Yes, it’s the longest blog title I’ve ever had, but I thought it was more than fitting. This is about to be one of my longest blog posts, too. When you retire from the corporate grind at 25, I feel like there’s bound to be a lot to say. But more on those specific details later.
2016 has by far been one of the craziest years of my life. In the beginning of the year, I got married, and changed my name. What an insane moment. I literally met and married the LOVE of my life. As soon as we got home from our 2-week adventure, we started working our asses off and haven’t stopped. I don’t think I’ve ever worked this much in my life or fallen asleep at the table on my computer more than I ever have over the past 11 months. Lucky for me, I get to work with my best friend, the one who supports me, and argues with me more than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s perfect and I would NEVER change it.
As I write this post—probably my most meaningful post yet—I’m sitting in my new home office, which is a mess. I’ve got so much to do, still. I’m sipping a glass of red wine, my hands are holding up my forehead as I look at my newly hung Pottery Barn curtains, wondering how the heck I got to this place. My grin has never been bigger. I’ve got more feelings than I ever thought possible.
From a very early moment in life, I always knew I wanted to do my own thing, own my own business, and be my own boss. I get it from my parents. My mom has always been such a supporter of me. I’ll never forget the moment I graduated high school and the letter she gave me, which will forever impact me for the rest of my life. Her best advice went something like this:
“Well here we are, you’re graduating high school. I am very, very proud of you and all you have accomplished. You overcame a very difficult move to Ankeny, and I know it wasn’t fun or easy, but you met the challenge head on and you succeeded. We have a strong bond, and we’re probably closer because of it. I am sorry you had to face such a challenge, but I am glad for the relationship we have now.
You have a lot to look forward to. College offers so many opportunities and experiences. I hope you face all situations with the same courage and determination you have shown through high school. It is time for you to decide what and who you want to be. Your Dad and I can’t do that for you, and we will not be making your decisions for you. We will always be here to listen, discuss, and help you, but you are in charge of your life and the path you take.
As a woman you face many challenges in life. There are men who will always think themselves superior but that is sooooo not true. I believe women are infinitely stronger than men. We learn to juggle more things, we handle more stress, and we are the ones who lift up the men in our lives when they need lifting. Just remember as your life unfolds to take it one day at a time and face each day with a positive attitude. Be truthful with yourself and surround yourself with people you love. Be open to new people and experiences, but be smart and aware of the world around you. Don’t believe that the love of a man will solve all your problems and make you happy. Be happy with yourself and your life first. If you can wake up each morning and go to bed each night, and you know that you all alone and by yourself, can be happy, then you will be able to give and accept love from someone else.
The benefit of living in a free country is our unending choices. We have a limitless life. You can go in whatever direction you choose for yourself and you can change that direction if you want. I will always be here when you need me or need to come home. Grow and learn to stand on your own but know I will always be there when you need me.”
That wasn’t the entire thing, but it was most of the best parts. She’s amazing, right? I had to share it.
Now onto my dad, a man who has always inspired me so much with his knowledge and entrepreneurial mindset. While my dad didn’t write me a letter, he did instill some pretty genius words into my head such as: “Business is business. Facts are facts.” Oh and my favorite: “Positivity and perseverance.” If it wasn’t for my parent’s support and truthfulness, I wouldn’t be smart enough to write this post.
To say 2016 was as pretty as my Instagram feed, would be a lie. It was a challenging year. We’ve been busy. Crazy busy. It’s the reason why I’ve neglected this blog so much, but I hope to have more time to dedicate to it in the upcoming year. I feel blessed, excited, and so refreshed. So what’s next? I’ll tell you.
Last week I quit my job. A corporate job. A job that most people would kill for. My last official day is Jan. 13th. I was the eCommerce Editor for Better Homes & Gardens and six other major publications. I’ve learned so much during my past four years at Meredith. I’ve made mistakes, met some amazing people, some I got along with and some I just didn’t. But I learned how to and that’s life. I’ve flown to New York Fashion Week on private jets, styled major photo shoots, had my name in mastheads, and on bylines of magazines I never thought in a million years I would have anything to do with. To say I somehow got lucky, is pretty accurate. I honestly don’t know how I got on this path, but I’m damn glad I did. I’ll never take it for granted and never EVER forget these first few years out of college.
