I get so many e-mails from women around the world stating that I provide inspiration for them. While that makes me so very happy, I am also very happy to report how YOU provide inspiration to me! I haven't been able to write a new post to my blog because I have been so busy being inspired by so many women these last four weeks and I would love to tell you about my adventures these last several weeks.
My adventure actually begins with a wonderful phone call from Sanya Pallos, owner of In the Pink, who happened to be in St. Louis and wanted to meet me and just say "hi." We "knew" each other via blogs and cyber space and how wonderful to meet Sanya in person! We agreed to meet at a local antique store, here in St. Louis. We found each other in the store, Sanya's hands filled with found goodies and we hugged and chatted non-stop. Just like a true antiquer, chatting and spying a great find just go hand in hand. Sanya inspired me in so many ways. She also reassured me that my taking my time with my online store was "very smart" as she is very experienced with that venue and she validated my concerns and challenges with designing my online store. So while my online store is taking much longer than anticipated, Sanya inspired me to continue with my path and she offered to help me over some of the online challenges. How wonderful is that?
I so enjoyed my visit with Sanya, but it was a quick visit as I was leaving for Houston, Texas the very next day to meet with Debi Mattingly of Yaya Chique. Debi is not a Texan; she is quick to inform you that she is from Louisiana and very much a Yaya. To find out what a Yaya is, visit her site. Debi found me via the blog world but mainly through Sharon Derry of Secret Leaves Paperworks. I will get to Sharon in a minute. Back to Debi. Debi is an artist. She designs purses and jewlery and is now entering the retail world. She hired me and flew me down to Houston for a week to consult with her on opening a retail store. Debi is a talented artist of 30 years but new to owning and running a retail store.
When she called me she said she needed a little help in getting her store designed and started. "It is such a huge canvas and I don't know where to start!" said Debi. My mind just whirled through years of experience as I provided her with all that I knew, tips to save time and money, and what to expect and when. It was like going down memory lane - I had forgotten how overwhelmed I was when I first started my store.
I assured Debi that she really had taken all the right steps and she was doing fine.
Debi calls me regularly and tells me in her Louisiana accent, "Elizabeth! Everything you said that would happen is happening! Everything you said that I would hear or experience is coming true!" But honestly, what an honor to be chosen to be there with Debi during her very first beginnings, to witness her store sign going up, and help build her very display in the store. I also got to meet her lovely family and very supportive husband Greg. Debi has a lot of experience in manufacturing, which inspired me to keep working on some of my own personal goals and dreams - no matter how overwhelming they may seem.
My week in Houston was very busy and I was hoarse from all the talking I did (I know, hard to believe, isn't it?) But not only was I talking to people in person, I was also talking via Internet through an interview that Secret Leaves published on their blog. They ask me some very good business questions and generously included some of my detailed photography. Sharon and Anne, owners of this wonderfully designed blog that details their adventures as business owners in the creative paper world. If you ever want a special journal, note card, or custom designed album, you will surely miss out on the best if don't visit their site.
As most of you know, Sharon was my employee for over three years and she helped me and my business grow. She, now being a business owner herself, tells me quite often, "Elizabeth, now that I own my own business, all the things you did as a business owner that I thought were crazy are all making sense now!" And in return, I regularly thank Sharon for all the marketing and press kit knowledge she passed on to me. I find myself calling her or emailing her and telling her, "I am doing a very Sharon thing right now...." And she knows exactly what I mean. I am being super picky about every single letter, font size, spacing, and any little tiny spec that may print on my sheet of paper for a press kit. She drove me crazy when she worked for me and did all that nit-picky stuff and here I am doing exactly the same thing! She inspires me beyond words and I am happy to know that she no longer thinks I am quite as nutty as she once thought.
