legitimate companies out there. I found Zirtual.com, a startup that matched entrepreneurs and small businesses with virtual assistants. They had great reviews, especially within the Mommy community so I interviewed and after a 6-week interview process, I landed the job JUST as my Maternity leave was ending. Talk about great timing, as I never could have imagined leaving my newborn for that telemarketing job that I hated.
Flash forward 2 years, I had a great job with benefits that allowed me the flexibility to work at home with my daughter (basically since she was 3-months-old). It was a Monday morning and I was taking paid vacation time. We were leaving that day for a road trip to Ohio to visit our family. I woke up before my toddler (rare occasion!) to get things ready when I quickly glanced at my personal email and to my surprise, there was a message from our CEO that said the company “could no longer afford to operate”. A million thoughts flowed through my mind as I came to the realization that I no longer had a job. How could we go on vacation when I was coming back to nothing? I needed to get back out there and interview for another job. Were there other companies like Zirtual that would hire me (and give me the same flexibility)? And the thoughts and anxiety rolled on, and on, and on…
What I hadn’t realized in my panicked state was that my clients were scrambling just the same as I was. For some of them, I managed areas of their personal and business lives in ways that they really needed help with- their calendars, contacts, travel, etc. I had worked my way into their businesses and managed processes needed for daily operations.
There was a key part of the “goodbye” email that I wasn’t seeing clearly through the fog and haze of panic and uncertainty.
“Clients have also been notified of our closure and we encourage you and/or them to connect independently to discuss future working opportunities”. DING DONG. There it was. My key to freedom and creating the life that I always knew I wanted but had no idea how to achieve.
One by one, I reached out to each client and they all said the same thing – “let’s work together”. And in perfect tandem, our community of VAs that were let go from Zirtual created a Facebook Community that allowed us all to stay in close contact and encourage each other. I quickly signed contracts with most clients, except two that I really didn’t desire to work with independently, which was now my choice. What?!
Here we are nearly two years later, I am an entrepreneur and I am working with most of these clients still, and have networked and been referred to a few other great clients. I really, truly love all of them and the relationships we have with each other. I am still able to work with my daughter at home (though she is now in Preschool and headed to Pre-K in the Fall) and fit my work in around my life. I also have a couple of side hustles that I am passionate about.
The thing is, I really don’t think I ever would have done this on my own. I am a part of several online entrepreneurial communities where there are people every single day that “screw the 9-5”. I envy that drive and passion, I really do. I am what you would consider an “accidental entrepreneur”, even though deep within, I know it was no accident at all. I feel as though I am exactly where I am supposed to be and I am passionate about helping others follow their dreams as well.