The Success Diaries: Claire Mazur & Erica Cerulo

Dear Claire and Erica circa 2002,

You guys just met, at the dining hall! And, as much as you want to roll your eyes at the guy who introduced you—who thinks you’ll have so much in common because you’ve both dated college basketball players—acknowledge that he might be onto something. Definitely roll your eyes first, though, and then get down to it.

Eight years from now in 2010—when you’ll be an unfathomably old 26 and 27—you’ll start a business together. Can you even believe it? First, try to wrap your heads around the fact that you won’t be in college staying up all night, er, working on the chattiest floor of the library. Then picture yourselves in New York instead of Chicago with 1) less bronzer on your faces and 2) resumes that boast real, paying jobs. Then imagine you come up with an idea one cold day in January that you gets you so excited that you rally emails full of “what ifs” and “how ‘bouts” back and forth all night and decide that you have to meet for coffee the next day to workshop it some more.

What do you two know about starting this business you’ve dreamt up? Next to nothing. Neither of you has worked in fashion in a real way, you’ve only constructed a website via Tumblr, and you definitely don’t know the difference between an LLC and a corporation. But here’s the thing: That won’t hold you back. Below, the things to keep in mind, especially when banging your head against the wall or feeling the symptoms of imposter syndrome coming on.

1)   You’re going to have to get comfortable with risk.

The anxious, unsteady feeling that swirls around in your stomach when you’re not confident that something is a sure-thing—start embracing it. Don’t let it keep you up at night. Because, hey, guess what? Nothing is a sure-thing. The safe job you take could get downsized. The gig you think is your absolute dream could be totally obsolete in a decade. So set your sights, and get after it.

2)   Ask for advice—tons! and ignore a whole lot of it.

When you’ve never done something before, it seems like everyone who has even a teaspoon of experience must know better. Pick those people’s brains. Hear them out. Take it all in. But then use only what speaks to you, and don’t feel the tiniest bit of reluctance about choosing your own way. You might not know everything—or anything, really—but you know what feels right to you.

3)   Accept that some things will be so much harder than expected and that some things will be so much easier.

Today could be terrible, and tomorrow could bring an amazing surprise. This year could be mind-blowingly awesome, and next kind of the dumps. Don’t dwell on the bad or the good. Roll with it.

4)   Take care of yourselves.

And know what that means for YOU. Maybe it’s carving out time to work out every morning so you don’t lose your damn mind. Maybe it’s having a standing weekly date with your husband. Maybe it’s knitting or cooking or watching Nashville even though it’s gotten so bad. Just make it a priority, and don’t let it get stamped off your calendar by all of the emails and meetings and to-dos.

You’re gonna be great. We mean it.

Xoxo

Claire and Erica in 2015

 

Claire and Erica met at University of Chicago in 2002 when a mutual frenemy introduced them, suggesting they should be friends because they both, at some point during their college careers, dated (Division III) basketball players. They quickly realized they had other things in common, an appreciation of fashion and a Tracy Flick-like approach to their extracurriculars among them. Both girls moved to New York post-graduation, and often found themselves talking about peers who had started businesses and their mutual admiration for those who had taken the plunge. When they conceptualized Of a Kind—over the course of 25 frantic emails in 12 hours—they knew they had to pursue it. Of a Kind aims to support and promote on-the-rise fashion and home designers by giving you access to their unique products and personal stories. For more about Of a Kind, visit www.ofakind.com or follow them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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