Corporate America Destroyed My Career, Creative Freedom Rebuilt It


We’ve all been there. You finally have a well-paying position that seems ideal but, it just isn’t fulfilling you. You don’t have vacation time, you rarely have time for your personal life, you’re limited with creative freedom and your job is beginning to entirely consume your life. You find yourself living to work not working to live.

As a female professional, these are the struggles that we strive to balance day in and day out. How can I be the empowering business executive, the fashionista, the activist, and the wife or mom? Establishing freedom in your career isn’t easily done. Work-life balance sometimes seems like an oxymoron or something we all talk about but seldom practice. As a highly-ranked corporate professional, Stephanie Nickolich, now CEO of Accessory Fanatic, dealt with this very issue.

What started with an educational background at FIT in New York later on landed her a career in the corporate wholesale home accessory industry. When Stephanie launched a $1.2 million dollar program producing private label goods to national retail chains, a task she endlessly slaved over, her financial benefits were questioned. “As I sat in front of my companies partners at the end of the year, my reality became much different. They looked at me and asked me why they we’re paying me so much. My heart sunk, I had worked so hard for this,” Stephanie says.


Stephanie looked around at her life. She had become enslaved to the corporate rat race. She missed out on spending valuable visiting her father who had become ill because of her lack of vacation days, her hard work and hours were being handed over to higher-level executives and she definitely inhabited a life centered on work. For what? When her company cut her commission by 2/3, Stephanie left the company without question, “I knew one thing for sure, I never wanted to be in another position where someone else controlled my level of income and my personal freedom.”

On January 28, 2013, Stephanie launched her own company, Accessory Fanatic, vowing to give herself the career freedom she deserved. Coincidentally, this was the same day Stephanie’s father had passed. Determined that this was a sign to only encourage her success and freedom, Stephanie describes the day as bittersweet, “Losing my father and my best friend and embarking on a journey to create success on my terms on the same day had a lot of significance in my life. I definitely have the best guardian angel watching over my shoulder and encouraging me to keep moving forward.”

Naturally, deciding to create a career and your future success is always a challenge. Working 16 hour days in the first year of business is a given but developing balance is something that can happen with a plan. Stephanie had her wakeup call of work overload in January 2014, “I vowed to myself that this was not why I started the business and that I would simply not continue down this path. I knew there was a way to share my vision for empowering women through fashion with the world; so I went back to the drawing board.”

Over the last five months, Stephanie crafted a program that incorporated her core beliefs along with her drive to create success for herself as well as others. About a month ago, she finally launched the Stylist Program. The program incorporates her vision to empower women to achieve success on their terms by doing something they love and holding on to the freedom and flexibility that she lacked so greatly in her corporate days.


As for the work-life balance and career freedom, she’s finally got it! Stephanie spends her executive days doing something she loves, with people she loves. She empowers the working class women to take back their lives, travel, have fun and live in color. No longer dictated by a time clock, a corporate travel schedule and a limited vacation schedule, she feels that she can breathe again.

When asked how her life has changed since throwing in the corporate towel, Nickolich reveals, “I am able to do all the things I love and still run a successful business, who knew? I dictate my own life and I choose how hard I work for what I want to achieve. It’s a feeling that I can’t explain but when you are the only one that controls your life it’s truly priceless.”

Now, the million dollar dream is to give women their lives back. Stephanie’s goal is that the Stylist Program will help to share the message that you can live life on your terms too. She has also continued the theme of empowering women by highlighting other women who have gone against the grain and created their own business by tapping into their passion. It is called Her Styled Life where women from a range of industries, including our own editor-in-chief Asha Dahya, can share their stories of empowerment.

Stephanie’s overall message is that women need to make themselves a priority; it’s time we all start working to live, not living to work. Now that’s something we can all agree is worth living for!



One Comment

  1. “How can I be the empowering business executive, the fashionista, the activist, and the wife or mom?” I ask myself this question EVERY day….

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