There was no way for Olga Maria Czarkowski to know that the condition that she was once bullied for would become the driving force behind her biggest passion project — Dreams in Heels — but she’s thankful it did.
“I was born with a leg condition whereby my Achilles tendon is shorter than average. I cannot walk with my feet flat on the ground; I can only walk on my tippy toes. Thus, heels are much more comfortable for me,” explains Czarkowski. “This experience made me stronger and taught me never to judge others based on their looks and inspired me to turn something negative (as being bullied) into something positive, my brand.”
Dreams in Heels is a lifestyle blog that Czarkowski started 5 years ago as a way to give a home both to her personal story and every day adventures. Since then she’s amassed a dedicated following that spans across her blog and her travel-centered community, Latinas Who Travel.
“Once I launched the group through word of mouth, people started to join and say how much they dreamed about finding a group like this, a community for them to connect with other Latinas who have the same passion for traveling the world, or wish to travel, and want to learn from others who are already doing it,” explains Czarkowski.
Through her brands, Czarkowski aims to connect Latinas with each other and with the possibility of exploring the world on their own terms.
Below she shares her entrepreneurial story, traveling advice, and how she’s overcome her most challenging moments.
Vivian Nunez: How would you describe your trajectory as an entrepreneur?
Olga Maria Czarkowski: I think it all started when I realized how much I did not like working in a traditional office setting and not being myself. I really was craving freedom, openness to create and just do more. Then it all started by my exploring all of the areas of interest to me (like fashion/beauty, charity work, organizing events, social media marketing, traveling, writing, photography) and then finding something that combines all of the above.
I think that it is okay to explore, to evolve, and to transition into different careers or niches. When you cannot find what fuels your passion, oftentimes you need to be creative and reinvent yourself. I do feel proud of each of my steps and of everything I’ve learned along my journey. For me, it is all about the journey, even if I’m still a work in progress.
Nunez: What is one of your biggest lessons learned when it came to starting a brand based off of your own personal story?
Czarkowski: I think for me, there are a few lessons that I’ve rolled into one: Learn how to say no, know your worth, charge for your time and separate your business from your personal life. I had to learn all of these the hard way.
Oftentimes, when you start a brand off your personal story, people try to mix personal with business; they ask for favors, they do not value your time and try to get things from you as a person rather than a business. As much as it is nice to help others, you do need to realize your worth and remember how hard you had to work to start a brand and maintain it.
Nunez: What advice do you have for other Latina storytellers and entrepreneurs who are looking to start a movement/brand based off their own stories?
Czarkowski: My best advice would be that personal branding and social media are key to being successful. Throughout the years I’ve dedicated myself to building my personal brand/image and also my social media network. You always need to be aware of what you share online and offline. In addition, it is more important to convey who you are, where you are going and your mission to others. A strong personal brand can help you transition to different careers
Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.