In April 2010, I found out about a competition to win your dream trip. It was being held by a new company in Vancouver. All you had to do was sell more ad space than anyone else and you’d win a trip to anywhere you wanted. Fortunately, I’d already found my trip. It was a four month learn-to-surf adventure throughout South Africa and Mozambique. Now all I had to do was win.
I interviewed for the sales competition and at the end of the interview was asked if I’d like to become the Chief Operating Officer instead and help run the company. On a whim, I said yes, quit my very secure job and said goodbye to regular paycheques and benefits. I went from working 37.5 hours/week (the bare minimum I had to do without getting fired) at the lab, to 90 hour weeks doing everything from sales and marketing to operations and logistics. It was an insane about of work but I loved it. I felt awake and alive and creative, like I was helping to build something that mattered, something bigger than myself, something that could help more people than I could ever do by myself.
Only, I wasn’t. After two months, the competition ended and the company fell apart. I left without a paycheque and put a significant dent in my self-esteem. I’d never signed a contract, so there was no legal obligation to pay me (rookie move). I’d also spent all my savings so I needed a new job fast (another rookie move). I decided I wanted to start my own PR firm, with no PR experience or really, any idea of how to sell my services to prospective clients (third rookie move). Instead, I got a job at the same bike store as my little brother and tried to not tell too many people that I had finished my degree, decided not to go into Physiotherapy (my original plan) and instead spent my weekends renting bikes to tourists and hoping not to see anyone I knew.
Fortunately, I had attended a CRAVE event a few weeks before quitting and met some amazing female entrepreneurs. They had so much swagger, owned successful businesses and lots of incredible shoes. I resembled a wilted flower in flats, but they seemed to think that I could run with them, so I started to think that maybe I could as well.
Then two wonderful people each shared something with me I will never forget. The first, one of my oldest friends said, “Katie, don’t sell yourself short. You’re amazing and you deserve the best in every aspect of your life.” The second, a new acquaintance that I desperately wanted to impress said, “Well, this is all your fault. What are you going to do about it?” The latter was a little harder to hear than the former, but both friends recognized something that I didn’t yet see in myself and have undoubtedly changed my life for the better.