Allison & Alison: On Leaving Their "Nine-To-Fives" To Become Entrepreneurs
Leaving My "Nine-To-Five" To Become An Entrepreneur
By: Allison Watters Vartolo
I worked in publishing for six years. During that time, I always thought about what was next. Not because I wasn’t happy in my role(s), but because I have a tendency to constantly think forward, towards the future. I am an over-thinker and over-analyzer by nature. Yet, despite that, I was never a person who knew exactly what they wanted to do in life. I worried when I heard people say that they knew they wanted to work in magazines when they were eight years old, or that they knew that they wanted to be an entrepreneur since the day that they set up their first lemonade stand at age five. While I am the ultimate “planner”, I have never been able to plan out my life. I used to find it frustrating that I couldn’t plan my every move, but as I got older, I learned to accept that my experiences and encounters (which cannot be planned), are what propel me forward. And while it would be ideal to plan how and when everything pans out, I have come to understand that there is also great joy in the unexpected. For instance, I never expected to meet my husband at seventeen, I never expected to get hired at a major fashion magazine during my first internship (before I graduated college), and I certainly never expected to be a business owner at twenty-eight.
As I’ve matured into a woman, I’ve found that the fascinating thing about life, is that you never know what’s around the corner. All that you can do is put your best foot forward, always. Of course, bad things happen too, but you have to try not to focus on that (reminding yourself that in some way, even the bad will make you stronger). I think I am where I am in life, because at some point along the way, I learned to roll with the punches. I fell in love with my husband while we were still just friends because I admired him as a person, I got hired at Elle because I worked extremely hard, and I have my own business because I took a leap of faith.
In regards to my recent entrepreneurial endeavor . . . It was hard to leave my life as I knew it, in publishing. Everything had become very familiar - from my morning coffee, to weekly meetings and the hysterical laughter that came from desk-side chats with friends. So, even after I had decided to start a business, it took me a while to commit to leaving (over a year, actually). There were other factors, besides my nerves - last year I had a bit of a health struggle that required me to have surgery and I was planning a wedding. I got back from my honeymoon in early September and intended to give notice before Thanksgiving, but I chickened out. Then, I said I would do it before Christmas, but I didn't do it then either. Finally, in mid-January I left to start my new role as Co-Founder of L’entramise.
I went from corporate America to entrepreneur overnight. I started by working from home with my business partner. I think the hardest part was actually breaking the habit of checking my email every five seconds. We were so new, so I had no emails, and that was really odd for me (since I once calculated that I received 1,200 in one day at Elle). Luckily, I adjusted to any changes rather quickly and have to admit that I have never looked back. There will always be things that I miss about my “9 to 5” (more accurately, 10 to 7, 8, 9, or 10), but I feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be - as an entrepreneur. I now get many more emails a day than I did in the early months, work long hours, and am trying to manage that ever-debated “work-life balance”. I am lucky to have a truly brilliant and beautiful (both inside and out) business partner, to get through it all with. We work harder than we ever have, but even on the hard days, we enjoy every moment. Because even on trying days - we remind ourselves that this is everything we ever wanted, and that makes any stress and disappointment, manageable. Plus, we are both so fortunate to have incredibly supportive husbands to go home to each night.
I love that there is no average day when you are running a business, and that I am constantly challenged and evolving as a person. I am pretty shy, and even more so, over the phone. It’s actually something that all of my friends and family tease me about - they know to text or email. But even something as silly as being comfortable on the phone is something I have had to conquer and improve upon. We are on conference calls all of the time and it’s so important to be assertive and smart in every single conversation that you have (especially as a female business owner). I have really pushed myself to be more confident - or to at least pretend to be. Then there are things that come quite naturally to me, that I don’t have to try so hard at - like coming up with branding ideas, designing, creating storyboards, prepping for shoots, and writing content. It’s the balance of the unnatural and natural that makes it all exciting and rewarding. At the end of each day, I am (usually) proud of myself for continuously moving outside of my comfort zone for the better of our company. Plus, I am happy to report that as a Co-Founder of a business, all of my over-thinking and over-analyzing finally gets put to good use.
Article written by: Allison Watters Vartolo
Leaving My "Nine-To-Five" To Become An Entrepreneur
By: Alison Girschick Egan
I’ve always known that I wanted to work for myself. Doing what? I didn’t exactly know. I just knew that I wanted to be in control of my own career (without a boss or a ceiling) and do something groundbreaking and innovative, while making a positive impact along the way. But my greatest challenge has always been direction. If I had been passionate about starting a clothing line, perhaps I would have gone to school for fashion design and merchandising. Or if I was determined to create an app that reads people’s minds, perhaps I would have gone to school for IT (with a minor in psychology). But I didn’t really know the subject matter of what I wanted to spend my days doing, and that made me feel very lost for a very long time.
