From Wall Street to Entrepreneur: How Emily Sexton has mastered the art of pivoting
Ep. 94
| with
Emily Sexton

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    While the podcast showcases the specific steps and tactics people used to start over in new careers, my goal is to actually demonstrate the mindset that you need to take the leap.
    Because without the mindset, all of the tactics in the world won’t help you start over. If you get stuck in the fear and the doubt, you’ll be stuck forever.
    Through my own journey and talking with over 90 quitters, I’ve come to realize that the most important mindset shift is in truly understanding that you CAN figure anything out. Once you become comfortable with the unknown, not because you’re certain, but because you’re confident in your ability to figure it out, you become unstoppable.
    No one embodies that mentality more than my guest this week, Emily Sexton.
    Emily started out on Wall Street as Vice President of Communications and Change Management. Feeling like something was missing, she quit without knowing her next move. When Emily discovered the opportunity to open up a pop-up retail truck that would combine her love of fashion with her desire to support female vendors from developing countries, a cause she was passionate about, she jumped on it.
    With no retail experience, Emily leaned on her community to make the pop-up shop a success. A year later, she turned the Flourish Market into a brick-and-mortar shop. And when she was presented with the opportunity to move to a bigger space, she seized that too. But the space was actually too big for just a retail shop. Emily had to figure out what to do with all the extra space. So in the Summer of 2019, she launched The Locality, a co-working space + incubator for 60 female entrepreneurs, with membership spots selling out before construction even started!
    And now with the COVID pandemic, when so many businesses are struggling, Emily took only a couple of days to pivot her co-working space into an online membership.
    She is such a testament to the fact that opportunities are all around us if we’re willing to see them. Her outlook and attitude are infectious. And she provides the hope and clarity we need in this time!
    Find Emily Here:

Show Transcript
Goli: Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to another episode. I am so excited to have you here. Before we jump in the same announcements I've been making. Just wanted to make sure I mentioned them in case you are listening for the first time in which case welcome. I'm so happy to have you. I have been doing some free coaching calls and we are increasing that to once a week. It used to be once a month, but because we're all cooped up in our homes and I love seeing your beautiful faces and helping you in any way I can. We will be doing a free coaching call on zoom every Wednesday. Now the times vary so that people in Europe and on the East coast and West goes, everybody has a chance to jump on and so if you want to know what the time is for each Wednesday, just sign up at quitter if you're already on my newsletter, then you will get the times every week when I send out the podcast.

I’ll also send the time for the call and the link so make sure you join. I would love to see you there. We could just hang out. In addition to that, we also do a book club every month and this is meant to help us take some more action, figure out how to better our mindset and goals setting and whatever it is that we need to kind of get on this journey of finding our dream job or just creating a life that we feel more fulfilled in. I want to help you with that. And this month we have chosen Brene Brown's Rising Strong. I think it's very important, especially right now with what we're going through with the coronavirus and that pandemic and the quarantine. We can all use the Sage advice of Bernay Brown. So we will be reading that and then reviewing it on the last podcast of the month.

So the last episode in April, I will do a book review of that book. Okay. I'll stop rambling and I want to get to this episode because it's a longer one and it's just full of so much good information. So I had the honor of speaking with Emily Sexton for the podcast today and I will let you guys know that it took me over a year to get Emily on the show. She has one busy lady and it was worth the wait because the episode is so good. So Emily started out like a lot of us with a prestigious high paying job on wall street. She was a vice president of communications and change management at a large international bank. And we'll talk about how she got into that role, how long she was there, and what the feeling was that she had when she started realizing that she kind of needed something else but not knowing what that was and how she started taking some time off and working part time in order to figure out the next move and how that next move led to Emily to move back to her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina and open up a brick and mortar retail shop called the Flourish Market.

Now this has a lot more to do than just with opening up a market. Emily had been traveling to developing nations and finding gorgeous goods and bringing them back home. And uh, she found that all of her friends and family wanted them and loved them and she wanted to find a way to help these women who are creating these goods in other countries as a way to better their own lives. And so she married both of those passions and opened up the flourish market and has had incredible success with it. And as if that wasn't enough, after a couple of years of that, she decided to open up a coworking space and incubator for 60 female entrepreneurs called The Locality And she opened that up last summer and her membership spots sold out before construction even started. And I think a lot of it is just the way that Emily really approaches both business and life and leans on her community and really takes the opportunity when it presents itself and doesn't, you know, stop herself like a lot of us do before we even start.
And I think she's seen so much success because of that. And I think, yeah, I really wanted her on right now because you know she has two brick and mortar shops and when you're having a quarantine and a pandemic, clearly brick and mortar is suffering a lot. And so I love how quickly she pivots and finds new opportunities and figures out how to rise to the occasion and she's doing just that. And I think her advice and her example is really what we need. So I will stop rambling so we can jump in and talk to Emily. Hi Emily. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Emily: I am so excited to be recording this with you and thinking about anything besides COVID-19 let's reflect on the past that is that. Let's talk about better times.
Goli: It's so funny because we will get into all of how COVID-19 is affecting you and everybody, but I always think about the people who will find podcasts later and then go back and listen. And so the last couple of episodes have been very COVID-19 heavy, and I'm just hoping that somebody in the future is going to look back and think how silly they were to be. So worried and everything turned out fine. So if you're listening for the future, hopefully we're being overdramatic. Okay. Awesome. Well, what we typically start back with is that original corporate

career that most of our guests have and you had a very, on paper, prestigious career in wall street. So tell us how you got into that career and what that career looked like for you.
Emily: Absolutely. Well, I always love to start by tearing down my credibility first. So I grew up in rural North Carolina and I originally went to college for dance with the one and only life dream to be Britney Spears’ backup dancer. I mean that with so much seriousness. People always think, I'm sorry. It's totally cool. People need to stop listening and know who I am then, okay, now's your time to move to your next podcast. But if you're still with me, that was literally my life's goal and I went to college on a full dance scholarship and I got hurt a couple months into my freshman year and I just remembered not knowing what to do with my life.
That was the one and only thing that felt safe to me that I felt I was really good at and that's like going to be key in my story as we progress is weaving safety and trying something new that maybe I wasn't the best at. I went to my career center, basically decided to major in business because it was the biggest major and honest to God, they didn't know what to do with me, Goli. It was really hard. It was really hard. I no longer was the smartest person in my class. I was by far really behind, but long story short, did okay. Graduated near the top of my class and fell into a job with a Swiss investment bank straight out of college. And it's going from Britney Spears backup dancer to working for Swiss investment. It sounds like a crazy transition.
And it was, but I fell into a job that I loved. I ended up moving to London and working across Europe and Asia and also in New York city for eight years, and I joined in 2007 we all know what happened in 2008 and so for eight years through that financial crisis in the years that followed, my role is the vice president of communications and change management within workplace strategy. And so with all the cost saving techniques going on, people were starting to work from home. It's a lot of what we're seeing with COVID-19 right now, our changes around this economic crisis. So my job was to go and train middle managers and senior managers on how to lead their employees through change and crisis and it was a super interesting role. I loved it. So a lot of times you'll hear entrepreneurs talk about, I hated my corporate job, I loved mine.
Not every single day, but I worked with a fabulous team. I got all sorts of perks. I flew all around the world and got thrown into these experiences that really grew me. What's interesting about living in Europe is that you get six to eight weeks vacation waiting for America to catch up on that one, but I spent a lot of my time volunteering in the developing world using this skill set ad honed in corporate of winning people over help, leading them through change to help nonprofits and social enterprises when people over to their fundraising efforts or when people over to buy their fairly made products fell in love with that too. So I was feeling at a crossroads for sure around the age of 30.
Goli: How long were you feeling at that crossroads? When did you start thinking, what if I did something with this and how long did it take you to kind of make that decision to make a jump?
Emily: That's a really great question for anyone familiar with the Enneagram. I'm a three for those of you not familiar with the Enneagram, it is a personality test based on motivation. So achievement as a three on the Enneagram motivates me. That means whatever you say is good, I'll be a poster child for it. That also means, if I see the ladder leaning up against the house, I know I'll figure out what the rings on that ladder are and I'm going to climb it so fast. I know how to get to the roof of the house. I was doing really, really well. I was in... I'm sure many of your listeners can identify with this, but you know, I was in the women's programs, top talent programs and just really was getting so much extra training and encouragement and awards. It was a 55,000 person global company. So you know, not everyone knew my name.
I'm not saying that within my context and within back-office operations for the bank, you know, I made a name for myself that felt safe. It felt like dance. It felt like I knew how to use my stage. It felt like I lost my stage with dance. I had regained it with my corporate job. It was good. I checked all of the checkboxes and then a lot of the bonus checkboxes, people liked me. They loved having me on a team. I would speak up in meetings and although I did go through phases where things would make me uncomfortable at the end of the day even there's a financial crisis, it still felt like a safe job. So I was really good at it and the rungs on the ladder were clear. I knew exactly what I needed to do to keep climbing. And I think still to this day, I was one of the youngest folks ever promoted to vice president.
So I got that at age 29 but I can tell you I started a side hustle. I don't share this part of my story much, but around the age of 25 and I was living in London, I went to study at the London school of photography on the weekends as a way to keep myself busy and find hobbies and meet friends in the city. I actually, for five years prior to leaving corporate, had a side hustle, a photography studio. I ended up moving back home to Raleigh, North Carolina, opened a studio there and on the weekends I would be doing photo shoots with female entrepreneurs. And so I really love supporting female entrepreneurs, helping them tell their story and win people over and capture photographs and videos for them. So that's what I was doing as well. And I just remember thinking that I didn't want to do that full time, but I really loved the aspect of entrepreneurship of kind of making your own schedule.
But this whole thing of like, okay, great, this like I'm making my own rules, I'm making my own rungs on the ladder. And there was so much freedom in that. It was a new challenge at the end of the day. It didn't feel safe, I would say for at least four years, but especially the last year and a half, two years in my corporate journey, I knew that I wouldn't be there much longer and it didn't know what that was. And in fact, my last year and a half there, I actually dialed back down to 20 hours a week instead of 40.
What was it like when you were doing that, let's say, or when I think those, a lot of people in maybe that space where they know that this isn't the thing and they're in this place of like, I'm still here and I'm figuring it out and I want something else, but this isn't it. One, like how did you figure out what that thing was gonna be? I think so many times we think that and then our mind starts to tell us, don’t be crazy, this is a secure job, but this is a good paycheck. This is... whatever it is.You’ve got to stay safe. That's insane. You're going to throw it all away, you're going to regret it, whatever… How did you quiet your mind enough to realize that it was time to finally jump?
Emily: I just remember wanting to listen to rational Emily, this is the job my parents always wanted for me. This is the job that all my friends wanted for me, my college professors wanted for me. They're all so proud, but I looked outside. I saw a lot of sugar. I should do this, I should stay here, and when I looked inside there just came a point right before- it was literally right before my 30th birthday where I decided I couldn't betray myself anymore. It was less about life is too short. I hear that in a lot of people's stories and I know that deeply resonates with them. For me, it wasn't like that. I swear I'm just going to live until 130 years old. I feel unstoppable. That doesn't really resonate for me. For me it was about I can't keep the train myself.
I cannot keep the train. This entrepreneurship that's in me - I remember that was a year prior to me full on just quitting my corporate job, but going to my boss and knowing that my gosh, this is going to really shock him I think because he kind of knew I was in photography on the side. I don't think he knew that I wanted to be a full time entrepreneur at some point in my life. Something you don't really say to your boss when you yourself are having that internal conversation of if you actually want that for yourself. That's not a part of the performance review that I just remember saying to him, Hey, I'm getting a little burnt out, which is crazy cause I love my job and you know that and I'm really good at it but I think I need to dial back.
You know, I've been doing photography and I just don't exactly know what I want to do with more of my time that I won't be working, but I think I need to volunteer. I think I need to do more work with the developing world and the nonprofits and social enterprises I've been working with there. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to get paid for that, but I just know that at this point I need to drop back to 20 hours for this to be sustainable for me and to me, for me to make a commitment for at least another year here. And he was shocked. No boss wants to hear that from a top performer and part of me didn't even want to have that conversation because I called my boss so much and I didn't want to let him down. I think as women, I hear consistently in stories when I speak with people, it's the people you don't want to let down. Here's the deal. I don't have kids yet, but I want kids at some point in my life going, I want them to see a mom. I want my friends to see a friend. I want my now employees to see their boss as someone who doesn't betray herself. And does it make decisions based solely on other people? Obviously we need to factor in different people who are making decisions, but I wasn't even factoring in myself at all in what I wanted.
Goli: Oh, that's such an important point. And it's something that so many of us struggle with, especially women. And I think that it becomes even more pronounced when you do have children because I think society has put on women that you basically sacrifice yourself for everybody else. And we've taken that on to such a level cause I had the same thoughts and have so many people that I talk with who are in toxic work environments and then feel guilty to let down a toxic boss. We have this need to never have anyone ever be upset with us. Even if what you're doing is you're not trying to intentionally hurt somebody, you're doing something for your own best interests or in your own good. We've just been taught to keep that guilt on that. You should never let anybody down. You can just let yourself down constantly. And it's such an important thing to really become conscious of. How often are you doing this, where your needs are just not important anymore and your, you'll have to put everybody else before you. And I love that you're saying this cause what message does that give to the people around you, whether it's your spouse or your children or your employees or your friends. Whereas it's okay to walk all over me because I don't ever have to put myself before anybody else.
Emily: Right? And I hear this, I feel like I'm unable to speak to moms because I'm not a mom. Hang with me for a sec on this particular point. So I can so easily look a mom in the eyes who's telling me, you know, well I want to provide a good life for my children and she's being a martyr in a corporate job or whatever the context is, right? Because I don't understand what it's like to be a mom is super easy for me to look at her and be another voice in her life, right? That says, Hey, but our daughters model their lives after what they see and do you want this life for them? And I’m able to say that, right? Because I don't have skin in the game yet, right? I want to, I don't currently. And so I think that I'm able to say that and you know, people can receive part of that. I'm sure it's partly offensive as well, but it's just to start that conversation and get people to look internal and, and really think about differently as in like a non-majorway.
Goli: Absolutely. No. And I think, I mean, well you come from the perspective of a daughter, right? We want our parents to do everything for us or be there for us. But especially as you get older, it's like you realize your parents are whole human beings who want to know that their parents sacrificed their whole life and gave up everything. Tthat's such an incredible burden on children. And I think that perspective is amazing. I'm glad that you raised that because I don't think a lot of people that have had on the podcast, I've talked about it in that way and I think it's something that is so pervasive, not just in careers but in everything we do. And so it is pronounced in a career because you think all the... it's like I, that's the only way to kind of provide what society says is safe. So I love that you had that insight.
Emily: Oh thanks. Yeah, I just think it has been important for me to challenge myself daily as I'm preaching to the choir here too. If I truly love my employees, my friends, you know my family, I wish a great life for them, but I need to model that. So then I need to be living a great life myself.
Goli: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so then you, so you start scaling it back to 20 hours and you were volunteering and doing photography. So then when do you get the idea to start Flourish Market.
Emily: Okay. Funny story, and I want to preface this by saying highly unrecommended what I'm about to tell you. Here's what happened. So I'm working 20 hours a week. I have my photography side hustle and I had just reached this point. I've told you earlier, you know, two years of I don't want to betray myself, but no, I should be doing this. Like I have this job. I see this whole career in front of me. I had moved back home to Raleigh, North Carolina, so I was no longer working in London, but I was still helping support remotely the nonprofits, social enterprises that are involuntary. It was shortly before my 30th birthday and I don't know if anyone else listening has had a sort of life crisis. That's what I'm calling it. But I just had this inner reckoning going on and just thinking, what am I going to do, Emily?
What am I going to do? And at the time I was obsessed with the tiny house shows. They're so interesting. And when I was on Pinterest, as we do just pinning different things from tiny houses because when I go into this spiral of what am I doing with my life, I arrive at really low points where at that point I think I had decided I'm just going to live off-grid for a year. That's the answer. I'll just build a tiny house and live off-grid and take a year to collect my thoughts, which is if you truly know me because I don't even go camping. Potentially, I'll clean. But that's just so hilarious that he didn't have that thought. I was on Pinterest and I'm just pinning away at my future tiny house design and I'm scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. And all of a sudden I see a picture of something that's not a tiny house and it's something I've never seen before.
And underneath the photo, the description, read LA’s first fashion truck, it's the streets and I've always been into fashion. I clicked it, read an article for the first time I read what a fashion trunk was. And if you're listening and you don't know what a fashion truck is, basically it is like a food truck. So it's a little boutique on wheels. So instead of opening up from the side, the back doors open up, steps come down, you walk inside a new shop, a little mini boutique on wheels. And that's when everything clicked for me. It was a couple of nights before my 30th birthday. Everything clicked for me and I thought, this is it. This is it. When I travel, all my friends are always like, mm, can you bring back a necklace? Or hey, can you bring back a leather bag? I've gone to that country before.
Hey, can you bring me back the clothes that you got before? And I just thought, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh, what if I bought a truck and made it a little mini boutique cocktail and filled it with all these beautiful goods from all over the world? My friends are always requesting me to bring home driving around town and tried to see if women in my community would be interested in using their purchasing power for good. A couple of days later, I had all my best friends over for my 30th birthday on my actual birthday, and I looked at all of them and I told them I was going to important announcement and they're all looking at me and they're like, okay, I got to say, putting your dream out is super vulnerable. It's super vulnerable, but here's why I said it out loud. My pride was too high not to follow through.
And I was looking into the eyes of women who loved me and who would have my back no matter what I said and what my dreams were. I was like, I have to tell them. And so I said, I'm quitting my corporate job. I've found an old uniform delivery truck on Craigslist in Western North Carolina. I'm going to buy it and I need your help transforming it into a mini boutique on wheels. I'm going to figure out how to import clothing and jewelry and shoes and backs from artists and partner groups I've been working with and I'm scared, but I think it could be a thing. Then they all looked at me like I've lost them because I had, they also were like kind of sad because this personally impacted them negatively because I was like people’s sugar mamas and flew them all over the world and they had personal interest in me quitting my job.
And so they're all like, it's easy what? But it didn't take them long to say. Yeah. And whatever you need, we're all in when we believe in you. Yeah. That was July of 2015 a couple of days later, I quit my job. Horrible. By the way, you quit a job. It's not easy. It's horrible. I felt like I was letting everyone down and of course everyone took it so beautifully. Right. Because I built authentic relationships at my job. Iit was just such a gross feeling. I felt like such a, I don't, I can't even come up with the word I'm blaming for that, but I just, it just felt icky. It felt wrong, but I knew it was right. But at the same time it was just, it wasn't fun. Yeah. I just remember, I think I gave him three or four weeks notice and I just remember walking out and handing my laptop to the guy on my last day from the tech team and taking my badge off and putting it in my purse, going downstairs in the elevator, pulling my badge back out, giving it to security and walking out and thinking, huh, Oh my gosh, that's eight years, eight years behind me.
And I just handed over a laptop and my badge and that was it. I think I forwarded one PowerPoint presentation to my email that I thought I could reference later, but that was it. And I was like, Oh my God, I think I just wasted eight years of my life. Which wasn't true at all, but it was a very surreal feeling.
Goli: That's unbelievable. And I'm just wondering that, I love that you said it out loud because that is accountability and it forces you to kind of follow through. But I think that so many people have these ideas and then the thoughts come in of... I'm assuming you have no idea how to convert a van or how to sell clothes or how to get a business license or how to import or how to do any of that. Usually it comes in as, Oh that's a good idea, but I don't even know if this is a business model that works that will make money. I don't know how much I would charge. You know? And so it becomes overwhelming cause you start getting flooded with doubt of like, I have no idea what I'm doing. Did you feel that? How did you get over that?
Emily: Oh my gosh, I feel that every day. I feel it every day. All of the things you just said are completely accurate about my situation. I knew nothing, nothing. And here was the most frustrating part. I could not find anyone that I could even pay to teach me. There was only one woman on the internet at the time that was teaching people how to run a fashion truck, but she had never done it herself or I think she had done it but sold her fashion truck like many years prior. And I was thinking, well you're not in it. So I'm not going to hire you. You're not still doing that. And so I just remember searching, searching, searching and thinking, Oh my gosh, we're all the experts where, who can tell me this? And the people that could, you know, that are competitive and they held their cards close and I was on my own.
But how I find that to answer your question is I've come through weekly therapy, like 10 years of it, the answers are all inside of me. I have everything that I need every single day inside of me to face my day and to figure things out. Yes, that might involve others, but I have the tenacity and the determination to figure out who can help me and how to get help. But it comes down to me and you have to learn to be able to rely on yourself. And so literally, tangibly, here's what I do. Women, we have these internal negative dialogues that go on repeat inside of our heads, our hearts to seep into every part of our being on it comes down to the core beliefs. You know, we truly believe about ourselves. A lot of them come from childhood. Mine has to do with like, I'm not smart enough, I'm not good enough.
I'm lazy. I tell myself all these things and the way tangibly, I do this as a tool. My therapist taught me, my therapist, Elise Snipes. She's an amazing Californian therapist. Go follow her on Instagram, but she taught me this trick: A lot of times we suppress things, right? Our dialogue, we say no, get back down. I want to hear you like I'm not going to hear you today, but we actually… The best thing is to invite up that dialogue to face the nastiest things we say to ourselves to face that nasty dialogue and talk back. We create a monologue and say, okay, I can talk back to you. You can actually talk back to that negative voice in your head for me. I call it the Chrissy Tiegen clap back obviously and is the queen of Twitter clap backs, but I have my clap backs at the ready goalie. Seriously, I have them written down. Oh, it's an app in my phone. I have them on post it notes in my car. I have a beautiful print in my bathroom that reminds me of what is true. So when I go to you are dumb. You'll never figure this out. You should have already known this. I talk back and say, I can figure this out. I have so much determination and I figured out everything else in my life up until this point. Today's not going to be any different.
Goli: I absolutely love that. Oh my God, it's also good. And it's funny because I set people up on this podcast, with the questions that it's like I already know the answer and I do it obviously for the audience because I know when they're listening, like I so desperately want people to understand that everybody has this fear and they still have it. And so when I ask, are you afraid? Obviously you are afraid and I love that you were saying that you still feel it because so do I so does every other entrepreneur every single day. And I think that you learn to live with that fear and you learn to talk back. And what you're saying is such an important point for people to grasp is that if you're going to wait for that fear to be gone, you'll never do anything.
You will always tell you to stop and you will listen. And I think that it's such an important thing when you're saying what your therapist taught you is, first of all, you can't ignore that voice. So being conscious of it and questioning it and changing those thoughts and talking back and using other thoughts to say like, of course maybe I'm not the smartest person, but I figured everything out up until now and I will figure this out too. That's so powerful. It gets easier because you see that, Oh, I did this even though I was afraid and it was fine. I did figure it out. I didn't know what I was doing and no, and then you start realizing really nobody knows what they're doing. Everyone's just trying to figure it out and it's fine.
Emily: It's so true. A visual I have for is when I, especially now living in coronavirus, which I know we'll talk about in a bit, I could initially spiral into, Oh my gosh, everything's so uncertain and I'm not up for this challenge. And a visual I keep in mind is just flexing a muscle and I'm like, Oh, I have flexed the muscle of entrepreneurship for five years and before that, eight years in corporate, I did something uncomfortable. At least once a week. I have flex the muscle of uncomfortability, which is not a word saying I have flex the muscle of going scared. I have flexed these muscles over and over and over again. This is not the first hard thing that I've faced or had to navigate through and then almost have to do that physical action of pumping iron to remind myself, Emily, you can pick up the dang barbell. Let's go. We've got this.
Goli: I love that. Okay, so you start with the truck and you set up, I'm assuming you figured that part out and then where does it go from there?
Emily: Yeah. So we launched the truck in October of 2015 over the course of three months I had it off 40 friends, 41 to be exact. I have all their names in a spreadsheet still and how they helped, but just help me pull all that together and I'll spare you all the details. But just now I had no idea what I was doing. I was literally emailing people in Nepal being like, Hey, I don't know how customs works, but have you thought about wholesaling? How does this work? And it was so humbling because I went from corporate where I knew things. I was the leader, I was the coach.
Being like, dude, who can tell me how to do the most basic things? I just remember calling the small business association cause I couldn't figure out, I'd Google how I would make this. This is why now I coach women on how to start businesses and how to scale their business. Because a lot of people when they're going to start it as they think, Oh, have time to kind of have to have a graphic designer. Has to do all this and where do you even file the paperwork? And I love just easy buttoning it for people because no one did that for me. But it's actually not that part. The barrier to entry is fear and overwhelm. It's not truly the paperwork or funding or anything like that because honestly those of us that have bought before, we would love to easy button it and break it down for you.
So figuring out that was a crap show to say the least, but I figured it out even, you know, had to figure out how to ship things and all that. But lashes a fashion truck in October of 2015 and my business model was a few weeks before I launched the city of Raleigh, made a rule where I lived that you couldn't just park your truck anywhere. So up until that moment you could actually park your truck in front of big banks or companies and you know, different things like that. But they borrowed that. I was the first fashion truck, so I was like, so I just switched my business models very fast. And so I've reached out to 30 women. I decided if I could get 30 women in 30 days to book me at their homes and they would invite their friends over to their driveway to shop my truck, then I could come blazing into this business, make money in place, reorders with these artists and partner groups.
So we launched with about 10 brands. I still have the list of all 30 that I called. All 30 said yes. I cried. Every time I think about it. So Matt texted a called humbly, they were all really good friends and had different networks. Hey, women are looking to help other women, right? And to be a part of a big story. So all of our products have a bigger purpose. All of our products still to this day are made by or go to support women who have overcome. I started with 10 brands is all I could figure out. I had no backstop. So literally every night, I would do a party, I would take half the money I made. So the price I pay for merchandise and then place another order. And just hope that those things would sell and that I was understanding the market and you know, I just kind of learned as I went. It was only a couple of months when women kept saying like, I like to shop with you and I don't like to shop online cause I launched an online shop at the same time, but our customers, she wants to be staffed, she wants to try on things in person.
And so people started asking for a brick and mortar store and it just so happened around that time our city released a grant to help get retail in downtown. There were not many retailers downtown. So I applied for it and got it and dove in deep. And in November of 2016 I launched our brick and mortar store. We're called the flourish market. That was the name of my truck's still the name of our brick and mortar store. Last summer we moved brick and mortar stores across to another place in downtown Raleigh, which is three and a half times the size. I've never taken out a loan for my business. I've always bootstrapped it and just, I'm a big believer that cash is queen. Yeah. This isn't the craziest ride. We pounded the pavement literally as a fashion truck. So when we opened our doors as a brick and mortar in November of 2016 people came and we've carried over that same business bottle.
So now, you know, retail shops don't really do this, but when we're actually open and we're not in a pandemic, we have anywhere from 10 to 25 to 30 parties every month. So yes, that is basically a party every day we have numerous, two to three every Saturday. So we donate 10% of the sales of every party to the host, like favorite charity or adopting family or we give her 10% of sales in a gift card. And it's just really been this way too. We've never paid a cent for advertising. So our customers really do the work for us as our walking billboards because at the end of the day, the story is not my story. It's our stories and not just my team, sort of the, our community story of how we're all driving change together.
Goli: That's so incredible. I mean what an incredible business to be able to fold in not only your interest in fashion but then this philanthropic aspect of helping serve women and then helping giving back to charities and to even grow, you know, and and have a brick and mortar business for this many years in retail is an incredibly difficult thing to do. And obviously it's a Testament to the fact that you have built a community because as we're saying that retail is really taking a hit in a lot of places and I think people get scared off by that and it's just incredible that there is no like limit on what you can do if it's something that you are interested in and you have kind of the persistence and the passion to go after it. So I just love what you've built and I want to talk about how you are dealing with this whole pandemic and the shutdown, but you also built another business. So tell us the brick and mortar starting to do that in 2016 and then when did you start and why did you start this second coworking space business?
Emily: Why did I start it? It's the curse of having nothing ever wasted in your life. So for those listening that are in corporate or in a job that you hate, I want to challenge you and say nothing is ever wasted when you do hop to what you want to do next. Nothing that you're learning right now is wasted. And that became very true for me in too different times. One very recently and one a year ago. So both of these times last year, last June, and then very recently, a few weeks ago with Komen 19 I really went back to my corporate rates and what I was doing there. Basically when I found this new space for the flourish market, it was a huge space, was 3,500 square feet. So think like Anthropology on steroids and look, I know I can grow a business but I'm not anthropology. And so I looked at this big space and it was perfect, but it was way too big.
And I thought, okay, what is a creative way that we can break up this space and use this space? So maybe part of it is a boutique, a part of it is something else. And then I realized that I've been complaining to all my buddies who own coworking spaces around the city that they were all like, I was like, they're just very male-dominated and you're not really reaching entrepreneurs. You're reaching midsize businesses and Raleigh's so entrepreneurial and it just kind of complaining and trying to tell them what to do in their family. Why don't you just start this? And I was like, all right, Tuesday. And I realized when I found this bigger space, Oh, it kind of clicked with me. Like, Oh wait, I could launch a coworking space in the back. We can build a wall. I did and I had no idea how to do it except from my experience in corporate, creative, flexible work environments.
So we did that. Everyone had a desk. We used these creative work environments just to save money so we could give back buildings and put more people into other buildings. I called up my friends that help design my fashion truck and help design our first brick and mortar store. I met her initially in corporate because she was one of the designers that helped design flexible work environments and I was like, Alison had this crazy idea. I only tell you that my girl Allison, she's always down for anything. She was like, let's do it with her help. Basically she designed the whole space cause that's what she does. I just announced on April 8th of last year of 2019 I announced our big move and I said as part of our big move, we're launching a coworking space and I put together a sales page, which still stands today.
If you go to The-Locality, the hyphen you can see my quote sales page I put up, I had no pictures of this space because construction hadn't even begun, Goli. I just said, are you feeling alone? Are you feeling stuck? And I hit on how I felt as an entrepreneur before I opened a brick and mortar and had a team and I was like, are you seeing your house by yourself or are you wanting to be surrounded by a community of women? And then I talked about the women in the developing world behind our products at the flourish market and how they do life and business together and it changes everything for them. And I talked about how I wanted to translate that into our society and to our city at the last minute included a link where people could express interest. And long story short, we filled all 60 of our spots before construction even began.
Women did not want to know if we had a grant to have a pink velvet couch. They wanted to know how many ergonomic chairs we had and they wanted to know that they didn't have to live life alone anymore by themselves. It's been so, so wildest and such a blessing. We opened our store on Friday, May 31st of 2019 because I'm an idiot. I decided, Oh, let's launch the coworking space three days later and open that, not realizing that it's a whole new business and my head like no sleep over the weekend preparing that because we only shut down our brick and mortar store for one day to move it across town. So it was a wild couple of days, but we did it and it's just been so cool to see these women, most of which never knew a single soul that is now in the community before we launched the locality. Just to see how they're thriving because they're living life and doing business alongside other women experiencing the same fears, the same setbacks, the same wins, the same choices...
Goli: That's so incredible. I love that. And I mean I think it raises a couple of really great points because I always have people ask me, people that listen to the podcast, a lot of times they get very torn because they're multi-passionate people and they have so many things they want to do and I always try to tell people that they can do multiple things. I don't, I wouldn't suggest starting multiple things. At one time, start one and kind of build it up and get it to a place where you have some infrastructure and then add on other things. But I love that as an example that once you kind of make that jump once and you prove to yourself that you can figure it out and that you're capable and that you will figure out each step, it becomes easier to then ask, what else can I do? What other opportunities out there? What other - It lets you see the world in a different way and I think it's such a good example of that. It's like I have extra space and I love being with female entrepreneurs and helping them. What can I do? I can just create something out of this.
It's crazy and I know people might be listening. Emily, you're so brave.
Emily: I want to tell you, I spiral every day. I have to pull myself out of bed. I am so fearful of all these different things. But do you know what? Both ways are hard. My friend Derek Barron explained this new couple of years ago about something else we were talking about. But entrepreneurship is hard. It is scary. It is. Then you know what is also hard, your career being stuck in a place where you're betraying yourself. Yeah, it's hard to, so which type of part do you want to choose? I'm sorry, but the first heart has a more promising ending with freedom and even if you screw it up and you lose money, you can start again. But you gotta at least try. Like I want you to recognize what you're living through right now is hard. So just choose the other type of hard.
Goli: Yeah, no I love that so much. I love that so much. Cause I think we still sometimes think that if we don't do something, then we haven't made a decision and it's like it's a decision to not do something and if that decision comes with its own ramifications and so yes, maybe you're more comfortable, you're comfortable now, but regret is really hard. Think about what hard you want. Do you want the heart of discomfort of growing and trying and failing and having to deal with your own demons in your mind of how to deal with that and then what other people are going to say or do you want the regret of like I had this one precious life that I could experiment and try and I never did anything cause I was too scared. I mean both those things are hard. We didn't sign up for easy with this life. So actually speaking of hard things, let's get to COVID-19 for people that are listening in the future , this is April 14th of 2020 and we are smack dab in the middle of basically a nationwide shutdown and quarantine. So you have two brick and mortar businesses. I am sure that it is affecting you on a very grand scale and I think a lot of people are very scared right now and I'm just wondering, you know how you have dealt with this so far?
Emily: Yeah. Just to know for my future grandkids listening to this as part of a time capsule, someone across the world ate a bat and it froze the whole economy. That's what's happening. Yes. This is very hard. I know, I laugh, but one of the biggest things with leading change and what I think coaching people through this really challenging season is: this is hard. You've got to grieve this. You've got to experience the anxiety, the frustration that anger goalie, I gotta tell you like anger exits your body and physical activity. I used to go to the gym and punch things. Now I'm just piling up pillows on my bed and punching them over and over and over again cause I'm angry. I'm angry about a lot of things. I'm sad. I've got to cry. It's hard. It's just so hard. So yes, Flourish Market closed down and although we have an online presence, I told you that our customers, they need styling. They don't like to buy online. So we are doing about two to 3% of what we did part. Okay. I am a speaker, 17 speaking engagements are canceled just like that. No payment obviously because I didn't go.
Then I have a coworking space and I had to decide what to do very quickly because over the weekend, two and half weeks ago I saw all of the female coworking spaces that I've followed close and I thought, Oh my gosh. And most people would think, well Emily, you were thinking about how much money that brings in for you and you can't lose that. No, I can tell you what I was thinking about was I can't leave these women alone and I need these women. And so what does that look like to go virtual? So overnight we took the locality virtual and we've only lost two out of the 60 members and it actually doesn't have anything to do with COVID-19 it has to do with moves and different things.
So everyone stuck with us. Pretty much what that looks like now is every morning, 9:30 to 10 I do a morning check-in call. Anyone can join. We talk about our Rose and thorn of the prior day in our top three priorities for this day. Every Wednesday we have a themed lunch, 12:30 to 1:30 today's theme was where would you rather be right now on vacation. So I had on my suit goggles and big floppy hat and we're not allowed to talk about work every Thursday. I'm bringing in a mental health professional for two hour workshops to help cause I knew the biggest thing, the two biggest things these women needed right now is community. We have that in spades and then help with their mental health because if we cannot get clear if we can't process our emotions, we cannot work. And as an entrepreneur you have to work like we just don't get a set paycheck or sick or anything like that.
Every Thursday we do a mental health workshop, which they've been incredible and then everything else just got taken online. So they get legal services, they get accounting services, make it a 20 minute coaching session with me each month and then I do a business class, so I just did a business class on Monday. How to navigate your finances and time. Right now with COVID-19 in mind, long term and short term, we took that virtually and I had the payroll, I have a staff of 14, 13 of those support The Flourish Market, but most of them are twiddling their thumbs right now. They're not in the store, they're not taking in shipments, they're not styling customers. In order to keep them on payroll and to be able to revive for them. I went back to my corporate roots. People need my help. I blend into corporate consulting.
Right now I'm helping small businesses, midsize businesses and even very large companies as a consultant helping equip them to lead their employees through change and uncertainty. And it is my pleasure to do this. It is been such a beautiful experience. There's not a lot of change and crisis management for people that can go and do this. And my old coworker called me and was like, Emily, you were created for such a time as this and you put your power blazer back on and get out there. He wanted me to come work with him, but I decided I just wanted to do consulting. I wanted to do that so my staff could help support the back end of that. That has been, obviously I had to onboard them overnight to their new roles. Now they're pitching podcasts and their media outlets and they're sending out zoom links for training invites and so it's been very different for them, but that's what we do as entrepreneurs.
Here's the deal, here's my pitch or entrepreneurship and I hope no one's a fin about this. I think I can say it in a way that won't be offensive, but right now you're seeing a lot of healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, all these people on the front lines being praised heroes. I mean it is ridiculous like the amount of courage that is taking these women and mental walk into horrendous situations, right, and without the PPE that they need absolute heroes. When I think about who will be the heroes of the economy. It is entrepreneurs. It is small business owners because big businesses have to pause. It takes them a long time to turn their ships. They can't be very nimble. I can tell you I closed my store on Monday. Tuesday was our first day being close and on Friday I launched my online class-leading through Corona and on Wednesday prior to that, like one day later, I literally had my first consulting call.
You have the ability, yes. There are many things against you as a small business owner and entrepreneur when COVID-19 or something like this economic crisis strikes. However, on the flip side, you can be so nimble. He can come back to what's in your hand, what skill set do you have? What value can you bring? How can you show up and serve the world? Because I don't care how frozen the economy is. There's always money flowing and if you can meet that with value, you will be the economy's hero every day. You know, it's hard. I cried today. I laid in bed for a couple of hours to have something heavy. I'm holding right now for one of our artists and partner groups, but you know what I said? All right Emily, what does it look like for you to put your mask on and welcome to the hospital this afternoon?
What does that look like as a small business owner, as an entrepreneur in our mask, we obviously don't have physical mass, but our mass, our tenacity and resilience, that's what we put on as small business owners. So if you are a small business owner listening, that's my challenge to you. If you're not yet in going through something like this which scares you, you are capable of seeing it through. Don't let this economic crisis and this pandemic prevent you from stepping out. Obviously may not be the perfect time to start a business, but do you know what is the perfect time to start dreaming and putting a plan together? If you're being payrolled right now, you had the financial provision to invest in coaches who invest in courses to learn how to launch. Those are my invitations to you today. I’ll step off my soapbox now. Goli.
Goli: I love it. I love that soapbox and I think it's so important and we've talked about this a lot on the podcast in other contexts, we talk about it typically with just kind of being in a, just in your normal day to day life or a job where you know a lot of people are just miserable every day. And I talk a lot about how it's very difficult to see opportunities. It's very difficult to see what else you can do when you're kind of have these blinders and it's like I'm just going to be in this place of, we're either feeling like a victim or complaining or whatnot and not that it's not hard, but it's like what else can I do? And I love even in this situation, obviously it's more pronounced and it's more difficult to be in and it's really uncertain. And I think what you are doing it, and I think you're right, a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners… If you can stop the panic and realizing, yes, you to give yourself space to process the emotions and feel the negative emotions and understand that you're human and it's okay.
But when you can take a step back and say, what can I do right now? What do I have in my control? And I think that obviously the role of an entrepreneur is to constantly just put out fires and solve problems and that’s what you're signing up for. And this is on a grander scale. And so it's okay, I'm not going to stop this external circumstance from happening. So I have to figure out how do I adapt to it? How do I change it? And it's so incredible for you to pivot so quickly and be like, okay, we're going virtual and we're going to keep all of our members. That's amazing. While still giving yourself the space to kind of feel that fear and you know, the panic and the dread, but to be able to ask, what can I do?
And I also love that you're now doing the consulting and this, you know, using the skills that you used in your corporate career. Because I think so many people think that that is like time wasted. Or once I stopped doing it, I can never go back. And it's like none of that is true and we have no idea what that future holds for us. And it's amazing how often these things come back full circle and you start realizing, Oh, I can go back and this did serve me and I learned all these skills and look how I can repurpose it in this situation. And so I think it is definitely this overblown thought that like once you leave it's wasted and you'll never use it again. I love that it's coming handy for you right now.
Emily: Very handy. And yeah, I know I said this earlier, but friends, nothing is wasted in your life. Not one heart experience. Not, you know, I had a man spit on me in corporate wanting to tell you what country is from, but skip my face. I had all these hard times and I know you have to and you're probably in the middle of some of these awkward hard times right now, but nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted. Just know that as you grieve that as you are frustrated, you know, go punch some pillows and know that on the opposite side the silver lining is one day that will absolutely come to life in a positive way in your life and then maybe your future business.
Goli: I love that. That's so incredible. And I love seeing what you are building and it, can you tell us a little bit, I know you said that you, you know, it got canceled but I know from your website too, you do a ton of speaking and you have your own personal brand. So what is it that you like, what messages it is that you are sharing with the world?
Emily: Help women create change and come alive. And it's interesting. A lot of men have been asking me to speak lately. So, Brendon Burchard and Dean Graziosi, they invited me, so one of their events this past fall and I just, you know, took the opportunity just to be timeless like a boom on. I think it was mostly men in the audience, definitely women too. But speaking to mixed audiences as of late and so I can, but I love speaking with women, but I can also speak to this well. But yeah, just what does that look like to create changing your life into really live life fully alive. What does that look like? So I talk to teams, I talk to corporate women, so one of the things that I talk about a lot in corporations that I'm hired to do is teach people how to win people over. How do you create change in your organization?
Obviously right now I'm doing a lot of change management and crisis management as it relates to Corona virus. But really, you know, we're going to get through this Tanzania. So you know, I'll go back to a lot of what I was already speaking about and it just comes back to, for me, aye want to see women just living the life that they're intended to live. We are not meant to be martyrs. We are not meant to live life. I know hamster wheel of lackluster at all and I just want to, from stage I, it's always my hope to grab women by the shoulders and to shake them and to wake them up to what a new reality can look like for them and start it with small steps. I started so, so small for them and it doesn't mean to quit your job and start a business tomorrow.
It's like, what does that look like right now? How can we start to flex these muscles so we can get ready to lift a really heavy bar belt one day? So this is just my favorite thing in the world. And I also do one on one consulting for anyone who's looking to launch or scale their small business. It's absolutely my passion to help. Easy button that for people speaks truth into them and encouragement that really gives them the tangible tips that I so deeply desired when I first started and just to people tell me I'm a business therapist, that easy buttons, things. I'll take it.
Goli: I love that. That's so incredible. And where can people find you if they do want to work with you or see what else you offer?
Emily: Everything's on my website. E M S E X T O and you can find me on Instagram. It’s @emgreysexton E M G R E Y S E X T O N.
Goli: I love that. I will put those in the show notes. Emily, this has been so incredible. You've already dropped so much wisdom, but do you have any parting thoughts for anybody listening who's maybe stuck in a career that they don't like and they don't really know what that next step is?
Emily: I normally share this full story from the stage in 10 minutes, but I'll wrap it into 6. There's this woman, I met, Anna, this last September, and she was identified through this nonprofit we support to be on the edge of life. So she had been Scarlet lettered per se because of diagnoses she had received, she and her kids were about to die. Long story short, a social worker there in Ethiopia told her she believed in her, she put her through this business training program that was one part mental health. So like understanding your worth and being able to stand strong and be who you are despite what everyone says to you. And then put her through a business training program which gives us tools that we can find on Google or through coaches. And she launched a coffee stand, which was huge because she was afraid others would think her coffee was dirty and she lost her coffee.
And it went well. Turns out people liked her coffee and she was doing more than just selling coffee. She was actively fighting the stigma of HIV and AIDS. And so she got to live her dream from her community. She put all five of her kids in school, which was unheard of. She puts seven other street kids into a school that were frequenting outside of her coffee shop. She got them to house safe housing right by her house as is now. She's mothering 12 kids. She opened a second restaurant I was sitting in when I had this conversation with her and she was bustling around with three other women. She employed them and then I found out something the social worker was translating for me and I could tell it was new news to the social worker. She hadn't visited her in a few months and she was like, are you kidding?
So going into that, she had done all that in a year and a half and she looked at me and she goes, you're never going to guess this. She just explained to me that she walked to these roads herself. She identified 16 women in her community that we're on the edge of life and she put them through in the debts business school and she said she's giving them seed money to launch their own businesses. And I look at a woman who just a year and a half prior, I thought she wasn't worthy of doing any of that. And you know what? We do that to ourselves all the time. We count ourselves out, we look external to see what other people say is possible for our life. I asked him that, that day I said, you know, I want to take back one sentence site and I could tell she kind of wanted to commission me to take her story forward.
And so I asked her, I said if there's one sentence you could give me that I could go back and tell my friends, encourage them, what would it be? And she said the translators translated it. So she said, Emily, tell them you can multiply what's in your hand, you can multiply what's in your hand. So wherever you are today, right now, I know that you probably experienced some, some things that aren't that great and you're unhappy at certain life circumstances that you find yourself in. But if you wake up each day and look in your hand and ask yourself, how can I steward this well today you and take gradual steps, even one small thing for five minutes that day, you'll start to reignite that fire in you, that purpose, that passion, and let that guide you to what comes next. It was so easy. We just count ourselves out and I want to invite you back into the game to look in your hand instead of looking in other women's hands and what they have, look in your own hand and figure out how you can multiply that today.
Goli: Oh my God. So you're gonna make me cry at the end of this. Wonderful. That is so beautiful. Thank you so much, Emily. I cannot thank you enough for coming on today.
Emily: Such an honor to be with the crowd that you have just worked so hard to serve over the last few years, Goli. So thank you.
Goli: How amazing is Emily. I literally have 47 takeaways, so I'll try to narrow it down to three, but here are my top three. Don't betray yourself. How often are you monitoring yourself for your family or society or your boss or whoever else? Become conscious of that. Realize that you have needs and wants and desires to live a full amplified life and you're allowed to do that. You have flexed this muscle before. Just because you've never started a business or tried something new. It doesn't mean that you haven't been flexing the muscle of figuring things out or showing up each day or trying your hardest or being persistent. You have all of the things that you need to get started and three, nothing is wasted. Everything you're learning, everything that you have accomplished is setting you up for the next thing, and even if you don't see how it transfers, all of it was preparing you for the trials and tribulations that you will face. So don't get stuck in this. I thought that you will waste everything if you will walk away. You take it with you, it trained you, it prepared you for the next step.

I hope you guys liked this episode. If you did, reach out to Emily and let her know and let me know too, and I will talk to you guys next week. Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at lessons from a quitter and on Twitter at quitterpodcast. I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.