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my journal

There Is Freedom In Failure

There Is Freedom In Failure

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I'm writing about failure. I heard this line the other day, “There is freedom in failure” and it resonated with me so much. We think of failure so negatively, but it doesn't have to be that way. I happen to have some first hand experience with this.

About ten years ago, my first jewelry business "failed." Yep, that's right! grace + hudson is actually my second jewelry business. You’ve probably heard me talk about this before, but I'll tell the 2 minute version of the story for those who are new to my Weekly Journal. I quit my lawyer job twice, once in 2017 to start grace + hudson and once in 2010 to open a brick + mortar jewelry store in New Jersey where I grew up. I closed that store after just one year and had to go back to being a lawyer. Some would label that a "failure" but, looking back, I realize that grace + hudson wouldn't be what it is today (and maybe it wouldn't even exist!) without that first experience. Let me be more specific. When I had that store in 2010, brides-to-be often came in looking for bridesmaid jewelry gifts. They all raised the same complaints and were looking for similar things. I have never been married myself, so there was no way for me to know how hard it is to find classy jewelry with sophisticated, subtle color to match a wedding. At a giftable price point. That can be worn again after the wedding (so it truly is a “gift” and not just something to wear in the ceremony). Having that first “failed” store was a crucial step in me building a successful second business that focuses on classy, giftable jewelry. Aside from learning about this need in the marketplace, this first “failed” store taught me so much about what it takes to run a business. You can read all day long about what it takes to start a business (and you should because knowledge is power!) but until you’re in the thick of it, you just don’t know. It’s just one of those things you need to experience first-hand. All the mistakes I made the first time around taught me how to be better this time around. So it goes without saying that I don’t for one single second regret opening that first jewelry store in 2010 even though most would label it a “failure.”

After that first "failure" I felt such freedom! Freedom to take risks. Freedom to follow my heart. Freedom to try. Why? I realized that I wasn't going to die! I say that with laughter but I'm serious... so many people avoid following their intuition and their dreams and their ideas because they are paralyzed with fear. In response to this, I always say, "Ok, let's get real here. Bottom line, if you do this, and it doesn't work, you're not going to die from it. I promise." Sure, you might encounter some difficulties along the way, but - like me - the difficulties and the "failures" might be leading you to your big success. You might need the hard moments you're actually trying to avoid. They might be appearing to teach you something very important you'll need for the big success. 

I think - for most people - once you "fail" in a big way, you're not scared of failure ever again. You realize there is a silver lining to every situation. You learn to focus on what you learned from the experience, not how you "failed." Is it really a failure if it grew you as a person? I think most people would say "no." And no one can ever take those important lessons from us. No one can ever steal our growth. These lessons and life skills can never be stolen. And, bonus!, a lot of the skills and lessons you'll learn through "failure" can actually apply to other areas of your life, too. Maybe the "failed" business you started taught you patience, and now you're more patient with your romantic partner. You see what I mean? 

I wish you the freedom to try! The freedom to fail

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

P.S. Are you on Pinterest? I'm in the process of creating a Weekly Journal board on Pinterest so you can easily navigate all of my journal entries. I only have a few weekly journal entries on the board right now, but I'm adding more on a daily basis. You can view and follow the board by clicking here. I've written so much about quitting my lawyer job to start g+h over the past couple years and I want to make it easier for you to read the entries that resonate most!

xoxo,
Stacy

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What Happens If You Hit A Bump In The Road (And You Will!)

What Happens If You Hit A Bump In The Road (And You Will!)

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I'm answering a question from a reader who started a small business: what happens if you pursue your dream and start your own business, but you hit a bump in the road? The question is not if, but when! Because you will definitely hit a bump in the road at some point. If small business ownership was easy, everyone would be doing it! It comes with challenges, road blocks, and obstacles, but it also teaches you so much and grows you as a person in ways you could never imagine. You don't grow all that much when life is easy and smooth all the time, right? That's right! So here are my thoughts on encountering bumps in the road.

First, let's get really honest. During the first 2 years of my business - so we're talking about 2017 and 2018 - I would get so discouraged at times that I would look for jobs online every so often. And by "every so often" I mean every other month or so. It's true! It is overwhelming to be the owner of a new business (obviously!). There were so many times I thought I would never make it, where I thought I would run out of money, where I thought it was just plain easier to collect a paycheck from a regular job. Know ahead of time that it is 100% normal to feel this way. I think I might have applied to three or four jobs, but usually things would turn around before I even got around to submitting a resume. I'd feel more positive for a time, and then I'd feel discouraged again and I'd start looking at jobs again. Looking back, I realize the act of searching the job listings comforted me. It reminded me that, even if things got really bad, I wouldn't be living on the street. I would simply get another job.

You see, people don't pursue their business ownership dream because they are so incredibly fearful that it won't work out. But let's talk that through. So what? If it doesn't work out, you'll just get another job. And, if you're smart enough to start a business, you're smart enough to know when it's time to do something different. You'll be running out of time or money, or both, and you'll start looking for jobs before that happens. Maybe you'll get a part-time gig and continue working on your business at the same time. Maybe you'll just abandon the entire thing altogether. You might have a few rough months. Or maybe you'll move in with your family for a short while as you re-group. But the fact of the matter is, you aren't going to be homeless, friend-less, and family-less if things don't work out. You just aren't. So stop making decisions based on fears that are not likely to happen.

