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Erin Pelicano: “Believe in What you are doing”

I reinvented myself in my second chapter by finally pursuing my burning inner entrepreneurial drive. I knew I wanted to work for myself, I knew I wanted to create a business that combined beauty, creativity and meaning to people in their lives. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to create something that wouldn’t become hobby yet […]

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I reinvented myself in my second chapter by finally pursuing my burning inner entrepreneurial drive. I knew I wanted to work for myself, I knew I wanted to create a business that combined beauty, creativity and meaning to people in their lives. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to create something that wouldn’t become hobby yet a thriving business that could support my family. So, the Erin Pelicano brand was born.


Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Pelicano.

Erin launched her jewelry brand in 2011 as a young mom of 3, wife, and grieving sister having lost her only sibling; she knew life was short and it was time to pursue something she loved. A graduate of the University of Maryland and following a creative dream, Erin left a career in engineering to create her brand that serves jewelry lovers and sentimental hearts across the globe. With a shocking cancer fight in 2020, she now finds herself evolving again with the shift to her fine jewelry line and serving budding entrepreneurs, life has a way of putting the spotlight on the path you’re meant for.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

The first thing I think of about my childhood is how lucky I was, my childhood very loving. I grew up outside of Washington DC in a tiny town with my parents and one little brother Dominic. From the time I can remember and even before, according to my parents, I was a tenacious and independent little girl. As I grew my love for both math and creating things continue to blossom. Looking back, I think it speaks to the origins of many entrepreneurs having both a foundation and creativity alongside the interest in structured disciplines of business, like mathematics.

A good example is my not-so-secret stash of candy (born with a sweet tooth) that I hid under my bed in the box. It included a detailed inventory list to make sure no one ate my candy. But I used that box of inventoried candy to bribe my little brother to dress up in whatever creative fashion I was making that day. Children of the 80s knew how to get creative when they were bored, without technology, I went through a phase of designing clothes out of trash bags after I first sketched my designs in my stash of sketch books.

Besides my parents the greatest influence in my childhood was likely my grandmother. Known as Tinta, she was a former model, etiquette educator and fashion coordinator for Saks fifth Ave. Her life wasn’t always easy, but she cherished her family. I’d spend endless hours playing in her makeup and going through all of her old jewelry. Looking back, I can see how much the love and sentimentality behind her favorite beautiful objects really influenced me as a child and followed me into adulthood. Even with this drive for creativity in school I always excelled in mathematics. I was born with the analytical mind and the satisfaction of solving exacting problems is something that’s influenced my entire life as well. After losing my brother when he was only 23, I reflect on my childhood almost daily. Because I miss him so much. And while no family is perfect, ours is no exception, we were so very blessed to be loved and supported unconditionally. And I feel that is the greatest foundation any child can have.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Believe it, to see it.

This quote has resonated with me for many years. More than a quote, it’s an important belief system. Most especially during difficult times big or small. As I mentioned I’m a very analytical person, that leads a person like me to be a skeptic in discerning in almost every part of life. I’ve learned the value of trusting my gut and adhering to the power of believing in yourself and believing in a greater power. Goals are never reached in the face of constant doubt, so I found that truly believing in my goals and desires offers much more power in achieving them.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Tenacity

If I wasn’t a tenacious person, I would have given up many times over on the path to success. The reality is it takes hard work and dedication to make success happen. It never happens overnight, there is always a back story of blood sweat and tears. In the work to grow our brand, we are also pursuing shops to carry our fine jewelry line. Our new fine jewelry line was set to launch in spring of 2020, with our wholesale push set to follow. Then Covid arrived, shops had to shutter, and while I was thankful, we had our online platform established, it put a pause on the plans for growth. But here we are a year later, growing our presence, after a patient pause, and ready to start our wholesale outreach. I could have just given up last year, but instead I decided to practice patience that doesn’t come easily, and behind the scenes work to continue our growth.

