Select Page

From Laid off to Lit Up | My ‘Aha Moment’ Story

by | Nov 8, 2019 | Latest, Stories

For most of us, the choice to start our brands falls down to a single moment. An experience. A choice.

It’s that moment like in all the movies where we decide if we’re going to commit, or walk away.

And it’s important to know the story of that moment, because it’s a part of your overarching brand story.

In my case, it went something like this.

I’d been working with a startup in web design and marketing for the last two years. I signed on as a web designer. Along the way, I discovered a complete passion for branding, helping each client market themselves as unique, and discover what made them stand out. Once that happened, I realized they had amazing storytelling potential. But that wasn’t part of my team’s game plan.

And then, somehow, my role shifted to include support tickets, and I found I was fighting fires alongside handling client calls and new website builds.

I’m ashamed to say that I crumbled. My brainstorming, story-loving mind couldn’t see a way out. I got the work done, and did my darndest to keep every client happy. But at my expense. I became morose and bitter.

And I started dreaming about my own company.

You see, a few years back, I’d seen a video of a couple of Instagram influencers visiting Positano, Italy. I was blown away by the beauty and charm of those serried homes and stacked restaurants, cascading down into a crystal bay. I did something I’d never done; I changed my desktop wallpaper to a photo of the Amalfi coast, and stared at it hard, trying to imagine what it would be like to see that in person.

That action haunted me during my dark days.

But then, to make matters worse, the tenant in the upstairs apartment slept during the day, and started his laundry every night at 11pm, and didn’t stop till 3am. My small family and I were sleep-deprived for weeks.

We would leave every night to find a hotel just to try and get 8 hours. That Thanksgiving, we all just slept in the freezing car because a rowdy party upstairs had us worried.

In the middle of all of this, I was intensely grateful to have a job that kept the lights on and food on the table, as much as it was grinding me down.

And that was when my boss sat me down for a ‘contract review’.

And apologized. And laid me off.

He had a load of good reasons, chief of which was that I was his highest-paid investment, and the company was unable to clear every deal fast enough to pay all the employees.

And also, the writing was on the wall. I’d been frank earlier about wanting to start up my own company, and what its focus would be.

I remember everything in the world going still on that call, and I steeled my face to not show surprise, or make him feel uncomfortable.

But inside, a whole lot of screaming.

In that moment, a lot of what he said went into a blur. And I had two options.

Either find a job that took me away from my family for hours at a time – and we had just bought a home far from the city in a new state. My wife was too ill yet to cook or care for our daughter.

Or start up my own brand, and give it everything I could.

Starting my own company had always been a private wish, and an ancient nightmare. Ever since I was a kid, I watched my dad utterly kill himself every single day, working himself to the bone to get enough speaking gigs and recurring sponsors to put food on the table.

His panic and pressure was my experience of being a solopreneur, and I swore I would never do it for myself.

And all of a sudden, it was my only choice.

I knew what the answer had to be.

Not just for practical reasons, but for personal ones. I’d just figured out a brand name and direction. Time to use it.

So my challenge had changed. I’d hoped for a 6 month transition, to ease out of that brand into my own. I now had 4 weeks, with no runway, no clients, no prospects. Into the valley of death, volleyed and thundered, rode the 600…

The next day, I bought, threw up a draft of the website. And went ham on LinkedIn with content and connections.

The ride has been crazy so far. We’ll see where the future goes.

But I’m now grateful to that one bleak moment for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to finally start making my difference in the world.

And so far, I’m loving it. Shaky, doubting every Tuesday, but loving it.

What about you? What was your ‘aha’ moment?

So what do you think? Leave a comment.

PS: Who’s one person you know would like to read this post? Can you share it with them? Thanks!

Dominic de Souza is a novelist-turned-marketer. He believes that passionate small businesses should stop with ads and funnels, and get back to the human roots of business: clarity, excellent service, and building a community. Everything you’re already good at.  Meet Dominic →

You might also like: