Fall City-based Tammy Myers has worked in several fields and completed several career pivots. Yet nothing has captured her heart over the years quite like the world of flowers.
“I have been an elementary school teacher, worked in aviation, online travel, and owned a small local flower business,” she said. Now, she’s building a nationwide online floral marketplace: LORA Bloom.
As a local florist who specialized in selling only American-grown flowers and using eco-friendly floral techniques, Myers often felt lost in a sea of wire services and order-taking sites claiming to sell the freshest and most local flowers. “I knew this wasn’t accurate,” she said, “And I knew I was sourcing the best professional flowers on the market.”
Her rapid growth on the Eastside soon reached a turning point. She knew she either had to hire more employees or pivot. The solution? Applying her basic e-commerce principles and background in online travel to create a new platform for consumers to order flowers for local delivery.
The pandemic undoubtedly added hurdles. Myers rolled into the new year optimistic about finally getting her vision off the ground. But with the coronavirus shutdowns, any traction generated in early 2020 quickly plummeted.
“As difficult as this was,” Myers said, “I felt lucky. LORA was so early in the game, my overhead was low, and (I) could float expenses for a while. Though the timing of LORA’s launch was not ideal, I truly believe COVID-19 has made me better at my craft. The downtime and inability to generate any sales whatsoever forced me to dig deep and take a step back (and look) at my priorities as a business owner.”
With her company built on the principles of sourcing locally and utilizing globally conscious techniques, Myers said, “LORA Bloom encompasses the lessons our world is learning now about the overwhelming reliance on imported products and services.”
Although entrepreneurship can be lonely, Myers has learned she can do anything she deems possible. “Through each of my pivots as a professional,” she said, adding with a laugh, “There’s always been someone who questioned my ability or tried to say I wasn’t capable of something … I suppose after so many knock-downs over the years, I’ve learned to bounce back a lot quicker.”
When it comes to encouraging others, she said to be realistic but go for it. “Once I made the leap,” she said, “I finally felt a sense of belonging.” Myers recently read a quote from entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk saying that leaving one’s job doesn’t have to stem from burnout. “It can be that you changed your mind,” she said. “I found this perspective incredibly powerful.
Before pivoting, she advises chatting with industry experts to get honest, behind-the-scenes information. “Often, people try to keep their ideas a secret,” she said. “I found the more I talked about my vision, the more feedback and knowledge I gained.”
Myers balances motherhood with running a company that often consumes valuable family time. Yet she knows owning a business positively impacts her son, too. “He already has a sales pitch for his own cardboard creations, like an arcade game,” she said. “Witnessing this is quite humbling and lets me know I made the right pivot.”
Being a small-business owner is Myers’ most rewarding gig yet.
“Every single time an order is placed,” she said, “I get a jolt of excitement. I hope that feeling never goes away. When it does, I know then it will be time to find my next new venture.”
Vince La Porta
Vince La Porta and his wife recently relocated to Woodinville so he could begin coaching for Seattle’s professional women’s soccer team, OL Reign Academy (formerly Seattle Reign). He works with the youth academy and looks forward to adding experience with the professional team after the pandemic is under control.
Previously, La Porta worked at Harvard University’s Center for Regenerative Medicine doing adult stem cell research and also coached soccer on the side.
“I was dissecting $10,000 mice where no error is allowed,” he said, “and my mind was thinking about how to best teach defending to my team. I didn’t ever mess up the mouse dissections, but I also never was passionate about them. So I decided to try and flip my work life.”
The adjusted ratio? Soccer full-time, biology on the side.
In the lab, La Porta always was engaging with colleagues; this gift for connection was a catalyst for his shift toward coaching. “I noticed I was practically the only person who would initiate such conversations,” he said, “and concluded I was meant to be somewhere else. Somewhere where my openness is an asset, not a distraction.”
La Porta has loved securing a lifestyle where “work doesn’t feel like work.” He believes, “This is out there for everyone somewhere.” He can coach 10 hours of matches on a Sunday, take notes for an hour on the development of the players, and then watch a two-hour match from earlier. He makes sure to maintain balance with other hobbies, but coaching soccer and being on the pitch feels like his natural habitat.
“I can submerge myself there for weeks, months, without losing passion,” he said. “This is the greatest reward to me, because I know I have a profession that I can do every day, all day if I want or need, and I’ll enjoy it.”
La Porta feels it’s important to note that his success as a soccer coach — a sport he started playing at age 5 — after leaving biotech research is possible, in part, because his brain already was filled “with a vast history of experience and deep knowledge of soccer, tactically and technically.” While it’s important to follow one’s passions, there also is a pragmatic side that requires assessing where one already has expertise.
