For some time now, I’ve wanted to start talking to all of you about the process of starting a small business, partly because this little blog has become a small business of its own, but also because soon I’ll have another slightly bigger business to talk to you all about.
In this new series, titled “Small business diaries,” I’ll interview some of my favorite small businesses, share tips, and throw some of my very own diary entries into the mix… because a lot of the process is fun and games, but a whole lot is also not (Mark and I are trudging through some seriously un-fun stuff right now). And whether you have your own small business dreams, or you just enjoy hearing about the day to day, I want to give you the real stuff… the whole story.
The story that sometimes means working 3-4 jobs like this lovely lady here… who runs one of the coolest businesses (the coolest business?) in DC. But also the story that brings a sense of community and satisfaction like no other around… and the story we wouldn’t give up for the world.
I can’t wait for you to get to know Bree and her story below — and when you’re done, be sure to check out her amazing new workshops. I so needed one of these when I was planning my wedding — frankly I’m jealous of you brides out there who get to go.
1 // Tell me about yourself and your business, I’m so excited to hear you’re branching out into workshops!
Well, my name is Bree and though I grew up in NJ and went to college in PA, I’ve been in DC for just over 7 years now and love it. My husband and I got married in DC in 2010 and had a hard time finding alternative resources and vendors for our wedding. So after the wedding was over, I decided to start a wedding blog, called Capitol Romance, aimed at helping other non-traditional, practical, and alternative couples find resources to help plan their personalized wedding. From the blog (which just turned 3!) the business has grown into a side wedding coordination business (Capitol Romance Weddings) and now DIY Wedding Workshops as well! The main focus of my blog is built on 2 pillars: helping couples to save money, and helping couples to plan a wedding that is a real reflection of their selves and relationships. The workshops take these two pillars into action with actually giving couples the tools they need, with help from a professional, to learn to make custom, handmade items for their wedding day!
Well, I am not completely self employed currently, I do run Capitol Romance and all it’s offshoots, in addition to a full time job! It’s challenging at times, but for me it works. The blog was started in a bit of a post-wedding planning depression (I SO missed planning my wedding), in combination with some day-job frustrations and it has really just organically grown from there. I always get asked “when are you going to leave your day-job” and the answer is: I just don’t know. For right now, it works for me, personally, to juggle everything. So I guess I am still waiting for that turning point.
3 // What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and how have you worked to overcome them?
The biggest challenge at first, was getting anyone to submit content to my blog and grow my readership base. I spent many an afternoon, cold emailing photographers, explaining myself and my blog’s goal and hoping I could share their images on my site. Now the challenges are different – how do I continue to grow the blog in the right directions for not only me, but my readers too. Some of the bigger challenges I’ve recently faced are more on the business end of things. Filing taxes, getting business insurance, diving into marketing and press releases – all things I’ve never done before. I overcame by researching and asking people/friends/colleagues for help. No one succeeds alone and fortunately the industry is full of AWESOME people, willing to share what they know and have learned too.
4 // You rock the alternative wedding space in a city that’s known for being pretty buttoned up. Do you think that’s made it tougher or easier to gain a foothold? (I know I was dying for a planner like you when I considered getting married here — and eventually chose California.)
Well firstly, thank you for the huge compliment Your wedding was DIVINE, so I would have been honored to help you plan it. But as far as gaining a foothold in a more traditional city, it’s been both tough and easy in different areas. At first it was easy to find vendors that wanted to reach the alternative market. I got SO many email responses from vendors that were so pumped to learn that I was trying to find more alternative couples in the area. But on the other hand, because the city (moreso back in 2011 when I started) was so traditional, other than some photographers being excited at my blog’s mission, there weren’t a ton of actual resources to provide couples. So I tried hard to dig into areas and businesses that weren’t typically “wedding” focused. And I still try to do that today. And I’d say within the last 1-2 years it’s been easier on the reader side to gain traction. I get emails from couples all the time that tell me they are so happy they found my blog because they wanted something non-traditional for their wedding, and thought they were all alone. So it was tough at first, but I think there’s just this awesome energy in Washington, DC in general lately, that is making things more awesome for all of us in the wedding space.
5 // What advice do you have for others who are just starting out?
When I first started my blog, my dad told me he had read a stat that something like 1 out of 300 bloggers ever make it to their second year. I had no idea what I was doing when I started my blog, but I never stopped. So you shouldn’t stop either. Just keep trying, no matter how hard or frustrating or challenging it might become. You just have to be yourself and keep trying new things and see what happens.