“Be Really Good at What You Do” and Other Advice From GirlBoss Sharon Lockwood

Writing this piece was really special for me. Sharon Lockwood is a Toronto-based designer, business woman extraordinaire, and –simply put — a creative genius. She is also my wonderful mum! Sharon has founded not just one but two businesses in her lifetime and we at If She Dreams have wanted to pick at her boss-lady brain for a long time now. I can easily say that my own entrepreneurial spirit was ignited by her example. Running my own business was never an impossibility and success was not off limits – she proved it. Interestingly, at around the same time that I took the plunge and started my own business(es), Sharon did the same for the second time! She expanded her graphic design firm Line of Sight Design with a new adventure in textiles called ZayZay,  an exotic brand of luxury linens. Read on as The Boss shares her insight and wisdom as an entrepreneur, a mother, and a woman of colour.

 So, tell us about your empire.

My first business was Line of Sight Design, a graphic design firm that I founded in 1985, which has been growing and creating ever since. Our expertise is in branding that includes marketing and promotional materials, websites, signage, multimedia exhibits, packaging, and event promotions. We even design wedding invitations!
In 2015, I launched ZayZay – a vibrant collection of luxury duvet covers and bed linens. We have 25 limited edition designs, all my original paintings and creations, printed onto the highest quality 100% Egyptian cotton. ZayZay linens transform a neutral space, the bedroom, into living art.

Why did you start ZayZay at this point in your career? You already had a super successful design firm going!

I have run Line of Sight for 30 years and have enjoyed every second of it. But I have been working primarily in the corporate realm all this time, which is consistent with revenue but a bit of a straight jacket in terms of creativity. Well, not always, though it is true that corporate graphic design is not generally very spontaneous or fun. What I longed for (and suppose what I got in small doses when I taught at Ryerson and OCAD) was an injection of spontaneity and joy from the creative aspects of design. I wanted to blend my business knowledge with something that would go back to my initial attraction to art college in the beginning: textiles. I spent several years thinking about how to leverage my experience and find an avenue to apply my creativity legitimately.

Eventually it came to me to create and design duvet covers – a duvet cover is essentially an 8-foot canvas for your bed! There is a lot of room for creativity there. From a business standpoint, I thought this would garner more revenue in a way that was very different from the billable hour model of graphic design.

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I put in about three years of intense research before launching ZayZay in October 2015. Skin health and the planet matter to me. Central to the philosophy of ZayZay is adherence and certified eco-integrity in the manufacturing, for example water recycling, no chemical additives, and fair and safe labour practices.

What have you learned on this new path from graphic design to textiles and retail?

 I am learning so much, honestly. I realized I had been so ignorant to many things about this new world we live in terms of communication.  But I also realized that I would have had to learn it with Line of Sight as well, even if ZayZay didn’t come about. Communication has changed drastically. There has been a profound shift in the way people talk to each other. So design, marketing, must change, too.
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Why did you start your own business in the first place and what do you like about it?

I love the flexibility. When I say flexibility, it’s a little bit delusional, but when you say you are your own boss it means you don’t have to ask permission – to pick up something or delay your arrival if needed. Not to say you can do this too often because you can’t (if you do, you won’t have a business). But you have the choice. That totally changes your relationship with work. Could I ever work for anyone else now? No, never. It’s the sense of freedom on a moment by moment basis that keeps me going.
When you say you are your own boss it means you don’t have to ask permission
When I was working for someone else in my early days as a designer, I made a lot of money for other people. I realized I could be the one to benefit financially from my own hard work. This was a huge, huge incentive for me to go off on my own.
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Accommodating a family was also a big factor. Having my own business, I could be flexible as a mum – I could even have my kids in my office (and I did at times). I don’t believe I would have held a job having three children within the space of four years because I was perpetually pregnant that whole time. The downside to being a small business owner while a mother was not being able to take maternity leave. On the other hand, the ability to say “I’m taking my kids to the doctor” or “I’m looking after my sick child today” without asking permission of anyone was huge. Mind you, you do have clients. In this sense, instead of having one boss, you have several people to answer to!

What advice do you have to other entrepreneurial women?

