“Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.” – Alice Walker
It feels like I blinked and suddenly I was at the end of my first year of business ownership. It’s incredible how quickly time passes.
One year ago, I launched Christina Burton Events. It was something I had been thinking about for awhile, but didn’t decide on until I learned we were relocating from Lexington, Kentucky to Indianapolis, Indiana because of my fiance’s job. Although not knowing a soul in the city you’re launching a company (especially one in such a relationship based industry) it can be a daunting challenge, it just finally felt like the right time to take the leap. I had spent the past nine years in the event industry, planning weddings and other events under different companies. Along the way business ownership never felt like the right fit, but when facing that move I felt as though the timing was finally right to tackle that new challenge.
This first year has been a whirlwind, with some of the highest highs and biggest challenges of my life. But when I think back on my first year of business ownership, there are several things that surprised me, several lessons I wasn’t expecting to learn. So here are the top 5 unexpected, surprise lessons I found along the way.
1. Business ownership is lonely.
After a couple months of working from my home office full time, I started feeling really lonely. I have always found great friendships with coworkers, so this was the first time that I didn’t have someone sitting next to me who was walking in the same shoes. Someone who knew the same frustrations, worries, joys, and celebrations. I missed having those coworkers who really understood where I was at, and as great as TB has been through this entire adventure, I felt like I needed to find someone who was in my boat (or at least one just like it.)
As I was having a particularly rough day, I was watching Instagram stories and came across one from a fellow wedding planner based in a different state. She and I had never met, talked or interacted, in fact, I’m not even sure how I ended up following her. In her insta story that day, she posted a picture of the Powersheets she was using for 2018 goal setting – something I had just ordered several days earlier and was super excited about, but also a bit overwhelmed by. Her next post showed something about the Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher – a podcast I try to listen to every week. God’s timing is always just what I need, and I felt like I was being pushed to reach out. So that evening I drafted (and re-drafted several times) an email to her – I have no doubt I sounded like a crazy person. I just kept thinking that I couldn’t possibly be the only person who was looking for a connection with another like-minded business owner, someone who was sitting in a similar boat to mine. She ended up responding and we scheduled a time to chat via phone. That phone call was the start of what has become a good friendship, and I truly believe that was a pivoting point for my business.
Lesson: Loneliness is very real for a lot of small business owners. There’s nothing wrong with you if you feel it, but realize you’re not alone. There are other people out there craving meaningful connections as well – so go find them, and don’t be afraid of sounding like a crazy person. If that business owner feels anything similar, they will totally get where you’re coming from.
2. This journey has already brought some of the best relationships.
Going into this I knew that I’d likely (hopefully) meet the most fantastic clients, some of whom would grow to become friends. But, what I didn’t anticipate, and what has easily been the biggest blessing of business ownership was the relationships and connections I’ve created with other creative entrepreneurs.
One of my biggest worries, when I launched CBE, was that since we had moved to Indianapolis 3 months earlier, I didn’t have any connections with event professionals. Pretty quickly I forced myself out of my comfort zone and attended a few local networking groups focused primarily on wedding professionals or creative entrepreneurs (I don’t love networking situations – but let’s be honest, I don’t think most people do. It’s never fun to walk into a room full of strangers.) From those, I was able to meet a few people to go to coffee with, who in turn introduced me to more event professionals. I also found that (much to my surprise), Instagram is a great way to also meet other people in the creative industry, and from what started as giving each other encouragement on posts and liking photos, I’ve been able to meet a couple awesome women. From several of these meetings, I’ve been able to form meaningful friendships that are not only helpful to me professionally, but also great connections personally. Because of my business, I’ve been able to meet these incredible, #girlboss women who are killing it at their own businesses. I’ve found that for me, as busy as I might be, it’s important to make time to grab a coffee or a glass (or three) of wine with fellow creative entrepreneurs. It’s a great time to give and receive encouragement and advice and to dream. Every single time I leave feeling rejuvenated and excited about my business all over again.
