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Why I Simply Couldn't Stay Any Longer | From Fortune 500 to SMB Owner | My Story

Updated: May 5, 2022

I've always been the good girl, but I couldn't do it any longer. I'd spent the previous 29 years of life, following the dotted line, doing what I should do. Getting the grades, earning the degree, marrying my guy and carving out a career for myself with an organization that ranked as 2019's fastest growing Tech stock. I even managed to do a bit of traveling abroad and squeezed in a baby while I was at it, But now, now I was done.

Don't get me wrong! I LOVE my life. I love the way my kiddo has more sass than ass sometimes and that my husband and I have been together longer then we were ever apart. I love our home and our adventures we've had and will continue having. But what I didn't love any longer -- was my work.

Always being a "path" follower, I quickly learned in high school what it was I wanted to be when I "grew up." Sure as a kid I said "Art Teacher" but the reality was made clear to me at a young age that I needed to get an education so I could land a job that paid well, so I could live well. So when high school rolled around I quickly discovered Marketing. It was the "Artistic" side of business... a career that would check all the boxes. Creative. Room for sarcasm. A steady paycheck. A path to chase.

So from then on, I knew my path. It was going to be Marketing or nothing...and sister, I WASN'T walking away with NOTHING.

My (future) husband and I out on a date during summer break. Age 16.

So the chase began. I took every creative class I could in high school & college to support this new dream. Creative writing to push my copy & story telling skills. Photography to learn more about imagery. Statistics to develop better marketing analytic skills. You name it, I took it. You should have seen the face of my University Adviser when I told her I was going to take an AP Greek Mythology class to help me gain perspective on human history and psychology for my BUSINESS degree. ha!

But I knew the path. I knew to compete in the job marketing during the BIGGEST recession/depression in US history, that my skills would have to be wide and on point if I ever wanted to land a "good" job. If I thought it could help me, you bet I did it.

I took the unpaid/no credit permitted (b/c I was "only" a sophomore" ) summer Internship at a prestigious Indianapolis museum, to get the experience and references. I got myself into the Honors (AP) program in University to diversify and get access to smaller class sizes. I even found an off campus job working for a Photography Studio so that I could better understand angles, design and imagery --- because after all, to do well down the road.. I needed to understand it. Every stepping stone had been painfully and strategically placed along the way to get me here.

But where exactly was "here" at the beginning of 2019?!

I'll tell you EXACTLY where "here" was. I was gearing down my "side photography business" due to be needed back in the corporate world more. I had worked so hard the past 6 years to help the new leadership rebuild the business and had earned a respected place among my peers. It was my duty - so I dove in, head first.

But then it happened. Our parent company began to shuffle things, breaking down the business and culture I'd worked so hard to build. And to make it worse, at home I was stretched so thin, half the time I was getting my kid to ballet class late and sending her in, in street clothes because we didn't have time to change before hand. Then cam the mom guilt. And a merger. Confusion. Restructuring. And lucky for me, I did actually end up in an "ok" spot. Sure I wasn't in charge any longer, but I was now part of a power house team. My new boss was a colleague I'd known and worked with for years and I was getting to work from home 4 days a week. On paper everything looked PERFECT.

But as the days passed. The company changed. The work started to drag on monotonously. My mind wandered. I dreaded getting up in the morning - even just to walk down the hall to my home office. Seriously, what was wrong with me? I thought. I have it all. Happy marriage, beautiful home, healthy kid and you freakin' get to work from home! So I pushed ahead. Tried to silence the drumming voice of unfulfillment while in the mean time, begin to fill to the brim with anxiety over making a change.

So like any good planner, I let it sit. I let it sit ALL freaking summer. And I stewed. I thought "thinking" would give me space and clarity...but it really just muddled things up further.

August rolled around, then September and finally October was on the horizon with my 30th birthday staring me down in the face and I thought to myself. Enough. Enough with the self loathing for not "loving" this perfect life. If you don't want this to be your next 30 years - girl, you better do something about it NOW.

So I dove in. What would it really take for me to leave this job? What would I do? Could I do it without the team, alone? Let me tell you -- it got REAL. Crying in the pillow case at night, real. How could I be so selfish? What if we had to stop our kid's activities simply because I wanted a change -- how was that fair to her? The list goes on...

