Originally from Romania, Iulia Bejan moved to the United States only 9 years ago. She always planned on being her own boss someday. Being an entrepreneur runs in the family, she says. The first 2 years she was here earning an MBA in New York. After graduating she moved to Seattle but due to the financial crisis it took her a while to get a full-time job. After 7 months she finally got a job at Amazon. She worked at Amazon for 4 years as a category manager who was responsible for certain product categories at what they call the market place, or the third party business. It was a mix of product development, marketing, project management and a lot of data analysis.
She summarized her experience during the job search and what she’s learned from it in a book that she wrote called ‘Practicing Persistence – A True Job Search Story’ and it’s available from Amazon (of course). The whole process was really hard, but she kept going and in the end it happened. It was scary to leave her career and follow her dream, but the reward will be worth it. That’s why she wanted to share this story with people she may never meet face to face; to give them hope and let them know that if you keep going you will get there.
The idea of starting a social space to bring people together came when she was working in Africa. She had a lot of time to think, read and just spend time by herself so she started thinking about what she wanted to do long-term. That’s when she started writing two lists. One with the things she likes doing and one with the things she’s good at. She enjoys people and having conversations, so she thought about opening a bar one day.
Now 9 years later she’s worked out the whole idea. The name of the bar will be Connect Lounge and it will be a place to meet new people and enjoy a place that feels like home. The main concept is to connect people. This will be encouraged in several ways like conversation starters, communal tables and phone free happy hours. Iulia will serve drinks and appetizers with some Romanian food as well. She is still looking for a place to start the bar in the Belltown area in Seattle. This area is close to downtown and the financial district, so she’s really targeting working professionals for an after-work drink.
Iulia found out about Business Impact NW when she was looking for a loan. None of the banks she approached wanted to give her a loan but one bank did connect her with Business Impact NW. She got in contact with Domonique and sent her all the documentation to see if she could get approved for a loan. Iulia was pre-approved for a loan and once she has signed a lease agreement she’ll receive it.
Connect Lounge also participated in the Impact Pitch in 2016. Although she didn’t win, her pitch was still number one in terms of votes from the community. That’s why Steve, her mentor, suggested launching a Kickstarter campaign where she successfully collected more than her goal of $15,000. The marketing aspect of the Kickstarter campaign was very effective and allowed more people to get to know about the business.
We hope Iulia will find a place soon so everybody can finally get to know about her fantastic bartending skills and hospitality and connect with new people.