Photo By Robert Anthony

First thing’s first, you just have to start.

Maybe you don’t know what your dream career looks like or maybe you have an idea but are scared to work towards it. I’ve been down those roads before and I’m here to tell you that you can pursue your dreams without going back to school or quitting your full-time job as that’s exactly what I did.

Throughout high school, college and graduate school, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I received my master’s degree in urban planning three years ago and was offered a full time position at a transportation planning organization.

At the time, I was a newlywed, became a homeowner, and had a stable career with great benefits. What more could I possibly want?

Several months into my new career, I had a gnawing feeling that planning wasn’t truly what I was called to do. I had the same feeling during graduate school, but chose to ignore it because I was scared of quitting. However, during that time I started focusing on things I liked doing, like reading fashion blogs and sewing, to fulfill my creativity outside of work. I hoped to get the best of both worlds- a stable income and a fulfilling hobby.

Reading fashion blogs led to starting my own and researching the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. Disappointed by what I found, I publicly pledged to give up fast fashion and my blog became a sustainable hub for conscious living.

I felt happier at work because I had a creative outlet, but the gnawing feeling didn’t go away. I knew that I wanted ethical fashion to be more than just a hobby, but didn’t know where to start.

After brainstorming possible ethical fashion careers, I kept thinking about the first idea I wrote down—start a clothing line.

Once I took time to digest what that meant, I started reaching out to prominent individuals in the ethical fashion space. I didn’t tell them about my idea (I was terrified to say it aloud), but I just wanted to pick their brains about sustainable fashion.

From my experience, the first step in pursuing your dreams is to talk to anyone and everyone who will listen and answer your questions. It is important to start making connections because they will be the first to tell you of any opportunities or will introduce you to someone who can. 

Experience comes from the relationships you create and the opportunities that arise because of those connections.

Needless to say, I reached out to Shannon Whitehead, founder of Factory45, and asked to be her intern. I already had a full-time job, but I needed to get my foot in the door because I didn’t have previous experience in clothing manufacturing. I interned for 3 months before emailing Shannon my idea of starting a clothing line. She was completely surprised I hadn’t mentioned it before, but I needed to get my foot in the door to feel confident enough to approach her about my idea. Looking back, I probably didn’t have to be her intern, but I felt like it was the “experience” I needed to validate my dream.

Fast forward one year…and I’ve launched my first collection on Kickstarter. I’ve been working on this dream slowly with the help of the Factory45 program and my full-time job because without either, I couldn’t have been able to pursue my dreams. Just last week, I quit my job so that I could dedicate everything to Sotela. To that point, I recommend having a stable job while nurturing your creativity because you aren’t pressuring it to generate income.

If you found yourself nodding and agreeing with my story, ask yourself this, “Am I happy and fulfilled?” If the answer is, “no,” start looking into the things that make you happy and talk to the right people. Previous experience is overrated. All you need is passion, a supportive network of people, and some drive to pursue your dreams.

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