Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Living in this day and age as a young person is hard - you finish school at 16 years old and you're expected to know automatically where you want to go, who you want to become, what career path you'll begin that'll dictate your entire life - AT 16? The pressure of that at such a young age is too much to handle, it was in my case anyway.
You know what 'they say' … "Try something you enjoy … But make sure it has a stable job with it!" I really loved Drama in school at this point so I'm sure you can imagine my parents reactions when I expressed my interest in a BTEC in Drama - because I KNEW I 100% did not want to stay on in school and do Sixth Form. My older sister had just completed her BTEC in college and she just made college seem for 'the cool kids', so that's where I planned on going.
Anyway, I ended up signing up to Health & Social Care because I'm quite a 'caring person' and I'd 'thrive' in that area... It didn't work out. Not because I wasn't a caring person or didn't have the knowledge to complete the modules: I actually did pretty good on the assignments but I didn't have the burning desire within me to complete the course because I simply didn't want to.
So, long story short: I quit.
The Underdog Part-Time Job that Became Training for my Future Business... At 16!
While I was in college I began working for Monsoon Accessorize as a part time sales assistant and let me tell you: I was good and I discovered - this girl can sell! At 16 I was referred to complete a Supervisor course for promotion as soon as position became available internally within the business. I was running the fitting rooms and becoming a Personal Shopper for most customers I interacted with. (If you don't know Monsoon's clothing range, they're dresses are GORGEOUS! But a bit on the pricey side - worth every penny though, because the quality and brand is so unique).
Anyway, during this time at working at Monsoon Accessorize, I found a hidden skill that I didn't know I possessed. I used to be quite shy, but Lordy, once I had my Monsoon lanyard on I became this new façade with a business boss attitude who needed those sales to hit our daily target. The store usually struggled to hit targets so I really wanted to change that. Then I realised, it was that burning desire within me that was making me so great and thrive in this role.
My biggest sale - at 16 years old, might I add, with very little experience in sales (side note: when employers say you don't have enough experience please don't feel bogged down. I just happened to be interviewed by someone who listened to my words and invested in my personality. She took a gamble on me: a big one that paid off well for her. But if you're in the situation where no one will take a risk on you, keep going, keep pushing because someone out there will).
(Above is 16 year old me: completely oblivious to the amazing discovery I was experiencing and little to my knowledge, my inner burning desire was thriving at this point: cute! My little spotty face! Featuring a photobomb from my very beautiful older sister. Thought you'd like to see what 16 year old me looked like!)
But back to it - my biggest sale at 16 years old was £1,365.00 to one lady who was attending an Indian Wedding and she needed a range out outfits to carry her through the three day event.
This lady came into the store and was looking around. I approached her and introduced myself and offered my help should she need it, but right away she replied, "yes please! I need help!" I LOVE this kind of customer. The possibilities are endless and the transition can go either way.
This lady needed dresses - just three dresses. She already had shoes at home, she had bags and she had jewellery, so she didn't need anymore: that didn't stop me selling four new pairs of heels and a pair of foldup shoes to put in your clutch bag for the end of the night - girls, you know the ones I'm talking about. Boys - the struggle is real, please applaud those girls you see wearing six inch heels in a club: I have no idea how they do it - it truly is a skill.
I sold multiple clutch bags to her from Accessorize alongside with a new travel bag, because why not? She is going on holiday after all, not just to attend a wedding. She purchased a load of new jewellery to compliment her chosen dresses, which all looked beautiful. She also bought a silky scarf to wear as a pashmina with one dress.
I spent hours with this lady. I made her feel her valued and wanted as a customer. I ensured she was listened to and I studied her body to make sure I was bringing products that suited her body shape. It is so important to qualify your customer. Understand what they truly want.
While purchasing her entire order of £1,365.00 on clothes and accessories, sold by a 16 year old girl with "very little experience", we hit target for the store that day after her sale, she left me a glowing review which will encourage future customers to try our services and give returning customers the confidence to continue shopping with ease. But for me, it confirmed what fulfils me. Where my passion lies and what I'm actually good at: selling and communicating with customers and clients.