Let's get back to the main question now: what happens if you hit a bump in the road? Well, you'll navigate it the best you know how! That's all. That's it. Well what the heck does that mean?!? It's going to be different for everyone. Maybe you have a rock solid family that supports you every step of the way and their kind and inspiring words are something you can turn to whenever you are feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. Maybe you have a rock solid faith and you'll turn to prayer. Maybe exercise is your safe haven and you'll turn to a workout class that makes you feel like you can conquer the world. Maybe, for you, it's all about meditating and taking things one day at a time. Maybe it'll be a combination of things. Remember what I said before? That starting a business teaches you amazing things and grows you as a person? Well, here's where that happens. Maybe one of the things you'll learn during your small business ownership journey will be the coping skills to get through hard times. Eventually, you'll overcome so many challenges that you'll come to know and understand that you can make it through anything. That happened for me last year. I signed a lease to open a brick and mortar store in February 2020, just a few weeks before we found out about the virus. What did I do? Well, I didn't freak out! I didn't quit! I just took it day by day and turned to my coping skills toolkit. Now that I survived that, I know I can survive anything - whether that be in business or in life. That's just one of the ways that owning my own business has grown me as a person.

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

P.S. Are you on Pinterest? I'm in the process of creating a Weekly Journal board on Pinterest so you can easily navigate all of my journal entries. I only have a few weekly journal entries on the board right now, but I'm adding more on a daily basis and hope to finish it next month. You can view and follow the board by clicking here. I've written so much about quitting my lawyer job to start g+h over the past couple years and I want to make it easier for you to read the entries that resonate most!

xoxo,
Stacy

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Work On The Inside More Than You Work On The Outside

Work On The Inside More Than You Work On The Outside

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to talk about working on the inside more than you work on the outside. What does that mean? Well, if you've strived for a degree, a particular job, a high salary, a husband, 2.5 kids, a dog, a house with a white picket fence and you still aren't happy that means you've neglected the inside. You've spent so much time working on the outside that you've forgotten (or were unaware of) the work required on the inside. As a society, we have it all wrong. We have it backwards. When you work on the inside first, the outside stuff comes easily... and gracefully too. But for some reason we're taught that you need to push and strive and hustle for all the outside stuff and only then will you become happy on the inside. Wrong!

I observed and became aware of this early on - when I was 22 working at my first job as a paralegal at a very prestigious law firm in New York City. This was before I went to law school. All of the lawyers working at this law firm seemed miserable yet they appeared to "have it all" - a law degree from Harvard or Columbia, a ridiculously high salary, a spouse with an equally impressive degree and salary, a million dollar condo in NYC, a new baby, a fancy car, and luxurious travels. It was quite obvious to me I('m a pretty deep thinker and analyzer by nature) that striving for all the outside stuff must not be the key to happiness. It couldn't be! These people "had it all" by societal standards and I'm not exaggerating when I say they were miserable. So miserable that a lot of them drank excessively and had other addictions. It's no lie when they say the legal profession has a high rate of depression, suicide, and alcoholism. 

I allowed this observation to guide my life, but I was not without struggle. Societal expectations and the unspoken pressure from family is powerful! Especially when you are still so young in your 20's. I ended up going to a top 25 law school and taking a six-figure job at the age of 26, driving a Lexus, and renting an expensive apartment. Along the way I made some non-traditional decisions but, for the most part, I found myself falling prey to the societal "norms" in the legal profession anyways. Looking back, I realize what an internal conflict it was. I knew outside things weren't the key to happiness yet I found myself striving for them just like everyone else. Yet, unlike everyone else, I internally knew that I wouldn't become "happy" the second I checked all of these things off my list. So there was a sort of emptiness on the inside, and an internal conflict over what I wanted and what society wanted for me. Does that makes sense? Society stresses getting the best job you can at the highest salary you can, buying the nicest house you can, driving the nicest car you can, etc etc. And many people - including our parents and other family members - often reiterate the same message because it's the message they've been hearing all of their lives, too. And it sort of just perpetuates itself, with no one really stopping to think whether it (a) makes sense or (b) resonates as true for them. We just do it. Without thinking. Without analyzing. Without intentionally deciding whether there's a better way that makes sense for us individually. We just follow the crowd. We just follow all the societal and familial expectations because "everyone else is doing it."

Anyways, I couldn't keep up the charade for long. I quit my job as a lawyer after about 3 years. I knew this was not the path for me and I knew I was chasing a life and an "image" that wasn't what I wanted. This wasn't just a case of "I don't like my job." It was a deep, deep knowing that this wasn't the path for me. It literally felt like I was betraying my soul. And so I quit and started my first jewelry business! Yep, grace + hudson is actually my second jewelry business. My first was a storefront in New Jersey in 2010 near where I grew up. The economy was crashing but I didn't want to hear it and I opened my storefront anyway (this was before small businesses could afford to start online shops). That first jewelry business didn't make it and I had to go back to being a lawyer for some time as I figured things out, but it was my first step towards jumping off the fast and furious "societal expectations train" and it ultimately got me to where I am today. 

Looking back at my journey, I am thankful that I woke up so early in my career - in my early 20's. I knew chasing all the outside stuff doesn't lead to happiness, but I guess I needed to experience that first-hand for a few years. I can personally tell you that driving a Lexus and collecting a six-figure paycheck doesn't make you feel better as a person. It doesn't somehow validate you as "worthy" or even "successful." In fact, the thrill wears off pretty fast. When you strive for something, achieve it, and then feel how truly empty the achievement feels, it's...well...depressing. But, like someone with an addiction, you move on to the next achievement and start striving for that, and then the next one and the next one. Do you see how toxic that is? Honestly, for some people it truly does require therapy to work through this issue. I went to therapy beginning early on in my legal profession and I highly recommend it. 

