The sound of fireworks has always brought with it a sense of nostalgia for the summer nights of youth filled with the excitement of staying up late followed by the booming explosions that echoed in your chest and lit up the sky. I find it incredibly fitting the 4th of July is a celebration of the Declaration of Independence because it was this time last year that I, too, declared my independence.

One year ago today, I struck out on my own as a business owner with the launch of Wit Meets Grit. I hit the ground running with three clients and have been going full steam ever since. Just to keep things interesting, my husband, Dan, and I bought a house at the same time, making the experiences of entrepreneurship and homeownership deeply intertwined. Both have given me an incredible sense of accomplishment and freedom I was completely unaware I had been missing. Admittedly (and not surprisingly) my work and family have been my primary focus (sorry garden).

Despite spending 5 years supporting, advising, and advocating for business owners, there is nothing quite like swimming in the water to make you appreciate the joys and dangers of the experience. While there have been challenges, none have been insurmountable or daunting. My biggest obstacle? Figuring out how to explain what I do for a living. Having spent so many years with clearly defined jobs, it has been difficult to put into words the depth and breadth of the services I am providing. When you grow-up with a modern renaissance man for a father, it is hard to see the point in narrowing down your interests or skills when there is so much pleasure to be found in new experiences and projects.

Upon reflection, I realized that in the end my passion is peopleHow they communicate, organize, collaborate, build their programs, run their organizations, manage their systems, make decisions, achieve results, and evaluate their success. Paired with an expertise in the areas of sustainability, environmental studies, and food systems (agriculture, land-use, distribution, marketing, and consumption), I am able to support the people and organizations working in these industries. And of course if you want to talk about green building, affordable housing, gardening, public health or transportation, those are areas of interest as well (hence the aforementioned depth and breadth).

In the last twelve months I have had the pleasure of working with ten different clients on a wide range of projects from meeting facilitation and coalition building to organizational development and landscape assessment. My clients range from small non-profits and businesses to large national organizations. Although the majority of my clients fall into the “food system” category, I have also had the opportunity to work with folks on areas of organizational management and the broader area of sustainability.

Beyond the work under the umbrella of Wit Meets Grit, I am also an adjunct faculty at the College of Charleston, co-teaching Introduction to Environmental Studies with a “hard-science” partner and just wrapped up co-teaching the Gaiananda Herbal Apprenticeship with SC Herbal Society. Outside of work, I am also heavily involved in community giving through volunteer work on several boards but that is a whole other post for another day.

A goal for the next year is to schedule more time to actually update the world on the fun I am having at work (and at home) to provide a peek into this fascinating world I find myself in. In my own defense for the serious lack of blog posts and updates, I just wrapped up a 6 month project that included over 25 interviews, data collection, and mapping on four states that resulted in a 60 page report (with citations) aka soooo much writing.

What is the most important take-away at this point? It has been a great year and I am so thankful for the support of friends and family as well as my stellar clients. To illustrate the awesomeness that is self-employment, I created a fun infographic.

Written by Nikki Seibert Kelley