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my journal

How I'm Feeling About Owning My First Storefront

How I'm Feeling About Owning My First Storefront

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to share what it's felt like to own my first storefront. I started grace + hudson as an online business about 3 years ago and I expanded by opening my first storefront about 2 months ago in Charleston. Last week, someone asked me whether I like owning a shop so I thought I'd share my response here. 

Do I like owning my own shop? Yes! First and foremost, I've really enjoyed connecting with some of you in person. Social media is wonderful but there's something extra special about meeting you in person, helping you select jewelry, and watching your face light up when you find the perfect piece. This happened just yesterday. I had an adorable mother and daughter in my shop, and the daughter's face lit up when she put on one of my heart necklaces. She asked her mom if she could get it and, after her mother said yes, she wore it as she left the shop. I live for that! It gives me so much joy. Many of you have asked if you can wear the jewelry now, as you leave the shop, and my heart melts every single time.

The other thing I love about having the shop is helping brides select their wedding jewelry in person. I help many of you virtually, over email and Instagram, but helping you pick out jewelry in person is something special! I love looking at your wedding dresses, asking about your wedding venues, and watching you try on your favorite pieces. Once you find the perfect pieces, it gives me so much joy to know I'll be a part of your wedding day in this small way.

The jewelry store has also given me a beautiful, inspiring place to work everyday. I feel more creative in my shop and I'm excited to work there. The energy in my space is so good! I can't explain it. It kind of feels like home. Before I had the store, I was working out of a home office that was bursting at the seams. Yep that's right, I ran g+h out of my home for almost 3 years! I was so ready for g+h to have a space of its own. It has made my business feel more legitimate too. In addition to the retail space, my shop has a room for packaging up online orders and an office. Rather than packing up orders on my kitchen table, I have a dedicated counter where everything is organized and nicely set up. It helps me be more productive, too.

Having my own storefront, ironically, also seems to have grown my online business. Maybe grace + hudson seems more legitimate to potential customers because I have a storefront. There's so many people selling online these days and, sometimes when you buy from someone new, you don't know what you're going to get and you might be a little hesitant to hit "buy." Having a storefront seems to have taken away those purchase fears. At the very least, g+h is legitimate enough to at least have a storefront in downtown Charleston so chances are, when the jewelry shows up, it's actually going to look like the pictures on the website!

The other really great thing about having a storefront is the people I've met. It can be lonely, being an entrepreneur. But now I have neighbors - a hair salon owned by a woman from New York, a deli owned by a family from Massachusetts, a wedding photographer from New York and another from South Carolina, and also the residents who live above my shop. We have such a fun little corner, and we'll often chat outside with a drink after we close for the day. I can't wait to meet more business owners throughout Charleston. It's such a fun community to be part of. I don't really have co-workers, but I have business owner neighbors and friends and that's a pretty fun thing.

So far, the only downside about owning my shop is the coronavirus. I signed my lease at the end of February, just a couple of weeks before the coronavirus drama all began. Thankfully, I was able to open my doors to the public in mid-May and I've been open ever since. But of course I have the fear that we'll face another quarantine. I have to pay rent for the store whether or not I have customers, so I pray that I'll be able to keep my doors open so that I'll be able to pay my bills. It's scary, you know? Every week I hear about another shop or another restaurant in Charleston permanently closing their doors. In all honesty, I'm not quite sure how I've survived, especially since my business is so young - it's only 3 years old. I can guess that it has something to do with my work ethic and my drive to succeed. This is my dream come to life and I am going to do everything I can to keep it alive during this trying time. One thing's for sure - after making it through this, I know I can make it through anything and everything.

If you're in the Charleston area or visiting soon, come in for a visit! The store is located in the historic district at 87 Wentworth Street (one block west of Vineyard Vines on King Street). I'd love to meet you!

xoxo,

Stacy        

 

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How I Know For Certain That I'll Never Go Back To Working As A Lawyer

How I Know For Certain That I'll Never Go Back To Working As A Lawyer

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to tell you how I know for certain that I'll never go back to working as a lawyer. If you're new to grace + hudson, I worked as a lawyer for 11 years before I started my own jewelry business. To say that I disliked my job as a lawyer would be an understatement. But I must admit, when I first quit my job to start g+h, I felt fortunate to have a legal degree to fall back on. I knew that no matter what, I'd never be homeless and unable to pay my bills. I knew that I'd always be able to get some type of legal job with my degree and my experience. That knowing, plus my savings in the bank, gave me the ability to take a risk and try out being an entrepreneur. Anyone who has embarked on the entrepreneurial path will tell you that you spend the first two years (and maybe even longer) worrying about when you might need to crawl back to your prior career. That's totally normal. What you don't hear about so much is what life is like on the other side, when you finally surpass that marker and know with utter certainty that you'll never have to go back to your prior career. 

Here's how I know with 100% certainty that I will never again work in the legal profession. Plain and simple: I am no longer a match for it! Let me make an analogy I think we can all relate to. Bring to mind a guy or girl from your past that you either dated or wanted to date but, when you think of him or her now, it makes you cringe. Why is that? What's that little cringe all about? YOU'VE EVOLVED. You are no longer (quite literally) a match for them. If you are self-aware enough, you can probably pinpoint the exact reason why you're no longer a match, too. For example, I used to be a people pleaser. A HUGE people pleaser (which is one of the things that actually made me "good" at my job as a lawyer). What type of guy does a people pleaser usually attract into her life? Well, a guy who loves to make an inordinate amount of demands and is usually pretty self-centered. That type of guy loves to date people pleasers. Do you see how they're a match? He makes demands to feel more powerful (since he suffers from a lack of self-worth) and she wants to fulfill demands to feel needed and more important (because that's how she derives her false sense of self-worth). It's not a healthy dynamic, but it's easy to see how these types of people are attracted to each other like a magnet. It's the same with work and career. Actually, it's the same with pretty much everything in life! The things, people, jobs, etc that you have in your life right now are no accident! They're simply a match for what you think about yourself, what you think about the world, what you think about relationships, etc. 

