DREAM CATCHER: CYNTHIA CORTINA
What seemed like a dream life for Cynthia Cortina – working for a top Madison Avenue advertising agency and living the twentysomething life in Manhattan – led to burnout and a realization that creating advertising for Fortune 500 companies wasn’t how she wanted to serve the world. An evening city walk in search of inspiration led her to stumble upon a Lower East Side apothecary, where she discovered a book that changed everything. Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel forever changed the way she looked at scent and the human brain, and so inspired her that she quit her job at the height of the recession in 2008 to join a startup. The next few years brought a lot of change – moves to new cities (and continents) and a marriage, and new jobs throughout it all. But the feeling that she’d do her own thing never faded, and while living in London she immersed herself in a makers and perfumery community to solidify her vision for her own business. A move to Portland led to fruitful connections to a nascent branding agency that took her on as their first client and designed her label. The universe was telling her it was time to dive in, and she spent months refining her product through research, kitchen experimentation, and testing on family and friends before launching her BEING apothecary of small batch, organic, and vegan bath and body products.
When did you know you wanted to pursue your business or venture? I’ve had this dream for years, but it was a cross-country move to a new state and months of joblessness and a struggling personal life that told me this was the right time. Everything was going wrong because I was resisting this pursuit out of self-doubt. It was like the universe was pushing back on opportunities with “nope, nope, nope, you need to do this now!” And that’s what I did.
Did your former career prepare you for running your own business? Absolutely! A marketing career prepares you to think on the fly, always be on the edge of design, know which questions to ask, know how to prioritize, understand how to position a brand, and learn what to look for in the competition.
How do you organize your day to best optimize your time? Describe a day in your life.Immediately after waking up, I spend a few minutes reflecting on my dreams and my state of being, allowing myself to feel whatever feelings pass through me and observing them. I assess my mood and go about setting an intention for the day. I ask myself what I need to accomplish and reconcile it with my notes from the night before. Then I shower, eat breakfast, triage my emails, and get right to the first task. I start with the most time-sensitive and/or difficult task so that my mind’s fresh when I handle it and so that there’s plenty of time, if needed, to resolve any issues. I take a quick break for lunch while I look through my company’s Instagram feed on my phone. After lunch, I work on making product well into the early evening and then make a trip to the post office to drop off orders. When I return, I may have a glass of wine while I wrap up the day’s emails, write down any ideas I had that day, and go on to planning the next day.
What three factors have most contributed to your success in business and in life? Being surrounded by positive, ambitious people who inspire me. A very supportive husband who knows how to advise without critiquing and trusts my judgment. My immigrant upbringing where I was taught that hard work pays off.
I wish someone would have told me… That the most successful aren’t necessarily the best nor the brightest.
Five years from now I see myself and my company… In a place where my company can support my family entirely.
The key to balancing it all is… Have some quiet time with yourself away from other people and pets, daily. Even if it’s the five minutes you have to shower, take that break to restore inner peace and breathe deeply. It helps you become more mentally alert and better able to problem solve.
My biggest challenge is… Being patient and listening all the way through. Most of the time, my mind is racing and I try to anticipate what the other person will say for the sake of saving time. It’s also because I’m always on the move. I need to slow down and try not to guess what’s next, but just listen.
The most important thing I have learned so far… You don’t need to know everything, just take a step forward.
LET’S GET PERSONAL:
The three words that best describe me are… Driven, direct, goofy.
My favorite place to go on vacation is… Anywhere with skiing and spa resorts. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush and leg workout of skiing followed by sauna time and massage to relax.
While on vacation I always… Eat local and explore small, independent shops, even if it’s a shack with a banana leaf thicket. I love supporting small business!
My favorite scent is… Coffee. The scent brings a sense of comfort and motivation to kick off the day.
My favorite movies are… Psychological thrillers with lots of plot twists and horror!
On my playlist right now… “Work” by Iggy Azalea.
My favorite type of workout is… Dancing, even if it’s around my house in my pajamas!
I rejuvenate by… Backpacking in the woods and sleeping in a tent
My secret for getting a good night’s sleep is… A visualization exercise prior to falling asleep where I put away all of my worries in a big hot air balloon, then see it floating away until it disappears. Usually by this point, my breathing and heart rate have slowed and I am much more relaxed.