You Are Not Alone
I have always loved horses. It started when I was in elementary school and would visit my dad. He had several horses in the pasture behind his house, and and I got to ride them whenever I was there. I remember one time my dad picked me up from school in the middle of the day and rushed me to his house because one of the horses was giving birth. As a six-year-old, it was an incredible experience to watch that baby foal stumble around with gangly legs as he took his first steps. My dad even let me name him, and he became my first horse, Bo. I loved watching Bo grow up and, even when Bo was trail-broken and safe to ride, he had something wild about him that I loved. Being around horses as a child gave me an appreciation for nature and creation, for life and adventure.
My aunt deepened my love of horses. I remember thinking she was the coolest person I’d ever known. She drove a big white SUV and had a giant Rottweiler companion dog, Tucker, that went everywhere with her. And of course, she lived on a farm and had horses. She was beautiful and independent and adventurous and everything I wanted to be. Even then, I remember thinking that I wanted to create a life like hers when I grew up.
And, about two decades later, I did just that.
When I was in my early twenties, I lived in a house with two other roommates. I was constantly trying to keep the rooms filled as girls got married or took other jobs and moved away, and I was looking to downsize and have less responsibility and less rent. I was never home anyway since I worked eighty hours a week at my full-time job, so I started scanning the classified ads for a new place to rent—something I could live in by myself that would help me simplify my life a bit.
One day, I spotted something in the paper that I wasn’t expecting. Something that struck a nerve with those memories of my aunt’s farm: an ad for a forty-acre farm for rent. In that moment, I didn’t think; I just jumped.
I’d always thought I wouldn’t be able to have a farm until much later in life, when I could afford land. It never occurred to me that I could rent a farm and fulfill my dream at such a young age.
Looking back, it wasn’t a practical decision. I wanted to downsize with less responsibility and less rent, remember? But the rent on this farm was three times the amount I was currently paying and about a thousand times more work. But sometimes life’s greatest adventures aren’t practical.
I wasn’t focused on the rent or the fact that I’d never lived on a farm before. Instead, I focused on my dream.
When I visited the farm, I saw that it had an eleven-stall barn on the property, and that’s when I knew I would be fine. I was going to use that barn to start a side business. I would pay for my rent by boarding horses. Problem solved.
During the time I lived there, I owned and cared for a menagerie of interesting and ridiculous animals including horses; a miniature donkey, Hank; a miniature mule, Jack; and two fainting goats, Willie and Waylon; not to mention a hodgepodge of other characters that would show up, like barn cats, deer, and the occasional snake.
My side business, Fields of Grace Farm, was my childhood dream fulfilled, and with it came some of the funniest—and fondest—memories of my life.
It all started because I had always loved horses.
It’s incredible to see how, decades later and worlds away from my first memories of horses and my own experience with farm life, I am helping other women all over the country do the exact same thing.
They might not be starting horse-boarding businesses, but millions of women all over the world are starting side businesses, home businesses, hobby businesses, and small businesses all because of something they had always loved.
Leading up to my first Business Boutique event and writing this book, I immersed myself in research. I spent years interviewing, surveying, and studying women with businesses. One of the first questions I asked each of them was, “How did you get the idea to start this particular business?” And almost every single one of them answered, “I had always loved . . .”
“I had always loved sewing.”
“I had always loved baking.”
“I had always loved design.”
“I had always loved piano.”
“I had always loved gardening.”
“I had always loved math and numbers.”
“I had always loved kids.”
“I had always loved building.”
“I had always loved . . .”
This response came time and time again. Just like my story on the farm, every part of why women were doing what they were doing pointed back to that thing that they had always loved. That’s when I realized what they were doing wasn’t just about business. It was personal. Their business was about making money, sure. But more importantly, in many cases, their business was about doing what they loved. And I found it more than just a coincidence or trend. Entrepreneur.com reports that there are more than 30 million Americans working as freelancers or independent workers.1 Researchers anticipate that number to grow to 40 million in the next three years.2
There is a growing movement of women stepping into their God-given gifts to find work that matters and make money doing what they love. Between the ever-increasing popularity of sites like Etsy and Pinterest, more and more women are running a part-time business in addition to their full-time responsibilities. It may be a small hobby they occasionally charge for, or it may be something that develops into a full-time company with team members.
