Inspiration

From Harvard Law to Happiness: Why I Decided to Start Over

What happens when you leave your Harvard Law degree and fancy law firm job behind? One Manhattan entrepreneur shares her story. Prepare to be inspired.
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Had you told me just a few years ago that I'd be running a fashion company, negotiating licensing deals with large fashion brands, writing a book, and managing my celebrity dog, I would never have believed you.

Four years ago I had it all—on paper. I had recently graduated from Harvard Law School, passed the California Bar Exam, and was practicing law at one of the top intellectual property litigation law firms in the country. I took my first deposition after just a few months there, loved my colleagues, and had a great mentor at the firm.

However, I didn't feel fulfilled. Something was missing. So, I took a giant leap and moved back to New York to start over as an entrepreneur.

My first attempt at entrepreneurship, a travel startup, lasted less than a year and was shut down pre-launch. Although it didn't go as planned, I was hooked by the excitement of creating innovative solutions to problems. Entrepreneurship gave me the fulfillment that I was missing in big law. While my co-founder and I made every mistake in the book, from signing a one-year lease on an office space on day one to building everything from scratch, we learned so much along the way. I like to think of this experience as my crash course in business. Lesson: fail fast and learn from your mistakes.

The months after shutting down the travel startup were stressful and scary. I knew I did not want to go back to traditional law practice, but I didn't know what else to do. I spent all my time catching up with friends in a variety of industries and brainstorming. Lots of brainstorming.

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During this time, I ran into a friend from college who owns a handbag factory. Using that resource as I starting point, I came up with the idea for an interactive fashion line that I named Stitch Collective. Lesson: take advantage of your unique resources.

It worked like this: a fashion editor created a design challenge, designers from about the world submitted sketches, we'd pick the finalists, the public would vote, and then we'd create and sell the winning designs on our site.

Stitch Collective was covered in outlets ranging from New York magazine's The Cut to Crain's New York Business, and was even deemed "Best of the Web" by InStyle. We had a strong designer base both in the U.S. and abroad, along with a great deal of customer engagement.

While working on Stitch, my phone was always running out of battery as I relied on it for everything—I didn't have an office (a cost-saving lesson learned from the travel startup where our one-year office lease outlasted the company itself), so I was checking emails and making calls from my phone all day long while on the go, which resulted in a dead phone by noon.

Out of this need, I made the first prototype of a phone-charging handbag using my newfound experience in the manufacturing industry.

While at a meeting with a magazine editor about Stitch Collective, the editor noticed my bag that was hard at work charging my phone during our meeting and directed all further questions towards this new concept. My friends had the same reaction as the editor.

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Given the incredibly positive response to this new tech-enabled bag, I launched my third venture, emPOWERED. The bags solve a major problem—the dead phone issue—and they look stylish. As a result, the first collection sold out within 48 hours. Lesson: have a plan, but be open to new opportunities as they present themselves.

Coming from a legal background, I knew to file for a utility patent to protect my invention. The utility patent was granted in 2014 and, as a result, we're now in licensing negotiations with some of the biggest names in fashion. Lesson: find ways to use your existing skill sets to your advantage.

When work gets stressful, which happens a lot when you're an entrepreneur, I take breaks to hang out with my French bulldog, Chloe. Her tiny face and big personality always manage to cheer me up. I thought she might have this effect on others as well, so I created an Instagram account to share her with the world. She quickly amassed a solid following and brands began reaching out to work with her. These brand partnerships and collaborations have only further accelerated her celebrity. To date, she's worked with brands ranging from Barneys New York to PetSmart and has been covered in outlets ranging from WWD to The Boston Herald to The Huffington Post. Lesson: collaborate with others—you'll grow faster when you combine resources.

My experiences with Stitch Collective and Empowered have led to a variety of speaking engagements and a soon-to-be-announced book, and Chloe's following and brand work have also continued to grow.

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I currently have three full-time jobs, none of which is at a white-shoe law firm, and I've never been happier.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Loni Edwards
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