Every twist in our story, challenge we face, and obstacle we overcome is an important part of our story. These difficulties make us stronger and wiser and prepare us for what’s ahead. As we grow and succeed we may imagine that soon the challenges will fade away, but in our conversations with business owners, artists, creatives, academics, and others we have learned that the most common experience is that challenges never go away – instead they get more complex as we grow and succeed. Our ability to to thrive therefore depends heavily on our ability to learn from our experiences and so we are asking some of the city’s best and brightest: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Sasha McClanahan | Owner of DEMI NATURALS
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to not compare my business with others. I focus on perfecting my own craft, goal setting, and improving my business everyday. As long as you are progressing, you are working towards meeting a goal.
Jasmine Anwer | Architecture & Commercial Photographer
While it’s hard to point to one example that shows it, the most important lesson that I have learned along the way is to treat every job like it’s the most important. I spent my free time creating a portfolio and building my confidence in order to cater to my clients needs. However, by treating each job and each client like they were the most important gig I had worked on, I was able to build relationships and expand my portfolio. Because of that, some of those clients and photos became instrumental in shaping the future of my career.
Eric J | Singer | Songwriter | Musician, & Producer
The most important lesson that I have learned is that you have to know your own worth. We were made to be ourselves. No one else can show you how to make yourself happy. So go out & live. Surround yourself with people that challenge you & make life memorable. Dream big, Work harder!!!! That’s my slogan & I hope to continue making my dreams a reality all!!!
Leigh Breunig | Jewelry Designer
This journey has taught me infinitely more about who I am created to be. I am a dreamer, feeler, creator and having a forum to express myself has led to a brighter version of myself — one I have more confidence in, more understanding of, more grace for. I am thankful for the space to grow.
Nykol Harris | Actress | Model and Dancer
The most important lesson I learned on my journey is to trust the process and be patient because as long as you believe in yourself and never give up the universe has no choice but to give what you have been putting out and working for.
Lindsay Burkhart | Social Content Creator
I have learned that staying patient is one of the keys to great success, and to always remember to be yourself because the payoff is always so much greater. In my position it can be difficult to stay in your lane and trust yourself with your ideas. Every time I do end up going with my plan of action it honestly has always either ended up with great results or I learned something from it and became better. I truly believe that life is all about improving yourself to become a better person, a harder worker, a better friend, etc. Identifying your goals and working hard to achieve them, but not losing yourself in the process is always a tough lesson to pass but it’s not impossible. I like to look back every so often at the work I have accomplished in my job or in my personal creatives and see the growth that has happened, the lessons I did learn from trying something new, but most importantly knowing that I never once changed myself in order to get there.
Lacy Studdard | Salon Owner and Hairstylist
The most important lesson to learn for me being a stylist and salon owner is that you have to create boundaries. I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years, and being self employed, you have to hustle at first if you want to make it. Success can sometimes come at the expense of time with family and friends that you can’t get back. You’ve got to switch gears at some point. For me, that looks like working less late nights and weekends so I can spend time with my family. I still accommodate those clients I love and have built relationships, I love my job!
SARAH BRIGGS | Entrepeneur | Jewelry Designer
I’ve learned countless lessons in my journey and one prevails no matter how much I pursue others. I had a mentor who passed away. I was talking to her in my mind one day, wondering what my next step in trying to scale should be. It was as if she spoke to me and her answer was clear as day, “it doesn’t matter darling, just enjoy your life”. Let go right now of what you think success is supposed to be. Decide for yourself and don’t forget to add in family, balance + giving to that equation.
D.H. Jonathan | Author and Art Model
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not just sit back and wait for something to happen. Take control of what you want. Go after the big job, write and publish that novel, take that trip you’ve always wanted to take.
John Wannamaker | Co-Founder & Chef at WannaEat Seafood
We all eat in order to live and food is an universal connector of people. I’ve learned we must continually find a new way to reach the people we want to feed. Starting out, we made many mistakes and found every platform doesn’t need your money or attention. Good food and good service will make a way for you.
