WHY I JUMPED OFF A CLIFF WHEN I STARTED THIS BUSINESS

Our son, contemplating the meaning of life. Or, you know, just throwing rocks in the water.

There’s a place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, way up where the land juts out deep into Lake Superior, called Presque Isle Park. Presque Isle Park, although not as well-known as picturesque, take-me-back-in-time Mackinaw Island, boasts its fair share of hiking trails and scenic overlooks, but so do many of the area’s state parks. Yet scores of people flock there every summer. So what’s the draw?

Cliff jumping at Black Rocks.

My husband is an adrenaline junkie. I’m more of a safety first, plan it out, fasten  your seat belt thank you type of gal. It works for us. Opposites attract, and that’s how I often find myself on the camera end of fun adventures like hurtling your body into the frigid waters of Lake Superior in mid-July.

I didn’t jump that day. He did, but I didn’t. I’m not a great swimmer, and jumping into water that had had ice floating on it just two weeks prior . . . no thank you very much. I watched, I took pictures, and I took note of the way grown men with serious chest hair and tattoos jumped in with their game faces on and reappeared breathless in shock, mouths gaping, unable to form a single word. They knew it would be cold, but there’s no way to prepare yourself for THAT kind of cold.

There’s my man, climbing himself back up the cliff to go again. Go, baby, go! You do that thing! (I used to be a cheerleader. Can you tell?)

No, I didn’t jump that day. But I know how it feels to gather up everything you have, ready or not, and launch into freefall. I know how it feels to take the leap, even while aware there’s no way you can be fully prepared for it.

This business? It was my cliff.

Practical Promotions started out as a fledgling, partially-hatched idea. We took what we knew, what we already did – layout and design of various publications and advertising – and formed Practical Promotions around that. We put our feet under us and built a platform, piece by piece and rock by rock. It was a good platform. It was a safe platform. We grew.

And then, one day, almost in a surprise to myself, I jumped.

When we first started out, I worked mainly for one client on their promotional materials. I dearly love this client. They took a chance on me when I was just a 21-year-old college graduate with only a three-month internship of professional experience under my belt. One day, while I was working on one of their print projects, I went to their website to check some information. I had been to their website before, but for some reason on this particular visit, I just. Could. Not.

This client, who has customers all over the Midwest and beyond, had a two-page website that hadn’t been updated in awhile. A long while. I couldn’t find the information I needed, and there was so much more to this company than the website showed. I thought to myself, These people, who have treated me so well, who serve so many customers and clients with a high level of excellence and dedication, deserve better than this. We can do better than this.

My wheels started turning, so I called my professional mentor. The conversation went something like this: 

“They need a new website. Badly.”

“Yes, they do,” she said.

“I can build them a website. I can build them a really good website.”

“Do it,” she said. Do it.

So I jumped. I met with them. I convinced them that their website could be so much more. I showed them how a functioning, attractive, and organized website would up their business’s exposure, benefit and serve their clients and customers, and provide a cost-effective way for them to get information out to the public.

My next project for them:  build them a new website.

Here’s the part that left me gasping for air in frigid water:  I had never build a website before. No I am not kidding. It’s not super profound, but honestly, I had never build a website until I decided to build one.

Stop laughing.

No, I mean it, stop.

I built that website. When it was done and the positive reviews started to come, I built another for someone else. And then another one. You get the idea.

It took a lot of research, willingness to learn new things and commitment to the task. I also drew heavily on professional skills I already possessed and the trusting work relationship I had with this client. In the next post, I’ll tell you how I used the skills I already had as a springboard into new professional territory and discuss the importance of client relationships. But for now, just know this:

You can jump off the cliff. If I did it, you can too. I’m petrified of heights. I don’t like getting my hair wet. I’m allergic to goosebumps (not really, but it could be a thing). Yet when I saw the potential of what could be staring me in the face, I didn’t let any of the rest stop me. I jumped.

What’s over the edge of your cliff? What potential is staring you in the face right now? I’m telling you, you can do it. You’re not alone, and you can do it.

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