Strategy

I’ve never been a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. But planning with a strategy always provides a focus to achieve the next goals. I go into my strategizing knowing full well that unforeseen circumstances pop up. As much as I wish life could go according to our plan. I’ve learned this in life, and my early career of engineering made me well prepared. In 2014 our business had massive growth in a short period of time, it was exhilarating, and scary all at once. There was no time to plan and strategize at first, which started to make things feel out of control. Once I carved out the time to sit down and strategize the plan for growth. It meant making a longer turnaround time for orders temporarily but allowed me to regain a focus and implement the help and changes needed for the growth to be positive and not lead to burn out.

Kindness

Start your interactions with kindness. It’s free, it’s really not that hard, even on a bad day it can make you feel better. So, I lead all of my networking, community and customer interaction with kindness. If I’m honest, sometimes it’s not that easy with a challenging customer, or obstacle. But I’ve found starting with kindness can diffuse many misunderstandings. Many of our customers invest in jewelry that has significant meaning for them, which makes emotions run high at times. From loss, to weddings, to special birthdays — we really want to make each interaction positive, and kindness goes along way.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

By the time I was ready to make decisions on college, I followed the path of math and science that I always loved. I had considered going into architecture but ultimately settled on a degree in engineering. Studying as an engineer in a very male dominated field at the time, was empowering, and seemed the right fit. After college I spent 10 years working in my field, mostly working with structural steel. The majority of my engineering career was working for a small business, I spent one year working for a very large Corporation and you and I knew that was the wrong path when I accepted the job. Hung up the phone. And cried to my dad that I got the job.

But I’m grateful for that year’s experience because it taught me other facets of business. Discovering what you’re not meant to do is an invaluable lesson.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

I reinvented myself in my second chapter by finally pursuing my burning inner entrepreneurial drive. I knew I wanted to work for myself, I knew I wanted to create a business that combined beauty, creativity and meaning to people in their lives. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to create something that wouldn’t become hobby yet a thriving business that could support my family. So, the Erin Pelicano brand was born.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

As I grew in my professional career, in 2004 I was rocked by the sudden loss of my little brother. My whole family was rocked. My then divorced parents lost their only son. Suddenly I was an only child. My husband lost a dear friend. And I was thrust into the reality that my future would never look like I thought it would. I would never have nieces and nephews from my family, my future children would never have cousins. Losing a piece of your family at such a young age changes literally everything. Holidays, birthdays, dreams and goals, it even changes the tiniest moments when the wave of grief comes unexpectedly.

A devastation like this made me focus on the restlessness I had felt in my career. After working hard for such a difficult degree and beginning to grow professionally there’s a guilt that arises when you feel restless. But when I was able to be honest with myself, I knew I craved something different, something that allowed more creativity, and I knew deep down I had this spirit of an entrepreneur. It took a few years, I became a mother, in the economy tanked, so I was forced into making a change in some ways. But that particular tumultuous time, I look back with gratitude because it propelled me onto the path that I really really wanted. I think huge transitions are mostly born from big changes in your life. Otherwise, it’s easy to be complacent in the choices you’ve made and doubt your ability to make a big transition. Over the years I had taken creative silversmithing classes and I knew that my love for jewelry that goes back to my grandmother, the skills I had learned, recognizing I had the heart of an entrepreneur, it was time for me to launch a sentimental brand of jewelry that would touch people’s hearts.

I now find myself in what you might call second chapter Part 2. Covid hit our family, like so many others. Three children in virtual school, working for their survival of our small business that supports our entire family. A new an enormous hurdle was thrust upon us over the spring and summer, I’ve always been extremely healthy, I started to feel sick mysteriously and was misdiagnosed for some time during the height of covid shut down. A very long story short, I went in for a surgery for an infection on my 43rd birthday in August woke to the horror of a cancer diagnosis. So just like tremendous loss, fighting for your life sheds new light on every part of your existence. I decided when I came out on the other side of this with my health and my life back, I was going to make the changes in our small business that I’ve been dreaming of and planning for but not taking the time to work on. So, as I write this, I have a month and a half left of treatment, after recovering from a major surgery. I’ve been dedicating myself to my family, to my health, to my faith, and now to the next evolution of my business. It’s been an enormous challenge for someone like me to focus on healing first.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

