This month, we’re lifting the veil on the consulting business of organizing and the KonMari Method with Cassidy Nasello, a rockstar independent consultant with an interesting angle on consulting who has capitalized on the Marie Kondo craze. She’s turned people’s need for organization – and her passion – into a business. Read on as she explains how her business school, corporate, and startup experience led her down this path.
Jenny Rae: Cassidy, thanks for agreeing to share your fascinating story about your management consulting transition – you moved into an actual management position by building a consulting firm that’s in a very unusual space related to something we’re all hearing a lot about right now: the Marie Kondo method of cleaning. Really excited to hear about how you got to where you are today.
Jenny Rae: I think the best place to start is at the beginning – and the beginning could be birth and childhood. If you think there’s anything that’s interesting there, please feel free to add that into context. But when I looked at your background, I noticed that you were also a member of the Peace Corps. Talk to me a little bit about how your early life shaped you as a person and a professional.
Peace Corps Experience:
Cassidy: I definitely have a big soft spot for community service – it was a part of my childhood. I had an influential godmother who encouraged service. I was also told by a mentor that life only offered you so many gaps where you can take a leap and do something completely different, and the time after college is one of those gaps – assuming financial constraints are not an issue – that offer a sweet spot time to go explore the world. So, marrying my passion for travel and love for community service, I joined the Peace Corps to go explore the world. But I will say that when I went into the Peace Corps, it was not with the goal of finding my future career – it was about continuing education and life exploration – an opportunity to do something that was relatively selfless (because there is always a selfish aspect of volunteering). It was a chance to do something completely new and different from what I expected the rest of my life to look like.
Jenny Rae: Amazing. Can you just share where you served and what you were focused on when you were there?
Cassidy: Sure. I lived in a remote village in Nicaragua on the Moskito coast, and spoke an indigenous language called Moskito. I lived there for 2 years with very limited resources, no electricity, no running water – hauled my own water and washed my clothes on a washboard. My duty there was focusing on youth development. What does that mean? I was the first volunteer ever to live there. Peace Corps is two years because it takes a year to figure it out – including who you can trust, which has been a good parallel to any business – and then the second year is about implementation. The grass roots approach makes sense. Had I just rolled in and said, “You need a library,” it wouldn’t have been what they needed. They needed sex education, and information about viruses and bacteria, how to prevent Malaria and Dengue fever. So that’s really where I focused my efforts – what would resonate with people there so they could continue the practices after my departure.
Jenny Rae: So then, after Peace Corps, what happened next? How did you decide what you were going to do post-Peace Corps?
Sales & Corporate Background:
Cassidy: To take a step back, I always had a self-driven, results-driven background, so the Peace Corps was sort of a weird diversion. Before that, I had a real thrill from selling CutCo knives in high school and college – selling by referral, from friends, and friends of friends. I was extremely successful. It was relationship building, figuring out points of friction, resolving them, and making a sale. I loved it.
I could build my hours around key planning times of the day (this was my priority in high school – weird!). So that’s a little side note, but just to say, when I returned from the Peace Corps, I was doing one of the “what kind of career you want to be in?” surveys. It kept coming back to working directly with people, and so when I decided I wanted to be in the sales space, I uncovered my passion for publishing and media and magazines. New York City was the hotspot for all of that, so that’s where I looked. I reached out to a company who was doing advertising sales for Outside magazine, and applied. They were an outsourced company for Outside Magazine. My experience was good and I was very successful at selling ads – so much so that I was ultimately pulled in-house at Outside Magazine because I wasn’t paid commission. It was a Negotiating 101 failure – I was 23, after all.
I went to my boss and asked for commission, and he told me to get lost because I was just a kid. So, I went to the publisher of Outside Magazine and told them that my boss didn’t want to pay me, so I was going to leave. He said, “I’ll make a spot for you here at the company.” So, that was the beginning of my career in ad sales. After Outside Magazine, I went over to Conde Nast to Gourmet Magazine. I went to AMEX at Travel and Leisure, then the New Yorker, and then the Atlantic. I had a good run, and worked at some big names. It was at the height of print ad sales, which of course sounds archaic now. It couldn’t have been more fun, set against the backdrop of Manhattan.
