The company you work for and the people you work with can have a huge impact on your perspectives, outlook, and self-belief. In episode 64 of Career Relaunch, Retail merchandiser turned baby sleep expert Tamiko Kelly explains why surrounding yourself with the right people can have such a profound impact on your career. She’ll explain the steps she took to move from the corporate world to set up her own independent business. We’ll talk about the importance of starting even if you don’t have a plan fully mapped out, getting yourself out of bad environments, and letting go of things that no longer serve you.

Key Career Insights

  1. Doing 1-on-1 work that feels unscalable can actually allow you to develop deep insights that enables you to create more scalable offerings.
  2. You don’t have to have a fully ironed out marketing strategy to get your business off the ground. You just have to start somewhere.
  3. At some point, you have to let go of the things that are no longer serving you and trust that things are going to work out.
  4. Getting yourself out of a toxic environment is the first step toward getting back the confidence you need to relaunch your career in a more positive direction.

Tweetables to Share

Resources Mentioned


Listener Challenge

During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, challenges you to think carefully about the company you keep. Think about what specific impact the people you spend the most time with are having own your personal and professional well-being. Write it down. If they’re having a positive impact, great. But if they’re dragging you down all the time, ask yourself how long you’ll willing to tolerate being around those people, and if you feel the time has come to get yourself out of the situation, what small step you could take this week to lay the groundwork for moving somewhere else.


About Tamiko Kelly, baby sleep expert

Tamiko Kelly Baby Sleep ExpertTamiko Kelly is the founder of Sleep Well, Wake Happy and the creator of The Feel Like Yourself Again Baby Sleep Solution. As a certified sleep consultant and holistic health practitioner, Tamiko helps tired moms feel like themselves again by teaching them how to get their babies sleeping through the night. Her sleep advice has been featured on Yahoo Finance, Care.com, Spawned Parenting Podcast and she has appeared as a guest expert on Austin’s ABC Affiliate TV Show, Studio 512. You can learn more about her workshops here. Prior to doing this work, Tamiko spent her career working in the corporate world doing retail merchandising at some well-known brands including Banana Republic and Nordstroms.

You can follow Tamiko on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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P.S. Have you heard of Freshbooks?

FreshbooksFreshbooks offers user-friendly, simple yet professional invoice templates ideal for small business owners. If you’re a self-employed professional or small business owner looking for simple invoicing and accounting tool, try it free for one month by going to CareerRelaunch.net/Freshbooks.

Episode Interview Transcript

Teaser (first ~15s): The longer we stay in toxic environments, it really makes us start to believe that we aren’t capable, that we can’t do things, that we are not successful. You’re doing yourself more harm staying in a situation that is no longer serving you.

Joseph: Good afternoon, Tamiko. Welcome to Career Relaunch. We’re going to talk through a few different topics today, including what made you want to leave your retail career behind and how you decided to start your own business focused on, as you put it, helping tired parents. Can you start by telling me more about what you’re focused on right now in your career and your life just to get us started?

Tamiko: Right now, I am making a big shift in my business where I’m going to be out of the day-to-day activities, focusing on the new offer for my company, which is super exciting. Personally, I am about to start the moving process, which we all know can be a little crazy, but as soon as I get my hands around it, because I’m off early with the prep work, so it’ll be easier for me. I’m excited about my new place.

Joseph: I know that you said that you are moving on a little bit in the nature of your work. At the same time, I would be curious to just hear a little bit more about what you had been doing before making this transition. For those people who aren’t familiar with what a sleep consultant does, what exactly have you been doing for parents out there?

Tamiko: I help tired moms feel like themselves again by teaching them how to get their babies sleep into the night. My clients call me the baby whisperer. Basically since 2008, I spent over 50,000 hours. It’s probably closer now to, if I had to guess, over 80,000 or 90,000 now. I was spending that amount of time teaching babies how to sleep and helping their parents be super excited and get a good night’s sleep as well.

I have not met a baby who I couldn’t teach to sleep through the night. I also work with toddlers and older kids as well. If you have a kid who can’t sleep, I’m definitely the girl who can help you. It all started back in 2008, so it’s been a long, wild, crazy ride.

