Unemployable: 5 Realizations from my entrepreneurial journey

Chris Beyer photo credit

Chris Beyer photo creditContributed by Lauren Messiah, former president of EO Los Angeles, and the founder and CEO of Lauren Messiah Inc. She currently serves EO as president of EO OneWorld, a virtual membership platform with the goal of creating a more socially conscious, culturally diverse and inclusive experience for all EO members. Because a diverse EO is a strong EO. Lauren shared the following realizations from her entrepreneurial journey:

(Photo credit: Chris Beyer)

There is a moment in every entrepreneur’s life when you realize you are “unemployable.” Not due to a lack of intelligence, but because we’re like wild horses that can’t be tamed. We have to go off on our own and do our own thing; it’s the only way for us to thrive.

My unemployable moment arrived in 2004. After graduating college with a degree in fashion design—it was always my dream to work in fashion—I experienced the rudest of awakenings: Earning a degree did not guarantee a job in your industry.

That was news to me. I thought if I did the time, got good grades, and graduated, I’d have my pick of the litter when it came to employment. Not so. I ended up working retail at the mall where I shopped as a teenager. 

I was not living the dream.

In a desperate attempt to live out my dream, I got a job as a “stylist,” aka a sales associate at the Betsey Johnson boutique. My job was to get women to buy clothes. The problem was, I was a wild horse! If an outfit didn’t look good on a customer, I’d send her to another store. I was more concerned with making sure women looked good and felt confident.

Needless to say, I wasn’t hitting my sales numbers. I was miserable and embarrassed. I had dreamt of being successful since I was a little girl, and here I was choking at a retail job.

That moment in my career, which felt so dark at the time, turned out to be the spark that ignited my entrepreneurial journey.

One of my customers suggested I leave retail to make some “real money.” I desperately wanted to move out of my parents’ house, so I took her advice. I got a series of jobs in tech, both with big companies and small startups.

I was making good money, but that “unemployable” thing kept creeping back in. Why did it take so long for other people to take an idea and turn it into a reality? This drove me crazy, so I set out on my entrepreneurial journey in 2009 with no savings and no plan. I was determined to make real money without abandoning my dream of working in fashion and helping women find confidence.

My first business was a fashion school for aspiring stylists. I muscled my way to the US$350,000 in annual revenue mark, and then I discovered EO AcceleratorWithin 2.5 years, I reached the US$1 million dollar mark and joined EO.

I started a second company which enabled me to live out my dream. Today, I help women find confidence, style and success through online courses, coaching and books. This is all thanks to EO: Having a community of people who “get it” changed the game for me.

Here are the five biggest lessons I’ve learned along my entrepreneurial journey:

  1. You don’t have to do it alone. Entrepreneurship was a lonely place. I swore I had to play every role, wear every hat, and deal with every issue on my own—until I found EO. Being part of a community of like-minded, driven and thoughtful people took the loneliness out of the equation.
  2. Nobody else knows what they’re doing either! I was so intimidated when I first joined EO. Imposter syndrome was in full swing. I thought I was the only business owner who hadn’t gone to business school, the only one who didn’t know what to do when X,Y or Z happened. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one. We’re all figuring things out as we go; that’s the beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur.
  3. Always come from a place of service. I let money drive me for years. It felt like pushing a boulder uphill. Things shifted when I moved the money metric down on the priority list and focused on being of maximum service to my customers. Money flowed more easily, I enjoyed my work more, and I also had time to enjoy life.
  4. It’s okay to change your mind. Do you how many times I’ve changed my mind in business? About 100. It drives my employees crazy, but building something new and innovative requires a fluid mind.
  5. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Anyone who tells you working for yourself is easy is lying! Entrepreneurship isn’t just about not having a boss, having flexible hours and money to burn. It is hard work, but I love what I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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