Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur: My personal journey.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I’ve always had a keen eye for seeing opportunities where others didn’t.
In high school, I would buy large canisters of lollipops from Costco and resell them to classmates – one for a quarter or five for a dollar. In the military, I made a little extra money doing tattoos in the barracks. During college, I started my first legitimate business doing employment background checks.
Once I graduated from college, my entrepreneurial spirit became blurred. I fell into the comfort zone of making a steady paycheck. Working as a business manager wasn’t a bad gig. I gained valuable operational experience, but it wasn’t fulfilling. Thankfully the company did some downsizing, and I left with a nice severance package. I took this blessing in disguise, and headed back to school for art direction and design.
After I graduated (again) I spent the next few years learning the ins and outs of the advertising agency environment. Then came the all-too-common, “We’ve lost some clients and we need to do some restructuring.” There I was, at home, scrambling to figure out my next move. I began freelancing for other agencies and picking up small accounts for myself. After about a year of freelancing, I had gained too many of my own clients to necessitate working for other agencies. So I officially opened my own boutique studio.
For three years, I successfully operated Thielen Designs. I learned to love the freedom of running my own business and being an entrepreneur once again. However, it came at a cost. I had to do everything. I was the bookkeeper, the janitor, the account rep., the designer, art director, creative director, etc. I was everything, and I ended up burning out.
I closed the door on Thielen Designs, sold my house and went to Bermuda for 5 months. I spent the following year doing some freelance, but mostly focusing on myself. When I was ready to go back, I opted to work on the corporate side. I spent the next 4 years as a creative director overseeing and supporting the company’s products and corporate brand. I once again found myself handcuffed to a steady paycheck wondering what I was doing, because I wasn’t fulfilled.
For a short time I went back to the agency side; where everyday routines weren’t so routine. It was at that time I began to reflect: Of all the things I have done, I look back at what I enjoyed most, and it was running my own business. At that moment I decided to start an agency, and fill the gap I had witnessed between SMBs and big agency work.
Today I am grateful for the past. I have walked away from each chapter armed with new tools – tools that have helped me bring together Utility, llc.