Joseph: I know that you have not always been a sleep consultant, and I do want to come back and hear a little bit more about exactly what you have been doing as a sleep consultant, but can we go back in time and go all the way back to your days working in retail? Then we can move forward from there. Perhaps we could start with your time at The Gap. Could you just explain what you’re doing when you kicked off your retail career at The Gap?

Tamiko: I used to live in the Bay Area, San Francisco, for our folks who are not in the US. I graduated from FIDM, which is the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise in San Francisco, and my first job out of that—and this is after I already had my Bachelor’s Degree, so this is my second degree—was working at Gap. It started off as a strictly contract position, and all I was supposed to do was to help the Piperlime, which is no longer in existence. We help Piperlime basically organize their inventory.

Back in those days, Piperlime had actual hard goods sample sent from the vendors that we used to service, and we had a sample room. My job was to go into that sample room and actually create inventory organization because what will happen is that our photo team would take pictures of all of the pictures for the actual website so that people could see what the shoes look like and videos of people actually wearing the shoes. Then those shoes had to be chucked somewhere. That was my first stop at Gap.

Joseph: How did you like that and how did you see your career at that point in time progressing?

Tamiko: I loved working at Piperlime because it was literally a startup. It was brand new. The team was excited. It was a super driven time because Gap had never gone into the shoe business before, so it was super exciting for the whole team to kind of be in the inaugural division of the company basically proving ourselves that we could be profitable, etc., that we could actually do the work and actually make money selling shoes.

I had no idea where I wanted my career to go. I had been in retail for so long that I was super excited to be in actual corporate. Anybody who’s in retail, had been to retail, you understand the grind that comes with working on the store level. I was excited not to be at the store level anymore, so I did not care what job it was as long as don’t get the store, and so Piperlime was a super exciting time for me for sure.

Joseph: Then you made a transition—is that right?—to work in high-end clothing retail. What happened during that chapter of your career, and what made you want to make that shift?

Tamiko: Actually, after Piperlime, I was recruited by another division of Gap, Banana Republic, to come and work on their team and specifically work on the men’s business and visual merchandise. I’ve had so much experience in visual merchandising. I was an actual stylist, so I worked with magazines and photographers and did runway shows on and stuff, dressing models and all that, and so they were super excited to have that experience on that team.

Basically, at Banana Republic, I work in the photo studio. My job there was to help the stylist again keep all of the merchandise organized. That was my first role, but then as I was on the team, I’d again got promoted to actually working on the visual men’s merchandise side of the business where I was working with the VP of that division. We were actually setting up the visuals that the entire company would use. We had a studio, and I was basically setting up the visual merchandising for that part of the business.

Basically, at that time, we had about 200 stores. All 200 stores would use the work that we produced to set up the visual merchandise, and so if you guys shop at Banana Republic, all of the mannequins and the tables and all that stuff was done by a team like the one I was on. That was super fun, super exciting. I definitely loved my time working in Gap Corporate.

After Gap was my entrée into Nordstrom. I actually got to open up a fabulous, fantastic store. Actually, let’s back track here. I worked at Nordstrom before The Gap actually because I opened a store in the Houston Galleria. Shout-out to my folks who work at the Houston Galleria store. I opened that store back in 2003, I believe.

Joseph: It sounds like you had such a good run in the retail space. You got a chance to work on some fantastic brands like The Gap and Banana Republic and Nordstrom. I was just curious how you went from that to focusing on sleep.

Tamiko: I took from long line of entrepreneurs, Joseph, so for me, it was a super easy transition. I knew I always wanted to own my own business. I didn’t have any idea what I wanted it to be. I used to have a jewelry business back in the day. I thought I was going to open up a retail business. I thought I was surely going to do something in the retail world. I tried my hand at many things, and nothing really felt right to me.

It wasn’t until I was in San Francisco, and I started to do date nights, that the light really got switched on in my head. I was like, ‘Hmm, I really do like working with families. I really do like working with babies. I’ve been a nanny literally my whole entire life, so maybe this is the route that I need to take,’ and it was literally there that that’s when it started, in San Francisco.

Joseph: When you say ‘date night’—I know you and I talked about this before we did this recording—what do you mean by date night? I think you said you’re a date-night nanny when we talked before.