And the reason I was doing "the Sharon thing" and being so nit-picky about printing information is because I recently returned from Chicago as an attendee and to pitch my product to Country Living Magazine Women's Entrepreneurs Conference. My future mother-in-law, Diane Benitz, signed us up to attend as a Christmas present to me and then she informed me that she signed me up to pitch my product to the editors! I had to complete an entire package and send in lots of information (thank you Sharon for teaching me to be picky) and then wait to see if I would be chosen to present. Diane kept calling me and asking me if I got picked or informed yet, and to be honest, I never gave it any thought at all until she called and asked about it. I was just certain that my package wouldn't be chosen, and I had so much work to do, I just didn't think about it much. The day that I received my acceptance, I called Diane and was in shock. She, states, she never doubted that I would be picked. It is nice to have a cheerleader. Very nice.
Oh, I just noticed that I didn't mention the product I pitched. I pitched my custom baby bedding line, little Bit. Elizabeth House baby. The baby crib sets are now available nation-wide. Each set is made-to-order and custom designed just for your little one. If interested in the details, email me at http://www.elizabethhouse.us/ and please send me your mailing address and I will mail out a brochure to you. The website for this service is being created as I type.
But back to the conference:
I had only three minutes to present and I believe 75 women were chosen nation-wide to present. My presentation was nice and Cathy Penton, an accomplished artist from Australia, designed a special baby charm that I tied on my bedding as a good luck charm. Only 10 women presenters will be chosen and we are to find out sometime in June if selected. Whether or not I am selected doesn't matter. I met so many wonderfully, creative women and I have my friend and future-mother-in-law, Diane, who continues to inspire me and encourage me and that is an honor in itself. There were over 600 attendees and I highly recommend attending this very inspiring and informative conference next year. It will be held in Chicago next year as well. In fact, how fun would it be for a Elizabeth House get together in Chicago during this conference? If interested, please let me know and perhaps we could all meet at the hotel that the conference is being held and have a long dinner together and get to meet each other! How fun would that be? It would be a thrill and honor to meet you in person!
The conference included speakers such as the editor of the magazine, Nancy Soriano, Anna Griffin (stationary extraordinaire), Susan Mernit, Blogger and Yahoo Product Developer, designer, Heather Baily, Beth Ferreira from Etsy, Inc, Ann Fox and Donna King, owners of Room Service Home, a boutique catalog and the top 10 women entrepreneurs of Country Living Magazine, 2008. The talks were inspiring and the women I met were all so very creative as well.
During a break, I had three young women come up to me and asked me, "Are you Elizabeth?" I squinted at them, wondering if they were store customers of mine (I have a terrible, terrible memory for names and faces) and when I told them "yes, I am Elizabeth." They squealed with delight and asked to if they could hug me and told me that they knew me from my blog and from Debbie Dusenberry's blog, Curious Sofa. They were so excited and giddy about meeting me, that I found myself a little taken back at first, but it wasn't long before I got excited and giddy about them being excited and giddy!
These three women, Christine Laird, Estella Smith, and Teresa Wright, were so very inspirational to me and I am so very grateful that they took a moment of their time to visit with me. What is so truly amazing is that while they gave me compliment after compliment, it was me who was admiring them. They weren't sure what type of business they wanted to open yet, and they were attending this conference for inspiration and information....how very smart of them. I told them that they are way ahead of the game and are way smarter than I was when I first began. I hope they keep me informed on their adventures. They have such wonderful things waiting for them and I am so very proud of their courage.
I realize that is this is a long post and I have so much more to share with you! My next posting will be the notes I took during the conference and information and inspiration to take away with you. In the meantime, I just wanted to leave you with my final thoughts about what I just wrote.
Do you realize I mentioned over 15 creative, smart, inspirational women in this single post? And those who had a blog or website, I listed them for you. These women are hard working and like you, have dreams and goals. They are all at different stages in their businesses and no matter how little or how much experience one may have, there is one thing that we women business owners constantly need from each other: encouragement. We can go to the bank for money, read magazine and blogs for inspiration, and visit the gym for a much needed stress reliever (or maybe the day spa is better). But encouragement is something that we can only get from those who sincerely want to give it and we can only receive this gift from those we truly respect and admire. That is a tall order when you think about it.
