A few years ago, over one of those casual weekday dinner parties where the wine and candlelight combine to almost make you believe it’s the wee hours of Saturday, my friends and I chanced upon a trail of discussion: What should our “Word of the Year” be for the upcoming year? The idea was part intention, part focus point, part goal-setting, and we went around the table each sharing our one word and the meaning behind it. I scrawled down the picks (words and phrases like “partnerships” and “outside the box”) so they wouldn’t be lost in the glitter of good cheer, and tucked the note into a box by my desk.
And there it sat, hidden under a mess of chargers and pens and USB drives, lost and (almost) forgotten. And yet, in a sort of voodoo, self-fulfilling prophecy, our words slowly worked their magic. I had no idea how my word choice would untangle itself and work its way into the very core of my world. When another dinner party with the same friends this January prompted me to dig and find the paper, it felt like a piece of fortune-telling from the past. My word?
How perfectly fitting.
You might call me an accidental entrepreneur. Today, I run a company called guesterly with my husband, but being an entrepreneur was never (ever) in my plan. It was only by being wide open to clues — and complete life changes — that I charted this path. Here’s how being open to little clues set me on the path to business success.
1. Be open to things outside of your flywheel. For years, I considered myself the luckiest girl in the world. I was a food editor at places like O, the Oprah Magazine, where I spent my days interviewing chefs, testing recipes and playing with delicious food. I could wax poetic about Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese and spend hours philosophizing on the best pasta shape for a particular sauce. And I also liked my sane life: a run in the morning, yoga at lunch, drinks with friends post-work, good-girl (Daily Worth-approved) contributions to my 401(k) and savings accounts. So when I parlayed an article I wrote for O on food entrepreneurs into a book deal, I knew just how it would fit into my life: I’d conduct interviews with top entrepreneurs after work, write in the early mornings, learn a ton more about the food industry and end the year more informed about the big picture of food in America. The end goal: be a better (and in-demand) food editor.
But as I wrote “Cooking Up a Business,” I realized it wasn’t just the food aspect, per se, that excited me — it was the business savvy and inspirational startup stories I wrote about! And whenever someone suggested I think about consulting or writing full time about the business of food, I got a pit in my stomach. Why? I realized I didn’t just want to write about entrepreneurs — I wanted to be one.
Takeaway: We all have an area of expertise — mine was all things culinary. But by diving into the world of business for my book (through food) I found a new love. What can you try that’s adjacent to your expertise area — or completely outside of your flywheel? You never know what might spark a deep interest.