I can see now why I fell into the legal profession and a lot of it has to do with my people-pleasing and overachiever tendencies. I was insecure and I didn't love myself very much and I tried to fill those "holes" by getting prestigious jobs. For example, the unconscious thought process that was probably going on in my mind sounded something like this: "I must be valuable and important if I have a great job that pays me lots of money!" Wrong. In addition, I derived a false sense of "purpose" and a false sense of "self-worth" by satisfying my client's and boss' every demand even if they came at 11 pm at night. Wrong again. As I stand here today, after doing a lot of work on myself with the help of a therapist and a lot of personal growth books, I no longer have those "holes" and I will no longer accept that type of work environment in my life anymore. No one is going to own my time the way law firms owned my every morning, evening, weekend, and holiday. No one is going to demand that I complete a non-urgent work task at 11 pm at night. No one is going to bark outrageous demands at me in the office. I will no longer accept that. I know now that I DESERVE BETTER. Period. And better is what shows up when you make that type of declaration and truly believe it to be so. My "better" is the life I've created with grace + hudson. I feel happy at work. I feel fulfilled at work. And I feel like work is a fun and healthy place to be. That's what I demand now of my career and that's exactly what I'm getting. And once you evolve beyond something (such as, in my case, the legal profession), there's no going back. It's nearly impossible. It's kind of like riding a bike: once you learn how to ride a bike, you can't really unlearn that. Does that make sense? It's the same with how we evolve and grow over our life span. We grow into jobs, we grow out of jobs, we grow into relationships, we grow out of relationships, etc.

I hope this gave you some food for thought! Now maybe you understand why I'm always saying, if you want to start your own business, you need to work more on your mindset than you do on your website. Work on evolving and growing beyond your present circumstances if you don't like them and see what happens next!

xoxo,

Stacy 

 

 

 

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The Truth About Work-Life Balance

The Truth About Work-Life Balance

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to talk about work-life balance. Someone asked me to address this topic and I thought it was a great idea. Starting your own business is no easy task and work-life balance is definitely a legitimate concern if you're thinking about becoming an entrepreneur.

Before I started grace + hudson I was a lawyer and I worked some pretty crazy hours, especially when I was a young attorney. There were many nights spent working until midnight or beyond. I ate dinner at the office more than I ate dinner at home, and I often gave up much of my weekend to work. One of the main reasons I hated my job as a lawyer was that my employer owned me - my time was not my own. I was constantly forced to cancel plans with family and friends and I missed out on some pretty big events, including a friend's wedding. I say all of this to illustrate the reason why running my own business has felt a lot more balanced and a lot easier, even though it's required a lot of hard work. And that's because I am always in control of my own time and I never have to miss out on things that are important to me. I work a ton of hours as you might imagine, but I can be flexible with when and where I work. So, for me personally, I've found that achieving work-life balance is more about flexibility than it is about working significantly less hours per week. For ambitious types like myself, I love what I do and I don't mind spending a lot of time doing it. It's fulfilling and really fun! But I don't want my work to cause me to miss out on important moments with my family and friends and the flexibility I have now ensures that. Perhaps one of the positive things that'll come from the coronavirus and quarantine will be more employers allowing their employees to work from home and work flexible hours. Work-life balance will become a lot more attainable for a lot more people if that's the case.

The second thing I've learned about work-life balance is that, for me, it was more about being in alignment with my gifts and talents than it was about actual hours worked. What does that mean? Well, as soon as I started working in a field that felt really aligned with my God-given talents (jewelry making) and personality (creative, peaceful, light-hearted), I started to feel more balanced. A lot more balanced. Even when I was working long hours, I never felt drained, exhausted, and stressed out the way I did when I was a lawyer. Strangely enough, I felt like I had even more energy because I was so inspired and satisfied from the work I was doing. It lit me up! It literally put a sparkle in my eye, and if you've experienced that feeling before, you know it's an energizing feeling. Think about it - when you're doing something you truly enjoy, the hours fly by and you usually have positive mood-boosting endorphins running through your system. When you get home, you have energy to spend on your children, your spouse, and other chores and activities. You don't just collapse on the couch and snap at your family members because your day was so draining, right? This can lead to a greater work-life balance because you actually have energy left at the end of the day to spend quality time with family and friends and enjoy the things you want to enjoy.

So I would sum up my views on work-life balance like this. First, for me, I've found that flexibility is more important than working less hours. The ability to work when and where I want is incredibly freeing. I think most people want to work and actually have the drive to work hard, they just want to be given a little latitude to get their work done when and where they want so that they don't miss out on the things outside of work that build a well-rounded life (like attending a birthday dinner for a close friend, reading a book to your children before sleep, helping out a family member, or even going to a favorite workout class). Second, work-life balance is a lot easier to achieve when you're working in a field that is in alignment with who you are. When that's the case, your job will not deplete you of all your energy. Rather, you'll feel pretty balanced (not too tired and not too frantic) or your job will actually energize you and light you up, and you'll have energy after the workday to spend on your friends, spouse, family, and activities you enjoy thereby increasing your work-life balance. 

