We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Zuzia below.
Zuzia, appreciate you joining us today. Are you happier as a business owner? Do you sometimes think about what it would be like to just have a regular job?
I used to freelance in my hometown in Poland, as well as New York City. I did few Summers working in London, a year of an endless Summer in Sydney Australia. Lots of very different jobs and work environments, but always had the freedom of being able to pick up and leave whenever I pleased. Jobs varied from Public Relations agencies, modeling gigs, Advertising agencies projects, TV production and waitressing in between, during high school and college and all Summers in between. I’d work 60-80 hours per week, but then go travel for 2-7 weeks in between (South East Asia, Europe, Antipodes, South and Central America).
But then life happened ;) I got married, then pregnant with our first, moved to Atlantic Beach, and suddenly I needed a stable income. That is when 9-5 life started. Even though two companies I worked for provided great opportunities, my career grew with both, where I managed interesting projects, groups of smart and fun people, I was not free… Did not really enjoy coming home at 6pm, not spending enough time with family, beach time, friends, sports only happening on weekends and evenings.
(Even though I was always lucky, still being able to travel a lot- negotiated few weeks off per year, and was allowed to work part time from Europe, or wherever I’d go).
After my second child was born I started a business, along with a friend of mine, wanting to free myself from being told when and what I should be doing. Boy, we were wrong! The dreams of being your own boss, doing what you please remained nothing but a dream. We worked hard, 7 days a week, ended up having two locations of the business and over 30 employees at some point.
It sure was lovely, we learned a lot, met some incredible people during that journey. But the constant stress of meeting the overhead, the hard costs always in the back of my head were nerve-wrecking. Luckily, my lovely business partner kept the fort going whenever I traveled (sometimes weeks at a time), from where I’d take care of all backstage things that could be done virtually.
We closed down when the pandemic hit and I was faced with a decision to make: look for a job or start another adventure on my own. While some more or less interesting job opportunities arrived I realized I’m at a point in my life (hitting 40) that I can’t force myself to things in life that don’t make me happy. I spent my high school and university years working hard, as my parents could not support me much, and last decade and a half sacrificing everything for kids (and I enjoyed every minute of it), so I decided to try hard and be my own boss again, but on totally different terms.
That is when my digital marketing business started- with my expertise (Masters in marketing and 20 years of experience), minus the team of developers and designers I was used to working with, I found couple clients to get started adding few more with time, as my client base grew.
Around the same time, I also (very randomly) started selling Baltic Amber that I brought from my hometown in Poland at each visit and that grew organically as well!
I set up booths at Riverside Arts Market, St Augustine Pier Market and Atlantic Beach Market, where I already have a great established clientele, also selling online, with no desire to start a brick and mortar store.
I think I finally have my work-life balance figured out. It’s all on my own terms. I work less, pay myself more than before, have time for daily yoga, walks/jogs on the beach, surfing, enjoying friends and being in my children’s life, as well as our frequent travels.
I always had my priorities sightly off (comparing to an “average” person my age): having grown up in a rather poor family in a communist country, I did not follow my peers in climbing the career ladder when opportunities opened up for us joining European Union. I preferred seeing the world, worked only to cover the costs of my backpacking adventures around the globe.
When married and with kids, we also waited 15 years to update our old kitchen, but showed our kids 4 continents.
Being my own boss, but this time, with very low hard costs is where I hope to be however long I can!
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
I’m Polish, who have traveled the world (still going on!), has done this and that and (kind of) settled in Atlantic Beach. I have two wonderful children and along with my husband, live our lives engaging in our community as much as we can!
How did you build your audience on social media?
Ha ha! That is part of what I do what my clients- majority of the Digital Marketing services I offer are focused around their social media. I think the main two challenges is time and money:
You have to be consistent and learn to love it- social media cannot be abandoned and then picked up. Once you get the momentum, you work on keeping these vicious algorithms going. Social media platforms want your money- you can grow your following, engagement and activity with ads and sponsored/boosted posts, or with determination and repetition, consistency and testing what works for your target audience.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
What I described earlier shows how my life needed a change. I gave it a chance, tried semi-corporate life, tried big and small, always jumped with both feet and although some things did not work out exactly how I had hoped for, I ended up learning a lot, shook it off and moved on.
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livelovetravelgreen/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zuziasoldenhoffthorpe/
- Other: Healing Baltic Amber Jewelry https://www.facebook.com/healingbalticamber/ https://www.instagram.com/healing_baltic_amber_jewelry/