Friday, January 31, 2014

Follow Your Dreams Friday: Emily Sandford of Authentically Social

Today is the third installment in Follow Your Dreams Friday, and features me! Here's the weird third-person bio for those who want a little intro:

Emily Sandford is the blogger behind Authentically Emmie, a healthy living and plus size fashion blog that has been featured in Ladies' Home Journal, All You, Shape Magazine, the New York Post, Prevention Magazine, Skirt! Magazine, Business Lexington, and more. She is also the owner of Authentically Social, a social media marketing consultancy for health/wellness, fashion/beauty, and lifestyle companies. Founded in 2012 after eight years of traditional brand management experience, her results-oriented social media, blogger outreach, and community management plans have earned Emily clients across the United States. She is the Website Chair for the Junior League of Lexington and serves as Communications Chair for AAF Lexington. She received her undergraduate degree and MBA from the University of Kentucky. Emily and her husband David reside in Lexington with their airedale terrier, Lilly.

Last week, I had one of those out-of-body experiences that left me wondering, "how did I get here? Can I pinch myself?"

Growing up, I was taught that to be successful, I needed to be a doctor. If not that, then maybe a dentist. After that, being an attorney was a good route. If nothing else, goodness gracious, at least get your MBA. (Not criticizing parents, just scene-setting.)

My completely underwhelming performances in math and science nixed the first couple of options. I am not big into confrontation, so being an attorney wasn't really desirable either. As an undergrad at UK, I got my degree in Integrated Strategic Communications (ISC) with a focus in advertising and public relations. I had dreams of moving to a big city like New York or San Francisco and being a super-creative type at an ad agency. But that didn't really fit either since I had a Kentucky boy in my life who was firmly planted here. Plus, I was creative, but not THAT creative.

After working for a few years in marketing for a local company, I thought it would be good to get my MBA. I was accepted into the one-year accelerated MBA program at UK, which was structured around supply chain/logistics, product development, M&A, and accounting. I read lots of business books and case studies, and thought that the ultimate career entailed being a "lifer" at a company. We called these people "IBM'ers" as this was the culture of many who work at IBM -  they would stay with the company for their entire professional careers, being rewarded with steady pay increases, a decent retirement plan and health insurance, and at the end of it all, a gold watch for loyalty and service.

Speaking at MBA commencement
So how did I end up at an invite-only conference in the Hearst Building in Times Square (thinking "O EM GEE! IS ANNA WINTOUR IN THE BUILDING!?)? Or how did I end up with a 6 page spread in Ladies Home Journal talking all about myself and my weight? Or sitting on a Skype call every Friday afternoon talking to one of my favorite companies ever about content ideas for their page of 100K+ Facebook fans?

*pinch* Yep, still here.

There's not a lot to the story, honestly. After graduating with my MBA, I worked at a few companies in corporate marketing positions. They were good, but I was unsettled. Work started to create a feeling of dread in my stomach. Yet, I never thought there were other options. As an outlet for my weight loss efforts after being rejected from The Biggest Loser, I started blogging and got into social media. I loved the interaction and human connection. To grow my blog traffic, I took my marketing and business background to track performance of my social channels. I reached out to one of my favorite brands for a blogging conference sponsorship, and they loved the outcome so much that I've been working with them ever since on their social media and marketing.

The stress from my corporate job was taking a toll on my health, especially when I was working long hours at nights and on weekends with what I called my "side hustle," blogging and managing others'  social media accounts. My doctor advised me to make some serious changes after adrenal fatigue and it gave me an out: leaving my corporate job - the one I always thought I wanted - would be good for my health.

It's been over 2 years since I made the leap and I haven't looked back.

There are some key lessons I've learned as I've tried to follow my dreams:

  1. Your dreams can (and will) change: The good and bad part of being self-employed is that you control what you do. We're human, and your interests will change over time. You may try something you thought would be amazing, but then find it doesn't fulfill you. This is where the pivot comes in - don't be afraid to change direction. Doing so will only make you more motivated and excited for your work. That motivation and excitement is what will make you feel fulfilled and also fuel your bank account when channeled appropriately. 
  2. Being a slasher is okay: I am a blogger / writer / social media consultant / entrepreneur / speaker / designer / whatever. This doesn't mean I'm scattered, it means I'm multi-passionate. Embrace being a multi-passionate entrepreneur and find ways to make it all work together. You'll often find new business opportunities or come up with amazing ideas you wouldn't have if you had stayed within one silo. 
  3. You must say NO in order to make room for the opportunities you want: My biggest lesson in 2013 by far. Being self-employed, there are no guarantees where the next client will come from. So we have the tendency to say yes to ALL THE THINGS! and end up overwhelmed, burned out, or just plain bored with some of the work. Saying "no" doesn't mean you're turning away money - it means you're giving yourself the opportunity for something much better to come along.
  4. There is never a right time to make a leap: Some people say you need to have a year's worth of expenses saved, and others say they'll make a change when their kids grow up. There is no right time - sometimes you just have to jump. With my health scare, I used to joke that I was pushed into entrepreneurial waters, but in actuality, I made the choice despite feeling like I was incredibly unprepared. Best decision ever!
  5. We are absolutely, unequivocally, our worst enemies. Self-doubt is a momentum killer and anything you can do to prevent it is worth it. This is much easier said than done, so surround yourself with examples of success. Did a client send you a nice email? Print it out and put it next to your desk. I just picked up this big thing to hang in my office so I can look at it when I have doubts about myself or abilities.

If you want to hear me yammer about my decision to leave the corporate world to strike it out on my own, check out this Launch Yourself podcast. And if you're tired of hearing about me, the podcast has several other amazing interviews with those who have followed their dreams.
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  1. Well done, Emmie! Thank you for sharing your dreams and inspiring others.

  2. You are simply an inspiration and I am honored to say I know you personally.