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Empowered Women Interviews: Erica Sara

Erica Sara is a mother of two, a wife, a runner and a jewelry designer. She discovered her passion for jewelry design at just 10 years old, using scraps of leather to craft fabulous leather pins, earrings, and hair pieces for her family and friends. After all, it was the 80’s! Two decades later, armed with a degree in business and years of corporate experience from Barneys NY and Coach, Erica set out to create a line to empower women and to celebrate their achievements. She handcrafts her personalized designs out of her North Carolina home studio, often with her son and daughter running around the background. Since launching, ESD has graced the pages of Shape, Prevention, Women’s Health, Better Homes & Gardens, and US Weekly to name a few.

Tell me a little about your path and who you are…

When people ask about me, the two things that come to mind are my business and my family. I started my career in corporate fashion, first in the buying office at Barneys NY and then as the corporate merchandiser of Coach handbags. From the outside, everything looked perfect. I sat front row at New York City fashion shows. I spent fashion week eating catered meals and previewing the lines of the highest end luxury brands. I flew to Italy to work on collections with designers. But inside, I was miserable and lost. At the time, I was also in a failing marriage and I’d come home from work every single day and lay in bed crying. Something had to change. So within a very short time frame, I filed for divorce and applied to a nutrition program at NYU. I was going to be a nutritionist. The day I received my acceptance letter, I handed in my resignation at work and was off to start my new life, single. It was empowering.

It was also lonely. I had lost many friends because of my divorce and I found myself with a lot of free time. So I took up new hobbies like running and meditation, and revisited old ones like drawing and crafting jewelry. You could often find me drinking wine and making jewelry at my dining room table on a Friday night, followed by running a race that Saturday or Sunday morning. By then, I was in my mid 30s and many of my old friends were having children, which they’d celebrate with jewelry featuring their kids’ initials or names. I was running 5Ks, then 10Ks and half marathons and I wanted to celebrate my accomplishments so I began to create jewelry featuring my distances. My friends in the running community took note and people began asking to buy my pieces and my business was born. I was still in school and didn’t have much money to work with so I taught myself how to build my own website, a bought a DSLR for my website photography, filed my business name with the government and suddenly I was an entrepreneur.

One friend, a popular blogger, suggested I hold a trunk show at a boutique NYC workout studio and when she blogged about it, Fitness magazine saw it and reached out. They asked me to design a necklace for their magazine, and when that was a hit, commissioned me to design jewelry to celebrate their Half Marathon, which at the time was the biggest women’s only half in the country. From there, New York Road Runners, a non-profit running organization in NYC, asked me to create jewelry for the professional runners racing their largest race, the New York City Marathon. My business has continued to grow and evolve from there.

Much of my jewelry is about celebrating running but since becoming a mother, it’s definitely evolved to represent so many more facets of womanhood. I currently work out of my home studio in North Carolina and share parenting duties equally with my husband, a fellow entrepreneur and an amazing father.

What’s your biggest life lesson/challenge right now?

Trying to fit it all in without burning out is definitely the biggest challenge. Between work, the kids, our home, and my workouts, I often start my day at 4:45 am and don’t stop until 10:00 pm. And I don’t even do the laundry or tidy up the house! My husband handles those responsibilities. But we’re learning to adjust, compromise and accept that we can’t do it all and that sometimes “good enough” will have to be ok.

To avoid burnout, once a week, my husband and I take a morning while the kids are at school to go on a date or an adventure. And on the weekends, each of us gets a morning completely off from all responsibilities to do as we choose. Both are recent ideas we’ve implemented and they’ve been a bit help with eliminating the burnout for both of us.

What keeps you grounded?

Running. I often joke that running is my religion. It’s what I turn to when I’m tired, when I’m stressed, when I need clarity, when I need strength. If I’m having a bad day, I go for a run. If work is overwhelming and I don’t know my next step, I run. If I’m fighting with my husband or my kids are being difficult, I escape with a run. I’ve tried meditation, yoga, wine… many things. But I always come back to running to ground me. I think it’s the fact that when I run, the only thing I really have to do is put one foot in front of the other. It leaves my mind free to relax and I always end a run feeling stronger and calmer.

What are your thoughts about balance?

Balance? Ha! Balance is BS. I don’t believe in it and I no longer strive for it. I believe in priorities. What is a priority right now, may not be tomorrow. One priority at a time. For example, in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or just before Mother’s Day, my priority is my work. Those two time periods contribute a significant portion of our family income. So at those times, work is my job and so my husband accepts less work and is focus is parenting. It doesn’t mean I don’t spend time with my family then, but it cannot be my priority at that moment and if I try to balance it all, I’m just juggling too many balls and they all end up on the floor

Tell me about your relationship with fear.

I’m claustrophobic and afraid of heights. Other than that, there’s not much I fear. My parents always told me that I was smart and capable and that I could do anything so I live by that belief.

What is the biggest myths that keeps women stuck?

That we need to do it all ourselves. It’s impossible. Just because we can do anything, doesn’t mean we can do everything. For me, when I try to take on too much at the same time, I don’t excel at anything and whatever I’m working on goes no where. We need to remember it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to expect it and to accept it. If we think back to a time before women were in the workplace and men were the bread winners, the reason men could succeed at work is because they had women supporting them at home. So what makes us think that we need to do both?

What’s your go-to phrase/mantra for empowering yourself?

I pick a mantra every Monday based on what’s ahead for the week. For the last few weeks, it was LIMITLESS. This week, it’s just push through. I find mantras so helpful. If I’m struggling through a run, have more orders than I can handle, or my kids are being especially difficult, I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breathe and focus on my mantra until I feel calm. It’s simple yet so incredible effective.

What are you working on now that thrills you the most?

I’m working on scaling my business! Beginning this Fall, I’m going back to working on ESD full time and I’m creating systems to grow.

What would others be surprised to know about you?

I’m really weird and quirky, and a tad bit awkward. When people get to actually know me, that’s always the first thing they realize.

What do you think about that gets you really excited?

Good food and hot coffee. Adventures with my husband and kids. The future we’re working towards building together. A good run and a goal race.

What made you laugh today?

My husband. We often joke that he married me for my Vitamix and I married him for him weirdness. I fell in love with him because he makes me laugh more than anything or anyone ever has.

What have you always wanted to try? What’s stopping you?

Road tripping across the country! Right now, the kids. But once they’re old enough to behave in the car and not drive me insane, I hope we make it happen.

What problem do you wish you could solve?

Oh my, where do I start. Pain and suffering. Especially for children. I watch my kids and I love them so much it hurts sometimes and I realize there are children out there who don’t get that kind of love. I know it sounds cliche, It breaks my heart. We bring these babies into the world, it’s not their choice, and it’s our job to care for them and show them love and happiness. I wish that all children could experience only love.

Thank you, Erica, for taking the time to share your wisdom with us!

Check out Erica’s beautiful work at Erica Sara Designs

#BreatheEmpowerAchieve #empoweredwomen

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