High Fashion to Lactation Consultant with Alicea Sabella | Ep #3
Today’s guest is on her “third act,” and she discusses how becoming a mom changed her priorities and led to a drastic career change. Alicea Sabella started in health services after college, and quickly followed her love of style and sales to a successful career in New York City’s world of high fashion. Once becoming a mom, she needed a change and opened her own business as a lactation consultant. Join us as Alicea takes us on her personal journey of following her heart to build a business that is best for her family.
PROFILE OF SUCCESS
Health Science Degree at James Madison University
International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant
Fitness coach ⇒ Executive Assistant – DKNY ⇒ Clinical Lactation Internship – Jersey Shore University Medical Center ⇒ Launches Flourishing Feeding Babies breastfeeding consultation service
Personal Status: Married with 2 kids
Current Career Status: In-home and telehealth breastfeeding consultations
Future Plans: Scaling up
Advice: “Make your career change your side hustle first. Dabble in it, make sure it’s what you want because once you cut the cord, you don’t want to go back a month later. You want to go back years later cause you’re ready to go back.”
Connect with Alicea Sabella and her business at flourishfeedingbabies.com.
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/flourishfeedingbabies/
Season 1 -Episode #3
Guest: Alicea Sabella
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
Shannon: [00:00:00] From high fashion to lactation consultant. Today, we are talking with Alicia Sabella. Let's get to it.
Are you at a crossroads in your career or in life? Well, don't worry because life's next chapter is waiting. This is the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host Shannon Russell.
I'm a television producer turned boy mom turned business owner podcaster and career coach. If you are looking to start a new career, or begin a fresh chapter in life, then get ready to be inspired with stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and offer steps. You can take to help figure out what your true calling in life really is.
It is time to shine. So let's turn the page and get started.
Welcome to second act success.
Welcome my friend! Today, I will be [00:01:00] speaking with Alicia Sabella. Alicia doesn't just have a second act. She has a third. She began her journey, graduating college with a health science degree and teaching on campus. She then began a new career working in sales at some of New York city's most sought after fashion labels, like Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, and D K N Y.
Now Alicia is an international board certified lactation consultant. Who helps parents learn the tools they need to feed their children in the very best way possible. Let me introduce you to Alicia Sabella so we can get some inspiration from her Second Act Success story. Welcome Alicea. We have a lot to chat about because you don't just have a second act. You have a third, so let's start from the beginning. Tell me about your journey.
Alicea: Absolutely. Yes, I am on my third act, I guess, if you would say, I went to school at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I was working on campus. I was a personal trainer. I worked in the Campus [00:02:00] Rec Center. I was diehard kinesiology, health science, major with a nutrition minor, and that's what I wanted to do. And I did like it, but then it was like, well, if I get to a certain point, where do I go from there? You know, it was kind of like, I could already see the ceiling of where my career would kind of just be the same.
And I wasn't sure if that was really what I wanted to do. So I did, I worked with my, , guidance counselor, , and I was like, how do I still meet my degree requirements? But add in some marketing classes, add in some other stuff. So we were able to do that. I was applying for crazy jobs all over. I'm an only child. And so I tend to kind of just. Like get these ideas and I'm like, well, I'm going to move anywhere, but Northern Virginia, because that's where everybody else is moving. I want to move somewhere where no one else is moving. And that's where I got my first job at a university up in North Jersey. I was fortunate I was able to take classes for free. So I took advantage of that and kind of explored [00:03:00] things that I was interested in. And the thing that I was the most interested in was fashion. You know, I didn't even realize fashion was a career. I grew up in Virginia, you know, it's not something people talked about. So when I moved to New Jersey right outside New York, it was like, well, how everybody's in fashion? This is kind of a cool career. So I took classes for free. And then I was like, wow, I really actually like this.
