I’m so excited to bring you a little peek into the business side of The Little Things today! I’m starting this quarterly report series for a number of reasons, but mostly because if you’re reading this, you’ve played a huge role in helping this little business move forward. Thank you. Whether you’ve signed on as a client, hit up the blog, followed along on social media, or simply offered words of encouragement once in a while, you’ve been an integral piece of TLT’s success!
I’m also blogging about the boring business side of things because I want to dispel any thoughts that I just make things pretty and hang out in coffee shops every day. Cultivating lovely aesthetics and connecting with other like-minded industry folks (often at coffee shops) are two important pieces of what we do at TLT, but they are far from the only things (for proof, I’ll send you photos of this year’s tax prep!). The Little Things is a legit business and I have huge goals for it. It may look a bit different from the outside- I work from home and snuggle with my dog multiple times a day, I make my own hours, and yes- some days visiting local shops/restaurants for meetings and inspiration is “work.” On the flip side of those luxuries, though, is this terrifying realization: no one is handing me a paycheck at the end of the month. Being able to pay my bills is up to me and me alone. Trust me when I say that this stark reality is enough for me to put most of my energy into the unglamorous side of things- first and foremost, taking care of clients: balancing budgets, mitigating risk, creating top-notch vendor teams, tracking progress in project planning workbooks, and executing awesome events (which can mean being on our feet for 16 hours at a time). And other things that aren’t at the top of the list but are important, like marketing, accounting, and sales. Whew! I try to put some time aside each week to indulge my creative side and make pretty things, too- but that’s just a fraction of what goes on around here.
Ok- since that tangent’s over, let’s get started!
I’ve been working diligently towards 3 main goals for 2015 since January 1. They are:
(1) Double our 2014 sales. I knew an 100% increase in bookings was a lofty goal when I set it, BUT- so far we’re on track to do just that! We’ve seen a 568% increase in sales in 1st quarter this year over 1st quarter last year. There’s still a lot of work to be done to meet and then exceed our 2014 year-end total, but I’m feeling good about our strong start!
One point of clarification: aiming to double our sales this year does not mean we’re planning to produce double the events! We’re laser focused on working with our target clients for a whole slew of reasons (check back for a post on that later on), one of them being because they understand and appreciate our value. This is a critical aspect of our business plan- we put our entire selves into each wedding we produce, and doing so takes an enormous amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy. When the gears are grinding, as they inevitably do, it’s much more manageable to remain upbeat and focused when we know the folks we’re doing it for appreciate what we’re bringing to the table.
(2) Find a mentor. Full disclosure: this goal was on my list for 2014, and I didn’t reach it. Ew. I also haven’t made too much (read: any) progress on it to date, but it’s never far from my mind! On January 1 I scribbled some of my first choices in my day designer: The Nouveau Romantics, Bash Please, Alison Events, Mindy Rice, and Jacin Fitzgerald. Fingers crossed!
(3) Attend a workshop. Professional development is another important piece of the TLT business plan. Whether we’re three or thirty years in, I’ll always be seeking opportunities for my team and myself to learn and grow. To that end, I couldn’t have been more thrilled with my experience at Joy Thigpen‘s Creative Direction and Styling Workshop in February.
The workshop was held at the Inn at Serenbe. I could never do this quaint, serene, and unbelievably charming property justice with my words, so I’ll just say: if you have the opportunity to visit, you should!
The workshop was a two-day intensive focused on all aspects of creative direction, from how to further define our personal aesthetic to how to bring that aesthetic out in each wedding we design while also satisfying the client’s desires and pushing the envelope to deliver them what they didn’t even know they loved.
We wandered into town for lunch and had cocktails and dinner each evening, which helped our small group (13 attendees) to really connect with one another. It was so refreshing to be there with other like-minded ladies focused on enhancing their businesses through professional growth. We shared ideas, asked questions, told stories, and laughed. A lot.
On the second afternoon, we dove into some hands-on styling exercises. We discussed styling for editorials and for our own portfolios and looked on as Joy talked us through styling a stationery suite.
Then, we played with flowers! Joy quickly demonstrated how she typically goes about creating arrangements, and we hopped to it. In typical fashion, I decided to challenge myself (though it was my first time creating an arrangement) by grabbing the largest vessel of the bunch. I was seriously regretting that decision about 5 minutes in, but I stuck with it, and created this lady:
I’ve begun implementing what I learned, and it’s already made in impact on how I’m going about things from the creative side of the business. So awesome!
Despite everything about the workshop being wonderful, the highlight for me was the two-hour long one-on-one Joy and I shared on the 3rd day. I opened myself up and laid it all out there (something that does not come naturally to me): I asked her pointed questions, told her what I’m struggling with, and discussed my vision for TLT. Joy was open, kind, and interested. She was willing to share stories with me and discuss what she’s struggled with as the owner of a creative small business. It was so, so refreshing, and I appreciated every second of it.
Before I headed south to Serenbe, I headed west to the Catskills to spend a wonderful weekend with two of my dear friends, Sarah and Katie. We came up with this idea the summer before, when we were all knee deep in wedding season and desperately in need of some time to regroup and refresh. So, we unofficially dubbed our weekend away the “Get Fresh Retreat.” We decided The Spruceton Inn, a quaint bed and bar in the Catskills, was the perfect spot to Get Fresh, and Casey kindly hosted our three-person retreat. With no cell phone service, internet only in the bar, and fresh pour-over coffee each morning, this spot provided exactly what we needed to clear our heads and fill our hearts.
We started each day with a pour over coffee and great conversation in room one (the bar/breakfast area/lobby) followed by a walk in the countryside. It snowed the first day, and the combination of the snow and the super remote location was simple, peaceful, bliss.
And we met the locals.
In the evenings, we’d cook dinner in our little kitchenette, open up a bottle of red, brainstorm for hours, and (obviously) indulge in some girl talk. Then we’d head to the campfire for s’mores. It was simple, awesome, and just what we dreamed when we first had the idea: a head-clearing, inspiring, and refreshing getaway.
Obviously, 2015 has started off pretty nicely! It’s nearly impossible to choose just one highlight, but I’m committed to sharing just one quarterly highlight and pain point in each of these posts. So:
2015 Q1 highlight: being asked to be a part of the Joy Thigpen team! I’ve signed on as one of Joy’s associate designers. It’s a freelance-type role, and I’m super excited to use this opportunity to learn from Joy and her team and to deliver TLT-standard execution for Joy and her couples!
2015 Q1 pain point: hiring. Simply put, I need some help. TLT is growing at a fast clip, and I’m committed both to growing this business and to delivering the full TLT experience to each of my clients at any cost. But I still need to remain a functioning human being that does normal adult things like laundry, cooking, spending time with friends, exploring, and taking a day off once in a while. A full day.
To that end, I’m trying to figure out how another person will fit into the fold, what I need specifically, and how in the world I’ll handle the pressure of knowing that I’ll not only be responsible for generating enough revenue to pay my own bills, but someone else’s as well. GULP. If you’re reading this and you’ve done it, or have any advice, please don’t be shy!
If you’re still reading… thanks so much for being a part of this little journey of mine. It means so very much. xo