WannaEat Seafood is a fusion of Caribbean and Southern cooking. We are catering leading up to the opening of our quick serve brick and mortar location.
Jacilyn Tucker | Wedding Planner
The most important lesson I’ve learned so far as a wedding planner is that building and maintaining vendor relationships are key! They are a must! Of course it’s good to have your preferred vendor’s list together, but to know more than your “dream team” is crucial. I enjoy having a variety of vendors to priovide my clients with, depending on their budget and style preference. How I build these relationships are attending networking events, making a presence on social media marketing groups and coordinating styled shoots! When planning styled shoots, I often reach out to vendors that I look up to, that I’ve yet to work with, to jump start our relationship. From there I try to refer business to one another to maintain that rapport. In this industry, referrals really go a long way, and while I get some from friends, family and past clients – majority of them come from those friend-ors!
Zach Woodie | World Wanderer & Techie
The most important lesson I have learned is to never stop exploring. There is always something new to see out there.
Truitt Rogers | Photographer | Owner of Truitt Photographics
So much has changed in the field of photography since I started in 1976 (that’s really weird to realize because I don’t often think of how long I’ve been a photographer I just enjoy it so much) so much has changed. I’ve had to adapt to the new digital way of doing things. Most of which I’m really grateful for. I love not having to mess with chemicals in the darkroom, the better image quality and the total control I have over every detail of the my images. I’ve had to embrace the changes and adapt to a whole new way of creating and I’ve had new ways of creating images opened to me that I never dreamed of. So the lesson learned is embrace changes because they are going to come and seize the opportunities they offer.
Conni Redding | Management consulting recruiter & soon to be full-time Minnesotan
The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is to find your niche. I combined my love for food and hip hop / rap music (all of my captions come from music lyrics), and I turned it into an instagram that offers unique content.
Kacee Anderson | Portrait and Lifestyle Photographer
Photography has taught me how to read people quickly and win them over. Sometimes kids (or even adults) come into pictures tired, nervous, or stressed out. I’ve learned the art of diffusing those situations. I want families to walk away with photos that stay true to who they are while bringing out their absolute best.
Seniors and couples often come to me with little experience in front of the camera aside from a quick smile. I find these groups can be especially nervous. Putting people at ease is important so I can get them the fun, silly, romantic, or timeless photos they’re looking for. It starts with helping them select a location and style that will best represent them. But even if meet a dozen different clients at the same location, every single one of them will have a unique experience. My job is to learn who you are and capture that through lens.
David Kozlowski | Freelance Photographer
The biggest lesson that I have learned, came early in my career. Shoot for myself and don’t base my photography on online comments about the images. I rarely shoot from a shot list and most of my sales come from requests for use of existing photos.
Tam Nguyen | President of Nfinitech Solutions Corp.
Endure and adapt to the changes in the industry in which you are associated with. CBD laws and regulations change and being able to adapt to keep up with the demand for our clients is what keeps us ahead of our competition and help the CBD industry thrive.
Nicholas Kanakis | ecologist and nature photographer
Wildlife photography is a challenging field. You can spend hours or even days searching for a specific species or particular behavior. When that animal appears, you have to be mentally and physically prepared to make the most of a fleeting moment and get the shot you had in mind. To do this I’ve learned you must take in as much as you can about species that interest you (something greatly assisted by my academic background in ecology and evolutionary biology), letting you envision shots that tell the story of a species’ biology and conservation. Free time needs to be split between pouring over scientific papers as well as experimenting with gear and lighting.
Calles De Mexico Taco Shop | Authentic traditional Mexican Food, Tex or Mex
Dedication, patience and never be afraid to new challenges, always trust in yourself.
