I handle sales and business development for a company that does scavenger hunts in museums and historic neighborhoods.
I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. My mother kept an apartment in New York, so I decided to spend the summer between junior and senior years in the city. I knew New York had “fun” industries like advertising, PR, and entertainment. I landed an internship at an ad agency, where they rotated us through the different departments. Seeing the inside of a business environment like that was hugely important for me. Now I give money to my college to help kids afford to do internships.
After graduating I got a job in media planning at an agency. I wouldn’t want to do it for a lifetime, but it was an amazing launch pad. Eventually I moved into magazine publishing, in ad sales and marketing. I did that for a while and really enjoyed it. But I knew it wasn’t the kind of job I wanted to have once I had kids—too much evening entertaining and travel. I started thinking about my next move.
Looking into event planning opportunities, I met a guy who had this quirky little side business doing scavenger hunts. I thought it was an interesting coincidence because I’d created hunts for friends over the years and had even done one for a sales meeting at the magazine. I went on one of this guy’s hunts, and it was really clever—a more highbrow, intellectual variation on the ones I’d created. I told him I thought I had the right background to help him grow his business.
He wasn’t set up for corporate work. I knew that law firms were the best clients to go after because of their summer associate programs. So I borrowed a law firm directory from a friend and did a mass mailing. The company’s revenue that year jumped from around $5,000 to around $100,000.
I’m a social person, but I never loved the stream of people coming into my office to chat. I wanted to be efficient, get in and get out. So working alone, from home, was heaven. At first, with the kids, it was hard to carve out my space and time. Sometimes I’d work in the bathroom.
These days, my kids will sit and do homework while I’m on the phone negotiating. They get to see the inner workings of a business up close. My husband still tends to work more than I do. But it’s good for the kids to see the give and take of our different jobs.
My husband has a high-profile career as a writer. He’ll be the center of attention at parties, and then people hear that I do scavenger hunts for a living, and suddenly the attention shifts to me. I kind of like that. I don’t want to be just the mother of his kids. At the same time, it’s important to me to be a class parent, do the fundraisers and volunteer at school. I find it satisfying. And the kids will remember it.
I don’t think you can be a CEO and still have the sort of life that I want with my kids. My priority has been to do a little of both. I’m okay with not being a CEO.
Interviewed on May 1, 2018