One last word on work-life balance in the context of entrepreneurship. Running your own business requires a lot of work. There are a lot of people out there who claim to run a business working only 3 or 4 hours or day for example. I'm sure you've come across them. I'm not sure of their personal circumstances, but if you're thinking of starting your own business, I caution you to not have this expectation. I'm at the beginning of my 4th year and I'm just starting to slow down and keep more of a regular work week (usually between 40 and 50 hours per week). In the beginning, my hours were much longer than that. I worked every day (weekends included) and often worked 10 to 12 hours per day. Maybe my living expenses are just a lot higher than the people making these claims of 3-4 hours per day. Everything is relative, right? A "successful" business to them may be one that generates $20,000 per year whereas my business would need to generate much more than that to cover my living expenses. But whatever the case, please do not go into business ownership thinking that you're only going to work a minimal amount of hours. It's just not the case. It requires a lot of hard work over a long period of time, and it's not easy. If it were that easy, I assure you that many more people would open their own business and...even more importantly...more would succeed and grow. The fact of the matter is a lot of new businesses fail because it's simply not that easy. Do I think you need to sell your soul and work 90 hours/week? Absolutely not! But it does take a lot of dedication, especially in the first few years.

If work-life balance is something you're seeking, I hope you found this journal entry insightful! 

xoxo,

Stacy 

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The Hidden Storylines Holding Us Back

The Hidden Storylines Holding Us Back

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I wanted to talk about the power of the stories we tell ourselves and how to turn them around if they're holding us back. While this is an important lesson for business owners, it's also important in life. I've talked about this on Instagram and I wanted to talk about it here in more detail because it has been such a helpful tool.

Let me start with an example so you have some context. I shared this story over on Instagram this week. For many months, I've been feeling very overwhelmed in my business because I've take on a lot and have no help. It's just little old me running this business! I do everything from watering the flowers outside my shop to high-level marketing work, and everything in between. For a while now, I've accepted the fact that I really do need to hire an employee. It's time. My business just turned 3 years old last week and I can no longer handle everything on my own. But it's a scary step! It's sort of like trusting someone else to watch and care for your child. Anyways, for several months I had this repeating storyline running through my head. It went something like this: "I can't do this much longer on my own. This is too much for one person to handle. I have no one to help me." I recognized this story was playing in the back of my head and I started to call myself out on it. Each time I caught myself getting trapped in this story, I turned it around and said something like this: "I welcome support. I am supported in my business. I know the exact right person to hire is going to come across my path." It's hard work calling yourself out! It takes courage to challenge yourself and say to yourself, "Hey, there might be another perspective here." It took some time to fully believe this new story (that I could be supported) because I was a bit trapped in victimhood ("I can't do this on my own anymore. I am overwhelmed. I have no one to help me."). But once I really claimed a new storyline that was positive and supportive, it was only a matter of time before the most perfect employee serendipitously crossed my path. I was previously acquainted with her and never thought I'd be able to hire her. But everything lined up and I am so excited to start working with her in several weeks. It's funny how that happens.

Now that you have an example, let's try to break it down into action steps. It really isn't all that difficult - it just takes a lot of discipline and a willingness to call yourself out.

1. Recognize the limiting, negative, or self-defeating storyline

What negative storylines are you repeating? Truly ask yourself what's holding you back and be completely unfiltered and honest with yourself. 

Maybe it's "I'll never make enough money selling jewelry to pay my bills" (that's one I had to defeat after I quit being a lawyer!)

Maybe it's "I'm too young or I'm too old or I'm too [insert adjective] to succeed at [insert desired goal]." 

Maybe it's "Everyone has a 9 to 5 job, who am I to do something different?"

Maybe it's "My parents never made anything of themselves, who am I to pursue this big goal?"

Maybe it's even "I'll never meet a great guy. They're all jerks."

Negative storylines can creep up in every aspect of life, not just business and career. Not sure where to start? Ask yourself this: what area of my life is giving me the most trouble right now? Then ask yourself, "Why?" Then follow that trail as far as you can until you identify a limiting belief. Another method is to ask yourself, "Is there an area of my life where I feel sorry for myself?" For example, do you feel sorry for yourself because you've been single for 3 years in a row? That might cue you to look at the storylines you have in relation to your romantic relationships.

2.  Once you've identified the storyline that's holding you back, think about how you can turn it around

Get out a piece of paper and a pen and really work through how you can twist your storyline around. Start simple.

For example, if the negative storyline is "I have no one to help me in my business" then write down the opposite which would be, "I have help in my business."

If the negative storyline is "I'm too young to start my own business and have it succeed" then write down, "Regardless of my age, I know I have the skills I need to start my own business and have it succeed." 

If the negative storyline is "I'll never meet a great guy" then write down, "I know a great guy will cross my path and it's just a matter of time."

You get the idea. Come up with two or three "new" storylines that are positive and supporting. Write them down in your phone's note pad so you can refer to them at any moment.

3. Here's the hardest part: call yourself out 

When the negative storyline creeps in, you have to recognize it and call yourself out. This is the hardest part. Storylines are sneaky. They creep in when you least expect it and they come out of your mouth without you even realizing it. But the good news is, it gets easier and easier to call yourself out over time. It will almost become a reflex. You'll feel a little tug at your heart when you think or say a negative storyline and that'll be your cue for step 4.

4. Replace the negative storyline with the positive ones you created in step 3.

When you recognize yourself thinking or saying a negative storyline, stop yourself, and simply replace it with the positive storyline. And let yourself really feel it. It felt so good to tell myself, "I AM supported in my business. I CAN hire someone great. I know an awesome employee is going to cross my path." It eventually felt so good that I truly started to believe it!

5. Repeat the process over and over again and trust that new things, people, and events will start to show up for you to support your new storyline.

Here's the deal. The world works in pretty predictable ways. We are naturally attracted to things, people, and events that support our storylines. Let me make an analogy - we all have certain political beliefs (especially right now) and we tend to watch and read the media and news outlets that support what we already believe, right? People who love CNN would never watch Fox News and vice versa. The same principle applies in life - we look for things that already support what we believe. Does that make sense? I think our brains would rather be on "autopilot" - it's easier than opening up new pathways and establishing new thought patterns. 

Some people call this "manifesting" but that sounds a little woo-woo to some people. The plain and simple fact is that our outside circumstances tend to reflect our inner storylines pretty predictably. There's nothing woo-woo about that! When you know this, you can use it to your advantage.

