May 18, 2019
I'm five years into my life as an entrepreneur. Here's the story of a scientist turned multi-hyphenate of a sort.
With my freshly minted Bachelors degree in Biology, I started things off in 2000 with an internship at a gorgeous botanical garden in Massachusetts, working with a horticulturalist to propagate and manage native plants. I loved driving the bobcat, using the backhoe to turn compost, gathering and sorting seeds for their native plant collections, helping customers find ideal plants for their gardening needs, and learning about native plants and the garden's various nature conservation projects.
In 2001, I began my professional career as a scientist in Maryland, working in a molecular biology research laboratory on chocolate tree DNA projects. There was a lot of chocolate consumed during those years, though my actual work was with leaves and test tubes. In 2004, I switched gear and began working as a multidisciplinary scientist in a small company offering forensic science R&D products. I really enjoyed the challenges given to me during these years, and obtained a Masters degree in Geospatial Sciences while working there. There was lots of map making, report writing, and analyzing data from many different fields during my time there.
A few years post recession, my employer's funding opportunities decreased, and they began laying off us scientists. I found myself unemployed and pregnant with my second child in 2011, entering a new phase of "what the heck am I going to do for work?!?" Fortunately, our family was able to continue on with my husband's salary, and so I became a stay at home mom. Losing my job was a blessing, I suppose, because it gave me the opportunity to be present with my daughters during their youngest years and not worry about finding suitable childcare while working. However, this was never an aspiration of mine, to be out of the workforce and spending 24/7 with my children! I grew to appreciate this special time, but always felt an itch to be learning and growing.
In 2013 when my youngest was two, I decided to sign up for an introduction to watercolor painting class at a local rec center. It was frustrating AND inspiring! I love a good challenge, though, and put forth a lot of effort into learning the basics of watercolors. This led me to take a variety of courses at a nearby art school, which gave me the opportunity to get out of the house and have a new creative outlet. Slowly but steadily, I gained confidence and skills, and considered that maybe I might NOT head back into a traditional career path.
I began offering made-to-order personalized watercolor paintings for sale in late 2015, focusing my Blue Jay Bay shop on the Etsy marketplace. This was a great way to dip my toes into the water of ecommerce and see what sorts of customers I could find. I have learned a lot about so many different topics, which really fulfills my analytical scientist nature! Copywriting, product photography, marketing, legally structuring a business, accounting, business taxes, sales taxes, web development, SEO, building a community, target market, social media, and on and on..... There is so much more to being an artist than just painting a nice picture!
My youngest child headed off to kindergarten in the fall of 2017. I relished the new-to-me long stretches of time where both of my kids were off learning at school! I spent lots of time fussing over my various art projects, and also got back into a regular reading habit. However, as winter came round, I realized that I was just plain NOT motivated to leave the house, and that this wasn't going to be the best for me over the long term. The idea of trying out being a dog walker materialized during this time, and I figured I would give it a go to see if I enjoyed it.
It turns out that I LOVED dog walking as a side hustle! I was motivated to get out of the house regardless of the weather (burrrrrrr, February), and it was so much fun meeting all these sweet dogs!
Given my entrepreneurial experience with setting up and managing Blue Jay Bay, I knew what I needed to do to create a dog walking business. I decided on a very literal name for my business -- Emily Walks Dogs -- and quickly was able to set up a website, obtain insurance and a business license, register as an LLC, etc to get everything legit and in order.
Fast forward to today: I generally spend the school day hours taking care of household tasks and going on dog walks. I'm there for my kids before and after school. I fit in time for my art business in the evenings and on weekends and school breaks. I'm rarely without a considerable list of things to accomplish, but I am feeling good about balancing home priorities and work obligations. One of my favorite things is to be out walking a dog and get a notice on my phone that an order has been placed on my art shop! It's a fun way to bring my two businesses together, and I'm often thinking about creative projects while walking the woofers.
Isn't everyone seeking out fulfillment, happiness, balance between work and life? I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I do feel a level of fulfillment with my present day entrepreneurial endeavors. The door is not closed to my previous scientist career track, but I'm really enjoying being self employed, working ON art and WITH dogs! The knowledge and skills I gained during my scientist years continue to be useful to me now, and I feel optimistic about where things are headed.
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