1. I’m an entrepreneur. The process of transitioning from having an idea to calling myself an entrepreneur took awhile, but I think I’m finally to the point where the name fits. I’ve created the following three businesses from inception:
- The Oliver Poons Children’s Company: Happy, whimsical, rhyming children’s stories and accessories.
- LocalStrong.org: Harnessing the Power of Community. Find Everyone and Everything You Need Right in Your Own Backyard.
- Ribbon Star Press: Consulting and publishing services to help new authors make their dreams of publishing a reality.
2. I’m the girl next door who started a business amidst an illness in a small Connecticut town, not a techie living in Silicon Valley. I became an entrepreneur out of necessity in the midst of a severe case of Lyme disease. While I was always interested in business and it was even my major in college, being in my mid-twenties and incredibly sick with a rollercoaster of an illness also didn’t seem the prime time to start a business.
However, when I wasn’t able to work a traditional job due to the unpredictable nature of my symptoms, what choice did I have? I couldn’t stand feeling trapped and lost somewhere on the continuum between completely disabled all of the time and healthy enough to return to a job with a set schedule. I had always set high goals for myself. If I couldn’t find a way to make “normal work” work for me, I wanted to explore an alternate route.
3. I started simply, little by little. No fancy budgets, no fancy resources. How I got started: I thought…A LOT! When I was stuck in bed for hours on end with whole body weakness and found even watching tv to be uncomfortable, I was left to either sleep or think. In my stretches of thought before sleep, I would force myself diligently to reframe my thoughts and focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t. Since having the energy to leave the house was hit or miss, I turned to the almighty powers of the Internet for ideas.
I first put effort into learning the basics of creating a website, which was something I had never done before. I figured that no matter what business idea I had, if I couldn’t leave the house on a regular basis, I would certainly need a website to introduce the idea to the world.
As I began on what seemed a very tentative road to entrepreneurship, an idea for my own business finally arrived – not in the manner that I would expect, but oftentimes the best things come in unexpected ways. While in the midst of my recovery, I found myself writing with my left hand, previously being only right-handed. Not understanding this odd new symptom, I chose to embrace it, and found myself in bed doodling and writing children’s rhyme inspired by lovable cat, Oliver. Remember to always look around you for inspiration!
From that notebook of sketches and rhyme came The Adventures of Oliver Poons, a new happy, rhyming, whimsical children’s series. The first book, Oliver Poons and the Bright Yellow Hat, came to fruition with the help of my mother, Lois, who illustrated the story and made the characters come to life. It is available for purchase online at oliverpoons.com and on Amazon, and in select retail locations. We are also in the midst of expanding the brand to include more stories and children’s accessories.
4. I have adopted the “Next Door Philosophy”. From my journey towards entrepreneurship, I learned quite a bit, but most importantly I learned to live my life by what I’ll call the “next door philosophy”. Accordingly, I named my parent company Next Door Creations, under which all of my entrepreneurial ventures have a home.
As it is often stated, change is the only constant in life. Life is full of twists and turns, and circumstances that seem set in stone can become nonexistent at a moment’s notice. The “next door philosophy” and the name Next Door Creations were inspired by the idea that no matter how things may seem in life, it’s important to always have faith that the next door of opportunity will present itself. Whether the “next door” is a spark of the imagination, an event you attend, or a person you meet, something, somehow, will always appear, and the opportunity to seize a new path will emerge. From there are infinite possibilities; endless ways to create something new.
I’ve found entrepreneurship to be a winding path of knocking on doors, deciding which doors to walk through, and coming to the realization that sometimes the key to unlocking possibility is sitting in my back pocket.
5. The second half of the “Next Door Philosophy” is actually inspired by my real-life next-door neighbor. The second (and equally important) part of the “next door philosophy” relates to the people with whom you choose to surround yourself. The name Next Door Creations was also fitting for me because of a card from my childhood next-door neighbor that I keep on my bookcase for inspiration. Written for eighth-grade graduation, the note was a heartfelt farewell as the two of us parted ways for high school. The note reads, “I know you will be at the top of your class and I’ll probably read about you in the newspaper someday about being the youngest Nobel Prize winner or something. Just remember, I’ll always be right next door if you need me.” While the accomplishments may have been a little far-fetched, the idea has always spoken volumes to me. No matter what the “next door” of opportunity may be, it’s really the people you keep “next door” to you who are most important.
6. I hope to help my fellow “next-door neighbors” do the same. While I suppose I could also call myself the no choice entrepreneur due to my circumstances with Lyme disease, I’m sticking with the Next Door Entrepreneur. Besides the name having all sorts of meaning to my personal life, I’d like to use my experience as a platform to help my neighbors become entrepreneurs; especially those who feel the odds are stacked against them. After all, if I can do it, so can you.