The Art of Being the New Kid
What’s up podcast friends?? I’m super excited to be jumping on with you today for another solo episode of the She Who Dares Podcast! It’s a pretty rare occurrence that I do solo shows and I’ll explain why later in this episode so when I do it’s typically because I’m super super passionate about the topic!!
First things first….did you love the new intro format for the podcast?? Now that we’re finally starting to find our voice with this thing, we thought it was time to re-do the intro to match the mission and I’m over the moon to bring exciting, inspiring and educational content to you week after week!
Today I want to talk a little bit about being the new kid. Now I know some of you are probably like, “um…brandee. You’re not the new kid anymore so how do you think you can relate with those of us that are??”. But let me tell you…a true entrepreneur is never NOT the new kid ok?? The thrill for us is in the building stage…the exciting/tiring/overwhelming stage where you have a new idea, aren’t sure how to implement it or 100% sure what your end goal is but you dive in headfirst anyway giving it 1000% of your effort to be sure it succeeds. Sound familiar??
Blush is 13 years in business and I am beyond blessed by where we are now. There have been so many twists and turns and ups and downs and all arounds that I’ve lost count! But through each of those rough times, we’ve learned how to thread the needle a little better for the future. Literally every single time I’ve been brought to tears by how overwhelmed a situation has felt, we have come out on the other side having learned SO much to be even better at serving our clients and our staff!
So with Blush, while we’re always learning, I’m not really the new kid anymore. We’ve gotten past some of the initial learning curves. We’ve figured out how to manage cash flow through the insane roller coaster of Florida wedding seasons. We have processes and procedures and a staff that can implement them without our day to day involvement (which is incredible!!). So I get it…it seems I’d be hard to relate to at this point to someone that’s starting out and trying to side hustle this thing until they can leave their 9-5.
But in the last 3 years, we’ve launched 3 new brands and can I just tell you?? Being the new kid NEVER gets easier! While I have built a reputation with Blush that opens a few more doors for me than the day I started in this industry 13 years ago, let me just tell you that the bumps and bruises of starting a new company from the ground up are all the same! The fear of unknowing, the frustration of slow growth, the anxiety of trying to learn all the hows/whys/and why nots. All of that is very much the same! And actually, to some degree, I would say it’s harder to start a new brand (at least it has been for me) because I’ve tasted success and I want my new ventures to be equally successful BUT in a fraction of the time! Hahaha! Don’t we all!!
So I thought it might be fun today to share a few tried and true lessons I’ve learned along the way to help shake the newbie dust off of your feet just a bit faster. After all,
The purpose of this podcast is to peel back the curtain on not just my brands but of other successful entrepreneurs as well to share our startup stories so that it becomes real and so you can hear that you’re not alone when it comes to the hard part of being an entrepreneur!! No matter how bright and shiny Instagram says we are….we all have a story that lives behind the scenes!
Ok! Are you guys ready for lesson #1?? It’s time to GET SCRAPPY! This may just be the most important one yet and it’s one I’ve had to re-learn in these last few years. In the beginning of any new business, the #1 starting point has to be brand recognition. Who knows about you? What do they know about you? Do they know enough to tell their friends who may want to purchase from you? After all, if no one knows about you, how will they know how awesome you are??
In episode #19, Ann Taylor shared with us that when she first started A Chair Affair, ALL of her clothes had the Chair Affair logo on them and she had a goal of going through 1 box of business cards every single month?? Now, as a new business, ordering new business cards every month can seem like a crazy expense but let’s be real…this can return 100x over!! A single box of cards costs roughly $40 but think about the purchase of even just 1 client from each box of cards she passed out? And that’s not all…once that client realized that Ann’s company could provide gorgeous chairs for their event at a fraction of what the industry was charging, wouldn’t you guess that that one client now told ALL of their friends who were having events?? I have to say that this method was brilliant and WAY less costly than an ad space! But we often don’t think about the art of being scrappy! Talking to people…starting up a conversation…especially if they have an engagement ring on and then offering them your card is not an easy thing to do. We’d rather throw up a social ad and HOPE that someone will call but that’s not how it works in the beginning (or really any time but FOR SURE before you have brand recognition this is not going to happen!). You have to have to have to get out and make connections. With anyone willing to listen.
When we first started Blush, I told every single person I knew that I was starting a planning company. Literally, anyone who would listen. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, random people I met in my day today. So many of my first clients were referrals from those who believed in me and wanted to see me succeed and those doors wouldn’t have been opened for me if I wouldn’t have spread the word!
Now on the flip side of this coin, I will tell you this has been the very hardest one for me with each NEW brand we’ve started. In the early days of Blush, no one knew who I was anyway so I really had nothing to lose. Now that I have a reputation to protect for my first work baby (Blush!), I am more afraid than ever to announce a new endeavor. What reactions will I get? Will people think I’m nuts or in over my head? Will they stop referring Blush because I’m stepping away more? Will they be wishing for me to fail?? And the crazy part is, when I’m coaching a new planner, I tell them “don’t care what anyone thinks! Just follow your passion! There will always be haters but the fans will outweigh them!!”. But in full transparency, that’s the hardest thing for me now. So I can empathize with this fear from my students.
When we opened the Howey Mansion, I remember being crippled with fear for people to find out. I was so afraid of what they would think AND of backlash from our preferred venues. I didn’t want to tell anyone and I certainly didn’t want to put it on social media. But I knew if I didn’t start using my connections to get the word out, it would fail and failure was not an option. In this case, we did decide to meet with small, intentional groups of people to share what we were doing, ask for their help, and get their feedback to make this new venture even better! There are about 1 thousand other things I could tell you about the lessons we learned in opening a historic venue, but I will save that for its own episode!
The next lesson I learned was to use your time as currency! In the beginning of any new business, funds are always going to be tight and you don’t exactly have thousands of $ laying around to throw at advertising. But what you likely have a lot of is time:-) If you’re side hustling this thing until you can quit your full-time job, time may not be abundant but if you are serious about making your dream a reality, you will be shocked by how much time you can make by cutting out anything that’s not absolutely necessary! Social media, outings with friends, date night, etc… I know you must be thinking….girl, do you expect me to be a hermit?? To just work work work work work?? Well….yes. For a time, I do! Starting a new business is no joke and in the early days, it will take every bit of your attention to get it off the ground. By no means do I think you should cancel life forever but you should set a period of time for yourself that you are going to put your head down and spend every possible second that you can in building this brand. If you are still working 9-5, setting aside time each night and each weekend to build your website, logo, network, design ads, engage with clients on social, etc.. is crucial to your success.
I spent 6 months doing the side hustle before I left my full-time job. My last day was June 15th and I set that date at Christmas the year before. I gave myself these 6 months to burn the midnight oil every single night to get Blush up and running AND clients booked before I left the cushy paycheck of my full-time job. And before you say, “but Brandee, I have a family that needs my time when I get home!”. I get it! I did too! I had a 1-year-old at home and a VERY demanding day job that did not end at 5 pm and did not provide me weekends off! But I also had a very supportive husband that believed in me and provided me some space to take these 6 months to bust my booty! After dinner each night we would get Emma to bed and then I would give myself 3 hours to work on Blush. I promise when you are building your dream, you will be more productive than any other time in your career!
The note I would give you here is to define an amount of time with your family or loved ones so they know this is not forever and they will help you to carve out this time. My husband knew that I was going to laser focus for 6 months. And of course, I was going to be laser-focused after the 6 months too but once I left my full time I would have more space to better plan my time. Giving a deadline for you and for your biggest supporters will help you to work your hardest to not let them or yourself down!
