Forgetting the ‘supposed to’s’ and going for your dream

Ten years ago, Katelyn Bourgoin dreamed of being an actress, an artist, a designer. She wasn’t sure which, but felt no matter what path she chose, it would be creative, freeing and fuelled by passion.

This dream felt certain, clear and deliberate. Equally certain, was the type of person she would have beside her along this journey.

Today, both her career and her ever-present partner in life are entirely different from what she ever imagined.

As the founder of a tech startup that has clients throughout the world and comes with a host of challenges to tackle, Katelyn’s not the ‘creative professional’ she thought she would be. Yet, in a way she would never have predicted, she’s stayed true to the core of her dreams.

Her job as an entrepreneur and marketing maven is creative, freeing, and fuelled by passion. And her husband, though not the type of partner she thought she’d have, is her biggest supporter and a huge part of why she never gave up.

If you were to ask Katelyn her thoughts on how different her life is from the one she planned, she’d tell you that sometimes we get this idea in our head about what life is supposed to look like, and those words ‘supposed to’ are the problem.

She’d probably also tell you (and her pre-university self) to stop obsessing about what life’s supposed to look like and start enjoying what’s happening now. Listen to your heart.

When Katelyn’s heart started sending messages about a completely different life path than the one she envisioned, she perked up her ears and listened.

Like many students in their first years of university, Katelyn was uncertain of her major. She wanted success but also wanted to be sure she was doing something she enjoyed.

Her idea of success has shifted since those university days. She’s sees now that we often accept a definition of success without defining it for ourselves, basing it on what we’ve been shown success should look like, rather than what we really want.

She realized hints of this early on, stepping away from Journalism, then Law, and finally deciding to major in English with the hope that it would be a good stepping stone to something she was not only good at, but would love.

After graduation, feeling like she had no marketable skills, Katelyn waitressed, made good money, and enjoyed her early twenties without thinking too much about her future.

And then fate stepped in.

When the owner of the restaurant encouraged Katelyn to look into Public Relations, saying she was amazing with customers, a good writer, and had business savvy, Katelyn couldn’t really see it.

But she respected her boss, and seeing as she lived in a city of less than half a million people, four large universities, two big community colleges and one of the most educated underemployed populations in Canada, she decided she’d give it a go.

It was love at first course.

Katelyn, who’d never considered herself a business person, fell in love with the business side of things: marketing, positioning, branding.

It was as if the stars aligned and everything clicked.

In a field like mathematics or engineering, says Katelyn, people solve problems but are bound by physics or rational; in marketing, they’re bound by nothing but their vision and the challenge to creatively bring that vision to life.

Fast forward through the years and Katelyn got offered a temp position at her ‘dream job’ marketing firm. Yet, when they offered her a full-time position, she turned it down for an opportunity few people get—stepping into freelancing with twenty-five hours a week of secure client work already in place. Amazing!

Next, she started her own marketing firm, which scored big name clients such as Holiday Inn and Target and landed Katelyn as a Forbes “Style Influencer” while getting coverage on national news.

After that? She walked away from it all to start a high-risk tech startup.

How’d she do it all?

By putting herself out there.

After graduating from her PR program, Katelyn got active on social media. She put together a website, did up a kickass resume, and attracted the attention of not only her dream job employer, but the person who put her on the path toward entrepreneurship.

And why the switch from something that was working – a successful business – to one that had no guarantee of success?

That passion thing and listening to her heart.

The new love she’d found, the one without limits, well, there actually were some … what her clients would allow her to do.

But Katelyn’s not one for limits. So she decided to be her own client, giving herself the freedom to put together the outlandish, personality filled campaigns and implement the styles of marketing that made her heart soar.

She was also tired of selling her and her employees time in exchange for money.

She wanted to sell something of value. Something that would help other women realize their dreams the way she’d realized hers. So she saw that vision through not one, not two, but three re-imaginings.

And how has she stayed in the game despite the highs and lows of all these visions and revisions?

Her husband. Their twelve-year relationship, just like Katelyn’s career path, has been an ebb and flow journey with an uncertain start. His own experience of entrepreneurship was one she learned from, and his belief in her has helped her believe in herself.

Her startup community in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A group of fellow entrepreneurs who’ve been there and done that and helped her through. Without them, she says, she would have given up three years ago.

Her advice to anyone thinking of taking a leap that could be full of roadblocks or an uphill battle, the way hers often was?

Do your research, but not so much you scare yourself into not going for your dreams

Straight words of wisdom?

“Surround yourself with a support system, because you’re going to need it … entrepreneurship is way too hard to do it alone … it needs to be somebody who gets what you’re going through because they have context and experience.”

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