Small Business Owner *Spotlight*

Having my own business is never something I imagined for my life, but the Lord knows better. He has blessed me with a career I love and I can’t imagine doing anything else! There are so many beautiful aspects of having my own business, but there are equal amounts of hardships that come along with it. Having people in my field who are working just as hard and pushing through the hardships truly encourages me to keep going. A few of those people for me are Shana Wanco, Jeff Felton, and Randy Branch. These three all started small businesses in 2017 and are absolutely KILLING it. I love watching their growth while doing something they are passionate about. I thought it would be helpful, for other small business owners or people who are simply curious as to how running a business actually works, to hear from THEM about some of what they learned in 2017.

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First off is Shana. We met in college where she was studying graphic design and I was studying photography. She immediately stood out to me because of her crazy talent and sweet spirit. I ended up photographing her engagement and wedding. She has also completely redesigned my logo and branding for my new website. If she wasn't already cool enough, she recently started her own business called Iris & Marie Press, where she specializes in letterpress work. If you haven’t heard of or seen letterpress done before, you HAVE to follow her on Instagram @Irisandmariepress.She frequently posts videos of the process, which are absolutely mesmerizing. This is what Shana had to say about what she learned this past year:

"Okayyyyy so, 2017 was my taking off year! Super exciting, super scary. I quit my full time job in April & officially started my business in May. Being able to set my own schedule & say yes to the work that fits my style was & is still AMAZING! The biggest, hugest thing I've learned in 2017 is how important relationships are & putting yourself out there! Everyone knows that taking good photos of your work, being authentic & trying to keep your social media game up to par is key, but behind Instagram are tons of relationships! I love using Instagram as my main platform to market, but I've put a lot of time into making lasting vendor & client relationships that have turned into friendships. I go to dinner, schedule coffee dates with people, ask for advice & give advice. All of that usually doesn't even include talking about work! I've also put myself out there by attending styled shoots outside of the city I live in, reaching out to wedding planners & photographers outside of my state & messaging people on Instagram. Quitting my job has given me a tougher skin & allowed me to become more outgoing with people that I don't know. If I didn't know someone, I would NEVER go out of my way to speak to them, but now it's almost second nature. You never know what job you could gain if you just go & introduce yourself."

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Second is Jeff. If you live in Florence, you most likely know him as one of the baristas at Lula's Coffee Company. He and his boss took a small dream they had years ago and turned it into a non-profit coffee shop that has not only impacted people within the Florence area, but also people around the world. Jeff recently quit his job at Lulas, but couldn't stay away from his love for coffee. Last year, he started his own coffee roasting business called Batch Nine Coffee Company, @batchninecoffee, which Lula’s now sells and brews in their shop. He is expanding his brand to other local coffee shops in Florence, as well as others across the states. Jeff really knows how to run a business, but is still learning more and more each day. This is some of what he says he's still learning:

"For all of the glamorous moments from small biz owners that you seen on Instagram, there are an uncountable number of tough moments that go on behind the scenes. Late nights, long days, tough spots, uncertainty, doubts, creative blocks. What I’ve learned most in 2017 and the first month of 2018 is how to embrace these “un-glamorous” things as the ebb and flow of starting/owning a small business.

You have to want to own your own business. And when I say you have to want it, I mean you have to WANT it. Lots of people have ideas for starting businesses and some of them actually get up the stomach to take steps and make it happen. But I understand now why a considerable amount of them tank pretty quickly - it’s because late nights, long days, doubts, tough spots, and creative blocks happen, and if doing what you’re doing isn’t engrained in the core of who you are, you’re not going to respond when it’s crying in the middle of the night.

I have learned that this is what I want to do, that this craft is one I want to perfect. How do I know? Because it hasn’t come without late nights, super long days, doubts, frustrations, and creative blocks, and yet I still keep moving forward.

Sometimes I have several orders to fill and they have to go out in the morning, which means a late night is inevitable. Creativity comes in spurts. Lots of times, I draw a blank on what to do next, how to drive sales, or even what to caption a picture. I’ve had multiple opportunities to throw in the towel, and sometimes it would seem to make sense to do so. I could have, but I just couldn’t, if you get my drift. It’s because deep in my guts, I know this is just the ebb and flow of it all, and I’m willing to grind it out when that’s all I can do. I’ve also learned that in those moments, patience and perseverance are all that works, but its worth it every time to keep moving forward!"

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Third is Randy. I'm literally so excited because he and his beautiful fiance Samantha are getting married this year and I get to photograph their wedding!!! I did their engagement photos last fall and let me tell you, they were a dream to photograph. They were so natural in front of the camera and are a pretty attractive couple! Randy is a videographer, @randybranchmedia, who specializes in weddings, music videos, and promotional work. I've been so impressed with Randy, as he took a hobby and created a business out of it. He's constantly learning new things and always creating new work, which is one of the keys to growth and improving your craft. Here are some words from him about all that 2017 taught him:

"2017 was a transitional year for Randy Branch Media in that I learned the difference between JUST creating content and running a business. I've learned that it takes hard work, dedication, and most of all, patience. I've also found that networking is key. Building relationships with other creatives and business owners has encouraged me to learn, grow, and improve my craft. It's so rewarding doing what I'm passionate about on a daily basis, but that doesn't come without some struggles. It can certainly be difficult managing the business side of things when you just want to follow your passion and create content, but I've found a sense of fulfillment in owning my own business. My favorite thing about Randy Branch Media is the relationships that I'm building and in 2018, I want to see the development of more relationships, collaborations, and cross-promotions."

The farther I go in my business, the greater my love for it grows, as well as my appreciation for OTHER small business owners. I literally have SO much to learn, but the best way to learn is by doing. I am super thankful I get to grow, fail, and learn alongside some pretty talented people. I'm also thankful to the Lord for giving, growing, and completely blessing my business the way He has. I often get frustrated and impatient, but He is so faithful and has given me way more than I could ask or imagine. If you ever need wedding stationery/branding, coffee, or videography, hit up my friends!

Happy Friday y'all!! xoxo