If any of this resonates with you, my advice would be this: work on the inside more than the outside. Work on yourself more than you work on buying a new fancy car. Keep the focus on internal growth and developing into the person you're here to be. We spend so much time going to the gym, getting our hair highlighted, buying new clothes, applying self-tanner....what if we spent even HALF that time working on the inside? I'm telling you, that's the ticket. That's the key. How do I work on the inside, you ask? By reading self-development books, listening to podcasts on personal growth, meditating, journaling, having deep and meaningful conversations with the people we love, going to therapy, taking time to research and explore our given talents and gifts and how we best might use those, reflecting honestly on our unique goals and dreams we want to see come to fruition in this lifetime, working on the relationships that are important to us, learning how to become a better parent and partner, etc etc.

And you know the irony of this whole situation? This too I've experienced first hand. When you work on the inside, all the outside "stuff" shows up all on its own. With ease. With grace. And it feels so much better. For example, when I buy something I want now, today, with money I've earned through grace + hudson, it feels GOOD. Back when I was a lawyer, doing soul-sucking work that left me drained and tired in exchange for dollars, it didn't even feel that good when I spent those dollars.

So, if there's something you want - whether it be a new career, a relationship, a baby - and it's not happening for you, I highly recommend you take an honest look on the inside. Rather than focusing so much on the resume and the interviews, on swiping right on the dating app and exercising to look more attractive, on tracking your ovulation like a science and trying to conceive, start focusing more on the inside stuff. Start working on that part of the equation because, chances are, you've neglected it. The inside part is going to look different for everyone and you might need the help of a therapist to navigate it. But I can tell you it will involve taking an honest look at your beliefs, ideas, habits, and the stories you've been telling yourself about the topic you're struggling with. Those are so, so, so powerful. And you might not even be aware of them. So you're over here trying so hard to lose weight and look pretty to find a man, when really the problem is over there lurking on the inside and you're paying no attention to it. And when that click happens - when you make the shift on the inside - I swear to you, things fall into place like you wouldn't believe. You know that expression "it happened when I wasn't even trying" or "I finally met someone when I stopped looking." Yeah, that's what those common phrases are referring to.

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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How Do You Make The Jump From A Job You Hate To A Job You Love? Here's The Key

How Do You Make The Jump From A Job You Hate To A Job You Love? Here's The Key

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I'm talking about motivation and courage. How did I work up the motivation and the courage to actually say "I quit" and start my own business? I get this question a lot. So many people want to follow a similar path, but they don't know how to make the jump from A to B. That's where motivation and courage come in. I think the mistake a lot of people make is that they're looking for something out there, when the jump from A to B really has to come from something inside yourself. And that key, that spark, that something inside of you, has to be powerful enough to give you the motivation and courage to actually make the leap. The key will be different for everyone. In this journal entry, I sharing my key and maybe you'll be able to relate.

I was a lawyer for about 11 years. I hated it from the very beginning. Literally hated it. This wasn't just a case of "work stinks" - this was literally a job that I found toxic (there's a big difference). It felt like an abusive relationship at times (and I don't say that lightly). If you're familiar with the legal profession, you know what I'm talking about and I won't go into all the details here. Fast forward and at around 8 years into my career, I landed what should have been my "dream job." I was working for an international billion dollar corporation as the Head of Employment Law for North and South America. But I felt completely empty inside. That's what happens when you strive for things that don't really resonate with your soul. It's a terrible let down. At about the same time, I lost my father to cancer. Actually, it's the 7 year anniversary today. He passed away on May 3, 2014 after a short 10 month battle with lung cancer. That rocked my world. All of my relatives on his side of my family lived into their 90's. In fact, my grandfather (my father's father) was still alive in his late 90's when my father passed. My father was the epitome of a responsible employee working a steady job, supporting his family, contributing to his 401(k) with the hopes that it would all be worth it in retirement when he finally got to move to the beach and start living life. Well that never happened. He passed away just one month after he turned age 65. Can you imagine? Working so hard for that goal only to pass away before it gets here? That was one of my big wake up calls. Our American culture lives this silly fairytale dream about how retirement is amazing and worth working and saving for for 65 years but in reality many people never get there. Or, you get there and soon after get a part-time job to keep busy because retirement has been, shall we say, somewhat of a let down. I have a relative who's experiencing this right now and it happens more than you think. A life is meant to be lived for all the years of your life, not just from age 65 onwards. And here's another thing that never made sense to me... everyone talks about living on a beach in retirement but most older folks don't like to be out in the sun and heat, right? So where in the world has this story even come from - this fairytale story that you're going to work hard, retire on a beach and live happily ever after? 

In short, I tell you all of this because this is where my motivation and courage to make the huge leap from lawyer to jewelry business owner came from. It came from the experience of losing my father 7 years ago and thinking through life. What path is my life on right now? Do I like where it's going? Does it make sense? Am I just following the story every one is taught to believe, or have I consciously decided this is the right path for me personally? Life is SHORT. And it can be taken away in an instant. I'll never forget the day I found out about my dad's illness and how his cancer was already at stage 4 when they discovered it. And I'll never forget how he longed for the simple things when he was in the midst of his illness. He just longed for a normal day at work. A normal day running errands and cutting the grass. One of my fondest memories of his last days was when he made me lunch. Yep, just warmed up some leftovers in the microwave for me. Life truly is about the simple things. Literally any one of us, at any time, could receive a similar phone call about our own health. What if you found out you only had ten more months to live? Losing a parent in particular gives you a keen awareness of your own immortality. Up until that point, you might live a little bit like you're invincible. But the greatest gift is realizing that you're not. That your time is limited here too. And to make the very most of it. Realizing all of this is how I got up the courage to say "I quit" and got the motivation to start my own business and do what I was put on this planet to do.   

