Lindsey Eryn Clark
Anne of Green Gables may have been a fictional character dreamt up by L.M. Montgomery — but gosh, she’s so real to me. I am telling you right now — this character has influenced me more than words can say. Right after the Bible, that is. I am Lindsey Eryn — a Jill of all trades. A half-mexican, a coffee addict, a lover of french toast and mimosas, a believer in tradition, and a dream chaser.
While I was born and raised in San Diego, California — I like to say that I was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There was something about attending college in the middle of nowhere, USA that changed me, developed me, challenged me, refined me, and ultimately, made me who I am. It was in college that I discovered injustice in the world, it was college when my heart broke into a million pieces and learned self-worth, it was in college that I faced depression and learned strength, it was in college that I understood the idea of loyalty. When college ended, while I had made big plans to leave the small town life and find myself in the big city, I found myself in a third story apartment on Yale Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Nowhere near a big city. It was the next three years in Tulsa that refined me and set the pace for the businesses that would come in the following years.
In truth, I always felt like a colorful mess. In college, you are taught that you can only do one thing — Psychology, Business, Nursing, Art, ecetera, ecetera. However, I never wanted to pick one thing. I loved writing. I adored photography. I was curious about design. I was moved by non-profits. I was excited about events. I was addicted to social media. You get the picture. I enjoyed expressing myself in a wide variety of avenues. And not just that, I wasn’t half bad at most of them. I didn’t understand why society was telling me that I could only pick one to make a life out of. It’s safe to say — I boycotted society’s idea of traditional work.
Coming from a family of self-employed Real Estate Brokers — I understood that there was money to be made and it didn’t have to be in the traditional 9-to-5 setting. While I loathed the idea of being a Real Estate agent — I wanted freedom, I wanted to be my own boss, I wanted to create something. I wanted to use all my skillsets to create something wild and unimaginable to my college-self.
I’ll tell you this now — everything in my life is strung together like a beautiful tapestry. I’ll also tell you this — if your life doesn’t make sense right now, don’t worry, I promise — it will. Often times, our lives zig zag back and forth, adding in colors and unpredictable patterns. But when you step back, and turn the canvas of your life over, right side up — you’ll see a beautiful tapestry. A masterpiece. So to the dear human who is reading this and feels like your life is a colorful chaotic mess — know this: your life is in process of becoming a masterpiece. Everything will tie together.
Back to the cliff notes of my life. I spent three years working at a non-profit. I traveled the world bringing clean water to the Kuna Indians off the coast of Panama, working in the brothels of Bangkok, creating sustainable orphan rescue projects in Cambodia, and visiting remote villages of South Africa. I planned and hosted events that raised thousands of dollars for sustainable projects to bring justice to those who needed it most. Along the journey, I picked up a few new skills and met some of my best friends.
Fast forward to March 2012, I decided to move back home to California. I didn’t have a plan. I just knew that California was calling and I needed to answer. I looked for a job, couldn’t find one. I worked for my mom, she fired me. I looked for a job again, nothing happened but a massive flood of tears.
Around the same time, my best friend, Lou, got married and moved to Florida. We were living on opposite coasts with thousands of miles in between us and no immediate plans to visit each other. In the spirit of Anne, kindred spirits, and tradition — I e-mailed Lou suggesting we create a tradition to keep in touch while living on separate coasts. In the midst of e-mailing, Lou sent a photo of a crown braid she was trying out that day. A light went on and the idea sparked — this ought to be the tradition: following trends together and sharing it with one another. The next day, we both tried a new trend and posted the photos on Instagram for each other with the hashtag #coasttocoastchallenge. That grainy photo with a bokeh filter was perhaps the most important Instagram post of my life — it changed everything. Although, it would be months before I realized how much it would change my life. Throughout the day, our Oklahoma friends kept texting us asking “What is #CoastToCoastChallenge?” With a belief in being strictly inclusive, we explained what our new tradition and invited our girlfriends to join in. We started a group text and decided that the next day we’d all try pattern on pattern. We felt really brave for that trend. Within a week, the group text got too big to handle and we decided to create a graphic of the next fashion trend and post it on Instagram for anyone who wanted to join. Within weeks, we had girls from all over the globe joining the tradition, #CoastToCoastChallenge. Needless to say, we were mindblown.
Around the same time, I was feeling the pressure of making actual money. After all, back then, taking photos of your outfits and posting them on Instagram wasn’t a moneymaker. With the hashtag, I was learning so much about social media and how to engage an audience online. With this new skillset in mind, I decided to re-launch Third Story Apartment, a blog I had started while living in Tulsa. Back in the Tulsa days, I used the blog as a way to sell refurbished furniture that I picked up from the local thrift stores and Habitat for Humanity. This time, I decided to launch it as a creative house for dreamers and entrepreneurs. Honestly, I had no idea what that meant or what I was getting myself into. I had no role models, no mentors, and didn’t know anyone who was doing anything like it. But the idea sounded good in my head — so I went for it. I crossed my fingers and re-launched Third Story Apartment, hoping that someone would buy into the idea of letting me help them run their social media accounts.
I’ll be honest — I was surprised when someone reached out and asked me to help with their brand. It was like the good surprise — like, “Okay, this is going to work. This idea isn’t half bad.”
Launching Third Story Apartment taught me this: Dive into your ideas. Believe in them with a wild heart not thinking of failure as an option.
A lot has changed since Third Story Apartment resurfaced into the world. The business started off primarily as a way to make money doing social media for brands while working on my passion project, Coast to Coast, but over time — I became passionate, like seriously passionate, about what I was doing. I was helping brands not just find their voice online, but thrive in the marketplace. I was learning to say “yes” to projects even if I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I was learning that Google was the best teacher and that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for. Third Story became more than social media — it became a one stop shop for entrepreneurs from branding, to web design, to consulting, to writing, to social media.
