One Man’s Journey From Corporate Life To Creative Passion

By Rachel Brandt
In Culture

I turned onto Sarah Street from Forest Park Avenue and hurriedly parallel-parked into a spot near the CIC@CET building in the Cortex Innovation Community in the Central West End. I was scheduled to interview Vijoy Rao, the creator of recently launched startup Magic Room, and I was running late.

After spending 11 years at a global communications agency, Rao knew it was time for a bold move, so he decided to leave the day‐to‐day of corporate America behind to start a company, write a children’s book, record an album and (if that wasn’t enough) paint. After hearing about his plans, I made it my mission to sit down with him and discover what sparks this kind of change.

Vijoy Rao by Alex Isbell for ALIVE.

Vijoy Rao by Alex Isbell for ALIVE.

“I was in my office at my old job and I was like, ‘Alright, if 9‐year‐old Vijoy walked in here, that kid would kick my butt.’ He would first be upset that I didn’t become a ninja like I wanted when I was 9, but after getting over that he’d be like, ‘What is it that you’re doing?’”

He continues, “I think my dad’s passing last year made me stop, lift my head up and look around and … see where I was and assess the situation. There are always a lot of reasons you make a change—but something like that definitely forces you to think about what it is you’re really supposed to be doing and if you’re doing it,” Rao says.

We’ve heard it before. Something rocks someone to their core and they change their life in a huge way. But, after hearing story after story like this, many of us stay stuck in the same rut. So why do it? Why take such a risk? Rao believes in leaving a legacy and for him, he thinks of his children.

Vijoy Rao by Alex Isbell for ALIVE.

Vijoy Rao by Alex Isbell for ALIVE.

He continues, “My wife, Lesley, and I think that our kids deserve to have interesting parents. It’s a little self‐fulfilling—I get it—but the fact is our kids look at us and hopefully think, ‘They’re more than just Mom and Dad, more than just the people we yell for when we want more Skittles.’ Hopefully they think, ‘He’s a guitar player and a drummer. She’s a runner. He’s a painter. They do all of these things that have nothing to do with us and that’s interesting.’ My dad gave that to his kids and we think our kids deserve it.”

We continued chatting about the album Rao plans to record in the coming year. Rao is a lifelong musician, but he’s recently realized while his passions may have felt disjointed, they actually fit together like the pieces of a puzzle he’s been trying to solve for years. His love for music and art fed into his love for community. Mix that with his business prowess and the result is Magic Room.

Vijoy Rao by Alex Isbell for ALIVE.

Vijoy Rao by Alex Isbell for ALIVE.

“All of my activities and things I’ve been saying ‘yes’ to recently are just an exercise in getting out of my own way. I make a lot of mistakes, of course, but I’m living by an oversimplified philosophy right now and it’s working. Step one: Figure out what needs to be done. Step two: Do it. This is the year of just doing it.”

So Rao got out of his own way and launched Magic Room, a startup e‐commerce brand that combines his love for music, creativity and community. Magic Room designs and delivers premium musician accessories that sound better, last longer, and are eco‐friendly. It’s hard work, it’s scary and it’s new. But Rao knows that following his heart and living a creative life far outweighs the alternative.

With an official launch this summer, you can subscribe now to learn more about the Magic Room brand on magicroombrand.com.

And the next time you want to make a huge life change and follow your passion but are too afraid to do it, remember your inner ninja and that 9‐year‐old kid who’s counting on you.

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