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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Want Different Results? Make Different Choices

Want Different Results? Make Different Choices

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I'm writing about a simple idea: If you want different results, you need to make different choices. So many people write to me about wanting to start a business, but they don't want to change anything about their current lifestyle, they don't want to take any risks, and they don't want to give up watching Netflix every night in exchange for working on their business ideas. So this week I'm talking about the importance of making intentional choices when we desire significant changes.

Have you ever heard the definition of insanity? You know the one... "doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results?" If you want to start your own business and/or change careers like I did (or make another big change!) then you have to do something different. Your current decisions have gotten you to your current state of affairs. If you want something different, it all begins with making different choices. For example, if you are currently an attorney making a six-figure salary with a designer handbag habit, something is going to need to change if you want to quit the legal profession and start your own business. For starters, instead of spending money on handbags, you can put that money towards your business ideas. Yet you'd be amazed at the amount of women I've talked to in this position who aren't willing to do this. There are deeper issues there, of course, such as a false sense of self-worth coming from having a prestigious position, high salary, and designer handbags. If that's you, then you need to be brave enough to dive deeper and find out what's really holding you back from making the desired changes. You might even want to see a therapist (I did! And I think it was one of the best things I ever did. I wanted to make sure I explored my reasons for quitting the legal profession with an unbiased neutral source, before I made such a big decision).

Starting your own business or leaving behind a toxic career are big moves and they're going to require big effort on your part. Look at it this way - how did you get into the current position you hold? You went to school, maybe you got special training, etc. You didn't just show up one day and start your job. So think of your next job, your next business (or your very first business!) in the same light. There are sacrifices and investments you're going to need to make. This or that. If you buy a handbag, you aren't going to be able to afford that online marketing course. If you watch Netflix every night for 2 hours, at the end of the week you've forfeited 14 hours you could've been working on your website. You get the idea. It takes discipline. It requires new habits.  

{Insert moans and groans} Hey, I hear you, I've been there. Humans crave routine and getting out of our comfort zones can be scary. And if you're currently working at a job that drains all of your energy, it can be hard to find motivation after work to work on your business idea (I can soooooo identify with that). But at some point, you need to put on your big girl pants and do what needs to be done or you're going to be the definition of insanity - doing the same thing year after year expecting change to show up out of thin air.

So where do you start? Small! Start with small changes, small decisions. Instead of buying some new clothes for the summer, can you take a look in your closet and determine what you really need and then use the rest of the money towards an online advertising course? If you can't give up Netflix at night, can you wake up 45 minutes earlier to work on your business ideas 2 times per week? And then 4 times per week? And then up it from 45 minutes to 60 minutes? 

Bottom line, you need to think about what you want and the intentional decisions that are going to get you there. But please please please, don't continue to say you want X, Y or Z and do nothing to get there. I honestly know people who've been whining about their lawyer job for YEARS and want to start their own business but they've literally done nothing towards that goal. Look at all that wasted mental energy! DECIDE. Do it or don't do it. But don't waste 5 years complaining and wanting something different with no action to back it up. You'll feel better either way - whether you commit to staying at your current job or you commit to start making the necessary changes.  

Last but not least, if you find yourself harboring jealousy towards those who have gone before you, remember this: they already made all of those hard decisionsThey already got up the courage to quit their job. They already found the motivation to start their own business. Don't be jealous (because that's another waste of valuable energy), but rather recognize they have made the hard decisions that you haven't been willing to make just yet. When you look at it that way, they become an example of a way forward rather than a source of jealous pain. They become an example of what's possible when hard choices are made.

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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"Marketing" Is Not A Dirty Word!

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to talk a little about marketing. If you just started a small business or want to someday, it's important you become comfortable with marketing. Yet so many small business owners think "marketing" is a dirty word! It's something that makes them feel icky and slimy. But how can customers find you if you don't engage in marketing? You might have the solution or item they've been looking for but if they don't know about you, they can't buy from you.   

Let's start with the basics. What is "marketing" anyways? The American Marketing Association defines marketing as "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." Basically, it's your strategy for communicating to people who might benefit from your product or service. News flash: posting to Instagram on a daily basis is not a marketing strategy! It can be one part of your marketing strategy. But, in order to work well and scale up, your marketing strategy needs to include multiple avenues for communication. In other words, it needs to be diversified. And you need to have a marketing budget. There are free communication channels (like posting on Instagram) but a real marketing strategy that has the possibility of long-term success incorporates both free and paid marketing strategies. What type of paid marketing strategies are out there? You can run an advertisement in your local newspaper, run ads on Instagram or Facebook, learn how to use Google Ads, start an email list and communicate with your subscribers regularly (and make sure you're giving them value! No one wants another newsletter in their inbox that has nothing unique, special, different, or valuable about it), run ads on Pinterest, pay for a space at a trade show if that's where you're most likely to meet potential customers, etc.

