LISA CORBETT: SUCCESS IS NOT A TITLE OR A SALARY
By: Kirstin Kennedy & Beth Slagle, Esquire
Lisa Corbett is inspiring. She’s gorgeous, strong-willed, savvy and intelligent. You know the type — the kind of person women get jealous of. She is also the epitome of reinvention, something to which many aspire but do not have the courage to follow their dream.
For over a decade, Lisa worked in the financial services industry, owning her own business as an independent strategic marketing consultant. She worked with a large financial organization, helping with the marketing and distribution of its financial products. “I would go into a business and show them [who] to sell to and how to do it. Summing it up, I taught people how to sell things.”
But Lisa wasn’t completely fulfilled with her high powered corporate position. Although she already owned her own business, she felt that her life lacked a creative element, something that she realized was critical for her long term happiness. So, instead of stifling that desire, Lisa listened to her head and heart and began the process of reinvention, making the tough decision to leave the corporate world. Lisa decided to pursue a completely different line of work selling vintage animal skinned bags on her own website – Vintage Skins (www.vintageskins.com).
“When the financial services industry started to consolidate in 2005, she lived in a beach town where commerce was not strong. The banking industry started to merge, shrinking the market, making work more difficult to come by. She reflected on what could be her “next thing” and ended up looking in her own closet which held numerous vintage bags, something that she had collected for years. Thus began her new adventure, starting an online business selling her vintage bags. She started a website, and “it exploded.” Reflecting on it, Lisa claims it was simply “an accident that worked out.” “I already had a lot of experience that I applied to my business. Fashion goes in cycles, but these bags are always popular.”
But it wasn’t exactly easy for Lisa to take a business risk, leaving her lucrative position, shutting down her consulting business to open an online boutique. “It was really scary. I went from being a pretty powerful executive, and, for a while, I was almost ashamed to tell people what my new business was. It was such a switch for me. I evaluated success based on titles and where I was in the corporate world, and then it totally switches. I had no name or real experience [in this industry]. But after time, I realized that success is not defined that way. Success is not a title or a salary. It’s doing something that you love and having the ability to do other things that you love in the time that you are not working. I had never done anything like it before when I was in the corporate world.”
Her daily dynamic drastically changed from a business suit and power meetings to creating a website, purchasing product and selling her bags online. “In the beginning, there was a lot more work. I’m a one person show, and I do everything myself, [and] it is very time consuming. Initially, I never got away from work. I was constantly finding items, refurbishing them, working on the website. But over time, in fact over six years, it became much more efficient. The change was hard, though. It was hard to not have daily interpersonal interaction [with others]. You become somewhat isolated in a business like this. I was isolated especially because my family was in Pennsylvania while I was in Florida. It was tough and a big adjustment. But I enjoyed it so much. It really is a passion.”
Lisa has no regrets about her decision to ditch the professional clothes saying only positive things about the change. “I was so tired of the grind. I encourage everyone to find something [that they have a passion for] and make a living by it. The only way to make money is to work and control things yourself.”
The most challenging part of owning a business that is strictly online is balancing time. “I could literally never be finished working,” she states. “The key is really balancing time so that I have full balance of work and social contact. I make more of an effort to professionally connect within my business.” A big challenge for her is time management and finding saleable products, even recycling bags that can not be restored to make new items.
Despite making a living selling products of animals, it is a bit ironic that another big passion of Lisa’s is animals. Yes, living animals. It may seem strange that a person who makes a living selling vintage animal skins should advocate for the living ones, but she doesn’t see it that way. “I think the key part is recycling. The bags are rarely new. All of the things that I sell are antiques, and the animals that made them died before I was even born. And, because I am selling restored bags, I’m making less of a market for new ones.”
Lisa has turned her passion into a successful business, but the most significant thing about her career makeover is that she still has the same passion for selling her product as she did when she was collecting her bags as a hobby. “These bags remind me of grandma,” she said. “I look at bags that remind me of her and I’ll always care about them. Somehow I feel that it keeps her memory going. They also remind us of a time that is different from today. So, there is really a personal attachment to the bags. Plus, every bag that I sell is one of a kind. Every time I get something new, it is something different and unlike any other bag that I have handled before. And sometimes there is something great that comes with it. Sometimes I find an old note inside a bag and I wonder, ‘What did this bag go through?’ And that is why I never get bored. Now we go through so many things, it is wonderful to look to a time where people really took care of and had passions for the things that they owned.”
Lisa Corbett, a savvy woman empowered and who followed her passion. I’m inspired, how about you?
Check her out. www.vintageskins.com.