So I got a really good rapport with my professor and I just told her, I was like, look, I can't just take an unpaid internship. Like I I'm an adult. I pay my own bills. But if there's like an entry-level job, you know, that you hear about I'd be interested. So she was very cool and sent me. A job posting for a production type job, which was not what I wanted to do. I really wanted to do sales, but I was open to interviewing. So I went in, , to DKNY and I interviewed, and they were really fantastic and super nice, so they said, you know, maybe you don't want this position, but we have this other one available and would you be [00:04:00] interested? And it was an executive assistant job with the CFO and the vice-president of handbags and shoes. And I said, well, I absolutely. To talk to them. So I went in and I was still very candid.
I said, you know, my, my dream is to be in the showroom. I want to sell, b ut I'm happy to like, come in and be your assistant and kind of learn the ropes. So they did offer me the job I accepted. They were great. And they put me in the right places and I ended up working in fashion for 17 years, , and worked my way up and, move to some really amazing brands. I loved what I did. I got to travel, I got to meet so many interesting people along the way, but then when I had kids, everything changes.
I was living in New Jersey. , we had just moved a little bit farther away from New York City.. We were living, you know, a good hour and fifteen on an excellent day bus ride into Manhattan I mean, I'll never forget that first week of dropping my oldest off to daycare.[00:05:00] This was like my first aha moment that something needed to change again.
I was rushing for the third day in a row to try to get there in time to pick her up before they closed. And I remember walking into the infant room basically in tears going, I can't do this for 18 more years. I just can't do this for 18 more years. And I set it to the lead teacher and I said it to a random mom that I didn't even know. And they were both like, I feel you, it was like this moment of, oh my goodness, this is not gonna work for me. As much as I loved what I was doing, I really wanted to be there for my daughter. , I was fortunate that the company had some special privileges. I mean, it was literally called the mom privilege where we could leave a little early because of daycare, pickups.
Shannon: That's amazing. I haven't heard that at a lot of companies. Like that is really great. I used to have to do the same thing, leave at four to get the 4:35 bus. And I had that guilt every day and I felt like people just looked at me cause there was no [00:06:00] privilege. Because I was high enough up at the time to just say, Hey guys, this is what I'm doing, but it, it took a big toll on just your, your psyche and your emotional, like just guilt of it all.
Alicea: Yeah. They were allowing that. I mean, I'll say that there were definitely. voices from other people in the company that you hear them, that they were talking about, how you leave at four and how you know, it's unfair. And you have to kind of stay strong and say, well, but I also am getting my job done, but I also would go home and do work or I would do work on my commute. Um, but in addition to my very hefty commute, , I was also traveling for work quite extensively. So I had heavy travel periods where I would be gone Monday through Friday. Which was really hard because I remember, oh my gosh, Shannon, I missed my daughter's first Halloween where she could walk. And I remember at the time thinking she's not gonna remember [00:07:00] it. She'll be fine. I have to go to San Francisco. and then I got the videos of her. It still makes me like upset because she could actually walk, she could walk up to the door and ask and it was like, Oh, my gosh, I'm missing that. And it was this gut wrenching moment where it was like, this isn't what I want, you know, how do I fix this? That was also about the same time where I had the other moment where I got a call from daycare and I was working in Manhattan and I got a call from daycare that she was sick, but the bus schedule was such that I had to wait like two hours for the next bus. So it was almost like that action moment where you're like, okay, I know that I can't keep doing this, but what can I do? And where can I. And I was actually on the bus going to pick her up to take her to the doctor when I was like, oh, wait. I have some skills that could help people like new moms. Like maybe, maybe I could help them breastfeed because I've [00:08:00] been breastfeeding and I've been doing it while traveling and doing it while commuting. And there are a lot of people like me who probably want some help and they want somebody who's positive and like a cheerleader, like maybe I could do that. , and on that bus trip, I was Googling and found out that there was a certification that was internationally recognized and lucky for me, I had a health science degree because that was actually one of the prerequisites. So while, while keeping my job in fashion, , I was able to find a program that was online. So instead of loading my commute and thinking it was a waste of time, I started utilizing that time to take classes online. So I would have my iPad and I would, as soon as I got on the bus, set it up and just start taking my online course. So I would get through as much as I could on the commute. And basically I was able to get through the 94 hours of coursework and about six months. So I actually felt like I was not wasting time, but I was, I had like this nice quiet time where I could really [00:09:00] study.
