When she moved to Seattle 15 years ago after years of working in the insurance industry, Tricia Sullivan had a dream. She planned to open a holistic café where people could learn meditation and healing arts. Her larger vision was of a “massive global awakening” in which “hunger, poverty, war, violence, injustice or greed” would end.
Waiting for a loan to fund that dream, she started work as a manager at the Space Needle and then worked at Starbucks corporate headquarters. Finally she quit, took her savings, and opened Café Reiki in Ballard. “They say, ‘Don’t die without the music in you,’ ” she said.
Unfortunately, she had ignored the “golden rule” of having enough capital for two years. The café closed. Tricia was heartbroken. She could have gone back to her family or slept on people’s couches, but, “I had too much pride to do that,” she said.
Tricia lived in a shelter for three months. Though she sent out more than 300 résumés, “I didn’t have the motivation to get another corporate job,” she said.
Tricia realized she had to get out of the shelter. “I couldn’t wait for second interviews and drug testing. Real Change was the only thing I could think of that you could have income immediately.”
“I went up on Capitol Hill, and I was like a living, breathing statue. Nobody even had eye contact with me.”
Real Change Vendor Services Field Organizer Neil Lampi was “kind of a spiritual mentor” by helping her understand how to make it as a vendor, she said. Tricia started selling at Zeitgeist, a coffee shop in Pioneer Square. “That place is such a good fit. I want to thank all my customers and the staff.”
Still, it wasn’t easy. “I remember wondering if I would ever sell a paper. Slowly but surely I would get a dollar here and a dollar there.” Finally, she and her customers got to know each other. “Now they are people I adore.”
The money Tricia makes barely covers her rent. “But at the end of the day I have a place to lay my head.” Her goal is to get enough money together to “focus on my next career move.”
That move won’t be back to the corporate world. “I have a good résumé; I could get a job in an office,” she said. But she still believes in a new paradigm in which there would be no homelessness or inequality. “The problem, it’s so easily solved. Be kind, be honest and be [loving].” She sees the end of the Mayan calendar, Dec. 21, as marking the tipping point when the old paradigm of greed will collapse, and the new paradigm will unfold.
Real Change would be part of this. “It’s a business with purpose, aiming to end suffering.”
Meanwhile, “I feel like I’m supposed to be a light on that corner [at Zeitgeist]. I stand in the rain, and I get that really great exchange with someone. It sounds corny, and I really don’t talk about it, but that’s my purpose.”