I remember my first day. I was so excited, but I knew in my head, “I’ll be here for 4-5 years, tops. Then I’ll do my own thing.” That’s exactly what’s happening. I think it’s just so scary how fast those four years flew by.
Leaving has been a build up. I’ve been seriously thinking about it since July. To say I’m not scared is a lie. I’m terrified. Every five minutes I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster, but my business-owning friends told me to expect this. Over the past year I’ve grown into a person I’m extremely proud of. I have taken charge of Oakstone Homes and designed my heart out. I’ve forced myself to learn so much about all things home building. Brandon and I are creating something that we will one day pass down to our children—just like Brandon’s father is doing for us. I’ve also launched a new business, Katelyn Cheek Creative. It’s a full-service marketing studio. The website will launch in the next few weeks even though I’ve been working with a handful of clients for the past few months. Why not add another thing to my plate, right?
With all of these changes, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit down with Rachel Zoe to ask her advice. Yes, you read that right! I had a one-on-one chat with RZ herself to get advice on my future. Can you say LIFE. CHANGING. MOMENT? Exactly one month ago Rachel Zoe graced Des Moines with a special appearance at K. Renee. (Read more about that here.) I was honored when owners, Kelli and Julie, asked me to be apart of this experience. Somehow, I was lucky enough to snag the only sit-down interview with Rachel and boy was it amazing.
From the start, I’ve admired more than just Rachel’s style. To me she is a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, she has guts and drive, talent and creativity. Those were the things I noticed and respected about her the most. Now, Rachel is a mother of two, a wife, author, creator, designer; the list goes on and on. When I first learned of my interview opportunity I had no idea what I should ask her. I wanted it to be more than just fashion-related questions, and I knew I wanted it to fit with the entrepreneurial spirit of the millennials in Des Moines and of course, selfishly, I wanted to get as much advice for my future endeavors. I would have never imagined that Rachel and I had so much in common. It was like a holy shit, curse word, curse word kind of moment for me. Here’s some of my favorite moments from our chat…
Me: What is your biggest piece of advice for millennials looking to break out on their own?
R: I’m a firm believer in doing things the old school way, which is working really, really hard. And when I say it, I feel like that sounds so expected, like of course everybody is going to work hard, but millennials, they’re so much smarter than we were at their age. It’s because they have so much more access to information. I would say hard work and having a goal—but a realistic goal—and don’t be afraid to work for yourself. But it is hard because you’re living very often like as hard as you work is as much as you make. That’s why a lot of people don’t do it; it’s unstable and very scary.
Me: What was that point in your life when you knew you were better off working for yourself than working for someone else?
R: I was 25 (Oh hey I’m 25!) and the fashion industry at that time literally paid you nothing, and you still don’t get paid a lot; even as a fashion editor at a magazine, but that’s because everyone wants those jobs. Fashion-related jobs are so desirable, so they’re not high paying but so gratifying and satisfying. People always say that you start for fashion. That’s because it’s like I’d rather do this job and make no money because it’s what I love. With that said, I was 25 and not making a lot of money, but I was working 24/7 and loved what I was doing. There wasn’t a job open at that time, that I could see myself in, because all of my peers were at the other magazines in the same position and they weren’t leaving. I was like, OK, where am I going to go? I started doing some freelance work (Oh hey, I do so much freelance work.) and was making so much money doing it, and working for myself that I was like, this is where it’s at. I realized that, that was it forever and I couldn’t work for someone again. You know, once you do that—work for yourself—it’s really hard to go back. Working for yourself means that you get to govern your own life. The only risk is if you have a dry spell. Plus, you feel like you can never pass up work because you don’t want it to go to someone else and lose that steady income stream. I always remember being so scared of that. (Literally, I have the same feels. No joke.)
Me: Was there anything you would have done differently, knowing what you know today?
R: Probably tried to have more of a life because I kind of missed 15 years. I didn’t necessarily “miss it” because I did get to have some of the greatest experiences, but I did miss a lot of birthdays, baby showers, and weddings.
Then Rodger, Rachel’s husband chimed in and said, “She ignored me for those 15 years.” We all giggled and said poor Rodger.