Launching my brand allowed me to hone my creative design skills. I was born with a creative energy, but it was never very focused on anything specific. I knew my strength lied in my ability to problem solve be objective and strategize, these are all very important skills in an entrepreneur’s life. I simultaneously have always had a thirst for something creative and launching my brand really allowed me to hone those skills and focus my creativity. It gave me an outlet and has allowed my design skills to grow and evolve.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

Things are going well, we just celebrated 10 years in business in February. A milestone worthy of celebrating, and it’s allowed the time and space combined with the challenges of this year, to refocus on the next evolution as a brand and personally. I’m thrilled that we introduced our new fine jewelry collection to our customers as we grow. Our meaningful jewelry is made to be enjoyed for years and passed down for generations. Because I love what I’ve built, and what I’m able to offer to my community in terms of jewelry, I’ve also carved out space to provide mentorship for other professionals looking to launch a business and follow the tug for something more.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m incredibly grateful for my husband, we started out as two teenagers making out in his parent’s Blazer, we’ve basically grown up together and growing a family together. We started dating in high school, started out as kids and have grown to a partnership more than I could have imagined back then. Richard has supported me, cheered me along every step of the way, encouraged me, lifted me up, and cared for me and our children during this time of medical crisis. Marriage isn’t perfect or easy, it can be very messy, but I know having the unconditional support of your partner is invaluable.

When I was in the thick of my career crisis, mothering our little babies, shaken by my employer’s actions. I went to Richard with the idea of starting my brand, while being able to care for our children. He believed in me. He knew I needed to try something new, and we’re a good balance for each other. I over analyze everything and he’s able to say let’s just give it a try. It would be 1000 times harder to launch a business without the support of your partner in life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

As an introvert, and contemplative person — I’ve been asked to speak at several large live events. It’s interesting how life brings you challenges that you can either embrace or hide from. I’ve chosen to embrace them and I’ve so very grateful. Struggling with the confidence to speak in front of a crowd, heck even to do a Facebook video, I took both opportunities as an interesting growth opportunity.

I spoke to a crowd of jewelry designers and jewelry retailers on my specific brand success in harnessing Pinterest. This platform has been significant in our brand growth and being asked to present on our success was an honor (that made me sweat). The funniest part were the professional photos sent to me afterwards, full of my deep seeded Italian hand talking habit. Every single photo my hands were engaged in some silly emphasis of what I was saying.

This past year I was asked to speak at a Pinterest event, focused on home centered businesses. In retrospect the timing was perfect, January of 2020 just before many people were forced to begin working from home. I was able to share the story of launching my brand that incorporated my family life.

Being asked to speak as an expert was never something I imagined when I started out, but there are many positives that come with taking a leap, you learn, you live, you move yourself forward.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Absolutely, I’ve struggled with believing in myself. I find it hard to believe everyone hasn’t felt this way from time to time. When you start something new, when you make a huge change in your life like leaving a professional career to launch a business, it’s scary. The unknowns, the risks, and the potential success can let doubt seep in. The only solution is to keep moving forward and be honest with yourself. When you are true to yourself it makes believing in yourself a lot easier.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

This is a great question. When I launched my brand, I knew I had the support of my husband, I started to share my plans with close family and friends. I knew having the people closest to me on board with this new direction was so very important. It’s also important when creating a support system to know which people not to share everything with. Those folks in your life that tend to bring you down or put a damper on your dreams, even if it’s well meaning. Deep down you always know who those people are.

Beyond emotional and mental support systems I also made sure I had a financial advisor and an accountant ready to properly set up my business. This became even more important when several years later the business grew into a family business and my husband joined full time. I found it was also important as part of the support system to have a trusted Webmaster, and I found a group of like-minded jewelry designers. Having a trusted group of people in your industry helps you bounce ideas celebrate achievements and even offers a safe place to vent.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

The entire act of starting a new chapter you have to step out of your comfort zone. For me personally stepping into the role of the face behind a brand has forced me out of my very private comfort zone into sharing my story in my background with my community of customers. In today’s world knowing the story behind a company or brand, knowing the heart of it, is a must. But sharing little pieces of yourself is scary an intimidating.

