Here are my thoughts on my Forbes #Next1000 achievement, and some insights into what my day was like the morning nominees got announced. It was not necessarily what you would expect.
At 8:03am, I got an email from Forbes that I was selected to be apart of the first 250 entrepreneurs featured in their inaugural Forbes #Next1000 initiative. This new initiative, announced by Forbes during COVID, recognizes the small business owners who pivoted and thrived amidst the most unstable and unprecedented times the world has seen since the last world war. It is a list set to recognize the strong minded entrepreneurs who stop at nothing to achieve their dreams, and who have done so through nothing other than hard work and passion. Forbes’ criteria for selection was specific – a minimum of 1 year in business, maximum $10M in annual revenue or Series A funding (I’ve had no funding), and those who are making a difference in their community, industry and the world.
Candidates were evaluated by hard numbers (funding, revenue), business model and impact, as well as personal story. When I read the email that I was chosen, I started to cry. Tears of joy. This is the biggest achievement / award of my career, from a press perspective. I immediately screenshotted the email and sent it to my team and my besties. I spent 2 hours dancing by myself, crying tears of joy in certain moments because I genuinely couldn’t believe this is where my team and I have come in such a short period of time – serious recognition by the most esteemed business publication in the US. And because life is a series of ups and downs, I was brought back down to life REAL fast. 2 hours after I received that email, while on the way to install artwork in my client’s home, I received some life altering news, news that is still causing a lump in my throat that is not likely to go away anytime soon. I can’t tell you anything beyond that, but it’s very bad. Within an instant, my tears of joy shifted to tears of sadness and fear. I kind of laughed at the situation, as it seems a constant theme in my life is to go from a high high to low low within a matter of seconds.
My life is changing again, in an instant. And selfishly, I couldn’t even enjoy my own biggest career accomplishment to date for one day because something else took precedence. But such is life, and it is precisely because of experiences like this that I am where I am today. So here are my thoughts…
To Those Of You Who Are On Your Way Up –
Congratulations. Being an entrepreneur is extremely hard. If you are going to succeed, it requires some serious tenacity and resilience. So to those of you climbing this fascinating and dynamic ladder that is the composition of an entrepreneur, I don’t know you but I’m proud of you and you should be proud of yourselves. It’s definitely the road less traveled. Let my Forbes #Next1000 achievement be a moment of inspiration to teach you that with each hurdle you tackle, and there will be many, you will be one step closer towards reaching the finish line, a line that will constantly be pushed further and further if your dreams are big enough.
Take life one day at a time, because that’s all we have in our control, and compartmentalize all achievements and setbacks. Use your setbacks to teach you lessons and function as further motivation, and pour your heart into your company as a positive and healthy coping mechanism. Celebrate your achievements. It is exceptionally important to take recognition of your hard work, as well as express gratitude to those who are helping you get there. Don’t let inevitable setbacks overshadow your achievements because then you are missing the best parts, and to not recognize these achievements is ungrateful. You will be missing the point of it all. Not everyone is capable of achieving these things.
Those who are overachievers have a hard time being proud of themselves as they always want more, more, more. Take a moment to acknowledge yourself. Treat yourself. Buy yourself a present (even if you have a lot of other bills to pay), give yourself a pat on the back, let yourself take a day off (it won’t kill you or set you back), however you choose to celebrate, but make sure to celebrate. And let this recognition serve to show you that ANYTHING is possible if you put your mind to it and don’t stop. If you told me 6 years ago that I’d be achieving ANY of these things, I would have laughed in your face. It. Is. Possible. And it is not without MANY struggles.
Too many to count, and as life showed me this week, God is going to keep them coming. As you keep climbing and life gets more complex, your time will get more limited. Fill your time and energy carefully. Surround yourself by people who bring out the best in you. Don’t get defeated, keep hustling, be kind and honest, keep asking for help, and congratulations to you guys.
If you want to learn more about my entrepreneurial experiences, I will be sharing all the lessons I’ve learned through trials and tribulations – work and otherwise – in a new program I am developing. Think of it as the school of hard knocks – basically a summation of all the things I’ve learned in life and business over the past 6 years, which have felt like a full lifetime. Stay tuned to my various channels as I begin to reveal more.
To Those Of You Who Think Life Can’t Get Any Worse –
It can. Trust me, it ALWAYS can. As much as we try, we don’t have control over many things. So if you don’t have the right attitude, it will always get worse. That’s what my life experience has taught me. I feel so repetitive when I say my story in these posts because most of you already know the gist of it. Within 2 years, I saw a baby I volunteered with die of cancer at age 3. One of my closest friends got hit by a bus the day after sitting on my couch. Dead at 29 years old. My (now ex) husband and I lost our money just as I was having my son and found ourselves in dire financial straits. My father in law had a heart attack and got cancer. My marriage was on the rocks. I had a miscarriage and DNC at 12 weeks pregnant. The day I told my ex we needed to work on our marriage or I wanted a divorce I found out I was pregnant. My father in law died 10 weeks into that pregnancy. The same day as his funeral, I experienced massive bleeding while with my friend and walked myself to the hospital without calling a soul because I didn’t think my ex could handle it and I thought life was just a cruel joke.
I thought I lost another baby, the day of my father in law’s funeral. Thank God I didn’t, but I was pregnant knowing I was getting divorced, in the worst financial situation of my life, had barely even started my career, and had few skills and no knowledge. Suffice it to say, those conditions don’t make for an easy pregnancy and the struggle was real. I left my ex with a 3 week old baby and a 2 year old son. I got a divorce in 6 weeks because I have serious issues from my parents divorce and so I refused to go down the attorney and court route. I created a pressure cooker of needing to produce money for myself and my kids and I found myself in the scariest position of my life.
