Tara Lutman Agacayak is a Creative Entrepreneurial Endeavor Developer (try saying that 10 times fast!). OK, so I made up that title – but since she signs her emails with “supporting the development of creative entrepreneurial endeavors”, I figured it was a pretty accurate, uh, made-up title.
Until I met Tara, I had no idea that something like this even existed, & so I decided that her interview would be perfect for my new series, Grown-Up Gigs! Here we go, kids!:
When I was young I wanted to be a ballerina. In middle school I was trying to decide between a psychologist and interior designer. By the time I was in high school I decided I wanted to be a psychologist (MFCC) so that I could “help” people.
I did graduate with a BS in psychology, but realized I needed some time before pursuing my MS. So I went to work as a data analyst with the Dept. of Defense (a stretch from psychology, but I was applying my experience with data collection, statistics and analysis). They said they would train me to use computers and let me get my MS for free. After 8 years in that agency, I developed really good analytical skills and realized that I was good at organizing information. I also then met my husband in graduate school where I earned an MS in IT, moved to Turkey and was without a job or career! Combined with culture shock = IDENTITY CRISIS!
But I think in some culture crisis means opportunity, so it was an opportunity for me to figure out what I really wanted to do. We had some friends who were both ceramic artists in Turkey and I realized after spending an evening with them that I REALLY enjoyed being with creative people. This really shouldn’t have been a surprise to me because my mother is also a wonderful painter and I had also wanted to be a ballerina and a designer. At that time also, Ebay was starting to get very mainstream, so I decided to sell products from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul on Ebay (this was applying my “techie” skills and my love of the creative). And it was going GREAT, but something was missing.
I went to a women’s leadership training program and they emphasized social responsibility and social entrepreneurship and that’s when things began coming together. My IT and analytical skills helped me organize the business, my passion for creativity and the arts determined the subject around which I’d build my business, and my leadership training gave me the eyes to focus on helping Turkish artists and designers.
Since then I’ve built a retail handcraft business and from that have learned some things which I share through a consulting business that I started with a partner. We’ve also just started a little project called Behind the Bazaar to take visitors to Istanbul to meet authentic artists and designers in the city. Lastly, we support a women’s microcredit program called Nest which has several loan recipients in Turkey that we work with.
So the “how” was a path and a series of “aha” moments, but I can say that I was really focused on building a living out of my passions and my interests. So I was open to those aha moments and kept believing that it was possible to make a career out of doing what I love.
I think I was most afraid that it was silly and unrealistic and also that I didn’t study business in school, so how could I build a business? I thought that I didn’t have those kinds of skills so I couldn’t be successful. But something interesting happens when you stay committed to your goal – you find a way to overcome those things. So I started meeting people and mentors who helped me fill in those gaps. And I also made LOTS of mistakes (still do), but they’ve turned into learning experiences and they are what help me in my consulting business now.
Another big hurdle for me was feeling like I didn’t deserve to have this life I loved. This came up for me in the leadership training, and one of the coaches there worked with me to see how everyone deserves to live the life they imagine for themselves. In fact, I think this is our destiny – to live what is calling to us in our hearts. I think it’s our obligation to honor the gifts we’ve been given and to live them out.
Don’t waste time moping around or feeling sorry for yourself – you have everything you need. Just get started and keep moving forward. Even if it’s two steps forward and one step back, you’re still going on the right direction. Stay focused and keep marching.
Celebrating the successes of those we work with. Most especially, one of my fundamental beliefs is that everyone has a right to self-determination and basic freedoms. And economic freedom and self-expression are both very empowering things. To help people (in our case, mostly women) take their talents, skills, and passions and turn them into ways to start earning money is very empowering for all of us. This is incredibly fulfilling for me. And from this standpoint as I look at where I am now, I see that I’m using a bit of all of it – the helping people part, the creative part, the analytical part … they’ve all come together.