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Meet Trailblazer Vivien Treacy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vivien Treacy.

Vivien, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I moved to San Diego in 2005 at the age of 21 and lived in PB for a year and then OB for the next nine years. I had visited friends in San Diego the summer before graduating from Fairfield University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. I fell in love with the friendly and laid back culture, beautiful beaches and mountains, and of course, the year-round sunshine.

I arrived in California without a plan and worked as a “Beertender” and car rental agent before landing a Nurse Recruiting job with Aya Healthcare in San Diego. I quickly realized I had found my dream job, and loved the fast-paced, positive team culture, and the ability to earn my income based on how hard I worked (i.e., mostly commission). Getting to know the Nurses was super fun as well, and it was so satisfying to help them find their dream jobs.

After five years as the “top producer” at Aya Healthcare, I moved on to a new challenge with a national recruiting company.

In this new role, the company gave me a laptop, a phone, and the opportunity to start a Southern CA Recruiting division from the ground up. After three years, I had grown a solid book of business and helped build out a new office space and team.

I realized that I loved the creative and strategic aspects of building a business and wanted to do it again. Only this time, it would be 100 % on my terms. So, I secured an investor, quit my job, and founded Career Sparks in May 2014. Our first office was on Santa Monica Ave in Ocean Beach, and I designed my brand and pounded the phones for a year straight. During my breaks, I would walk on the OB Pier, have an Acai bowl at the Lazy Hummingbird, or grab Pho and sake at OB Noodle House.

When I founded Career Sparks, my goal was to create a company culture that resonated with me and other like-minded individuals. Ethics, transparency, and work/life balance are essential, and I have designed the company around these principles. We never cut corners on ethics to close a deal, and I am always transparent with my employees, candidates, and clients, whether the news is good or bad.

I have since moved the office to Portsmouth NH, where my family lives, although we are effectively a virtual business and work with many clients in San Diego County as well as throughout California. I return to Ocean Beach every few months and can say with confidence that my heart will always be there. I even got a tattoo to prove it!

Our team works from home two days/week and sets their own hours, even on office days. We have a bright, light, and minimalist office with an anything-goes dress code, and there is no “hierarchy” within the team (except that I am the boss – haha). We also have frequent Wellness activities, including weekly in-house yoga and fun outings. A recent team event included Salt Float Therapy & Infrared Saunas!

Career Sparks is currently in our sixth year in business. We have consistently turned a profit, and everyone on the team can truly say they love what they do. I am proud of the culture and brand I have created, and I look forward to continuing our growth on both the East and West Coasts!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have lots of advice for other women starting their entrepreneurial journey! I even started a Facebook group called “We’re Not Bossy. We just have Leadership Skills” to share ideas, ask questions, and create an open forum for fellow female entrepreneurs.

I could go on for days, but here are a few thoughts.

  1. Prepare to sacrifice.

I work way more hours as an entrepreneur than I ever did working for someone else. On a busy week, I work 50-70 hours, and during slower times, I can get by with 35-40. Life is short, and our time is so valuable, but when I look at what I have built, I have no regrets.

  1. Trust but verify.

I am an optimist and use to have more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” philosophy on work and life. My laissez-faire philosophy worked when I had the resources of a more prominent company for support, but as an entrepreneur, you have to take responsibility for financial decisions. Most of the vendors, clients, and candidates I have worked with are lovely and ethical people, but the small percentage who are less scrupulous can cause stress and costly mistakes.

If I could speak to my younger self, I would tell her to slow down and take the time to interview accountants, business attorneys, clients, and potential vendors and review and compare contracts carefully before signing on the dotted line. I had to learn this the hard way (a few times), and now I always proceed with caution and trust my intuition if something or someone seems “off.”

  1. Don’t expect anyone to care as much as you do.

As a passionate entrepreneur, my business is my baby. I have a close circle of friends and family who I regularly see, but to succeed, I had to put my business front and center, even when there were other things I would rather be doing.

You cannot expect your employees, your significant other, your friends, or your family to care as much about your business as you do. If there is work to be done late at night or over the weekends, do it yourself. Ultimately, you reap the long term rewards as the business owner and will avoid burning out your employees or damaging personal relationships by taking ownership yourself when its time to go above and beyond.

  1. Take care of yourself.

Being an entrepreneur requires nerves of steel and healthy coping skills. There is no guaranteed paycheck, and there are always bills to pay and unexpected surprises (both good and bad!) that will arise.

Keeping perspective and a sense of humor is essential. During my first few years as owner of Career Sparks, I would tell myself, “If this doesn’t work out, you can always go get another job.” When I fell down, which was often, I would dust myself off and try again.

I practice yoga or walk on the beach with my dog almost every day, and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep more often than not. I see a therapist, vent to trusted friends, and generally try to keep a healthy perspective on life, whether the business is having a good week or not.

Being an entrepreneur is all about the journey, so you must find time for fun along the way.

Please tell us about Career Sparks – what should we know?
I specialize in direct hire healthcare recruiting, aka “headhunting.” Over the past fifteen years, I have built relationships with hospitals, physician practices, managed care, and other healthcare clients. My clients come to me when they are in growth mode or need to find someone with a critical skill set for their team.

Then, we utilize our technology and marketing platforms to connect with qualified potential candidates and present opportunities to them. If there is a good mutual fit, the client hires our candidate, and we earn a commission as well as the satisfaction of making a mutually beneficial match. If not, we keep looking!

Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant, Registered Nurse, and Licensed Social Worker are our top areas of specialty. However, I have worked on just about every job within health care from Front Desk Receptionist to Chief Medical Officer.

I love working in healthcare because we are solving several problems when we make a match:

  1. The client needs the right employee, and we find them that person.
  2. The candidate gets to fulfill their professional goals.
  3. In solving these first two problems, we are also helping patients and families by keeping things running smoothly within the organization.

I am most proud of our ethics, relationships, and company culture. We love what we do, and it shows.

Do you recommend any apps, books, or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Classic book on building professional and personal relationships, I read it when I first starting recruiting and have re-read many times since.

“Shark Tales” by Barbara Corcoran. Such an inspiring story from a self-made billionaire. She is funny, sharp, resourceful, and warm. I hope to be like Barbara when I grow up :).

Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations – I play these in the car 24/7. Great inspiration from role models in both the professional and spiritual worlds.

The BizChick Podcast – my friend Molly, who is an entrepreneur in Brooklyn, NY, recommended this to me, and they are chock full of valuable lessons for modern business ladies.

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