In October 2008 I was laid off from a position of power, prestige and a very nice salary. About this time, four years ago, I was in Hong Kong, having breakfast and I was sitting next to an Olympian equestrian who was discussing the day’s events…my, how things change. Poised for a day at the garment factories, I was enjoying myself immensely and thinking how lucky I was to be in this wonderful position-travelling the world on someone else’s dime….and getting paid for what I loved doing – designing children’s apparel.
After getting over the initial shock of my position being eliminated, and then dealing with the emotional ups and downs, I decided to dust myself off, pick myself up and start all over again. I sent out a zillion resumes-resumes to companies I was perfectly suited for, but never heard back. I assumed I was too old and too expensive and gathered that they could hire three 24-year-olds for the salary I was pulling in….but of course the experience and work ethic I have is priceless. With no prospects in sight, mortgages and bills to pay, and unemployment not filling the bucket of debt, I decided to follow my life’s passion to work with animals. My thought was, if I’m going to be poor, I might as well enjoy what I’m doing.
In the early days, months and year, I sometimes pulled in $60 a week. Eventually, as my virgin marketing skills became finely tuned, I started to clone myself again and again and now have a team of 13 sitters working with Wisconsin Pet Care LLC. Thank goodness I came from a family of savers. My parents were children of the depression and taught me how to NEVER spend money. I lived my life in a happy balance. While I missed the ability to buy things whenever I wanted for myself, my husband, my animals, or the house, weekly manicures hurt the most. I finally understood the Wal Mart customer and didn’t just buy because it was there. It was easy for me to switch from Saks and Neiman’s to Goodwill because I didn’t have to impress anyone anymore nor did I have meetings to attend, and let’s face it – doing a meet and greet in a suit wouldn’t make a new customer feel comfortable about playing with their dog. I needed clothing I could get dirty, tear, stain and not worry about. I adjusted easily to my new life and don’t wish to return to a life of vast consumerism.
But another important thing changed for me. It was the way I viewed people who weren’t making 100K, like I was. It was the newly found friendships I formed in service industries – landscaping, roofing, plumbing, and how I once had once felt superior to the trades. Mind you, I have always respected everyone and everything, but somehow felt better than those who worked with their hands or their bodies…versus their brains. I began to trade customer service stories and found out – how do I say this…..those with the most are the most difficult. Those who have the most are the most frugal. Those who have the least-the waiters and waitresses and truck drivers…..are hands down the most generous. Those who live in the tiny neighborhoods with the biggest houses expect the most, are the least appreciative. And shame on me, I used to be one of them.
Losing my job and recreating me took a lot of work. But the biggest discovery was not only building a brand, a business, but building an open mind.