Carole Lola: The Beginning Of
I’ve been reflecting a lot on my business these past six months, uncovering my why’s and my vision. How did I get here and why do I what I do? I thought I’d unpack a little bit of my background and share with you how Carole Lola started in the first place.
I never intended to start my own business. At least, not really.
I’ve worked many different jobs in the past, each one lacking in some way, and each leaving me bored, unmotivated, over-stressed, or a combination of thereof. While they weren’t all bad, they were…unexceptional. I found it hard to settle for something that was “just another job.” I needed something more in my work. I was looking for something that would challenge me, and ignite some kind of passion and purpose in me.
Whenever I started feeling stuck in a job, I would think back to a conversation I had in my senior year of high school. A family member had asked me what I’d like to do in the future, career-wise. I listed off some options I had thought of at the time. And I remember vaguely adding in as an afterthought that it would be cool to start a small business someday. (I had no idea what I’d do as a business, but it seemed like a cool, adult, creative thing to say.) Anyway, that family member shot down my business idea real quick. Basically, they said that it would be too hard for me, I didn’t have what it took, and that even if I tried, I wouldn’t succeed. And I remember feeling a slight twinge rise up in me, thinking “Just you wait, you’ll see.” (For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a teensy rebellious streak in me. Yup, I’m one of those people where if you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll try it anyway, mostly just to succeed and prove that I can actually do it, thank you very much.)
I didn’t think too much of the conversation after that, but it would come to mind every now and then while I was in college. I even ended up taking a few entrepreneurship classes at my local community college. But I still didn’t have any good business ideas so it stayed dormant until my mid-20s.
In my early 20s, I discovered the art of modern calligraphy. (Traditional calligraphy never appealed to me and I didn’t know that you could put your own twist on traditional styles!) Friends encouraged me to start creating hand-lettered items and to sell on Etsy. So I did. And trust me, my beginnings were not so glamorous. I hardly knew what I was doing, creation-wise, and I definitely didn’t know what I was doing, business-wise. I knew ZERO small business owners at the time (thank God I’ve made some friends in recent years!) and I didn’t have anyone I could talk about my business with.
I struggled A TON. I kept straddling the line between business and hobby and couldn’t find a way to move forward. Mostly because I didn’t even know what I wanted out of it. Did I just want a way to make some extra money on the side? Or did I want to start a for real business? I also didn’t know how to even run a business. It was hard to keep it going, especially since I was also working a full time job that took up a lot of my emotional and mental energy. My creativity was lacking and I fell into this slump. I thought that maybe that person was right. I didn’t have what it took.
At the time, I was also going through a huge identity/quarter-life crisis. (Yes, quarter life crises are definitely a thing.) I ended up quitting my job and leaving everything behind to move to a small town in northern California to attend ministry school. Being there changed my life in the best way possible. I grew spiritually, emotionally, and creatively, and it completely changed the way that I saw myself. As I grew in my relationship with God, I also started to grow in my confidence and recognize my self-worth. I started to uncover vision and purpose for my life. As it turns out, taking care of myself during that season was the most important thing I could be focusing on. I’m a firm believer that it’s going to be damn hard to truly rock at anything else in your life when you don’t know what’s going on with YOU. You can put on a show all you want and make the world believe that you’ve got it all together, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to know who you are and whose you are. When I started taking the time to get to know myself, to understand myself, and to work through my mess, I learned so much about myself. Self-discovery is a lifelong process, but so very necessary. (I have a ton to say on this subject so I might save it for another post someday!)
At ministry school, surrounded by people who knew how to champion me and encourage me (in all areas of life), I felt like I was finally growing into myself, understanding who I was and who God created me to be. Creativity and entrepreneurship were two things that stood out to me during my time there (among many other things), and I started to put more thought again into my calligraphy. Since then, I’ve decided to invest in my business and most importantly, myself. Being able to have a job that allows me to do something I enjoy and love just feels like...me. I couldn't imagine it any other way. So I thought it was only appropriate to give myself a chance at this.
As a disclaimer, I haven’t “made it” by any means. And to be totally transparent, I’m still working other jobs to make sure I'm able to make ends meet. But I’ve come such a long way. Beyond constantly improving my calligraphy style to create something that is uniquely me, I’ve had to learn about: marketing, legal, accounting, social media platforms, packaging, delivery services, website design, photography, email lists, content strategy, and so much more. While it’s been incredibly difficult, and there’s moments where I just want to give up altogether, it’s also been the most worthwhile career I’ve ever pursued.
No one ever tells you what being a small business owner will be like. Mostly because there is no one right or wrong path. The path you’ll go on is yours alone, and will be unlike anyone else’s. It’ll possibly be the hardest thing you’ve ever taken on, but it’s also entirely up to you to decide whether it’s worth it.
Believing in myself and learning to take ownership were some of my first steps forward. In my next post, I’ll be sharing on these topics and a few others that helped shift my perspective on my business. Whether you're pursuing a dream in your heart or you're just trying to get through life, know that it's possible and within reach. It might not look like what you imagined, but you'll get there in the end.
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