From the age of 3 until the age of 18, I wanted to be a school teacher. Everyone knew this. I had past teachers saving boxes of things in storage for me to be able to eventually use in my own classroom. But by the time I got to college, I was already experiencing “burnout,” and my elementary ed classes weren’t challenging or interesting.
After the first year, I switched my major to sociology, but still imagined that I would get my master’s degree in education to fulfill this dream. After graduation, I moved to Brazil and was put in charge of a small schoolhouse in our village. I loved the flexibility I had in tailoring lessons to each individual child — without the fear of them not passing the standardized tests.
When I got back to the States after a year and a half, I worked in a Brooklyn charter school as one last test to determine whether I should invest in graduate school or not. But I was disheartened by the school system and lost my desire to be a traditional school teacher.
That winter, I remember desperately asking God for guidance. I prayed the Saint Andrew’s Novena before Christmas and asked Mary that I may be enlightened to a new path.
Out of seemingly nowhere, I said to myself, “I think I’ll be a calligrapher.” I barely knew how to use the calligraphy tools I owned, so it seemed almost laughable. I only told one actual person this idea and he made a joke out of it, telling me that he would make a sign for the back of my bike that said “calligrapher.”
To my own surprise, over a year later, that is what I became full-time — a calligrapher. I turned my blog Be A Heart, where I once wrote simple blog posts about what it means to ‘be a heart’ in my regular life, into a business where I sold a few prints and did custom work.
I told my spiritual director that I was really afraid of not doing God’s will. How was I even supposed to know what that really was?
My spiritual director, Father Michael, said to me, “Erica, God’s will is love. So if you can love in what you are doing, then that’s God’s will!”
He also said that if it failed, I could just go back to the drawing board and look for a job again. These two things freed me to take the leap.
I had read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron around this time and fell in love with the quote “Leap and the net will appear.”
Once I didn’t have a biweekly check being deposited into my bank account, I had a lot of fear and anxiety about finances. Father Michael also gave me the advice that God was now my boss so when I was finished with one project, I just had to ask Him for the next. I would even go so far as kneeling on the floor to ask.
It has now been three years since I ventured out on my own and never once have I not been able to pay my rent or put food on the table. I now have two employees and get to do work for amazing companies as well as make my own goods. I recently had a book published and occasionally get to teach other women how to do calligraphy.
A few years ago, when I was visiting my parents, I found a folder in my old closet that was full of drawings. They were designs for a furniture company I wanted to create that would make beautiful pieces for classrooms. Other notes and drawings had plans for a tutoring company that I wanted to start.
It dawned on me that maybe I was always meant to be an entrepreneur, but I hadn’t seen anybody around me doing it so I never pursued those dreams.
I still have so much to learn as I attempt to grow my business, but here are a few things that I have learned along the way.
1. Let people know you.
No matter what you are selling or creating, customers and clients want to know the person behind the brand. Let people in and share the pieces of your life that aren’t idealized or perfect. In the world of social media, it doesn’t work anymore to simply say, “buy this product or service because it’s great.” People will buy in if they know and trust the person behind the product or service.
2. Let go of control.
This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. I wish I had the faith earlier on to bring in more help. I want to “do all the things” and tend to spread myself much too thin. Having help and training people to take over parts of the business that I don’t need to have my hands on is beginning to free me up to focus on other things. I constantly remind myself that “God will provide.”
3. Contracts are important.
It took me way too many mistakes before I learned to always, always, always have clients sign contracts. While someone might seem trustworthy and like they will stick to their word, you can save a lot of hassle by bringing clarity in a signed agreement of terms of the work and payment schedules. Those are things that God can’t really fix for you.
4. Don’t do it alone.
Not only should you let other people into your business, but also let God in. When people ask me my special trick to growing my business, I can’t answer without acknowledging how my spiritual life was in direct relation. Even now, three years in, I easily see how when I slack on my prayer life, my business suffers. I take on the wrong clients or let things spin out. I’m still not perfect at it, but I am always adjusting my rituals to fit those quiet moments with God on a daily basis.
5. Jump through the hoops.
While I really believe in the power of prayer and reliance on God, don’t forget to pay attention to laws and taxes. There is no spiritual solution for missed license renewals or city taxes.
Currently, I am going through another transition in my business as I prepare for marriage at the end of the year. I no longer want to work late into the night and want to prepare myself to eventually have children and grow our family.
I am taking new leaps, hiring more women, and dreaming really big about what my business could become. I’m dreaming next of a warehouse studio in Los Angeles where I employ other women and build a Montessori daycare off of the building so that mothers can breastfeed, take 15-minute breaks with their kids, and have that school that I have always wanted.
While running a business as a young woman can be a challenge and require risk-taking, I found it to be true that “with greater risk is greater reward.” It feels like such a privilege to get to walk this road of entrepreneurship, and it requires me to rely on God for daily support.
There is much excitement and joy in knowing that I have even more surprises in my future. I encourage anyone who hears the tiny whisper of God in your heart pulling you to start something of your own to follow Him for a great adventure.