It’s 2011 (which now feels like an eternity ago…), I’ve just gotten my new black blazer dry cleaned, I’m prepping for an in-store fashion event that’s about to take place at the corporate retailer I was working for. It’s crazy. There are models everywhere, the DJ is late, the caterer dropped like 25 cupcakes, everyone is buzzing around trying to figure out where they left their phones or their bags — this is the life of working in public relations and event management.
You see, before landing at Bloomingdale’s, I sold advertising for a local fashion magazine in Orlando, FL. I quickly noticed that all of the magazine’s “features” were men, which of course was something I needed to remedy immediately. This was not okay. I decided, through my starry eyes and naivety, to host a fashion event for the magazine that would feature Orlando business women during the month of October. I honorably declared it would take place at a swanky club, include a fashion show and a silent auction so that all proceeds would be dedicated to breast cancer, since October is, of course, breast cancer awareness month. I partnered with a friend of mine who owned a PR & Events company at the time and through her networks, we were able to convince Bloomingdale’s to be a part of the event and allow us to pull their garments for the show. This is how I ended up working with Bloomingdale’s.
Over 300 people attended this event and it didn’t cost the magazine a dime. We gathered sponsors, partners, volunteers, models, the whole nine yards, and everyone believed in our vision. Hell, we even convinced the venue to let us host our event for free and create specialty cocktails all the while donating 2 drink tickets per attendee. Which, now that I look back on it, I’m sure costed them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars that night.
When we stood up on stage at the end of the night and proclaimed that we had raised over $1,000 for breast cancer and featured 50+ women in the magazine, I knew that my vision had come to life. Not only that, I knew that the magazine had benefited greatly from this and most importantly, this was the first major initiative that I had devised, created and executed – and it felt fucking great.
A week or so afterwards, I gallantly walked into Bloomingdale’s to return the garments they let us borrow and to give the Public Relations Director a gift as a thank you for her generosity. We talked about dreams and visions and future plans, and in that moment, I had landed an opportunity to interview for a role that didn’t actually exist yet – the assistant director on the public relations team. Through this event experience, my dedication to the cause and hard work, she saw something in me and allowed me the opportunity to join her team as an intern so that she could prep me for the role when it became available. I was literally bursting at the seams and overjoyed with enthusiasm. This was my dream. I loved fashion, I loved fashion events, and I was on a one-way ticket to NYC to work for Bloomingdale’s corporate. At least, that’s how I thought this was all going to turn out.
Fast forward to the beginning of the story where I’m prepping for the in-store fashion event. I had been with Bloomingdale’s for a while at this point and my (now husband, Thomas) and I were dating at the time – he was the one who brought me my newly dry-cleaned jacket and a cup of Starbucks, as he usually did, to get me through the crazy night. I was soaking up every bit of knowledge and experience that I could while also bartending at a steakhouse to keep myself afloat as I supported this dream.
Then, I was told that the position was no longer available and that all of the assistant director positions, corporate wide, were being eliminated. And just like that – it was gone. My huge dreams, my plan that I had so strategically and purposefully managed to create – gone. I even put in a request at the restaurant I was working for to transfer to a new location they were opening in Times Square. I figured that if I could transfer with the restaurant, I would then lay the ground work to find another opportunity once I lived in NYC. My direct manager, who was a complete dirtbag that was intimidated by strong, capable, beautiful women – denied my request. Honestly, for no other reason than because he could. Overall, I was crushed.
That night I came home to several LARGE bottles of wine Thomas bought for me, feeling super sorry for myself. We ate homemade pasta and had a long conversation about our futures and what we wanted from our lives. Feeling all relaxed and chill from our wine and food comas, we came up with an idea. Thomas has been an entrepreneur all his life. His background is in IT related work, information architecture and programming, and he was looking to expand his creative talents and wanted to pursue opportunities with design and video to break away from the mundaneness of programming. I, of course, had marketing, communications and sales experience, so we decided that weekend that we would launch our own company.
We honestly felt that between our combined skill sets, we could easily and, at minimum, get people to consider letting us work with them. Thomas already had a fairly robust portfolio, as did I, we just simply needed to package our services and nail down our audience, and off we went. Easy, right? 🙂
We designed our first website that weekend and used the existing name of his company, Creativity InMotion (to the left is a photo of our very first business card, which we also designed that weekend). Within the first 6 months of our agency, we did marketing activations for a local fashion week, worked with a few small businesses, found love in the Orlando startup scene, and we were generating enough revenue to keep the lights on. A big win for us at the time since we had no clue what we were doing or how to scale an agency model. By the second year, we rebranded to Move2Create, as Creativity InMotion was a mouthful and overall hard to say and to sell. We grew our team by creating a rich internship program through a partnership with the University of Central Florida (where I went to college), and by year’s 3 and 4, brought on paid designers further expanding our team, joined a coworking space and had an office downtown, and we were asked to work on projects for Red Bull, Girls Who Code, TedxWomen, Florida Institute of Technology, Stanford University, among others.
