Starting a Business While Balancing a Full-time Job
I’m so excited to introduce my dear friend Sydney Keen to you! Sydney is the founder of The Keen Home, a professional organizing company based in New York City. The two of us met through my business, Plan de Ville, and I was so honored when she reached out to let me know she was starting her own venture.
Sydney is the perfect example of an ambitious woman who’s eager to grow her own business while reaping the benefits of having a stable full-time job. She studied English and philosophy in college and currently works as a publishing editor at an international publishing firm. Here, she opens up about balance, passion, and staying organized.
Why is it important to you to share the value of starting an entrepreneurial venture while still working your full-time job?
Being financially independent is of utmost importance to me. Although it works for other women, I was not prepared to leave my full-time job to start an entrepreneurial venture. When I started The Keen Home, I wanted to create something I could grow at a pace I could manage. To ensure this, I needed to have my bases covered and feel confident that I was making decisions based on the ethos of my company, and not to ensure I can pay my bills each month. By maintaining my full-time job in a different industry, I’m positioning myself to run my business from a place of financial security and creative freedom.
How do you balance your full-time job while running a business?
By understanding how much time I need to allot to my various responsibilities. I’m fully committed to my job as an editor, and know that I need to set aside regular business hours throughout the week to be completely devoted to that. My work in publishing involves a bit of travel, so I plan far in advance when opportunities for that arise. I’ve also mastered how much time I need for every aspect of the work I do with The Keen Home, and communicate that clearly to clients while handling scheduling consultations and installations.
Do you have any tips for other women growing a business while working a full-time job?
My number one tip for women trying to find a balance between their entrepreneurial ventures and full-time positions is to schedule everything you can into a planner. I find that having a clear understanding of what time you do and do not have “free” helps immensely when you’re being pulled in a few different directions.
When did you realize you wanted to start The Keen Home?
The Keen Home started as a creative outlet. I found that while working in an office every day offered the stability I needed, I wasn’t completely fulfilled. I pride myself on being very productive on a day-to-day basis, and found so much joy in making my home and office both aesthetically beautiful and functional. Whether it was streamlining my morning routine with the perfectly curated medicine cabinet or having my email inbox filed and labeled within an inch of its life, I knew I had a knack for organization. When I had spent enough time thinking about working this passion into my career, I realized that I did not want to compromise on the execution of my ideas.
What were some of your first steps for making your business happen?
The first steps I took were not exciting, but they really set me up for success. I immediately secured usernames on social media platforms and a website for The Keen Home and began building those. I started by reaching out to friends and family offering to organize their spaces to build my portfolio and eventually started getting referrals for new clients and building my network in the industry!
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My clients are busy and live full, exciting lives, and I have the job of maximizing their spaces (which are often quite small in NYC—very few large kitchen pantries or massive closets!) and relieving them of the burden of clutter. I love curating and organizing spaces that outlast my presence in a client’s home or business and enable them to live happily and breathe easier.
What drives you?
I’m so motivated by the constant reminders throughout the work I do with clients that I was able to found a company based on something so integral to my personality. A few months after I started The Keen Home, one of my close friends sent me the sweetest message about what I was doing: “You grew up, and your childhood quirk became your adult passion and success.” That was a real “aha” moment for me and one that I try not to lose sight of when the going gets tough. I had gone through most of my life trying to hide my neuroses, so The Keen Home meant more to me than simply getting a business off the ground. The Keen Home’s mission and values are deeply entrenched in my identity and I’m extremely proud of that. I’m driven by the notion that I am able to tap into such an essential element of my identity to have a positive impact on my clients’ lives.
I had gone through most of my life trying to hide my neuroses, so The Keen Home meant more to me than simply getting a business off the ground.
Can you take us through your day-to-day work?
So much of what I do for my clients is researching and sourcing materials. During a consultation, I measure everything so I’m able to hit the ground running on the behind-the-scenes work. I scour stores on foot and online for the perfect storage and organizing solutions based on the measurements I’ve taken. Install days are always a mix of total chaos and utter relief. I probably scare a lot of my clients with the “during,” but the “after” of a project is always a joy to share.
On days I’m not working with clients and not at my full-time job, I focus on emails, social media, and research and planning. This can often mean some late nights or early mornings, but I always find time to respond to every email I receive in a timely manner and maintain consistency on the social media platforms for The Keen Home.
What’s one of your best tips for creating a clean space?
My favorite English teacher in high school introduced me to a concept writers use to improve their work: “kill your darlings.” In writing, this is meant to encourage authors to trim their most self-indulgent passages from their work for the good of the overall piece. In organizing, this translates to editing down your belongings for the good of the space (and for the good of your sanity!). It’s natural to form a sentimental bond with items that you’ve kept for a long time or associate with fond memories. Finding a way to preserve just a few special pieces of your child’s artwork, like framing a few of their favorite projects and hanging them in the kitchen or playroom, rather than keeping hundreds of papers in bins or folders, ensures that you’re actually enjoying the memories that would otherwise just be taking up space in piles.
What work outfit makes you feel powerful?
Clothes have always meant more to me than simple utility, and I put a lot of thought into what my work wardrobe conveys to clients. I’m definitely a “neutrals over color” gal, and my style is very traditional. I feel that wearing a well-tailored outfit allows my appearance to let the space I’m working in shine. Slim black pants, a black cashmere sweater, and elegant flats is my de facto uniform for everyday.