At the conference, a panel member said, "Don't ever have coffee twice with a man or a woman who drains your spirit." That is so true! I was speaking with one of the three women who recognized me in the lobby and I was telling her about how we business owners and dreamers are like gardeners and she made me promise her to share what I told her on my blog, so I will and then I will close.
As creative business owners or business owners-wanna-be's, we must be careful to surround ourselves with supportive and encouraging people and that isn't as easy as it sounds. I bet you know someone (or several people) who are "supportive" but never really give you the feeling that you can really do it - that you are only dreaming. Oh, these supportive people love to hear about your dream, and they think it is great that you are dreaming, but they just don't really get it, get you, get you going, or get your vision. But they love to hear about it. And you sort of feel a little frustrated or drained after spending time with them because in your heart, you know they really do mean well, but they just don't get it!
These people are what I call "flower pickers." And we business owners and dreamers are what I call "gardeners." A good Gardener knows that it takes many seasons to have a lush garden. It doesn't happen over night, or even in one season. It takes weeding, tending, feeding and it must weather all sorts of storms. But, in the end, after getting our hands dirty, and with bruised knees after many seasons of kneeling in our garden and pulling weeds and planting new plantings, and if the weather cooperates, we have a garden full of beautiful flowers. The "flower pickers" walk by our garden, season after season as we tend to it. They offer advice and compliments and even admire our hard work - all the while standing on the side with their hands in their pockets as we work tirelessly with our patch of dirt. They even tell us how they wish they had a green thumb, but never could grow a thing in that "bad soil" that we are digging in.
But then one day, many seasons later, when all the flowers are in full bloom, these "flower pickers" walk by, and seeing the beauty of the garden in full bloom, reach down and pick a flower out of our garden. They don't even ask, they just pick it, enjoy the scent and beauty of it and continue to walk on. And if we allow enough people to just walk into our garden, pick a flower and walk out again, soon, our garden will become barren. As the gardener of our own garden, it is up to us to decide which of our flowers will be picked, and when we pick them, and with whom we wish to share them.
And that is something I have had a hard time learning over the years, and I am still learning. I sometimes, too willingly, allow flower pickers to just pick my flowers. They mean well, they enjoy my garden (once grown), but not once did they ever really encourage me, or help me to water my patch of dirt, or even bother to warn me about bad weather that is coming along. Yes, they were happy for me and my dreams, but they never truly believed that my garden would ever bloom. But other gardeners out there, toiling away, helped me, encouraged me, inspired me, offered some new fertilizer when my plants wilted, and they even called me or emailed me about some new website that may help me and my garden. These people, these gardeners, believed in me and never doubted that someday I would bloom.
And when the season finally comes and I finally bloom, it is these fellow gardeners that will stand proudly next to me and my garden and admire the beauty of it all and then turn to me and say to me, "It's perfect. Only you could have grown such a wonderful garden." And it is then that I will reach down, pick a beautiful flower and hand it to my fellow gardener who knows how much work, patience, tears, worries, tending, weeding, feeding, and dreaming went into this one beautiful bloom.
We women need each other in order to bloom. The more we help each other out, support each other, market each other, encourage each other, the more blooms we will have next season and the next and the next... And there are no two blooms exactly alike...we can't be afraid that our garden isn't as wonderful as the next. I have never seen a flower garden, in full bloom, that didn't take my breath away. Have you?
Until you are in full bloom, know that I will always be here to sprinkle a little water of encouragement. And when you are in full bloom, I will be next to you, extremely proud of your beautiful blooms...and catching my breath from its beauty.
(Future Blossom - my niece, Mackenzi)
May you bloom with possibilities season after season.
From my house to your house,