On Getting Fired: Building a Business From the Ashes

Natalia and Son in Southern France

On January 10, 2011, I stood on a New York city sidewalk with a box of my personal effects perched on top of my 8 month pregnant belly. As I waited for the car that had been booked to take me home, I looked down at the company logo coffee mug and seriously considered heaving it into the midday 7th avenue traffic. But since my former (as of 30 minutes ago) boss had decided to wait with me, I thought the gesture would destroy the air of quiet dignity I was working so hard to maintain.  A dignity that fell apart when I had the car take me to my parents house, and I let myself go to pieces in my dad’s arms.

Over the remaining weeks of my pregnancy, I did what everyone told me to do. I put my feet up. I tried to savor this early and unexpected extra “maternity leave”.  I read. I talked my husband out of an office rampage. My feelings over getting fired festered.  It was anger festering of course but also a self doubt that fed on every bad thing I had ever thought about myself and my professional abilities….now given the rocket fuel of confirmation…you got fired.

Fast forward 4 months and my happy, healthy babyboy has left little time for self-indulgent wallowing and day that I would have had to return to work passed without notice. I knew that our family finances could not cope indefinitely with one salary but for the moment, I was happy not to have to leave my child for a job.  In fact, I was pretty certain I never wanted a “job” again.

Since marrying my husband, a US marine, I had held several jobs. Like many dependents or trailing spouses, I had been a career chameleon…working hard to fit square shaped qualifications into round job-shaped holes with every move.  And all those jobs never seemed to string together to form a career and never allowed me to put down roots with any company long enough to become valued or vital.  Clearly at my last job, my roots had been particularly shallow. And now, with a baby at home, I was even less inclined to take time away to squeeze myself into a yet another bad fit…this time, with a dismissal on my resume.

When I first started to think about starting my own business, I was exhilarated . And then very quickly thereafter, petrified. All the doubts and misgivings about my own abilities, so recently seconded, came creeping into my plans. How could I be capable of such a thing? In the development of my business, I have had to regularly shout down these inner-voices.  I have had to focus less on proving the people who fired me wrong (although that will one day, I hope, feel pretty awesome) and more on proving myself wrong. Confidence is always pointed to as a vital characteristic of a successful entrepreneur and true confidence is not something you can fake.

During my entrepreneurial journey, I have come upon both women and men like myself. The fired, the bad fits, and the nomads. The construction of my business has almost acted as the scaffolding on which I’ve managed to re-build the professional me that was left in  ruins that January in New York.  And although the idea of being an entrepreneur came second to the idea for my business, the title of “entrepreneur” has been as meaningful to me as “founder”.

Natalia Rankine-Galloway is the founder and managing partner of CultureBaby.com. She is a Marine wife, global nomad, and mother of one, living in Alexandria, VA.


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