A year ago today, my friend John called me up and asked if I wanted to go skydiving. I was preparing for a four-day weekend bender with my roommates, all of which have birthdays within days of each other. It was destined to be an epic weekend, and what way to better start it off with a skydive?
Now, I knew I wanted to go through the AFF program after I landed my tandem skydive at Skydive Temple. But I wanted to check out the area DZ’s to see which one would be a good fit since there were three that I could potentially be jumping at. Long story short, John and I were going to go to Skydive Midwest but they were booked. I said I didn’t want to go there because they didn’t have much information about AFF on the website. So we called up Chicagoland Skydiving Center, sat through insane amounts of traffic to get there, and before you know it, we were jumping. And I was enrolling in my first jump course for the weekend after my birthday.
So let’s talk about how much things can change in a year:
- May 28, 2010: Tandem skydive at CSC
- I was happy happy with work and everything before skydiving, but then the bug bit me and I knew I had to find a way to make this a more significant part of my life.
- June 11, 2010: My first jump course on Friday night.
- June 21, 2010: Had my first phone interview with Paul Dyer at WCG in Austin, as I knew I needed to figure out a way to skydive more often and needed a change of scenery at work
- July 10, 2010: Graduated AFF and earned my A-License. Also deemed the day my life got reallyfuckingawesome.
- September: Nationals. Tattoos. Road trip to Colorado for tunnel camp, trip to the hospital for the boy’s neck, and conversations with WCG in Austin about coming out for a round of interviews when I got back from the trip. I start working with Doug at CSC doing some consulting on the side, helping him navigate the whole social media scene.
- October: I go to Austin, get the job at WCG, come back and pack up my life. Again.
- January: I go to Z-Hills with the boy, decide I’m ready to start my own company and quit my job and move back to Illinois for the summer season, winter TBD. My parents approve. Life is good.
- February: We move back to Illinois. I’m working with CSC full-time and it’s AMAZING.
- March: I go back to Austin for SXSW. I attend as myself. Not Sydney from <insert company name here> but Sydney Owen. Nothing after that. And it’s great. Aaron and I have a lively discussion about mentoring and I kick off my entrepreneurial life with some awesome contacts, like Kevin from NBCF and start working on some awesome events for CSC this year.
- May: I finally get to 100 jumps. Started the coach rating course with 102 jumps. Earned my coach rating.
And here we are. In under a year, I was just crazy enough to totally transform my life not once, but twice. It’s been one hell of a ride and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.
What has changed for you in the past year?
It was about this time last year that I was obsessively checking skydiving websites to see where I should go through the accelerated freefall program and earn my license. I had been home from SXSW for a month, the No Boundaries applications at work were due, and I submitted my proposal. I wanted to go learn how to skydive and eventually do so to benefit breast cancer in some way.
A handful of my colleagues had decided to run the Chicago Marathon in Lauren’s honor, some just to do it, others raising funds to benefit her medical bills or research or both. It was amazing to see the support flooding our office.
I had settled on Chicagoland Skydiving Center for my training, and ventured out to Hinckley, IL with my friend John on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend to kick off the ridiculous party that would be happening at my house and get our knees in the breeze. We originally were going to head up to Skydive Midwest but they were booked, so CSC is where we ended up.
After I completed my first jump course in June, I was talking to Jen about how I could do this whole skydiving for breast cancer thing. She mentioned that she knew Kevin Hail, the COO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. That’s pretty much where the conversation ended. She had to go or I had to go and it never really came up again.
Fast forward a year, and I’m in Austin for SXSW, having a few cocktails at the Gingerman, talking with Elysa and Tiffany and meeting some awesome Dallas social media people. I had made two skydives, by myself, at Skydive Temple, and somehow, I end up meeting Kevin Hail from NBCF. I mentioned talking to Jen about the whole skydiving thing briefly, and he was totally stoked about the idea.
SXSW happens, I move the rest of my stuff to Illinois, start working with CSC full-time and now, we’re planning the Boogie for Boobies – a skydiving weekend fundraiser to benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
A little bit about the event:
$30 gets you a boobie-licious t-shirt, food and drink tickets.