Being really good at what you do, really really good, and knowing you are good is a necessity when you have your own business. And you also can’t underestimate getting experience working for someone else because, in the end, it can be very costly learning lessons on your own.
Managing people well is also enormously important; that’s going to make or break your business. You have to have a policy for how you want people to behave, how your business should function, have a set of rules in place before you start, even before you have a staff. Lay down the game rules, make a wish list of exactly what each role entails and who you’d like to hire. So that you know before you’re in a position of panic what type of person you can and want to work with.
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However, none of this I knew when I started. When I started off on my own with Line of Sight, it was out of fury and rage because someone told me I couldn’t and I was determined. When people tell me I can’t, that propels me.
With my second company [ZayZay], it started very differently. I am older now but I am not ready to stop working. I wanted to change how I worked and have reason to be out of the office, exercise my creativity, travel, and put my signature on something. Design is often very anonymous and you create something beautiful on behalf of someone else. But ZayZay is mine, it’s my project. And, of course, I want to get really rich and indulge myself (and my children). Make money first and then go for the bohemian lifestyle 😉
When people tell me I can’t, that propels me.
 Looking back, anything you’d do differently?
Would I change anything? No, I wouldn’t.  Not at all. Even the last 12 months which have been very challenging, I have learned so much. And I’m grateful for that.

Pssst….ZayZay is having a massive sale for Valentine’s Day! Check out http://www.zayzayshop.com to see the deals – 40% off until February 14th! If you want to feel and see these beauties in real life, check out their pop-up shop at 216 Ossington Ave (just south of Dundas) from February 10-12th!

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16 Affordable Ways to Feel Like a Boss

1. Rosé – on a Sunday with sliced strawberries

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2. Develop a signature walk

3. White Sneakers (Sane Moyo’s guest post schooled us first on white sneakers. Read more of her fashion tips here: 5 Outfits to be Fierce, Comfortable, and Professional in the Office ) Next level your boss style by rocking an all-one-colour outfit. Black or white preferred, but for the boldest among you, step out in head-to-toe royal blue.

 

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4. Use Armani in a sentence. Any sentence. Chanel works too.

5. Have tea in the lobby of a five-star hotel. Tip included ($12). Wear the white sneakers.

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Photo Cred: Jeff Musolino

6. Run up a flight of stairs like Rocky. Throw some serious air punches.

7. Rooftops

8. Pay just to use the steam room and/or whirlpool at an expensive spa ($20 – $40).

9. Peel and quarter fruit (mango recommended). Sprinkle sugar and squeeze lemon juice on top. Eat with a little spoon.

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10. Don workout gear and go outside in time for the sunrise. Exercise optional.

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Own the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Come up with an alter ego. Hint: Sasha Fierce.

12. Pinstripes

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13. Vintage handkerchiefs

14. Eat only the icing in a minimum of 3 Oreos. Discard rest of cookie like a boss. 

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15.  Beyoncé – Flawless. Add Beyoncé and/or Rick Ross tracks as needed. Gyrating required.

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16. Create something. Anything.

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P.S… For immediate results use Jay Z – Dirt off Your Shoulder on repeat

I Choose Happiness

 

“What’s it like to be a lawyer?” That’s a question I asked myself and a question I am now asked as a lawyer time and time again. When I was accepted to law school I did what I do with most of the deep questions I have in life – I turned to Google. “Should I go to law school?”

The first result was entitled, “why law school is the worst decision you’ll make” – Ha! I read through it. The negatives included graduating with enormous debt, a lack of job opportunities and intense work hours. And like any bold-faced 23-year-old I thought, “pffffft – I can do anything I put my mind to.” I wanted to prove to myself that I could achieve this coveted title. I also wanted to help people at a higher-level than I could as a front-line worker in the non-profit sector. So, I accepted the golden ticket and off I went.

I had some cool experiences in school but for the most part it was a lot of work and stress. That’s not necessarily such a bad thing since work and stress are integral to chasing any worthwhile goal. I had the opportunity to compete in several moots including the Jessup International Law Moot Competition and the International Criminal Court Trial Competition. Travelling to places like New York and the Netherlands to represent my school and country was thrilling to say the least and created memories that I look back on fondly.

After I articled I started my own practice. Starting a practice at a young age has been very challenging and rewarding. It is something many of my peers are interested in and seems to be the route young lawyers are choosing more often. I plan to provide seminars on this and other topics to support law students and new calls (stay tuned!).

