Three years ago, Julie Trade Levitch found herself in a situation that is all too familiar to many other Americans. Two months after her second son was born, her husband was unexpectedly laid off, and her family found themselves on the verge of losing their house.
Then, a month after her husband was laid off, her newborn son developed pneumonia and a collapsed lung due to complications from a respiratory virus. He was in the hospital for a week and their bills were in excess of $10,000. After her husband lost his job, they lost their health insurance and did not qualify for private insurance because of preexisting conditions.
But instead of giving up, Julie sat down at her computer, determined to find a way out. "I just need to sit down and work," she remembers thinking to herself. "I just need to make money or we're going to lose our house." So, rather than let herself give into the panic, she started her own business. "I used my marketing and writing skills and started working around the clock to make ends meet," she said.
That business, Sourdough Communications, a full-service public relations and marketing firm, was only supposed to operate until her husband found another job. But it was nine months before he managed to find employment, and in that time, the business exploded. "The business went from zero to sixty," she said. Luckily for this mother of two, she had a lot of overseas clients, allowing her to work odd hours and from home.
Now, in addition to running the still-successful Sourdough firm, Julie puts her success to work for other small business owners who've been inspired by her story. "I help a lot of small business owners and unemployed people with advice and encouragement," she said. "I certainly know what it feels like. We really hit rock bottom."
Julie, a San Francisco native who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and two sons, is doing what she can to extend her expertise to others who find themselves in desperate circumstances. She started a blog called The Entrepreneurial Mom, where she answers questions from people who want her advice on how to get started with their own ventures. She's trying to launch a seminar called Solofest to encourage entrepreneurship. "I want to encourage people to become entrepreneurs to get out there, start their own business, do their own thing," she said.
Her dedication to local community and small business has led her and her family to form a pact that they will buy only local goods for an entire year starting in January, chronicling their year at the blog, One Local Family. "One of our favorite restaurants went out of business a month and a half ago," she said of her inspiration for the act, and her realization that they could start a blog about it that might raise awareness about the issue. "We can highlight small businesses around here and encourage other people to do this as well. There are alternatives to Applebee's and Walmart."
Julie recognizes the terror of unemployment. "I've been through hell and back," she said. "You really have to be brave." She says she talks to plenty of small business owners who are held back by fear from doing what they have to do to succeed. "If you screw up the first time then do it a second time," she said. "To not even try something--you're not going to get what you want."
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