Facing Fear to Become Fearless

Facing Fear to Become Fearless

How the VP of a leading NYC media planning agency overcame fear to strike out on her own and find success.

Cara Scharf has loved advertising for as long as she remembers. As a little girl she used to visit the office of television producer Sandy Frank, one of her father’s clients. She never forgot the excitement of working in the media world, which later compelled her to launch a now 25-year career in advertising.

In 2009, as vice president at a leading New York City based media planning agency, she appeared to be living the advertising executive’s dream: she worked in a fast-paced, well-paying industry that never rested on its laurels and was on the forefront of advertising. She specialized in entertainment clients, privy to some of the coolest emerging brands and responsible for making sure her clients’ campaigns cut through the cacophony of competing brands. But something just wasn't right.

“I was heading to a nearby Starbucks and noticed everyone working there seemed happy. I dropped some clothes off at my small dry cleaners and noticed the same thing,” observed Cara that fateful day. “So many people were actually having fun at work. I wasn't and hadn't been for quite some time. Despite not having been without a job since I was 15, I decided right then and there I would quit my job and give working for myself a shot. Even if I failed, I knew in my gut it was worth it.”

Cara resigned and founded the appropriately named “Fearless Media,” an agency based in New York City, focused primarily on video game and entertainment client advertising and promotion.

“The thought of not having a regular paycheck or the fear that no clients would hire me if I struck it out on my own were my biggest fears.”
“The thought of not having a regular paycheck or the fear that no clients would hire me if I struck it out on my own were my biggest fears,” muses Cara, thinking back to that day. “You really don’t know until you are out there, naked, so to speak. Starting a company can be a very scary experience that can turn you into a major pessimist - no money, no clients, no one cheering you on, no one to lean on – even if that’s not the reality, it still feels very real. Both my parents died of cancer within two years of each other. I told myself that if I can make it through that, I could do anything, as can anyone who really wants to start a business and works hard at success.”

Money to start her venture was the major obstacle Cara cites, “I thought my bank, with which I had held a long term relationship, would help. They didn’t. I thought maybe the Small Business Administration would be able to assist. They weren't. So I took what little funds I had in my piggy bank and emptied my 401(k). My heart in my throat, I risked it all because I knew I could not go back to working in a job, building someone else’s company and, most importantly, continuing to be unhappy.”

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