Sometimes a Passion Project Matters Way More than a Full-Time Job
Kristen Carbone, founder of Brilliantly, a two-year-old company that creates products and curates stories for women whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer, has always known the importance of the ties that she made as a Daisy and a Brownie.
“Those girls I met all those years ago are as important to me today as they were when we were young,” says Carbone, 37, a divorced mother of two whose mom died of breast cancer in her forties. Carbone, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, had a preventive double mastectomy herself in 2013.
The importance of drawing support from other women is something Carbone has long valued ever since her childhood growing up outside of Buffalo, New York.
Now, as a former museum curator turned newly minted entrepreneur, Carbone says that support has been crucial, especially because she took a big chance by leaving a full-time job to launch a new business and create this community for other women.
Because her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age, Carbone had been under a doctor’s surveillance for years when she developed a (benign) breast lump.
“Even though it was benign, I decided to have a preventive mastectomy,” she says.
Her reconstruction with implants led to yet another product that’s in the works. “I discovered that my chest always felt cold,” she says. “So I set out to create a warming bra insert that helps combat the cold sensation that comes with implants.”
That product is currently in the final stages of development, with a planned launch this fall.
If you’ve ever been curious about what it takes to transition from a steady 9-to-5 job to an entrepreneurial venture that means everything to you personally, read on for Carbone’s three key tips.
#1: You have to (deeply) love your product
“When I started Brilliantly, I was working at an art museum during the day and working at night on my website, which I needed to do to give back to the breast cancer community. If my super power is listening to women tell me their stories, I knew I could help by creating a website that would help connect them to each other, point them to an organization that could help them, or help create a product to make their life better.”
#2: You have to seek support
“When you leave a stable job to start your own business, you have to be okay with risk. It helped that I knew I could go and get another job if I needed to. My biggest advice for entrepreneurs is to tap into grants or resources from your local government. For example, we have a Center for Women & Enterprise office in Providence and there are lots of other local organizations that support entrepreneurs. It’s really important to research those things before you set out on your own.”
#3: You need time, not just money, to make this work
“After speaking to people who have had some amount of success as entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that you have to be really good at time management, allocating resources, and not getting stuck in the weeds. There’s an emotional fortitude you have to have. Hearing ‘no’ all the time is really hard, so you have to remove your ego from it. I truly believe that the reason you hear no isn’t ‘no, we think the idea is bad,’ it’s ‘no, I don’t know about that specific area, but it feels so personal and it feels like it’s part of you.’ To me, that was all I needed to hear to know that I should go for it!”