What I wish I knew in my 20s: Influential Miami women in the arts, design, fashion, and hospitality share their advice.

At some point, many of us will look back and reminisce about our early twenties. What were we doing back then? How were our careers forming and how were we growing as individuals no less? When I think about those times, I was already married with young children and trying to balance out my life as a wife, mother and professional.

Looking back, I would tell myself to “fall in love with yourself”. Really take the time to know yourself before you fall in love with a person or even jump into a career. Spend quality time learning who you are and what makes you happy. This will all reflect in your relationships and your passions later. Passions evolve as we are multifaceted people. Don’t get hung up on trying to travel down one path, as that path may lead you to other opportunities that open new doors for you.

As many young designers and professionals will be coming into the “real world” this coming month, I reached out to some of Miami’s most influential women in the arts, design, fashion, hospitality, lifestyle, and media to share their advice on what they wish they knew in their twenties. I am so honored to have these women who are leaders in their industries share their thoughts.

This is an article that I know you will want to share!

Sarah Harrelson, CULTURED Magazine Editor in Chief

“I wish I was more comfortable taking risks in my 20s and less concerned with following a certain path and trajectory in my career. The only way to learn is by pushing beyond what’s comfortable and being willing to fail. I was too afraid to do that in my 20’s and too concerned with the  perceived “rules” of the game.”

Elysze Held, Fashion/Personal Stylist

“In my (late) twenties, I was in the right place, at the right time—I was the Director of a Division in the fashion industry-the good news is I knew how fortunate I was to be “in the right place at the right time”– the bad news is, I wasted precious time trying to prove I was deserving of the position, losing sight of the fact I got the job because of my talent, drive, work ethic and especially my ability to work well with people. I’m grateful that I learned while I was still there that the true purpose is to “get the job done…and, as long as I was there, to enjoy it”. I did, giving credence to the adage “love what you do, all else will follow”. I moved on, raised a family , and years later, picked up where I left off , in the same field, older, wiser, but still grateful that I learned to appreciate where I was, and still…”get the job done, and have fun doing it.”

Fanny Haim, Fanny Haim & Associates, Principal

“Having been formed in the fine arts, I found myself organically growing and running an interior design practice based on passion and gumption. I wish I had had the foresight back then to train myself in business practices , rather than learn as you go. I certainly believe in talent and persistence, but have learned that things such as strategy, structure, metrics and key indicators matter as you scale your company.”

Sandra Santiago, Executive Director of Experiences, Miami Design District

“I’ve always subscribed to a linear career path. Looking back, I would have made a recommendation to my 20-year-old self to zigzag a bit and get out of my comfort zone. Apply my skills laterally and experiment more as I evolved in my career. Be more FREE! It would have maximized my creativity and created endless possibilities…

So, I guess my final message to my 50-year-old self is: I’ve gotten cozy with uncertainty, the future is exciting…I’m me, and I’ve got this”

Sarah Zohar, Sarah Z Designs Principal

“I wish I knew to start my business in my twenties as it is would have been a great way to start my entrepreneurial journey. The earlier you start, the better you equip yourself to become a successful entrepreneur later in life. One of the keys to success is connecting to the right people, which is why networking earlier on is so important. I can also tell you from personal experience that visiting different countries and being exposed to different cultures, work ethics, and values really does change your perspective on life and your career and that is something that I also wish I knew in my twenties.”

Anastasia Koutsioukis, Restaurateur | Retailer | Designer | Creative Director Co-Founder Mandolin Aegean Bistro & Mrs. Mandolin,

“My passion has always been design. I was setting decorative tables and moving furniture around my parents’ home for as long as I can remember but didn’t know then that I could create a career around that. I believe creating a beautiful environment or product is something that is universally appreciated. It’s what creates an emotional connection and is paramount to the success of a business. It’s part of the visual storytelling. I didn’t realize when I was younger that all experiences, specifically the ones unrelated to my profession would lead me to where I am today. It’s because of my diverse career background in fashion, beauty and marketing that makes me good at what I do in design and hospitality. It allows me to see things from different perspectives. What you learn on the job is more important than what you are trained for in school. Your references in life become key to your success, so read everything, research, travel, go to art galleries, eat out at restaurants, check out what’s happening in stores, experience different cultures, step outside your comfort zone. Stay curious and ask questions. All this helps you connect the dots. I did not go to school for interior design or hospitality, however, it was something I innately loved and was naturally good at but I held myself back because I felt I lacked the formal training, therefore I wasn’t confident in acknowledging my talents. I used my business and home as my testing ground. I allowed myself to experiment, to make mistakes, to learn how to be scrappy and build things out of nothing. Most of all, I realized that you never stop learning.”

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