Meanwhile, Coast to Coast was experiencing growing pains —the good kind and the painful kind. The hashtag was spreading like wildfire. We quickly realized that we had a platform and wanted to be responsible with it. While Lou and I both love fashion, our hearts were to see justice for the orphans and women enslaved in sex trafficking. We had plans, ideas, and dreams of what we would want to see happen one day. We decided to turn the hashtag into a company, that builds community around fashion, inspires women to chase their dreams, and empowers them to create positive change in the world. We were growing, and growing fast. Our five year plan only took 6 months to get to. We partnered with our best friends living in Central America and collaborated on a brand of humanitarian trips, Justice Established, to fight sex trafficking. Our team was growing rapidly – we went from 2 to 22 in less than year. We had a flourishing blog with contributors all over the country. Our dreams were coming true right before our eyes.
Around the two year mark of Coast to Coast, we hit a proverbial wall. Our dreams were coming true — but it was a fight that often felt like war I was losing. I was building two businesses at once and felt as if I was sacrificing everything that ended in “ly”. Financially, relationally, mentally, emotionally — you name it. I had all the feels. There were so many times I’d drive home in my car and cry — wondering why I couldn’t be normal and have a regular 9-to-5. It was a fight to keep both businesses. Often times, I felt betrayed by society because they tell you to follow your dreams — but no one ever talks about the struggle. No one ever talked about the bad times, the hard times, the times they almost gave up. No one ever talked about the fight to stay faithful to your dream. I was at a stoplight when it hit me — I do what I do for the “one”. If I can help “one” person then the sacrifice would be worth it. If I could rescue one girl out of sex trafficking, if I could show one orphan that they are loved, if I could encourage one person to launch their dream, if I could help one person find their passion — then it would all be worth it. While every fiber of my being wanted to give up on my dreams and businesses, I fought. I stayed faithful to my dreams for the idea of the “one” person that I could help. The one person that I could influence for the good.
The story of Coast to Coast Central deserves it’s own book with all its twists and turns. But fast forward to July 2015. Lou and I were in Ecuador leading a team in the fight against sex trafficking and we felt strongly that we were supposed to quit everything we were doing. We didn’t have a game plan or have a “why” behind the action – we just knew we were supposed to stop writing on the blog, say goodbye to our team and interns, and take time to dream again.
We did. We took weeks and months to rest and dream again. In November 2015, we launched a new extension of Coast to Coast Central — Wild Hearts Wknd, a touring retreat for the everyday girl and dream chasers. We took time to be honest with ourselves about what we loved and didn’t love about the company we had built. We took time to assess our skills, passions, audience, and what brought us joy. When it came down to it — fashion wasn’t a part of the conversation anymore, instead it was about chasing dreams. The topic of conversation may have changed — but the heartbeat and mission of the company remains the same. Our deepest desire is to create genuine community among women as we challenge them to dream, inspire them to become a dream chaser, empower them to create change in the world through unexplainable generosity. We are confident that each of us, as individuals, have a unique purpose to fulfill here on earth. We believe that the wild ideas and dreams brewing in the depths of your soul aren’t placed there to tease you, but are something you are destined to live out. Today, Coast to Coast Central’s focus is to create experiences for women who dare to live an extravagant life that is anything but average.
Building Coast to Coast Central and Third Story Apartment have shaped me into who I am. They do not define me, but are a monumental part of my the story of who I am.
If you learn anything from this short novel — I hope it’s this: Dare to dream a little bigger. Stay faithful to your dreams, even when it feels impossible. Your obedience to stay faithful to your dreams will have a direct impact on other people’s destinies. You were created for a purpose. It may seem like it’s taking forever, but your story is taking shape just the way it was supposed to. Your story may seem like there is obstacle after obstacle, but those challenges are going to be instrumental parts in the glory of your story. They are setting the context, of your success. Don’t give up on yourself and on your dreams. I promise, it’ll be worth it.
As for practical advice — I’ll write a book on that too one day, but for now:
Do you, believe in your ideas. In a social media driven world, it’s easy to forfeit our ideas because we haven’t seen it done before or we see that someone else’s brand is having success with a different method. That’s cool. Let other people do their thing— but you, stick to your ideas. If you believe in your ideas and are loyal to them, your ideas will thrive. It’s okay to do things differently than everyone else. In fact, your differences can bring you the wild and unimaginable success.
Infuse your personality into your brand. It’s the best way to stand out and offer something unique to the world, not to mention —stay sane. The world doesn’t need anymore copycat brands, they need you and everything your brand has to offer. When you infuse your personality into your brand, you give yourself and your brand the opportunity to thrive. Comparison becomes irrelevant to the conversation of building your brand, because you and your brand are one-of-a-kind. Practically, this can be done through the way you fonts and color schemes, your brand’s verbiage and tone, the methods you use to interact, the culture you create, and the traditions you create for your audience.
Make it a conversation. Anybody can post great content. But that’s not how you build a sustainable brand. The key to designing a sustainable brand is the create conversation. Think of it like this — if you’re out to coffee with a friend — you don’t want to hear them talking about their life, their idea, their struggles, and their victories the whole time. That’s boring. Great conversation happens when two people both take turns to share and create a safe place for vulnerability. The same applies to social media. Find ways to engage your audience and create conversation. It’s not just about you, it’s about them too. If you learn this, you’ll learn how to build a tribe loyal to your brand.
As we step into a new year — I dare you — don’t just talk about your dreams, chase after them. You are off to great places, dear friend. It’s time you believe it.
When you feel stuck, have questions, or just need a good old-fashion pep talk — connect with me. I’ll be in your corner. Promise.