When it was time for college, I ended up going to business school, and graduated with as little direction as I had on my first day of classes. So I stayed an extra year to pursue an MBA, hoping I would find my calling. Needless to say, I didn’t. But during my last week of classes, I came across a school bulletin advertising an internship at Elle Magazine. And this would determine my fate for the next several years. I didn’t know what a “fashion intern” did, but I liked the sound of it (and love clothing), so I applied and somehow got an interview.
I was very lucky to have fallen into an internship in fashion publishing. After working in that environment for just a few weeks, I finally felt proud of myself and like I belonged somewhere – it was a great feeling. I excelled, and after my internship ended, I continued on working as a full-time fashion assistant for a year and a half. During this time, I was happy (although worked to the bone), and the notion of starting my own business was definitely not top-of-mind. However I was soon faced with a life-changing decision: move to Lancaster, Pennsylvania with my boyfriend of 5 years (his plan was to work for his father’s construction company), or continue growing the career that I was proud to see developing. Like any hopeless romantic, I left.
It took a while to find a job in Pennsylvania. I finally found something I was passionate about back in New York, but looking for a good fashion job in Lancaster is like looking for a deal on a Hamptons house in the summer – it doesn’t exist. While I was on the hunt, I almost started like 10 businesses. There was a void for food trucks in town. I also almost started Tinder. (No, really. It didn’t publicly exist yet, and I pitched the idea to someone who shut it down.) Nothing stuck. Finally, I landed a job in brand management at a consumer products conglomerate. As a large part of my job, I hired outside vendors to do marketing work for us that we didn’t have time to do ourselves or needed specialists to execute – packaging design, photography, advertisements, etc. Little did I know, this would be the best way I could spend my days in Lancaster.
And my days there were limited. I didn’t know it, but we would grow to miss our city (New York) so much, that even the beauty, stability and low cost-of-living of a city like Lancaster couldn’t keep us away. So we returned, and I was back on the job hunt. This time, however, we needed to start making money for rent – right away. I considered returning to fashion, but the $30K-a-year salary just wouldn’t cover costs. So I started my first real business. Luckily, because I worked alongside other brand managers in Pennsylvania, I already had clients who could trust me and who knew I did good work. Plus, I knew what their budget was and what they expected from their vendors. So, I became one. I used the knowledge I acquired in school and as a brand manager, and also taught myself everything else there was to know about graphic design, product photography and html. This type of work was not my passion, but building my own business was. And I did better in the first few years than I ever imagined possible. But I still longed for the whole thing – a business whose subject matter I was passionate about.
Then, on one fateful day, a good friend of mine – whom I met while we both worked as assistants at Elle – came to me with a proposition. She had always had a love and a knack for setting the table. For every dinner party she threw – small or large – she set the chicest, most photo-worthy tabletops. And when determining what tableware to use, she always had to choose between elegant, stylish dishes, glasses and flatware that she had to spend hours cleaning later in the night, or plain, unattractive disposables. After a while she grew tired of choosing and realized that there was a void to fill, and she wanted to be the one to fill it. And she wanted me to help.
So, birthed L’entramise. Although we haven’t yet launched, starting in 2017, we be selling the most beautiful and trend-driven assortment of single-use tableware – both created by us and curated from the vast and overwhelming disposables market. A solution for the modern woman who wants to throw aesthetically pleasing dinner parties without having to sacrifice time she doesn’t have washing dishes (or a wedding without renting plates for $2.50 each).
Over the past year, I have transitioned from running my marketing business full-time to running and planning for the launch of L’entramise alongside my business partner Allison. While product is being manufactured, we’ve launched a supplemental content site – L’e SET – which we use to provide tabletop ideas and other lifestyle inspiration to the modern woman. Thankfully, I haven’t had to completely abandon my stream of income – because I am my own boss, I can still complete marketing jobs on the side.
I have never been so invested in or excited by a career move in my life. At only 29, I can finally say that I have a business that will be groundbreaking and innovative (and will hopefully make a positive impact on people’s lives), and trend-driven tableware is something I certainly am passionate about. I can’t say it’s been easy. Every day presents a new, grueling challenge that would make many people want to give up. But as my dad always taught me, persistence is key, and it’s what separates those who want to start businesses from those who do.
Article written by: Alison Girschick Egan
L’entramise is a web-based entity comprised of two components - online storefront and online content. “Your tabletop destination”, L’entramise is the place to shop and gain inspiration for all of your (single-use) tabletop needs. Products are single-use (recyclable or compostable), because we believe that the modern woman/man works too hard in their daily lives to spend any unnecessary time prepping, setting up, and cleaning up, for guests. We have curated and created all of the components that you need to host your next dinner party or event, all without washing dishes. L’entramise will offer aesthetically pleasing tableware and table components, all shoppable in one place.
( lon · tra · mease )
A French-inspired name, inspired by a combination of terms.
le = the
entra amise = amongst friends
mise en place = everything in its place
l’entramise = the idea of being amongst friends, with everything in its place