The last 7 days have been a whirlwind for me. A few days after following my filled-to-the-edge Uhaul all the way from Missouri to Nashville, I had 3 amazing opportunities to meet some big names in the world of entrepreneurship + blogging – in the same week! All 3 pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but I'm so glad I took the leap anyway. One was planned months ago. One was planned weeks ago. And the third was planned almost day-of. All 3 have changed my perspective on this industry and motivated me to dream big for Paper + Oats. I had the opportunity to sit down for a meal across from women I’ve looked up to since I started my business. I learned a ton from each person I met, and I wanted to share some of those lessons with you, a fellow boss lady who’s maybe feeling a little low on the totem pole. I assure you, we are all on the same rung of that totem pole. And what rung is that? Pouring our hearts into our businesses and figuring things out as we go.
So what did my week look like? Here’s a snapshot:
Tuesday: Get invited to a last minute intimate dinner hosted by Whitney English with some local Nashville ladies who are killing it in online business like Raechel Myers, Mary Crimmins, Natalie Chang, Hilary Barnett, Allison Vesterfelt, and Katie Strandlund. We chatted about business, social media, family, and fried chicken.
Wednesday: Meet up with blogging + business guru Regina Anaejionu of ByRegina.com to be interviewed for her new #GoIndependent traveling video series – a new feature for the month of August where she shares in-person interviews with creatives from around the country and how they transitioned to full time. We grabbed a bite at Puckett’s in downtown Nashville and talked online business, software, siblings, and divorce.
Thursday – Sunday: Flew to Phoenix to attend Stationery Academy with 20+ other talented, genuine women who are building their businesses from the ground up. Stationery Academy is unique in that the speakers for the event are in the trenches right along with us. They ate every meal with us, sat with us, shared struggles with us, and asked questions just like the rest of us. These women have changed my perspective on what it means to be successful – Jennifer Faught, Amber Housley, Heather Crabtree, Cathy Olson, Cara McGrady, Stephanie Creekmur, and Kristin Ley.
Here’s a few things I learned this week from brushing elbows with some influential women and forcing myself out of my comfort zone . . .
1. Big names in your industry are more like you than you think.
Going into all these dinners and meet ups, I’ll admit, I was way nervous. I looked up to all these women as online business superstars, and I was a mere rookie. But within minutes each time, I was quickly put at ease to see that — guess what?! They’re just normal people! They’re not better than any other business owner trying to make their mark, and they know that. The women I met are humble, genuine, kind, and encouraging. And when it comes to their businesses? They have fears, they have failures, and they are dedicated to figuring out what works best for them. They don’t always have it all together and they’re learning as they go. This was so encouraging to feel like an equal with women I had put on a pedestal.
2. Community, community, community. It’s a must.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times, community is vital for an online business owner. Especially if you work from home, being an entrepreneur can get really isolating and really lonely. Getting out and meeting people face to face (not just on social media!) has been a game changer for me. You get to talk with someone one-on-one who truly gets what you do – you have an instant connection. Social media doesn’t convey body language, the tone in your voice, or other mannerisms that are unique to you and whoever you’re meeting. Also, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a conference to find community. Post in some Facebook groups looking for locals to meet up with. You’ll be surprised who comes out of the woodwork when you share the name of your city.
3. Everyone has room to grow + something to learn.
A huge lesson I took away from all the meet ups last week was that everyone – no matter the stage of their business – has room to grow. We all have weaknesses, and bringing together a group of like-minded business women – no matter their experience – you’re sure to find someone who does something better than you. Whether it’s marketing, promotion, customer service, systems, or any other facet of your business, hearing how someone else handles the same facet of their business can spark ideas and maybe teach you a new trick.
When we come together in a community big or small – even just one-on-one, we can all learn from each other. On top of that, these women are not only my colleagues, they’re my friends. Some of the best moments were laughing at lines from 30 Rock over a glass of wine – not a drop of business talk in the conversation. Finding true friendships with others who totally understand what it is you actually do all day can make a huge difference in yourself and in your business.
Anytime I meet with other business owners or influencers in my space, my brother always asks me afterwards: What was your take away? Throughout all these encounters this week, one thing rang true as my takeaway: Big names are just names. They’re real people with real businesses, real fears, and real successes. They don’t have it all figured out, but they do have years of hard work and experience to back up their wins. I don’t at all share this to gloat, but to let you know that no matter the size of your business, you are capable of connecting with the business owners you look up to. They're all real people and most live pretty normal lives – sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone and ask.
Have you had star-struck moments with a “big name” in your industry, only to find out they’re in fact a real person, just like you? What characteristics have you noticed about other business owners you’ve met in person that were surprising?