So to answer my initial question, being a lawyer is a very subjective experience because it depends on who you are as a person. Some realities remain the same: you graduate with enormous debt, there are fewer job opportunities and hire-backs and the work hours are intense. Google was right. So, for those reasons being a new lawyer is very challenging.

The thing about actually practicing law is that you can help people solve their problems. However, you learn on the job since law school DOES NOT teach you how to practice as a lawyer. This is why senior lawyers say the first few years of practice are the most challenging because you are learning how to deliver services to clients, how to address the court, how to file applications and actions, etc.

When you begin practicing, you are also finishing the licensing process and law school, which leaves you a little more exhausted, knowledgeable, humble and risk-averse. Why? Because you spend three years studying case law with people who seem and may be a lot smarter than you. Case law, in part, is about punishing the poor buggar who wasn’t reasonable enough to prevent the incident that led to the car accident, or the death, or the unfinished contract, etc.

For example, if you produce a bottle of ginger beer and a worm somehow makes its way into the bottle and into your customer’s mouth, you’re probably getting sued. Decision? You’re likely paying damages to the plaintiff. Other ginger beer producers then hear about your punishment and think, “whoa – we are setting up policies that make it near impossible for worms to get into the bottles.” These decisions lead to better standards that punish negligent people/companies and make our society just a bit more harmonious.

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Winning First Runner-Up at the Hague at the International Criminal Court Trial Competition (2013)
So, as a law student, you spend three years studying the worst-case scenario. Your knack to spot trouble before it occurs is so acute that you can’t turn it off. Selling something to a friend? Don’t make any guarantees. Supplying something to a business? Make good on every precise condition and warranty in the contract. Thinking of starting a business? Here is a list of all the things that could go wrong.

While being familiar with risk is useful, it inadvertently makes you a bit more cynical about the world. That was tough for me to deal with when I began practicing. By nature, I’m an optimistic, risk-taking person and I am starting to see that while practicing law is a wonderful opportunity, I am currently not completely fulfilled by my work.

I had a heart-to-heart with a senior lawyer and I told this person, “3 years of law school, the bar exam and articling are exhausting enough – but to realize at the end of it all that you start from the bottom when you begin practicing law and have to overcome yet another learning curve with the added stress of debt and long work hours – that’s a tough pill to swallow.” The lawyer agreed, informing me that it takes about 10 years to build up enough experience to be really good at what you do. In 10 years I’ll be almost 40 and there’s a lot more I want to do with my life before then.

As a result, I am currently going through an internal conflict. My legal/rational brain tells me “Make more money!! You need to buy a house!! You need to have kids!! You need to build your practice!! How could you think of taking a risk on anything other than the stable growth of your practice?!” My heart tells me, “So you’re a lawyer now – but you’re only young once, baby – try acting, singing and dancing, explore comedy, start another cool business with your spicy man. Take more risks!”

This #SummerSixteen I am focused on following my heart through youtube videos, stand-up comedy, acting, and more. While I continue to practice law, I’m going to see where these artsy endeavors take me. Maybe I’ll get it out of my system and continue on the path of being an awesome lawyer or maybe they’ll change my trajectory completely. All I know is that while I am committed to excellent service for my clients, I am also committed to my happiness.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to be a lawyer, know that the path to become one is rocky and take some time to talk to or shadow different lawyers whose shoes you want to be in in a few years. If you really want to pursue this career, you’ll do it no matter what anyone says.

If you’re a lawyer and are not happy with your work or are considering starting again in a new field, do it. Don’t sit at your desk and work the rest of your life away. My friend Jean says, “you owe it to the world to share your talent.” She’s right. Live your best life, even if that means risking it all.

I am grateful to have made it this far and have the ability to help people solve their legal problems. I’ve proven to myself that I have what it takes to be a great lawyer and have worked with people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit, with entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, and other inspiring clients. But I’m young and life is short so I’m going to have some fun.

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Turning 30: The QuarterLife Crisis

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Is this it?

At 29,  I looked around at the life I built, at the never-clean condo, the 15-minute lunches, the pencil skirts and dry-clean only shirts, and wondered aloud

“Is this it?”

It was spreading. Dating had a palpable urgency. Newlyweds were taking time apart. Friends were quitting their dream jobs. A chorus of discontent had become the anthem of my late twenties, early thirties peer group. The word dream had become vacation; clubbing was now brunch; and kids these days were no longer us.

