As we shared in one of our previous blogs, this company and idea were years in the making, but it wasn’t until we started to actually build the company that I realized this was my dream. Being an entrepreneur and a business owner is the most difficult “job” I’ve ever had. Mostly because it’s not a job at all – it is an all-consuming passion that forces you to work 26 hours a day, 9 days a week; however, there is a pulse and an energy that drives you through the late night edits and early morning phone calls. There is a beauty in not only working for yourself, but in working toward something in which you wholeheartedly believe.
From an early age, I wanted nothing more than to be on General Hospital (a soap opera for those of you unaware of Daytime television). Being an actor was my only career goal, and I worked diligently to achieve that dream. After receiving my BFA in Theatre from the University of Evansville, I was working as a Casting Assistant at ABC-Disney Television Group. Whilst at my desk, Emily (By Grace’s other co-founder) and I used to g-chat. One day, she told me about an audition for a Yoplait commercial. It was a long shot, but I was excited to actually be the one auditioning rather than arranging the auditions. However, sitting at my desk, I started fantasizing about actually booking the gig. If you are unfamiliar with Hollywood paychecks, national commercials can be quite lucrative. Along with booking an actual acting opportunity, there could be a nice sum of money coming my way. Emily was simply being a good friend, looking out for my dream of becoming a professional actor, but what ended up happening was an opportunity for a shared dream to come to fruition. While still sitting at my desk, something I did much too frequently right out of college, I chatted Emily telling her that if I booked the commercial, we would use the funds as our seed capital to start a company using the fabrics from Ghana that she had become obsessed with as a child. Within an hour, we knew that we wanted to start a company that would teach women to sew. We then wanted to sell the created garments here in the States. And Emily already knew of the perfect name, you guessed it, “By Grace.” Long story short, as you may have guessed, Yoplait (unknowingly) provided our start-up capital!
After receiving the money from the commercial, we got off to a slow start. We had big dreams, but neither of us had started a company before. We were 22 years old, and both had full time jobs, but it wouldn’t take long for us to realize that what we believed would be our careers in entertainment and marketing were really just preparing us for our destinies of owning a business that truly empowered women.
Following the Yoplait commercial, I shot several other commercials, short films, pilot TV shows, and a few feature films, but I was still not satisfied. Something was missing. A year ago, Emily and I decided we weren’t wasting our time any longer. By Grace was our heartbeat, and we started putting all of our attention, energy, and money into it!
Unfortunately, By Grace is not currently self-sustaining (it will be, give us some time!), which means Emily and I both still work full time jobs to fund our endeavor, and then work nights, weekends, lunches and mornings in order to get By Grace to where we know it will help as many people as possible. This we do with joy however, because I know that for me, I have found my calling. I know now what I am supposed to do with my life, and am so grateful to Emily (and to Yoplait) for exposing me to my true dream job.
Until next time,