Important side note: A couple of times, girls I went to school with came into the shop with their mums and asked me, 'what are you doing with your life?' essentially, and I saw it every time on their face when I said, 'I'm just working here doing sales'. They'd nod, smile politely and say 'aw cool! Good for you!' It didn't appear very impressive and I probably looked like I wasn't going anywhere with my life. I didn't really sell it to them with how good I was at the job because I was 16, insecure, and I didn't want to blow my own trumpet. But what's truly crazy about this era of my life: I had no idea it was training me up for my own business and that it was my time to discover my burning desire within.
Let's Time Travel a Little Bit...
So, you're probably going to be disappointed to hear I left Monsoon Accessorize four years later to go to university to study Drama - nope, I still wasn't over my little acting and writing passion.
Monsoon taught me a lot and I got the promotion in the end but my burning desire began to fade because I stopped enjoying what I was doing and there was many multiple reasons for this: one was a manager who completely put me off the job and I found it very difficult to work with her (frustrating I let someone push me out, but hey ho, we live and learn!) Secondly, a lot of changes were happening to the company which made me doubt how safe my job and stores future was and thirdly, I wanted more for my life.
After summer 2014, I was 18 years old and many of my school peers were starting to go abroad to travel and/ or work. Now, I'm not going to say compare what you're doing to someone else: don't do that. But, do take interests in what other people are doing. They might've discovered an awesome opportunity that you'd love to do too, and showing interest in that by enquiring with them, or just running a Google search isn't a bad thing at all! We really need to be normalising sharing our success and how we got there to help others achieve it too!
So from 2014 I was seeing my social media homepages fill with my young peers travelling and chasing these awesome adventures and I wanted that too. I had no idea where to start, how to travel safely and independently abroad, and, I was in a serious relationship at this point. So, what did I do about this interest? Absolutely nothing!
2018: The Year that Changed my Life
Years passed and still I carried this interest and drive for travel but nothing. In 2018 I did a serious review of my life and I wasn't happy. I was in my first year of university at this point, newly single and wanting more for myself.
I had saved a couple of pennies and thought, 'Screw it!' I spent £500 just to apply for Camp America. As soon as I did it and created and submitted my very cringe application video - I felt amazing! I applied on the very last day for applicants that year so everything I was very rushed.
But, as cringe as the video was - it worked! I got a job in a summer camp in New Hampshire - but that is an entirely different blog all together, which I promise - I'll upload soon!
I started the year travelling Iceland and now I had secured a four-month trip and summer job in America! Life felt amazing. So I knew what sparked happiness but I had no idea how I'd turn this into a job and business.
The Goodbyes < New Hellos
So, summer 2018 arrived and it was time to say goodbye to friends and family and hello to my new American life for the next few months. Oh, by the way - I was contracted to work until the start of August in my camp which was located in New Hampshire (North East state in America) but my return flight wasn't until September from San Francisco, (North West City in California state - lol!). I had no idea how I would fill the gap and whether I'd be travelling alone, I hoped I'd meet friends who would want to travel with me. I left it in the hands of the universe, let go of my worries and just enjoyed my summer.
So, above are the pictures from 'the goodbye'. Trust me, I was crammed with so many different emotions, I didn't know what to think and feel: I was tired, sad, happy, anxious, excited, nervous and hopeful for an amazing trip ahead. I was laughing and smiling one minute then crying and anxious the next. This was all so new to me and I was travelling ALONE to AMERICA! Over whelmed but optimistic would probably be good words to describe the feelings in that moment.
I arranged my job application through a large agency and I missed one event in London which informed you about all the 'things you need to know before you go'. No one updated me on what I missed and this hugely reflected in my anxious mood. I didn't even have an American cell number/ sim card to stop my phone bill rocketing: I didn't realise getting a temporary sim was thing. My point about this agency is, did they have my wellbeing in mind and really care? I don't think so.
But listen, despite all this, this is probably the most poignant moment of my life - when I was walking away to security alone, I am SO PROUD of the girl I am in that photograph. I faced every fear I ever had, I pushed more pressure onto my own boundaries and crushed my limiting beliefs on how far I can go and I let go of controlling my own life and trusted the universe to do its thing. I am so happy and grateful I did.