Shannon: So smart because at home you don't have that time as much because you have the kids there and you have your regular house duties. So that's actually really, really smart too, to utilize that time that otherwise it's just waiting.
Alicea: Exactly. I mean, what was I going to do? I was going to either listen to music or play like angry birds, you know, so what's a better use of my time at that point. It was to totally study. I'm so glad that. I recognize that at the time. , because it was very helpful. I wouldn't have been able to complete the coursework at all without having that nice alone time where I could focus.
Shannon: And you were motivated. I bet, because you knew that there was this other passion, this other career you were working towards. So your motivation is there and that helps a lot to make you stick with it. But during that. time, you were also pregnant with your son.
Alicea: Yes. And he was kind of when I got pregnant with him, that was when. Well at the coursework. I mean, it wasn't inexpensive to do, but I was like, okay, I'm doing this because now we have to, and there's no way I can, I can keep doing this. Like I just knew. You know [00:10:00] what, maybe I could have kept doing it, but I didn't want to, I didn't want to lose all this time with my kids. So it was a choice of, you know, what my career has been great. I accomplished so much and I'm so proud of what I've done, but now I really want to be part of their lives too. And not. You know, those precious moments, like the first Halloween where they can walk and actually trick or treat like I'm not doing that again, you know? because I was really tough.
Shannon: So you finished your coursework, you have your son, and when do you actually make that decision to leave work and start this.
Alicea: I mean, it's not an easy one. I was very lucky that my husband was super supportive, , because I needed that, because when you do make that decision to walk away from a position, You are going to take, you're not going to have salary for a while. You're not going to have, who knows how long it's going to take for your business to actually take off. So the financial burden, you know, you have to kind of think and plan for that. And then COVID hit and [00:11:00] it was kind of this catalyst of events where fashion took a pretty big hit, you know, one of my major accounts declared bankruptcy. , it was my account. And so when that started happening, I was like, okay, Let's see if I have a job in a couple of weeks because, , they're pulling out of orders, you know, so all of a sudden the money that I had worked to secure an orders was disappearing. , you kind of see the writing on the wall, I guess, in a sense, but for me, I think it was a good thing because I think any hesitation I might've had. Disappeared at that point. And then they did lay off a significant amount of the company. So in doing that. You know, it released me from feeling any regret. But it was great because then I was like, well, now I can jump right into this and again, it was in the middle of the pandemic prior to the vaccines. And I was like, yeah, let's jump right into this hospital internship. So that's what I did.
Shannon: It was a sign. If you think about it.
Alicea: was a [00:12:00] sign. Yeah. The doors kind of aligned with both. My career changes. And I don't know how this happened this way, but they aligned nicely and it made it so that, you know, yes. Did I have like words in the back of my head saying, wow, this, this is a big decision, are you sure you want to do this? Those voices didn't stick around very long.
So it's kind of like you have these doubts. The positives are louder than the doubts. So you just keep following like those good optimistic voices. , and that's, I think what carries you through, , it doesn't mean that the kind of dealt full ones aren't there. It's just, they're not as loud.
Shannon: Good advice. That's so true. And so you just said, okay, well, I'm going to go full force into this internship, going into hospitals during the height of COVID
Alicea: Yes. And it was the most amazing experience. I mean, and this, I guess kind of sealed that I had made the right decision because here I am in the hospital, I mean, full COVID precautions. We were double [00:13:00] masked face shielded, going into rooms with moms, like helping them breastfeed. I remember. The last day of my internship, I could not stop crying. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to leave the hospital. And my husband's like, you're not getting paid for this. But it was just really, I loved what I was doing. So that kind of also sealed that, Hey, I'm doing the right thing. After that I received my certification, and I already, in the meantime had started building my website, building my Instagram, , thinking about like how I wanted to come across as a brand. So I started working on that. , although I will say it wasn't until I really started seeing clients and really started working with my website that I realized is ever evolving. . Like, even though you get your branding rate, your website and the functionality and all of that are ever changing, And I also had people that weren't involved in lactation look at it. I had people that I had men who maybe had really savvy marketing minds, take a look at it, and they gave me really [00:14:00] good advice. I think as many eyes and as much help as you can be open to. I'm like when I came to talk to you, you know, and network with you, it's like we had to use our, you have to use your resources, especially when you're going to be working for yourself and launching a brand or launching a business. , 'cause you need, you need to cast your web really wide. , and that's how you start to gain traction.
