Katie and I grew up together in elementary school. As time passed, we went our separate ways, different groups of friends, but always stayed connected in similar circles. I was impressed last year when she announced she was moving on from her current position and starting her own business, with a baby! She clearly worked her arse off. She now owns and operates White Oak Weddings & Events. Her branding is timeless. Her events are high class and seamless. She is a rock star, working her business and making time for her little one. I reached out to her to see if she would let me into her world a little bit. She graciously accepted. It’s clear she takes her time and pays attention to detail. Here is her interview:
All pictures are credited to Laura Focus Photography
1.) You have established a fantastic brand and business, what were some challenges you faced getting up and running?
Have I really? Thank you for the reassurance and kind words. I think confidence in what I have created is one of my biggest challenges. It takes confidence to do anything ambitious, and for me starting my own business has been one of the most scary (and EXCITING) things I have ever done. I simply took a leap of faith when I left my full time job to create something of my own doing something I am truly passionate about. It sounds great, but it’s a lot of work. I am my own boss and there is no one to answer to. If something goes wrong, I am at complete fault and can only pick up the pieces and move on – there is no one else to blame. Although, this is a huge challenge it is also refreshing and one of the greatest learning experiences. I am constantly learning ways to help grow & make my business stronger.
Aside from confidence, funding has certainly been a challenge as it is for most small business owners. I have officially been a business owner for a little over a year and have put very little money into marketing and advertising. I have done everything from my logo design, website, business cards, digital packages etc. Its been challenging to take on all this while figuring out all the other elements that go in to small business ownership. At the end of the day I question myself, and hope the decisions I make are the best for my business.
2.) What are some challenges you face in your family life?
We go through all different types of challenges on a weekly basis as most families do. Time and finances are the biggest, but I truly believe our challenges make us stronger. I also know it makes me more appreciative of what we do have; I have to remind myself of this often when I get down or frustrated.
I have always dreamed of being a Mom and having a family. My dream of becoming a business owner came later in life when I found my passion for creativity, hospitality and all the wonderful things that come with planning a wedding or event. After having my daughter in 2014, two of my biggest dreams came to life. I was blessed with a perfect little girl and soon decided to take that huge leap of faith and start my own business. I could be at home with her, while working for myself. Sounds perfect right? To some extent yes. However, we have sacrificed A LOT for this. We have struggled numerous times to pay bills, and I have struggled with how to balance my business and being a Mom to a now almost two year old who demands lots of attention. It’s just a huge juggling act no matter how organized I am. Somehow, someway we always make it work and I know all the sacrifices, time, and energy will all pay off.
3.) Being a working parent is a balancing act, what advice do you have for other working parents?
Stay positive! I could say this a million times. This means so much, in so many ways. Staying positive, as a working parent has given me the confidence I need when I am lacking it. It has given me strength when I am so overwhelmed my head is about to explode. It is a constant reminder that life is good and that hard work is fulfilling and rewarding.
I could ramble on and on about time management, “to-do lists”, and all types of organizational tools. Don’t get me wrong that is important and extremely essential in my business. Having some type of routine helps keep your mind sane, even if it doesn’t always go your way. Despite all of this, I have found that my best and most successful weeks are when I stay positive and act positive. Negativity crushes everyone around you and only makes you less productive and unhappy.
What has been your greatest disappointment in your business? Greatest achievement?
As a fairly new business owner, I am learning constantly and making the business and myself better from what I learn. I have to say my biggest disappointment is feeling like I do not have the means and tools to get my business to where I want it to be. I realize I do not have to have the best software & design programs, but I constantly have ideas of educational investments I would like to make into my business that aren’t always feasible. I think as my business grows the time will come that will able me to make these investments.
Within my first year, I have had two styled shoots featured along with a real wedding published in a magazine. Its pretty exciting to see your work published. This is also exciting for my clients. I think my greatest achievement is having happy clients; I truly value the relationships I build.
How do you refocus?
When I feel discouraged or stuck in a rut it helps if I sit and brainstorm of creative ways to market, brand, and educate myself. If I have something new and exciting to look forward to it gives me the extra push when I need it most. I also take this time to evaluate things that aren’t working so I can be sure I am utilizing my time best. Sometimes, all it takes is a night of relaxation and a glass of wine or two!
What do you feel like is the secret to your success? What are you most thankful for?
In this industry, and every other, success comes with hard work and dedication, but to get there you have to have actual business that allows you to build your reputation. With that said, I have to say a lot of my success can be credited to the people who have referred me. It has so much to do with you know, from other industry vendors & people in your community. About 85% of my business thus far has come from referral. This has been especially critical because I have very limited marketing funds to spend advertising online or in print.
I am extremely thankful for many of the relationships I have with other industry vendors. Not only are they a good resource for referral, but they also help make my job easier. Establishing a vendor list with those who take pride and do a good job at what they do is a key factor in piecing together a perfect wedding or event. Having these reliable people at hand is also a great source of motivation and inspiration. Many vendors in the industry are small business owners and we can lean on each other and learn from each other. Over the course of the last year, I have learned how essential it is to pick the right vendors for my clients and my business.
What is important to you when you leave your legacy for your children?
We live in a scary world. What’s even scarier is what the future holds for our children, country and world as a whole. No matter what the future holds, I want to leave my children with knowledge and strength to know they can do anything. I also want to leave them with knowing the value of honesty and faith. We live in such a dishonest society that lacks faith. Dishonesty only causes trouble, and faith guides you. Having faith in yourself, in others, and God gives you strength to know you can do anything & also provides answers when there are none.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Mary, it is so inspiring to follow your blog and social network and see all the wonderful things you do after knowing you since grade school. Social Media has its faults, but can also be a blessing in ways. I love seeing what people have become and all the wonderful things they do. Thank you for having interest in business and asking me to be a part of your blog, I am truly grateful.