Have you ever walked away for a steady, well paying job where everyone knew you and you were a highly regarded "implementer & fixer" for the business?

Yep, that's what I'd be walking away from. What I'd be flushing.

After years and years of strategizing to get here. Who was I to want something else? Maybe it was a fleeting emotion? To want something more? Not to mention the sweat equity I had put into that business over the years. Surviving a leadership coupe. Earning the trust of the new leadership team. Undertaking a massive 3 month rebrand timeline, when I had just found out we were expecting. All the late nights, the weekend work. The building of programs, processes, of trust. Working stupid hours being 8 months pregnant because the job needed done or taking calls on days off, so things didn't lag behind. Yep - that was me! Reliable, dependable, Chelsea.

And now I was done. Burned out and ugly crying my ever living eyes out.

It was time to give my notice and I couldn't have been more scared to do it. But some dreams are too big to ignore.

You know how people say working with friends and family is harder because there are no clean breaks. Well this business was my 2nd child and my new boss was a friend. So making the choice to leave was far from easy and SO much more than a fleeting whim.

I finally made the decision and sent the letter in. The response back was respectful but chalked full of surprise. It was official, I was now leaving,

At this point you're probably asking yourself why? What was it I was wanting that the shiny corporate career just couldn't provide?

Though the decision had been grueling the answer to this was REALLY simple. I craved FREEDOM.

I wanted to be able to drop my kid off at preschool, not daycare. I didn't want her early childhood years to be "batched" out. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for working Moms & daycare def. has it's place in the world! Hey - I was a daycare kid!

But when my current childcare provider decided to get out of the game, I was devastated at the idea of loosing her and more over replacing her, with a less personalized option. I just couldn't do it. No... I didn't want to do it. I wasn't going to do it ... not to accommodate a career that no longer fit.

Then I realized something. I had always been the "fixer" in my corporate job. Yes, I was in change of all things Marketing & Customer Experience -- but I was also a fixer. When a process was broken, they brought me in to fix it. And you know what... I'd ALWAYS been able to find an answer! Always. So WHY in the HELL wasn't I putting those skills to work for me? Me. Not them...but me?!

I needed a job that could be flexible, creative and allow me to use all the skills I had been learning and building all these years. Web design. Imagery. Customer Relations. Social Media. Selling. the list goes on...

Forth of July Party 2016

Que "side" business RAMP plan. See definitions of: hustle and self employed BOSS Babe for clarification.

So, if you're still with me here, I'm sure you're sitting there saying..."duh. I know where this leads." And you'd be right.

The answer had been sitting there all along when I started HashTag Memories three years ago at a friend's suggestion. I had never considered it more than a side business. BUT WHY couldn't it be more? If my family was fed, warm and happy, why COULDN'T WE make a change? Success is something that's built upon history and my track record was WHY couldn't I learn to be successful as a Photography SMB Owner too? Well duh...the answer was I COULD!

After all, I already had so many of you, amazing clients, who have invited me into your lives. Who I've shot over and over as the years have gone by. I have turned away work for not having the bandwidth to expand my shooting and I've struggled with taming my ambition to perfect my craft while closeting my love for the art.

So my dear... I've arrived. You know how you're not "supposed" to "call your shot"? Well Sis...I'm yelling it out from the ROOF TOPS.

I suppose, only time will tell if this story ends with a happy ending or was a fool's errand. But girl... I'm ALL IN. This is it. I'm calling my shot. Dreaming up the possibilities and rolling up my sleeves to get down and dirty with the work.

I've loved EVERY moment of being a part of my client's stories. From following your day-to-day adventures on Facebook to getting enthused stories back on delivery day. I'm here for it all!

So, let's do this... families, weddings, newborns... all the things! Let's do this and we'll capture the moments that truly define what it means to lean in and LIVE life, together.


Hey You... Let's Be Friends, K?!

Hey there - I'm Chelsea! A coffee worshiping Hoosier native, just trying to raise a kiddo and capture vivid memories in central IN for my families & brides. To see more of our work, make sure to FOLLOW us on Facebook and Instagram & sign up for our VIP club to get first dibs on open session date!

Family photos stress you out? Check out this blog post where I get REAL about how shooting a session of my own kiddo taught me how to help YOU mitigate Mommy Session Stress - or this one where we share some basic planning tips & FAQs for your session.



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