Tamiko: Basically, parents would hire me. I lived in Silicon Valley. For anybody who doesn’t know, Silicon Valley is full of lots of executives who work super-duper long hours. Basically, families will hire me to come in and give them and their partner a date night so that they could go out, enjoy dinner, and have a night out on the town without the kiddos. Basically, I allow parents to date their spouse again. It’s super fun.

Joseph: That’s so important. You’re a date-night nanny, and you’re helping couples rekindle their relationships post-children, and then what happened? What made you then decide that you wanted to turn this into something more than being a date-night nanny, and you wanted to become a sleep consultant?

Tamiko: One of my clients actually said, ‘Hey, have you thought of taking what you’re teaching me and putting it online?’ What folks have to understand is, back in the day when I was doing this, there was no online courses. That was not a thing back in 2003, ’04, ’05. It literally was not even an industry back then, so to have somebody say to me, ‘Hey, what do you think about that?’ I was like, ‘Girl, what are you talking about?’ I didn’t even know what she was referring to.

She basically was just like, ‘Hey, I go to school. All my classes are online, and it’s great for me because I’m able to do it whenever I’m available. I don’t have to go to an actual campus. I think this would be great for you as well.’ Because she mentioned that to me, it’s got the wheels turning, and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I can turn this into an actual business and not just random date nights here and there and all of that.’ It was through that one conversation that basically the train left the station with that one conversation.

Joseph: When you went into doing sleep consulting, it was in the form of online courses then. Is that right?

Tamiko: No, it was actually in the form of in-home consult.

Joseph: Okay, so you went into people’s homes one at a time. Can you explain what that was like to go from working in the corporate setting, where you’re working with all these high-end brands, to then going into somebody’s home, where they’re struggling to get their infant or baby or toddler to go to bed by 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock?

Tamiko: I worked my sleep consulting alongside of my job. It was basically a side hustle for me for many years. I would work in corporate, and then after working, on the weekends is when I did my sleep consulting. I was literally driving up and down the Bay Area. I mean literally, I did the entire Bay Area, from Novato all the way to Dublin/Pleasanton. I live in San Mateo, so anybody who’s in the Bay Area, you realize how far I was driving to go to families. I did a lot of work all over the Bay Area.

It was through all of the hours I put in, working with families in that one-on-one capacity, that I was able to develop my online course many years ago. I did not develop my course, Joseph, until 2013. It’s when I finally developed my course.

Joseph: Five years into doing this work, okay. What do you think was the toughest part of doing this kind of work, whether it’s the self-employment aspect of it or the sleep coaching part of it?

Tamiko: In the beginning, I basically worked for anybody who had a baby who didn’t sleep. I had no kind of filters on who I would work for and all that stuff. I think in the beginning, I was just happy to help people.

As I continue to do the work, I realized I only want to work with people who had X, Y, and Z. I think the hardest thing for me in the beginning was turning away business because I had this fear that if I didn’t help everybody, I would literally not have any clients, but it was through that filtering process that I really was able to hone my skills and provide a better niche for myself. In the beginning, it was just hard to say no. Anybody who’s doing a business can totally amen me from the choir stand on that one.

Joseph: Definitely. If somebody is listening to his, Tamiko, and they’ve got some sort of a skill or even a strength that they want to utilize in the form of creating their own business, and they’re hearing you and they’re hearing you say, ‘Wow, I was turning away clients,’ can you explain how were you even finding your first clients?

Tamiko: When I first started, we did not have Facebook. We had the Yahoo Forums. Yahoo Groups was a thing back then.

Joseph: Yeah, right, back in the day.

Tamiko: In the end, I’m in Silicon Valley, the home of Yahoo, and so it was so exciting. Just to let people know, when I was in the Bay Area, I was one of the first, I think, 50 people to even use Twitter. This was like literally back in the day.

Joseph: That’s right, 2008 was right when Twitter was I think released to the public.

Tamiko: I was like the first 50 or 20 people who even got access because somebody had to invite you. It wasn’t even open. Somebody had to say, ‘Hey, Tamiko, come and get on Twitter.’ I mean this was literally when I was starting my business.

