Weird happens to be one of my favorite words.
Why is ‘weird’ one of my favorite words? Because I happen to be someone who thinks normal is boring. What is normal anyway? I’m thinking ‘normal’ is what we are used to; what we have learned to like, appreciate and respect. Well, that’s all good, but I think if we stick to the norm, we will be missing out on what life is really about.
So when I was asked to present at a Creative Morning, the New York Chapter breakfast session and participate in their series discussion ‘Weird’ I jumped at the chance! You see, we have been trained to think that if we cannot imagine it, or haven’t seen it before, then it shouldn’t happen. I decided to share my story and share just how Weird has become my new normal…
As many of you know, I was a nine-year-old girl that did as other kids my age did. I was that ‘typical’ girlie girl. I was obsessed with makeup and looking glamorous. Unfortunately, the closest thing I could get to make up was lip balm and lip gloss. So, I settled…. I accepted the balm and gloss, after all, it was still better than melted crayon, especially if I could get my hands on tinted lip gloss. Whoa, I had arrived!
I used lip gloss daily. Like it was my job! My purpose and my mission were to have shiny lips. LOL! That all came to an end when my dad told me NO. NO, he was NO longer going to support my habit and that I had to make my own! Weirrdddddd right? Ugh!
You know what’s stranger? Is that I actually listened to him! LOL! As a nine-year-old kid, I listened to my parent and did exactly what he said. I made my own.
Soon, I went from making money from a hobby to building a business and brand! I have become an expert in transitioning a hobby into a business, and I have been asked to travel the nation and teach others how to do it for themselves. Weird, huh?
Embracing my weird…
As my business was making money, I had aged out of the Buffalo State College Kid Biz Program and I knew that my business, then called Azariah’s Innocence, was a thing. I have sensitive skin but what I found was that most of the skincare options out there irritated me or dried me out. Surely, I couldn’t be the only one?
So now I had a different mission, not to just make money but to actually fill a void and help people. I wanted to make products that girls like me with sensitive skin could use daily. And I wanted them to be affordable. By 2013, with the help of the Girl Rising Campaign – an event with about 60 people to discuss, affirm and highlight the importance of access to education is for girls – I transitioned my entire brand into a vehicle for change. By 2014, I wasn’t doing anything normal or mainstream. Sure I went to the movies and parties with my friends, but even that has to be planned and added to a google calendar!
High School for me… was weird. Walking the school halls and seeing my picture displayed throughout the school; I am not even a class president… it was weird.
Being in the position to teach my teachers about business and skin care… weird
Being a thought leader in the maker community of all adults…weird
Having to transition into homeschool so I can travel the nation with other successful teen entrepreneurs… weird
‘Weird’… It’s not often that one single word can evoke emotions such as anger, fear, shock, pride or even excitement. People hear ‘Weird’ and they either run or get much closer. For me this journey of growth, business and weirdness has been a series of yes’s AND no’s. The University at Buffalo School of Management had to take a chance on me and lean into my weird. They said YES…
The many artisan markets and events I tried to show at, thought I was so weird. They said NO. Martha Stewart and Etsy both embraced my weird and said YES.
Move closer and embrace your weird…
Think about a time when you have been denied access or turned down because folks couldn’t understand you. It happens, but it is important that we learn from it; do what we can to educate others and keep going. Let’s all make weird our new norm.
A teen running a profitable business?? Weird right?? No, not anymore. I’m proof that weird and wonderful things are happening every day. Decide if you want to run away or lean in. I suggest that you move closer and embrace Weird!
The Creative Mornings ‘August is Weird’ series is currently being discussed across 150 cities in the U.S. To find out more see www.CreativeMornings.com.