It’s been almost a month since I traveled out to Staunton, Virginia to meet and learn from inspirational and motivated women in the wedding industry, and I still have not found the right words to properly express how much of an impact the experience had on me. I’ve been to wedding photography conferences before- some with thousands of attendees, some with much much less. The difference between the Creative at Heart conference and the other conferences I’ve attended before is this conference was for women small business owners in the wedding industry, meaning I was not only meeting photographers, but also designers, calligraphers, florists, invitation designers, and so on. It was wonderful and such a breath of fresh air.
This conference was designed to motivate women to be better small business owners, to provide them with the tools and tips to do so, and to inspire them to be intentional.
I was attending the conference as a small business owner going into my 6th year of business. Others were there in different stages of their businesses- some just needed a little push to file for their business licenses, others a year or so into the industry, and others with a few more years. Regardless of years in the industry, everyone was there to learn from each other and inspire one another.
I signed up for this conference knowing that I needed help and it was so scary to admit that. I needed help with being a better small business owner- managing it and handling it more efficiently. I also felt lost- there are days when I just think, “is this worth it?” It felt wrong for me to think that way- I had been managing thus far, why couldn’t I handle it anymore? Five years into my business and I needed something to motivate and inspire me, and luckily, that’s exactly what I got.
Being a small business owner has its highs and lows. Looking back on my first few years in business, I remember being afraid to say ‘no’ to any opportunities, which meant I missed out on a lot of opportunities in my personal life. Because I couldn’t say no to a potential client, I was forced to say no to family and friends. Being a small business owner can be lonely sometimes, as it requires many hours and nights in front of a computer editing, answering emails, paying bills, blogging, etc. It can also lead to a low self esteem- it’s so easy to check your newsfeed and other creatives’ blogs and compare yourselves to them. SO EASY. It’s a vicious cycle that helps no one, and it often leads to demoralizing thoughts, such as “she’s been in business for less time than me and she already has xx amount of publications and 5 bazillion Facebook followers.” It’s SO easy to get caught up in the comparison game. Why compare ourselves when we have the power to encourage and inspire each other…
I am so grateful that over the last few years I’ve attempted to create more of a balance, but I still strive to create more of an efficient workflow, which will save me much more time for my husband, friends, and family. I’ve learned to spend much less time comparing myself to others, as each and every creative is living under different circumstances. We all make it work, and we all work our butts off to make our businesses better. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we need to help each other.
This conference helped me in so many ways. It lit a fire within me. Many small business owners don’t make it past their fifth year. I’ve proven that I’ve made it past that, and now the question is how I’ll keep it going- how I’ll stay motivated, how I can possibly motivate others, and how I can make this business grow. This conference and its attendees taught me not only about the practical sides of being a better business owner, such as SEO and finances, but it taught me that it’s more than just a business. The attendees and speakers encouraged me to live with purpose and intention…to go with my gut.
We shared our successes, but more importantly, we shared our failures, our fears, and our concerns.
It was so refreshing to not have to worry about being embarrassed when talking about the way forward with my business, and where I wanted to go with it…there were women that were in the same boat. I thought I was the only one to be constantly worried about what direction I wanted to go with my business…no, there were others with the same concerns. Wow. You might be thinking, “Duh, Stephanie- of course others struggle with their businesses, silly,” but to me it was mind-blowing. I am beyond grateful for what I took away from this conference- the practical and helpful tips, but most importantly, the friendships and the comfort knowing that as a creative, I am not alone.
At the end of the conference, each attendee was given the below print. It spoke to each and every one of our hearts. I could not have said it better myself, and I will try my best to live by these words as long as I am in business…
A creative at heart believes in always showing compassion over competition, in building purposeful communication right where you are, that sweet starts lead to joy filled journeys, in inspiring the hearts of like-minded women, that we are cherished, loved, and worth it.