Shannon: You probably realize, wow, I do. know a lot of people who know people who know people and the word can get out and you just start to become a little bit more self-confident don't you think?
Alicea: You do. I mean, you it's, it's crazy because there is this imposter syndrome that sneaks up every once in a while. You know, when I first did my outreach to pediatricians, I know a great pediatrician who I could call and talk to. And she gave me really great advice because I was very nervous. You know, it's here I am. Oh my gosh. I'm reaching out to these pediatricians and these OB GYN, but you kind of need to reassure yourself. You've done the steps. You know what you're doing? But the [00:15:00] more you reach out, the more you cast your net, I think you do gain confidence. I got confidence with each console, you know, it just took time and it took, you know, time of having some really great results from consults, you know, and knowing that you're helping people, , to just kind of boost, you
Shannon: So tell us more about the business you built and how it's going now.
Alicea: I do in-home or telehealth, , consultations for lactation, for breastfeeding help. I work with parents to help feed their infants, whether it's breastfeeding or through bottle feeding, , whether it's breast milk or if they're supplementing with formula, , I really work to help parents reach their feeding goal. , breastfeeding specifically. I mean, it's really something that everyone says, oh, you're born to do it. It's something that should come naturally, but it doesn't actually really always come naturally. And so my job now is for women who want to breastfeed, but they're, they're pitting these obstacles. I'm the one who kind of comes in and tries to help them figure out what that [00:16:00] obstacle is. Sometimes it's not obvious what the actual challenge is. And so. You know, it's great. I get to go to people's homes, which is fantastic.
I go to see them, they breastfeed in their natural habitat, if you will. So on the chair that they use every day or the sofa where they always breastfeed, you know, and I think it's helpful because they don't have to leave. And also we're using what they have available. So I don't bring any special pillows. We utilize what they have in the house for positioning and things like that. It's, it's such a rewarding feeling to kind of walk away from a console and a mom or a parent says, wow, You know what? I can already feel the difference, like that position change that just made the whole difference. And now I feel really good. And then there are some dyads where it's a little bit more complicated, but I get to see them multiple times and we work together to kind of put the pieces together, you know, and do the best we can to resolve [00:17:00] the challenge.
Shannon: So you're really impacting these people. You're helping them. You're making these families feel whole and like they can be a parent in the way that they want to. I think that's so rewarding, right?
Alicea: It's, it's really amazing. I definitely. Feel when I walk out of a house and I feel like I've really been a help. It's the best feeling, you know? , and I've done a lot of things in my life, obviously, even in my previous careers, but walking away, knowing that you're helping a family, you know, in one of the most vulnerable points in a parent. Transition, you know, here you are, you're an adult, especially if this is your first child, it's like, it's a crazy transition to become a parent. So if you can kind of go in at this very vulnerable time where there are a lot of doubts, like every parent I think has doubts about how they're doing and really just give them reassurance and help them and give them encouragement. , it's a really great feeling.
Shannon: Let's go back to, you know, your first career, your second career, your now [00:18:00] present career. Do you think there's some kind of a lineage between it, some kind of a tie or a thread that kind of links all of them together?