The 3rd lesson is to network like crazy! Oh my word I cannot say this enough!! Every single time I speak I PREACH this to anyone who will listen! People do business with people they know (and like!). It does NOT matter how stunning your insta is or how awesome your website is. If people don’t know you, they aren’t going to refer you and referral business is not only the LEAST expensive type of advertising but it’s also the easiest way to book a new client! When another trusted vendor gives you a glowing referral, it is already 80% booked. All you have to do now is be your charming self and you have yourself a new client! This vs. the incredibly long sales process of taking a cold lead from inquiry to booking is like a perfectly wrapped gift under the Christmas tree. It’s just waiting for you to open and enjoy!
Here are my top 5 tips for making the most of your networking time:
Wear a nametag and bring business cards. For the love of pete, wear the name tag! Don’t expect people to guess your name or remember your company. Make it easy for them to say hi and always wear your smile when they do! And then follow up by handing them your business card and getting theirs! This will make it easy to follow up with them the next day.
Don’t sit with your friends! Did you come to the networker to catch up with a friend or did you come to get more business? If you meet no new people, you just wasted 3 hours of your time and typically about $35.
Have a plan. Lots of networking events publish a list of attendees before you go. Look through it and select 2-3 people you want to connect with. If you are afraid to just walk up to them, see who you may know on the list that can make an introduction so it’s less awkward BUT you’re at a networker for heaven’s sakes. People are expecting to meet new people so pull up your britches and go say hi!
Have an elevator speech. Be able to describe what you do and why you’re unique in 30 seconds or less. If they’re still interested, great! Get into more detail. But you need to catch their attention in the first 30 seconds so they’ll want to know more!
Follow up! Make sure to follow up with people you meet the next day. Send a quick email or DM to say hi and how much you loved meeting them. If it was a great connection, invite them to coffee to learn more about how you can work together! But never miss an opportunity to keep the momentum going with someone you just clicked with!
Ok….on to the next lesson. Never be afraid to Be Bold and ask for Help! If I could choose only 1 thing that has most led to my success in this industry, it’s that I have never been afraid to ask for help when I was in over my head or if I just couldn’t figure out how to scale to the next level. We are a tight-knit group and while the wedding industry can often be like high school riddled with gossip and silliness, we also like to see each other succeed and you’d be shocked how much help others who have gone before you are willing to give you when you just ask!
About 4 years into Blush, I had the opportunity to book my first really big wedding. And I thought I’m going to charge them $4k for full planning (thinking at the time that this was so much money!). The MOB immediately wrote me a check for the full amount and we got started with the planning! But little did I know then why she jumped on my service so quickly! This wedding required an obscene number of planning hours, several trips to the client’s office in Tampa as they couldn’t find time to come here, many many revisions to the vision boards and more. About 6 months into the planning I think we had already lost money on this wedding just due to the sheer number of man-hours we had spent on planning and to be honest, they still hadn’t approved anything. After a convo with MOB, we both decided that this wasn’t a great fit for either of us and we parted ways on great terms. She even asked us to keep the full payment amount because she knew how much work had already gone into her daughters’ wedding.
But I was defeated. I felt like I had failed and I knew I had to figure out what went wrong before I stepped into that luxury wedding game again. If we were going to do weddings of this scale, I had to understand how to price them so that we could take less weddings overall and allow for the time needed to focus on these high touch clients.