We had a Yahoo Group, and basically, I helped one mom, and she went on that Yahoo Group for saving her tail up early in the game and literally screamed my praises from the mountain tops. From that one post, literally my phone rang—I’m not even kidding you all—all day every day. I would be on conference calls, in meetings, and my phone would be blowing up from moms, like, ‘Get over here and sleep pray with baby.’

Joseph: Very interesting.

Tamiko: I didn’t have any kind of marketing strategy. It was literally all word of mouth when I first started.

Joseph: The other thing I was hoping to hear about is—I know you mentioned that turning away clients was tough—was there anything else that was tough about running your own business and this sort of a service-based business?

Tamiko: For me, it was finding time for it all, because I was still working corporate, and it was on the side. It was really trying to balance everything, because there were some days when I was working 12 hours at work, and then I would have to go to somebody’s house at night and then get up the next morning and go to work again. I mean it was just trying to balance it all without killing myself because it was so much work, which people are like, ‘Oh, it’s a good thing.’ It is a good thing when you have a system for that work, but I literally had no system and was flying by the seat of my pants. Just in general, that was hard.

I think also, it was hard for me as far as rates. That was always a hot-button topic for me because I didn’t know what to charge. I just pick the number out of the skies and say, ‘This is the price.’ I didn’t have any kind of formula, system for that, and so whenever I decided to increase my rates, I was very like, ‘Oh my god, I’m increasing my rate.’ I was very nervous that people wouldn’t pay, and they were just like, ‘We don’t care. Just can you do what you say that you can do? They will pay you whatever you want us to pay you.’ Once people told me that, it released me from all the pricing sham I was doing to myself.

Joseph: Pricing is a really tricky thing because there’s so much wrapped up in that, not just the financials of it but also, I guess, perceptions of self-worth and the value you offer and how much your time is worth, so that’s really tricky.

How did you know that it was time to turn this from being a side hustle to your full-time job?

Tamiko: Two things. When the income started to become very close to when I was working in corporate on a part-time basis, I was like, ‘Okay, girl. You have got to really look at this because you’re basically almost besting your corporate salary working part-time,’ just on the weekends and at night, ‘What could you do if you did not have corporate at all? How much money could you then make?’

Number two, just when I got sick of being in corporate. I’ve had some horrible bosses in my career, Joseph. I always say, when we have a horrible boss, that is God or the universe or whoever you call it, giving us the lesson that we need to have at that point in our life. The lesson that I had to get from my bosses when I was in corporate was you are qualified. If these idiot monkeys can do their job and get paid all these money to be basically A-holes, you’re a nice person, people love you, so there’s no reason why you can’t run your own thing and be highly successful in it.

I think once I gotten my head around that, that I was capable, that I am confident, and I’m able to be successful in business, that gave me the confidence to be like ‘Okay, it’s time to leave.’

Joseph, I will tell you, I did not have a game plan. I know a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, I got to have X, Y dollars saved, and I got to have X amount of clients.’ I didn’t do any of that. I literally just said, ‘I’m done working. Today is my last day. I’ll put in my two weeks today.’ I had no money saved up. I had no backup plan. I was like, ‘I don’t care. I’m just done working in corporate,’ and I literally left. I got my first 20K client in 48 hours of leaving, and that’s when I knew that this was what I was supposed to be doing.

Joseph: That is a great transition, Tamiko, into a couple of the last things I was hoping that we could talk about, which is what you’ve learned along the way from making your transition from the corporate world to running your own business.

What you said there about making a leap without having a concrete plan in place is, I think, quite interesting for me because I’m somebody who struggles to move forward without a plan. What did you learn from doing that, from making the leap without having a plan, that you could now say, at this point in time, that maybe you didn’t realize at the time?

Tamiko: Looking back, I think that I learned that I can do anything that I put my mind to. Anything that I say I want to do, it’s 100% possible. I don’t have to battle with the doubt anymore because I’ve proven it to myself time and time and time again. For me, it’s the best thing I ever did.

Looking back, I stayed in corporate way too long, dealt with way too much BS. I should’ve left many years before I left. It’s also a reminder of myself to stop holding on so tightly to things that are no longer serving me for the fear of what may happen in the future and just do what I know I need to do and just trust that it’s going to always work out because it literally always does.

