A Balancing Act
A growth story inspired by Rachel Cogar Yeakley - CEO of Puma Creative and Founder of Socially Conscious Living.
Website: Socially Conscious Living
Rachel Cogar Yeakley is the kind of woman that is successful at anything she puts her mind to. She naturally oozes a fluency with people and business that most of us only ever get a glimpse of. Over 15 years she established herself as a top marketer, entrepreneur, executive, and thought leader. She mentors young business people, leads the Charlotte HubSpot User Group, works 18-20 hour days, and is a mom. Her professional growth has brought success, money, and admiration, but it’s come at a cost. She’s had to put balance and personal growth on the back the burner.
At a certain point in 2016, Rachel began to grow more aware that she lacked balance in her life. She was missing her children’s activities, her health was deteriorating, she wasn’t sleeping, and even with all her success, she felt unfulfilled. She started losing weight and developed strange allergies to common foods. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness and an eating disorder, that she realized things needed to change.
She couldn’t keep going about things the way she always had. She needed to change her routine, to adapt, and to grow as a person. She craved a slower, more mindful life and started to refocus on what matters most to her. She sought out opportunities to be more present and adjust her priorities to help her find balance and meaning in her life. She started spending more time with her family and prioritize the passions in her life.
“I personally wanted/needed to slow down and live a more mindful lifestyle. To be present, live in the moment. Focus on something that matters, something that actually makes a difference. A passion, not a job.”
Socially Conscious Living
Out of this personal growth was born Socially Conscious Living (SCL), Rachel’s passion project. SCL keeps a pulse on socially conscious issues and companies through a curated article website. For Rachel it’s a way to give back, and unite others around the causes and beliefs central to who she is. It’s self expression and it’s helped her grow, and learn, and find balance.
“Since August  - I've gained 30 lbs back (I was down to about 100 lbs), and have gotten much healthier. No more daily migraines and dangerously high heart rate. I sleep better. I spend time with my family. And I am making a difference by helping other people become more conscious.”
Rachel’s story of personal growth is one underscored by balance. And that sometimes you need to slow down and really understand what’s important before you can move forward. For Rachel it’s something that she had to learn the hard way and by telling her story she hopes that other can build a more mindful life, without having to go through similar issues.
What's in a name?
A growth story inspired by - Vernesha Bruceus - Founder of Bijou x You Jewlery
The Possible Project is a Cambridge, MA based, multi-year afterschool program that has turned into a breeding ground for inspiration. TPP offers young people the opportunity to create businesses, and grow through entrepreneurship and Vernesha (Ver-neesh-sha) Bruceus is a standout student. At just 17 years old, Vernesha has already created and grown a successful jewelry line. Her story inspires us and we thought it might inspire you too.
When her uncle told her that he had met another Vernesha, Vernesha Bruceus was shocked. He was just as surprised, you see he was given the honor of naming Vernesha, and specifically chose a name that would be one of a kind. Or so he thought. Growing up surrounded by Ashleys and Laurens, Vernesha knew what it was like to have the teacher mispronounce her name during attendance. She was used to repeating herself multiple times during introductions and she grew accustomed to the disappointment she would feel when she couldn’t find her name engraved in the keychains at the mall.
“I used to get so excited when I saw the name Vanessa, because I thought maybe this would be the time they had Vernesha, but that never happened”.
In high school, Vernesha met others with unique, hard to pronounce names, and decided that she should stop being ashamed or embarrassed of her given name. That it was time to embrace her one of kind name. It was this turn of events, and with a little help from TPP, that inspired Vernesha, along with her business partner, Ossy (Oh-Sea) Macary to start a business. Vernesha decided that if stores wouldn’t carry jewelry with her name on them, she would just have to make them herself.
Now, at just 17 years old, the girls have their own successful business, selling affordable jewelry for people with unique names, Bijou x You. While Vernesha has probably always been an entrepreneur inside, The Possible Project provided Vernesha and Ossy guidance and funding to support their business plan and launch Bijoux You.
Vernesha became interested in The Possible Project after she noticed several of her classmates selling things like hair products or shoes. When she found out they were backed by an organization that wanted to help, she checked it out. Vernesha was excited that joining The Possible Project would introduce her to a close knit community, something she could appreciate as a teenager who moved around a lot.
“I used to be extremely shy. I went through several schools and the thing I struggled with most was meeting and talking to people. I remember the first day of school I would cry before walking in and since The Possible Project, I've grown and now am more comfortable talking to other people and even advocate for my peers”.