After trying to figure it out on my own for a bit, I finally got up the nerve to message one of the trailblazers in our industry, my friend, Susan Southerland to ask if she would share any insight on pricing full-service luxury weddings. And then I held my breath!! I was definitely afraid she’d say “who do you think you are to ask me to help you when you started a competitive brand to mine??”. I mean…she would be completely within her rights to do this! But you know what happened instead…she sent me a long message thanking me for asking! Um….what?? Yes! She thanked me for wanting to be better and know better and serve better. Because when our industry is better, we all win! And then she went on to tell me how she figures out how much staff and man-hours plus any hard costs will go into a wedding, what she charges hourly and how I can decide my hourly charge and then to come up with a total that made sense. And it’s like my eyes had been opened!!! I felt so much more sure of myself when my next luxury wedding inquiry came in only a few months later and I can assure you we did not charge them $4k. When I sent that proposal out, the bride came back and to me and said “do you know you’re higher than almost everyone else we spoke to? Why are you worth it?” and I was able to clearly explain how I came up with that total and how much time we would be dedicated to her wedding and she SIGNED the very next day!!!! I will never ever forget that day because it really changed the way we price our weddings and we now KNEW why we were charging the amount we did which is a major piece of the puzzle when you’re running a business! So be bold. Ask questions. You never know how the answer will impact your life!
Ok. So we’re onto the last lesson and this one is the most simple but sometimes the hardest. This one is….Just start!
When we have a brilliant idea or business plan, we can often get in our own way of implementing because we want to wait until we have time or wait until we have enough money or wait until we have done more research. But the problem is….there will always be another excuse to wait. There will never be a perfect time. We have to just set a goal and dive in headfirst because the longer we wait the longer our dreams are on hold. I promise you will make mistakes along the way…I absolutely guarantee it! But how will you start to learn from them if you don’t ever try? I promise there will be times that will make you want to shut the doors, close the website and throw in the towel….I know there will because every single entrepreneur I’ve had on this show so far (including myself!) has had them! But these are the times that will refine you and make you want it even more! These are the times that will help you to teach someone else how to do it differently one day!
You cannot possibly learn how to do something with excellence by watching from the sidelines! I sit in a gymnasium 4 nights a week watching my girls play volleyball but I promise you that there are no scouts coming out to recruit me next year!! But why?? I have more gym time than some of the best college players out there! I study the game and I know the rotations and I know when Emmalee should have set to middle instead of outside or how Hannah’s hand needs to turn slightly to direct her serves better! Just because I watch and can give a bit of advice from the outside, I certainly can’t do it. I don’t know what it feels like to be on the court during a tournament and see the ball coming your way and be able to quickly make a call as to what to do with it! I haven’t ever been in the game to know what it feels like to make a mistake. Or to nail the winning hit! I’ve only watched from the sidelines (well and cheered really really loudly of course!). The point is, watching and studying and researching how to do it will only get me so far. If I want to be an all-star, I’ve got to get into the game and practice! I have to refine my skill with every new match. I can only win if I get ONTO the court! So get out of your own way, set a date for launch and get after it!!
Well, …there you have it! My top 5 tips on overcoming being the newbie! I hope you find even one of them to be helpful as you build this dream of yours!!
Now I told you I’d come back later in the episode to tell you why I don’t do solo episodes and so here’s where I’ll share a more vulnerable part of my story. Have you ever heard the saying, when you teach someone else you’re actually teaching yourself?? Yeah…as I’ve prepared for this episode it’s funny how much I’m actually teaching myself about being the new kid to this podcast game. Honestly, this by far has been the hardest launch we’ve had to do and a lot of it is because I can’t refine and make mistakes behind closed doors. We have to throw it all out into the universe and hope you all love it and share it and want to hear more! And because it’s all being done in the big wide open, all of our missteps and re-direction and oops that didn’t work is right out on the web for all to see! I remember Ira asking me what I was so afraid of and I said “If I fail, I’m going to fail in front of everyone!!”.
When we first decided to do the podcast, honestly we didn’t really know why. Ira and I were itching for a new venture but we didn’t really know what it was just yet. Arthur, our Brand Manager had experience with a podcast before and knew many of the ins and outs of recording, editing, etc… But I’ve always been a pretty out of the limelight type of girl so I wasn’t sure what I would even talk about. AND it was literally the height of the CRAZIEST wedding season we’ve ever been through. So I wasn’t all in at first. But I did what I knew to do. We set a date, we started the prep work and we even told a few people we were doing it.
