Meg | From International Tax to Startup CEO
By Kayla Clements
My East Coast drive and education is mixed with time spent in both the Midwest and in Texas. I grew up in Massachusetts where I studied Economics and Philosophy and later on my MBA in accounting. I started my career in residential real estate in Austin, spent seven years as a Certified Public Accountant working in the field of international tax endowment and my last role was at Harvard's endowment working on the international tax strategy of their natural resources portfolio. I chose a fairly stable and straightforward career path. I was afraid of the unknown, of not knowing what the next step was supposed to be. Until one day, when I was bored with the known and felt held back by the stable. Taking a leap was my way of saving myself from mediocrity. I knew I not only COULD do more, but was MEANT to do more.
5 THINGS ABOUT
DREAMER | FEMINIST | CHILDREN'S BOOK AUTHOR | PILOT-IN-TRAINING | COOKIE MONSTER
LEAP OF FAITH
I left my career for two reasons – 1) I didn’t feel challenged anymore and 2) I wasn’t having a big enough impact in the world. I knew that I could do more, for more people, in a way that was more impactful. Although this change had been brewing for nearly two years, once I made the decision to leave and start my own company, it all happened in the course of just a few weeks. The trigger for me was when, due to overall organizational changes, my boss changed my role. The new role was not one that I was interested in, and I realized that this was my big moment, my “fork in the road”. I wasn’t “ready” to make the leap – I hadn’t prepared financially or emotionally, but I woke up one morning and knew that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing any longer, and so I left.
ONE FOR WOMEN
I am thrilled to say that I am now the Co-Founder and CEO of One For Women, a Boston-based mission-driven company focused on connecting each other and empowering women-owned businesses. We offer gifts for the “small” moments in life – job promotions, breakups, etc.; 100% of our products come from women-owned businesses and a portion of our proceeds go back to non-profit organizations that support women’s empowerment and advancement. Our philosophy is simple: one small gesture can have one big impact.
When I put in my notice, I had no idea what I was going to do next – I considered interviewing for other jobs in my field or even leaving tax and joining a startup in a more operational role. Those options felt too easy, though, and I realized that this was my chance to take a big risk, if I ever was going to. A few days after I put in my notice, I came up with the idea of a gift company that offered affordable gestures so that women could send gifts for the small moments in life, not just the big ones. Over the course of a few weeks, that idea grew into a way to empower and support women in business, and that’s really when One For Women was born. By the time my last day at my job rolled around, I had a pretty good idea what I was going to do. My last day was on a Friday and I incorporated my company only two days later, that Sunday.
I was lucky enough that when I left my job, I had a bit of a cushion for a few months and my husband was able to support me. My company is pre-launch (read: pre-revenue), so we’re not making any money right now and we are putting all our expenses on 0% credit cards to manage our cash flow. While we expect to be able to pay off the expenses we’ve incurred once we launch, realistically it will be two-three years at least before I can take a salary that matches the kind of money I was making before. Founding a startup is a big risk and even if you can minimize expenses (which is key!) it still takes a while to get the money flowing. Creating a startup is not about easy, quick money; it’s about big dreams and making a long-term investment.
THE TOUGH TIMES
• Starting a startup is a lonely road. I make sure to leave the house and have at least one conversation (with anyone!) every day.
• Constant self-doubt – Am I good enough? What if I fail? This feeling never goes away, but believing in myself and keeping a catalogue of my achievements (no matter how small) is a good way for me to push through the doubt.
• In a new business, every day has ups and downs. For me, surviving the early days is all about realizing no day is going to be solely a “good day” or a “bad day” – every day will be a little of both, so I must own the moments.
5 INSIDER TIPS
There is value in having a plan. But sometimes, especially with the big things in life, you can’t plan too much – at some point, you just have to believe in yourself and go for it.
Reading other people’s stories can be inspiring but I think the best way to keep your strength and persevere is to imagine your own story – years from now. Believe in the dream that you are working towards, and use that as the fuel for your fire.
It’s really scary to take a chance. If the dream is worth the risks, stop worrying – you’ll figure it out. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in this process is that taking a leap of faith is the hardest thing you will ever do and you need to embrace all of it – the good days, the bad days, the tears, the sweat and pain, the stumbles. Know that it’s all a part of the process and everyone who came before (and survived) went through this.
If I could say anything to someone about to go through this, I would say this: you will get through this. Tell your fear to shove it and fake it until you make it, but one day, the confidence will come and everything will fall into place.
"Nearly all the time, there will be a tomorrow. What’s the worst that could happen if you take a chance today? Look fear in the eye, give it a wink, and just go for it."
WRITTEN BY KAYLA CLEMENTS
Kayla is the founder/creative director of Una Volta Studio, a creative consulting and design studio that specializes in working with fine artists, commercial photographers, and stylists. She is the author of ‘Daytripper: 60 Days on the Road Exploring America’s National Parks’ - a woman-written, thoughtfully-designed coffee table book inspired by 60 days of #vanlife. She lives between Brooklyn, NY and San Diego, CA.