(for details about items in this image click here)And there you have it!!
Today, I am thrilled to present this interview with one of my sisterfriends, Leah Lakins. Recently, she took me and a host of others by surprise by sneaking off to Brooklyn to follow her dream of taking her company, Fresh Eyes Editorial Services, full-time! When I learned about this bold move, I knew that I *had* to feature her in my Real-Life Curvy CEO Series.
Tell me about your company. Fresh Eyes Editorial Services began from a dream I had in 2006 when I was working as a book editor at ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). I loved working behind the scenes as an editor, and I always envisioned myself working as my own and having the freedom to work with authors from the ground up. I landed my first client, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, in 2007 and began moonlighting with various independent authors and educational nonprofit organizations over the next six years.
Over the years my work has gone from strictly print editorial work to helping organizations launch their social media presence. After working in the nonprofit publishing world for nearly 11 years, I took a bold leap of faith at the end of 2013 by taking Fresh Eyes from the moonlight to the daylight and making it my full-time gig.
While I’ve enjoyed all of the editorial opportunities I’ve been blessed to have, I really love working with first-time authors who are new to the publishing arena. Nothing makes me happier than working with new authors and helping their voices to shine.
What inspired you to pick up your life in Washington, DC and venture to New York City to launch your own business? My dream to live in the Big Apple started back during my junior year as an undergraduate at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Morgan had a great lecture series that year and one of the speakers was the former Essence Editor-in-Chief, Susan Taylor. I was so mesmerized and inspired by Ms. Taylor’s presentation that I decided that evening that I would be an English/Journalism major and one day I would pursue that dream in New York City. For me, making it to New York was the equivalent of the Olympics for a writer and editor, and as the old song goes, “if I could make it there, I could make it anywhere!”
When I graduated Morgan in 2002, the economy was still pretty shaky after 9/11 and venturing out to New York at that time would have been more risk than I was willing to take. So I opted for beginning my editorial career in Washington, DC instead. I always imagined DC being just a short pit stop on my way to New York. Now I didn’t know my “short” pit stop in the DC Metro area would be nearly 12 years (Ha!), but I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t be sitting in my home office now in Brooklyn without all of the great experiences, colleagues, friends, and mentors that I was blessed to have along the way.
At the top of 2013, my eyes were actually focused on moving back to my beloved Baltimore, buying a rehabbed brownstone, and calling it a life. I temporarily moved in with two of my good friends in Annapolis to save up for a down payment and was all set to become a homeowner. But after a few life shake-ups personally and professionally towards the end of the year, I said, “Leah, let’s get real.” (Hey, if I can't speak truthfully to myself, who will?) “We can go home to what is safe and familiar back in Baltimore or we can finally do this thing and move to New York.” So I took my down payment and made the investment into my new future in the Big Apple instead.
I officially became a Brooklynite on January 8th, and business has been BOOMING right along with my move to New York. I just finished my first ghostwriting assignment (I’ll be sooo glad when I can spill the beans about this project! Soo excited!) and I have a few other exciting writing projects in the hopper for the spring. So far New York is definitely agreeing with me!
What has been the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur? The most surprising? The most frustrating? I really love having the freedom to create my own schedule. Last Monday and Tuesday, I spent most of the day finishing up a grueling deadline. Then on Wednesday, I decided to spend the day with a new friend viewing the Jean Paul Gautier exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and finished out the night listening to Q-Tip spin at a local club in Brooklyn. And then I spent most of Thursday morning sleeping (I just turned 35. I’m not as spry as I used to be!). I really love having the freedom to work as hard as I want to and enjoy my new city, too.
This new freedom also requires a bit of discipline too, which has it’s own challenges and frustrations. My friends and family are just assuming that I’m partying 24/7 now that I live in New York. Not so! Now that I’m my own boss I have to tighten up on my Facebook time, my Netflix and Hulu viewings, and personal calls during the day. I’m ashamed to admit that a few days in the beginning it was nearly 3:00 and I’d spent most of the day answering a few e-mails and binge watching “Say Yes to the Dress.”