If you found this helpful, I highly recommend the book Super Attractor by Gabby Bernstein. I adopted this method from her book and I've found it incredibly helpful not only in my business, but in my life. I hope you'll give it a try!

xoxo,

Stacy

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Service Is The Name Of The Game

Service Is The Name Of The Game

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to speak directly to those of you who want to start your own business or already have. In running my business, the number one thing I always keep in mind is service. Service is the name of the game! It's about THEM, not YOU. This sounds so incredibly simple, right? But so many people fail to operate their business from a place of service, and it's so incredibly hard to succeed in the long run that way. 

So what does service mean exactly? Service means to be "of help, use, or benefit" (Webster's Dictionary). Every message you deliver about your business' product or service will be much more powerful if you speak from a place of service. Focus on what your customer or client has to gain from your product or service, or what problem you can help them solve, or how your service or product can make their lives better. This sounds easy but it can be tricky in the age of social media. For example, I have noticed that some business owners use their Instagram Stories to post almost entirely about their personal lives. What they did over the weekend, their cat, the wine they enjoyed last night, etc. I think it's great to show little snippets of your personal life because it makes you human and relatable, and these days a lot of people are consciously trying to shop more and more with small business owners rather than big corporations like Amazon. But, I think personal life snippets should be a tiny fraction of what you communicate. Why? Most people have difficulty keeping up with the minor details of their friends' and family's lives, let alone a stranger's life. It's really easy to disengage from that! Why? Because it isn't serving them. It adds little to no value to their lives. 

There's another reason it's really important to speak from a place of service. People can sense that energy, even through the social media and digital airwaves! If your motivation is solely to make money, don't think for one second that your potential customers won't notice that. It's a selfish energy and a self-centered energy that doesn't serve them and it won't serve you in the long run either. On the other hand, if you establish your business from a place of service and operate from the belief that your product or service truly solves a problem or is of value to your target market, then your communications will carry an entirely different energy. Businesses that provide true value to the world will, as a natural consequence, make money. Focus on the value, and the money will come. Focus on the money, and you're actually going to repel it.

I have an important real life example to share about this point. Remember that I had a jewelry store in 2010 that failed after just one year? During that time period, I was way too focused on not being a lawyer. That was my driving force in opening that store. Bottom line - that store wasn't about the customers I might serve with my jewelry designs. It was about me escaping the law. I couldn't see that at the time, but I see it so clearly now. I'm not surprised the store failed and that I ended up back in the law. Law was always on my mind! I gave all my energy to it! 

I'll conclude with this - there is all sorts of value that you can add to the world. You can add value to the world in big ways. You can add value in small ways. And they're both valid. There are tons and tons and tons of big and small problems to fix in the world. Just find your tiny little niche and focus on that. For example, in my own company, I aim to serve brides who are looking for classy jewelry they can gift to their bridesmaids at a giftable price-point. It's not too cheap, it's not too expensive, it's right in the middle. There are so few companies in that middle lane, so that's where I aim to add value. In addition, I aim to solve a problem -- most brides leave jewelry to the very end of their planning process (perhaps because they think it'll be easy to find) and then they scramble in a panic because it's actually really hard to find classy bridesmaid jewelry that won't break the bank (especially if you have something like 8 bridesmaids). I always aim to serve that scrambling bride who is just so happy to stumble across my website or Instagram because it's exactly what she's been looking for. My business is the solution to her problem. Sure, I sell jewelry to non-brides and to brides who aren't scrambling around at the last minute, but my little, tiny, narrow lane of service that I focus on is the one I described above. And when you cover your tiny, little lane of service so incredibly well, other people traveling in other lanes are going to notice you. So what's your tiny, little, narrow corner of the world you aim to serve with your business? Keep that top of mind when you communicate about your business and you will go far.

xoxo,

Stacy

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Advice To My Little Sister

Advice To My Little Sister

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal. I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. Over the past couple of years, many of you have told me that you look to me as an older sister. So with that in mind, I thought I would provide some advice to my little sister about what's transpired in the last week after the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed. How do we become better both individually and collectively as a community? And how do we positively contribute to the massive changes that are occurring right now? I shared these thoughts on Instagram a few days ago and I thought I'd share them again here in case you missed it. I do not claim to be an authority on any topic, let alone a topic as complicated and sensitive as this one, but I hope that this will help you organize your thoughts and your actions.

First, do whatever YOU feel compelled to do right now and ask for guidance through prayer or meditation. For example, maybe you'd like to donate money or volunteer your time to one of the countless causes out there working towards solutions to end systemic racism. Or maybe you'd like to attend a peaceful protest. Or maybe your job right now is to educate yourself and become more aware of the issues. Make a list of podcasts or books you'd like to listen to or read. We all have different things to contribute right now. Honor where you are. And more importantly, honor where others are too. 

Action Step: Listen to this 2 minute talk on Instagram called, "What is Mine To Do?" by Michael Beckwith. You can find it by clicking here

Second, sacrifice some time to understanding these issues. Michael Beckwith, one of my favorite spiritual leaders and authors, says that the word "sacrifice" means to "make sacred." Make sacred your time right now. Substitute watching an episode on Netflix with a long walk listening to a podcast on racism and white privilege. Maybe you do that 3 times this week with 3 different podcasts. That will add up to 3 hours of education and awareness you did not have before. And it'll make you a more intelligent person in the long run.

