Ana Talukder Simpson was raised in an East Indian household where straight A’s were demanded, perfect SAT scores were expected, and an Ivy League education was the ONLY real education. This all came from a place of love, but “…our parents really focused on academic greatness and equated it to success.” She had always been drawn to and excelled in the creative arts, but lacked the joy that was supposed to be found in studying molecule arrangements or solving a proof. Ana knew early on that she was not going to become the Doctor or Engineer that her parents had hoped for and decided that law school was in her future, which allowed her to major in Political Science and Philosophy and still use those skills for a realistic career.
A Practical Education Leads to a Practical Career
It was only after earning her undergraduate degree in three years with a double major, taking the law school entrance exams and applying to law schools, that Ana came to the realization that becoming an attorney was not what she wanted – it was what she was settling for.
Ana joined the ranks of corporate America as a contract negotiator, then a project manager/paralegal. It sharpened her business skills, but was not something she pictured as her life’s work. She did not really know what that was, or could be.
Now married and in her mid twenties, Ana and her husband were ready to start a family. After her son was born, Ana took a hiatus from work to care for the newborn and was able to unleash her creative side that laid dormant all these years by decorating and re-modeling the family home. It was during these moments that Ana realized how much she needed to be creative on a day-to-day basis. It fed her soul.
A few years later, her daughter was born and there was nary an empty corner or wall space left to decorate. Jewelry making began a search to find the perfect piece of jewelry to immortalize a poem her husband wrote for her when they started dating. Ever the over-achiever, Ana threw herself into books, classes, videos – anything that would give her information on materials, techniques, methods to learn about the craft and then practiced over and over and over again until she was satisfied.
Discover Your Inner Artist
Thanks to the encouragement and support of her husband, Ana transformed her glorified hobby into a small business. She says she used her corporate tools regularly by developing her business plan, managing and promoting her brand, effectively time-managing, and staying organized to start her company on solid footing. These skills are especially important for Ana who has her studio in her home and is therefore never off the clock.
Going from two incomes and no children, to one child and one income, and then two children and one income – was no easy task. Because they had already adjusted and grown accustomed to the single check when their children were born, starting The Pretty Peacock did not result in more sacrifice. Ana did have to start slowly as far as supplies and classes go, but as she created and sold small items, she turned around and reinvested the money to purchase more supplies and bigger/better tools, etc.
Work At Home Mom – WAHM
Financially, it was not that difficult, because her initial investment was meager. It was far more difficult for her family dynamic as she changed from ‘full-time Mom’ to Work at Home Mom (WAHM). Getting the family on board was, and continues to be a challenge. Working from home, the work/life balance is going to be an ongoing battle.
There is a true distinction between those creative entrepreneurs who came from a corporate background and those who did not. “My project management training and skills are the most valuable of the transferable skills. Since it is a mix of staying focused on the goal/deliverable by managing your time and staying on top of things, it encompasses the meat of what you need to keep a business running smoothly.”
Ana says that to her, success is not necessarily the six figure pay check, or immense power. It is ultimately judged by happiness. Although she was never raised to “do what you love”, she and her parents have always had a really strong and supportive relationship and she is truly grateful that they raised her with high expectations. Ana says that if she had not been raised to demand better for herself, have a plan and stay focused, she would not have had the drive to change her life’s goals so drastically and just run with it. She has found a career path that speaks to her heart and soul. She says her creativity makes her feel alive and her company, The Pretty Peacock features jewelry she designs that evokes emotion, conversation and allows you to think about your very being.
Ana’s East Indian heritage and culture plays a large role in many of her designs. Her pieces celebrate loved ones, special moments and the most important aspects of life that make it our own. According to Ana – “Each piece of jewelry is designed and created with great care, pride, and lots of good juju!”
Ana shared that her parents are both very creative people. Creativity was used as an outlet, but – though it was never said – it would never have been accepted as a realistic career path.
“It is really a strange phenomenon since Indian fine arts: dance, music, etc. are so revered by Indians themselves and globally, yet, I have never heard of a single Indian parent (at least those who raised their children in the States) that grooms their kids to make fine arts a career goal. This mindset honestly comes from a place of love, so most of us do not resent our parents for being so rigid with us academically, but that is probably because we become programmed to believe that going to Harvard is the only way we are going to be successful. Had I told my parents that I wanted to major in metalsmithing in college (which never even crossed my mind); they would have accepted it with A LOT of complaint, and lengthy phone calls on what my future was going to be like. It would not be a career path they would have been excited to tell their friends about.”
Influence of Family
Let’s consider the perspective of Ana’s parents: Her father had to be in the top 1% of his class to even be considered for a job in the US. When her parents married, they left everything they ever knew to immigrate to a country that promised them everything they ever wanted if they just worked hard enough for it. The American Dream, right? And they got it. They had the big house in the suburbs, two cars, and a great job. First generation immigrant parents frequently have a definition of success which in the US translates to a lot of money. Money buys you whatever you want and that is what will make you happy. That is the formula that her parents bought into. Ana is confident that her parents truly want her to be happy. “Our definitions of ‘happiness’ just differ and our paths to getting there are on opposite ends of the spectrum.”
So how did Ana handle the cultural conflict?
“Sadly, I was given a bit of free reign because my husband had the real job. My parents knew the kids would be fed, the mortgage would be paid and that if I chose to play around with my hobby, so be it. BUT once The Pretty Peacock became profitable, and my parents could do a Google search and see pages and pages of information on my growing company, then it became something more. I think they are a little in awe of how I took this little idea and made it into a profitable business. They know how much work and heart goes into making it run.”
“My parents have asked me if I regret how I was raised since I didn’t use my education or put those good grades to any real use. I explained to them how invaluable the life skills I was taught are to me and pursuing this dream. The experience of college that led to my corporate career is the reason why I can multi-task like a champion. I don’t regret a thing. And I am eternally grateful to them.”
A fascinating cultural lesson to learn about the value of recognizing what is important to us and how we define success in our own terms.
Ana’s Advice and Action Steps:
- Forget your preconceived ideas of what is ‘realistic’ and/or ‘practical’ when it comes to a career: Take time to really put thought into what these terms mean to you and come up with ideas of how to make your ‘dream career’ fit into your definition.
- Research and get a mentor: Make sure you understand what it really takes to do what it is you want to do.
- Surround yourself with intelligent people: My dad always said that your friends make you who you are – I never understood that sentiment until I was in my mid-twenties. Getting different perspectives, whether you view them as negative or positive, will help you gain insight.
- Get focused: It is overwhelming to embark on something new. Keep your brain from going in a million directions. Create a business plan, write down your goals, and stay organized.
“Find success in your own happiness – not just happiness in your success.”
Ana Talukder Simpson
Seeking Designers – www.seekingdesigners.com