Ed: Sydney Chaney Thomas is a Moraga-based writer and businesswoman with three books to her name, all currently available on Amazon. She is also co-founder of a sustainable sailing apparel company called Ocean SF, and operates a nonprofit that works to reduce plastic waste called the The Trident Project.
Sydney teaches entrepreneurial marketing at UC Berkeley in their International Diploma Program and, in addition to this column, she writes a popular lifestyle blog, which can be found at sydneychaneythomas.com.
Transition, Work & Motherhood
April 6, 2018
Be determined. This is what I tell myself every morning. In the face of much adversity, I have accomplished more than I could have dreamed possible. I have never worked harder than I have in the last three years. I started a business, went back to school to get my adult teaching certification, created classes at UC Berkeley in their International Diploma Certification Program, consulted for some amazing companies, written a book and co-founded a nonprofit. I’ve also been raising my two teenage daughters alone.
It’s not been easy, however, I am determined to not just endure, but to thrive. Obstacles large and small have been in my path, but I have not allowed them to stop me from achieving my goals and dreams. No matter what happens I remain determined.
My passion for both my sustainable clothing company and my nonprofit comes from my love of the outdoors. Knowing in 20 years that our oceans will be full of more plastic than fish, is not something I can stand by silently and watch happen. I will do anything to help our dying oceans because without healthy oceans nothing else I do matters. Nothing. I will not go into all of the research I have done and the studies I have read, but I will tell you this; it is the most pressing problem of our era.
When I was a girl I would spend at least part of every summer in Vancouver, British Columbia. We would cruise the beautiful waters off the coast and into the islands that surround that part of the world. I would play backgammon on one of the many pristine beaches with my Uncle Basil and my Uncle Ed. Those summer days rank as possibly the highpoint of my childhood and early adulthood. Later, I would spend most of my time in the snow, skiing Mt. Bachelor in college, and then Tahoe with my own family. More recently, I’ve fallen in love with the melted snow and enjoy sailing in San Francisco Bay.
Spending so many days of my life in the natural world, in melted or unmelted water, has made me the person I am today: strong, calm, and focused. So, it is my mission to preserve this for myself, my own children and all the children that follow.
When I started my clothing company in the spring of 2016, I had no idea how hard it would be. All I really knew was that I could talk about it endlessly, and when I did, it literally made my heart pound.
As I move along this path, I grow more passionate about it, and not less. The deeper I get into sustainability, water purity, and the technologically advanced natural fabrics that we mill and the clothes that we design, the more I love it.
In recent weeks, my email has been flooded with notes from the head hunters I’ve worked with in the past. There are lots of jobs in San Francisco for product managers and business analysts. On some days, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed by the myriad of obstacles and the sheer amount of work involved in running my own company, these jobs look attractive. They are well paying and conveniently located a quick train ride away. A job like that could solve some of my most pressing problems. I wouldn’t have to worry about running out of money, or the million things involved (or, the 10 million ways to fail) in a startup venture.
Long ago, I read that the most important thing I could teach my daughters was how to tolerate anxiety. For a long time I worked on this. When both my daughters had gold times in competitive swimming I knew I had achieved that goal. I would watch them standing on the block in the cold and foggy morning waiting for the gun to go off. Their faces reflected both the focus and determination required to win.
Now, it’s my turn, and I’m the one on the block focused and determined.
Being an entrepreneur takes tremendous courage. Believing in your own unique vision and putting your money where your mouth is can be daunting, and undeniably stressful. Comparatively, working a job is low risk.
Starting a company and funding it is even more terrifying than my sky dive in 1992. But it has many comparisons. I remember standing in the doorway of the plane getting ready to jump. I was thinking, I don’t have to do this. I wondered how would I feel if I didn’t jump? If I didn’t take the risk and jump I knew I would feel horrible. So, I jumped.
Someday, all of this will be behind me and I will no longer feel like I’m sitting in the trenches as bombs explode around me. Someday, I’ll just be a clothing designer with a successful adventurewear brand and all of this will simply be a story I tell.