Jenny Rae: At what point did you begin to think that there may be a transition for you post publishing media and mags, because like you said, you had a great run, and you worked for all of these amazing brands. But you also seem like somebody who cultivates ambition wherever you are. So what was next for you and how’d you figure that out?
Cassidy: I kind of hit my stride. I worked at my all-time favorite publications, I learned digital, because that’s where things were going. But then the sale became less and less relationship driven – it was more about clicks and impressions, engagement – and I was able to express my creativity through custom content I was pitching to clients, focusing on how to integrate them more authentically into the content. I guess I was feeling like I had peaked, and it kept feeling like – same job, different website. It was disenchanting – the next level was in the management side of things. An entrepreneurial spirit was in me, but didn’t know how to express that and what that would look like. That was the point where I said, “I want to explore business school as an opportunity to be exposed to other careers out there.” I was just on this ladder-climbing, one-track, tunnel vision path and it was a chance for me to see what else was going on in the world.
Columbia Business School:
Jenny Rae: Tell me about how you decided where to go to business school and also what two to three of the key takeaways from business school were for you?
Cassidy: Sure. No-one can deny that Columbia is incredibly prestigious, and is well-known for a great Executive MBA program. I also wanted to (and financially needed to) work – and wanted to be surrounded by people who were working presently at the time. It was important to be able to relate to my classmates in that realm so we could swap stories and work through issues we were having at work. It fit into my schedule, it checked all the boxes for diversity – I thought at first glance it would be just a bunch of people trying to further their career in finance, but that turned out not to be the case. In terms of takeaways – it was stepping out of my comfort zone, like the Peace Corps all over again. I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t have a finance background, and wanted to face the music on things I had gotten away without knowing but needed to know. In addition to stepping out of my comfort zone, people came from all sorts of jobs, and they all had similar struggles. Despite where they were and how much money they were making, they all had a similar feeling – feeling stuck. It was nice to discover that we were all trying to thrive and excel in our own respective worlds.
Jenny Rae: Love it. Well, I segmented out – and you’ll have to make sure that the timeline is right here – the next season for you – the in-house role at Wanderlust, when you were doing more of a strategy and media role. Can you talk a little bit about that – when that happened and also why that was a good next step for you before starting your Marie Kondo consultancy?
Cassidy: Absolutely. So, I was excited to try something new but knew I wanted to keep a foot in the world I was comfortable in. It was an opportunity for me to have more of a creative role at a higher level within a startup division of a larger company called Wanderlust. They are known for their large-scale yoga festivals and had flirted with media – they had a website that was largely article-based. They wanted to see how they could better monetize that side of the business knowing that their bread and butter was ticket sales at their events. This was soon after business school, and it was an opportunity for me to step off the track I had been on. It was also an opportunity for me to get in and build something from the ground up within a company.
I was hired at the same time as a new CFO, and it was an opportunity to have a mentor. It was the wild west when I got there – I learned a ton – not just about media and building the business model, but navigating internal politics and challenges, working with a highly involved CEO, being responsible for how the board might react to a business plan. It was really exciting and a huge learning curve for me. Definitely stressful, in that I was pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and felt entirely responsible for something in a way that I hadn’t before. I had always had one or two people ahead or above me on the totem pole, but now it fell on me to make it successful. It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit for what I was looking for after business school.
Transitioning to Marie Kondo Consultant:
Jenny Rae: Well, we could definitely keep going there, but it’s probably time to talk about the real core of what we want to hear about. Naturally, I’m interested in your journey into consulting. The type of consulting that you do is different and special and unique in a way that I think will resonate with a lot of people. So, can you talk a little bit about FELT – the idea behind it, how you came across the idea, and what you’re doing with it now?
Cassidy: Sure. So, this is where we take a huge step back to my childhood. Before selling knives, I loved organizing things. I loved setting things up. I loved making things aesthetically beautiful. Not to mention that I was raised by two psychiatrists. I love to decorate, I love to organize, my parents were psychiatrists, and I loved sales and closing a deal. So I asked myself, “How am I going to pull this into a career?” It wasn’t that calculated, it just sort of was a hindsight realization, but when I was ending my time at Wanderlust, they had made a huge internal strategic shift that was no longer focused on media. I was laid off as well as my whole department – I had a little bit of runway to figure out what I wanted to do, but I also had a big pill to swallow.
Marie Kondo and the KonMarie Method:
Cassidy: I’d had a great job, it was sexy and I had been there almost two years. It wasn’t a surprise, but it also was, because I had controlled every move in my career except for that one. It was a big wake-up call and a chance to take a big assessment of what I wanted to do. I flirted with going back into a traditional sales role within a website, but I wasn’t excited by anything I was seeing. I knew it was worth listening to myself when I was hoping people wouldn’t call me back – that’s when I was like, “Wait a minute, something else is going on.” At the same time, I was on Marie Kondo’s newsletter. She is Japanese and had created the KonMari Method of organizing. She was coming to New York to certify people to become certified KonMari Method consultants. I remember thinking, “I don’t even know what this means,” but I had a flashback to the same excitement I felt when I saw the flyer in my town saying, “Come be a Cutco consultant” and my response was, “I can do that.” It was that same kind of excitement. And so I thought, “I can be a KonMari Method consultant. I don’t know what that is, but I know I can do it.”
Actually I went in almost a little tongue and cheek, and I completely fell in love with Marie Kondo – as most of the world is now – and just how simple and brilliant her approach to organizing is. I knew I could totally evangelize it and turn it into a great business. So I left the 3-day seminar feeling completely inspired – drew up my logo and business plan within 1 week, and my website within the next month. The rest is history – now I have a thriving business in the world of professional organizing. If you would have told me two years ago that I would be doing this, I would have told you you were insane. But here I am, talking to you about it.
Marie Kondo – the Person:
Jenny Rae: You said that you found it simple, straightforward, compelling – but can you remember anything in particular about your interaction with Marie Kondo that was unique? Was it just the method that was empowering or was it something about her process or her relationships that also fed into that?
Cassidy: Sure. I would say it’s 70/30. 70% of what influenced me was the method, and 30% was her. I had been influenced by her method when I was in business school, and I was pregnant, and working full time – by the way, I would not recommend getting pregnant while in business school and working full time, but it happened, and we have a beautiful 4-year-old now – but, so, I was in nesting mode and just thinking, “I have so much stuff, and I don’t know why, and now I have to fit another person into this apartment.” l had treated that book like the Bible – I took it very literally, and took it through the process step by step. She was not a household name, but the method had really resonated with me because it’s so simple. When I did meet with her, I was all in. I was already sipping on the Kool-Aid, and then I was struck when I met her. There is a peacefulness about her – she is gentle but firm, and that is how I work with my clients. She has an incredible level of charisma that is to be respected.
The Mechanics of Transition:
Jenny Rae: You made it sound very easy. You know, you got inspired by the Marie Kondo method, you go to the training and then you wake up after building a website and you have a successful business a year later. But I know that there are a few more mechanics in there, and so for everybody else who’s thinking I have a passion or I have something else that could be really interesting as a consulting business, what do you think are two or three keys to your success in turning an idea into an actual consulting business?
Cassidy: I learned in business school that I am risk averse. I do not like taking risk, I do not like putting too much financial skin in the game, and what I liked about this business is that it was very minimal overhead. This was an opportunity for me to take a big emotional risk – stepping outside my ego, my comfort zone, and the board room backdrop I had always imagined in my life, and there was a financial constraint because my salary was going from “X” to “X minus a lot” – but it was predictable.
What I really gave up was the right to brag on my resume about what I was doing. The decision was easy. The work was hard. But I have a lot of grit, and a lot of hustle. I had that in me from sales, from selling knives, I know how to network, I know how to make connections. I was laser focused, and when something is burning inside of you, failure is not even an option. It wasn’t like I was launching a widget that could hit or miss – the brand is myself, and so I trusted enough in myself to make the right connections that led to other connections – but my biggest challenge is patience.
