Creating a Need Where There Isn’t One

Today’s guest post is written by Morgan Montgomery, the co-owner of Paisley & Jade.

Three years ago, my business partner and I launched a vintage & eclectic rental company in the mid-size market of Richmond, Virginia. You may know Richmond as a southern city, home to the moMorgan Montgomery Headshot by Hope Taylor Photographynuments and the former capital of the confederacy, but here, we call it the land of “we do things this way because that’s how they have always been done”.

When we opened for business in June of 2012, we were met with a lot of confused stares. How could a company who rents things like vintage taxidermy, chaise lounges and candlesticks succeed? Now that we have three years under our belt, we’ve heard from numerous folks that while at the same time they were congratulating us on launching a business, they truly didn’t think it could be sustained in our market, and we are proud to have not only carved out a niche for ourselves, but grown our business exponentially year over year.

Before we launched, there wasn’t a company like us in our market, nor was there demand for one. By implementing a few key strategies, we built a successful business fulfilling a need that didn’t exist!

Invest in Branding (but be open to change!)

Since our business model didn’t exist in the market, we knew that in order to capture our audience and ideal clients that our branding would have to be 100% on point, as we would not have the luxury of our clients being able to reference something they already knew. We invested heavily in the branding and website design of our company, a move that has paid off in spades. When potential clients visit our website, it is immediately obvious what it is we do, and our biggest strength (our depth of inventory) is prominently on display. When we launched, we loved our brand and company identity, but realized within a few months that we had to correct a crucial mistake. In the process of developing our business plan and identity, we had purposely stayed away from the word “vintage”, worried that it pigeonholed us and trapped us into what ultimately could be a passing trend. We opted for the word “eclectic” instead, but since we had created something unknown, we had to relate it to verbiage our potential clients and vendor partners understood – so back to “vintage” we went! This tweak made a huge difference, and taught us a valuable lesson about client perception.

Your Network is Key

One of the biggest mountains we’ve had to climb in creating our niche is that our service is not something our clients NEED, but rather what they WANT. As a luxury service, our clients do not need our items in order to have their event. Guests can sit on standard folding chairs as opposed to our mismatched wooden ones, and a cake will display just fine on a 3’ round with a linen instead of on a vintage sideboard – and because of that, we needed a way to reinforce our clients’ desire to utilize our collection as much as possible. We worked with our vendor partners to show them how much of an asset we could be to them – for photographers, we sold them on the idea of having something “different” to photograph, and something that would help their images stand out if they were pursuing publication. Caterers and bakers want their displays to look as best as possible, and our inventory allows them to enhance their presentation. We worked with and educated our vendor friends and partners (through casual conversations, over lunches and by participating in styled shoots) on how we could all work together to create a better and higher end product. They, in turn, relayed the benefit of our services as it related to the quality of product they would provide to their clients – increasing the number of times our business was referred by them, and increasing our exposure and bookings.

Show Confidence in Yourself & Your Ability to be a Trendsetter

It sounds simple, but the more confidence you have in what you do, the more confidence others will have! Do your research, and have conversation points prepared for when you inevitably are asked “…and you think people will pay for this?”. When you’re launching something that hasn’t been done before in your market, you are already a leader and a trendsetter, so it’s important to live up to those expectations. When we have a crazy idea about something new & different that we’d love to see our clients do with our inventory, we do it first! And then we photograph it, and blog about it, and share it on social media – all demonstrating to a wide audience that we have confidence in our ideas and in ourselves!

Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done at all. By having a clear vision, utilizing our professional contacts and having confidence in our own abilities, we’ve turned our once-critics into our some of the biggest fans of our thriving niche business.

Morgan Montgomery, CPCE, is the co-owner of Paisley & Jade, a vintage & eclectic rental company based in Richmond, Virginia and serving mid-atlantic engaged couples, event planners, photographers and filmmakers.

Are You Looking for Work-Life Balance?

Yesterday I wrote about the myth of doing it all. People who appear to be doing it all are actually doing quite the opposite. (I’m one of those people.)

‘Balance’ is more about having peace with your life. And each person must have his own definition of peace.

creative commons license: freestockphotos.biz

What are the things that make you feel at peace? My list is short:

  • exercise
  • sleep
  • reading
  • coffee in the morning

And, the introvert in me, doesn’t want too many social commitments. (But – the outgoing part of me enjoys a good party from time to time.)

That’s it. Pretty simple.

Here’s one of the most meaningful things I’ve learned in life: I’m not missing out on anything. Everything that contributes to my peace is in my hands, within my control, and attainable.