It seemed as though for most of our lives, we had our heads down, counting our steps, certain that if we hit every milestone, the worst we’d face is baldness and an age-inappropriate car purchase.

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One by one, we were starting to look up.

One by one, we were starting to look up.

Had we made our high school teachers proud? Was it time to hang up the ballet shoes, the football helmet, the guitar? Had all the emblems of possibility been doused by the number 30?

I wasn’t ready.

I watched as friends and family bound and gagged their teenage dreams. College athletes became personal trainers. The best musicians I knew abandoned their bands, their solo projects, their promise to the rest of us that we’d be able to say, I knew that guy, when they struck it rich.

Shouldn’t I be a millionaire by now? Where the hell is my knight?

Every A+ and glossy degree had helped me earn a life I didn’t want. I was re-reading Eat Pray Love like a map back to the effervescent pre-teen me.

I never saw this coming. That’s the thing about the Quarterlife Crisis. No one ever sees it coming. Lavish buys are chalked up to naiveté; break-ups were inevitable; job changes are just growing pains.

The sitcom Friends iconized the ups & downs of the thirties as the romp life phase, wherein self-actualization can be won over coffee and uneducated waitresses end up working at Ralph Lauren. If we could only make it to 28ish, we’d bask in the Friends years – where soul mates live across the hall and a baby daddy’s major flaw is dinosaur talk.

But, what if there’s something more to turning 30? Something that babies, divorce, or even a Balinese medicine man can’t fix.

“Why God? Why?!,” Joey, from Friends, wails on his thirtieth birthday.

“We had a deal. Why are you doing this to us?”

By 30, most of us have known true loss.

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Ran off with Happily Ever After

The Prince/ss stole the fairy dust, kicked you out of the castle, and ran off with happily ever after.

Maybe there was a funeral. And you had to speak. And you thought back to the days when you were afraid of public speaking, when that was the worst thing imaginable, and how worst, the word worst, well you just didn’t know what that meant. So, you spoke at the funeral, and all along, you didn’t believe that your love was really gone, that this was really happening to you, not knowing that there’d come a time when you’d miss the disbelief, when you’d wish you could doubt that your mother, spouse, or best friend was really and truly gone. Because now there was no mistaking it – their absence, a saw, that cuts at the days, making bloody stumps out of old joys.

Or, maybe you fell out of love. You kept looking at the person that used to be your soulmate. Looking for the things you used to see and seeing ordinary and boring in their place. Of course, that didn’t make it any easier. When she took everything away – the first big purchase you made together, the L-shaped couch neither of you could afford, but could fit 6+ people and so became deeply necessary (even though 6+ people never did sit on the couch).

Or maybe you stopped loving yourself. Not because someone hurt you when you were young. You excavated that hurt in your early twenties. Not because someone didn’t love you right. You watched Oprah and starting dating better, kinder men.

It started with a Shush.

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The Right to Dream

The teenager in you, the one that wanted to become president, own multiple business, dance at Julliard, or travel the world was a bit too loud in your early twenties, when all you wanted to do was go out dancing. So, you shushed the teenager. At 25, you started talking back to the teenager with words like silly, stupid, and childish. So, the teenager bowed their head, and shushed.

You took a job you never wanted. And, 26, 27, and 28 became all about working, saving and earning the right to dream. On the odd day when the Easter Bunny, Cupid, or the American Dream scampered into your 9-5, you’d try to listen, but what grownup listens to Cupid?

What you didn’t count on is that you needed the teenager. You missed the teenager. You loved the teenager. So, shutting her up, calling her names, and leaving her alone for a decade would end up hurting. Because not loving all of yourself, hurts. Hurts a lot.

Here’s what we know:

Life is much harder than you expected it to be. Aging is the surest way to learn this. Age does matter. Statistically, as you age, you’re more likely to suffer from the kinds of challenges that make you wiser. The upside is that life is also much more beautiful, eons more fantastical, and replete with orgasms you never could have imagined.

The sooner the Friends fantasy loses hold – the better. Don’t wait until 50 to shake things up, face your mortality, buy a cool car, or shave your head.

Listen to your older sister. Listen to your older brother. Listen to your parents and your grandparents and your Uber driver and the man who makes the best cup of coffee on your street.

Listen to that shrill, heads-in-the-clouds, scrunchie-wearing, teenager, too.

Whether you like it or not, she’s in it for the long haul.

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