How I Left the Grind and Started My Business

Back in 2011, I was sitting in my cubicle, working for an insurance agent and fielding calls for people wanting quotes on plans. I was miserable. But a girl has got to pay her bills, so day after day, I was grateful to have a job in the post-Great Recession employment desert.

I had gotten my bachelor’s degree in Advertising and PR a couple years before but there were zero opportunities for a position doing what I was qualified to do. In fact, for an entire year, I was unemployed. I applied to job after job in my area of education and not one even called me in for interview. Not one.

I got desperate and finally was hired to work for our local Welfare department and eventually an insurance agency. For someone like me, with an exhausting level of creativity, it was soul-defeating. But, like most of us having survived the years of economic downturn, we did just that – Survived.

WHY A DEGREE IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY

It took seeing an article in a local publication featuring 20 outstanding people under 40 years old that were making great strides in our city, for me to start thinking. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? On that fateful day, I took a big leap of faith and blindly called up one of the women featured in the magazine. Her name was Nikki Davis and that call changed both of our lives.

WHY A BUSINESS PARTNER IS AS IMPORTANT AS A SPOUSE

She had been in a similar soul-sucking job but rather than grinding it out day after day, she decided to pursue wedding photography and didn’t just stop there. She went on to establish the first wedding vendor network of its kind in our city so that those with full time wedding businesses and those part-time could gather together and build relationships. She had also started one of the premier wedding shows in our area.

I couldn’t believe she not only called me back, but she listened to my aspirations, my doubts and encouraged me to come to one of the meetings to meet like-minded people.

HOW TO FIND A CHAMPION

That meeting was the spark that lit my fire. I realized I didn’t have to wait for a job opportunity doing what I loved, I could start creating it now. I did my first wedding show and poured myself into creating a booth that reflected what I could do. I look back at that tiny booth and see how far I’ve come in my design skills and presentation but that booth got me my first clients for both weddings and a non-profit gala.

HOW TO ROCK YOUR BOOTH & WIN CLIENTS

Realizing that people wanted what I offered was so empowering. It was just what I needed to kick my side business off and start marketing myself in earnest. I created a website and actively started participating in our wedding network. I built relationships with clients but more importantly with other vendors. All I needed was a little encouragement and a little grit to start growing my dreams.

HOW TO BUILD YOUR FIRST WEBSITE & START BOOKING CLIENTS

As I got more events under my belt, I promoted those and eventually landed a job with a local non-profit organization assisting with their fundraising events. I had finally found my niche and learned everything I could about event production, fundraising and creating an experience to further my organization’s goals. All the while, I continued marketing my services and bringing on more clients that I worked for in my time off.

A couple years into my side business, I became pregnant with our 2nd child. While I loved my day-job, I longed for more time with my daughter. Now, with a second one on the way, I started looking really hard at my business numbers and what it would take to replace my full-time income. After weighing costs and coming up with a formula for making a consistent percentage off each event, I came up with a figure that I needed. Then I came up with the figure I wanted.

HOW TO PRICE YOUR SERVICES

I went to work to make it happen. I participated in every wedding show available in our area and budgeted a set amount to market myself on social media. I made sure my branding and most importantly, photographs of my work, were up and ready for viewing. I invited other vendor friends to participate in branding photoshoots I produced and harnessed the power of cross-promotion. I submitted my work to both national and local publications. I hustled and shared and created. In the words of my friend Nikki, “If you are not in the news, be the news.”

HOW TO PRODUCE YOUR OWN PHOTOSHOOT FOR BRANDING

HOW TO GET FEATURED IN PUBLICATIONS

To be in charge of my own destiny and going after my goals was a high I had never allowed myself the opportunity to have. Yes, there were moments of doubt and inevitable feelings of “imposter syndrome” that creeped in. Thankfully, I had people in my corner and a deep well of conviction that I was doing what I was made to do.

HOW TO FIGHT IMPOSTER SYNDROME

I will never forget when I booked the event that met my goal. I was euphoric. By setting a clear goal and chipping away at it bit by bit I not only met my financial needs, I actually exceeded them. And every year I grew. I expanded my wedding design business into contracting with non-profits to develop and produce fundraising events and campaigns. With each event, new client, and participant, word of mouth spread and I received more opportunities to bid on community events and get bigger clients.

Realizing that I could make money in the way I wanted freed me to look at other business opportunities and know that I could apply those same skills and determination. Without that little moment of bravery and gumption to squash my self-doubts I never would be the person I am today. Striking out takes guts but the life you can create from it makes it all worth it.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A WEDDING DESIGNER

SO YOU WANT TO BE AN EVENT COORDINATOR

HOW TO CREATE AN AMAZING FUNDRAISER

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