I have a lot of hustle, but people need to take time to make the decision to invest thousands of dollars to organize their lives and ultimately change their lifestyle. It’s a big decision my clients have, so it’s not a quick turnaround. I just had to remember that as I was building, the fruits of my labor would come – and I’m seeing that now. They are starting to come through – and I’m very grateful for Netflix and for Marie Kondo – that accelerated the process. But even without Netflix and her new show, maybe it would have been 30% slower, but I am confident I still would have been seeing incredible return on my efforts.
Jenny Rae: Amazing. Just as an aside, I remember you telling me about the method that you used and you really had to describe it to me. It was the first time that I had heard about it, and that was only a year ago. And now I don’t know of many people who haven’t heard of Marie Kondo.
Marie Kondo on SNL:
Cassidy: She has made it into an SNL skit, so, when that happened, you know she’s made it.
Related: See Marie help Jimmy Kimmel tidy up!
Recommendation For Early in Career:
Jenny Rae: Absolutely, yes it is! So, I have one final question and then two follow-ups. I’m going to do the sub questions first because I think they’re kind of interesting. What is one recommendation you have for someone early in their career? If they want to do what you’re doing now with the Marie Kondo Method, but they’re early in their career, what would you recommend be skills that they build, places they go to work or things they should work on personally.
Cassidy: I would say don’t feel like your career is defined by your initial job title or even the department you are working in. Get to know everyone in the company – people who are working in all different departments. Ask people to go to coffee, ask them what they do, see what else is out there – it’s really a matter of exposing yourself to all kinds of careers. And do your best to fine tune your sales skills – I don’t care if you want to go into sales or not…those are skills that will carry you into any career and build up confident muscles in getting deals done, if you want to get deals done, or in building a business quietly behind the scenes – it will always serve you.
Recommendation For Those Thinking of Starting Their Own Business:
Jenny Rae: Absolutely. Now, for somebody in a different stage – a lot of people come to us if they are thinking about starting their own consulting business. Sometimes they have a passion, and sometimes they have been consultants. So, for someone thinking about taking a risk to start their own consulting business – do you have any recommendations for them?
Cassidy: I would say, trust yourself to the core in terms of the value you have to offer. Initially you are building a brand based on you and what resonates with you, so try to crystallize what resonates with you and where your biggest passion is. It sounds so oversimplified, but I could talk all day ad nauseam about the work I do with clients because I am so passionate about it. I wouldn’t try to be a jack of all trades initially. You can always expand from there, but start focused and small.
Jenny Rae: That’s awesome. Okay, finally, you are a consultant with FELT. What would you say have been some of the most surprising and delightful takeaways you’ve gotten from moving into a space where you are invited into people’s lives and asked to make a difference? What are the key takeaways you’ve discovered?
Cassidy: I’m always reminded not to assume how a client is going to behave. It’s hard not to walk in with certain perceptions or misconceptions – all that I need to know is that they called me for a reason. They called me because they want change, and that’s really enough. I learned quickly to meet them where they are in their journey – I have to ask them first what success looks like for them. In my world, someone might want to reduce their clutter by 10% – whereas I think it should be 50% – so just asking what success looks like to them before we begin our work together really helps.
Jenny Rae: Is there anything final you’d like to share with our global community of consultants, pre-consultants, business people, and independent consultants?
Cassidy: Don’t wait for the perfect time to make a change. Any career change – anything you do entrepreneurially – it’s going to be a bit messy, no matter what it is. I have the habit of biting off more than I can chew, but maybe I actually thrive in a little bit of chaos. Don’t say, “I want to wait until I get married or until I have my first kid to start a business” – whatever life stage you think is perfect for starting a business, just know it’s going to be messy no matter what. Make sure the passion is there, because it is going to be a ton of work, but if you have the passion it will take you through any storm.
Jenny Rae: Cassidy, thank you so much for all of your insights. Once again, this is Cassidy Nasello with FELT – a Marie Kondo Consultant – in the New York/New Jersey area. Make sure you check out what they have to offer!