On Monday, I bade farewell to Houzz, the tech startup I’ve been working for since 2012. It’s not the first time I’ve left a company – in fact, I’ve ended ties with jobs in almost every other way (contract expiry, leaving for another company, getting fired – that one was the best actually). But this go-around, I’ll be plunging into the vastness of funemployment to do my own thing.
I don’t know if it ever occurred to me until recently that I might one day build my own business. Thinking back to my childhood, I was always very practical. I recall more often having specific goals – buy a beautiful home, see the world, own a Gameboy Pocket – than dreaming about what I “wanted to be when I grew up”. My parents were also great at teaching me that working hard to earn a living would get me to those goals, without pushing me toward any specific career path. So when I meanderingly discovered in high school that I was good at selling people on ideas, I set my sights on studying business in college and getting a job in marketing after graduating because that would be a smart, viable, lucrative career choice… and that’s exactly what I’ve done. Practical indeed.
Now, six years into a rather successful marketing career, I’m realizing that I never meant it all those times that interviewers asked “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and I answered, “as a Marketing Director.” And I wish I could blame my practical nature for why I’ve not been more honest with myself until now, but I think very simply that I’ve been afraid:
- My late father, born into the Great Depression and then interned during WWII, worked hard his whole life such that my sister and I were born into much better circumstances; and I’ve been afraid of squandering the opportunities for education and employment I’ve been given.
- I graduated in 2008, watched my friends lose their jobs as the economy fell apart, and I was just grateful to be working for a very stable packaged goods corporation. Despite gradual improvements in the past few years especially in San Francisco, I’ve been afraid of the job economy and what would happen to me if I left my place in the workforce.
- I don’t know how to code, and being immersed in the SF/Silicon Valley scene, I’ve been afraid that building a business didn’t count if it wasn’t a tech startup.
- I’ve been afraid that if my career didn’t consistently progress in a logical upward-and-to-the-right straight line, I was somehow failing at life.
That said, in 2012 during my six weeks between jobs, I had figured out a business idea for guiding people’s discretionary spending in major lifestyle categories like apparel, restaurants, home décor, etc. I was very excited about the idea, but I didn’t think I was ready yet (whatever “ready” means), so I accepted my offer to join Houzz and tried not to look back. It was a great ride for the past year and a half, but in the last few months I’ve done a ton of reflection on what more I want out of my life, and it’s become clear that it isn’t in my dreams to work for someone else.
It isn’t in my genes either: my dad, in addition to being an actor and pro wrestler, started successful construction & realty companies; and his father, who immigrated from Japan in the early 1900s, started a popular Laundromat and opened a thriving hotel in Los Angeles before the War; and I’ve rather wanted to follow in their footsteps and become a part of the Nozawa legacy of entrepreneurs.
I’ll always be able to find a reason to hesitate and delay my plans – there’s never going to be “the right time”… So I’ve decided to just take the plunge and go after this business idea with my full attention and drive.
I promised myself that in 2014, I would stop being so afraid of my dreams. It helps tremendously that my boyfriend and my amazing friends are so supportive of my idea and believe in me. Still though, to be honest I’m pretty scared. Maybe even terrified. But this is also the most alive and electrified I’ve felt about hard work in a very long time. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s the point. February 28th, I’m ready for you.