What Got Me Here Won't Get Me There: How I Started My Journey As An Entrepreneur


I'm a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, an employed entrepreneur.

These are just general overviews of my journey.

I can honestly say, now, after some review, I owe my interest in interior design to my mom who loved to dress up my childhood apartment in the Bronx, NY. There were throw pillows on the Black leather 90’s frumpy sofa set plus artificial floral arrangements on the round glass drum side table and matching coffee table. Her bed was set with tons of pillows (4 standard and 2 to 4 throw pillows to be exact), a comforter and sheet set and drapes on the windows with sheer fabric decoratively strewn along the curtain rod.

I've always considered myself to be creative and my parents made sure to encourage me to embrace my talent early on. As an adult, I'm learning how to use my talent to be successful in business, a path I knew I wanted to travel down, but this is not at all how I planned to get here.

Honestly, the way I stumbled into selecting interior design as my major is a bit random. Ever heard of College Board? In high school, we all had time in the college adviser office and they would give out pamphlets from colleges and how to apply to them. College Board allowed us to register for the SAT's and check our scores and it allowed us to take a major quiz. That's how I found out about interior design and what it really was since I got it as my answer from the quiz. It made so much sense to major in interior design. It combined problem-solving (which I loved), using my creative and artistic ability (I was majoring in graphic design and illustration in high school, which I also loved) and I was excited to learn more of the ins and outs. Imagining and creating and designing were all things I wanted to be able to do for a living. I almost majored in graphic design, but decided against it because College Board said graphic designers only made about $32,000 on average. I know that's not necessarily true now, but back then, that was a selling point for me; making a comfortable living where money wasn't an issue.

Many people asked me what interior design was when they asked me what I was majoring in. Neither of my parents are creatives but they knew if it was what made me happy and I was good at it then I should pursue it.

There weren't many schools close by that had interior design as a major. FIT, SUNY Buffalo, and the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) all had it as a major. I decided not to apply to SUNY Buffalo because I don't like the cold AT ALL. I did apply to attend FIT and did not get accept and applied to NYSID as well. I didn't get accepted to the NYSID for the fall semester, but was accepted for the Spring. When I received notice of this, I decided not to pursue it only because I started making friends on Facebook for the school I did get accepted to, the University of Bridgeport which is located about 50 miles from my home borough. I didn't really want to stay at home for school and I didn't want to be too far away either. Bridgeport was a good medium distance.

I graduated college a year late in 2014 due to failing a class and having to retake it plus I changed to part-time status for a semester. It was a huge turning point in my school career because I almost decided to leave school for a semester to work full-time to make more money while I was living with my ex-boyfriend. As life would have it, we broke up right at the beginning of that semester and I moved out. Thankfully, I was still enrolled in school so, I didn’t have to worry about starting to pay loans and I didn’t have to look very long for a place to stay. I found a place within two weeks with an acquaintance-turned-friend and a few other kids that went to my college.

Bonus: I met my husband through my old roommates and the rest is history.

Quick Rewind:

Background: I'd moved into my new place with my roommates and met my husband back in 2012 and started working at H&M while going to school in 2012.

In 2014, about a month before graduation, I found out I was pregnant with my son. How fun it was to feel nauseous the week before finals week... I remember eating a bagel with cream cheese while doing my paper in the library because that’s all I could stomach to eat. What I thought to be my path after college shifted to a whole new path before my eyes.

I dreamt of interning at big interior design firms but I focused more on being employed at my job at H&M instead of focusing and prioritizing my studies. I didn’t apply myself as much as I was capable of doing. I was able to take 6 classes freshman year and did okay and could have done even better if I applied myself, took extra time to study and became more organized. I almost applied to be apart of a program specifically for success in freshman year, but decided against it because college = freedom, amiright?

Post graduation, I thought I must have chosen the wrong major and should have chosen graphic design because I could work for myself. I had a hard time finding work after college since I had an average of 2.75 in college and no industry experience.

I decided to take some action to try to get my career going another way. While at H&M, I showed interest in becoming a visual merchandiser so I could be creative and, hopefully, move up the ladder to become a store planner. Every time I saw the job posting for store planner pop up on Indeed or on H&M’s "careers" website, I’d read it over and over again to see what I would need to move up to this position. I’d need to have interior design experience and having experience at H&M in another position was recommended as well. I was excited because at this time, I was with the company for four years already and I expressed wanting to move into this position during my mid-year and annual reviews to my department manager and store manager. They all encourage me to be more of a leader and to make my voice heard. I never shy away from feedback/ criticism but they encouraged me to give others feedback and hold my coworkers accountable.

