Despite securing a successful career in marketing before the age of 30, Annie Chbat knew there was something missing from her professional life.
She had chosen to take marketing at Concordia, an English university in her hometown of Montreal, without much thought about the future.
“I had followed the path of health science all my life, then university came around and I realized I had never really been in love with what I was studying. I thought, I canâ€™t do this anymore. I canâ€™t just try to please my parents and go into medicine,” Annie explained. “I decided to switch to marketing, but I hadnâ€™t really paid attention to what I wanted to do.”
As she moved through her four-year bachelor degree, that feeling of disinterest never went away.
“I was never really pleased with my choice,” she recalled. “I was just studying, finding it pretty dull and never had any real passion in it, but yet just being satisfied that I was still learning new things, although they werenâ€™t really animating my soul. I didnâ€™t really know what else I wanted to do, so I just went with it and just kept on this path.”
After graduating in 2010, Annie began working in the field of marketing, securing positions at large reputable companies like Morneau Shepell and LaSalle College. However, her heart still just wasn’t in it.
“People would ask what I did, and I got used to saying â€˜Iâ€™m in marketing, but I donâ€™t really like it,” she said. “I was almost ashamed of defining myself with that, because it wasnâ€™t what I truly loved. But you donâ€™t know where to start when you want to do something you love. I love so many things, but what do I do to make a living out of it?”
When her and her partner moved to Vancouver in 2014, she quickly found a marketing job to keep her afloat financially.
“I worked as a marketing manager at a big mortgage brokerage. These are jobs that, if you arenâ€™t passionate about them, you just feel like your life is passing you by because they take up all your life. They come with big responsibilities and you have to devote a lot of time to work.”
Not long after moving to Vancouver, Annie met career coach Benedicte Flouriot. “I met Benedicte through my partner actually, they were working at the same company at the time as she was still doing another job while she developed her coaching. We had her over for dinner because we were new to the city and so was she. I felt really inspired by her, sheâ€™s such a high achiever.”
They clicked instantly and through their conversation, Annie learned about the benefits of career coaching and realized it was a great option for her.
“I hadnâ€™t even thought about it as an option. I thought it was a privilege, itâ€™s an investment and that it was out of my reach,” she explained. “But then meeting her and hearing her story, which was similar to mine, and reaching that point where I really needed a change. I was getting older, I was going to be 30 soon, and I was tired of saying Iâ€™m not happy with my job and that I donâ€™t know what I want to do.”
The pair met for coffee first, so Benedicte could explain more about her process and how she helped her clients. “I didnâ€™t want somebody to help me set up objectives and reach them, I wanted somebody to work my brain a little bit and help me redefine what I wanted to do with my life. After our coffee chat, I realized what she was offering was exactly what I was looking for and her prices were super reasonable.”
The two began working together right away, starting out with soul-searching and really helping Annie understand what pushes her to choose the career path she had taken up to this point.
“I had a lot of anger towards myself. I was angry that I let myself grow in a path that I hated for 10 years,” Annie recalled. “Why was I so weak? Why did I let myself do that? Why am I not stronger?”
Benedicte helped resolve these past issues by helping Annie change the vocabulary she used to define herself and her choices. She also gave her small challenges to work on every week to help her break through personal barriers, such as fear of speaking up due to her French accent.
“She recommended a book, â€œNonviolent Communication: A Language of Lifeâ€ by Marshall Rosenberg and that book really changed my life. It was a big tool that I started applying right away. To talk about my choices and to understand that behind everything I have done so far, there was a need that was being fulfilled. Embracing the â€˜Why am I here nowâ€™ and understanding the reasons all these choices are important to where I am now.”
Annie admits that, although it wasn’t easy to see the bigger picture at first, these weekly exercises began to come together and really give her a clear understanding of herself, her core values and what she stood for â€” which proved to be the opposite of what she was currently doing.
“I spoke to Benedicte one morning, an urgent call for help, and told her, ‘That exercise made me realize that at work I am literally being defined by values that go against what I truly believe in.’ She told me that this was pretty dangerous because you basically allowing yourself to fight for things you donâ€™t believe in. It turned on a switch in my head. I needed to get out of this job and I needed to put my energy in things that I truly love.”
After making this revelation, things began to fall into place for Annie. With a clear mind she was able to hone in on her options and channeled her passions. Back in Montreal, she had dreamt of opening up a vegan restaurant. However, the timing didn’t make sense, as she was still fairly young and inexperienced, so she disregarded this dream.
She connected with a friend of hers who was in the same boat â€” unsatisfied with her career prospects and looking to transition into something that resonated with her more that her chosen field of study.
“She had been really sick for years and healing herself with foods,” Annie explained. “We were talking one day and she was telling me that thereâ€™s nothing that tailors to her diet on the market right now. Everything that is promoted as being healthy is always packed with preservatives and sugar or isnâ€™t affordable.I was thinking of getting the snacks I have created over the years on the market and we chatted and said, letâ€™s make it happen.”
So, JoyFuel Snacks was born.
The pair jumped into it and began developing their company.
“We brought our products to local markets all around Vancouver getting feedback from people and gathering data to develop our business plan,” she recalled. “Itâ€™s been super positive. Every little step I do in this project feels like a victory. It feels like something I truly believe in. The difference compared to my old job, where I was managind million dollar advertising budgets, is crazy. They were things that were so big, that you could brag about, but it didnâ€™t bring any happiness or pride in me.”
After the summer markets ended, the two entrepreneurs had time to really work on their business plan, taking what they had learned and using it to take their business to the next steps â€”expanding to a permanent commercial kitchen and distributing in different grocery stores.
Throughout the coaching process it became clear to Annie that her previous experience had led her to where she is now, despite her feeling lost at times in her former career. In fact, the skills and experience she gained through her marketing education and training made things a lot smoother when she started JoyFuel Snacks and her side venture, Lashified.
“I think that is the most beautiful part of all this coaching, it teaches you that literally nothing is lost. Everything you learned served a purpose,” Annie said, “Every little job, I gained experience and it all served a purpose when the time was right and when the project was right. Marketing is fun when you are passionate about something. When it is combined with something that is animating your soul, it is great.”
Kristen is the editor and community manager at Noomii.com and the Noomii Career Blog. Kristen's desire to ask questions and share information with others led her to pursue journalism. While she has worked at various publications, covering everything from municipal politics to local restaurants, it was her love of self-improvement and sharing inspiration with others that made Noomii the perfect fit. Connect with Kristen on Twitter and LinkedIn.