You spent your 20s working toward building your dream career, but now that you're in your 30s, what do you do when you've, well, changed your mind? Or maybe you never quite figured it out, and you're now ready to commit to something you're passionate about, whether it's a job, a city, or just a new way of life. To celebrate the career changes that can come at any age, we're debuting a new series called Second Life. Each month, we'll hear from women who got over their doubts and fears and made the biggest changes of their lives.
We live in very interesting times. Women are rallying together across the world to create a powerful sisterhood that puts a megaphone to the lips of the marginalized and shines a discerning spotlight on those who dishonor equality and basic human rights. The feminist bra-burning of the 1960s doesn't seem that long ago, but as the Women's March, #TimesUp, and #MeToo movements prove, we must never stop fighting the good fight and standing up for equal rights. As the co-owner and chief creative officer of energy drink company Uptime, Carrie Kim is enforcing these values in her company too. In fact, just being a female C-level executive is a feat in itself.
According to a study titled Route to the Top, female CEOs are still extremely rare in the U.S. and Europe. Unbelievably, America has the largest percentage share of female CEOs, with about 8% of the top spots held by women. But of course, we know that isn't nearly enough. In this installment of Second Life, Kim shares her journey from selling fashion to energy drinks, the challenges she faced as a woman in a "very male-dominated industry," and why it's so important to keep going even when the going gets tough.
Can you talk us through your first career path?
I started in sales working for a better women's contemporary showroom in L.A. I represented multiple clothing lines and would sell them to major retailers such as Barneys and Nordstrom. I hustled seven days a week, schlepped garment bags, and worked trade shows. Not to mention the pay was terrible. But I was hooked. I did it for the love of fashion.
How did you make the transition from fashion to starting your own business?
Honestly, the transition was quite simple. All the years in the fashion industry gave me valuable insights, not just into the design but also into business and interacting with others professionally. When I first met [now-husband and co-founder] Ben, he was a huge fan of Uptime. Both he and Uptime won me over. When we learned that the original owner had passed away and the company would no longer exist, we decided not only to save it by buying it but to build it into something that would change the industry.
Tell us about your current career path/business.
I am the co-owner and chief creative officer at Uptime Energy, Inc. Our inspiration was to create premium, quality energy products that resonated with men and women. As a chief creative officer, first and foremost I oversee anything and everything that touches our visual look and feel. "Less is more" has always been my approach, and I wanted Uptime's brand to reflect the quality ingredients we have in the bottles. It was extremely important that we design our packaging to be minimalistic and wearable.
However, as co-owner, I also have my hands in all departments, whether it be marketing, sales, production, or operations. Needless to say, it's helpful having plenty of Uptime around the office to keep me going.
What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers and why?
Challenges came and went throughout my career in fashion, but what I am faced with now is unique. I am in a very male-dominated industry where I don't believe women are given an equal voice. This needs to change. At Uptime, not only are we building a brand that is very much inclusive of women, but I am also hoping to help change the perception within the CPG industry (and all others) by showing how important women are, not only as consumers but as innovators.
What triggered your need to change this time around?
I am at a different place in my life. While I still have a love for fashion, I knew that owning Uptime would give me the opportunity to change the conversation around energy, which was an opportunity that I could not refuse.
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
I've always had a passion for energy, as my father was an herbalist and taught me the importance of good energy from a young age. I guess you could say that energy is kind of the family business. However, none of the extreme energy products on the market appealed to me, and I knew I wasn't alone.
As a chief creative officer, I am able to build a brand that not only provides great energy but also resonates with both mentally and physically active individuals like myself.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career?
To trust your gut and believe in yourself. I took a leap of faith by challenging a crowded industry dominated by big brands. Even as a company with nowhere near the marketing budget of our competitors, we are making waves and changing the perception that energy needs to be extreme.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
It's all about perspective. I let fear of the unknown motivate me. It was an opportunity to prove something to myself and my children. If we fail, then we are back where we started, except now with more knowledge and experience. But just imagine if we succeed?
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
While I have made plenty of mistakes in life, none that I can remember have led to big wins. For better or for worse, I am deliberate in my actions and the consequences have been pretty black and white. I definitely hope future mistakes turn into successes though.
What do you love most about your current role and why?
I love that I am a part of a company that is providing great energy and being able to build a brand that I truly believe in.
When you look back and reflect on your previous career do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
I have no regrets. We're shaped by our past, and everything I've learned can be used is some way every day.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Energy is everything. It introduces you before you speak and remains after you leave. It's powerful and contagious. If there is any advice I can give, it's to be aware of what kind of energy you give off.