‘Bring photos of people who inspire/support you…’

November 23, 2017 by NJPainter

Hey guys,
I have a sentence that I am thrilled to share with you:
I’ve been busy. 

The start to December means it’s been SEVEN months since I left my corporate job. (Woot!!) The fall-back phrase I frequently used on my way out the door was “This totally might not work, and that’s ok!”
Which is why you hear me say often now, in a tone that one usually reserves for getting away with murder, “this is totally working.”

I made my hundredth jacket sale this month. That means I have painted and sold 100 original and custom jackets. WHAT.

Also, I won an $18,000 artist grant from WeWork.

Which leads me to the title of this post, which was an instruction emailed to the WeWork grant finalists before coming in for a video interview, which they pulled footage from and used at the awards ceremony a few days later. “Bring photos of people who inspire/support you…”

My first thought was: Do I actually have physical photos of all those people?

And the astoundingly embarrassing answer is: I have two tangible photos of Barry taken since we started dating. Two. We’ve been together since 2011.

But of course I gathered what I could and prepared full descriptions on all things inspirational and supportive.

However, because that footage was cut down to mere seconds and the rest will never see the light of day, (and because I am publishing this post on Thanksgiving, which seems too appropo to miss) I’d like to use this opportunity to say what I said on video.

wework video

Who inspires and supports me?

My husband, Barry.
What Barry made me realize is that everybody needs a mirror to see their true selves with. Barry is the stoic voice that says simple yet earth-shattering things like “you’re very good at that,” “you should quit your job,” “you can grow this” and “you’re stepping into who you are.” He is masterful at convincing you that none of these things are as insane as they might sound in your own head. And he doesn’t gloat when he’s right about these things, because he accepted them as simple truths long ago. I don’t gush about Barry very much on social media (because everybody already loves him, goddammit), but he’s a true ace.

My mom.
Every mom wants their kid to be happy. But the excellent quality that my mom has, is that she never qualified that statement. She didn’t care what made me happy, or where in the world it was, how much money it made me or how stable it seemed. She never doubts me or assumes I am making destructive, naive leaps. I want to quit my corporate job and become an artist? How exciting! I need her to buy a plane ticket two weeks from now so she can help me drag four tons of leather jackets, garment racks, dress forms and signs through Jersey City’s biggest summer festival? She’ll be there! Is there a single, solitary thing she wouldn’t do for me? Nope!

My dad.
I tell people that I came to entrepreneurship through the back door. It wasn’t that I had a secret passion for painting that I could no longer hide or was willing to turn into a full-time career no matter what. It’s that I found an interesting way to apply a skill I already had and thought I could make a living doing it. I was searching for freedom and ownership and glory in my career before I was practicing how to paint on leather. Painting on leather was just the thing that I found that allowed me to be creative AND walk my dog in the middle of the day.

My dad has owned his own business and worked from home for over 20 years and has absolutely loved it. When I quit my corporate job,  I started to get random phone calls from him wanting to impart advice about time management, maintaining physical fitness (“You need a healthy body to have a healthy mind.”), and even one where he checked in just to see if I was wearing sweatpants at noon. (I was).

In short, inspiration stems from one simple truth: design your own life.

Jersey City’s amazing group of small business owners.
I say all the time that I don’t think this business would be working as well as it is, if I weren’t in Jersey City. This town has been unbelievably generous. With their ideas, their word of mouth connections, with floor space in their shops, with their excitement and support.

When I was having a particularly bad week and spreading my self-inflicted disappointment all over social media, I received a message from one of my favorite small business owners that read; “Small biz is extreme highs and the lowest lows. You can just hope to live somewhere in that middle zone. BUT – remember it’s your lows. And your highs. And your meh moments. There’s power and strength in the ownership of these emotions.”

Commiserating with someone whose business you admire is priceless. Nobody gets it like your fellow hustlers.

Physical trainers.
I focus on two types of physical fitness; yoga & hip hop. A yin and a yang.

It was Angela, who ran the yoga program at A&E (she still does!) who really got me into a regular yoga routine. Now I do a lot of Yoga with Adriene from home, but it was Angela who taught me about the art of pausing and meditation, surrendering on your mat, focusing on gratitude, finding the power within yourself and manifesting your dreams. That might sound trite altogether…  but for me those things were incredibly powerful when it came to being open enough to think of the idea (putting paint to leather) and confident enough to leap (quit).

I was introduced to a local hip hop class in Jersey City about a year ago by a friend and it was like discovering the workout I’ve been looking for my whole life. I love to dance. But Zumba was always so cheesy. I once went to a class where the instructor had Zumba branded shoes, pants, shirt and ZUMBA MUSIC. It was awful. I need to feel like I’m in a club… where no one is looking at me.

Anyways, the long of the short of this is; hip hop class makes me feel like a badass. It’s sweaty and really, really hard and it makes you strong and awesome and when the Beyonce songs come on I definitely close my eyes and pretend like I am her back-up dancer and we are on tour together and that fills me with joy.

I believe that all of those feelings attach themselves to you and you get to carry them with you during the week. They wear off, of course, so you have to keep going. But it is so, so worth it.

Friends, dear friends.
I think this is actually a separate post, actually. But what I’ve realized lately, is that your good friends just want to share in your happiness. This is literally all they want from you. They are eager for you to be happy so they can greet you at the next friend event and say, “I am so happy for you!”

I have so many friends who asked how they could help when I was stuck at my desk job. So many friends who rushed to buy a jacket before I was even on Etsy. So many friends who told their friends about my budding business or offered to apply their corporate expertise or just reminded me how worthy I was of doing something else with my life. Good friends are invaluable, but they really show themselves in situations like these.


…Did this turn into a gratitude post?
Maybe. But it’s Thanksgiving so I’m allowed.
Happy day, to you and yours.