The fact that you’re reading this book means you already are one of these women, or you’re at least thinking about becoming one. I’ve got great news for you: there has never been a better time to do it. Between the endless free social media marketing platforms and the countless online tools, resources, and solutions, entering the marketplace is easier than ever. You don’t need to pay $10,000 to have a professional programmer build a website from scratch, and you don’t need to pay for advertising. You don’t need to maintain a huge inventory of goods, and you definitely don’t need a brick-and-mortar store. You can launch your business tomorrow with nothing more than an idea and a Facebook page.
And the best part is, you are not alone. Millions of women are on the same journey as you—the exciting, sometimes terrifying, wild and crazy ride of putting yourself and your heart on the line in business. But the truth is, most of us don’t start a side business because we love business. We love our craft or skill or idea—the business part is just a way to share our passion with others and make an income in the process.
But the business side of things can be overwhelming, frustrating, and exhausting. Often the business part can even distract us from our passions and drain our energy and efforts. I say “us” because I’ve been there too. I’ve had two different side businesses in my career (in addition to my full-time job). I know the struggles firsthand.
I’ve got stories for days of the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned the hard way on my journey to doing what I love. It’s exciting to dream up possibilities when you have an idea and are just getting started. I know how frustrating it is when you hit a wall and you have more questions than answers and you just want to give up. I know because I’ve experienced all of that and much more. That’s why I want to help you.
It can be overwhelming. I get overwhelmed sometimes myself. Trust me, I am overwhelmed writing this book, and I am just one thousand words into a ninety–thousand-word goal! Putting yourself out there feels vulnerable and risky, but anything worth doing usually does.
You and I are in this together, and, just like with my farm, I didn’t let the minor details (such as having no idea what I was doing!) get me down. Instead, I focused on my dream—and I want you to do the same. If you can do that, I’ll help you with everything else. This book isn’t just based on my own experiences of starting, running, and growing different businesses; it’s also based on my years of research and coaching women who’ve done it. You’ll hear their stories and a lot of my own throughout this book, and I bet you’ll see yourself in many of them. My goal in writing this book is to make sure you have everything you need to grow your business to the level that you want. This book is written for you.
I don’t believe your talents are an afterthought or that your desires are an accident. One of the guiding principles of my life comes from the Bible verse, “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”3 I believe God has a plan for the dreams he’s given me—he has a plan for the dreams he’s given you! He wants this plan to happen. That’s why I’m writing this book. My faith is part of my story, but you may be coming at this from a totally different perspective. That’s fine too! This book is still for you if you want to learn how to start, run, and grow your business. I will share a plan that is proven with principles that work—if you’re willing to do the work. Business Boutique has just what you need.
Throughout each chapter, I’ll help you develop your own step-by-step plan specific to whatever stage you’re in with your business. This isn’t a corporate business textbook or a boring manual. This is a handbook that will take the ideas in your head and the dream in your heart and put them into practice. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never taken a business class, and it doesn’t matter if you’re starting out with a blank computer screen in your living room. This plan will give you everything you need to start, run, and grow your business to the level you want. I’ve included action items at the end of every chapter so you can apply what you’ve learned and start working on your business plan right away. Do not skip this step! This is your opportunity to create a customized plan for your business. And I’ll give you specific, easy-to-understand and easy-to-implement answers to all of the common questions about the technical side of running a business, such as taxes, insurance, and legal issues.
We’re also going to talk about money—a lot! We’ll go over how to make it, how to keep it, and how to stop feeling bad about that in the process. We’ll also tackle the sometimes uncomfortable subject of selling. I know you don’t want to be pushy. I don’t either. The great news is that selling doesn’t mean having to be pushy. We’ll set you up with some practical tips so you can talk about your product with confidence, without feeling slimy.
We’re going to talk about how to market your business so you stand out among all the Facebook rants and cat pictures in your followers’ newsfeeds. We’ll tackle the unending struggle of time management and how to control your schedule instead of it controlling you. You’ll learn how to face your fears so they don’t hold you back from chasing the dream that got you excited in the first place. Starting something new feels risky and uncomfortable, but remember, the people who win in business and in life do it in spite of this.