Let me insert some real talk here. You might feel a little overwhelmed after reading that and thinking about a marketing budget. But if you want a REAL business, you need to engage in REAL marketing. Selling to friends and family is not a real business - it's more of a glorified hobby. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh (and by the way, it's totally ok if you want a little on-the-side sort of business like that!). But I think most people start a small business with the hopes of growing it into something that can really support their family, with extra left over. And if that's you, you need to sell to strangers. Your friends and family can only buy so much. So how do you find strangers to sell to? Marketing!

If you feel icky or slimey about marketing, like you're some sort of used car salesman, I would suggest you work on your ideas and beliefs around marketing. Read the definition of it again - it's the "processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers." If you truly believe you meet a need and your product or service has value, why would you ever feel icky about telling people about it? You have a solution that meets their need! And p.s. you don't need to be solving world hunger! You can be solving the silliest need ever - for example, I would absolutely love if someone came up with a lotion pump that would allow you to use the last amount of lotion at the bottom of the bottle. That would be amazing! Have you ever turned the bottle upside down and used the remaining lotion? It lasts for like 2 weeks! That's a lot of money to dump down the drain over the years. So, ask yourself, what value does your service or product have to the people who'll most enjoy it? Keep your focus on the value, and you'll stop feeling like a used car salesman.

If you're struggling here, let me suggest something else. You might need to work a little bit on your confidence. If you aren't confident in your business idea, how can you expect a stranger to be? This is an issue for women in particular. It's like this - you finally get the courage to start your own business, and now you have to work on having the courage to believe in your products or services. But for some reason, we doubt. We doubt whether people will really like what we have to offer. We think, "Why would someone ever want to buy from me?" It's a mind game! I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Starting a business is a challenging personal journey and it requires you to work more on your mindset than your website. P.S. I have been there! I know what it's like. And if you need someone to talk through this with, I offer mentoring services which you can read about here.   

I hope, after reading this, you're thinking about marketing in a new light. And let me end with this - marketing is going to be a huge part of your duties as a business owner. If you truly don't like it, you might want to reconsider becoming a business owner. I mean it! Of all the tasks I do each week, marketing always takes up the most time. I didn't know this before I started g+h, but I happen to really enjoy marketing. I enjoy learning about it, studying it, and taking courses on it. I enjoy looking at all the data and trends and making new strategies based on that information. I think it's really interesting, especially in this new era where small businesses can afford to advertise on social media platforms and reach ideal customers so easily. It is so inexpensive and effective compared to the days when people had to advertise in magazines and newspapers (and you never really knew how effective the ads were unless someone specifically told you they found you in such-and-such magazine).

One last note. I don't recommend outsourcing marketing, especially in the beginning. I recommend you take a few courses on marketing (I can make some recommendations if you like!) and learn about it yourself. Then, after you've tried some different things and somewhat nailed down your strategy, I think it's ok to hand over the reins to someone who can take your directions and make it happen. Why? In the beginning, marketing is just too important to outsource - it basically forms your business's personality and image, and that stuff is still forming and changing in the early stages. It's just like an infant! And if you outsource it, you're giving a stranger too much power to form your business's personality. 

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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The Small Business World And Something To Be Careful About

The Small Business World And Something To Be Careful About

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to talk a little about the small business world. If you want to start a business someday or already have, there is something to be careful about in the early stages. I wish someone had warned me about this before I started my business.

When you start a small business, you'll naturally begin to meet other small business owners. For example, if you're selling a product, you're going to do a few pop-up shops, fairs, and markets to see if they work well for your business. You'll meet a few business owners there and they'll tell you about a small business conference or meeting next week. You'll go and meet more business owners there, and on and on your networking will go. New start-up owners typically go to these types of events, as opposed to more established small business owners. On the one hand, this is a great thing! Especially if you are like me. I had recently quit my lawyer job and I was feeling really disconnected to my friends still working as attorneys. I couldn't stand how much they complained about work since I was no longer in that world (side note: I no longer keep in touch with most of those people. I have written about this before but expect your friendships to change in some ways). Anyways, it was nice to meet like-minded people who were pursuing a similar path.

But, on the other hand, I found the small business start-up community to be a bit draining. I heard a lot of complaints about "how hard it is to be a new business" and "how difficult small business ownership is", etc. A year or two into my business ownership journey, I separated myself from these types of meetings, organizations, etc. I realized that this environment was actually dragging me down more than it was pulling me up. It seemed like more time was spent griping over the difficulties of small business life rather than building community, sharing strategies, or solving common problems. In its place, I decided to make more of the online groups and resources that were working for me. I found it easier online to weed out these draining "complaining" groups from the helpful ones - maybe because it wasn't as much of a time commitment. I didn't need to get dressed and go to a meeting or networking event. Naturally, this means that I have small business friends all over the country and I can't necessarily grab a coffee with them, but hey that's ok - especially in this day and age. 

I tell you all this because mindset is EVERYTHING in the beginning stages of starting a business. It is so incredibly easy to doubt yourself, your ideas, and even your entire life's trajectory because what you're embarking on is HARD. If it were easy, every person would be doing it. You must, must, must protect your mindset from complainers who whine about the difficulties of small business ownership. If you choose to see small business ownership as difficult, it will be difficult. If you choose to small business ownership as an exciting challenge, it will be just that. You cannot afford to waste time surrounding yourself with people who are going to contribute anxiety, fear, and doubt to your mindset. If this means that you feel a little bit like a "loner" in the beginning, that is ok. It'll keep you mentally on track and that's where you need to be to succeed. 

