By Jennifer Adams, CEO and Founder, Jennifer Adams Brands
What’s the most important life lesson I’ve learned? As the grateful owner of a flourishing home textile and furnishings business today, I’d say that the road to success is not always a straight path. My journey has been full of twists and turns—and what I call “moments of serendipity.”
Growing up in rural Oregon, I had few resources and an even smaller network. But from a young age, my innate ambition and curiosity compelled me to find work and succeed at it. My first job as a housekeeper lasted throughout high school and taught me many life lessons that I still apply today. Looking back, I can see some parallels between my days making beds and my time spent designing them. In both jobs, I was driven by a passion to always do my best, stick to the task at hand through inevitable ups and downs, and most important—keep learning and growing.
Whether it’s a challenge or an opportunity, I’m not afraid to jump in and try new things. That’s how my design career took off, in fact. Years ago, a flyer for a design trade school landed in my hands—one of my initial moments of serendipity. I decided to take the plunge, and I learned the basics of decorating and marketing. From there, I took another leap of faith and launched a small interior design firm.
Tip from a Stranger on a Plane
Over time, I assembled a great design team. But I soon realized that I was operating on trial and error. I knew that I lacked a solid foundation in business, as well as the mentors to guide me through the growth process, and I wasn’t sure how to proceed.
Then serendipity struck again. During a random business flight, I found myself seated next to a gentleman who’d started his own business from the ground up. I asked what the pivotal moment was for him. His response: “the Owner/President Management (OPM) program at Harvard Business School Executive Education.”
How High Can You Soar?
Being an entrepreneur without a college degree had made me feel insecure about some of my business decisions. But my time at OPM helped me build the confidence, skills and vision to start up Jennifer Adams Brands in Scottsdale, Arizona. Since then, my business hasn’t stopped growing, and I haven’t stopped learning! Mentoring other women is very important to me. I’m passionate about giving back, so I’ve shared my leadership journey in two books, Love Coming Home and How High Can You Soar.
Here are five lessons I’ve learned as a self-made business owner:
- Ask yourself: “If all I had was pure potential, what would I want?” When I do that, I see a path to my most fulfilling life.
- Remember that life isn’t a straight path. You have to accept that along with the highs come the lows—so hang in there!
- Keep accepting guidance from mentors and others who are more experienced, no matter how successful you are.
- Never limit yourself out of fear. When opportunities present themselves, take a leap of faith like I did with OPM.
- Finally, always be passionate about your work. Stay curious, never stop learning and keep growing!
Along my career trajectory from housekeeper to designer to entrepreneur, I’ve always welcomed change. Whenever I came to a fork in the road, I’d swallow my fear, visualize my dream and follow my passion. I’ve had a lot of guidance along the way, from design school to mentorship to executive education. And I still keep learning and helping other women, because I never want to forget where my journey began.