We all have a story…
At first, I said, I didn’t have a story, but that was far from the truth. We all have a story, it just doesn’t have to be a story that has drama (although those can be pretty powerful.) The reality is, I’m fortunate, my parents were amazing and they worked hard to make sure we had as much equal access as they did.
So here’s my story…
I’m Erin Perkins, and I started my business because I got tired of being told what I could not do by everyone else.
All the times I was told certain opportunities will never be available to me.
All the times I was told by my own boss that I wasn’t good enough (even after working there for a decade).
All the times I was told there’s an upper limit to what I can do professionally.
Why? Because I was born deaf.
Now I don’t often mention my being deaf as the first thing when I meet new people because I want sympathy, pity or OMG she is amazing that she can surpass these “challenges” or what life has handed her. I mention it because I want people to be aware that I may not get everything they say (so if I ask you to write something down or repeat what you just said, it is greatly appreciated). Or that you know I’m not being rude if you happen to try to talk to me from behind or something and I am not acknowledging you because either I don’t see you or hear you.
Let’s get back to how I got here.
Before I started my business, I worked as a graphic designer for the same company for over a decade. Until one day, I got laid off. I was devastated. This job was literally all I knew.
When I applied for other jobs, I was either (1) immediately written off because of being deaf or (2) offered a much lower salary than my experience level.
So I didn’t start an online business in pursuit of solo six-figure success — I started it because I wanted/needed to be in control of my future.
Getting laid off was not my choice. But deciding what to do next with my life was.
Sometimes in February of 2018, yes just over a year and a half ago, my husband came home & I told him I was going to start my own business. (Yes, he was terrified at this thought, but he believed in me! )
From that day on, I became an operations & design director because it is the best way for me to leverage my skills with business systems, my extensive graphic design experience, and my love of supporting people in their dreams.
I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to measure my success in the women I work with feel like rockstars. And running my business has made me feel freer and happier than ever.
But if we want to talk about the online space as the great equalizer for all women, we really need to mean all women. And when you’re a member of the deaf community like me, entrepreneurship can be the difference between having an opportunity vs. none at all.
Now I’m gonna be honest with you. As someone who’s used to being behind-the-scenes (like really, behind-the-scenes, I was that girl who helped build play sets!), sharing my story, with everyone is a massive step outside of my comfort zone. I don’t like the pressure of being the first or, if I’m lucky, the fifth deaf person you’ve ever met. I don’t want to hold the mantle for an entire community that is largely unseen and unheard.
The one piece of advice I can give you is this —as you start your own business, get... yourself... out there! It is SCARY as heck, but I’ve come to realize it’s scary for all of us. But I’m living proof that good things happen when you put yourself out there. I’ve found my community here and online, and that was through trial and error. Don’t just join the first community you come across because there are so many out there. Find what’s right for you, what feels GOOD to you, there’s something out there that’s going to be the right fit for you. Because the people who surround you are going to have your back as you grow, and you want the best people in your corner.
What I do know is this: the first step to representation is visibility.
So here I am. Sharing my story. Showing up as myself. And hopefully, inspiring someone like me from a few years back, to start a business that lets them be who they are. Freely and unapologetically.