My very original plan for the podcast was to peel back the curtain on my brands to show you a bit more behind the scenes of how we run our day today. And it would be a solo show with an occasional guest. But get this….I spent weeks (mostly super late nights because #weddingseason) writing these episodes, practicing them and getting ready to record. I wanted each one to be about 25 minutes and a pastor friend of mine had shared how to write to know about how long you will talk so I was all set and excited to record these first few episodes for you! But the day came and we sat down to record and none of them was more than 12 minutes!! 12 flipping minutes!!!!! Can you even imagine how devastated I was after spending so much time and energy that I honestly didn’t have on these episodes and they were only 12 minutes?? Completely defeated! And the even better kicker was that once Arthur sent me the raw files, I HATED them. I mean….they didn’t even make any sense! What was I even talking about?? One of them was a whole episode on fashion!! Why on earth did I think I was the person to write about fashion? I could care less about this topic and I completely loathe shopping!! So we threw them all out! Well, I should say we threw 2 of them out. Ira and Arthur convinced me to keep one of them which is episode #1 “Finding your why and a bit about mine”.
Ira encouraged me to not give up and kept saying “you have a voice. you have something to share. you just need to figure out what it is and how it fits you.” So I spent much of that weekend praying and thinking…what do I want to share with the world? What is it that’s in my gut that lights me up when I talk about it? What would I consider my passion?? And then it hit me!! I LOVE being an entrepreneur. I love every gritty, crazy, roller-coaster moment of having our own business! And I LOVE hearing other people’s story of how they started. How did they get up the courage to start? What were their hurdles? How did they scale? What have they learned?? And more than anything else in the whole world (well, business-wise) I LOVE sharing these stories with new entrepreneurs to help them know that what they’re going through is normal and to encourage them to keep going!! Not to give up!! And help them to maybe skip some of the hurdles I learned to leap the hard way!!
That weekend I sat at a volleyball tournament writing down 52 names. 52 people I wanted to interview who I admire and who I think have a compelling story to share with others. I knew that if I was going to put myself out there to the world that I needed to be sure that I could keep it going and I for sure knew that I wasn’t ready for solo episodes! So we jumped into the deep end and have had 19 absolutely incredible episodes so far!! The texts, DMs, messages, and comments of support have been overwhelming! Honestly! I literally have to pinch myself sometimes that all of this is real and I’m so so thankful to all of our listeners for subscribing, sharing the episodes and leaving reviews!! We’re really starting to make some traction with this thing!!
Of course, this episode wouldn’t be real if I made it all bright and shiny. I get super discouraged when an episode doesn’t perform as well as I thought it would. Or when we don’t hit a goal we’ve set. Or the fact that there are almost NO metrics in the podcast world for measuring the success of your podcast!! That is almost crippling for someone that lives by setting and crushing numbers!!!
But what I’ve learned over the last 3 months of doing this podcast is that I absolutely LOVE It!!!! It is such a pivot from our planning companies and it’s a fresh new way to serve our industry!! I look forward to recording days. I carve out time to write show notes and post copy and I leap out of bed on Tuesdays waiting to hear the feedback from the newest guests’ show!!!
And so this is just the beginning of my journey into being an educator! It feels scary and surreal and completely intimidating to put myself out there. I’m back to being the newbie, learning all of the ins and outs of this world. What you guys want to learn, how I can serve our listeners best and praying that I don’t fail at all of it!! But if I’m going to teach my students that you have to put yourself out there, I gotta walk what I talk right???
Thanks for joining me today! I will never take for granted the time you spend with me each week and hope to only grow this community of go-getters!!
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What do you want to hear next?? I’m challenging myself to jump into a solo episode filled with education at least once a month so drop me a DM on Instagram or FB and let me know what topic you want to hear more about!! I love hearing from you!!
Have a fabulous week friends!!