So, in conclusion, I'm not saying to avoid these groups and meetups and conferences all together. All I'm saying is to keep your guard up. If you sense someone wants an ear to complain to, keep your distance. Humans are funny - misery loves company! But that's company you don't need in your life.

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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Just Starting Your Business? How To Deal With the Overwhelm and 3 Things To Prioritize

Just Starting Your Business? How To Deal With the Overwhelm and 3 Things To Prioritize

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. This week's journal entry is a practical post that newbie (and aspiring!) business owners will find helpful. I know a lot of people used their extra downtime over the past year to build a website and work on their business dreams. If that's you, bravo! That's so exciting! But once you have the wheels moving, it can start to feel even more overwhelming than it did at the start. Am I right? That's because you're really in the thick of it now. Your business went from this idea in your head to a real thing, and you're really starting to understand how a small business works and how many moving parts you need to juggle. From building your social media following, to managing inventory, to setting up an email system, to hiring help, to creating a logo, to deciding how to price your products or services, oh the tasks are endless! Take a breather for a second and read on because I want to share a little strategy, as well as my top 3 things to prioritize. I've avoided the obvious things (like design a logo) and instead focus on 3 things you might not realize the importance of yet (but you'll thank me later!).

If you are feeling overwhelmed and in over-your-head, I want you to first embrace the idea that you cannot possibly get everything done now or even this year. Building a new business is a longer journey - a marathon, not a sprint. For example, I purchased a Pinterest for Business online course in 2018 and I am just now, in 2021, really focusing on that course and building my Pinterest presence. I should have done this already since I sell wedding jewelry and many brides plan their weddings on Pinterest. But it just hasn't happened yet. And that is okay. This will happen to you too (not necessarily with Pinterest but with other things) because there are only so many hours in a day. So accept that fact at the get-go, rather than beating yourself up for all the things you aren't getting done every single day.

Second, make a list of all that needs to be done. Do a complete and total brain dump. Keep your list handy over the next few days so you can add to it (you'll think of more and more and more things...). This exercise will help you feel a little less frazzled. It always feels good when you get those frantic, random thoughts out of your head and onto a page.

Third, after a few days have passed and you're relatively certain that you've captured all the "to do's" running around your brain, begin to prioritize the items on your list. This step will give you a clearer vision of the big picture and allow you to see how the puzzle pieces fit together. Regardless of the type of business you've started, there are 3 major things that ALL business owners should prioritize at the very start. I'm going to skip the obvious things (like designing a logo) and instead list 3 things that you may not realize the importance of yet, but you will shortly. Here they are:

1) If you've set up your shop on a platform like Etsy or if you're just selling items through your Instagram account, prioritize setting up your own website

I cannot stress this enough. That is why it's number one on my list here. Platforms like Etsy, Instagram, etc can disappear tomorrow. And you know who owns all the data pertaining to your sales and customers? NOT YOU! That is a huge area of risk. Let me explain. Let's say you've set up an Etsy page and items are flying off the shelf. You've made 5,000 sales in your first month. Well, if Etsy disappeared tomorrow (or - in the more likely scenario - changed its terms of service in a way that negatively impacts you) you can go from 5,000 sales per month to zero real fast. And it would be completely out of your control. Etsy owns all the data about those sales and those customers and you own none of it. Where would you go from there? You wouldn't even be able to contact these 5,000 people and tell them where they can find you next. You'll have to build your own website at that point and start over from scratch. So just do this from the get-go. It's okay to run a website and an Etsy page at the same time, but make sure the people you sell to know about your website. For example, when you ship their Etsy order, include a little notecard about your website and perhaps offer them 10% off their next purchase from your website. This will encourage them to interact with you directly, and not through Etsy (that'll also mean higher profit margins for you because Etsy won't take a cut!).

It is so easy and inexpensive to set up a professional website these days. Try Squarespace or Shopify. There are beautiful website templates on these sites with easy drag and drop technology so you don't have to worry about coding or designing. In my opinion, avoid Wordpress in the beginning. It's more difficult to navigate which means you're going to put it off longer and this is not something that can wait. You can always upgrade your website down the road. Don't forget that! So just get going as quickly as possible with a website platform that's user-friendly. I use Shopify and highly recommend them! 

2) Get an email system and build your email list from the very start. This is somewhat connected to task number one. The contact information of the people who are interested in your products or services is very valuable. It is perhaps the biggest asset you have. Why? Because you can communicate with these people! And they are likely to buy! They are already at least somewhat interested in what you have to offer so you want to be able to explain your products or services to them in greater detail, advise them of upcoming sales, etc. Once you have a decent sized list, you can also use this information to do other things in your business, like run ads on social media platforms (that's a topic for another day). And trust me, once you get to those more advanced tasks, you are going to be WISHING you had set up an email system on day one. Once you set it up, it runs automatically in the background and you never have to worry about it.

Listen, you don't even have to email these people right away, ok? Just promise me you'll collect their emails. You can come up with on-brand emails and sale announcements down the road if you don't have time now. Even if it takes you a year to come up with emails that you think will be of service to your potential customers, you will be so grateful that you started collecting their email addresses from the start. 

Think about it in relation to point number one above. If Etsy disappeared tomorrow, with a few key strokes on your computer you'd be able to email the 5,000 people who bought from you to tell them about your website. Your business wouldn't die on the day that Etsy pulled the plug. That's a really easy risk-management step to take, don't you think? I think so! Here's another thing to think about. There are a lot of issues with Instagram and Facebook right now - everything from censorship to privacy concerns (there is a big privacy change that Apple is making to iPhones this year that is going to impact the way Instagram/Facebook operates). And I have a strong gut feeling that big changes are coming to social media platforms in the next year or two. So don't bank on them being around in their current form forever. Start now. Build an email list so that you don't have to rely exclusively on these platforms to communicate with your customers and potential customers.

So how do you collect emails? You know those pop ups you see when you go to a website? You know, where they offer you a discount in exchange for your email address? They're not just being generous there. They're offering you something substantial so that you'll want to give up your email address. A discount is usually the best offer (who doesn't love a discount!?) but you can also offer a free guide or something else creative. Just make sure it's good enough, or you are going to have a hard time getting people to give up their email address. Then set up a pop up on your website, just like the ones you've seen on other sites. How do you do that? Read on - I'll tell you at the end of the next paragraph.

The email platform I would recommend is Flodesk. I've used Mailchimp in the past and researched other email platform services but, in my opinion, they are not user-friendly. Unless you know how to code, it's hard to make on-brand, pretty emails. And when you think your business emails look like crap, you don't want to send them. And therefore you completely lose the opportunity to communicate with the people who most want to hear from you! Flodesk finally fixed that problem. You don't need to know how to code and can simply choose from their templates and customize them with drag and drop technology. Flodesk is also incredibly affordable. I was paying way over $100/month on Mailchimp and now I'm paying $19/month on Flodesk. You can also set up a pop up through Flodesk to collect emails very easily. Just go to the Flodesk help section and they'll walk you through it. If the instructions don't make sense to you, go to YouTube and search for a video that walks you through the exact steps. Sometimes you just need a person to show you each step!

3) Last but not least, my third recommendation is to set up your Facebook Pixel on your website. Just like collecting emails - you don't even have to do anything with the pixel right away, ok? Just promise me you'll set it up.

What is the pixel? The pixel collects data related to your website. It allows you to see who's visited your website and whether they "added to cart" and much more. When you have this data, you can use it to run highly effective ads. The pixel, in other words, is the basis for starting ad campaigns on social media. I don't really know anyone who's wasting money on magazine or newspaper ads these days - any savvy small business is running social media ads because they are WAY less expensive and WAY more effective. I would highly recommend you take a course on social media advertising early on in your business or - if you're not ready for that - regularly listen to some podcasts on this topic so you can begin to learn about it.

If you have a platform like Shopify, it is so easy to set up the pixel. It's literally a matter of cutting and pasting. Go to your website platform's help center and search "how to set up the Facebook Pixel" or head on over to YouTube and search "how to set up the Facebook Pixel on {insert the name of your website platform whether that's Shopify, Squarespace, etc}." Then, when you're ready to run some ads - even if that's two years from now - you will have built up two years' worth of data that you can then use to run effective ad campaigns.

Two side notes: (1) you need to have a Facebook Business Page in order to get a pixel (it takes a matter of minutes to set up a page so just head to Facebook or YouTube for instructions if you can't figure it out yourself) and (2) you cannot set up a Facebook Pixel on an Etsy page or another similar platform. You have to own the website in order to place a Facebook Pixel on it. That's another reason you want your own website and don't want to rely on Etsy!

Let me make another little note since it seems appropriate here: in the beginning, you might just be selling to friends and family. That's great for now. And maybe that's why you don't understand quite yet why it's so important to collect emails, design your own website, and set up a pixel. But selling to friends and family is not a long-term business strategy. At some point, you need to start selling your products or services to strangers. How do you do that? How do you sell to strangers? Word-of-mouth (but that tends to work pretty slowly), attending conferences or pop up shops or craft shows where you can sell your products or services, and running advertising campaigns that target people who are most likely to enjoy what you have to offer. Marketing and advertising might seem overwhelming at the moment but you'll get to it soon enough. For now, just set up the systems (an email list and a pixel) you will need to set up effective advertising campaigns later on.

I'll end on a positive note! Of this list, 2 out of 3 items should only take an afternoon. It doesn't take long to sign up for Flodesk, set up a pop up form to collect emails, and set up your Facebook Pixel. And if you don't have your own website yet, that really doesn't take a long time either if you are somewhat tech savvy. If you're not, consider hiring someone to build a basic site for you (you can always upgrade it later) or set a goal to spend 2 hours per week working on it yourself. Even if it takes you 12 months to complete it, at least you'll be well on your way to having your own website. 

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every Monday night, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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Things Happen Quickly When You're On The Right Path

Things Happen Quickly When You're On The Right Path

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry I'm writing about how things can happen so quickly when you're on the right path. I think a lot of people who want to start their own business or change careers like I did get so caught up in the fears of what can go wrong. Naturally! We humans usually don't love the idea of change. But we get so consumed with those thoughts that we forget or overlook just how quickly things can fall into place when they're right and when they're meant to be. I'm sure you can look back and point to something you decided to do, big or small, and say, "Wow, I'm so glad I did that! Things just seemed to fall into place!" Why do we forget those experiences and instead focus so much attention on what can go wrong? I don't have the answer to that but I can tell you that you can (and you must!) choose differently if you want to make that big change. Otherwise, you might find yourself in the same spot 5 years from now, still hemming and hawing over whether you should make the leap.

Let me share a little of my own experience to help illustrate the point. I quit my lawyer job in February 2017. I was living in Chicago at the time with no intention to move or to ever expand my e-commerce business into a brick and mortar storefront. But just 3 years later, in 2020, I opened a storefront in downtown Charleston. What?! If someone would have told me that in 2017 I would have told them they're out of their mind. But you see, when you're in alignment with your purpose, your talents, your gifts, your God-given dreams, things just have a way of falling into place. And they often fall into place FAST.

Have you ever heard of the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? It is a very famous book and a quick read, so I highly recommend it if you're on your journey to finding your purpose. Anyways, there's a famous quote from that book that goes something like this: "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." It is so true. That power is always available to us. The problem is we often block the power with our own thoughts, our own plans, our own self-limiting ideas (and that's a whole other topic for another journal entry!).

So, anyways, I'm living in Chicago and right around September 2018 (so about 18 months after I originally quit my job) I get this huge overwhelming urge to move out of Chicago. I did enjoy living in Chicago at the time, so it was a bit of a surprise to feel this so deeply. But I paid attention to my gut and after thinking it through for a couple weeks, I decided to sublet my apartment for a couple months and explore the idea without committing to it. Fast forward just a few months later and in May 2019, I moved to Charleston. And then three weeks later I met my now boyfriend of almost two years. And then not even one year later, I signed a lease to open my first storefront. Wow! It blows my mind that I haven't even lived in Charleston for two years yet (in about 7 weeks I'll hit my anniversary mark!). But that just goes to show you - when it's right, it's right. When it's meant to be, it all lines up. And it can line up quickly. Sometimes I have to remind myself, I haven't even been out of the legal profession for a full five years. Yet it feels so far away. It feels like I've lived another lifetime since then. So much has happened.

Anyways, I share this journal entry this week because I want to give you a little encouragement to think about how quickly things can line up when they are meant to be. When you're on the right path. When you are lining up with your purpose. Trust your gut. Go for it. You can always go back to your "old" life. Trust me. It's so easy to just go back and get another job in the same field you're currently in. Will it be comfortable and fun? No, but you could figure it out. I prefer to adopt the phrase "you have nothing to lose" rather than get so tied up in the fears that I stay stuck for years. Life is far, far, far too short for that. 

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every Monday night, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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Why It's Important To Establish A Brand, Not Just "Sell" Products or Services

Why It's Important To Establish A Brand, Not Just

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry I want to talk about branding. If you want to start your own business someday, it's so important that you develop a brand and not just "sell" products or services. A lot of people miss this. They think if they start a website and upload pictures of their products, people will buy. That couldn't be further from the truth, especially these days.

In this day and age, people have the ability to buy things from people all over the globe. This wasn't the case in, say, 1990 when the Internet didn't exist. Before the Internet, we were limited to the stores in our geographic area. But now, we can purchase a plain white t-shirt from someone in Florida as easily as we can purchase a plain white t-shirt from someone in Australia. What makes one person buy from the seller in Florida, and another buy from the seller in Australia? If the products are exactly the same, the differences can be found in the branding. And one mistake I see a lot of new entrepreneurs make is failing to think about branding. 

If you aren't sure what branding is, let me explain. Businesses need a brand - or an identity - to grow and succeed. When you file paperwork to form your limited liability company ("LLC") or corporation, the state actually gives you a piece of paper that says your business is its own entity, distinct and separate from you. This entity can open bank accounts, get a credit card, and enter into contracts. Some would go so far to call their LLC or corporation a living, breathing thing, and when you start the business ownership journey you'll quickly understand why! It sometimes feels like a newborn who needs all your attention and care. And just like a growing newborn, the things you do (or don't do) help shape the personality of your business. If you don't give any attention to branding, the personality is going to be dry, boring, and fail to connect with the people you hope will buy from you. On the other hand, if you develop an engaging personality for your brand that resonates and connects with the people you hope to sell to, those people will most likely become customers. 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, connects with you and tries to serve you and fulfill one of your needs. It is a relationship, not just a one-way street for selling. 

How do you go about creating a brand? Generally, a brand is based on the things that make your business different. Let's walk through an example. Say there's a company that makes scarves and hires former victims of domestic violence to sew them. That company's branding will probably center around the empowerment of women. Their marketing messages will be inspirational and perhaps focus on a woman's resilience. You get the point? The company isn't just selling scarves. It's a company that's selling scarves with the much larger mission of empowering women through whatever circumstance they might face. And that concept resonates with a lot of people out there.

So if you plan on starting your own business, one of the first things you should think about is how you are different from all other sellers selling the same things. Then use those differences as a starting point to craft your brand's personality.

What makes up a brand personality? So much! The logo design, the colors of your packaging, the font on your website, the tone of the language on your Instagram posts - basically everything that comprises the look and tone of your business. For example, a jewelry company selling dainty, feminine jewelry like mine is probably going to use soft colors like pink and lavender, as opposed to red and orange. It'll use soft, flowery language on Instagram, not a sarcastic tone.

Here are two "big picture" questions you can consider when developing your brand:

1) Who is my ideal customer and what would appeal to him or her?

For example, if your main customer is a 20-year-old college student, the colors you'll select and the language you'll use will be very different from the colors and language that would resonate with a 50-year-old father.

2) How do I want to make my customers feel when they interact with me and my business?

For me and grace + hudson, I want people to feel a sense of lightness and feminine beauty when they interact with my brand. This is very different from a jewelry brand that wants to come across as trendy and edgy. 

If you are setting up a business (or already have!), I hope this is good food for thought. Definitely devote lots of time and attention to building your brand. It truly will make the difference between getting zero sales and getting tons of sales.

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every Monday night, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!

xoxo,
Stacy

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