I am so excited for you. I am excited about everything you’ll learn and the brave new things you’ll try. I’m excited about the confidence you’ll gain, the new skills you’ll develop, and the new levels of success you’ll see. But most of all, I am excited about the energy that will be injected into your life and your business because you decided to take this step.
Let’s get to it!
It All Starts with a Story - Finding Your Motivation
I don’t know how she did it, really. Looking back, I can’t imagine it. My mom didn’t expect her life to turn out that way, of course—I don’t think anyone does. She looked up one day at the age of thirty-four with a six-month-old baby to support, and she felt scared, alone, and desperate. I was oblivious to what was happening in my family during those days. I’m glad I can’t remember the heartache between my parents that led to their split. My mom and my dad are both wonderful, but things just didn’t work out like they hoped they would.
So when my mom found herself with just sixty-four dollars to her name and a brand-new baby, she went into survival mode. That’s when it occurred to her. My mom’s first job, at sixteen years old, was in a little bakery called Ozment’s Bakery. There she learned how to bake and decorate cakes. So, on a cold and windy day in February of 1984 in downtown Nashville, she went back to something she had always known, something she had always loved: making cakes.
At the corner of 6th Avenue and Church Street was a candy store called Candyland. My mom noticed that they had a front showcase window that wasn’t being used. She had an idea and took a leap of faith. She walked into the store and asked to speak with the owner. When he came out, she presented her business idea to him. She would rent his unused showcase window for 10 percent of all of her profits in exchange for the space to make cakes. It would be eye-catching for people walking by to watch her decorate in an area that was otherwise bare and it would draw people into his store. She convinced him—and in the process, herself—that it would work.
She used all of her sixty-four dollars to buy supplies, and on her business’s opening day, she earned back exactly sixty-four dollars. She used all of that day’s earnings to buy just enough supplies for the next day’s cakes. It wasn’t long before Candyland had a line wrapped around the block, but the customers weren’t in line for candy; they were in line for my mom’s cakes.
And that was the very beginning. Thirty-three years, seven moves, tons of employees, thousands of customers, and hundreds of thousands of cakes later, my mom is still in business. She works on a smaller scale now. She is semiretired and she makes cakes “just for fun and to keep my skills sharp,” she says. Trust me, those skills are as sharp as ever.
Making It Work
My mom’s first cake shop is the backdrop for my entire childhood. I have countless memories there. I remember when she would have to bake at two or three in the morning. She would pull me out of bed in my pajamas, wrap me in several of those bright, 1980s-style comforters with huge geometric shapes and weird colors, and carry me to the car. She’d strap me in my seat belt and drive me downtown to the shop while I slept in the back seat. When we got there, she’d make a bed for me on the pallets of powdered sugar and flour sacks. They were huge fifty-pound bags, and she’d pile blankets on them and let me keep sleeping while she worked, until it was time for me to get up for school. I would go to class with the smell of flour in my fine, white-blonde hair.
When I got a little older, she’d let me stay up late and “work” with her while we listened to the oldies blaring on the radio. My contribution usually involved organizing all of the bright and colorful icing tubes in rainbow order. I insisted that they stay that way until the next day when all of her employees came in and the orders began piling up. I was always discouraged and confused when, the next night, the tubes were again out of order.
When I was in middle school, I learned how to open the cash drawer. I didn’t know a thing about working a register other than pushing the button marked NS (No Sale) opened the drawer. I would often grab some dollar bills and head next door to Subway to get a cookie and then go down the street to the arcade. No wonder the cash never balanced out at the end of the day and Mom’s bookkeeper hated me!
When I was in high school, I made deliveries to downtown businesses and, as a bonus, I got to keep the tips. It makes sense why so many of the memories I cherish—moments that helped shape me—in some way involve that cake shop. But more than that, they all involved my mother.
My mom is a fighter and a survivor, a mover and a shaker. She is optimistic to a fault, persistent to no end, and has a heart that is good to the core. She is creative, resourceful, and always full of life. And now as a grown woman myself, as a mom and wife and leader, I would like to believe I have developed every one of those qualities as a result of her. Her story of struggle is my own story of struggle, but her story of victory is my own victory as well. My mom made a business and life doing what she loved. That’s why this message is so important to me. And it’s why I want to help equip other women to do the same.