The next set of pictures you'll see is three days after the ones above. My life had completely changed: the sad emotions had completely gone - of course I missed my dog, Ronnie Bear (a stupid amount), friends and family but I was finally alive and too busy to think about everything I left behind.
I was exploring new heights on hikes - and trust me: I was not a hiker at this point! I made some of my best-est ever friends on this trip and we went on mad road trips. I woke up every morning with the sun beaming on my face. I fell asleep every night to the sound of crickets and other extraordinary night time wildlife. I attended campfires with friends and we sang songs, shared stories and life experiences. We hung out by beautiful lakes and landscapes and I was finally free. Finally happy and finally living how my heart desires I do.
The summer was amazing! I made two main best friends from this trip, Alice and Mary: I speak to them both everyday and we are planning a girls reunion somewhere hot, tropical and thousands of miles away from home after COVID allows us to. Alice is from England and Mary is from Boston and that's the beauty of meeting new people abroad. You have friends all over the world. Frustrating when you just want to hang out with them, but it gives you a drive inside to plan another trip away to see them as soon as you can.
That four month trip away, technically made me lose a lot of money, but within myself, I became so rich. Rich with memories, motivation, healthy lifestyle changes, friends, mental health and opportunity.
If anyone asks if they ever should do something, my reply will always, always, always be yes! That saying is true:
"You only regret the things you didn't do and the chances you never took."
The only thing I feel which may come close to a regret, although it isn't because I'm proud of my life and my overall journey, I wish I travelled sooner. I wish I used my younger years to leave me footprints over so many more miles of Earth. But this feeling is what has sparked the birth of Cloud9 With Catherine because I don't want anyone else to feel this way and to look back and to feel like they wasted their best years.
One of my main missions with my business is to reach out to 18+ year olds and educate them on all these amazing opportunities for them and to get them abroad safely and travelling independently as soon and as young as they can. You won't regret it - trust me!
Then Came the Creation of: Cloud9 With Catherine
Whoohoo! I finally made it. I finally got to my desired destination. Cloud9 With Catherine, I feel, and judging by my reviews and feedback, screams my personality and I love that. I have been able to merge my selling skills + my communication skills + my love for travel all into one business brand, which is completely mine to create and sculpt into whatever shape I want it: How exciting is that?
I wake up everyday and I love my business. I get to meet new people everyday and watch young adults thrive when they travel abroad, alone, for the first time ever. How fulfilling is that? I have a front row seat to watching people blossom into the person they want to be and thrive at being them. I love it.
I love seeing my clients take all their family on their dream holiday and watching them bond and grow closer as a family while making memories that'll last forever. The kind where, when you're sat around the dinner table and someone says 'hey, remember when on holiday this happened...' and everyone bursts into laughter. That's my job, creating that platform for those memories to exist. How lucky am I.
Want the secret?
Believe in yourself: once you have discovered your burning desire, hold it close and keep it a secret, or only share it with your super close, and super trust-worthy circle. Go away and build it in private, make it come true and trust the Universe to work alongside you. Don't feel so much pressure in doing it all yourself, let opportunities seek you too. (P.s: I only say keep it secret to protect your self belief vibe, because sadly people like to stop others from achieving their dreams and chip away at your self belief. The less people who know, the less they can knock you down and prevent you from reaching your goals.)
Trust the timing: it took me 8 years to discover what I want to do and how I need to do it. You have to live your life an take the steps the Universe has destined you to take. You can't control everything and sometimes have to let things be. Find peace with situations that don't work out for you or the way you hoped and seek to find the lesson behind it. Stay positive, stay calm and trust your gut.
Make it happen: figure out your plan. Work around your 9-5 until you find your way to champion your dream. Invest your time in yourself and get educated. Trust the Universe and believe you're already living your goals and your desired lifestyle before you are to guide the way you want your life to go. You got this. I can't wait to see and hear your success story.
The moral of this blog? Find your burning desire, and once you have it, please protect it in your own layer of bubble wrap and run away with it! I promise you won't be disappointed with your results when YOU are in charge of YOUR own success.
-Love from Catherine x