For other potential pivoters, La Porta said step one is knowing yourself well. “Self-assess and see yourself truthfully,” he said. He asks questions, like, “What are your strengths? What makes you unique?” Then consider what jobs would allow you to use those gifts daily. “I was always able to communicate and organize people around me,” he said, “and I enjoy long-term projects. So coaching soccer is by nature a good place for those assets and passions.”
From high school on, Kansas native Liz Moffitt wanted to be a marine scientist. So she received a degree in biology from the University of Kansas, spent a summer in Maine as an intern at a marine lab, worked on the Oregon coast for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, earned a Ph.D. in Ecology from University of California, Davis, then worked in Seattle at the NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Her role: working on sustainable fisheries and theoretical models to better design marine protected areas.
Moffitt loved the impact she was making. “My work helped the State of California implement marine protected areas along their coast,” she said. “I was one of the (many) scientists involved in that process, and I will never forget it.”
However, Moffitt spent years writing models in Matlab as a scientist and never learned to love it. She realized that continuing her path as a scientist would likely mean moving out of Seattle. “I had moved so much in my life for my passion,” she said, “but now I wanted to stay. I loved the Pacific Northwest.”
While figuring out next steps, she realized she most enjoyed the writing and editing of scientific papers. “I love communicating complex topics clearly,” she said.
So she started a scientific writing and editing freelance business by networking, joining the Northwest Editors Guild, and attending its meetings and conferences. She learned about starting a freelance business, creating a website, and securing the necessary licenses. In addition to her published scientific papers, she completed pro bono editing work for scientific friends to bulk up her portfolio.
Pretty quickly, one of her former colleagues hired her for a year-long writing project. When that ended, she applied for full-time technical writing positions, and she’s now been working at Micro Encoder Inc. for four years. Here she writes the User Manual and Help for a non-contact measuring device used in manufacturing quality control (“for aerospace, electronics, medical devices, the automotive industry, basically everything”). “It is a very precise and very complex machine,” she said. “I also work as my team’s Scrum Master. I love my job, and I love my company.”
Although science is very collaborative, Moffitt explained, the day-to-day work can be very solitary. At first that independence had appealed to her, but she now sees the efficiency of working with a team of seven. “We get so much more done than what I experienced with colleagues in other states or countries, or even in the same office,” she said. “I have so much more support. And don’t even get me started talking about how much more helpful support staff are in business than in universities or government.”
Plus, Moffitt is living out unexpected dreams. She’s always loved the idea of being a writer, but knew writing fiction wasn’t in her skill set. “To think that now I’m a professional writer is amazing to me,” she said. “That I explain technical concepts to people makes so much sense, but I never would have known to plan it from the beginning. Life teaches you; Learn along the way.”
Her advice? Reach out to people who already do what you want to do. Take them to coffee for a chat. “Most will be happy to help,” she said, “because someone gave them advice, and they want to pay it forward.”
Gloriana Morine became a self-employed business owner in 2008. Throughout the following decade, she took nonperforming UPS Stores and turned them into profitable businesses.
In fall 2018, she sold the businesses and took some time off to “recalibrate and rejuvenate,” primarily focusing on health, family, and home endeavors. “At the beginning of 2020,” she said, “I considered another business opportunity and, as we were about to make a commitment, COVID hit. I considered this to be a sign and decided not to pursue this opportunity.”
Her next move? Exploring the voice-over industry. In 2014, Morine had done a national commercial for the UPS Store, giving her a taste of acting and awakening her creative side. This ultimately inspired her to sign up for a voice-over class.
Recently, Morine recorded a couple of commercial and narration demos. “I recently completed a 10-day monologue challenge,” she said. “That has been one of the most creative challenges, because it took commitment and a lot of research, in addition to memorizing and recording the scripts for the monologues.”
She’s also diligently working on developing the business side of things — creating a website, branding, and putting herself out there on social media. “It will require daily discipline, organization, all while looking for audition and work opportunities,” she said. “The silver lining in all this is it’s exciting and new. I love a challenge, and so I’m looking forward to seeing where this will take me!”
Morine thinks these quarantining days with fewer obligations can prove ideal for exploring our dreams, desires, and opportunities. “It’s a great time to reinvent yourself.” she said. “Right now, the time is there to do so, and we probably won’t ever see this opportunity again. Life is all about seizing opportunity, isn’t it?”
Advice from a Career Coach
Fiona McKay, founder of McKay Unlimited, has gone through many pivots herself. In fact, in 2017, she left corporate America, where she was working in the aerospace industry and now runs her own coaching, keynote speaking, and training business, specializing in “courageous leadership.”
Her advice to clients? “Make peace with where you are, and figure out what you want to run toward, rather than away from.”
Also, she believes a pivot can happen at any age, “Because you get one life … Many people in their 50s and 60s think it’s too late,” she adds, “but I’ve worked with many in this age group who have finally stepped into their full potential.”