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For more than a decade, Wendy Raizin enjoyed the fast-paced financial world of arbitrage trading and investment banking. That was while working for the likes of Oppenheimer & Co. and Wyser-Pratte Management Co. Then, she jumped at the chance to earn an MBA from Oxford University in England and suddenly found pleasure in strolling around, appreciating her surroundings.
"I started to get very interested in architecture and design," she told CNBC.
When she returned to the States and to her job on Wall Street, sitting at a desk and staring at a financial ticker no longer energized her. She said she found herself devouring architectural design magazines while feeling obligated to read financial newspapers. Having no formal training in interior design, she wondered if she would be any good at it or even be able to make a career out of it. To find out, she enrolled in a few classes at Parsons School of Design in New York.
"If I'm terrible at it, then there's no point," she said.
For several years, she diligently trudged to Wall Street during the day while skipping off to design classes on nights and weekends. She found she had a flair for re-fashioning furniture, re-modeling rooms and re-designing buildings. Friends started asking her for help and soon she had a handful of paying clients including a real estate agent who played a key role in Raizin's career switch.
"When people would come to their house for dinner," Raizin said, "they would say, 'Oh I love this! Who did this?' And the calls just started coming in."
After 5 or 6 years of dabbling in design, she decided it was time to finally quit her day job. "It was like a money or freedom thing and I went with the freedom." It was the freedom to pursue a career she was truly passionate about, paid for by the generous salary of the job she was leaving behind.
Her husband was in favor. Her parents—not so much. "You work for an amazing hedge fund," she said her parents told her at the time. "It's an opportunity people would kill for. I mean, how can you give that up?"
But she happily gave it all up in 2002 to start her interior design consulting firm, Raizin Design Group out of her house. Thirteen years later, Raizin has a full time employee who works out of a small boutique office in southern Florida and a slew of trusted architects, craftsman and luxury technology experts whom she calls on to help handle clients across the country including celebrities like Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann. She also continues to expand her own expertise with knowledge of the latest design.
The crowning glory? She said her paycheck is reaching the level of her Wall Street days. But her biggest piece of nuts-and-bolts advice is, "If I could do it over, I would do it sooner."
"I would tell my younger self ... take the leap, have a little faith!"