A Piece on Entrepreneurship, Motherhood, and Balance: From a Woman Who Knows
My name is Jennifer Edmon. I am first and foremost a mother and wife, but have also crafted myself a career as an event planner and floral designer for a pretty little brand I created nearly 6 years ago. I am a creative, and have the opportunity to pour myself into design. I get to make all sorts of beautiful things and be part of unique experiences. But The Soul Collect is all about transparency, and #realtalk so I am letting you in on a little of the craziness that is my life.
I started my business when I was only 22, inexperienced in owning anything, operating an LLC, and let alone life in general. Though one thing I am is resourceful, and when my temp job in a corporate office ended and I had no other prospects, I decided this is what I was going to do and went for it. Fast forward a few other blog-worthy testimonies that I'll probably end up writing for The Soul Collect at later dates, we are here nearly six years later. I am now 28, married for almost 7 years to the best person on this planet, and have three young children all preschool ages. I have recently rebranded my business to embrace the style I have finally settled into (yes it takes a while to find where you fit in this industry) and am starting another business with a new partner. In all honesty, I still battle feelings of inadequacy about not being further along and more established. I'll admit though, it helps to write it out to see that I'm actually doing alright, ha!
I get asked a lot how I balance my work and family. From the outside looking in, I'm sure things look a little more glamorous than reality. I work my butt off for every dollar I make. If I like any of my clients too much (which is pretty much everyone), I get too nice and cut deals that sometimes don't make me anything. This is something I'm always working on and have gotten better at over the years, but I still find that I sell myself short every once in awhile. It's the love I have for this business, and for people that keep me here and chugging along. So reality number 1, sometimes I make a lot of money, and sometimes my husband is like "What are you doing!? Do you want to eat this month or give someone prettier flowers than they paid for?" (psst…! I usually give them prettier flowers and just tell him "we're going on a diet!")
I have always been an open book, and very transparent with my feelings. Though I find it's much harder for me to be transparent when it comes to my business. The unsteadiness of delving out too much, wanting to be personable and present with each client so they feel like they have a new best friend while simultaneously enforcing boundaries that you don't have with your best friend. Like... 'please don't text or call me at midnight when you're stressed out'. The challenge of setting those boundaries while remaining sensitive to the many stresses that come when working with a client on such a personal level is one of the biggest difficulties for professionals in this industry. It definitely takes some time to figure it all out.
When I first started out, transparency was not something I included in my business practice. I thought it was better to keep work and life separate. That did a disservice to me as I started my family. It was never my intention be secretive or to withhold information from my clients or other vendors that I was pregnant or taking a weekend off to recharge. I did a lot of reading and thought that as a woman, I had a right (which I do, but still not the point here) to not let people know I was pregnant, so then I shouldn't. I felt like I would be judged for taking time off, so when I did, I would hide it. After I learned some tough lessons, I realized that hey, most people really are nice humans and totally understand when I need a break and actually encourage me to. Most will even leave me alone for a weekend if I just tell them. Seems simple enough, right? Well there's reality number two, with my job being as personal as it is and quite unique in it's nature, transparency is really the best policy. It took me a while to figure that out and it still takes discipline and boldness to continue to be forthcoming with everything in my life.
My work is very life-consuming. It occupies my thoughts when I sleep (or try to), and everyone's opinions of me and my work have great impact on how I view myself. This is also something I am working on and getting better at. I am always growing and learning to take what is constructive and abandon what is just damage to my self esteem. Sifting through critiques are difficult though, and I admittedly get them mixed up sometimes. Though staying humble and allowing criticism to truly be constructive and make changes is what grows you as a business owner and as a person. Bottom line: people like working with people, not big companies. So, don’t try to be a big company if you’re not one; be a person people want to work with. Essentially, developing a thick skin and embracing the strong side of your personality is vital to growing a business, but what has shown to be even more valuable is keeping your heart tender and showing empathy and understanding to people and professionals. My personal experience is in the events industry; that tenderness has served me and others well as most professionals in this field are creatives, artists and small business owners trying to make it. We support each other and truly embrace the #communityovercompetition movement. Florists helping florists, planners helping planners, rental companies working together. We band together when support is needed. Whatever industry you find yourself in, build yourself a network of other professionals and show your support for them in their business and it will be returned. Tenderness and compassion get you just as far in business as that strong personality does.
So again, how do I balance my life? Well I do just that, I balance it… like on a tightrope. I now have all the right tools to make it across to the other side. I really like this metaphor, I'm running with it. My husband is my balancing bar, the absolute biggest support and tool I have to make it through. Without him, I would surely fall. All the productivity tools, applications, courses and software (I want 'em all! I love productivity stuff) are those special grippy leather shoes I'm wearing. You cannot own and run a company like this without a solid support team.
So you want to start a business? Gather your squad: your partner, mom, or BFF. Turn to them day or night and unload your frustrations with them and brainstorm ideas. This is essential to your survival. If you have young children, get an au pair or quality people you can count on to care for them when you can't. Our au pair is the biggest stress reliever and worth every freaking penny. Having these people behind you is the only way you will make it, end of story.
Another tip: educate yourself. You might not need college, but you have to research your field and understand it inside and out before asking someone to pay you anything. If you know you need practice before you consider yourself a professional (I did this!) then find people who are willing to be your guinea pigs and do it for free. Really, this is so necessary, especially if your business is service-based. In a service-based business (like mine,) you do not have a product to speak for yourself, you have you and the service you offer. If you promise to serve your client, but miss the mark and under-serve (whether legitimate or not), your reputation is at stake. Being forthcoming and transparent with your client from Day 1 and letting them know you are new and learning and willing to discount or gift your services is going to give your client the needed knowledge to ask “do I have the capacity to work with this learning business in order to save money and be honest and open with my own experience?” If your client’s answer is yes, then transparency will serve you both well in this experience.
I am a huge advocate for entrepreneurialism, not the kind that means sending fb messages about a crazy wrap thing that feeds someone else's brand and benefits their taxes. I mean actually starting YOUR own business. If you have a passion or a skill, turn it into a career. If you need help starting, let me know and I'll help you figure out a business strategy, just because I think this world could never have enough small business and entrepreneurs. We are the future of this economy and the next generation.
Though business and creative expression are passions of mine, nothing quite compares to being a parent. So, there is a flipside to all this motivation. My drive to succeed comes down to the desire to create a life I want for my family and to show my children they can do whatever they set their minds to. I’m excited to show them the beauty in what I do, and the value and satisfaction of working hard for something and someone you love. And on top of all that, just the experience that I have at being a mother is a gift in itself and not one I take for granted. My children are my life and I am so utterly grateful I get to love and be loved by them. Yes, I am so proud of my accomplishments, but motherhood has and always will be my life's greatest journey and highest achievement.
Author: Jennifer Edmon | @bluedaphneevents | www.bluedaphne.com
Photos: Christina Whittaker | @whitportraits | www.whittakerportraits.com