Action Step: Listen to this valuable podcast from Lewis Howes' "School of Greatness" on racism, white privilege, and healing. You can find it by clicking here

Third, social media is not now a place where you need to prove how "not racist" you are. For example, it is not necessary to post on social media how many things you bought from black-owned businesses this week. It's great if you contributed in that way though! Many of these "boasting" and "toot my own horn" posts are coming from a place of guilt and not from a true place of inspiration and love. We are much, much more than the 1-dimensional social media accounts we use and much of the initial work we need to do right now is internal (like reading and educating ourselves) and involves conversations with our parents, kids, and friends. It doesn't need to be broadcast on social media for validation and "likes" from others. Remember that kid in school who sucked up to the teacher all the time and made sure everyone in the class knew about the extra credit and extra work he did? Don't be that kid. That kid wasn't acting from a place of love, he was acting from a place of needing approval from others to make himself feel better about his own short-comings. BUT by all means, if there is something you feel is worth sharing AND you believe your friends and/or followers could also genuinely be served by that thing, then share it. Maybe you share it on social media, or maybe you just share it with your close friends or family members who can be served by it. Service is the name of the game. Service is not about YOU but about the people you hope to help and assist with your share. That type of share comes from a place of love, not guilt, and will be of true value in the world.

Fourth, the past 90 days have been very intense. If you're feeling overwhelmed or overly sensitive right now, don't tune out or numb out. Rather, take time to rest and recharge as needed and then tune back in.

Action Step: Screen shot this prayer and say it when you're feeling overwhelmed. "Thank you 2020 for your transparency. Thank you for showing us how we need to change. Thank you for motivating us to stand together. Thank you for opening our hearts. Thank you for holding a space where love can rise." (Originally shared by @spiritdaughter)  

xoxo,

Stacy

 

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What It Feels Like To Be A Beginner In Business

What It Feels Like To Be A Beginner In Business

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. Many of you want to start your own business, but have you ever thought about what it might feel like when you finally take the plunge? I started grace + hudson three years ago in June 2017 as an online business. I finished 2019 as a six-figure business which was so exciting (it definitely gave me the "I've made it!" feeling). Then, in early 2020, I signed a store lease to expand my business by adding a storefront in downtown Charleston. I opened my store two weeks ago and I feel like a beginner again. I'm sharing what it feels like to first start out on the big, new, scary, exciting adventure of business ownership because if you don't know what's "normal" and what's not, you might give up on your business too soon.

The most critical thing to remember is that you're going to feel a little lonely in the beginning. This is normal! You won't open your doors and immediately have hundreds of customers waiting to throw their money at you. I wish it were that easy! If it were, everyone would have their own business. Similarly, if your business is all online, you might hear crickets every single time you post something on social media about your services. When that happens, don't compare yourself to other online businesses that have tons of followers - remember, they too were beginners at one point. Instead, realize that you need to put time and effort into marketing. Marketing is simply the act of making people aware of your business and what you have to sell. Most likely, no one is buying from you yet because no one knows about you yet! Don't assume that no one is buying because your product stinks. Too many people assume the latter, get very discouraged, and shut their doors before their business was given a fair chance.

In the very beginning of grace + hudson, I sometimes went weeks without getting a single sale on my website. If I didn't know that was normal I might have thought, "Wow, my jewelry must stink. Maybe I should just go back to being a lawyer." But thankfully I knew that it takes time and effort to grow a business (especially online where there is much more competition). This is the single hardest thing about starting a new business: sticking with it and believing in your products or services even when no one is buying them. Try this exercise - it might make you feel better: look up the businesses you love and find out when they were founded. I was shocked to learn that some of the companies I love were founded long before I knew about them. It takes time. Be consistent. Show up in the best way you know how. And over time, you will build your own tribe of loyal and returning customers.

The second thing I want to talk about is self-doubt. It takes a lot of courage to start your own business. The fears and doubts that held you back before you took the plunge don't automatically go away. It is very normal to open your shop or launch your website and continue to wonder, "Did I make the right decision?" Take some deep breaths, exhale the self-doubt and worry, and focus on what needs to be done to operate your business. Self-doubt is going to be part of any adventure that requires guts, determination, and courage! 

The third and final thing I want to mention are the frustrating customers or clients. If you aren't prepared for them, the first one just might make you cry! But it's a fact of life that comes with the territory. People are by their nature, funny creatures. They'll have incorrect expectations and often want you to deliver champagne on a beer budget. They'll say weird things, make annoying requests, and sometimes be downright rude. For example, I am shocked every time I receive an email from a potential customer trying to negotiate the price of my jewelry. This happens at least several times per year! And I'm not referring to, "Do you have a discount code?" That's perfectly acceptable. What I'm talking about is the customer who says, "I know this necklace is $74 but would you accept $50?" I always think to myself, would that person have the gumption to send the same email to Macy's or Nordstrom? Heck no! So what makes them think it is acceptable to email a small business owner with this type of request? I just don't know. Whenever you encounter an unfriendly or rude customer, realize that it's them, not you. They most likely had a bad day, or weren't raised with proper manners. It just comes with the territory. Be kind and do the best you can to meet their expectations, but never feel like you have to concede to a request if it doesn't feel right to you or just doesn't make sense financially. There will be more customers - you certainly don't need the annoying ones.

Business ownership is an exciting adventure. Enjoy the beginning because, if things go well, you'll soon be so busy that the beginning stages will become a distant memory!

xoxo,

Stacy 

 

 

 

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How It Feels To Be Opening a Storefront in Charleston

How It Feels To Be Opening a Storefront in Charleston

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. This week I'm sharing what it feels like to be opening my new shop in downtown Charleston. Opening day is tomorrow, May 19th, and I have the biggest smile on my face about it all! It's such a big step on my business ownership journey and of course a lot of thought went into the decision. Well, actually, not really! But that's exactly the takeaway point from my story behind opening this new shop.