I FELT LIKE LIFE COULDN’T GET ANY WORSE, AND THEN IT DID. Much worse. Little did I know… Because when you think that way, life will get worse. Even if you think positively, bad things will still continue to happen, but it means you will have the right perspective, and you will know that life is about learning hard lessons and getting smarter and stronger from those hard experiences. It’s all about perspective.
So what happened next in my life as if all that wasn’t enough… It’s as if this 2 year period of my life was the script of a movie. 6 months after my divorce, I fell deep in love. I thought he was a saving grace. 3 months later, I got my heart broken. 2 weeks later, for the cherry on top of it all, my dear friend and art assistant died in my car leaving my birthday party. A tragic accident that killed one of the closest people in my life at age 27, leaving behind a 3 year old, left my other assistant with brain surgery and in the hospital for a month, and shattered my entire faith in life and humanity. The accident broke my heart, traumatized me visually, crushed the business I was working so hard to build, set me back financially, and changed all facets of my life in a sheer instant.
Simultaneously, the man I had fallen in love with crushed my heart and broke my trust. Completely shattered. I couldn’t understand how someone I loved would do this to me when I was going through such a devastating time. The whole of my life was just too much to bear. I didn’t understand what I had done to deserve such hard times. I knew I didn’t deserve them. It was the only time in life I almost lost my faith. I questioned God so much. How could he keep bringing me these tragic obstacles in my path? But the one thing I knew for sure, something my life had taught me through past struggles, was that life goes on with or without you, and I had too many responsibilities to handle – my kids, team, and myself – that I couldn’t stop. I had no choice but to continue fighting.
So instead of losing my faith, I leaned in on it more than ever. I asked for help. I asked all the people who loved and supported me to help me not go under. I asked my friends and family to literally babysit me for the first few days because I wasn’t well. I asked my team – which consisted only of interns at the time (and my 2 art assistants who were incapacitated, one permanently), to make sure I didn’t stay in bed for one minute. To make sure I hustled harder than ever because I needed to. I found a grief counselor who literally saved my emotional wellbeing. I had my army of Instagram help me raise $38,000 to give back to my team and Juan’s family, an act of kindness that helped me begin my healing process.
I didn’t touch that money even though the accident put me in dire need. I had a stranger literally pick me up, sobbing, off the entrance floor of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue while at a Chanukah Party I attended for my kids because I still had to be a mom just 2 days after the accident. I had a friend of this stranger hand me $1,800 in cash to buy Chanukah toys for my kids and I took it – something I had never done before. I am not a beggar and I am very proud. But I swallowed my pride and I took it and I did just that – gave my kids some extra special toys they deserved because their mom was a mess.
Life was so low, but trust me, it can always get worse. If I had let it get worse, it would have gotten worse. If I let it break my faith, it would have gotten worse. If I didn’t go into grief counseling, it would have gotten worse. If I didn’t take people’s help, it would have gotten worse. Instead, my faith got stronger than ever. I realized, yet again, that life was short, and life could literally be taken in one sheer instant. I had big dreams, and I told myself that if I died, I wanted to make sure I took every measure possible to achieve those dreams one day at a time, with no regrets. I spent a year healing, getting my head straight, and hustling like an animal. I chased and chased and chased and chased. And because I was taking the right steps to get better – therapy, leaning on my support system, not focusing on men, working hard – I started to achieve. One accomplishment at a time, because that’s all you can ask for. I was running faster than ever and thriving on the high of achievement. Each and every day, I show up. I continue to do the work – in both my personal life and in my career. And the work in my personal life is some of the hardest work I do. But it is why I am starting to achieve in the other areas of my life. It is why I was chosen to be included in the first 250 entrepreneurs on Forbes inaugural #Next1000. Because I don’t give up, I do the work, and I learn the lessons. It did not get handed to me.
So for those of you who are wallowing in self pity – only you have control to change it. You can wallow and complain, or you can spend that same time taking action to fix it and doing the work to make it better. We have finite amounts of time and finite amounts of energy. Use your energy to make progress in your life. Surround yourself with positive people, people who will encourage you to get better. Keeping the ‘yes’ people who don’t encourage you to grow and who share the same negativity you have will hinder you from getting anywhere. Surround yourself with energy that will help you self improve and rid yourself of toxic energy, as it will only continue to bring you further down. Don’t expect things to change quickly. Getting yourself out of a rut takes hard work and this shit is literally one day at a time. There’s no beating the process. Our lives are a compilation of the choices we make. And no choice is ever final. It’s never too late. You can choose to seek happiness or you can choose to stay where you are.
I’ve chosen to seek happiness, and that’s why my team and I are on our way to the moon. This way, if we fall short, we will land amongst the stars, and we already are landing there.
Thank you so much to all the judges and editors at Forbes who included me in this historic and incredible honor and achievement. I couldn’t be more humbled or more proud of both myself and my vast team. Special thank you to those who have been helping me get here from day one, friends, family, clients and my ESC team. I know there’s so much more greatness that is to come from us – from inspiration to serious design integrity and ingenuity – and I am so excited to see what the future has in store.
God knows I need to focus on the positivity now more than ever as I face the next tough stuff life just threw my way. Which for me means… (deep breaths and) achievement!!!! So what’s on my wish list next? Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list??? LOL, one can dream, but I think we just set our new goal #onedayatatime.
With lots of love, humility, and celebrations,