Your Version of Success
My story is why this matters so much to me. Seeing my mom step into her gifts and make things happen is what pushes me and challenges me and inspires me to do the same all these years later. I want to see women set free to pursue what they love and unapologetically make money doing it. I want to see women confident and happy and satisfied with the life they’ve created instead of just tolerating some version of life they felt pressured into or settled for. I want to see women moving and shaking up the business world by stepping into their God-given gifts to bring something amazing only they can offer. I want women to give themselves permission to take time—for their skills and hobbies and interests and themselves. Ultimately, I want to see women become successful in the way Maya Angelou defines it: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”4
That’s what I want you to achieve in your business. I’m not interested in pushing you to become a powerhouse entrepreneur who takes the world by storm, ends up on the cover of Forbes magazine, and makes millions of dollars. If you want to do that, I fully support it. But if your version of success looks more like my friend Amy, who just wants to be able to quit her full-time job and stay home with her kids, I support that too. Or if you’re like my friend Hannah who just wants to be able to contribute to the family income and pay for soccer camp this summer, I am behind you on that. Or if you are like one of my clients, Nikki, who wants to ditch corporate America so she can call the shots and be her own boss while using her degree and skills in finance, I am by your side to help you do that. Your vision of success may be different than these. I want you to know, whatever your reason, it’s valid and worthy and important.
A Variety of Whys
In my years of coaching women in business, I have heard some amazing, inspiring, and insightful stories of how different women got started. And when I asked women why they wanted to do their particular business, their answers were as varied as the businesses they represented.
When Your Passion Is Your Why
Tina is a travel planner for Disney. She is one of those people who loves—and I mean loves—Disney. You know people like that, don’t you? It’s like a club. They know all of the latest news and events, go there for every vacation, and talk about it nonstop. That’s how Tina is. My memories of visiting Disney when I was ten are fantastic, but I will likely not step foot back there until I take my own children. But Tina’s love of Disney is not for her family or kids. She loves it for herself.
When Tina talked about her side business of planning Disney vacations for clients, her energy shot through the phone line and I couldn’t help but smile. Her enthusiasm about her business was contagious. When I asked Tina why she decided to do this particular business, I’ll never forget what she said. “Oh that’s easy,” she answered. “I love Disney—really, really love it. So all day I get to talk about this thing that I love.”
What an awesome story of a woman who not only knows what she loves, but also found a way to make money doing it. And that very thing is what I love.
When Your Story Is Your Why
I also remember meeting Angela in Phoenix during one of my coaching session meet-ups. She has an Etsy store that sells handmade jewelry for people to give as gifts. Now, I know what you’re thinking. A bazillion people sell handmade jewelry on Etsy! What’s the big deal? Angela’s why is the big deal.
When Angela was a little girl, her mom regularly gave her gifts of jewelry. They weren’t fancy or expensive, but it isn’t just the specific pieces of jewelry that Angela remembers. It is the significance of them.
Each time her mother would give Angela a new piece of jewelry, her mother would tell Angela that the piece of jewelry symbolized a certain quality. As we talked, Angela recalled one time when her mother said, “This bracelet represents your beauty. You are beautiful, Angela, and I want you to always remember that. Even when a boy is mean to you or a girl talks about you behind your back, look at this bracelet and remember that you are beautiful.” Angela went on to recount example after example of the jewelry her mother had given her along with the significance attached to each piece. As Angela told me the story behind her why, I had to fight back tears and resist the temptation to log onto Etsy and buy something for someone in my life. That is the power of knowing your why.
What’s your why? What’s the reason you got started? It can be as touching and inspiring as Angela’s story about her mother’s gifts of jewelry, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. It can also be as practical as “paying for gymnastics this fall.” There is no wrong answer to the question. It’s just important that you have one.
Maybe you’ve never thought about why you’re doing this. That’s okay. We’ll talk about it more when we start digging into your business plan. For now, I want you to start thinking about your story and how you got the idea for your business in the first place. Start thinking about why this matters to you.