I opened my business in June 2017 and sold online only for about 2 1/2 years before I decided it was time to expand. Some of you might not know that I've been a one-man show this entire time. Yep, I do everything from high-level marketing strategy to taping labels on packages. I've had a few interns and a consultant along the way, but I never really felt ready (or financially able) to hire a steady employee. I also felt that I could do it all on my own (a personality trait that I'm doing a lot of work to correct!). Anyways, in the fall of 2019, I started to get this deep gut feeling that it was time to up-level and take my business on to the next chapter. This coincided with me feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the tasks that need to be done to run a business. When you start your own business, everyone will tell you, "When young businesses fail, it's usually because the owner is too lost in the everyday details of the business and not spending enough time on the high-level marketing and growth strategy." And this is exactly where I found myself - I knew I had to pivot soon or I was going to be doomed. But it's scary to expand! I had all the normal fears you might imagine. 

After the 2019 holiday season, I decided that I needed to bite the bullet and work on hiring a part-time employee or two. Until recently, I've worked out of a home office and I didn't want to invite employees into my home (even if they were just a local college student or two) which meant that I needed to find a small office space. I began to research office space prices because I'm still fairly new to the Charleston area. In my head, this was just research. I was originally planning not to lease a space until mid-year, and maybe even September 2020. I looked at a couple spaces and one of them was very close to my home with very flexible lease terms. There were enough office units available that I could probably secure one beginning mid-summer or September. I almost stopped my research, knowing that I could come back to this space and this landlord later in the year when I felt ready. I continued to look at listings though and I came across this Craigslist posting (no joke) for a space in downtown Charleston that wasn't all that much more money. The space had a decent-sized office, a copy room that I could turn into a packaging room for online orders, and a beautiful area that I could turn into a store or showroom area. I decided to look at it, expecting nothing much since the price was so affordable (downtown Charleston is not often described as "affordable"). 

The space didn't initially knock my socks off, but in the few days that followed, I got an amazing vision for a beautiful store. I also started to realize that the plain office space I had looked at was a sunk cost. It would never be able to generate revenue to pay for itself. But, if I had an office that also had a small space for a store, well the space might even pay for itself (plus more!). I went back to see the space with my boyfriend who has lived in the Charleston area for much longer than me. He was impressed and said that the opportunity would not come up again. Not for a pretty space like this (it even has a fireplace!) at this price point.

This whole process spanned only about a week or two. Remember, I was only conducting "research" on pricing, with the aim of securing a space in mid-summer at the earliest. But I had such a strong feeling about this Charleston space. It was overwhelming really. It felt like it was dropped into my lap by guardian angels who wanted me to take it. Really it did! There was something so magical about it. AND the landlord was amazing, saying that if it didn't work out and my store failed, he wouldn't try to take me to court to enforce the lease against me. It was the little nudge of reassurance I needed to calm my nerves about leasing a space so quickly and so abruptly, really. I told him to send me a copy of the lease.

The lease was very fair and agreeable, but I took a few days to review it... along with the doubts and fears I was feeling. How is this happening?! I was only researching spaces! And now I'm going to open a store, like, next month? Is this what I really want? Is this what grace + hudson needs? I took all those questions inward and really meditated and prayed about it all. Deep down, I felt so clear, so certain that this was the next step. There really wasn't a shadow of a doubt. It felt divinely orchestrated. I knew if I said "no" to this opportunity the Universe was showing me, I would regret it. I almost felt like if I said "no" I'd be betraying myself. Has that ever happened to you? To me, that's always been a clear signal. That's the feeling I had when I quit my lawyer job - I felt like if I stayed in that career, that I'd be betraying myself because I knew I was made for something much greater and far more satisfying. So I trusted this clear internal guidance I was feeling, and signed the lease.

The moral of the story is that when something is meant to be, it'll happen and it'll happen on its own timetable. Maybe that'll be faster than you like or slower than you like, but it will all work out exactly how it's supposed to. Sometimes you don't need to analyze and forecast and plan for 6 months before you take action. Sometimes you just have to leap at an opportunity or it might be gone forever. When something is "divinely orchestrated" as I like to call it, you have to trust in your gut and go for it. Trust that you will be caught and that, no matter what, the experience is supposed to be part of your journey. Maybe it'll fail, maybe it'll be successful beyond your wildest dreams, but in both cases you'll learn a ton about yourself and grow a lot along the way. And that's what really matters at the end of the day. So I'd say that I'm feeling the following way as I open my new store: trusting, hopeful, at peace, and joyful with imagination for all this store might become.

I hope you'll come visit me sometime in Charleston! My store is at 87 Wentworth Street, just one block from the famous King Street. I'd love to meet you in person!

xoxo,

Stacy

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The 3 Most Critical Things To Think About When Starting Your Own Business

The 3 Most Critical Things To Think About When Starting Your Own Business

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. This week I'm sharing the 3 most critical things to think about when starting your own business. We are living in crazy, uncertain times but I think the instability people are currently feeling in the workplace is inspiring a lot of people to go off and do their own thing. There is no time like the present! The world is changing rapidly as a result of the coronavirus and the way people work, shop, and live is changing along with it. If you are contemplating starting your own business or recently launched your own business, this week's journal is for you. As you embark on your journey, you'll want to give a lot of thought to the 3 things I've outlined below. In my opinion, these are the 3 most critical things that make up the foundation of a successful business. If you nail these 3 things, your chance of success is going to increase dramatically.

1) How is your business different from all the businesses already selling or offering what you're selling or offering? Make sure you communicate this loud & clear and as often as possible.

