Interview With A Girl Boss
It’s always a bit scary to embark on a new business venture, and some of us wonder if we have what it takes. I wished I could get into the heads of some of the business women I admired when I was first starting my business, so I decided that I would be that person for others. I was recently interviewed by my cousin who is attending design school and some of the questions really made me reflect back on the first few months of starting my business. So this is the start of many interviews with a girl boss.
1. How did you choose the name for your business?
Haha, funny story. I actually started my freelance design business as Chelsea Aspen Designs in 2011. I kept that name for 5 years yet never made it an official business. Then, at the end of 2015 I created another online Etsy business selling greeting cards and digital invitations—I named the business Salt & Stag. The name was chosen for my love of the ocean and the literal “sea” at the end of my name “Chelsea” (Salt), and my love of the forest and my spirit animal, which is a deer (Stag). I was running both Chelsea Aspen designs and Salt & Stag at the same time and hating life. Both companies did similar yet different things. So Rhett, my husband and business manager, convinced me to, quote, “shoot one of those company names in the head and combine them, or else both business will suffer”. His advice, while hilariously horrifying, was right. I needed to choose one direction and name and go with it. In the end I chose Salt & Stag Creative as it was not attached to my own name directly and made me seem more professional. As soon as I changed my name, business soared!
2. What was the most difficult aspect of opening your business?
I would say the literal business side of things! Most people aren’t business-savvy when they open their own business, and unfortunately you HAVE to be. Your own services or products only make up about 30% of your business.. 70% is accounting, marketing and advertising, etc! I’m currently shadowing my husband as he takes an accounting class for his major. He’s teaching me all about balancing your books and being smart with your money. If you can’t run the numbers on your own business and calculate your profit margin, your business will fail and you will lose money and time. Planning for the financial future can also be the hardest part, and understanding the basics helps with that!
3. What is the biggest day-to-day challenge in operating your business?
The biggest challenge day-to-day is focusing on where to spend my time. I have about 10 open projects with 3-10 clients on any given day. However, some of those tasks rank higher priority than others and being a good project manager helps give the right projects importance. On a bad day I get easily distracted or forget about a client’s needs.. and that’s never a good thing! I just moved my office upstairs into the guest room and it’s already helped with my ability to focus and get things done without letting housework or the cat distract me!
4. What is your biggest reward in operating your own business?
I love the creative freedom it gives me. I can watch a project in all the stages—getting the bid, the early phase of design, edits from the client and the final product—and be proud of what I’ve created. I can be picky with my clients and only work on the things I want to work on. I also love getting to set my own hours! There are weeks I will take a Tuesday off to go explore waterfalls with my husband and then work all day on Saturday to make up for it. I’ve loved a flexible schedule that allows me to live life spontaneously and let the unscheduled things that make life happen, happen, like mid-day doctor appointments or eventually having children and being able to work from home.
5. What is the one thing that keeps you going when things get difficult?
I try to focus on my goals and tell myself why I did this and took this leap. There are days I break down and ask myself—oh my gosh, why did I do this? Can I keep running my own business? Do I have the necessary tools and knowledge? Some days it’s easy and some days it’s not. But I love the days when I can be flexible or get to work on a really cool project. When I have a break-down moment I stop and think to myself: what would I be doing at my old office job? What boring project would I be working on? Was I happy doing that? What is everyone else in an office job doing right now? Could I be doing what I’m doing right now if I was still in that office making more money? Like, could I be out at the beach working on a styled shoot at 1pm if I still worked in an office? I just have to remind myself that’s it’s not about the money right now, it’s about the journey I get to take.
6. What advice would you give to someone starting up their own business?
I would say to take the leap and don’t give yourself an out, or you won’t make it before you take that out. This has to be a serious decision that you fully commit to. Don’t expect it to be easy, but don’t give up. Not everyone can do this, but not everyone gets the benefits of owning their own business. And become a numbers person!! This is crucial. Take business and accounting classes that will help you be a better business manager. Read all about marketing and growing your business. Learn as much as you can without relying on others to help you get there.
7. If you could change one thing when you first started out your business what would it be?
I wish I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself! I started my business officially on January 22nd and by January 25th I was in tears because I didn’t have 2k followers on Instagram or 30 clients knocking at my door. I started telling myself that maybe I didn’t have what it takes to have my own business and that maybe I should just go find a proper job. Being poor sucks, but being trapped at a job you’re unhappy at sucks worse. I just had to let go of all those negative thoughts and let my business just happen. And in 2 months of hard work and something as simple as consistency, I grew social media followers and got the entire community talking about my business, all by being patient! I am still learning that very important lesson of not comparing myself to others when it seems like they’re more successful then I am. After all, these people have been doing this for years while I’ve been doing it for 2 months! It’s a lesson not easily done, but in the end it you will look back at what you’ve done and know that your hard work has taken you there.