It’s NOT about wanting what the neighbors have.
It’s NOT about seeing a competitor and wishing my website was as sparkly as theirs.
It’s NOT about wishing I hadn’t missed that party last night.
It’s NOT about wishing I was 20 lbs skinnier.
It’s NOT about wishing I had a better house/car/vacation.
It’s NOT about wanting… wanting is a waste of time… it’s a waste of my inner peace.

FOMO is real. But, I don’t play that.

Anyways… these last 2 days of posts from me haven’t been very business-y… but I want you to think about this:

what contributes to your peace? 

Live in that place. That is what will contribute to feeling balanced in your life.

I Don’t Do It All

It’s a little strange when people ask me: “How do you do it all?” I’m not sure whether to take this as a compliment on my social media skills. (“Gee – I must be doing a really good job at posting the glamorous side of life in Miami.”) OR, if I should take this as a serious question from a person who REALLY is trying to figure out the greatest mystery in life. (“How do I attain balance in my life?”) In either case, I’m not quite sure how to answer this question.

My thought is: if you are asking this question, then chances are you are doing much more than me.

Here’s the little secret about people who appear to be doing it all: they are NOT doing it all.

Here’s the things I know I’m REALLY good at:

  • I’m good at saying no.
  • I’m good at not hyper-scheduling myself (or my kids).
  • I’m good at prioritizing.
  • NOT DOING IT ALL <– I’m REALLY good at NOT doing it all. (And that is PRECISELY why you think I am good at doing it all.)

You see… the reason why I come off as someone who does it all is because I have a peaceful life. It is that peace that makes people think that I do it all. But, I have that peace in my life BECAUSE I don’t do it all.

Are you seeing where I’m going with this?

This post isn’t about how lovely and pretty and peaceful my life is. I’m not really into that sort of thing. I want you to try to see that this ‘balance’ thing… it’s NOT about doing it all… it’s about having peace… whatever that means to you.

I want to get real here because I think there is a very big misunderstanding about people who ‘do it all’. I’m going to illuminate my points with photos here to help you understand what’s really going on:

Last week, when I was at the park reading in the garden with my daughter at 3:30pm in the afternoon…

IMG_9870 Gorgeous, right?

Well – behind me was my 2.75 year old son, running around like a wild banshee, trying to kill all the butterflies… and we had to skedaddle before he ran into the street to get run-over by a car.

And – yes I have the luxury of picking up my daughter from school at 3pm or 4pm on some days. It doesn’t mean I get to only work 20 hours (tho I wish!) It just means that I get to pick which 40-50 hours I work. (And some times that’s at 11pm at night. Tho, I try not to make a habit of that.)

So what was life like after this beautiful 2 minutes in the park?

A mad dash home to do homework, stop the kids from fighting, bathe them, feed them, put them in bed 10 times, and resume working. Same ol’ same ol’. A lot of you do this.

So – what didn’t get done?

  • I didn’t put on makeup that day. (I probably didn’t do my hair.)
  • I didn’t get any exercise done.
  • I didn’t get enough sleep.
  • I didn’t pick up my contacts from the eye doctors (and kept reusing the dailies for several days.)
  • I didn’t make dinner. (Thank you to my husband for that.)
  • I didn’t dust the furniture or clean the kitchen floor.
  • I didn’t read the book I’m trying to get through.
  • I didn’t watch TV.
  • I didn’t blog.
  • I didn’t go to any networking events.
  • I didn’t hand-make Valentines with my kids.

On that note… the Valentines…

YIMG_0003esterday, I was off to speak at an ABC meeting here in South Florida… ta-da! the selfie!

This looks fun, right?

I’m going to speak at wedding industry meeting!

It’s sunny and warm in Florida!

YAY! I have makeup on!

Gonna go get my networking on!

Gonna go spread some business-planning-magic on everyone!

Alas… being gone from the house from 5:30-8:30, a lot did NOT get done:

  • I did not feed the kids.
  • I did not do all that bedtime stuff.
  • I did not finish the copy I was writing for our Sage Wedding Pros website update.
  • I did not send my client that contract yesterday.
  • I did not volunteer for the field trip.
  • I didn’t review homework.
  • I did not contribute anything to the school’s auction.
  • I did not make cupcakes for Lucas’s Valentine celebration at school.
  • I did not hand-make Valentines with either of my kids. (My husband went to the CVS at 7pm and assembled them from a kit himself.) PEOPLE! I was a stationery designer! This is crazy.

A lot did NOT get done.

Here’s another thing… I have a REALLY good support system. Many of you will not have a husband who will assemble Valentine cards for your 2 year old. PLEASE – for the love of all that is good – PLEASE do not have this expectation of your spouse. SUPPORT comes in all shapes, sizes, and directions. (It’s not fair to expect these things of our spouses.) Find ways he can support you and love him/her for that.

