8 years ago I was an overworked and underpaid architect making $30,000 a year in NYC. I’d never taken a business class or read a personal development book.
Cut to now; I own a multi-million dollar ecommerce business BestSelf.co with a team of 10.
Here’s my journey
I started my first store as a side-hustle back in 2012. Selling graphic posters, t-shirts and random pop culture things I designed like these:
I didn’t do ads, so my sales were sporadic. When I would make a sale I’d think “hmm I wonder which blog shared my stuff?”
I decided to chart the history of the Batman logo once and it went kinda viral.
I didn’t know marketing or sales so everything was accidental.
It took me around 18 months to 4X my salary with my side hustles… but I was still unsure about quitting.
I was very insecure about business and thought as a designer/architect I was way behind. Before I quit I set myself a challenge to read 22 books to level up.
Every day on my commute (40 mins each way) I would read books on business, marketing, finance and mindset to prepare myself.
Then on the eve of my 26th birthday I finished the last book and I quit Architecture for good.
I was unemployed for the first time ever.
Over the next couple of years I eat, slept & drank everything personal development & business.
I read hundreds of books
Took all the courses (all aboard @TonyRobbins train)
Took even more action
Then I threw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what stuck.
I spent a few years exploring and trying different things:
I didn’t really love any of them but I gained skills from learning things like copywriting, writing, product design & packaging, positioning, light coding work.
FOUND MY TRIBE
Back when I was an architect I only hung out with architects (because we all worked insane hours)
When I started exploring entrepreneurship, I knew I needed to expand my network. I had to meet new people who were doing what I wanted to be doing!
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”
— This is not a cliche!
Who you surround yourself with can change everything.
When you look around you — are with people you respect and are doing the things you find interesting?
(If not, make a change.)
The great thing about the internet is you can find people online who are doing cool stuff!
— Cathryn (@cathrynlavery) May 14, 2021
At the same time I was creating good habits & rituals I became proactive instead of reactive… and things started working!
With personal mastery came business success. Coincidence? I think not
It was great. But also frustrating!
So many years wasted spinning my wheels…
Why don’t they teach us this stuff at school?
Why are we memorizing facts and useless knowledge (that we can google) over these simple but important life skills? We should be learning:
The idea for BestSelf.co came from wanting to teach others about these skills so they didn’t have to waste years like I did.
It was a passion project that I never expected would turn into a business…
But rather than start it alone I asked a new-ish friend to partner with me.
You see most entrepreneurs don’t have business problems. They have emotional problems disguised as business problems — and so I disguised my fear of putting myself out there with a business partner.
We launched BestSelf.co on @kickstarter in 2015. We funded 100% in 28 hours and went on to do over $322,000 in sales for the Self Journal.
Since then we launched more and more products.
The partnership worked for a little while until it didn’t … but more about that here:
Choosing a business partner could be the 2nd most important relationship you ever choose (after who you marry.)
I just got out of a 5-year partnership that had become toxic.
Here’s where I went wrong.
— Cathryn (@cathrynlavery) October 15, 2020
In 2019 we placed #318 on the Inc 500 list of fastest growing private businesses in America!
We did over $30M in sales from 2016-2020… without raising any money
But it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. I dealt with:
- Toxic partnership
- Hiring issues
- Inventory hostage situations
- Tight cash flow (struggled to make payroll)
… and so many other things that my trauma has me forgetting right now
I bought out my business partner in 2020 and am now 100% owner in BestSelf.co !
I wrote about that experience here and all the expensive mistakes I made here.
So if you ever struggle with imposter syndrome, just know that we’re all making it up as we go along. I’m still learning, growing and constantly needing to re-qualify to keep my job
And that’s how I went from $30,000 a year Architect to founder of BestSelf.co
Lots of people asking about specific books, here are my recommendations: