Silver Linings: How 7 Women Turned Setback Into Success

Updated 02/06/18
Orion Carlotto ; Lauren Alexandra; Christina Choi

On a surface level, the secret to success might be the characteristics that are easy to spot, like innate leadership skills or unwavering confidence, but a growing number of successful women cite a less-talked-about quality: resilience. It's a learned skill that goes beyond the boardroom, Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in her commencement speech at UC Berkeley. "The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days—the times that challenge you to your very core—that will determine who you are," she told the class of 2016.

Ask women you admire how they learned resilience, and you'll be surprised by their stories—we certainly were when we posed the question to seven standouts who made Create & Cultivate's list of 100 inspiring and influential women. The platform teamed up with Chevrolet to highlight people who are breaking boundaries in their fields, from STEM to fashion and philanthropy. You'll hear honest stories of embarrassment, frustration, and failure, but as we've learned from these inspiring women, it's what you do next that really counts.

Denise Vasi, Actress and Founder of Maed

Lauren Alexandra

Pitching a new idea can be a nerve-racking experience, but for Denise Vasi, it acted as a catalyst. "When I first had the idea to pivot careers, I took meetings with some multi-channel networks," she tells MyDomaine. "I knew what I wanted to build but wasn't exactly sure of the medium. This seemed like a natural way to bridge acting—what I was doing before—with what I wanted to do."

One meeting, in particular, stood out. "I pitched building a personal brand that talked to all kinds of women. I was told that only certain women mattered and was pretty much laughed at," she says. "I'll never forget it—a room of people who couldn't see my big-picture idea."

Despite holding back tears at the time, Vasi said she no longer thinks of that meeting with a twinge of pain. "I felt deflated for a few weeks, but I came out of that feeling so empowered," she recalls. "The reality was I went into a room and I 'pitched' for the first time. The fact that they didn't get it didn't matter because that actually propelled me to have deeper conversations with myself about my brand and forced me to learn a lot on my own. I am now launching my own platform."

Orion Carloto, Author and Creator

Orion Carlotto

Shortly after penning her first book, Flux, author and poet Orion Carloto started to feel unsettled. "Although I was filled with an immense amount excitement and relief, a tiny part of me felt like, Well, what’s next?" she recalls. "It became so easy to compare myself to my other writer friends who were constantly releasing book after wonderful book."

Despite feeling pressure to follow the pace of those around her, she says that the expereince forced her to examine her own value as a writer and realize that there was no need to produce more work under pressure. "Instead of beating myself up, I began appreciating my own growth and speed of things. It's okay to move at your own pace," she says. "It truly took me a while to realize that. The pressure to fit in will only slow you down."

Jaclyn Johnson, CEO and Founder of Create & Cultivate

Caroline Lee/Woodnote Photography

For Jaclyn Johnson, founder and CEO of online platform and conference Create & Cultivate, one of the most pivotal career challenges happened at a young age. "When I was 24, I went through a bad business-partner breakup. It was heart-wrenching, emotionally draining, and so difficult to deal with at such a young age," she recalls.

While the experience rattled Johnson, it also gave her tenacity to back herself and start her own company. "It was also the impetus for going out on my own; the fuel that lit the fire in me to move on and keep pushing," she says. "I was able to pick up the pieces and build a real business that I eventually went on to sell, so I guess the lesson is when you hit rock bottom, there is only one way up."

Erica Chidi Cohen, Founder of Loom

Davis Factor

Teetering on the brink of burnout was the force that propelled Erica Chidi Cohen to question the way her team works. "Although [we] had transitioned to Slack almost a year ago, my personal and external work email was still a place that felt ceaseless and packed—which made it hard to prioritize and expedite responses," says the co-founder of Loom, which provides reproductive empowerment through classes and coaching.

"That feeling of [being] overwhelmed pushed me to do some research, and I learned of a service called SaneBox. It's an algorithm that helps sort and optimize your inbox," she says. "It's been unbelievably helpful, and if it wasn't for burning out, I'm not sure if I would have taken the leap to do anything different."

Katie Sturino, Founder of The 12ish Style and Megababe Beauty

Jamie Magnifico

When Katie Sturino's King Charles, Toast, passed away unexpectedly, she was shattered. The doe-eyed pup wasn't just her dog; he was an internet sensation, loved by thousands for his toothless, limp-tongue grin, and known as a face of the "adopt, don't shop" movement. Despite her devastation, Sturino found a silver lining: "We knew we wanted to continue that [message] and ended up raising over $10,000 for animals in need. Just two weeks after Toast passed, we were able to help a puppy-mill raid where over 50 dogs were saved as a direct result of the funds raised in her honor," she says. "Even though it is so personally sad, the knowledge that her spirit lives on in educating people about the importance of adoption is a true joy."

Brit Morin, Founder and CEO of Brit + Co

Brit + Co

As the founder and CEO of digital media and commerce company Brit + Co, Brit Morin is no stranger to challenges, but she notes 2017 was a particularly trying year. "[It] has been a very unpredictable one for the media industry. With constant changes to platform algorithms, new technologies, and a complicated political climate, it's easy to feel overwhelmed."

Rather than allow external forces to dictate her well-being, Morin says she's learned to compartmentalize the way she approaches challenges. "Instead, I try to accept what's outside of my control and look at changes as opportunities. There's a new-voice technology. How can we use it to connect with our audience? A platform has a new product. How can we be the first to make really amazing branded content with it?" Constantly innovating and trying to learn from the experience is key.

Lindsay Jang, CEO and Co-Founder of Missbish, Co-Owner of Yardbird

Christina Choi

We're quick to highlight successful businesses, but a harsh reality is that eight out of 10 entrepreneurs fail—and that's okay, says Lindsay Jang. The co-founder of Hong Kong fashion blog Missbish and co-owner of restaurant Yardbird says she learned valuable lessons from a failed business attempt.

"A few years ago, I had the opportunity to open a boutique fitness studio with some friends. It was a disaster," she recalls. "Our roles were not clearly defined, which made it extremely difficult to make decisions … and I realized quickly that my reputation [would] be tarnished if I continued to attach myself to this brand."

While walking away was a difficult career decision, it taught her the importance of aligning yourself with others who share your vision and ethos. "Sadly, I lost friendships. I lost the time and effort I genuinely put into the brand, and I had to watch it turn into something I couldn't be proud of. I have learned that the team you work with is the most important aspect of building a business, and I will never blindly sign up to be apart of something without doing my due diligence."

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