When I went on maternity leave, I was lucky to have stayed home with my son for three, almost four months due to FMLA, vacation time and short term disability. Money was tight, but we made it work. I decided to apply to some jobs and work on re-working my portfolio from school in hopes of landing a job at a firm. I actually got an interview at an interior design firm in Fairfield. The interview went ok but I was upfront and honest about being on maternity leave (I'm not very good at lying...). Honestly, I was worried about not being able to continue my breastfeeding journey due to the office environment, but I just wanted to get work experience and working with a firm was the way you were supposed to go to make it in the industry.

I didn't get the job, but the job became available a second time later in the year and I interviewed again. I still didn't get it, but maybe it was meant to be. I just may not have been a great fit and that's okay. I still follow the firm on social media and I'm happy they are still very much successful.

"A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to work and passed by a Free People store in the process of opening up and it kind of made me think, “what if?” What if I had passed the interview and was offered the position to become a visual merchandiser and was sent out for training? What if I passed and was a visual merchandiser now, in a new store? "

-Me in 2017.

I did still wonder at times what life would have looked like if I became a visual merchandiser at H&M, my old employer, but I knew I had to trust that things happened for a reason.

When I returned from maternity leave, I was determined to move up to the visual merchandiser position. I took the initiative to pick a department that would be mine to focus on for the store changes and then management used me along with a co-worker of mine to help make changes throughout the store. I thought, "Finally, I can start my career!"

I interviewed at a store that had an opening for a visual merchandiser. I had worked at this particular store earlier in the year as support for their grand opening. I was so excited and I felt like the interview went well.

When I didn’t get a call back, I was fine, I just continued my search for a new job. But then I was told by my store manager why I didn’t get the promotion since it was internal. That news hit me in the gut. I went into depression for not landing the job, for feeling stuck in a position (sales advisor) and I knew it was not doing me any good to continue on in that position, especially after how my spirit was crushed. Those few weeks after I found out why I didn’t land the job were hard. I was trying to put it past me, but it got so overwhelming, the feelings of inadequacy. I worked hard to get the job, I showed I was ready, but all because I said one thing wrong, I was denied the chance to be promoted. I was too honest, again. I told them I wanted to move up into the store planner position, but I would have to leave to gain experience and come back. Again, this was stated in my mid-year and annual reviews what my plans were.

I was lost. I had no idea what to do. I wasn’t myself.

I cut my hair, not trim. I cut about 6 inches of it off and I felt so relieved after I did it. I needed a change desperately and that was one way to get it immediately. I was shocked that I did it. I knew I needed a haircut in general, but I never intended on being the one with the scissors. A weight was lifted from me, figuratively and physically.

I cried, but it was a cry of relief. I felt healing happening.

"Change came a few weeks after when I landed my current job. I’m learning new things, I have time with my family now that I don’t have to work late nights. I’m still feeling determined to keep going. To get where I want to be. It’s coming." - March 2017

What is interesting is now, as I am finishing this post, I am at a pivotal point in my life, again. I started writing this in September and finished up this month (December).

2018 has been a year where things have been torn apart to then be pieced back together again. In the beginning of 2018, I almost lost my mom to diabetes. The way the events unfolded just really knocked me on my ass after being as strong as I could be as I stayed by her side. In 2017, I had two nervous breakdowns and in 2018, I experienced panic attacks from built-up anxiety from the near-death experience with my mom. This moment in my life pushed me to not take my future career and life for granted.

I'll tell more about it in my 2018 recap because I think this pivotal point in my life will be worth explaining. 2019 for me is so mysterious because of the known changes that have to be made but the outcomes are not a given. I almost feel like I can't plan too far ahead yet, but I will try anyway.

My 2018 recap post will be published on the last day of the year.

I wonder what the rest of this month will hold for me.

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Also, you can follow me on Instagram at: sheyna_james to see what I'm up to and for inspiration!

Thanks for reading.

#personal #life #reflect #journey #family #havenly #profession #newyork #growth #mommyhood #adulthood #work #artanddesign #grateful

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