I am an awol academic who has caught the entrepreneurial bug. Though I currently have one foot in the world of universities and another in entrepreneurship, my career path has been long and winding, and multidirectional. You see, I started my life as an elementary art teacher, with dreams of becoming a Real Artist. And then I took time off with my newborn. And then I started to miss the intellectual stimulation (which at the time I associated with school), so I went back for a master’s in Social Science Education. And then in Sociology. And then the PhD.
Oh, and there were some failed business attempts strewn in there, as well.
Teaching at the Public Schools
From as early as I can remember, I have always wanted to be two things when I grew up – a teacher and an artist. (Well, there was that brief period when I was 7 and wanted nothing more than to work at McDonalds, so I could get all the cheeseburgers I wanted…).
I went to college and got a degree in Art Education, with an emphasis in oil painting. You know what they didn’t teach in art school? The part where you learn how to make a living as an artist. So, I taught art in local elementary schools by day, and in my spare time, I was blindly stumbling my way through ideas for arts and crafts businesses.
Illustrating and Purses and Quilted Paintings, Oh my!
My first business idea was to become a children’s book illustrator. So I got some book on how to do it, made up some example illustrations (I think I still have those somewhere…), and started sending them out to publishing companies.
I really had no idea what I was doing, in retrospect. Sad. And then I thought, “I know! CRAFT FAIRS!” But what to sell?
My first craft fair, I set up a tent and filled it with handmade purses. I don’t know if I sold any, and I shudder to think what that tend actually looked like to a professional eye. Again, flying by the seat of my pants, I did try again later with quilted paintings. I still have those – they’re hanging in my house. But the part where I actually made money for my efforts, that part still eluded me.
Eventually, I came to the (misguided) decision that art and making stuff was destined to be a hobby for me, and my career would be teaching. However, elementary school was not my ideal gig. That’s when I signed up for grad school.
Oh, the Ivory Tower!
After many years of book learnin’, I received my PhD in Sociology from Purdue University in 2011. My research focus, back when I did that sort of thing, was on self and identity – what makes us who we are? In my dissertation, I focused on gender and engineering as an identity, in an effort to explain why so many women drop out of engineering. I now work as a Mercenary Sociologist (aka Adjunct Professor) for about five universities, mostly online. Teaching online is super awesome – I can work in my pajamas. And I get to teach some amazing classes, like The Psychology of Success. How fun is that?
But adjuncting is a dead end job. I wanted more. The drive to make things had never gone away, but after all those years of grad school, I now had a bigger and mightier brain, and had picked up some fundamental skills that would help me do business better this time.
I started my first real business in June of 2011 – my online perfume supply shop, Vetiver Aromatics. This sprouted out of my long-time daydream of owning an apothecary and generally doing the kind of work that gave me the feeling of being a mad scientist/alchemist in a lab. When you make perfume, you get to play with graduated cylinders and pipettes and all kinds of fun science equipment.
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