Everything was going according to plan for Dana Elemera. She'd graduated from Kings College in the U.K. with a mathematics degree and was promptly accepted into a program with a top investment bank in London. That bank trained her at Goldman Sachs in New York City during her first year and paid her a salary of over $60,000.
It was a job that came with lots of bows and ribbons for Elemara and, yet, the perks weren't enough to keep her around. Three years into her career, she bounced.
"My friends and family were shocked that I was leaving such a great job," Elemara told British newspaper The Telegraph this week, "but my view was that it is better to take a risk and pursue something you care passionately about, rather than staying in a stable job just for the money."
The crossroad that Elemara arrived at is one that is becoming more and more common, especially when it comes to hearing the success stories of young entrepreneurs. It's the fork in the road that provides two career choices: passion or practicality, and Elemara just could not resist choosing the former.
She had the money, but simply "didn't enjoy" her job and she left even though she didn't even have any idea on what she could base an enterprise. But she would soon find one.
"I came back to London, doing some work in the marketing department of King's College," she told SmallBusiness' Ben Lobel in January. "During this time I was thinking up ideas for a business. A family friend was raving about argan oil and how she couldn't get hold of it in the UK, which interested me enough to book a trip to Morocco where it was produced. I learned about the product and loved it."
For a woman who'd fallen in love with cooking when she was 11-years-old, it was natural that, as an entrepreneur, Elemara would seek to monetize a product that could be sold to the culinary industry. Now, at the age of 27, she's the head of her own enterprise called Arganic, servicing the cosmetic, health and food industries with the finest argan oil around, after sealing an exclusive deal with a producer in Morocco.
Furthermore, her passion has led to her gaining a knowledge of the product extensive enough that she feels at ease when dealing with competitors.
"My technique is to be ultra-confident from the outset: if you’ve got a great product or service and you know what you are selling inside out, then you are in control," Elemara said. "Once you’ve set the tone they know they can’t mess with you."
It seems that most of the London native's success, from bargaining with a solicitor to help her trademark her business for a fourth of what it would normally cost, to finding a partner to do business with in Dubai, can be traced back to her ability to capitalize on making good working relationships.
And although she describes her pre-entrepreneurial years as unfulfilling, Elemara says that her negotiation and people skills came from her time in New York.
"My role in the City taught me how to be disciplined and cope with constant pressure," she says. "It has also given me solid business grounding – everything from knowing where to invest money in the business through to the best way to secure contract wins. The little things have also come in useful... The thing that I value most from my time in the City is an appreciation of how important networking is. It’s now second nature and I cannot stress how vital it is to get out there and talk to as many people as you can."
Now with her product being sold in Scotland as well as in the U.K., and she has a deal in hand with Cotswold Fayre, one of the biggest fine-food distributors in the UK, Arganic may just be set to soar above the $91,000 turnover mark she set for her company in its second year of existence.
And, as her business continues to provide her with progressive success, Elemara provides advice for any readers who want to consider following their passions.
"My advice is to set time aside, say during a holiday, or even at the weekend, to give yourself the chance to really think about what it is you want to do, and to give yourself a chance to be creative," she said. "If there is something you are truly passionate about, and you’re willing to work hard, there is no reason why you can’t become a successful entrepreneur."
Photo via MTV UK