Hello faithful friends!
Throughout this business, I've tried to make a habit of looking back and recollecting all the highs and lows of the previous season, whether by month, several months, or for a yearly review. I've loved looking back and counting jobs, seeing how much I've changed, and gathering thankfulness for all of the amazing opportunities had and friends made.
But I've never done it for my whole business, I mean, since the very beginning when I was in college doing friends hair and makeup for prom and weddings, certain that this could never be a legitimate business. When people ask me how long I've been doing hair and makeup, I've varied saying anywhere from 5 years to 10 years to most of my life.
It has been SO GOOD to go through the vault of images of my journey, too many to post here, but you get the highlights. I am so thankful I have walked the road of business ownership as a woman, doing something I've always loved to help other women feel extra special for special times in their life.
The Really Early Days (2008-2012)
These images make me smile SO big. I love beginnings, small and humble and totally unaware of the road ahead. After a high school career as friend-turned-makeover expert, friends continued to call me home from college to help with proms, homecomings, and the first trickle of weddings for our friend group. After my first wedding being the *official* hair/makeup person (remember this, Joy?!) I remember thinking, "I just want to do this for work. Not in a salon, just for weddings and special events. I wish."
I had my first experiences with figuring out how long it would even take me to do an updo or a full face of wedding makeup, and how to put that into a timeline that made sense on a wedding day. I learned how to make curls stay for a down style for a hot and humid southern summer wedding, and how to do eyeliner on someone I didn't know well.
After John and I got married in 2012, I was searching for a proper post-college full-time job, which took about 4 months. During that time, I gathered up all the images of hair and makeup work I had ever done, gave it a name (dedicated to my grandma Lula), and made a Facebook business page. A few runs to Sally's and Wal-Mart later, plus one of those freebie business card deals, and I had a little side-hustle, which kept me company while I got my "real" job.
Things Start Ramping Up (2012-2013)
LULA became my happy hideaway and creative child while I worked full-time at a medical software company. I would post on my Facebook and blog, and I received my first ever clients that I didn't know personally. I was so nervous. I had no idea what to do once people messaged! How much would I charge? (A: well below market standard) What do I offer? (A: What they ask for!) How much time do I spend on a trial? (A: however long it took until they were happy) When do I leave on the wedding day? (???) What would I wear? (FLATS) How would I carry all my stuff? (collapsable rolly cart like a teacher!) I had to figure it all out, and thankfully I had lots of help along the way.
I remember just telling myself - you're not faking it. This is who you are. Be the person you imagined in your head all these years!
I said yes to my first styled shoots and was completely beside myself and the dresses and photographers and table designs. I felt creatively part of something, a vision, to make something inspiring and beautiful.
I invited friends over to practice and take pictures to fill out my portfolio (thank you, you know who you are!)
After my first few official clients, the inquiries started rolling in pretty consistently. I was answering brides' emails at my software job in between tasks until it started overshadowing my "real" work. My calendar was filling out for a full year ahead, weekend after weekend. I looked at John and told him I couldn't keep doing both, with inexplicable excitement and immense fear at the same time. I had to do a little convincing and proving, to myself and John, that I could make the numbers work, and I read "Quitter" by John Acuff as a guiding voice through a process that seemed otherwise alien to the normal way of climbing the career ladder.
This is My Full-Time Job Now! (WHAT?!) (2014-2015)
This was such a sweet season in my business. I quit my software job at the very end of 2013, so I started 2014 with a blank slate and booked weddings! I worked on my first official website, and fresh new images. I gave LULA its own Instagram. And both years, John and I went out of the country for several months at a time to do ministry! Personally, it was a bit crazy - we moved out of our apartment and sold a ton of our stuff before leaving for Africa in September of 2014, lived with John's mom from January 2015-June of that year, lived in Israel from June-October, and lived with my parents from October 2015-May 2016. Whew!
While personally it was a bit nuts, business was steady! I booked all around our travels and hosted client trials in my mother-in-law's home and my parent's home. I started shortening my booking window to about 4-5 months in advance, so I wouldn't have to break any contracts due to travel plans. Looking back, I see that having non-business time blocked out both years was almost essential to the steady, healthy growth of my business, which seems a little counterintuitive, right? It also kept me mentally balanced, as work was never the reason I was living or the only thing going on in life. I had aspirations and goals, and my business was part of that, not all of that.
I realized a dream of getting published in a magazine for the first time ever! And again in 2015! This was my ultimate dream-goal when I started, and I never thought it would come to pass so soon. Thank you to the ladies at Southern Weddings for loving what I do and allowing me to be part of your visions!
2016 - My Busiest Year Ever
In 2016, we lived part of the year at my parent's house, until we finally got our second apartment together in May! No travel plans were in the books, so this was my chance to book at the fullest capacity possible. I wanted to see how big, how fast, how much I could do, without outside limitations. What I learned later is that outside limitations aren't the only ones that exist, or matter.
I think I worked something like 62 weddings, not even counting their corresponding trials, engagement sessions, maternity sessions, proms, styled shoots, or corporate jobs. I was working every weekend of the year, stacked 2-3 weddings on most weekends, and working all through the week as well, both on site and doing all the other stuff that makes a business run. I had to hire an admin assistant to help make things run smoothly and was training a styling assistant. What I didn't realize is how much time it takes (and what an entirely different skill-set it is) to train and manage people well. If I did that alone, I know I would do well. But having to do both that and be an artist and a CEO and all the other things (plus a wife, friend, and other life things) - I wasn't sure how much longer I could do it all.
I let the lies that my job wasn't a real one because I couldn't count up to 40 hours of working in the week (although I knew it was more), and the pressure that I needed to grow my empire so I could make money to save and give my kids and grandkids someday, and the pride of more and more likes and comments like "wow, you're so busy!" keep pushing me to do more and continue booking to the next year. My body started giving me signs since I wasn't taking my emotional signs seriously. Heart racing, sleeplessness, anxiety - just the beginnings.
Although it was the start of a tough season, it was also an amazing season. I did some great work, grew as a person, started learning how to say no well and speaking up for myself, and met so many amazing people.
2017 & 2018 - Redirection
I've written about this before, but by March of 2017 I couldn't just "keep going." You can read that whole thing here. I scheduled a big break from weddings from August-December of last year, and worked a full wedding season leading up to that. I wasn't sure if I would be booking for 2018, so I didn't make any hoopla about it, I just gave myself time to figure out really how I was feeling and what my capacity could be.
During that time I took corporate, editorial, and small session work to keep fresh in less pressured environments. By December I was ready to book some weddings, but knew I needed to do it wisely. I didn't do a blanket "I'M BOOKING!" statement, but instead reached out to trusted vendors who help make weddings a breeze to be a part of. I had a very specific number in my head that I didn't want to go above, and other qualifiers that helped me nail down ideal weddings (not out of town, no more than 20 services, and an overall style I could believe in!)
So this year I've been living out those bookings, and having tons of breathing room as a result of capping them at a small number. I'm enjoying the balanced rhythm of weekends working hard and weekends enjoying home or travel, and weekdays with LULA as a part, not the whole. Praise God!
This has been an amazing journey - and I couldn't have done it without you.
Thank you so much for getting behind me & the vision of this business. You've made it better than I could have ever imagined!
With blush and bobby pins,