When I tell the story, even I can’t quite remember how I did it.
I started my business with a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a 4 month old. Who does that?? My hormones must have still been really off to have thought that was a good plan.
But there I was wanting something of my own. Wanting my outlet… my “freedom”. I shared earlier in the week, what I’ve learned and what has impacted my business most over the last seven years (catch that post here)…
But today, as the kids and I celebrate my blog birthday, I want to talk about growing a business and babies at the same time.
That’s how I refer to those early years. The years of diapers and sleep schedules, and nap times that never really work out like you pray they will. The work hours that have to be smashed between getting three kiddos down for naps simultaneously (which rarely, if ever happened) and the hours the rest of the world was sleeping.
The trenches also refers to those early years as an entrepreneur when you are boot strapping everything. Trying to be your own coder, copy writer, editor, designer, strategist, and everything else. All. At. The. Same. Time. It’s the trenches. I don’t know of any better way to put it. They are critical and invaluable because you learn lessons you’ll never forget – the ones that hurt. You grow, you get knocked down, you stand back up, and no matter what – you just keep going. The ones who conquer refuse to wave the white flag. Those are the trenches. And I’d say they last between 1.5 to 3 years depending on how much you hustle, you leverage, and you push.
The thing though is that I wasn’t some twenty something with no one to worry about but myself. I couldn’t live off ramen and room-mate rent. I had a family, and they needed me. I was a different kind of twenty-something. I had a husband in graduate school, 3 babies, and a dream. And with every year they grew, so did I, and so did my dream.
But here’s the thing… As entrepreneurs we are constantly being fed mantras like ‘hustle’, ‘don’t stop’, ‘work on your dream every day’. I fed into every line of that. I loved it. I believed it. I still do actually, but I’ve added my own caveat….
My hustle, my work, and my dreams will have no validity if they are at the expense of my family.
I have learned to ask tough questions of my business. To make it prove it’s working for me, for my lifestyle goals, for my family – and not against it. Some of you know exactly what I mean… Somehow your dream has become an enemy that undermines your relationships, your joy, your peace. Instead of fulfilling you, it takes from you. It leaves you more empty and more bitter. That’s not a dream. That’s a nightmare. And you may be living that, because there was a time when I was too.
I was the breadwinner. I was also trying to be a good mom. My business had grown faster than I’d expected, and I found myself loving the income but hating who I was. I was exhausted, sad, guilt ridden, angry, and bitter. I was not living a dream, and I was terrified of how my children would remember me.
But we can always change. We are never stuck, and never so far gone that there isn’t hope left for us. There is always light.
So I made huge changes. I built procedures – there was no more guessing as to what should happen with each client. It was all mapped out, and I could add my little checkmark by each step. I created systems for handling email, marketing, and sales. I then went on to hire outside help including a house manager, a sales gal, a retouch artist, and a virtual assistant to proof and manage email. In the following years, I backed away from my own photography work more and more and focused on helping other photographers. In 2012, I launched my business training program specifically for portrait photographers, ‘The Thriving Photographer‘.
As a #bossmom, I have learned that real success is not something others see. It’s something you feel.
- You feel it at the end of the day when you cuddle up with your husband.
- You feel it when your kids snuggle up with you, and your mind is completely clear of anything but them.
- You feel it when your business is not so dependent on you that it cannot operate without your presence.
- You feel it when you realize you’re making decisions that are for your family’s betterment and not to portray a perception for anyone else.
- You feel it when you purchase things with cash and ignore options for credit.
I have also learned that success never comes without helping hands. If you won’t allow others to help you, you’re going to take a whole lot longer to get to your dream. That’s the simple and real truth of it. It’s not stronger, more impressive, or praise worthy to forgo help. It’s foolish. At first, most of us believe we don’t deserve the help. Then we don’t want to share our money to get the help – neither is forward thinking and both stunt growth and opportunity.
As I think back to those who have helped me over the years, I realize that the list has grown long. It is only through my opportunities and the experiences that I’ve been given that I have accomplished anything at all. I have been supported and encouraged by many additional hands… I can’t help but take this opportunity to publicly thank them.
Kari Rae, Amanda Holt, and Kat Ferraro who have worked countless hours (sometimes at ridiculous times of night) to help me love and support the amazing creatives I get to work with.
Animoto, Lens Pro to Go, Drop it Modern, Organic Bloom Frames – all of who have supported me, believed in me, and been my friend all through the years.
Laura Kathryn who was introduced to me as one of my Thrivers and attended my second Thrive Mastermind Retreat. Working together, we dreamed up my brand and the Thrive Brand.
My Thrivers who have shared their stories of success with me, and especially those I have hugged, cried with, and laughed my head off with at any of our 6 Thrive Mastermind Retreats.
My sister Jenna who endlessly listens to me talk through business ideas and who calls and welcomes our new Thrivers.
My kids who tell me I’m famous and have unwavering faith in me. And finally, above all else is my husband – Taylor has believed in me, encouraged me, and supported me through it all. He’s let me sell furniture and a lap-top to get started, leave on countless trips so that virtual relationships could meet reality, and just keeps believing in me. Of course, it goes without saying, but must be said… My Father in heaven who loves me enough to give me trials and challenges that shape me into who and what I am, and who ultimately gives me the capability to do what I do.
Today my kiddos are a part of my dream and part of the story. I work almost exclusively while they are at school, although at this moment, I’m typing on my computer while my 9 year old types on her laptop beside me at my L-Shaped Desk. We talk about my business, and my girls (who are 11 and 10) even started their own Etsy business last year selling gold gum ball machines! My business is a huge part of our lives. It is what sustains us, but I have learned not to let it rule us.
Instead, my business has provided us a life that we truly love. It wasn’t always like this. It took time to figure it all out – and there is still so much more to learn.
But in seven years, my babies and my business have definitely grown up… But more importantly, so have I! I can’t wait to see what comes next and share it with you.
Such a beautiful story of growth, Leah…I am so happy for you for all of your successes and am proud to be one of your thrivers! You are an amazing role model for all mommy entrepreneurs! Sincerely, Julie G
Thank you so much Julie! xoxoxo!!!
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