We're living through an unprecedented time. It's scary, but I've been here. I started my career working for design firms in 1993, then added a side venture in the mid-nineties, a custom kid's bed linen business that I ran for 10 years. In the late nineties, I added a second moonlighting layer (because who needs a social life in their 20s): smaller, then bigger interior design projects in whatever waking hours I had. In 2004, I got an opportunity from one of those side clients to launch my own interior design firm. It took a nagging gut instinct to make the leap, but I'm grateful that I said yes. My businesses have survived significant shakeups, including September 11th and the 2008 financial crisis, as well as years where nothing seems to go right. For someone who wasn't entrepreneurial minded in design school, here we are, 25 years later, with endless lessons and the ability to weather the storm.
Growing up in Benac, a small village in the South of France, my parents instilled the importance of natural and healthy living in me from a young age. My father is a white French man and my mother is an African-American, so as the only mixed family in the village, I always felt... different. I was an average, tall, skinny, curly-haired girl, who watched the Miss France competition every year, dreaming of the gorgeous gowns, the pretty girls and the luxurious destiny that awaited them.
I was stuck, stuck in my routine of working in nightlife and daydreaming about the life I really wanted. Coat check wasn't easy, in fact, it was hard and emotionally draining, but I could count on making money and so I stayed. Then one night, after a particularly hard day at work, I called a family meeting with my mother and sister and said it was time we took control of our lives.
I have a confession: I've never really enjoyed working for other people. Why? Well, for starters, I'm selfish. If there's a final bite of shared dessert on the plate, I'll eat it. If I go even one day without hitting the gym, I'm resentful. Once the coffee is made, I pour myself a cup of coffee before I offer it to my husband. I hoard time the way others hoard possessions. I'm selfish with my thoughts. I like to be alone. Sometimes, I stick my daughter in front of a cartoon just so I can hear myself think.
Dr. Claudia Consolati is Assistant Professor of Film, Gender, and Sexuality and the founder of The Women Speak Up Project, a platform to help visionary women entrepreneurs overcome their fear of being seen & heard so that they can grow their business and income. She believes that finding your voice is the #1 business asset for women with big dreams and want to make a big impact in the world. She's regularly invited to speak at prestigious universities across the US and Canada.