Joseph: Do you have any advice for someone out there who may be listening to this and is feeling some of that same doubt that you were feeling at the time and holding on to a job that maybe they don’t feel is exactly right for them? Any advice for them about making a change?

Tamiko: I suggest to leave. I think that the longer we stay in toxic environments, it does something to our psyche. It really makes us start to believe that we aren’t capable, that we can’t do things, that we are not successful. I personally have bosses who said the most horrible things to me, did the most horrific things to me.

If you’re in an environment where people are constantly negative, they’re constantly bringing you down, it affects you in ways that you don’t even know is affecting you until you’re out of that environment. I didn’t even realize how ridiculous I was being treated until I was no longer in that environment. Looking back, I was like, ‘What in the world were you doing with your life?’ I just think you’re doing yourself more harm staying in a situation that is no longer serving you.

Now, some people may have families, and they can’t just do like I did and just peace out without a game plan, and I can totally respect that. What you have to ask yourself though is, ‘Can I come up with a date that I say, “This is the day that I’m done.” Regardless of what’s happening in the business, regardless of what my boss expects of me, I’m done on this date, and I’m putting in my notice on this date, and then I’m going to have a quit date party. I’m going to put in my notice on this date, and then on my way, I’m going to have a quit date party,’ because whatever you’re meant to do, your dreams, they’re out waiting for you. The longer that you sit in a position that’s not serving you, the less people that you’re able to help.

Joseph: That is really great advice. It is so hard, I think, to walk away from something that feels so stable. That’s just a really good reminder that you’re just burning time, and sometimes, you do have to move on.

Tamiko: I think, Joseph, no job is stable. I mean literally, I’ve been in Silicon Valley during the real estate boom, and people who were making millions of dollars went from having millions of dollars to having zero dollars literally overnight. I just think that people have to realize that civility is an illusion, having a stable job is an illusion, and the longer that you keep telling yourselves these lies, the longer that you’re preventing yourself from doing what you were really put on this earth to do.

I’m a strong advocate for entrepreneurship because I know the freedom it’s given me and the responsibility that I have in my life that I never had in corporate. Anybody who works at retail, you know how crazy that schedule is. You literally have no life, and so I am all for entrepreneurship, and I’m all about finding freedom on your terms for sure.

Joseph: Let’s wrap up with what you’re focused on right now. What is next for you in your business?

Tamiko: What’s next for me and my business is I’m working on a new offer that I mentioned in the beginning. I’ll be able to have other people who will be able to help families that I can’t help. I got to a thought for the day, I think, ‘I’m retiring from nights. I’ve been doing nights for over a decade now. I just think it’s time I pass the baton to somebody else.’ It’s finding people who can help my clients who definitely need help with nights without me having to be the person to do that.

Helping other newborn care professionals, because in my industry, it’s a predominantly female-oriented industry. So many of the women that I meet in conferences and other groups, they are just struggling to make ends meet. I’ve been coaching several of them, and so I’m kind of exploring the idea of coaching newborn care professionals on how to build sustainable businesses that don’t drain the life out of you, that can give you the freedom and the life that you so desperately want. I’m working on that too.

Joseph: I know you’ve also got some workshops that you run. Could you tell me a little bit about your workshops? Then we’ll wrap up.

Tamiko: It basically walks parents through my system, my tips for helping you to night wean your babies so that you don’t have to be up all night every night, feeding your baby every hour. Get your seat in our workshop at SleepWellWakeHappy.com/workshop.

The moms who have joined me on that workshop completely have their lives changed by what they learned, so if you’re a mom whose baby won’t go to sleep without a bottle, a breastfeeding all night long, then you definitely don’t want to miss this workshop.

Joseph: Fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing that resource, Tamiko. I just really appreciate you taking the time to share your story of leaving the corporate world to start your own business and how you navigated the challenges along the way. Again, I think you’re doing some really great work out there, and I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there who really appreciate what you’re doing for them.

Thanks so much for sharing your career story on the show and best of luck to you with your new endeavor.

Tamiko: Thank you so much.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping people relaunch their careers and have more meaningful careers. As a public speaker, career consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch® podcast, he shares insights from relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals to more effectively marketing their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.