It was amazing. It was hard, super challenging, all consuming – but still amazing. Looking back, not moving to NY and inadvertently being thrown into entrepreneurship purely from a survival perspective was the best thing that ever happened to me. Move2Create was exactly what I needed at that time, and it revealed a unique path to entrepreneurship that I never would have seen otherwise. All of the things that were “weird” or “out there” about me, which typically got me in to trouble, now had its place and its purpose. You see, I didn’t grow up ever wanting to be an entrepreneur, it wasn’t even really in my vocabulary until after I graduated college, and even then, I was seeking opportunities elsewhere. My mom was actually the first entrepreneur I encountered, she owned her own hair salon for a number of years when I was in high school. But, as most high schoolers, I was so consumed by my dramatic high school life, boyfriends and soccer tournaments, that I didn’t really pay attention to her entrepreneurial journey. It just simply wasn’t anything I was interested in.
However, with all that said, I always knew that while I got along (interpersonally) with my colleagues at my various jobs, I never truly fit in. At some point, I always felt like I was able to grow within the company, but only at the pace of someone else’s success. I was encouraged to learn and to lead, but only so far until I needed to stay in my lane and respect my own box. I never realized until I became an entrepreneur that having the ability to look at a problem through multiple lenses was actually an asset, not a weakness. And I learned that having wild, innovative, creative and crazy ideas was a strength to a team, and not a liability. Move2Create, and by large extent, my experience with Bloomingdale’s, taught me this.
I also learned that entrepreneurship isn’t something that you do, it’s something that you are.
So, whatever happened with NYC? Well, don’t you worry – while I never did move, which I am now eternally grateful for, I have since visited dozens of times, attended New York Fashion Week (a bucket list item for me), got to walk the halls of the epic Fashion Institute of Technology and had a meeting with the legendary Valerie Steele; American fashion historian, curator and director of the museum. This is all thanks to one of my dear friends and incredible clients. Then last year, I was invited to host a panel discussion for SheLeads Media NYC (who I met on Twitter, of all places) and have continued to grow that friendship and opportunity to support my heart’s mission, to help and encourage female founders to build the businesses of their dreams.
Along the way, Thomas and I decided to fold the agency due to a ton of reasons, with the primary one being that we wanted to start a family and simply didn’t feel we were in the right place to manage both. I’ve taken several amazing jobs since then and have come to embrace that my path through entrepreneurship is ever-changing, maturing, and non-linear. It’s true what they say, you know, that everyone thinks entrepreneurship is all about that #workfromanywhere lifestyle, full of glamour and flexibility. And while parts of that may be true, the realistic picture looks a lot like this:
And then, it also looks a lot like this:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this exact same conversation with myself. And as Sohuis grows and continues to serve its mission, I seem to be having this conversation even more. The truth of the matter is that entrepreneurship is incredibly risky and really. fucking. hard. Even for someone such as myself with an iron will – I question if I should just turn it all in for a steady paycheck and a 9 to 5.
But then I remember that feeling from when my future changed at Bloomingdale’s. I remember so many times from our Move2Create days that the things that used to block me in traditional work environments, flourished in an entrepreneurial setting. I remember that while difficult, I am lucky to have the opportunity to embark on this journey not only once, but twice. Most importantly, I also remember that by intentionally curating this journey, I am the author of my own story.
I’ve always been pretty hesitant to share this story because it is indeed personal, and it’s mine. But as I continue to serve the incredible women I’m hoping to inspire, I realize that my story has power, too. And my hope in sharing this is that you’ll find your voice along your entrepreneurial path to pull inspiration from your experiences to craft your story as well.
I’ll leave you with this for now, and know that you are worthy and capable and deserving of greatness, no matter what path you choose.
AUTHOR, JESSICA KORTHUIS
Jessica is the founder of Sohuis and creator of the Sohuis StartupBluprint, a online accelerator designed to help female founders define, distinguish and differentiate their brand in 30 days or less. She has a passion for writing and educating and an obsession with teaching others how to bring their brands to life.
Jessica has been featured by Girlboss, the Lean Startup Company, is a 40 Under 40 Award recipient and has been listed as a “Woman to Watch in 2019 and Beyond” by the national publication, Biz Journals. She is a contributing writer to Girl CEO Inc., proud mompreneur, and to keep up with her super inspiring and fun content, follow her on Instagram @jessica_korthuis.