Photo taken by @corinnelouiephoto in partnership with The Style Theory

Here’s What Happened When I Left My Corporate Job to Pursue My Dream of Starting My Own Business

I didn’t know if it was the right time for me to leave my job, I just knew I wanted to have something of my own.

Before launching my line in February 2015, I worked full time as a brand manager in the fashion industry while building my own brand on the side for about ten months. Those ten months were really hard at the time, but nothing compared to what it’s like to actually run the day to day of a small business. Once I actually had inventory to sell, I finally mustered up the courage to resign from my cushy job. It was really freaking scary! But, I just kept telling myself, ‘If this doesn’t work, I can always get another job.’

The first pop up shop I ever did was less than a week after I quit my day job and boy was I in for a treat. I arrived at the event with a giant suitcase overflowing with brand new inventory. I think over the three days I participated in the event I sold 2 or 3 pieces — I thought my line was a total failure! The weeks after that are a bit of a blur. I had a plan when I launched my line, but it was my first business venture ever and I really had no clue how to write a business plan and plan/project my finances. And marketing my business? Forget it, I had ZERO marketing experience. I felt very isolated in the beginning, sitting at my computer, waiting for emails to come in and wondering why I wasn’t getting any website traffic. Well, DUH, can’t just put a website up and expect people to know it’s there! Let’s just say, over the past two and a half years I have learned a lot and now I wish my emails would stop coming in! Well not all the time (insert wink emoji).

After I realized that growing my brand solely online was most likely not going to work, I leveraged my experience working on the manufacturing and wholesale side of things. I was determined to get things going and after about 6 months of reaching out to stores, I finally got my first wholesale order from Barefoot Athleisure, a boutique in Spring Lake, NJ. Again, I went there with a suitcase filled with samples and presented my line. I left feeling pretty good and a few hours later I received an email for my first store order! The feeling of making one little step forward was amazing. But that’s really what it’s all about. It’s a lot of baby steps, over and over. After each accomplishment, it’s on to the next. It’s a constant hustle and to be honest, sometimes I want to throw my hands in the air and give up, but the reward of having something that is yours is far greater than the obstacles you have to overcome.

I remember very clearly, when I told my father I wanted to start a business he was spitting off a whole list of cons: ‘You always have to work, you’re alone, you don’t have benefits, it’s very hard, how will you make money?’ I’m extremely stubborn, so he pretty much just made me want to prove him wrong. I now realize (and have experienced) all of his concerns.

Full disclosure, I didn’t know if it was the right time for me to leave my job to pursue my dream of starting my own business. I just knew that I always wanted to have something of my own someday, even though I didn’t know exactly what it would be. I’m so glad I took the leap and even more grateful for all of the support from my family and friends.

You may be wondering where I’m at with my business now? It’s evolved quite a bit, it takes hard work, long days, sometimes tears, but it’s mine and that feels so good. I’ve expanded my assortment from loungewear to an athleisure lifestyle collection. I’ve figured out how to navigate social media (phew!), it really is such a powerful networking tool and I sell to over 30 boutiques and fitness studios as well as direct to consumer on my website and at pop up shops. Did I make it? Heck no! I’m not even close, but I’m willing to keep going on this crazy roller coaster ride. One thing this experience has taught me is, connecting with people on all levels — business, personal and emotional is so important. One of my favorite parts of having my own business is all of the amazing women I get to meet, whether it be the owner of a store, a fellow entrepreneur that I’m collaborating with or a direct customer. I would have never had the opportunity to make such meaningful connections with so many other women had I continued to work a safe 9–5 job, and that makes all my hard work worth it.

Alexis Mera Damen is the Founder of Alexis Mera, a women’s activewear line that is made in New York City. Her mission is to empower women to feel happy, healthy and beautiful in their own skin. Find Alexis on social media @alexismdamen and her clothing line @alexismeranyc.

Decision Making, Inspiration, Motivation, Weekly Prompt

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Originally published at www.thriveglobal.com.