Some other ways that people support me in trying to ‘do it all’ with my kids… teachers! (god bless all the teachers everywhere!) My kids are in school from 8-3. My parents… but before they moved to Miami, it was babysitters. It’s after school activities that I don’t have to drive my kids to. It’s friends who will pick up my kid if I scheduled a meeting on the wrong day. It’s the teachers… did I mention that school is AWESOME!?!?!?! :)

That stuff about it taking a village… that’s no joke.

Support is SUPER-DUPER important… you HAVE to have a team of people who can help you. It can be a friend, a neighbor, an employee, a babysitter, a parent, a spouse. If you want to not do it all… you need to have support.

SO… my rules for the day…

  1. STOP doing it all.
  2. Get yourself some support!

I have a few more thoughts on peace, balance, and doing it all… tomorrow.

 

What Are Your ‘Good Habit Triggers’?

What are the triggers that result in good habits for you?

Here is something I’ve noticed (on a personal level)… when I take extra time at night to do all of the skin stuff: the exfoliating, the eye treatments, the creams, lotions, etcetera, I wake up feeling refreshed and I eat better and exercise. I have learned that there are little things that I do which result in triggering good behavior.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

What about in a work scenario? What is it that creates a chain reaction of good work habits?

For me, it’s a clean and organized office. (I must admit: I am not currently sitting in a clean office. EEEK!) It’s creating a strong list of ‘open items‘ at the end of my day so that I’m ready to tackle them the following day. It is taking time to select which items I will work on that day and not getting my to-do list get out from under me.

Everyone has different triggers. Everyone has a different series of events that will lead to a chain reaction of positive behaviors. What are yours? Take some time to think about what makes you more efficient and effective in the work you do.

Industry Gossip – How to Deal with “Meanies”

Let’s talk about gossip.

UGH. I’m kinda bummed about having this conversation with you. No one likes gossip… and yet it happens in most markets in our industry. So, let’s just get it out there. Gossip sucks.

GossipSo – what do we do when you are the object of other people’s gossip? (Or – you think you are. You’re not quite sure… but it seems like people say bad things about you.) Maybe it’s because you’re new. Maybe it’s because you’re really good at what you do and people are envious. Maybe it’s because you do things different. Whatever the reason, it sure does SUCK to be at the other end of gossip.

I have 3 pieces of advice if you find yourself in this situation. (By the way, it’s the SAME advice I give my 7 year old when dealing with playground negotiations… the little girl that I want to be a strong confident person in this world faces the same challenges you face.)

Life is hard. But, we’ve got to plow through, instead of being victims of circumstances.

3 Pieces of Advice for Dealing with “Meanies”:

1.) Not everyone will like you.

OK – let’s be honest… do you like everyone you meet? I don’t. I’m just being honest here. I’m not a mean person. But, I don’t love everyone. I’m nice and respectful to EVERYONE. But not everyone is my friend. And, that’s a good thing. Friends are special to me.

If you look into your heart… you probably don’t like every single person you meet.

So – why do you expect everyone to like you? I know that’s a weird thing to say. We ALL want to be liked. BUT – really – why? It’s OK to not be liked. What matters is that the people that we like, like us back. More important: it’s important that the people we lovelove us back. Those people are usually outside of our work bubble. They are our family and friends.

So – who cares? A few people don’t like you. You’re spending too much time worrying about those who don’t like you. The fun in life is thinking about the people who DO like you – and that you like back.

2.) If it’s not true, then who cares.

If gossip and rumors are circulating… and what people are saying is untrue, then… who cares? Am I right or am I right? If it’s a lie, then why are we giving so much attention to it? Why does it matter? (I know – this is so much harder to live by.) I know that we worry about how affects our overall image. We don’t want those rumors to be out there because it tarnishes our reputation. That is REALLY HARD. But, it’s REALLY REALLY important to ignore it and move on. Otherwise, it will drain you, it will impact you… and your business will suffer on account of this consuming so much of your energy.

3.) You choose how you feel about something.

You can’t control what someone thinks or says about you. You CAN control how you react. You CAN control how you feel. How will you choose to feel about these things? You can choose misery. Or, you can choose to focus on something else. You can DECIDE to NOT let it get to you. That is a choice. No one can MAKE you feel anything that you don’t want to feel. YOU CHOOSE how you feel.

(They have to go to bed at night with an unhealthy conscience, by the way. NOT YOU.)

People…

I know this seems like oversimplified solutions to something that can be very painful. I really don’t want to downplay what you might go through when people are mean in your segment of the market or in your city/town. BUT – I also want you to see beyond it. This is how you start to grow, how you become more confident… how you focus on the bigger and better things.

What do you think? What is your advice for people who have to deal with negative gossip, or mean people?