The other day Kyeli asked “How in the world did you go from making yarn to talking about marketing?

Even though I hear this all the time from my college friends (How did a French major end up writing a book about marketing a craft business?), for some reason Kyeli's question really grabbed me.

Our afternoon drive through the clouds (and mountains)

How did I end up here?

Since I first realized I was going to eventually grow up and move out (at about age 15), I've been unflinchingly focused on the near future. What do I want next year to be like? What can I do now to be ready for that? What classes can I take in high school to prepare me for college (heck, I started attending the community college while still in high school)? Where's this job going to lead? What's next?

With all this focus on the future, I don't spend much time thinking about the past. I'm not into nostalgia. I'd rather feel hope for the future, than nostalgia for the past.  I'd rather you tell me what you're going to do than what you have done.

But sometimes that means that I jump into the next thing, without explaining (or even thinking about) what led here. I focus on what I'm doing now, not all the stuff in my past that qualifies me to do what I do (I'm not a fan of qualifications – can you do it? Do it!).

But there are so many lessons I learned in my past jobs and experiences – lessons that I bring to the Starship + Explorations – that I don't want to forget.

My about page gives the short version of this path to full-time business-runnin + lovin, but the full story has many more twists in turn.

There's my first job, in my extended family's business (I stuffed envelopes from age 12, and made a $12/hour.)

Then the college job at the scrapbook store, where I grilled the owner for details on how she started her business.

My first post-college job, at a paint-your-own-pottery studio, where I became the manager in 3 months and ran the whole operation for more than 2 years.

Then the yarn store I first sold my yarn to (and began to help manage).

And finally, the total shock of moving away from both of those management jobs, to a small town in East Tennessee where I realized NO ONE would hire a French major with two years of small business managing to do anything interesting. I temped all around the local college campus: in a basement Accounts Payable office, a fancy (and so so strict) fundraising office, and finally landed as a Executive Aide, responsible for maintaining a department website and recording, editing, and introducing podcasts to the local medical education community.

All the while, of course, I was slaving away nights and weekends on my escape plan.

There were moments of deep depression, of unbelieving frustration (I graduated with honors! I paid for my entire education with scholarships! I hired and fired people!… And now I'm maintaining your CALENDAR?!) and the kind of I must work for myself resolve that comes from  realizing that relying on someone else for a paycheck will always, always leave you underpaid and underappreciated.

And of course, after working for myself, and answering other people's small biz questions, I gathered even more experiences, stories and lessons. As a First Officer, I've worked in creative businesses both large and small, as a community manager, a copywriter, an Idea Partner, a teacher, a mentor. I've crafted plans that have worked, and those that have sputtered. I've marketed products that have sold out in a day, and those that never hit it big.

It was all these experiences, these bosses, and this on-the-job learning that got me here. To the place where I'm about to publish my first book. To the moment that I'm about to turn 30 and am realizing I really love what I do.

Over the next few posts, I'm going to take a break from my future-staring and share what I learned from each of those jobs, the lessons I learned about running a small business, becoming clear about what you offer, and eventually marketing your work. I'll also be asking questions of you – what did you learn in past jobs?

How can you take your experience in an unrelated field and apply it to what you're doing today?

2 Comments on The making of an entrepreneur

  1. Kerry
    April 12, 2012 at 8:45 pm (10 years ago)

    You are a superstar Tara! Thanks for sharing this little glimpse of you. Something I have noticed between jobs is the cross over of positive thinking between yoga people and handmade people. It amazes me and I enjoy being surrounded by such positive people!

  2. Tara Swiger
    April 13, 2012 at 9:33 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks Kerry!
    And that crossover makes sense. If yoga’s all about mindfulness through the body, I can think of nothing more fitting than making something, slowly, with your own two hands.
    I’d love to hear your How I Got Here story!