I still struggle with sharing video of myself, and that’s on my goal growth plan. The hardest part of sharing my story out of my comfort zone was sharing a little bit about my brother’s passing. I felt it was important to share with my community because that tremendous loss is a big part of the meaning behind my brand. We lost Dominic to a drug overdose, and the glaring stigma around that made it the hardest piece of my story to share. To conquer my comfort zone, I constantly make a gut check. Ask myself what’s the worst that can happen, what am I afraid of? When I feel at peace with a decision it makes it easy to take the next step out of my comfort zone.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Use your “NOs” wisely.

When you are starting out in business you want to say Yes to everything, and at the same time some people want to say No to everything that’s outside of your comfort zone. I’ve found the balance of using your NOs wisely is the best method. Sit down and write a list of absolute Nos, things you know you hate to do, aren’t profitable, or don’t feed your soul. This list looks different for everyone. Beyond this list, keep an open mind to saying yes to things that might seem scary, they could be a huge opportunity in disguise.

Set weekly and monthly goals.

I love a nice pretty paper planner, I use digital methods too, but nothing like a pretty planner where I can write things down and cross things off. It makes my nerdy self so happy. When I launched my brand, with planner in hand, I eventually learned how to actually use it to break down goals, and not just use it as a calendar. I wish someone had told me to write down 3 goals each month to move your business forward, and then break them down into 3 actionable tasks each week and write them on your calendar! It’s the best way to make things happen.

Believe in What you are doing.

When you take the leap to reinvent yourself, make sure you’re following a path you believe in. I had considered other paths early on, and my gut was usually right at the end of the day, if I didn’t love it and really didn’t believe in it, it wasn’t right for me. You have to use this time to reinvent yourself into something you believe strongly in. Starting out on your dream, you might just need to make small changes along the way. Listen to your heart and know you believe in what you’re doing. For you, and not for anyone else.

Know that behind the scenes is a lot messier than you can imagine.

No matter your specific dream to reinvent yourself, you likely have people that you look up to, that have gone before you. Maybe even new success stories. You must remember, there is no magic answer, there is no get rich quick solution — even the prettiest, sleekest success stories have a messy true story behind it. They’ve heard no, faced unsupportive people in their life, juggling of life and kids, and messy spaces. All of it is the reality of this thing we call life. Never buy into a quick fix, just stay your path and make sure you choose the support you need to succeed.

Ignore the dream crushers.

As you pursue your dream, reinvent yourself, and find success, there will be at least a few people that you’re surprised to find not very supportive. Maybe they don’t have the same vision as you, maybe they feel jealous or threated, maybe they just don’t understand. That’s ok! It’s where you take some space, even if it’s someone your close to, maybe choose to be very selective in what you share. I myself have been burned a few times by people like this. It feels incredibly gross and disappointing. And sometimes shocking. But learn to keep your blinders on and surround yourself by supportive people both personally and in business. They will keep you going on the hard days, cheer you on the good days, and never make you feel badly.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Inspiring a movement is something that has been on my mind and heart for some time, and at the moment I’m creating this as part of my next evolution. I want other people, other women of all ages to realize they can in fact pursue their path of purpose and find success. There are so many reasons to say no. Complacency, you have a family dependent on you, consuming self-doubt, and the list goes on. I’m working to develop my Dream Maker platform to help support people to take that next step. In life, I’ve found it’s exceptionally important to be able to follow the path life leads us to, especially on the other side of life’s most difficult moments. A time to reset and follow your true path.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

It’s hard to pick between these two women, Sara Blakely the founder of Spanx, and Jamie Kern Lima the founder of IT cosmetics. Both of their stories have inspired me as a woman, as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, as a mom. Wearing all of the hats that women wear in our time. Sarah story inspired me in the very beginning of my entrepreneurial journey — her tenacity an unwillingness to give up helped me to believe in my own goals. In more recent years I’ve learned of Jamie’s story and she brings the same energy that renewed my entrepreneurial heart, especially on challenging days.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find my jewelry collection at www.erinpelicano.com you can also find more on my mentorship. On social media you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn at Erin Pelicano.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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