Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Rachel Cannon Gets Featured in a National Magazine
“Today, after 7 years of owning and growing my interior design business, I was published in a national magazine, Southern Style! It was a goal I set for myself about 3 years ago, and in the meantime, I finally made the transition from being self-employed to being a business owner. Although 2016 was a weird year historically, it turned out to be our most successful and profitable year ever. I expanded my brand, hired a support staff, and developed policies and procedures that help us define our USP in the design industry in our market. All of the work that went into defining my brand came to a point with this feature in a national shelter magazine. I did not let the hundreds of no’s from editors deter me from continuing to reach for that goal. And working so diligently behind the scenes only made my business stronger in the meantime!”
Three pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
1. Authenticity will get you through the challenges. Not to sound trite, but owning a business is hard work. There will be days that frustrate you, nights you lose sleep, and moments you question why you decided to start a business at all. In those times, remind yourself that you are being authentic, and your business is an extension of your core values. When I started my business, I was a "solepreneur." I did everything and wore every hat, meaning I made all the decisions in every area that makes a business run. I didn't want to do the bookkeeping. I didn't want to make sure clients paid on time. I wanted to play in the fabric sample library! However, running a business that is authentic to who I am at my core ensured that I found some joy in all of those things. I started my company in 2009—the very bottom of the recession—and it was years before I was able to hire support staff. But holding on to authenticity and knowing deep within myself that this is what I am meant to do helped me focus on the larger prize rather than on the mundane, day-to-day tasks. At my core, I believe that we crave homes that offer us peace; they are the place where our dearest memories are made, and they are the backdrop to life's biggest events. When I'm having a bad day, I can look back on kind words from clients who have been thrilled that their extended family attended Christmas in their home and it was exactly how they pictured it. Or the client who was injured and had a beautiful place to recover from surgery, who said her home healed her. That is authenticity, and it will be your saving grace when you inevitably run into that one client who is a particular challenge.
2. Don't internalize others' opinions about your brand. Because if you are doing what is authentic to you, it's going to resonate with the clients you want to attract. In the early days of my career, I incorrectly assumed I was the interior designer for everybody. In trying to please all different tastes and aesthetic goals, I lost my own preferences in a sea of choices. I devalued my own brand by not defining what it really was. Rather than being everything for everyone, I was nobody to no one! I shifted my focus to working within a certain style of interior, because it actually broadens the message you're able to spread when you become known for doing one thing and doing it very well. More recently, people have asked if I do design jobs where the client asks me for a style I don't particularly like, even if they are going to pay me a million dollars. As a young business owner, I would have said yes. But now, I realize there is no room to devalue what you are to the clients who are looking for you! When you set yourself apart from the sea of competitors who appear to do the same thing, you act as a lighthouse for those clients. Internalizing others' opinions puts you in a position of fear, and you can't grow when you're afraid people are watching what you're doing and making a judgement about all of it. My mentor once gave me this mantra: “What you think of me is none of my business.” Memorize it! Repeat it!
3. Your passion is not your job. Somewhere in the recent past, the notion that if you are using your passion to make your career, you’ll be happy as a lark for the rest of your days became ubiquitous. I disagree. Your passion is not your job. What you are passionate about—in my case, creating beautiful interiors that foster the comforts of home for professionals with demanding schedules—has very little to do with what my actual job is. It's a turning point for many small business owners when they realize they have to decide if they will work in the business or on the business. In order to grow, I had to make a mental shift toward working on the business. That meant reaching out to potential clients, maintaining current client relationships, overseeing the demands of installing seven homes full of furniture before the holidays started, marketing, public relations, etc., etc. My passion is still design and creating those amazing moments for my clients, but passion is not enough to build a brand or a business. We now structure our days so that we have blocks of time where I work doing what I’m passionate about—selecting fabrics, paints, furniture, lighting—and blocks of time where I work on the business. If you assume passion is enough to create long-term wealth, you will not only find yourself resenting the very thing you loved to begin with, but wondering why you're not seeing the results you feel you deserve based on all of you efforts. Let your passion remain the reason you get up every day, but understand you will also be required to work in skill sets that probably aren't in your wheelhouse at least some of the time.