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my journal

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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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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What It's Like To Be A Small Business Owner During The Coronavirus

What It's Like To Be A Small Business Owner During The Coronavirus

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 am sharing what it feels like to be a small business owner during this crazy time of the coronavirus. Many of you want to start your own business someday, so I thought it might be helpful. Business ownership is full of challenges and if it's not the coronavirus, it'll be something else. It's all about how you cope with the challenges and learn from them. 

Everyone has been hit hard by the coronavirus in one way or another, but small businesses have been hit particularly hard. Unlike large companies, small businesses aren't usually backed by multi-millionaires or huge hedge funds that can absorb the loss of a complete shut down. Small business owners pay everything from their mortgages to their grocery store bills with the revenue from online and in-store purchases, and when those purchases go away or decrease significantly with very little warning, there's a problem. Think about how you would feel if you went to work and were unexpectedly fired after nine years on the job with a perfect track record. It's the same kind of pain. Chances are, you don't have huge investors or hedge funds to turn to when your paycheck suddenly stops, and small businesses don't either.

When the coronavirus hit, I had just signed a lease to open a store in downtown Charleston. Great timing, right? My lease started on March 1st, so the first thing that came to mind was "How in the world am I going to pay for a store space that I can't even open?" In addition, I primarily sell wedding jewelry and there are no weddings right now. Double whammy. Since my main market is weddings, my busy season is from March through October. This means that just as busy season was ramping up, corona hit. Triple whammy. 

So how am I dealing? I'd sum it up like this: it has been stressful but I'm proud of the way I've been managing. It is truly a test that's proving to me how far I've come on this journey. I haven't had a melt down, I haven't thrown in the towel and closed my business for good, I haven't hidden under the covers and stayed in bed all day. Honestly, I haven't even complained all that much. That's just not me. And I know that none of that is going to get me anywhere. I am moving forward. One day at a time. I am continuing to work on my store space and I know I will be able to open it someday soon. I am continuing to SHOW UP in the best way I know how, for myself and for the people in my life (that includes you!). I trust that my needs will be met. I trust that the money I need to pay my store rent will show up. I trust that the Universe didn't bring me this far to leave me now. 

It might sound weird, but I just knew I was going to face a big test at this point in my business journey. I am at this really pivotal place in my business where I need to hire employees, and I am expanding my business by opening a brick + mortar store in downtown Charleston, and there are lots of exciting things going on. I'd say that I recently left the beginning business stage where you wonder "will this work?" and entered the next stage. I'm not sure what to call this stage because I've never been here before, but it feels really different. In the beginning stage, you are kind of playing around and trying all sorts of different things. And while you don't want to fail, deep down you know that no one will judge you harshly if you do because most businesses fail. But when you move beyond that stage, things all of a sudden feel real and a bit more serious and there seems to be a little more responsibility attached to it all. It's kind of wild. And so, at this crossroads I find myself at, I just knew there was going to be a "final exam" sorta speak to test me and all that I've learned so far. If you've been following along for some time now, you know what I'm referring to. In the last 3 years, I have grown by leaps and bounds and there has been so much transformation in both my inner self and outside world. 

So, as the coronavirus threatens us all - - and for me personally, threatens the business I've worked so hard to build these last 3 years - - I say, I am up for the challenge! I know I have acquired the tools to make it through. Most significantly, I have acquired many useful mindset tools. The bottom line is, if you believe the coronavirus is going to kill your business, it will. But if you believe your business can survive the coronavirus, it will. Maybe next week I'll write an article on all the tools that I'm relying on right now, as it's too much to get into here. Yeah?

If you're struggling right now, know that everything you are going through is growing you. It will not be for nothing. The coronavirus is preparing you for something bigger. Trust that. Feel that deep in your heart. There are lessons in the coronavirus for all of us right now.

xoxo,

Stacy

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Want To Start Your Own Business Right Now? Consider This First

Want To Start Your Own Business Right Now? Consider This First

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 address those of you who've been planning to start your own business but haven't yet. And my message might be a little surprising. The coronavirus is in full swing and we've all been ordered to stay at home for the past four weeks or so. By this point in time, we've all become a little more thankful for things that were always a given - fully-stocked grocery store shelves, the ability to go to a restaurant, even toilet paper. Maybe by now you even miss your Monday to Friday routine, your desk, and your somewhat annoying co-workers. It's funny how a tragedy can make you see things in a new light.

I'll never forget what my Dad said when he was in hospice care, just a few weeks away from the end of his life. When I asked him what he missed about his life before cancer, he said that he'd do anything to have a normal day at the office. That resonates deeply, doesn't it? It's not the fancy vacations, elaborate birthday parties, spa trips, or concerts that we miss the most. It's the simple, everyday things like a normal day at work, being able to hug a friend you haven't seen in a while, attending a class at your favorite workout studio, and heading to your favorite coffee shop to do work on your laptop. 

Has this time period sparked a new appreciation for your current job or career path? That's not a bad thing! Maybe you've realized that you've been too focused on the things you hate about your job, when there really is a lot to like. The great thing about times like these - where there's more opportunity for reflection because there aren't as many errands to run and events to attend - is that they can help us see things with a fresh perspective. I've said it before and I'll say it again - starting and running your own business is not easy and it's not for everyone. Some people aren't built for the entrepreneurial lifestyle where there is constantly a lot of uncertainty and things rarely go to plan. If that's you, maybe this time period is trying to teach you that where you are is just fine.