To me, this is the literally the most critical aspect of establishing your business. We live in a global marketplace and there are most likely hundreds if not thousands if not millions of businesses already selling or offering what you hope to sell or offer. Today, it's as easy to order a sweater from a business in California as it is to order a sweater from a business in Australia. Think about it: just 10 or 15 years ago, people pretty much shopped within their own country. And 25 or 30 years ago, people pretty much shopped within their own state because e-commerce didn't even exist. Heck, email didn't even really exist! You actually had to go to a store to get that sweater, which means that shop owners were only competing with other shop owners within a certain number of miles. Today, shop owners are competing with other shops around the world. So this brings me to my point - how is your business different from all of those shops? You need to be 1000% clear on this and you need to communicate it clearly and often to your potential customers. Let me give you an example. Say you'd like to start a clothing company. Well, there are millions of shops selling clothing these days. So what makes you different? Why should I buy a pair of pants from you and not another shop? Maybe you use a revolutionary new fabric to make your pants. Or maybe your business hires women to sew the pants who were formerly victims of domestic violence and are getting back on their feet. What is it about your company and your pants that makes them stand out from the millions of other pants that other companies sell? If you aren't clear on what makes your company special, and if you don't communicate this clearly and regularly in your marketing efforts, it's going to be difficult to grow a profitable business. There are simply too many other shops from which I can buy pants, and the one that catches my eye and resonates with me is most likely going to get my dollars. 

2) Establish a brand, not just a business.

Most businesses need a brand - an identity - to grow and succeed. A business is it's own entity - in fact, when you file paperwork to form your LLC or corporation, the state actually gives you a piece of paper that says your business is it's own entity distinct and separate from you. Some would go so far to call their LLC or corporation a living, breathing thing (when you start the business ownership journey, you'll understand this! It feels like you've just given birth to a newborn who needs every second of your attention and care). And this new little entity you're creating - this business - needs a personality. Just like a newborn, the things you do (or don't do) shape the personality of this business. And just like a human being, people are more likely to fall in love with a business that has some personality. Do you get the distinction I'm trying to make here? There are businesses, and then there are brands. A business merely tries to sell things. A brand, on the other hand, tries to connect with you, and serve you, and fulfill your need. They put a lot of care and attention into how they interact with you - it truly is a relationship, not just a one-way street for selling whatever item you happen to need or want. A brand is something you can interact with and engage with and hopefully, at the end of the day, it's something that resonates with you.

You may have already connected the dots, but point 2 strongly correlates to my first point. Generally, a brand is based on the thing or things that make your business different from every other business out there. Let's talk about the company that hires former victims of domestic violence to sew their pants. Perhaps that company's branding will center around the empowerment of women, and their marketing messages will be inspirational and focus on women's independence and resilience. And maybe they will donate a portion of their sales to a charity that focuses on supporting victims of domestic violence. You get the point? The company isn't just a company selling pants anymore. It's a company that's selling pants but with a much larger mission - a brand - that might resonate with a lot of women out there. 

3) Have enough money in the bank or keep your day job for the foreseeable future.

My last point is a practical point. The unfortunate reality is that starting a business usually costs a lot of money. You have to file paperwork with the state to create your business entity (usually $100 or more), you might need to order inventory if you're selling a product (a lot of your money will be spent here), you have to invest in marketing (in the beginning, marketing costs can be huge because if no one knows about your new business, no one can buy from you), you might need to hire employees straight out of the gate (while some companies can wait to hire), and you might need to rent out a space or an office (while some companies can operate out of a home office to start). These are just some of the expenses you will face as you start your business. How do you intend to pay for them? If your business is new, chances are it's making no money because no one knows about you yet! And - spoiler alert - it takes a lot longer than you might think to build a business that can generate a steady revenue stream (we're talking years, not weeks or months). Generally, the rule of thumb is that a business takes 2 to 3 years to become profitable. That means that in the first 2 to 3 years, you are not making enough money to support all of your expenses and you need either (a) money in the bank or (b) an alternate way to generate income. Will you keep your day job for the foreseeable future or take on a part-time job so that you continue to have a stream of income while you build your business and your brand? Do you have enough savings in the bank to support your living expenses so you can work on your business full-time? What is your plan? For me, I had saved up a lot. I was at this juncture in my life where I could either buy a condo, or invest my money in myself and my business idea. I chose my business idea!

Let me say one more thing about this 3rd point. In this day and age, with social media, it's tempting for someone inexperienced in business to assume that all you need to start making money is a business Instagram account. You know, set up a website on Squarespace, post some pretty pictures on Instagram, and boom sales start coming in. This couldn't be further from the truth. There is absolutely no such thing as instant gratification when it comes to starting a business. It is a long journey. A marathon, not a sprint. Do not cheat yourself by thinking that you will be different from everyone else and start making enough money to live off of your business in the first few weeks, months, or even year. That is a huge disservice to you and your business. Instead, just like a newborn, allow it time to grow and mature. When given the proper care and time to grow, your business can flourish. If, however, you come into it with unrealistic expectations, you'll throw in the towel way too soon and you might throw away a business idea that otherwise could have been successful if you had given it 2 to 3 years to develop.

There you have it! In my experience, these are the 3 most critical things to think about and strategize when you're starting your own business. When you nail down these 3 things, your chance of success dramatically improves. Need help with them? I took an amazing business school course by Marie Forleo called B-School which educated me on these principles. She only offers her B-School course once a year, so check it out and see when it starts next. I also offer business mentoring services if you prefer one-on-one attention. You can read more about my mentoring service here. I'd be happy to help you establish a solid business foundation built upon these 3 elements.

If you're starting your own business, changing careers, or pivoting your career in some way as a result of the coronavirus, cheers to you! It will not always be easy but I do believe it will be worth it.

xoxo,

Stacy

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My Toolkit For Getting Through Difficult Times & Coping With Stress

My Toolkit For Getting Through Difficult Times & Coping With Stress

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. Last week, I wrote about what it's like to be a small business owner during the coronavirus. I also promised to share the tools I'm relying on right now to make it through this crazy time. So in this week's journal entry, I'm going to do exactly that! The coronavirus is really testing my mindset and I think that's true for all of us. Are we going to constantly whine and moan about the virus, or are we going to accept the circumstances and allow them to teach us something about ourselves and perhaps guide us to make certain changes that will last after the coronavirus is over? I call the former "victim mindset" and I like to call the latter "thriving mindset" (i.e. you're not just surviving each day, you are thriving and growing through it all). Now don't get me wrong, this time period is TOUGH. It is completely normal to whine and complain about what's going on in the world right now and you shouldn't pretend everything is a-ok every minute this quarantine lasts. I think trouble starts to brew, though, when victim mentality is your default setting and dominant pattern on most days (*please note I'm not referring here to people with clinical depression or anxiety, which are serious conditions that should be cared for with the help of a medical professional).