When asked about her personal growth since her time in The Possible Project, Vernesha admitted she is not the same girl she was before Bijou x You. She explained how her business venture not only let her express herself but allowed her to embrace her uniqueness. She has a little game she likes to play where she guesses whether or not people will pronounce her name right when they first meet. Surprisingly, she loves it when they get it wrong! She explains that the mispronunciation means she is special. Talk about embracing what makes you unique.
The shy girl who would cry before school was not this confident. That girl, who hid in corners and avoided eye contact with people is gone. Vernesha has grown into an entrepreneur, who spends her time telling her peers to love what makes them unique. She’s now capable of so much, juggling APs exams, extracurricular activities, and a business that lets girls flaunt who they are, but with a little a help from those at The Possible Project, that shy girl now wears her name with pride on a gold chain around her neck.
Mitch from Maine with the insane shoe game
A growth story inspired by Mitchell Dickson - Founder of Sole Survivor Shoes
We think inspiration is the first step towards real growth and Mitchell Dickson is a great example of how hard work and passion can lead to success. Through The Possible Project, a Cambridge, MA based, multi-year afterschool program that offers young people the opportunity to grow through entrepreneurship, Mitch has launched a successful sneaker business, Sole Survivor Shoes. He is a great example of how pursuing your passions can lead to both personal and professional growth.
In the 7th grade Mitchell Dickson was shopping with his dad in a mall in Portland, Maine. He walked into a Footlocker and fell in love with a pair of Jordans. At 12 years old, the $150 shoes were a bit more than his allowance could cover. But after some negotiating and bartering (skills that Mitch was born with), Mitch left the proud owner of a new pair of sneakers. He may not have known it at the time, but those Jordans would inspire a business that would gross almost $25k since 2014. Not bad for a high school senior.
Starting a business was something that always intrigued Mitchell, evident in the game he used to play as a kid.
“When I was little I used to play a game called store. I would take stuff from my room and pretend to sell it to my parents.”
Mitch went on to buy packs of gum and sell the individual pieces for a profit. Once he outgrew that business he moved on to something bigger, shoes (aftermarket sneaker sales is a $1 Billion industry). Now a diehard sneakerhead, Mitch was excited to move from sleepy Maine to Cambridge, MA where he knew others would share his passion for the freshest kicks. And his instincts were right, his peers in Cambridge had quite the appreciation for his extensive sneaker collection. It wasn’t long before his kicks earned him a nickname that stuck. “Mitch from Maine with the insane shoe game”.
Mitchell became the go to guy to find the best shoes at the best price. He would often buy shoes, restore them to good condition, and then sell them at a profit. E-bay was Mitch’s original market of choice, but he now frequents sneaker events where he can make $1000 a day. Mitchell’s natural affinity for business made him the perfect fit for The Possible Project. With TPP he was able to officially launched Sole Survivor Shoes, a business that buys and flips expensive shoes like Jordans, Yeezys, Lebrons, and more. For a competitive edge Mitch differentiates by staying below market price. And he’s already built a strong reputation for himself in the sneaker world. His instagram posts get likes in the thousands. Remember, he’s 17.
Mitchell’s biggest advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Have your plan laid out and talk to other people to make sure it’s reasonable and not just in your head. Work hard and keep at it”.
Mitchell went on to explain how he was hesitant to invest in his business at first and started small, investing in $50 shoes and then scaling to the point where he sold a pair for a $500 Profit.
Mitchell admits that he wasn’t always a confident businessman.
“I was sweating so bad during my first pitch” he admits.
As it turns out, the Maine native had nothing to worry about, his sweaty pitch won him the maximum amount of funding he could receive at TPP. He also explained that when he first got started, his success came with it’s fair share of pressure. He would have friends coming up to him in school asking for this pair of Jordans or that pair or that pair of Yeezys. He didn’t want to disappoint them and felt a bit overwhelmed, but as he scaled his business his confidence grew and he overcame his insecurities that this pressure created.
Mitch is a classic entrepreneur who turned a passion into a business. He’s driven by a natural fountain of inspiration that has helped him grow from a normal kid from a sleepy town in Maine, to an aspiring entrepreneur with a burgeoning sneaker empire. With some help from The Possible Project he’s added communication skills, a business plan and confidence. We’re inspired by Mitch’s hard work and he’s another example of what you can do with a dream, hard work, and the determination to grow.