Leah Gilligan Littenberg | Home Buyer Specialist/Realtor with the Todd Tramonte Home Selling Team
I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned is to be true to yourself and always do right by your clients. Unfortunately I’ve seen some horror story sides of real estate and it truly breaks my heart.
Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions people make- financially, emotionally, etc and I take my role very seriously. I’ve always been honest, open and genuinely care for my clients- something that’s just natural for me.
You can’t build a successful brand and business unless you’re honest and truly care for the people that you serve!
Naveen Kongara | Happiness framer
Photography doesn’t limit to just capture some images, it involves capturing emotions, feelings, important, meaningful moments that become a big part of the person or a family. when people look back at the pictures they might not remember who took those, but they sure remember the aromas, sensations, and feelings. Photography is being a complete stranger invited to share some deep and special moments in someone’s life. It is knowing that you might never be remembered but that your work will take people back to those precious moments and be as joyful as they were that day.
Steven Hector Gonzalez | Multidisciplinary Artist
The most important lessons I’ve learned so far is to have trust and patience in ones self and in the process of making.
Mercy Ebuetse | Entrepreneur | Writer & Engineer
In my journey as an entrepreneur and writer, I have had the privilege of learning a few precious life lessons. The most important of which is, ‘you are not in competition with anyone but yourself. As such, strive to be a better version of yourself daily.’ With this in mind, my favorite quote by Thomas Edison, ‘if we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves’ reminds me daily that I am capable of so much more and each day I strive to push that limit. There is always room for everyone at the top and knowing this reminds me that I am not in competition with anyone but myself. I find it more fulfilling to be invested in being a better version of myself, rather than being in constant competition with others. This does not negate the importance of benchmarking. However, the intentions behind benchmarking as an entrepreneur shouldn’t be with the aim of competing but to discover the gaps and areas of improvement within one’s business. I strongly believe that in order to be a better version of one’s self, seeking collaboration and personal development over competing, is key.
Corey Breedlove | Singer/Musician
To trust yourself, and visualize achieving your dreams daily.
Gina Roberts | Food Manufacturer and owner and founder of Miss Gina Cooks
I’m tempted to say it’s learning how much there is to learn! And…that mobile cc readers are incredibly convenient and incredibly frustrating.
Magali Castañeda | Real Estate Agent | Artist
I’d say that the most important lesson is to understand that there is no final destination. We get so wrapped up in arriving and you forget that the fun part is happening right now. If you’re single, enjoy it. If you have kids, take in all the moments. If you’re married, keep falling in love. We get lost in the journey because we constantly want to arrive, and the lesson is… the destination is now.
Burette and Gabrielle Douglas of The Cush | musicians
Gabrielle: To have integrity with work and relationships because I feel it is important to know your intentions for doing things, and I want what I’m doing to come from an authentic place of caring about what I create. It’s important to show appreciation to everyone that contributes to getting a job done. We can’t do what we do as well without the musicians that choose to play music with us, the sound engineers running sound at the venue, all of the folks working in the venue you’re playing at, the tech getting a studio set up so we can go in and record, all of our families, friends and fans that help us to keep doing what we do. Extending kindness and compassion creates for longevity in relationships, and I want others to know how much I am grateful for them.
Burette: If you follow your artistic vision and stick with it through the ups and downs, there’s no telling where it will take you. I have had the opportunity to share stages with some of my musical heroes and visit countries that I never imagined I’d get to visit, and it was music that opened those doors. You have to do your own thing and keep doing it.
Abby Butts | Law Student | Owner, & Baker
Though I recently started this venture, I have already learned so much! For years I dreamed of owning a bakery, though ultimately decided to go to law school. I realized that this did not have to be the end of my dream, and as a student, I can earn money from my love of baking! The biggest lesson I have had to learn so far is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst! Sometimes with baking, especially macarons, little problems, even with the weather, can ruin a whole batch. It is so important to honor commitments though, and I have found myself having to bake well into the hours of the night perfecting batches of macarons!