In January, five weeks into my 2018 sabbatical, I started working with a business coach, Jason Shine of Real Smart Consulting. With his help, I was hoping to put some structure around the exploration I was embarking on. I was looking for clarity on what I wanted to do next, professionally.
One of the first questions Jason asked me was:
“Caroline, do you have a Website?”
An embarrassing moment.
I’ve been working on websites and other often state-of-the-art digital products for employers and clients literally my entire 20-year career, yet I didn’t have one of my own. Shame. I knew the answer was not what it needed to be.
“You need a website”, he said.
It’s not like I had never thought about it. In fact, I knew exactly what I wanted to the website to be: I needed a digital place, other than LinkedIn, where the year before, I had started to publish content, to do just that: support the exploration I was embarking on.
As he almost always asks: “Ok, by when?”.
Now a confession: I had no idea how to actually make a website. Another embarrassing moment.
Sure, I could create content, I knew how I wanted it to be organized, I had a vision for what I wanted it to look like, but I had actually no idea how to build it. In my professional digital role, I always had orchestrated all of these activities (and usually of much more complex scope than this site would be) at a strategic level, relying on first-class teams of experts to execute.
Now, I was on my own.
“I don’t know, I need to do some research… A couple weeks?”, I replied.
“Come on, it’s easy. How about by next week?”, Jason proposed.
The challenge had been issued. I took him up on it. How hard could it be? Away from the craze of my recently paused work life, I finally had time. And it was time.
I met Jason’s challenge: when we met the following week, I had launched a basic WordPress site. It was nothing pretty, but it was done. I had started something.
Before I could realize my vision for the site, I knew I needed content. I was headed on a 6-week trip to Mexico then Europe where I committed to write about every worthwhile experience. As if I had actually planned it like that…
thevoicescollection.com was born.
At my fitness retreat in Mexico, I met Rachel Holt of Reach_Creative. A young Upstate New York entrepreneur, Rachel is a graphic designer, web developer, social media guru and an exceptional photographer. We hit it off right away. We talked about her business, her passions, her goals, and her dreams. We also unpacked some of the challenges and obstacles she faces in building her business. I shared some of my experiences in corporate America. And I shared my initial vision for THE VOICES. When the week was over, at Cancun International Airport, we committed to helping each other out. What we didn’t know then was that we had planted seeds for what would later become a business partnership.
We met via video conference every other week or so at first. A Thursday afternoon from my hotel in Vienna. A Friday afternoon from my AirBnb in Paris. By the time I got back from Europe, we were meeting weekly. We discussed topics like time management, prioritization, crucial business development activities, investing in her business, all the things. We wrote. And we worked on THE VOICES.
While I somewhat played the role of mentor in this relationship, in retrospect, I am not surprised that my relationship with Rachel played an instrumental role in helping me define some of what I had been looking for when I started working with Jason: her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to success as her own boss was not only inspiring, it was also contagious.
Together, we implemented my vision for thevoicescollection.com into what readers see today. I am extremely proud of this demonstration of our collaboration with and support for each other. And bonus, the project ended up being a practice run for our ability to create together in the future.
Now, I am not alone.