Sondra Firestein | Founder, CEO, Lead Visionary
Pursuit Concierge + Lifestyle Management
Q: Why did you start your business?
A: When I discovered an opportunity to help people in a profound way, I had to launch my business. I moved to Seattle in 2012 to start a real estate career. To supplement my income and meet new people I also worked part-time for an all custom event design company. Between these two industries, I was working with first-time homebuyers and first-time newlyweds which were mostly 20 or 30-somethings looking to live a good life. It was clear they were doing what they were supposed to do for a "happy life": get a good job, get married, buy a house.
The story was the same for many of them. They acknowledged that getting married or buying a house were monumental events in their young adult lives but they hardly had any time for it. Getting them to devote a few hours to look at homes or meet with their designer was nearly impossible. Young, career-driven professionals are busy people and they hardly have the time or energy to pour into these important life moments. I started to wonder, if they don't have time for monumental events, do they have time for other fulfilling opportunities?
Sure, getting married and buying a house are meaningful but true happiness seems to lie in much less assuming experiences like taking a weekend trip with your best friend, building a fort in your living room with your kid (a fond childhood memory that has stuck with me for decades), or saying yes to that unexpected opportunity. I didn't want to stand by and watch so many young people throw their youth away to their to-do list, I wanted to create a solution that would lighten their load in a sustainable way so they can devote their energy to what matters most to them.
So much of what steals our energy is simple and pragmatic (filing an insurance claim, running errands, booking travel, getting estimates for projects, etc.) and it's gotta get done, but not necessarily by us personally. By outsourcing what consumes your time and energy, you're creating more opportunities for fulfilling experiences and the ability to show up more in life.
Pursuit Concierge was born out of noticing a craving for relief from life's daily demands and was built to make it easier for people to spend more time on what makes their world a better place.
Q: What are some key factors or decisions that contributed to the success of your business?
A: There are 2 primary factors that have lead to our success: adaptability and mindfulness.
Not many people are familiar with the concept of a personal concierge so they don't know how it will fit into their life. In a sense, we're pioneering this type of service so we need to collect feedback from our clients to learn how we can best serve them. By being flexible, we're able to explore new ground that we may not have thought of ourselves. However, there's a balance to this aspect. When you're in a new industry or new to business in general, it's easy to feel like to you should just go where others want you to. It's important to have your boundaries and be clear on what you're willing to offer. We've stayed close to our initial intention of helping busy people create more space in their life for fulfilling experiences but have played with different approaches to this challenge. We've been able to stay true to who we are as an organization while accommodating the needs of our members. We don't want to work with everyone, we want to work with those that share our values so we are intentional about how we represent what we're about and what we're willing to offer.
For me, starting a business incited a deep, personal journey. I knew I wanted to start the business but I also had a very mean voice in the back of my mind saying I wouldn't be capable of it, it would be too hard, most people fail and I wasn't special. I knew I had the option to either listen to this voice or not. I chose not to. I had to find a sustainable way to keep that doubting voice at bay. For me, it was mindfulness. I've learned to follow my breath and watch my thoughts without judgment. Without this skill, I don't believe I would be capable of running a successful business. When waves of doubt or stress present themselves, I'm able to be an observer rather than a believer. This has lead me to explore what my options are from a safe perspective and practice self-compassion. I'm not going to do everything perfectly all the time so if anyone is going to be forgiving about this, it ought to be me. Having a way to find peace amongst chaos allows me to find a path through the challenges, giving me the strength, foresight, and confidence that no matter what, I'm gonna make it work!
Q: What are some challenging aspects of your business?
A: The single greatest challenge is being an unfamiliar service. Though the term "concierge" is widely known, it isn't a household term, yet. A lot of people don't know what it means or how to even say it (con-see-yehr-ge). Most people think of the guy at the hotel who sends up towels or hails a cab. A personal concierge takes this service to an exponential level and we are constantly working to get people to understand how a personal concierge can serve them in their life. We focus a lot of our energy on educating people about our offering. We play with language and with emotional concepts to get people to wrap their mind around it. I believe this will always be a challenge until the majority of the population knows what a personal concierge is and how to use it to their advantage. We've recognized that we're looking to work with a slim portion of the population: the early adopters. We need to get in front of the brave people who are willing to be the commercial guinea pigs; the ones who want the newest gadgets before anyone else even knows what they are. We're still figuring out the best ways to educate people about our industry but we're finding our way through heart-centered thought content and taking the time to discuss it with people.
Q: Do you feel you made any serious mistakes as you were starting or growing your business? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
A: I'm one of those people that doesn't really believe in mistakes because every "error" has lead me to a stronger place. I suppose I could have taken more time to conduct market research but whatever, we're making it work without that tedious process. I think it's important to turn every challenge or misstep into a learning opportunity. If you can do that, you will never go wrong.
Q: What other advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
A: Bring your community in. Be honest about your hardships with people you trust. Allow yourself to feel every wave of the process. Know that you are capable. Maybe most importantly, though, know your boundaries. It's easy to pour every ounce of yourself into your enterprise but know your limits, honor them, and express them. If you put too much energy in you may burn out and ruin your opportunity make your vision a reality. I've found that when you express clear boundaries, people respect them. Set expectations early. If you want weekends, take them. Don't want calls late at night, don't answer them. Only you know what you're capable of and it's your responsibility to make sure you're operating at a level that you can sustain long term. You'll come to notice that most people are understanding of your boundaries and may even be inspired by them.
About Pursuit Concierge + Lifestyle Management
Pursuit Concierge offers on-demand personal assistance for busy professionals who are committed to living a happier, more balanced lifestyle. We chip away at your to-do list while connecting you to fulfilling experiences. It's time to live.
"When you're in a new industry or new to business in general, it's easy to feel like to you should just go where others want you to. It's important to have your boundaries and be clear on what you're willing to offer."—Sondra Firestein