We’ll have a helicopter available for your jumping pleasure on Saturday, $65 and you must be B-License qualified. We’re also offering spectator rides – you can go up and come down with the helicopter. Almost as fun as jumping out of it.
We’re hosting a fan-TATA-tastic raffle with awesome prizes, PJ Jackson from Supafly Skydiving will be organizing (also available for coaching) and the Otter will be here for your jumping pleasure. For those of you non-skydivers, we’ll be raffling a 9,000 ft skydive, a level one solo skydive and more!
For those of you unable to attend (most likely everyone reading this), we’ve partnered with CrowdRise to facilitate donations from kind, generous, boobie lovers like you. You can make a donation HERE.
Email me at email@example.com if you have questions, are interested in making a donation, or would like to offer products/services for the raffle.
NBCF is on a mission to save lives via early detection and through education programs such as “Beyond the Shock” as well as giving mammograms to those in need. They are different from Komen in that they focus on the education bit, whereas Komen focuses on research for the cure.
Now, the learning part of this whole thing.
When I was at my first agency job, my boss wanted me to be well-rounded, and all I wanted to do was tweet and write Facebook content calendars for clients. He insisted that I get my hands dirty on more of the “traditional” PR stuff, like event planning, pitching media beyond bloggers, writing stuff that wasn’t in internet-speak, etc. I whined and cried and bitched and moaned about how much I hated event planning. I absolutely despised it. Too many details. Too much stress.
I guess there is something to be said to listening to people who have your career and your best interests in mind. Because planning this event (and the other events we have coming up this season) has been a delightful experience and a piece of cake because it’s not nearly as stressful as planning a 10-marathon sponsorship program or three sponsorship programs at national cheerleading competitions where you’re dealing with vendors creating tens of thousands of items and about a bajillion details and mapping out what happens minute by minute for three days.
So, Mr. Keats (and my other teams who I was actually working with), thank you for making me work on some of this event planning stuff. It is now one of my favorite parts of my job.
Have you, or has someone you know been affected by breast cancer?
What is one part of your job that you never thought you would love, and now you do?
Disclaimer: I don’t want to sound like one of the bajillion bloggers out there that are all “quit your job!” “forget responsibility!” “don’t have a plan – just go for it!” and the last thing I want to do is sound preachy. But I think there is something to be said for following your passions, creating a life that works for you, and not settling for less than something amazing. That being said, on we go.
I am now 51 days free of my former existence in the cubicle nation. And, like I mentioned on Wednesday, this is everything I could have asked for and more. I am beyond excited that the risk I took is working out so far, and I can’t wait to see where things go this season, and how life plays out after my first year in this new world.
There was a lot of planning that went into this decision. Yes, I made it fairly quickly, but there was a lot of thought put into leaving the stability of a corporate job to pursue my passions full time. If you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you fall into two camps: you too have done or are in the process of doing the whole “live life balls to the wall and by your own definitions thing” or you might not be 100% happy with where you are at right now. I want to help you get to 100% happy, if not more.
So, where did I begin? Instead of getting into the rah-rah of what lead to the decision and the preachy bit about how I think we should all be living happy lives, I wanted to share with you some tools I used to help plan my departure and start my own company, as well as some that I’m using now that I’m in full-swing working with CSC.
When deciding to pursue this opportunity with Chicagoland Skydiving Center, I knew I needed to start my own company in the process, since we’re all independent contractors. I thought long and hard about my goals beyond my role here at CSC and, as the post mentioned on Thursday, the eventual goal would be to start my own company and take my own clients. So the “eventual goal” became a stark reality pretty quickly. Since I had to start an LLC or incorporate anyway, I thought a few steps ahead and planned to use the LLC to be the umbrella where I put it all together down the road.
I chose LegalZoom to start my LLC, 3Ring Media. The process was as simple as filling out a few forms and a swipe of a credit card. Legal Zoom does all of the filing and hard work for you.
I used some of Jenny Blake’s templates for financial planning and life planning when working through this decision of when I should quit my job. The four-step budget template was particularly helpful in figuring how much money I was bringing in from the agency, how much I was bringing in from side work and what my monthly expenses were. I was negotiating my retainer with CSC and I knew I needed to make exactly $XX to pay off my student loans, credit cards, car payments, etc and used that number to negotiate and determine whether or not I’d be able to survive off of CSC alone or if I needed to start hustling for more clients.
