We began 2011 with LOTS of excitement. Since we clearly didn't think we were busy enough, we got a puppy!
Of course Winston has been the sweetest and craziest joy. Raising a puppy is so much fun, and quite challenging at times. But so worth it. He's almost 3 now and he's such a sweetheart. I just can't get over these puppy images I had to share!
Back in 2009, I attended the Love Affair Workshop for lady photographers and met my sweet sweet friend Caroline Joy. (Sorry friends, the workshop doesn't exist anymore!) We found each other at the workshop, and have pretty much been inseparable since. It's so fun to find a likeminded photographer, business owner, and friend who shares the same beliefs about faith, work, and life in general. Caroline and I decided to launch our own workshop called Branches and Light, and in January of 2011 we hosted our first workshop in Dallas, TX, then a week later hosted our second workshop in Raleigh, NC. (You'll definitely want to click on that link and look at how short my hair was!)
Those were some of the sweetest memories in the life of my business. We were so scared, excited, and thrilled to be teaching a workshop on photography, but we felt the fear and did it anyway. It was a wonderful way to begin 2011! I also decided that it was time to really analyze and change my brand and website. So I began the process to change from the "birdcage" young brand feel, to a more sophisticated, calligraphy neutral pallette that you currently see. I worked with Flosites for 6 months, and launched the new Blogsite in November of 2011.
I photographed 25 weddings in 2011. It was my first fully booked year, and it was FULL. I had a hard time learning balance, and decided to hire my wonderful intern Robin. She was fantastic, and I began to learn the huge benefits of delegating tasks to others. As someone who is completely hands on (and somewhat of a control freak), it was a hard and good lesson for me to learn!
I had my first feature on Style Me Pretty, which was a big goal for my business! To see that dream become a reality was amazing. It was shortly followed by my second feature on SMP, and soon enough I became a member of their Little Black Book!
We were getting a better handle on life-work balance, but it was still hard. Our weekends were (and still are, quite honestly!) very, very full. But Will and I were getting into the groove of life lived in ministry, combined with the crazy life of business owners.
We began 2012 with another B&L Workshop, and we really stepped it up! Caroline and I decided it best to only host 1 workshop in 1 city, so we chose Raleigh as our destination. We partnered with some amazing vendors, and it turned out to be a wonderful success.
My business kept growing, and I knew I couldn't handle the load of work all by myself. Will wanted to help, but he was spending way too much of his time "off" helping me, and I didn't want that for him or for us. So we began the long search for a studio assistant - a part time employee to help me manage my business. After interviewing several people several times, we hired Callie in May.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Callie has been such a joy. Words really can't express how thankful I am for this girl. She keeps me sane, and of course Winston thinks she's pretty great too! (Ie: he brings her toys and drools on her daily.)
We shot a full load of weddings again in 2012, worked like there was no tomorrow, continued our youth trips (summer camp, retreats, leader's retreat, lockin, etc.), and our plates were full. We even built a little Anniversary trip around a wedding we photographed in Highlands, which was a wonderful getaway and adventure.
Now I know this next part of 2012 I'm about to share isn't necessarily "business," but it so impacted all the areas of my life I simply must share it. Hopefully it will help some business owners out there who might need to learn this lesson.
One of the things that really marked 2012 for me personally was the decision to take care of myself physically. When life is as crazy busy and hectic as it was for us, the last thing I paid attention to was my health. Up until March of 2012, my life looked something like this:
- Eat whatever I wanted (which usually consisted of fast food, sweet tea, and at least 1 dessert a day)
- Walk Winston twice a week for exercise
- Constantly battle digestive issues
- Go to bed between midnight and 2am
- Wake up right before Will left for work around 9am
It was one of my big goals to run a half marathon that year, to set boundaries and become a morning person, and to begin paying attention to my diet and how it affected me. I cannot even tell you how this radically changed my life. After training for a half marathon (which I ran in July of 2012), going on 4 different sugar fasts, increasing my water intake, setting a bedtime and creating a regular morning routine, my life became so much more fulfilling.
I had the energy I needed to do the work I needed to do. I no longer struggled with the desire to nap all the time, I had the self discipline to say no to things that weren't good for me. I had an entirely new perspective on life, and how important it is to maintain and care for the temple that God gave me. While I got into a good stride in my business, I created new habits, a new "stride" physically and personally that I am incredibly grateful for. To this day, my life looks something like this :
- Eat nutritious non-processed food... primarily vegetables, fruit, dairy, fish, and whole grains.
- Go running with Winston 3 times a week, with added workouts that include swimming, biking, pilates and yoga.
- Feel good and energetic, all the time!
- Go to bed at 10. Wake up at 6.
- Splurge occasionally guilt free, and know when to stop.
At the end of 2012, we also achieved a huge personal financial goal. Early in our marriage, we decided to live off of less than Will's income, save save save, and pay off our house early.
Never in a million years did we think we could pay off our mortgage in 2.5 years, but we did! After a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and intense budgeting, we paid off our house in December of 2012. The day we screamed "We're debt free" was incredible - there are hardly words to describe achieving such a sweet goal with your best friend. God is so good.
Well friends, that leads us right into 2013, which is NRP Part 4. Stay tuned next week for the final post!