Pressing On and Pushing Through
Even today, when my mom has a stressful day and vents to me about being bogged down with orders, sometimes I can’t help but ask, “Mom, why do you still do it? You don’t have to.”
As soon as the question hits the air, Mom instantly switches gears, defending her passion. “Because it matters, Christy. It matters if I get up in the morning. It matters to the families who have gotten their cakes from me for over thirty years. It matters to that bride who will never forget her wedding day and all of the details that made it perfect—including the cake I made. I’m not just making cakes. I’m a part of some of the most special, important, and remembered moments in someone’s life. That’s why I still do it.” Mom is in her midsixties now, but she still knows why she does it.
Your Why Gets You Through the Hard Days
Business can be tough. You will have hard days, days you will have questions that overwhelm you and to-do lists that seem unending. I know, because I have them too.
If I am totally honest, I have days I don’t want to walk on stage. Speaking is a part of my career and I love it, but sometimes it’s hard and I just don’t feel up for it. This was especially true during both of my pregnancies. Many days I was tired and simply taking a few steps would knock the breath out of me. I felt big and swollen and altogether ugly, and I certainly didn’t feel I could bring my A game. The last thing I wanted was to stand on a giant platform with bright lights and thousands of eyeballs on me!
But here’s the thing: I’m not doing this for me. My why is not to be seen or known or heard or liked. If I was doing this just to make myself look good, do you think I would have taken the stage eight months pregnant? Heck no! I would have hidden backstage while a video played of me at my thinnest while wearing a cute outfit and having a perfect hair day. But in that moment, I had a roomful of faces representing my why. Women, passionate about living their dreams, who were bold and committed about changing their lives. Their excitement was contagious, and even when I was feeling my worst, they reignited my why. They got me through the day. And, along the way, I was able to help them too. When you remember your why, amazing things start to happen. That’s what I want to help you discover for yourself.
Regardless of your business, some days will be hard, and you’ll be discouraged and beaten down or just not in the mood and want to sit one out. But when you remember why it matters to you, you can take your eyes off of your momentary obstacle and quickly gain perspective to propel you forward. It will give you just the boost you need to keep going, even when it’s hard.
The World Needs Your Gifts, Talent, and Passion
Sometimes the heaviness of everything—our roles, responsibilities, commitments, and obligations—can weigh us down and get in the way of living our dream. And despite our best efforts sometimes life just gets in the way. Working toward our dream feels like too much. I know how it feels to lose your identity in motherhood, to try and do a hundred different things but feel like you’re doing none of them well, to feel like you’re always coming from behind. I know what it’s like to naturally and unconsciously put every other person on the planet before yourself. It can lead to the heavy feeling of being rushed and resentful, busy and burned-out.
But I want to encourage you. You were made for more than just getting by; fulfillment is waiting for you in work that you love. You’re not a supporting character in the movie of your life; you’re the lead role. You have permission, the responsibility even, to be in the driver’s seat of your own life. That includes investing in things that bring you joy and make you proud. You have permission to do things that make you like yourself. It’s not selfish; it’s self-preservation, and it’s smart.
It can feel scary. We’ll deal with the fear soon enough. It can feel overwhelming. This whole book is designed to get you past that. You may feel like your gifts, talents, hobbies, and interests are just random and maybe even useless. But they are not. You’re wired this way for a reason. You were designed for success, and, my friend, it’s time to unlock all of that potential that God’s put inside of you. The Bible talks about another woman, Esther, who had to face her own fear, limitations, and sense of calling. The encouragement she received from her mentor is the same encouragement I want to give you as we begin this incredible journey together: Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.5
Here’s the best part: when you stop treating yourself, your gifts, and your desires like an afterthought and start chasing your dream, watch what happens. All of those roles and responsibilities and relationships will improve as the quality of your own life improves. You will actually be a better wife or mom or friend or leader when you start creating and living a life you love.
I’m proud of you for picking up this book and choosing to invest in something that’s important to you. If you can commit to going on the wild ride of putting yourself and your heart and soul and dreams on the line in business, I’ll promise you this: you’ll not only completely change the trajectory of where your life is headed, but you’ll also have a whole lot more fun getting there.