I look back & laugh now, because it's so easy to see in hindsight, how all of those little steps were examples of my floor becoming my ceiling.
To build my business.
To share my ideas.
To be great.
The truth is, there is gonna be a lot you don't know--A LOT--but the most important exercise is putting one foot in front of the other, every single day. There are 1,001 business books on the market giving you the so-called "insider scoop" on how to make your endeavor a success, but there really is no one correct formula...every approach has to be tailored for the clientele the business serves and the owner who gives it life. You can have 2 people in the same field--especially a creative field--and I can assure you, they will run business their business in two totally different ways.
And not only is this okay, but it's what you should endeavor to do--make your business stand out by keeping YOU at the center of your passions.
As I see it, the biggest challenge in entrepreneurship is to stay focused on what you know intuitively.
And if you're clear about your why, it will be so much easier.
Want to know all of my secrets??
Well here's a tip: you won't have to look far, because my whole journey is detailed on this blog. And I don't mean all of the specifics, but if you start from the beginning, you can see pretty clearly how I built my business.
I don't edit my old blog content on purpose, because it's important to me that the people who WANT to know how I started can see all of the turns my business has taken. When I started this blog back in 2009, my first post wasn't even about design, it was about whether or not I should relax my hair (omg)!! I tell anyone who inquires about my path that this business has grown very organically...and looking back, I never would've been able to connect all of the dots that have brought me to this point...not in a million years. If you've followed me from the beginning you know that I used to do a ton of DIY projects and furniture refinishing...but as I've gained more experience and broadened my horizons, I've moved away from what I was SURE I'd be doing all of my career towards a niche that encompasses all of who I am...not just as a designer or a business owner, but most importantly, as a woman as well.
My intent is to help you live your home AND your life by design and not by default.
Did I start out that way?
Not at all.
Do I wish I had?
Here's my truth: it probably would've made for a more seamless blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, exciting sponsorships and new opportunities (well, more than the ones I've had) but the path I took speaks to my most important values--transparency & authenticity--and I'm happy that I can share that with all of you.
I've been flexible enough to remain open to the possibilities & turns that my life/interests have taken and in that way, my blog has been like a glimpse into my life. I'm a very different person now than who I was when I first started this blog. And I love that I've had this blog here to archive and detail some of that progression.
Through it all, I've just continued to keep moving forward, one step at a time.
In 4 short years I've:
Started a business
Launched a website
Redesigned my blog
Redesigned my website
Had my work published in a coffee table book
Had my work published in 2 national magazines
Been featured in every major local Atlanta lifestyle magazine (Atlanta, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles)
One of 20 designers selected to participate in the 2013 Cathedral Antiques Inspiration House (show house)
Recognized on HGTV.com's Front Door as one of Atlanta's Best Interior Designers
Featured twice in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC)
Featured on West Elm blog
Named to the Hot List by The Atlantan as an up & coming designer to watch
Started a non-profit for designers to collaborate & makeover shelters in the Atlanta area
Participated in & managed the redesign of 3 homeless/temporary housing projects in 2 years
Named to the 2014 15 Under 40 list for Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles
Selected to design a vignette for the 2014 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
2013 Decor Judge for Taste of Atlanta
Design Assistant on TBS' Movie & A Makeover
Project Designer for Flynnside Out Productions
Featured on Design Sponge
Style Spotlight on Style Blueprint Atlanta
Styled national ad campaigns for HGTV's 2013 & 2014 outdoor & indoor furniture lines plus gardening accessories
Requested panelist for AmericasMart Seminars
Featured speaker for 2013 Winter Market at AmericasMart
Asked to speak at a local high school for career day
Filmed a 2 news segments with the local NBC affiliate
Partnered with national brands including Home Depot, FLOR, Sherwin Williams, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, WallpaperPlus, HomeRite
Styled editorial photo shoots for Atlanta magazine & Jezebel
Helped countless clients improve their lives through the power of great design.
Producing my first design video (Flynnside Out) in less than 2 weeks!
In the midst of that I've also:
Left an 8 year relationship
Lost 37 pounds
Developed an autoimmune disease
Started & ended a business
Lost my grandmother
Tackled some major financial hurdles
Gained a few fantastic new friends
Rediscovered some incredible old friends
Wrestled with some really tough decisions
Uncovered more of myself
Mali Azima for AHL
It hasn't always been easy and the path isn't always clear.
Every step of growth means I'm simultaneously outgrowing something else, and I've had to get very very comfortable with change--that's the nature of being an entrepreneur, especially in a creative field. There have been times when I didn't know how I was going to make it and hear my heart when I say this--I can surely tell you a thing or two about rubbing 2 quarters together!!
But through it all, I've kept on going. And because of that one commitment to myself, I now have a life (and a business) that I never ever imagined I'd have when I graduated from college so many years ago.
So as I celebrate my 4th anniversary, I encourage you to honor whatever whisper is keeping you up at night. If you want to start a business, start today. Yes, it's scary and you'll feel like everyone is watching you and you might not be sure how to do everything and you may not even be sure your idea is going to work but here's one thing I know--it will never work if you don't at least try.
Your future self is waiting on you.
(If you STILL want to read more, you're in luck...Part II of my reflections will post on Friday!)