Recycling My Life by Helping Others Recycle Theirs

Tiffany BeverlinTiffany Beverlin is the Founder and CEO of DreamsRecycled.com, an online marketplace specializing in divorce items such as wedding dresses and rings and comprehensive website for the divorce community. 

Let’s face it: Life can suck at times. Perfect families, perfect relationships, and perfect lives is not reality for most people. Life is a constant stream of ups, downs, plateaus and curve balls for the majority of mankind.

I had spent the majority of my adult life married, a devoted mother to my three children, and wife to my now ex-husband. I loved it. I gave up my career to stay home and raise my children. I felt fortunate to be able to do so; after all, not everyone gets this privilege. I was happy – or so I thought. I had three healthy kids, a husband who made plenty of money to support us, a beautiful home, a great group of friends and so on. It was pretty much everything many women dream about.

Then life happened – the sucky part I mentioned earlier. And I wasn’t prepared for it. That’s where the dream died.

When you find yourself going through a divorce, you quickly realize that the financial burden rests squarely on your shoulders. You can’t rely on your spouse’s income anymore. That’s hard enough. But what nobody tells you is that trying to go back to work after a 12-year hiatus makes you virtually unemployable by most human resource department standards. This was the reality I faced.

I wish I could say I handled it well, that I was the poster child for being strong and holding it all together. But the truth is that divorce could bring Hercules to his knees. I was a mess: A crying, depressed, may-not-ever-get-out-of-bed disaster. A few months in to a very messy situation, I had that realization that hits you like a ton of bricks: My dream really was dead.

On one of my darkest nights, I went to bed exhausted, as I often did, from the emotional trauma of it all. Struggling to figure out how I would find a job or earn cinderellyany income, I drifted off to sleep. That’s all it took to start my entrepreneurial journey.

That night, I literally dreamt that I had to sell my engagement ring for the money but couldn’t find a jeweler or pawnshop that would take the ring and give me a fair deal. I was desperate. I needed the money. Yet there was no place I could turn to sell what was once one of my most prized possessions.

Upon awaking, I realized that this dream was actually a reality. I did some research and quickly discovered that there was no marketplace for what I needed. Pawnshops would rip me off, jewelers would buy it for 50 percent below market value and selling privately could take months, if not years.

I started to wonder why there was no website for people like me. There were divorce lawyers and therapists everywhere, but there was no community, no support, no advice and certainly no place to sell my old ring and dress to fund the next stage of my life. I could name at least a dozen wedding websites but couldn’t name a single URL for divorce.

I wish I could say I handled it well, that I was the poster child for being strong and holding it all together. But the truth is that divorce could bring Hercules to his knees. I was a mess: A crying, depressed, may-not-ever-get-out-of-bed disaster.

Days later I had incorporated my company and retained a web designer to build the first online community and marketplace specializing in selling items from divorces. My old, dead dream of marital bliss and the perfect family had spawned a new dream: entrepreneurship.

I worked hard, educated myself, and studied all of the things I thought I should know to make this business a success. From e-commerce and marketing to branding, SEO, social media and Google analytics, I threw myself into it head first, mostly at 1 a.m. while my kids slept. I also started to research divorce, something I quickly realized was a giant of an industry ($50 billion a year in the U.S. alone).

When DreamsRecycled.com launched I was unbelievably lucky to have my story air on Fox News and syndicated throughout America. I was quickly featured in Dreams Recycled LogoThe Huffington Post and numerous other media outlets. It was at this time when I realized the size and scope of my business endeavor. There were millions of other people like me who felt lost, lonely, and were in need of practical information. They needed a place to connect, bond and find their next dream. Over the course of the first year I was contacted by thousands of men and women who simply wanted to share their stories and connect with me. Some simple thanked me for inspiring them to recycle their lives after divorce.

I still love connecting with my users, but the biggest miracle of all of this was that I was inadvertently recycling my life as well. My company gave me a career, a purpose and a reason to get out of bed. Each person I helped propelled me to make the website bigger and better. Each story I heard inspired me to keep going. My website inspired me to date again. After all, how could I blog about moving on if I personally wasn’t attempting to do so? It made me realize I wasn’t alone, not even in my most dismal divorce moments.

My story may not be the norm in business. I had no tech experience, no startup knowledge and no e-commerce background. But if you believe in your product, follow your passion and focus on the task at hand, anyone can recycle their life and start their next dream.

 

Calee Blanchard: Leaving Teaching to Test Her Talents

Calee Blanchard at the DeskCalee Blanchard thought she had finally worked her way up to her dream job of teaching literacy in elementary school. She had taught abroad, taught students with special needs, acted as a resource teacher, and was now teaching reading to small groups of first graders in Nova Scotia, Canada. She had thought, at one point, that it was just where she wanted to be.

The problem was that as much as Blanchard enjoyed teaching, there were aspects of it that she just couldn’t embrace. After ten years she found that while she loved working with the kids she didn’t like the strictures of teaching. She didn’t like the fact that no matter how hard she worked and honed her skills, the job itself didn’t change much, and there was little to distinguish the hardest working teachers from their less motivated peers.