Now that I’m here and know what I’m bringing in, I’ve stepped it up a notch on using Mint.com and the Mint app to set budgets and keep track of where my money is going. I use my debit card for everything, very rarely paying cash, so I can hold myself accountable for what kind of spending I’m doing. Not surprisingly, food and beverages are one of the biggest pieces of the pie.
Apps/websites that keep me sane slash organized:
- Freshbooks: I use Freshbooks for invoicing, and the MiniBooks app on my iPhone to back that up. I invoice every two weeks, so I set reminders on Google Calendar for when to send out the invoices and from the app (or the website) I can create and send new invoices directly to my clients in PDF form. That way, I keep track of my income via email, PDF documents AND the Freshbooks website, which keeps a queue of all of the invoices I’ve sent to date.
- Dropbox: a lot of my job revolves around file sharing, be it pictures of great skydives, videos from some of the tandem instructors, etc, so Dropbox makes it easy to share a folder where the instructors and fun jumpers can send me their “best of” shots from each week. I’m also a huge fan of backing up my computer, so between my external harddrive, Google Docs and Dropbox, I know I’ll be able to find what I’m looking for.
- FedEx: my permanent address is at my parent’s house. I determined that given my relocation schedule as of the past several years, it’s best to just keep everything coming to my parents, since they aren’t moving any time soon. Every couple weeks, I give my dad my FedEx account number and have him send me any important mail that came. I’m sure my use of this account will likely change over time, but this works for now.
- Google Voice: I don’t really want to give out my personal cell number to just anyone, so I’ve been using Google Voice for awhile now. This allows me to field business calls, as one of Google Voice’s features is that you pick up the call, listen to who’s calling and, like we could back in the day, listen to them leave a message and if you want to talk to them, you can pick up in the middle of their voicemail. Funny how technology evolves to include little luxuries from earlier times.
What apps or websites help keep your business running? What kinds of big goals do you have for yourself, professionally speaking?
Authors note: I got a new MacBook Pro on Tuesday and spent a few minutes this morning going through the files that had been transfered from my old MacBook. I found this draft, dated July 28, 2009, 7:04 AM. I thought it’d be fun to share it with you all.
There is a lot to be said for the entrepreneurial spirit. It isn’t something that everyone possesses, and if you do have it in you, it can be very, very hard to ignore.
The ultimate goal is to someday have my own business. What exactly my little shop will offer is always changing, but I do have a couple solid ideas rolling around in my head.
The feedback I’m getting from my entrepreneurial friends is mixed. I’ve heard that there is no better time than now to try to start up my own business, because I’m 24, no spouse, no mortgage, no kids, no responsibilities besides taking care of myself. One friend even told me I need to think of a name ASAP so I can start building the brand. On the flip side, I’ve also heard that in the industry I’m trying to break into (public relations, in case you’re new here), experience is king. Hard to think about starting my own agency when I’m only six weeks into my first internship outside of college, right? Of course. Hard to walk into the bank and ask for money for a start-up if you’re still so green.
So what do I need? I need a solid idea that is something that is in high-demand, or will be by the time I finally get on my feet. And I think I just might have that idea. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to have someone who has years of experience behind them to help guide me (and whoever joins me on this journey) along the way.
This conversation I’ve been having with myself is eerily similar to the one I had when I was trying to sit down and figure out my major. I started out pre-med with full intentions of becoming a head/neck surgeon (an otolaryngologist if you’re in the biz) until I took chemistry and realized that wasn’t happening. My earth was shattered when I realized that pre-med wasn’t going to happen for me. So I sat myself down and had a heart-to-heart with my brain and made a list of everything that I’m really awesome at and everything I really suck at. (Funny side note, I now work a floor below Northwestern Hospital’s Otolaryngology department.)
Inevitably, I think the same list will need to be recreated. It’s been five years since the last draft went down on paper and I would be willing to bet that a lot of that list has changed.
If you have your own business, where do you even begin with this whole process? Where do you stand on the experience vs. fresh new face idea? Should you wait to have some experience before you go diving in or should you seek out a mentor to guide you along the way?
One, my apologies for not being more vocal the past couple weeks, I’m going to do my damndest to keep posting on a semi-regular basis, and ideally, that will include more than one post per week.
That being said, can we talk about how amazing it feels when you take a huge risk and it totally works out?
I had a lot of butterflies when I first considered the opportunity to work with Chicagoland Skydiving Center on their social media, marketing, events, funjumper happiness (which is like community management online and offline in our little world here in Rochelle, IL). In fact, I called my parents and told them about the option to move back to Chicago-area, do what I’m doing now, and they, for the first time, told me I couldn’t.
“You just moved to Austin, you’re breaking a committment you made to your agency there.”
“You haven’t been out of school for that long, how are you going to grow if you ARE the marketing department?”
“What about benefits? You need health insurance, you need a paycheck. How is this going to work?”
I cried to my boyfriend and one of my mentors that day. For the first time in my entire life, my parents weren’t like “FUCK YEAH! GO FOR IT!” like they have been for every single major milestone in my life.
I wasn’t going to be a cheerleader in college, but rowing sounded fun. “Go for it!”
I wasn’t going to find an agency PR job in Tampa, so when the opportunity came to move to Chicago for an internship, they were all “Hell yeah, you can do it!”
When skydiving took over my life, changed my world and I wanted to move to Austin, they were skeptical at first, saying that I was leaving a perfectly awesome job for a potentially more awesome job in another state, but then were all “HELL YES SYDNEY, YOU TACKLE THAT MOUNTAIN AND CRUSH IT!!”
So you can imagine my dismay when my parents didn’t support me entertaining the thought of moving back here, working with CSC full-time and what that would entail.
Then they came to the dropzone in January, saw what this world is all about, and said I’d be stupid not to.
I got my own health insurance, I have a monthly retainer that is equal to what I was making before I left Chicago, and I’m still learning and growing EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Largely because I’m so new to the industry, but also because I’m working with a client that is down to try anything and everything.
My biggest take away from SXSW this year (besides a cold and a bunch of new friends/contacts) was how awesome GroupMe was. So we brought it to CSC. We have a group for the management team, we tested that out and everyone loved it, and then we passed along the info to the gals in manifest, the AFF instructors, the coaches, the full-time tandem instructors and the part-time instructors.
I’ve learned in the past month or so that you can now migrate a profile page to a business Page on Facebook. When I first started consulting with CSC in September, we couldn’t do that. So this winter we built a new page, from scratch, and lost nearly 5,000 fans in the process. But we got over it. Then Places came along. So we merged our old location with our Page, and when we moved, the map, and consequently the Deals page, was stuck at our old location, rendering our deal useless because people weren’t checking into the right venue. Facebook has been a never-ending battle, but thanks to the likes of former colleagues like Brendan, I’m getting my foot in the right direction to get everything merged and pretty and sparkly.
And today, for the first time this season, the weather forecast wasn’t something scary enough to keep me on the ground. Here is my schedule on a day when we’re weathered out:
- Wake up
- Eat breakfast
- Let the dog out
- Head to dropzone
- Do work (mostly related to emails, responding to questions on Facebook, Twitter, fighting off the coupon-related companies that want to offer tandem skydives for next to nothing)
- Head home
- Make dinner
- Hang out with the boy
- Go to bed
Here’s my schedule on a jumpable day, like today:
- Wake up
- Eat breakfast
- Let the dog out
- Head to the dropzone
- Do work (see above)
- Socialize with jumpers
- Jump, land, pack my parachute
- Check emails, Facebook, Twitter, voicemail
- Socialize with jumpers
- Jump, land, pack my parachute (can be repeated as necessary)
- Do work – write a blog post, check Google Reader for mentions of CSC
- Socialize, grab dinner
- Head home, go to bed
Awesome? I think so. Exactly what I signed up for? All that and then some. Beyond stoked for this season. Ready to work my ass off, hustle, save some serious cash, and retire to Costa Rica and Florida for the off-season. Maybe take some additional clients, maybe not.
What’s new in your worlds? Sorry I haven’t been around much!