I Tried It: Founding The Seattle Lesbian
Sarah Toce made her dream a reality by starting her own online publication.
As Americans, we want to be successful. We strive to make an impact. We aim for excellence. But no one really talks about what we may ultimately have to give up for the price of passion.
Three years ago I embarked on a path that is cause for pause. I was a corporate business employee with a posh 401k, health benefits, enough money to travel just about anywhere I pleased, and a fairly comfortable existence. I was also feeling extremely unfulfilled...and displeased with the mediocracy—the settling—I had so silently agreed to be a part of.
At this time I was already a published author with a book under my belt and numerous interviews and news pieces out in the world. My phone would ring 2-3 times per week with a different celebrity interview or pitch to entertain. Traveling to L.A. every few months on long weekends to engage with clients and other journalists became "the norm" for me. Yet, still, when it was time to evaluate my heart, something was missing.
In front of me was a distinct choice. I could a) continue doing something that was easy or b) set out on my own and blaze a trail. You know the answer to which option I chose or you wouldn't be reading this editorial right now.
October 13, 2010 is the day I gave birth to my passion project, The Seattle Lesbian. Less than three years later, we now reach global audiences of up to 100,000 per month (in June we skyrocketed to 300,000 in two weeks) and have become a staple in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ad sales are weekly, we've been able to hire journalists and a webmaster, and are regularly featured in mainstream and alternative press.
During this time, two new book invitations would appear before me (both of which I would accept) and awards would follow. My work with national mainstream media would deepen, and the connections I'd come to harness over the years were solidifying. In the process, I'd make some remarkable friends and allies—and lose a few to greed, jealousy and self-important pitfalls that come along with recognition. Some have tried to belittle, insult and insinuate, but they are the minority and easily forgotten. Others have tried to befriend, applaud and imitate—none of it is comfortable in any sense of the word. Getting used to the fame aspect of being in the spotlight has been a difficult adjustment for someone who is usually on the other side of the screen and written word, but it is what it is—and if you accept some of it, you have to accept it all.
Service members in Iraq, mothers in Kansas, community members in small areas all over the United States, and young female entrepreneurs have written me over the years for a sense of comfort, a sense of peace. As we live and breathe, our stories have the ability to impact complete strangers we may never meet. I'm convinced it's both a stressor and a blessing that few will ever understand...including yours truly, though I try.
Let me be clear: starting a business is backbreaking, heartbreaking, breathtaking, and not easily navigated. When everyone around you is telling you, "No, you can't," "No, you shouldn't," "I quit," etc. you either dig your heels in and know you're doing what needs to be done and that it will work out in the end, or you listen—and give up.
I am only here before you today because I never gave up.
On June 30, 2013, I was one of the grand marshals in the Seattle Pride Parade for my work with The Seattle Lesbian. What was especially humbling about that day was the distinct honor that it comes from the community - the very people I created the daily online news magazine for in the first place. To all of you: I was in the parade because of you—and only because of you. And for that, I could not be more grateful than I am today.
Was it divine intervention that I jumped and landed squarely in the center of the life I was born to lead? Or was it a coincidence? You tell me. (And, for the record, there are no coincidences).