What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
When I first started Landlocked Bride, I was working for an international advertising agency in account service.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this? How did you turn your dream into a business plan?
I started my business in 2009. Originally I started the blog as a way to keep friends and families in the loop on my own wedding planning experience, but after a few months of writing, I realized there were no blogs that catered to the couple planning a wedding in the middle of the U.S. I began highlighting unique Midwestern vendors and beautiful mountain weddings, teaching the traditional couple that it's okay to buck tradition and make your wedding personal. I reached out to vendors, brides, and other bloggers to develop content for the blog.
As a result, in 2009, I also realized I had a true passion for the wedding industry, something completely unlike the tomboy personality I had as a kid. I realized how important the marriage is in the wedding, and how making things personal helps to make the wedding experience more special. From this, Brit Stewart Weddings was born (although it originally operated under a different name with the help from a dear friend).
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
Fortunately, the start-up cost for a blog is relatively minimal. The maintenance costs require a bit more income. I began saving extra money to set aside specifically for the blog. And with my wedding design business, I had the help of a friend who passed her business along to me. Any costs associated with rebranding or marketing materials were costs I incurred (and saved for). When starting both businesses, I made every effort to avoid taking out a loan to minimize any debt associated with it. So far, I have been successful at keeping overhead relatively low.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle has been a combination of two things:
1. Making sure I stand out in a sea of already fabulous and talented individuals. It has been a true journey to really find my own voice. To find who I truly am as an individual and as a business owner, and making sure that my readers and clients see that. Authenticity has been so crucial in establishing the blog and business for me.
2. Ensuring I have a healthy work-life balance. When you own your own business, both worlds tend to mix quite a bit.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
Oh absolutely. I had a few "are you sure this is what you really want to do?" questions pop up early on, but as the blog grew and clients continued to book me, friends and family saw I had a true love for creativity in the wedding industry. Luckily, I have always had an incredible support system. So even though they may not have seen my vision the way I had, they were fully behind me to follow my dreams. I couldn't imagine having gotten where I am today if it weren't for the amazing cheerleaders I had on my team.
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in your face, when people didn't get it or said no?
A closing door only fuels my fire. It makes me want to prove to myself that I know I am better than that. It pushes me to work harder. A closing door is also a reminder that Rome wasn't built in a day. That sometimes something so easy really does take time, love, and attention to get it to grow into something awesome and spectacular. To anyone who told me no, I told them yes and pushed forward. I think that's one of the biggest (and hardest) lessons for entrepreneurs to learn. You will get so many nos before you get that one yes. And, when you do get that yes, it was worth all of those nos you were fed.
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
It took a solid 10 to 11 months for Landlocked Bride to get off the ground. It was a matter of remaining consistent and always providing new and fresh content. I was surprised in January 2010 when I was named to BrideTide's Top 100 Wedding Blog list. From that point on, I never looked back. I took full advantage of that notoriety, making sure readers had a reason to come back to the blog.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
To this day, Landlocked Bride has not operated for profit (something I am looking to change). But, with my wedding design business, it was nearly a year and a half before I was able to begin giving myself a salary. All of the money I made prior to that was pretty much set aside to reinvest into the business -- something I was okay with because I knew in the long run everything would work out.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
Being able to make my own decisions is incredibly rewarding. I call the shots, I have creative control. It's awesome. The one drawback is the lack of human contact -- face-to-face contact. I love an office environment; not having that does lead to some lonely times. But, that's when I break out into spontaneous dance parties. Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to keep the energy and good spirits flowing.
Where do you work from?
I work from my home in Denver. Nothing like the mountains to encourage a little inspiration.
Do you have employees?
I currently do not have any employees.
Is your "Dreamer" business your full-time job?
It is not my full-time job. I work an equally rewarding job in marketing for a health/natural foods company.
How has your involvement with Martha Stewart's Dreamers into Doers helped you and your business?
Martha Stewart's Dreamers into Doers has exposed me to so many other creative individuals. It has been an awesome opportunity to network, learn, and grow. It's wonderful to be able to have the support of a community of incredible entrepreneurs looking to follow their dreams.
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
Social media is the foundation of my business. Facebook and Twitter have opened so many doors and exposed me to so many wonderful people in the wedding industry that I would not have otherwise met. To be able to network and reach so many people is just beyond words for me.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What's so inspiring about them?
My parents have been incredible entrepreneurial role models, both having started their own ventures. More recently, Lara Casey has been an incredible role model and mentor. She has opened my eyes to many things I have been missing and shown me what is possible. Sometimes you absolutely need that other set of eyes to give you the feedback you need to hear. To hear the story of someone like Lara and see her success is just beautiful.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I'm a school nerd. I studied business and marketing in college and completed my MBA last summer. I attribute all of my business knowledge to the education I have received. But all of my practical industry knowledge I attribute to my constant thirst for learning. I think in any industry, it's incredibly important to continue to learn and grow -- it helps you to become a better person and business owner.
To keep my learning process going, I network with other professionals and read. A lot. I'm not a huge fiction reader, so my bookshelves (well, Kindle bookshelf) is graced with the books of so many wonderful entrepreneurs -- Richard Branson, Steve Jobs.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever received? If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
If you want something go after it. I could not believe in this statement more. I whole-heartedly believe that if you want something, you have to do everything in your power to make it happen.
I honestly wouldn't change anything about my path. I have loved the crazy journey I've gone on (from studying as a pre-med student for two years in undergrad, to finance, to marketing). It was this journey that led me to where I am today. I think if I did anything differently that I would not be sharing my story with you right now.
What is your favorite product/service that you offer?
My favorite service is my spin on green weddings. Eco-friendly weddings are all the rage right now, but what I like to do is share how green elements can absolutely be attainable. And educate on the fact that if a 100 percent green wedding is just not attainable, incorporating a few elements can help to make an impact. I believe that when you take the time to educate your reader and your clients that they, in turn, pass that knowledge on, only helping the idea to grow further.
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven't become Doers yet?
Just take that leap. If you fall flat on your face, get up and do it again. It takes us all several tries to get where we want to go. And, if you stop after the first fall, you will have never known what could have been.