Me: You’ve built your face as your brand. As a blogger and business owner, my face is my brand, too. That puts a lot of pressure on someone, because it’s really hard to unplug when your face is your brand. How do you balance that? And would you have done something different if you would have known what social media is today?
R: Trust me. It’s really hard. There are days you don’t want to get dressed. I beg Rodger to wear a blonde wig and go out as me. It’s one of the most challenging parts. It’s even harder when you have kids. Would I have done something different? Yes and no. I’ve always thought, should my name be in it, should my name not be in it? Anytime I did collaborations with other people, there was just no other way. The answer to the question is, it’s a catch 22, because with your name as your brand in the forefront, it’s inevitably more successful, quicker. But if you don’t put your name and only your face on it, then it can live beyond you. The complete answer is that I don’t totally know yet. I still go back and forth.
Me: What would you tell a woman who really wants it all? I know the motto at K. Renee is Living Life Beautifully, so what advice do you have for a woman who wants a beautiful life, prosperous career, and a big family? You seem to have that.
R: The answer is, it’s a challenge every day. Honestly, it really is.. You know, I do my best. Being a great mom is my number-one, biggest priority. But you know, because it is my business and it is my name and my brand, there is an attachment and an obligation to what I do, and I love what I do. I don’t have a lot of personal time, if any! It’s either, I’m mom or I’m working. Those are my two lives.
Me: As millennials, we love to do a million things at once. How do you know when you’re doing too much, that the work that you’re doing isn’t paying off, your heart just isn’t in it anymore, and how do you step back from those situations without feeling like you’ve failed? This is something I worry about often.
R: That’s a very good question. Because it’s you, right? (Heck yes, it’s me!)
I chimed in with, “Someone told me once that we are a generation where our parents told us we could be anything and do anything. So we try and do all of the things we want.” Have you ever thought of that?
Back to Rach.
So true! The answer to that is, it’s good for you to do a bunch of things to figure out the things you love the most. I think that by doing too many things, you actually can’t be great at one thing. Don’t do too many because you won’t succeed at any of them. You’ll be good at a lot of them, but not great at any of them. Pick a favorite but simultaneously do one or two other things and see what you fall in love with the most. And if you’re doing something that you don’t love, you probably shouldn’t do it. If you don’t love it now, don’t waste your time, because you probably won’t love it later.
I actually ended the chat with a question for Rodger. It was one of my favorites.
Me: My husband and I have almost been married for a year now and we’re about to work together every day. You and Rachel have been together for 25 years. How do you guys keep it together with a successful marriage and a successful career since you work together every day?
Everyone’s like oh my god, how do you work with your wife? But it’s weird because we’ve just always been together. It’s not only business, but it’s social, too. We had different businesses for many years and I’ve only been apart of her business for seven years, but even before that, we’ve always supported each other and traveled together. You see a lot of couples who have separate lives, but we really share everything. I think it’s a bad thing not to. It will lead to problems. But one of Rachel’s greatest traits and concerns is always including me. Therefore I’m always meeting her friends and colleagues. Now we’ve both known the same people for the past twenty years so work events aren’t weird. They can be fun for the both of us. For us getting to work together is the perfect excuse to see each other. We’d almost never see each other since we do work so much. We just roll around life with each other. It makes it better and we enjoy it. It’s good for our marriage. We grew up to together. Business is all about trust. And our interests are very aligned.
Rachel sneaks in with,”And we fight. He has such a temper, I’m so stubborn. We’re like Lucy and Ricky. We recover really fast. You just have to let men do their thing.”
Getting the chance to chat with Rachel and Rodger was a pretty big moment for me. Their openness and honesty was so refreshing. It’s not every day that you get to ask advice from one of your idols.
My future path will be a challenging one. There will be peaks, valleys, plateaus, and every stage in between, but I’m finally at a point, where I have the support to take on every level of happy, mad, or sad. I hope you continue to follow along in some capacity; whether you’re a Katalina Girl reader, Oakstone Homes admirer, or Katelyn Cheek Creative client. To have your support means more than I could ever put into words. If it wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t be here either, and I am more than grateful for your eye and ears.
As if this wasn’t exciting new enough, I’ll be announcing something else very soon. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. And with that, I’ll leave you guessing what’s next…