January celebrates the one year anniversary of the formal branding of my company. I will never forget the day I sat down in a local Wine Bar, La Dolce Vita in my hometown of Petaluma, CA and made it official (this past weekend I had to make a point of sharing this fact with the Wine Bar’s owner). What started as a goal for 2013 paired with a nice Prosseco turned into a monumental endeavor that has propelled me into the digital marketing world. That being said, during the last year I have been searching for my proper place in the marketplace. As I was preparing last week to present to the California Public Health Department and The Office of Health Equity about the importance of marketing in communities, I suddenly realized my niche. I have years of experience working in the public sector and have many theories on how to develop communities via effective marketing and communication. Future blog posts will get into what that means and how I have found it to be a new idea amongst many agencies, but today I’d like to introduce you to my journey to this point.
Growing up I had many diverse interests. I was an artist, an athlete, a born politician, a writer, and a scholar (just to name a few of my identities). The one thing I was certain about was that I was put onto this earth to help others. From age 7 till about age 24 I was committed to the idea of becoming a physician working for undeserved communities in the US and abroad. I started my undergrad education at Santa Rosa Junior College after being denied by every university I applied to. I refused to go or apply to any school that was not a University of California campus and you will learn, or you may already know, that I am incredibly dedicated to my goals once they are set. After two years at the JC I entered the University of California Santa Barbara where I was faced with what I like to call “silo syndrome.” Students are encouraged to silo themselves into one or two disciplines, which works for some, but not for all. I could not get comfortable with one major or course of study. In the prime of my scholarly development, I wanted to explore and experience all there was to offer. I changed my major four times from biology, to bio-psychology, to business economics, and finally to psychology. I squeezed in all the electives I could in neighboring disciplines including religious studies, philosophy, and law. Despite showing great promise in business/economics, I was bored after just a couple semesters and finally settled on the Psychology department after a failed attempt to convince my university that a Religious Studies/Economics/Psychology interdisciplinary major totally made sense (for the record I still believe it does). I was kept busy by also working 30 hours a week as a catering server and as Student Athletic Training intern for UCSB Recreation Sports where I started my journey to becoming a self-taught graphic designer.
After spending a month scrubbing into surgery in Mexico (click here for the whole story) and working at Macy’s because I could not find another job, I continued my education at Touro University California where I pursued a Masters in Public Health Degree. Touro gave me the opportunity to refine my critical thinking and problem solving skills. The campus chefs also make the best food including their famous kosher tacos. Most importantly Touro gave me the opportunity to spend 2.5 months in Ethiopia doing advocacy and research in partnership with the Hesperian Foundation out of Berkeley. This time abroad helped me realize, during many moments working with the different Ethiopian populations, that being a physician was NOT for me. I wanted to ignite change at a population level through the mobilization and empowerment of communities. After my return to the states after a total of four months of traveling I was excited to get started.
There I was, the first in my family to graduate college, done with school, excited to start working and…nothing. I spent 6 months unemployed, 7 months grossly underemployed and frankly I felt defeated. I had done everything right, went to college, got my Masters, and was ready to work. Luckily during that year I also met Ralph Oates founder of Wellness International Network and many of his talented colleagues. Well ahead of his time, he developed a business using a Multilevel Marketing Business Design focused on bringing wellness products into the marketplace. His story was fascinating and inspiring. I could relate to where he started, backed up against wall with no money and only a sheer desire to do better for his family. After being introduced to WIN in 2012 I started to change. I shifted from a helpless unemployed college grad to an entrepreneur. While I always say I was born a leader, my desire had to be respected and cultivated. I would never give back my education and will always believe it was one of the best times of my life, but it had failed me with regard to advancing my leadership and entrepreneurial skills. I should also add, I did realize my marketing and graphic design skills, but the workplace would have nothing to do with me. I of course had no marketing degree or formal experience, but rest assured, being told “No” is what truly catalyzed the creation of my own marketing company.
Now we are back to January 2013. I started a job working for the government at the Marin City Community Services District where a visionary general manager hired someone solely dedicated to marketing and communications. Nights and weekends became dedicated to the development of my social network and business. In 2013 I saw great success, which to me is not solely based on monetary gain. I forced myself out of my scholarly comfort zone and became marketing. I went to events, sat at bars, and went out regularly by myself. Like many of my generational counterparts I had to re-learn how to communicate and put myself out there. While I preach the importance of digital marketing, traditional communication should not be lost (there will surely be a future blog post about this topic). I hope to share my insights to hopefully help and inspire others in 2014. Market your success, it is contagious.