In addition, when you make a big, life-changing decision such as the decision to quit your job and start your own business, it's better to make that decision from a centered, balanced place rather than as a means of escape. You know what I mean? A lot of people who want to start their own business want to do so because they want to escape their current job. That's powerful motivation, don't get me wrong, but it's important to understand WHAT you hate about your current job and WHY you hate it before you run away from it. Otherwise, you'll be starting a new business from a place of angst and escapism. I love the definition of escapism - it means "the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities." And you guessed it - any new venture that's started as a means of escape doesn't have a high likelihood of long-term success.  

So consider this first, before you start a business -- are your reasons behind it valid, rational, and grounded in reality? If you have high job dissatisfaction right now, have you discussed it with a therapist, counselor, advisor, or even a trusted friend? It's important to work through these issues first, so that you know your true motivation for wanting to start your own business. Because I have to imagine there's nothing worse than quitting your job, only to find out that you were taking it for granted and wish you could have it back. Come to think of it, a lot of things in life are like that, aren't they? This week, be appreciative, be grateful, and welcome new perspective shifts.

xoxo,

Stacy

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How Daily Mantras Helped Me Quit My Lawyer Job & Start My Own Business

How Daily Mantras Helped Me Quit My Lawyer Job & Start My 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. In this week's journal entry, I am sharing more about my daily mantra practice. If you've been following me on Instagram you already know that I've been sharing the daily mantras I've been using to get through this challenging period. The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on all of our lives and one way I've been trying to cope is by changing the negative story lines in my head into positive ones. For example, my mantra today is "Some of the most negative experiences of my life have paved the way for some of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and I know this time will be no different." Every time I feel negative thoughts coming on strong, I'll say this mantra silently to myself. Our thoughts shape our reality! And everything is a matter of perspective. Last week, I wrote in detail about this daily practice (you can read that here) and this week I wanted to share how I actually used mantras as a helpful tool in quitting my lawyer job and starting my own business.

First up, I told you last week why mantras work. I think they work because they reframe the story you've got running through your head. You can repeat negative thoughts all day long, or you can repeat positive thoughts all day long. Those thoughts create stories about what you believe is going to happen and they can be very powerful. Thoughts shape your reality. What you think about persists! So it's important that you control your thoughts and make sure they're more positive than they are negative. For all those control freaks out there, this is good news! You can't control much, but you can control the thoughts running through your head. I don't think it's possible to think positive thoughts 100% of the time but, on average, as long as you think more positive thoughts than you do negative thoughts I think you'll be just fine.

So, when I wanted to make a big career change from lawyer to jewelry business owner, I became very aware of the powerful negative stories that were holding me back. And I started to change them by using mantras. This didn't happen overnight because, let me tell you, I had some pretty powerful negative stories about career and money running through my head. But slowly and surely, my beliefs and my stories changed. For example, one of the thoughts I had running through my mind was that I will never be able to make as much money selling jewelry as I did as a lawyer. When I became aware of that belief, I realized how much it was creating my reality. If you believe you can't make a living selling jewelry, you won't and you'll march right on back to being a lawyer. If you believe on the other hand that you can make even more money selling jewelry than you ever did as a lawyer, you will. It really is that simple. I want you to read that again. It really is that simple. I have concrete evidence of this. I had a jewelry business ten years ago, in 2010, and it failed after about 12 months and I had to go back to being a lawyer. Why? I didn't believe I deserved to earn a living doing something I love. I didn't believe that a job could be fun. I didn't believe I could earn enough money to support myself making jewelry. But this time around, with grace + hudson, I DO believe I deserve to earn a living doing something I love. I do believe that work can (and should!) be fun and enjoyable. I do believe I can earn enough money to support myself. And you know what, that's exactly what's shown up for me this time around. What changed, you ask? Well, I did a lot of self-development work on myself. I mean, a TON of work on myself. And it was hard. And it brought up a lot of tears and caused me to examine a lot of things about myself, some of which I didn't particularly like. But I am standing here today a changed person, a happier person, and a person who feels at peace with life. So please believe me when I tell you that the only person holding you back is YOU. I've been there and I see it so clearly now. I was holding myself back the whole time with these negatives ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and stories about how the world works and what was possible for me and my career.

If this resonates with you, what comes next? I think the first step is becoming aware of the stories, beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that are ruling your life and shaping your career. Some will be positive, but many will likely be negative. This is the hardest part. It's hard to be honest with ourselves about the storylines running in our head, and we also have a lot of blindspots. Let me give you an analogy: I was born in May so I'm a Taurus and we are notoriously stubborn, but it's hard for me to admit that I'm stubborn sometimes. A person will call me stubborn and I'll basically gasp and say, "Who? Me?" This is what happens when we start to honestly look at our stories and beliefs around our career (or any area of our life). You might think you're a positive person, but upon further examination you might realize that you actually have quite negative storylines surrounding your career. But you won't want to see it. You won't want to believe it. This is where the personal, self-development works comes into play. It takes a lot of courage to admit where we are weak, and where we can do better. And then it takes a lot of strength to change our ways. Like me, you might find you need the help of a therapist depending on the strength of your negative storylines and that is nothing to be ashamed about. Once you've identified your negative storylines, the rest is (comparatively speaking) easy. Decide upon a positive storyline and start repeating it to yourself - in time, you'll begin to believe it. It'll drown out the negative storyline. And then that'll have a causal effect on what you see start to show up for you!

xoxo,

Stacy

 

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