It was 2015. My youngest was 2 months old. At this time, for those of you who are new around here, my full time business was wedding photography and teaching business to creatives. I was also doing some freelance work writing business articles for a magazine. Jenny happened to be the graphic designer for this same magazine, which is how we first met. I had an upcoming speaking engagement and had reached out to Jenny to do some design work for me. We started talking as she had since left the magazine and was working to start up her own graphic design business. I told her a goal of mine was to one day write a book. She started talking about how one day she dreamed of creating a planner and she sent me a page she had mocked up. At that moment a light bulb went off. What if we combine our two ideas and create a tool to help people effectively plan for success in their lives!?!
May of 2015 we were literally across the country with no real plan in place. Again, I had a newborn, so my husband was not really on board with the whole idea. I had busted my booty to build my wedding photography business and he couldn’t understand why I would want to step away from that. I really didn’t know how everything would work out, but I had a vision and I can’t explain it other than I felt called to do this. I felt pulled. Yes, I love photography and I am SO THANKFUL for the people and couples I got to meet, the lessons I learned from being a solo entrepreneur for 7 years, and all the knowledge I was able to carry forward. (I will say that my photography background has really come in handy and been a very important skill to have from a branding/marketing perspective.) Most small businesses have to spend quite a bit of money for product shots and design, but these are two skills that Jenny and I were able to bring to the table.
Okay…so we had this dream of creating a planner. Jenny was a single mom and trying to start her own design business and I had a husband that was not so optimistic. Where would we get the cash to start our business? We just started making lists and taking action on those items to be honest. Jenny got to work on the brand and design while I started snapping a few photos of a black spiral notebook I had received at a church conference (remember my skill was taking pictures). I staged it next to a cup of coffee on a metal desk and sent the image to Jenny. She photoshopped the planner cover that she had designed on it, some metal corners, and an elastic band. Our dream was beginning to take shape. We then took a huge leap of faith and announced our business on social media and email. We announced that we had a great new product and were printing a limited number of half year “beta” planners for 2015 to help us get feedback on the product and gauge interest. We also created a facebook group so that as others used the planner, they could give us feedback. It’s so important to just get something out there for people to use so that you can receive feedback and make it even better. Y’all, we sold out of our beta copies in two days! But remember we didn’t have a planner yet. We took the cash from the pre-orders on the beta copies and fulfilled every order. This was now July of 2015.
At the same time we were already creating and asking for feedback on the 2016 planner in our Facebook group. We ordered a set amount of planners and to be honest, it was way more than we had the ability to sell on our own. Without skipping a beat, we came up with a marketing plan that included pictures and videos, which we used to tell our story and to relate to others.
When I think back I don’t know why I wasn’t afraid of failure when jumping into this. It never crossed my mind that it may not work. My attitude, my decisions, and every part of me knew this was something valuable, that I not only needed in my life, but others needed in theirs as well. We all are really doing the same thing right? Trying to live our best lives and be the best version of ourselves.
Fast forward to October, we were each working two jobs and still had not taken a paycheck from STARTplanner. I was still shooting some weddings and Jenny was still doing design work. I happened to be speaking at a photography conference where Jenny and I got to see each other in person for the first time since we started the company. Being face to face gave us time to talk, think, and dream. As we left the conference, we both knew this is what we were meant to do. I told Jenny if we wanted to make it into a business where we could start paying ourselves, we would need to double the 2016 order that we had just placed. Jenny is not a big risk taker. Jenny is my voice of reason, but she agreed (with a little encouragement) that sometimes you just need to put yourself out there. I believe in calculated risk, but in all honesty, that day I was pumped! I knew we could make it happen, but I remember being concerned about driving us down a path of losing money and sitting on inventory–it was exhilarating and scary at the same time. Let’s talk about that for a moment…we spend money up front to order our product, estimate our projected sales and assign our marketing budget accordingly, then try our darnedest to move inventory. What if nothing sells? Maybe it is the competitive nature in me. Maybe it was because, as I mentioned before, I KNEW we could do it. Maybe it was the comfort that I found in having a business Jenny as a business partner. I felt so much more whole and fearless with her by my side. But we did it, we took the leap and placed the order and by the end of January, we were sold out. A lot of hustle went into making that happen but for me, knowing other people are counting on me is all I need to fire me up and turn it up a notch.
Is there a business you want to start? Something you are wanting to change? Sometimes you just have to believe and take calculated risks.
We are two women who bootstrapped a startup and have now been featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc.com (and honestly I am not stopping here!) I will NEVER lose the passion, and I feel like passion is the heartbeat of our company. So, in 2018, I am reaching even higher! (more on that soon).
Here is when we got our FIRST beta planner in the mail. (Yes, we FaceTimed so we could open it together.)
We ran the business out of my home office and garage until we could afford to have our own space to lease.
The biggest thing I am proud of? Okay well there are three things.
- WE DID IT! Can I get a “hell yeah?!” And yes, my husband is now totally supportive!
- The Facebook community (Be Fancy, Stay Legit and Start Hustlin’) that we started back in 2015 was 250 women and has now grown to 6,000+. That means over 6,000+ women (and a few men! 😉 are pushing to better their lives. It has been so rewarding to connect and meet so many people from across the country and hear their success stories!
- This business has changed Jenny’s life. Jenny was my biggest motivator because she was literally leaning on us and believing in us to put food on the table for her family. I am so proud of her and what she has accomplished and in 2017 she obtained financial freedom!
If you are meant to create. Create. If you are meant to work. Ladies, work! If you believe in something, find people to help you dream. I am a better mom, wife, and friend now that I have a “job” that literally fires me up. I love the challenge, the responsibility, and I am pumped to take steps in 2018 to make us more efficient and continue changing lives with our tools– That is honestly one of the coolest things and I DO feel so lucky!
Let’s hustle friends!