Alicea: I definitely think that I love to, I guess, educate in a sense, because , in my first career coming out of college. I worked in campus recreation programs where I was working with college kids, running all of the, workout programs, the group fitness classes, but then I went into sales in a showroom, but I worked with specifically luxury products. So a luxury product, like a $4,000 sweater doesn't sell itself, hanging at Neiman Marcus. I have to go in. I have to educate, you know, the sales associates on why is this sweater $4,000? Because if they can't tell the consumer why it's $4,000, it's probably not going to sell.
So I did a lot of education actually. When I traveled for the sales associates in the stores, so that they were [00:19:00] empowered to sell the product. And now I do a lot of counseling and education, you know, but now it's like breastfeeding specific. So I think in that way, I empowered people throughout the way and educated them throughout the way. , just different topics.
Shannon: I love that. That's a really great correlation between everything that you've done up until now. Okay, here's a question for you. I bet you, a lot of people have asked you how you made the transition from working in high-end fashion in New York City to working with new mothers in the suburbs of New Jersey, you know, how do you respond to people when they kind of are shocked that you could leave one, , Maybe more exciting career for this new one?
Alicea: Absolutely people are like, how can you walk away from that? How can you walk away from the brands that you worked for? Like you used to get free clothes and yes, part of my compensation were absolutely gorgeous garments that I would otherwise not be purchasing, and I still have those garments and I [00:20:00] love them and I will keep wearing them. However, it doesn't have the same value is watching my children grow up. So I loved what I did and when 17 years was great and yes, I have beautiful clothes from it. And I've beautiful memories too. I mean, I got to do events that were over the top. Fantastic. , I worked with many famous designers, , and I got to be in meetings with them and work with them. That was amazing experience for me. However, Now my children kind of hold, you know, that pedestal for me. And that's really what I want to focus on. So I think the transition from kind of wearing designer clothes to wearing scrubs, , is easier because my goal, my end goal was really to spend more time with my children.
Shannon: Kids change everything. That's for sure.
Alicea: If I didn't have children, I probably wouldn't have left fashion, you know, because it was great and I did enjoy it, but kids definitely change the way you look at things and [00:21:00] change what your priorities are, you know, and some, and it's okay if people still have their career where they're traveling a lot, some people choose that and that's what they want. And that's great, but I knew. That I really wanted to be home more that I wanted to be the one at elementary pickup, you know, and have her run out the doors and hug me and, and that's what's happening now, you know? And I wouldn't have had that if I stayed commuting two hours each way, and I think that's something that when you're looking at your career, You have to kind of look at what are my priorities right now, then if you decide that you really want to spend more moments with your children, then that's when you start having those aha moments of, well, what else could I do? And choosing the pathway that compliments you. You know, you still have to be able to make a living. Most likely, you know, most of us still want to bring in some income, so making sure it's appropriate for that. But yeah, your priorities changed. So , , it made it easy for me to move away from [00:22:00] passion and do something different.
Shannon: I thousand percent agree. And I feel like I always tell them. But, you know, going from the entertainment industry, into being a small business owner, and now doing this, I feel like I am still that person. I can still go back to producing a television show any day I want. And you can still go back to the fashion industry and do sales for these brands. You still have that skills. You're still that person. Yeah. But your priority changed. She found something else that you love and that brings income and provides for the family. So you have choices, you just made a choice to try something different. but you could still go back to that at any time. And I feel like that kind of helps. to know that you can still do that, and even if you decide never to those memories of those experiences and those amazing famous people that you met, you're always going to have those stories to share with your children and it's part of you.
Alicea: Yeah, completely. And you kind of always go back. I mean, I guess that's the glory of like a second or third act or a fourth act. I mean, [00:23:00] there is no limit on how you can kind of evolve within adulthood and within your career. So you could always go back. You could always do something incorporates both, there are always options. And I think sometimes it feels like maybe there aren't any, like, fashion felt very specific after being in it for very long, but really there are a ton of skills that I was able to extract out of that and apply to what I'm doing now or apply to something different if I chose to go that way. It's very interesting how you can. Look at what you've done. And if you don't look at, at it for the specific skill set, but the larger skillset, the bigger picture of skillset, you actually can transfer those skills to a lot of different things.