Personally, my life started to change a lot in my mid- to late thirties when I realized that I have the choice to perceive things in a positive, valuable way or in a negative, critical way. I think that might be the most powerful choice we're given in this lifetime. And during difficult times especially, it's a daily choice, even a moment-by-moment choice, between victim and thriving mindset. In fact, it takes all of my courage and all of my energy on certain days to choose a thriving mindset, but I make it a top priority. You know, "I put on my big girl panties" and I do what I have to do. How? Well, as I've grown through my thirties, I've developed a "toolkit" for lack of a better word that I can turn to when I feel myself getting caught in victim mindset. These are tools I use and rely on to process negative feelings hiding behind the victim mindset, and turn them around so that I don't remain stuck in victimhood for very long. I thought I'd share them here, with the hopes that maybe you'll see a new idea on this list and try it out to see if it works for you. There's no time like the present, right?  

Tool 1: Set a daily mantra or affirmation in the morning

I meditate, journal, and read first thing when I get up on most days (about 5 to 6 days per week). Now before you say, "Who has time for that?!", let me be clear that sometimes all I have is 5 minutes to devote to this practice. But 5 minutes is enough to read a page or two from an inspirational book while I sip coffee, and then be still in meditation for one minute. I swear I notice a difference on the days I don't make time for this. It just sets a positive, calming tone for the day that I can come back to time and time again when I get off course. Right now when I have my coffee I am reading One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant. It's a 40-day book about growing and evolving - each day there are about 3 pages to read and then thought-provoking questions to consider throughout the day. I love books that are set up in this fashion because it's easy to stick with them - no matter what, I can make time for 3 pages per day. Another great book that's set up in this manner is Gabrielle Bernstein's May Cause Miracles.  

Tool 2: I load my day with positive podcasts and Audible books

When I walk the dog, go for a jog, or make jewelry in my studio, I am almost always listening to a podcast or Audible book with an inspirational message. I have an addiction to self-development books and podcasts you could say. I just think it's fascinating - the way the brain works, the way we all share very common wounds and patterns, and the way we can transcend them and grow to live a better life. I also must admit that mental illness runs in my family - there was bipolar disorder on my father's side of the family - so I am very cognizant of what I'm feeding my brain. It's my responsibility what I allow myself to ingest. And I will take interesting, empowering books over Netflix any day of the week. Some of my favorite podcasters and authors are: Marianne Williamson, Gabby Bernstein, Jen Sincero, Denise Duffield-Thomas, Marie Forleo, Eckhart Tolle, Lewis Howes' podcast called School of Greatness, Hay House's podcast You Can Heal Your Life, and any podcast by Brene Brown or Oprah Winfrey.

Tool 3: Exercise

I have to move every day, even if it's just for a 20 minute walk. It gets those endorphins flowing. Don't underestimate them! I once heard a therapist say that exercise is non-negotiable for someone who has mental illness in their family (that's me - see above). Exercising in the morning especially can help set the tone for the day in a positive direction. I love how I stand a little taller, breathe a little deeper, and feel better about myself after a workout. My workout routine these days consists of online workouts on barre3.com and long walks outside (usually anywhere between 2 and 6 miles depending on how I'm feeling).

Tool 4: Journaling

When I am feeling like a victim of the world around me, I journal. Journaling helps me discover the root of these negative feelings. Journaling freely about the emotions I'm feeling and the thoughts running through my head helps me process them and understand them. I don't know how it is for you, but for me, when I understand the cause of my negative feelings, it's a whole lot easier for me to move beyond them. There's no magic to journaling by the way - pick up a piece of paper, a notebook, or even open a document on your computer and just let the feelings come out in the form of words.

Tool 5: Epsom salt baths

Once or twice a week, I'll make myself chamomile tea, grab a book or a soothing playlist, and sit in an epsom salt bath for about 20 minutes. Besides calming my mind, it also draws harmful toxins out of the body. 

Tool 6: Cooking or baking 

Cooking and baking is so relaxing for me. It's almost like a meditation because I am focusing exclusively on the present moment (the measurements, what I'm cooking, how long the timer needs to be set for, etc). It draws me away from the negative circle of thoughts in my head and into the present moment. Maybe for you it's riding your bike, or planting in your garden, or even cleaning your home. But find that activity that allows you to tune out, and use it when you aren't feeling so great. It'll help get your mind off your troubles and into the present.

Tool 7: Make a good playlist

Music is medicine! Similar to tool number 6, making a playlist of my favorite songs gets me into the present moment. I tune out (no pun intended!) and I focus on the songs and how they flow together into the playlist. It's such a good activity for the brain! 

So there you have it, these are the tools I'm using most frequently right now to get through the stress and negativity of the coronavirus. When I feel myself slipping down into negativity, I'll try to turn to one of these tools. These tools are useful beyond the coronavirus by the way. Stress is present in our lives all the time, not just right now, and we need coping tools. If you're following this journal because you're interested in starting your own business one day, it's so important that you develop your own toolkit because the entrepreneurial journey is full of challenges, stress, and doubts. The journey can teach you SO much about yourself, but in order to get to the good stuff you need to have coping tools for the stress so that it doesn't overtake you, you know? Anyways, I hope you'll try one of these tools and see if it works for you, or better yet, make your own toolkit list and keep it on your desk so that you'll be reminded to turn to these tools when you feel yourself spiraling into negativity.

Be well and stay positive!

xoxo,

Stacy

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