Detours column

[DETOURS] The pandemic took my job but it let me follow my dream

Mikee Canaman
[DETOURS] The pandemic took my job but it let me follow my dream

Illustration by DR Castuciano

After getting laid off, I finally started my own business

Editor’s note: Mikee Canaman’s career was about to take off when the pandemic happened. Instead of a promising year, she found herself jobless. But she didn’t let 2020 end on a bad note. Get to know her story. You, too, can share your life’s greatest detours. Here’s how.

The year 2020 was definitely not the one that I expected it to be. But looking back, I should say it was the year that I needed. While the journey may not be the same for everyone, let me share this testimony to serve as a reminder that there can be opportunities in times of crisis. 

For someone who believes in systems, planners, and to-do lists, I, too, had my 2020 mapped out. My 5 years in business and two years in the tech industry gave me the confidence to claim that this year was going to be different. 

After all, things were already and finally in place: the product I was working on was finally market-driven, targets were set to be within reach, and the right people to make these happen were with us. These “success” factors then seemed to be lined up perfectly until something microscopic hit us in the eye that our vision was indefinitely put on hold and the company eventually had to let its best people go. Like a thief in the night, the pandemic took us by surprise.

It felt as if I was starring in an episode of the popular Korean series, Start-Up, when Won In-Jae, one of the supporting characters, decided to leave her stepfather’s company.

Although my transition was not as iconic as hers, I should say my hopes for the future were just as high. I, too, transitioned knowing I was not starting from scratch – I was starting from experience. And although the pandemic seemed to have snatched something I was so certain of, I figured it also allowed me to begin something I can truly call my own. 

So, I made a bold decision. I followed my dream and started my own company. 

Yes, I was bold enough but I was also terrified. Will I get enough accounts to sustain our operations? Can I secure a space where we can all productively work in? Are we going to find investors who believe in what we do? But it was my two co-founders, who chose to take this leap of faith with me, that got me putting up a roadmap in place. I guess I was lucky to have found my tribe who gave me the motivation I badly needed.

With nothing else but our past experiences and newfound identity, we called ourselves Sowenscale, a play of words on the values we want to live by.

To SOW means “to plant seeds”. In the Bible, sowing is used as a metaphor for one’s actions – you reap what you sow. To SCALE means setting the stage to enable and support growth; the ability to grow without being hampered.

We knew that this wouldn’t be easy, but we stayed true to our commitment: we are willing to sow in order to reap. We believed that there are dreams that the universe will agree to conspire in helping us achieve – our dream startup is one of those.

The things we feared the most were the first to fall into place – our friends became our first clients; when most offices transitioned to working from home, a local incubation hub welcomed us to have a comfortable start; and finally, a visionary believed and invested in our potential.

Six months in and with 9 people on board, it’s too early to say that we have succeeded. This pandemic paved the way for us to realize that success is not a destination – it’s our everyday journey. Our ability to commit and deliver, not only in the good days but also in the bad, makes this journey the trophy.

This year’s plot twist is perhaps my biggest testimony of how God’s plans are better than mine. Every day will be a work of faith to grow this identity with Sowenscale, tell stories that matter with our sub brand, Stories in Studios, and pay it forward with our tech product, GooZam – a call for help platform for everyday needs aimed at achieving work-life balance. 

And whether the pandemic situation gets better or not, our 2021 manifestation which serves as our moral compass remains: we will bloom where we are planted. –

Mikee Canaman is a COO, a community manager, and an impact officer of a startup. Most days, she just want to be a barista in a scenic cafe on Jeju Island.