“I worked my butt off and thought I was a good teacher, but you might be standing next to someone who hated what they were doing and you’re both regarded in the same way,” she recalls.

Calee Blanchard iMac-27All that changed in 2014, when Blanchard decided she needed to make a change. Blanchard’s friend, Katelyn Bourgoin, was in the early development stages of an innovative new idea and suggested that Blanchard would make a great partner. Blanchard had done some volunteer work with Bourgoin and clearly saw the possibilities for herself and the new company. So Blanchard quit her teaching job and together they launched Vendeve, an online marketplace that allows women to buy, sell, or swap services based on their own skills. It is, as far as they know, the world’s only skills marketplace for women.

Blanchard knew when she left teaching that she was stepping into a completely different world, but it was these differences that intrigued her. “The coolest thing is that as a teacher your pay is based on a set number of hours, and no matter how hard you work or how many extra hours you put in, the pay stays the same. In my new world, it’s all about results; it’s all based on talent and hustle. If you work really hard and are good at what you do, it pays off. The energy that I’m surrounded by now is amazing.”

“As founders, we have to be super organized and wear all the hats to get all the jobs done. As we grow, we may be able to specialize more. But you have to get your hands dirty. Luckily, we’re realizing that as women we’re pretty good at everything.”

There is a simple vetting system required to become a member of Vendeve, after which a member is able to set up a profile offering their skills, and if Calee Blanchard Offersthey wish, requesting the skills or services they are hoping to find. The services offered are richly varied – logo design, nutritional counseling, interior decorating, legal services, and proofreading are but a few of the offerings. Some services, like hair cuts or personal massage, require that both parties live in the same area, while many can be exchanged virtually anywhere in the world. Members can choose whether they wish to sell or swap their service.

Blanchard, listed as Vendeve’s COO and co-founder, refers to herself as the yin to Bourgoin’s yang. “Katelyn is definitely our spokesperson; she excels at sharing our ideas and vision, and I love the behind the scenes execution. It’s a great balance —  she’s the maker and I’m the doer.”

Coming from a teaching background there were definitely some adjustments that Blanchard needed to make. “In teaching you often have to work solo. But now, collaboration is huge and at times I have to push myself to get out of my comfort zone. I am an introvert by nature. But I’ve learned that putting your ideas out there, making yourself a bit vulnerable, is what takes you places.”

Calee Blanchard Black and White
Vendeve co-founder, Katelyn Bourgin

And Vendeve is going places. They have four employees currently on their team and are looking to add a fifth. They have secured funds from angel investors and are in final negotiations with a venture capitalist firm. And, in just a few short months, they’ve enrolled close to 2000 members in over 18 countries.

“Sometimes fundraising and financing can be frustrating because it takes us away from other things we’d like to prioritize, but it’s a necessary part of the process,” Blanchard says. In the interest of raising capital they’ve hosted investor nights, participated in Launch 36, an accelerator program, and perfected their pitch.

“As founders, we have to be super organized and wear all the hats to get all the jobs done. As we grow, we may be able to specialize more. But you have to get your hands dirty. Luckily, we’re realizing that as women we’re pretty good at everything.

“Sometimes it feels like things are going slowly but then we look back and we’re like ‘Holy crap, we have really come far.’ We can actually just log onto our page and see the results right in front of us, the things we were just thinking about that are now reality.  We are right on target or even ahead, so we’re pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished. It’s only been a few months and we have come a long, long way.”

Think Vendeve sounds intriguing?  Interested in learning more? Calee and Katelyn would like to offer Career 2.0 readers full and instant access to Vendeve so you can check it out for yourself. Just go to Vendeve and enter Invite Code C2.0Passion.

Tips from Calee Blanchard
  • You have to have the right mindset for a start-up. You need to be stubborn and competitive and keep pushing forward.
  • Stop thinking about it, dreaming about it, reading about it. Take the plunge.
  • Share your ideas and get feedback. Ask for things. It’s amazing what can come from being direct. And offer help in return; it has to flow both ways.
  • The best advice we got from an adviser was this: When you pitch, share the big-picture vision of where you want to go. Don’t frame your pitch based on where you are now; it should be about your dream and where you hope to be – your vision. That made all the difference for us.

Sumeera Rasul: For the Love of Handmade

unnamed (4)Sumeera Rasul was raised with an appreciation for all things handmade. In her native Pakistan, her father made his living exporting handmade furniture and clothing, and her grandmother taught sewing, knitting, and embroidery to underprivileged girls.

“We grew up around that; it was part of our culture,” Rasul says. “We were always watching my grandmother and learning from her. We had respect for people who work with their hands, as well as for the quality of the things they made. I remember my grandmother looking at certain textiles and saying ‘No, I don’t want that, it’s machine-made.’ To her that meant it wasn’t of good quality. Something made by hand, even with imperfections, feels so much more valuable.”

Throughout the years, Rasul never lost that appreciation for handmade items or the people who make them. (more…)