I now start my day at 9:00 am with an accountability call with one of my dear friends. By 10:00 am, I either watch a sermon from my former pastor in Alexandria, Virginia, Rev. Howard-John Wesley (his sermon titled “Wait for It” is one of my current favorites) or a clip of an innovator or creator that I love. (I’m currently obsessed with Questlove’s mini-documentary on his first night as the band leader for “The Tonight Show” and Oprah’s soul-stirring story about how she used the power of surrender to garner her role in “The Color Purple.”) By 11:00, I’ve set my agenda for the day and I begin working. Some days, it’s simply sending out queries and setting up meeting for potential work. Other days, I am deep in the trenches with editing, proofing, or writing. I’m still getting a handle on staying committed to my schedule and saving the latest episode of “Blood, Sweat, and Heels” for my night time viewing, but it’s getting a little easier. [pullquote]Leah's Inspirational Links!
- Rev. Howard-John Wesley's Message - "Wait for It"
- Questlove's Documentary on First Day of the Tonight Show - Part 1 and Part 2
- Oprah and The Power of Surrender
I’ve been surprised at how easy it has been to talk with people about being a freelance editor and striking up conversation for potential business opportunities. I was chilling out at a spa in Brooklyn last week and just struck up a conversation with a gentleman who also happened to specialize in editorial and communications work. We had a great conversation about optimizing social media in a whirlpool room. So I’m learning that opportunities are ALWAYS available.
What do you envision for yourself and your company a year from now? Five years from now? In the next year, I would love to work with more New York-based clients and to gain more exposure in the New York editorial market. Most of my clientele now are from my DC network, so I would definitely love to be more connected in my new city.
Five years from now I definitely want to have my own publishing house that specializes in representing young, new voices. I also would love to have a network of positive, uplifting blogs for women. Sort of a Huffington Post for the Spirit.
What advice do you have for those who are thinking about pursuing entrepreneurship? My number one advice is to SAVE as much money as you can. I was blessed that I was already saving money for more than a year for a down payment for a home, so when I decided to switch gears and move to New York, fortunately I was able to then use that money for my moving expenses and my first few months in the city. Having a financial cushion was helpful in that I could take some time and get adjusted to the city without having to hustle hard immediately. It was also nice to have that cash to get my business cards, get a new printer, and a new iPad for business purposes.
Number two: Tell people what you are up to. As soon as I decided that I was going to move to New York, I e-mailed everyone in my professional circle in early November to let them know I was planning to freelance full-time in the New Year. I also told a good friend that I was looking for an apartment. Fortunately, as soon as the New Year hit, I was blessed to find a great and affordable apartment in Brooklyn (Thank you, Jesus!) and I actually had a great problem on having TOO much work to do by the beginning of February. Some of the assignments were small one-day jobs and others were two-week assignments, but they all added up to my biggest freelancing month EVER.
This is all so exciting! How can my readers keep in touch with you? They can find me through my business' website - Fresh Eyes Editorial Services - and Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/FreshEyesEditorialServices. They can also find me at my personal blog - My SoulFlakes.
Thanks again! I'm honored to be featured on your blog!!
Thank YOU, Ms. Leah Lakins! I am so delighted that I'll be able to say I knew you way back when....Please go and check out my girl online...you won't be disappointed!
In thinking about what we discussed last week - having the courage to be who you REALLY are - this same sentiment expressed by Jessie Spano keeps coming to mind. I am SO excited...about all of the possibilities that await. About all of the dreams that could come true. Of actually peeling back the layers and walking into my purpose. But it's also quite scary. I mean, I know how to do what I'm doing right now. So, the question becomes...how DO you conquer your inner Jessie Spano? I guess the same way she does...with the help of people that care about you.