Lesson: Put yourself out there to form meaningful connections. The lasting friendships you’re able to make may just surprise you. And… you can always use a few more incredible #girlboss friends to encourage you to chase your biggest dreams.
3. Asking for help makes you stronger.
Much to my parent’s dismay growing up, I’ve always been highly independent. At some point in my life, I started feeling like to ask for help equaled admitting defeat or weakness. I’ve always felt like I’ve had to prove myself to everyone, and in order to do so, I had to do everything on my own. I’m sure a psychologist would have fun dissecting that one.. but anyway…
I do my best thinking while driving and one day I was driving to a wedding rehearsal and had a thought. Why is asking for help weak when in fact, having the help of others is going to make me stronger. I can never know everything, but I don’t have to, as long as I know where to find the answer. I had tried so hard to prove I was good enough to own my own business, and in my head, I could only do so if I did it entirely on my own. But in fact, I wasn’t at all doing it on my own. I had TB behind me supporting me every step of the way. I had friends, family and past clients who had been giving their support since hitting “post” on that first social media announcement. I had a father who was supporting all my technical questions, a mother who was allowing me to vent all frustrations, and a sister who was cheering me on each step of the way. I had help and support and that only made me stronger. It was an epiphany moment for me, one that left me drying tears before walking into the church for rehearsal that night. A moment that has left a very lasting impression. Asking for help is going to make this business go way farther than I ever could make it on my own.
Lesson: Needing help is okay, and expected, and even a good thing. You will be stronger and your business will be stronger because of the support of those around you.
4. Comparison envy is very real and is not going to create success.
Like a lot of other small business owners, I was looking to other businesses similar to mine in order to stay on trends and get ideas for the website and social media when I first launched. I kept telling myself that I needed to know what “competitors” were doing, in order to be successful. I don’t think that could have been further from reality.
Following a bunch of “competitors” caused me stress, anxiety, and mostly envy. None of which are healthy emotions. I’ve also never wanted to consider fellow wedding planners, “competitors”. There is plenty of business and in this industry, it’s just so much easier to be friendly and to have others in my corner (we all need help every once in awhile.) So after several months of stressing over “how is she getting so many followers”, or “why is she getting to style such amazing shoots when I could do that”, and so on. I unfollowed most other wedding planners on social media (except for those that I felt I could honestly view with positive thoughts and without question or envy.) I’ve also realized that I don’t want to follow what someone else is doing. I launched this business so that I could pave my way, make my own decisions, and do things the way I want to do them. Basing my success on how others are doing things is not going to get me there.
Lesson: There will always be someone who is further ahead than you in your business – but there will also always be someone further behind. It’s a waste of time and energy (two things that business owners need all they can get of) to play the comparison game. Instead, pave your own path and cheer on those around you with a joyful heart.
5. Big dreams pave the way.
I think somewhere between college classes, cubicle life and working for others I forgot how to dream.
One fall day a fellow business owner asked me, “where do you want your business to go? Do you hope to always do what you’re doing, or are there other things you’re wanting to expand into?” She caught me off guard with the question, but looking back it was a pivoting point. I think I stuttered over an answer, but after we got done talking I started really thinking through it. No I didn’t want to stay right where I was, not because I wasn’t happy, or haven’t loved this season of business, but because I wanted to dream bigger, I wanted to find what’s next for my business, and I wanted to do bigger things than what I was currently doing. That hard question dared me to start dreaming again. Big, scary dreams and that pivoting point already has me dreaming up bigger things for my business than I ever could have when I first launched CBE a year ago.
Lesson: Dreaming big isn’t something you should do – it’s something you must do in order to move forward and be successful. You may surprise even yourself with what you’re capable of.
There you have it. The five biggest surprise lessons I’ve learned along this journey of business ownership. I won’t say I wish someone had told me to expect these because they were learning points for me over the past year. But I have discovered a love for helping other creative entrepreneurs and fellow small business owners. I definitely do not have all the answers, but if I can save someone else time, energy or stress because I’ve already walked a certain path, I’d love to help! So if you’re a small business owner in need of resources or guidance, please reach out! I’d love to connect!