The transition from the corporate world to that of an entrepreneur has many challenges. For some, these trials and tribulation are not worth the effort. For others, like Kelly Marchal, Principle of Esprit De Merci, 2017 was the right time to tackle these challenges. Even for one who is focused and well-organized, the road was anything but straightforward. However, meandering a bit may have been just what she needed to land exactly where she wanted to be.

Spending time with Kelly was fun, interesting, and enlightening. As two entrepreneurs, we discussed the pace of change, the challenges around networking, and ways to land in the right place to be as productive as possible. Here are three important points I gleaned from my conversation with Kelly that best describe the journey that may have started with cookies but evolved into finding her calling.

Catherine Valyi: What surprised you most about being an entrepreneur?

Kelly Marchal: As part of the kickoff of this journey, I went back and pulled old college applications, going back to 1988, and I was surprised to see what I wrote. I wanted to be creative, innovative, and an entrepreneur. While I was in the corporate world for 24 years, I learned and experienced so much, and that led me to where I am today. Life seems to have come full circle. I’m confident that I’m on the right path.

After taking the necessary time to unplug and fully disconnect, Kelly eventually remembered how coaching was an important part of her professional life, and it fit perfectly with her goal to help people and bring them together. Sitting in her meticulously decorated office, Kelly and I also touched on the concept of embracing creativity and the dichotomy that exists between how exciting and scary the entire journey can be.

Valyi: What was hardest about the journey?

Marchal. I started Esprit de Merci working from my home. I am by nature a social creature, and had concerns about being isolated or lonely in the process. I had many days with my cats as my only companions, and I found myself making increasingly frequent trips to Publix. I knew that in order to meet my own energetic requirements, I needed more interpersonal interaction. However, I knew I needed balance and too much interaction might result in a failure to get work I needed to complete done.

Kelly knew that she wanted to create a new business, a way to connect people in a space for discovery. However, the evolution to coaching was not a straight line. During a visit to a coffee shop while in Hawaii, she found herself marveling at the life the owners had created for themselves, and it intrigued her. On the flight back, in a beautiful journal she picked up at the shop, she began to write out some concrete thoughts about a business that would be a space for discovery and for bringing people together. Initially, she thought she would accomplish this with cookies (complete with a line of seasonally themed macarons). In the end, research and additional soul-searching landed her in a place that was less assembly-line oriented and more directly focused on building relationships and interacting with people – both individuals and teams.

Valyi: Tell me about a nugget of advice you would like to share from your journey.

Marchal: Knowing yourself first is one of the most important steps in the process. Before you do anything, you need to be honest and truthful. Know your non-negotiables, for example. How much energy do you have, and how do you want to spend it? Get better at the stuff you are good at, and partner with people good at the other parts. Do a personal deep-dive and identify your strengths and values before you move forward. Make sure your heart and your head are in the same place.