When I was younger, I always felt in my heart of hearts that I would be a business owner- that was all that I knew. I didn’t know what business, product or service but I felt like I was destined to run something. Whenever someone would ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” at first I would say “A pediatrician”, then I changed to “Something marketing” when I became a teenager and started promotional modeling/ brand ambassadoring. However, when it came time for me to go to college I checked out ‘marketing jobs’ and was highly discouraged by appointment setting and sales jobs. I remember that distinctly because I decided to study Information Technology. It was a hobby of mine, I was good at it and I could make good money. I didn’t have a mentor to say to me “there are thousands of unique positions within marketing you can be successful in.” Fast forward about two years into a community college associates degree, I was failing classes, wasting money and was miserable. But I had also doubled my salary working full time in IT, so I decided to pause my education and focus on my career. By the time I turned 23, I felt like I was 35 and would die in my cubicle. I had to get out, I had to take control of my life before I woke up one day with kids and a husband who counted on me.
That’s when I took a deep, hard look at my talents, desires, and motivations. I researched and wrote out plans and finally decided I wanted to pursue a degree in Fashion Merchandising. It would combine my love of fashion/ brands, technology, and sociology but I had a 1.7 GPA, I knew I had work to do. I started back at my community college in Summer 2013, I earned a 4.0 GPA that semester. One more community college semester and I had raised my GPA high enough to be accepted to the Fashion Merchandising program at Marymount University for Spring 2014. I had to quit my $60k per year IT job by this time to attend school full time, during the day, like I had never experienced before. I knew I had to sacrifice to make this transition and I started working in a nightclub until 4 am Thursday-Saturday, 12 hours on Saturdays during the summer. Despite 12 hour shifts, slow nights and aching feet I earned a 3.7 GPA and decided to take my talents to Clark Atlanta University in Fall 2014. I sold my sports car for a 1999 Toyota, downsized my belongings, and moved to Atlanta where I only knew one person. I proudly graduated Cum Laude (3.4 GPA) with a BA in Fashion Merchandising in May 2016. I did it, I finished after 8 years of trying to pursue a degree I saw most of my peers receive 4 years before me. I learned so much about myself, I was so poor by the time I graduated that I didn’t take grad photos, buy a diploma frame or even buy a new dress to walk in. Being in Atlanta with no support system was by far the hardest decision of my life.
The week after I graduated I was offered a paid internship with a digital marketing agency, I sent out 70 resumes and received one interview. There was no way I wasn’t going to get my job as Digital PR intern. I lived on the bare minimum for 6 months, no health insurance, having to save my money to pay the IRS at the end of the year. In November 2016 I was offered a full-time position, but I was disappointed. The salary barely covered my living expenses, never one to lay down and die, I got a second job preparing taxes over the winter. I worked 8 hours a day only to leave and work 3-4 hours into the night. It was rough, particularly because the entire time I’ve been persevering, I have never had a partner to help me split expenses and I was done burdening my parents. Tax season ended and I started renting out my extra room on AirBnB- every other day I wash and flip the beds, clean their bathroom and the common areas. Sometimes I am late to work preparing for guests, but the extra income is vital. The reason I do not leave my position is that the company is on the cutting edge of search engine optimization and I am learning so many high-level processes. Somethings are more important than money, like company culture, loyalty, and experience.
A little over a year out from receiving my bachelor’s degree, I started looking into graduate programs. Originally I wanted to get a certificate in Digital and Social Media, I was promptly accepted to Kennesaw State University. However, the more I thought about what kind of special education I wanted to pursue, the more I felt connected to consumer behavior and insights. I’ve always had an unusual appreciation for demographics- why people buy what they buy- that was nurtured in my Fashion Merchandising program. I started researching post-grad programs for consumer behavior and discovered a degree, first of its kind, in Media Psychology. It was the study of the effect of technology and media on human behavior. Not surprising (because of my GPA), I was accepted to the certificate program at Fielding Graduate University. I am extremely excited because once I finish my graduate certificate I will go directly into my Master’s degree program in Media Psychology, also at Fielding. Now I have dreams of being a branding consultant, finally, I see what kind of business I will start.
I decided to look into crowd funding because scholarships are very limited, only a few people can win them and who knows if they even read the essays (I happen to manage scholarships at my job and can personally say, they don’t read all of them, just a few) Deserving people often get overlooked. I decided to tell my story online because I have told it numerous times to students at Clark Atlanta, I volunteer to be on every post-grad panel they offer. I believe my story can inspire others who are afraid to take the leap that I did, to jump off your path onto another one, to go backward in order to go forward.
If this has inspired you to chase your dreams, to not be afraid or to choose happiness, donate a dollar or five so I can continue to empower students, business owners, and women. This donation is not for a trip to Vegas, a designer purse or credit card debt, this donation is for hard work, perseverance, and integrity which I will continue to uphold during and after receiving my Master’s degree. Thank you for reading my story.