Shannon: It's kind of a part of being a lifelong learner. You know what, maybe a year from now you'll want to try something else, you know, it all want to try something else. You just, you're a lifelong learner. You're always trying something new. And I think that's what keeps everything kind of exciting.
Shannon: All right. It's [00:24:00] time for our Five Fast Qs of the week. Here we go.
Name one thing that these different chapters in your life have taught you.
Alicea: I think these different chapters have taught me that I'm adaptable, I can evolve to whatever I decide. I want to evolve to that. You know, there aren't really limits on that. I mean, fashion to lactation consultant, it's a really crazy type of transition, but I was able to do it, , and be successful. So I think I just showed me that I can evolve in any way.
Shannon: Would you recommend taking a leap into a big life change to your best friend?
Alicea: Yes. And I have suggested my friends make a big life change, you know, in similar situations that I was in, where it was like, okay, They want to be home more and maybe what they are doing right then wasn't fulfilling. And then it's like, but you're really good at this. Could you do this? [00:25:00] Could you start doing, you know, a certain job on the side at first, and then when you feel more confident making the big leap of moving away from your, your paid career and then doing, you know, your own business. So I have actually suggested that to people.
Shannon: What is one piece of advice that you would give someone starting their second act today?
Alicea: Make a plan. Make your career change, like your side hustle first. So like dabble in it, make sure because once you cut the cord, yes, you can go back. But like, you don't want to go back a month later. You want to go back years later cause you're ready to go back. So I would say make your potential second act your side home. First dabble in it, you know, volunteer in it, do whatever you can to kind of get exposure to it. And then when you feel secure, that that is your second act, then make more moves. And also, you know, investing in, I was very lucky [00:26:00] because there is a. IBCLC who's based actually in Queens. And she developed this amazing it's online, but it's almost like a workbook for private practice IBCLCs and how to set up your business. And I actually purchased it prior to even getting my certification. So I guess I was all in, even before I got certified, , I purchased it and it had so much on how to build your business because really. You know, even though I have a business background, building a business from scratch is it's a lot of logistics. It's a lot of paperwork. , and some of it can be quite overwhelming. So if you have resources like that, that you can kind of invest in so that you can get your business in a really solid foundation, it only helps as your business grows, because then you feel like your footing is solid and you can just keep growing.
Shannon: What is next for you? Do you think there's another chapter after this? Or do you think this is what you want to do moving forward?
Alicea: Right now. This is definitely the [00:27:00] chapter moving forward. , I think if anything, I would maybe say scale, well, my business have contractors, things like that right now. I'm very happy. Just kind of being a one man show, um, you know, and figuring out that. But my business has grown, which is super exciting and it kind of happened very quickly. And then all of a sudden it kind of exploded. And luckily I had put in some groundwork when it was slow, so I was able to scale pretty rapidly, , which I would definitely. Advise anyone that when you're looking at your business, don't only think small when you set up think like where you want to go
Shannon: Alright. So where can our audience connect with?
Alicea: I have a website which is www.flourishfeedingbabies.com. I also have an Instagram and a Facebook of the same name, flourishfeedingbabies.com. So any information on on my business is there.
Shannon: Your story is so inspiring. Alicia, thank you for sharing [00:28:00] it. I am so happy that you found what you're looking for and I'm so happy that we can be friends on this business, adventure together. , you can learn more about Lisa and her business again at flourishfeedingbabies.com.
Alicea: Awesome. Thank you Shannon for havingme.
Shannon: Thank you.
Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to second act success. To view, show notes from this episode, recommend to guests with a great story and learn more about us. Visit second X success.co. Before you go, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. And if you are enjoying our time together, please leave a review in apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is second act success.
To learn more about the show visit http://www.secondactsuccess.co, and please subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode.
If you would like to share your story with our listeners or recommend a guest for the show, please email email@example.com.
Connect with our host Shannon Russell and the Second Act Success Team:
More about this Episode: