Remembering Why I Started

A brief note: I wrote this blog almost a year ago but was too scared to ever press publish for fear of being perceived as weak or giving up in my vulnerability. But privately, I knew I needed to write what I was feeling and I’m so glad I took the time to do it.  Writing this blog was wildly therapeutic for me because as I re-wrote my story on getting started, gave words to the true feelings I was experiencing as an entrepreneur and re-hashed “my why” internally, it help me clear the weird fog that had been clouding my brain to unveil an incredibly strong foundation I’d forgotten I had.  Today, things are A LOT different and because I wrote this post, it helped me problem solve my way to a whole new reality by identifying what wasn’t working and what was working in our business and create a task list of what I needed to do to change it.  A lot of things have changed as a result.  I’ll be sharing more of that soon!  

If you are a business owner who feels stuck, uninspired or just bleh – I feel you, I’ve been you and I’m here to tell you, this too shall pass.  

July 19,2016 – I have been having a difficult time lately. I know that’s vague and incredibly opened ended, but that’s the only way I can describe it.  A difficult time.  Time.  I have been wasting time having difficulty trying to find my purpose, trying to hear my authentic voice again, trying to remember my decision to do what it is I do on a daily basis because sometimes I just don’t remember.

I am no longer the young, eager go-getter that got me to this place and while I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I’m having a hard time giving the new me a name.  So where is it that I am?  What place is this?  It’s not a magical island I bought with my millions or the top of success mountain I’ve been climbing for so long – it’s today.  No different than yesterday.  Same email inbox, same to do list, same business, same dreams, same goals – different girl with a different perspective because of experience, life season, employee turnover, competition, customers, age. Different hue of rose colored glasses you could say and to be honest with you, they’re a little dirty right now. #truth

The “cool-ness” of being in business has changed dramatically since Andrew and I started our company in 2008.  Now, starting a business is the in thing to do. It’s what all the cool kids do and if you’re not hashtagging and keeping up with the conversation on social media you’re not succeeding – or at least that’s the way it feels to me.  I feel like an outsider because I don’t self-identify with what everyone else sees as being a successful business owner on instagram or facebook.  I’m not all #girlboss #bosslady #cantstopwontstop – I used to be but it doesn’t feel natural to me now.  So, what do I call myself then?

Do I even really need a designation?  Is that what’s an expected of entrepreneurs?  To have a brand, a message, a greater mission than just making our company work?  Am I the only business owner that feels pressure to be more than just a business owner?  I don’t know.  And I think I’m becoming a victim of comparison and the climate of “getting everything you want”  is way cooler to look successful than to actually BE successful.

And then I saw this on my friend Mandy’s Instagram….“Remember why you started” and thought it would be a helpful exercise to recall just what is was that made me do, what I do.  Here goes.  

In the beginning…

I have always had an admiration and affinity for the media. The sound of NBC Nightly news instantly brings me back to 693 Blueberry Drive and recalls the smell of my parents house, the concrete on my bare feet, the sounds of pots and pans, the hustle and bustle of after school play, my mom making dinner and the clank of the garage door that slams so loud when my dad arrives home from work.  I have memories of standing in front of the TV to watch breaking news with my mom that I will be able to instantly recall for the rest of my days.  Baby Jessica, Columbine, Princess Diana’s funeral, Hurricane Andrew, the OJ Simpson trial, Oprah, Regis and Kathy Lee.  It’s not just TV either.  Back then, the Palm Beach Post weighted 5lbs and was 4 inches thick. An institution and a staple on the breakfast table every Sunday morning.

Jim Sackett, the News Anchor for WPTV Channel 5 in West Palm Beach went to my church and it was like seeing a celebrity every Sunday during communion. You get the picture.

Media is an elusive, powerful force that I’ve always respected for its reach and influence.  But I never thought about having a career in media. To be a part of such an institution – I don’t think I ever thought it could really be done.

Truth is, I didn’t have a lot of forward thinking about how to be a successful adult while I was in high school – I was a terrible student. I just wanted out.  To work, to make money, to be free.  But the connection I made with choosing a strategic school based on my career goals and it’s effect on my ability work and make a substantial about of money was touch and go.  Maybe even non-existent.  Eventually I found my way to St. Augustine, FL and Flagler College by way of a failed relationship with my first real boyfriend who I definitely thought was “the one.”  Newsflash.  He was not.  (L.O.L.)

My desire to be independent and make my own decisions (no matter how bad they were) brought me to a beautiful small town that conveniently was home to an equally beautiful, small private college that had a “communications’ program.  I guess I’ll apply.  “WTF does communications mean?” I remember thinking.  Oh like broadcast. TV Stations.  Public Relations (what’s that!?) Ok cool.  Accepted. Sweet.

Fast forward through four years of college and the realization that – as it turned out – I did not have any interest in being a news anchor or anywhere in front of a TV camera.  Ever.  (Imagine my excitement watching social media turn into one big personal broadcast camera crew over the years – oh boy). And then, one fabulous college professional planted a little sales seed in my brain when he pointed me to the business side of media that ultimately altered my career path forever.

When I graduated from Flagler and did not find a job in the sales department of a TV station as I had envisioned I would, I accepted a position as the Marketing Manager at Debbie’s Day Spa. Little did I know, this job would teach me everything I know about myself to be true to this day.  Like:  I have chutzpah. I’m a doer, a problem solver.  I am creative.  I am a graphic designer. I love working behind the scenes. I treasure the close knit team of a small business.  I am a facilitator.  I like to make things happen. I am a natural sales person.  I am competitive.  I have big dreams.  I have good taste.  And, I can do anything I put my mind too.  More on that in another post.

Debbie hired me and unleashed me on a path to market her business.  That’s it.  No direction, just do it.  And that is when things started to fall into place.  When I took what I learned in school and put it to real life use, the thrill of getting published or featured in the news for me was no different than what I assume an olympian must feel when they secure their first place spot at the top of the podium (ok that’s dramatic). My affinity for the media became even stronger as my career developed and the thought of being on the other side – the deciding side of a media became increasingly interesting to me.  With my insight from the ad buying side of the table, I had a treasure trove of ideas that our business was looking for in an advertising partner but never found a solid match.  Light bulb: there are (were) no good local magazines (back then) in St. Augustine…..I should start one and then I could market multiple business and I could also be the person that makes decisions on who gets featured, facilitate community, create networking opportunities, help businesses spread the word….. THAT would be the ultimate thing.  And that’s when I knew I wanted to make a magazine.  Even though I had never worked for a magazine, designed a magazine, written an article, sold advertising… I just knew I could.

And I did.  (We did – Andrew and I).  It took about 4 years to get there, a whole new city, husband and inspiration, but a las I found myself running Atlanta Occasions Magazine.  A wedding & party magazine for metro Atlanta.  A far cry from my original “city magazine for St. Augustine” idea, but God has plans and I trusted them.

Here’s where I think started to forget….

Being an editor of magazine has it’s perks.  Respect is a big one as I eluded to earlier.  And while it was not the respect part that led me to start it, but the “I can do it and probably better” in me that did. There is (or used to be) very little competition in the world of media. Which means, there are very few editors (aka influencers as most are known as today) and it’s a powerful position to be in when you are a rarity.  It’s like when Andrew was a little boy riding in the backseat of his dad’s airplane.  When the air traffic controller came on the radio – you did not speak.  He’s told me several times that he wondered “who was this powerful man on the radio that my dad respected so much? I want to be him.” Now, I found myself in the position of authority I was so inspired by.  I took the responsibility seriously and immersed myself in our industry and made a name for our little magazine made out of our home (on my laptop) in Hampton, GA and that little thing grew to produce over $500,000/yr in annual review before we ever thought to expand into other markets.  

But it’s 2017 and the industry has changed.  Now EVERYONE PUBLISHES EVERYONE.  There are a bajillion blogs for every topic in the market.  There is too much noise. It’s not special anymore. Or it hardly feels that way to me at least.   Anyone can start up a blog tomorrow and be like XYZ media corporation, LLC. Inc. and all of a sudden they’re little blog posts are being shared on Facebook by a company who is proclaiming they are “proud to be featured in XYZ media corporation, llc, inc.” that no one has ever heard of before.  Suddenly, our very legit, very hard working team, very expensive to operate media company is being lumped in with the newest blogger-on-the-block and I’m like “Wait.  What?”  Everyone is getting featured everywhere by everyone.  It doesn’t feel special anymore.  

Sorry, I sound incredibly cynical, but somebody has to say it… so I did.  

Couple that with 8 years of maturity, motherhood, employee turnover and the fact that I’m the type of person that if everyone is doing it, I don’t want to do it at all – it doesn’t make it easy to keep the engines running like I used to. #whatnow

Today

As I write this and relive each moment I see that even in the beginning, simpler times of running a boutique media it wasn’t being at the helm of a magazine as the editor that fired me up.  It was just DOING – and having the fervent belief that I could – that got me out of bed every morning.

Here I sit realizing I have no emotional attachment to my role as editor, but I have a sincere connection with my role in running a business. Doing it what it takes to make a business work better.  I just know I can.  

When I remember why I started, suddenly the fog I’ve been feeling has lifted and I can clearly see our company and my role and I can let go of the cynical resentment to the changing climate of magazines, websites, blogs and social media that has been weighing me down. There’s nothing cool, hip or trendy worth #hashtagging about that. It feels natural, not forced and real.

I started because I am a doer. I can literally get anything done.  I started because I wasn’t afraid, I knew I was destined to create something great and I could do it damn better.  I could facilitate a community and place to help a mass amount of businesses vs just working for one.  It wasn’t a love of media that got me started (and kept me going), that was just the direction I went in.  I finally realized media wasn’t my why, making something happen was.  So, no matter the changing tides of the wedding media (or any media, or any industry) the fire inside of me that burns to DO…. hasn’t changed one bit.

And that is the greatest realization I have ever made.

I want to hear your story.  What’s your why?  Leave me a comment below to introduce yourself and tell me a short bit about your WHY.  😘

Image by Rustic White Photography

Showing the Way

I recently came across this quote on Facebook that struck a nerve with me. A good one.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~ J C Maxwell

It made me think of how I feel about this blog.  I started it with the intention of sharing marketing and business advice with friends and clients and not with the intention of being a blogger.  A money making blogger that is.  So, posting here gets put on the bottom of my to do list after I’ve tended to everything relative to what I DO make money at.

Then there’s the whole “perception” thing that comes with bloggers. Perfect perception that is. I’m a big believer that there is way too much emphasis on being the most stylish, most put together, and most successful person out there in the blogger hemisphere and I just do not have the time to keep up with that nor do I want to mislead my people to thinking this life of mine is so simply perfect.  It ain’t.

And don’t even get me started on the whole “but who really cares what Heather Vreeland has to say?” ever looming question I ask myself everyday.  There are A LOT of people claiming to be experts on the internet and whether they are just making noise or making a living….how is my experience/take any better/different?

But, I’ve found that as a result of being concerned if this is the best way to be spending my time, or are my pictures pretty enough for this blog, or is anyone even listening… my voice has become stifled.   Which is sad because I really like helping people and I really feel like I can help the most amount of people here.

So, when I read that quote this week I realized – that’s me.  A leader.  I know the way because I work it every single day.  I don’t proclaim to be an expert, but I AM experienced.  I go the way because that is what it takes to survive and be successful.  I’m not a millionaire, but I am making money.  And, because I know in my heart of hearts that sharing those two things can make all the difference in someone’s life who is just starting out….  I will show the way.  Okay maybe not the way.  But, my way.

Minimum Wage Debate: If You Want to Make More Money, Do Something to Earn More Money

Somedays I jump back and forth between baby and business so much that I never make it into the office, rather I post up at the kitchen counter with my laptop just steps away from baby mania set in the middle of my living room. Today was no different.  I had Fox News on in the background and while I typically never pay much attention to what’s being aired I couldn’t help but be sidetracked by the minimum wage debate and protesters in California who believe fast food employees should have their hourly wage raised to $15 per hour.

Wait. What?

My opinionated self couldn’t keep quite so I charged to my personal soap box (facebook) to sound off on the topic.  Here’s what I posted….

“Imma be honest. I do not agree with the minimum wage debate.. ESPECIALLY the people who are protesting in California that fast food employees should get paid $15/hr. Are you kidding me? I have a bachelor’s degree that I paid A LOT OF MONEY FOR and I didn’t make $15 an hour until I started to pay myself just one year ago! Get an education, start a business or learn a specialized trade if you want to make more money. “Can I take your order” is not a specialized trade. It’s a minimum wage job.. that’s what you get when you don’t choose to do anything else. ‪#‎dropsmic‬ ‪#‎sorrynotsorry‬

For the most part my friends agree, but I do have several friends whom I adore that have polar opposite views thus leading to quite the debate.  You can see the whole thread here if you’d like..

To understand my opinion on the subject, first you have to know my history.  I believe in a hard days work and moderation.

I was not raised in a wealthy household of privilege. My parents both came from DIRT POOR families, my dad worked from 7am to 7pm at night while my mom stayed at home with me and my two sisters. They drove used cars for 300,000 miles, we didn’t drink soda, we didn’t have cable, we never went out to eat, we wore hand-me-down clothes, we vacationed at Grandma’s house, heck I didn’t even fly on a plane until I was 25 and that was for a company trip! I went to the same public school that everyone else did. Yes, my parents encouraged me to go to college but honestly I hated school every second of the day. I bought my first car for $1,800 with money I had saved from baby sitting over the years.  I went to college and my parents helped me pay for it.  I had a job the entire time I was in college and I also took out about $30,000 in student loans to pay for school and living costs.

Fast forward to 2008, already in debt from bad spending habits in my early 20s and student loans, I started my company with more credit cards and ZERO cash.  To date, I still have $18,000 to pay off from the original credit cards and lines of credit we used to start Occasions.  I pay them with a smile on my face every month.

So the whole… I can’t afford to get a good education, learn a trade or start a business does not fly with me.

Here’s my ultimate take on the issue.

If you want to make more money, do something to earn more money.  That means working your way up the corporate ladder, learning a new skill, save and invest in money making venues, venture out and becoming an entrepreneur yourself, start a business.  Everyone has the equal opportunity to do all of these things.  They will give loans to anyone these days so if you want to learn something new, take a class or go to school…invest in your future and pay it back when it pays off.

Yes.  Cost of living increase is an issue, but it can’t be just the argument for minimum wage workers alone.  If a company has to increase the hourly pay rate for minimum wage workers because of a federal mandate due to cost of living… so too should they have to raise the hourly rate of everyone else.  Cost of living doesn’t just go up for some people…. it increases across the board for everyone.  So everyone’s hourly rate should be increased too right?

But here’s the biggie….

If you want to have more, spend less.  My biggest problem with the whole “deserve” mentality of this country is that many people way outlive what their incomes can afford already and it’s not buying bread and milk.  It’s buying flatscreen TVs, cable tv, sodas, eating out, vacationing at Disney, buying new cars, visits to Starbucks, highlights, haircuts, pedicures, manicures…. you get the picture.  All of the above are frivolous extras in life that NO ONE truly NEEDS, but everyone is overspending on.  If I was certain that the minimum wage workers who are fighting for $15 per hour weren’t doing any of the things I listed above, were trying to work their way up the corporate ladder and still couldn’t put a roof over their head or food on their table, THEN I would take the minimum wage debate seriously.

But if you must have all the things I listed above, then let’s revisit my first point:  do something to earn more.  I’d like to point out several careers that anyone can do without an expensive college education their parents paid for.  All you need is some moxie.

  • Event Planner
  • Florist
  • Dog Groomer
  • Trim Carpenter
  • Landscaper
  • Bartender
  • Police Officer
  • Firefighter
  • Insurance Appraiser
  • Loan Officer
  • Electrician
  • Advertising Sales Executive
  • Realtor
  • Personal Trainer
  • Truck Driver
  • Sales person
  • Direct Sales person (pampered chef, mary kay, etc)
  • Medical Billing

Don’t see what you like here:  just google “highest paying jobs without a college degree” and you’ll be occupied for days reading through the results.  Think of something I don’t have listed here?  Comment below to add it to the list.

In the end my friend Jennifer Shields said it best “A minimum wage job is a starting point, not an end point.”  Period.

Work is a Blessing

After spending the week in Palm Beach at the Inspire Smart Success Experience I’m home with a renewed sense of meaning for the work I do and inspiration for my business.  Often times (especially when you’re 9 months pregnant) we can lose the luster within us that  keeps us excited about work.  During my week-of prep last Sunday I found two bible verses to keep me grateful for the work that Lord brings to me each week and keep me energized to finish our next two issues before Baby Vreeland arrive.

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Here’s hoping they bring you joy and remind you that work is a blessing in our lives.

“So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

“Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”  – Colossians 3:23

Why I Chose to Pay AT&T and Not Fight the Data Overage Charges

If there’s one lesson that I’ve learned from the last 6 years running my company, it’s that business is business.  And, I mean that in the nicest, most sincere ways.  Between large and small businesses… we all have systems, procedures, contracts and terms and conditions we set out to make our business run smoother.  And when you as a business owner choose to do business with another business… respecting those terms and conditions should be the number one thing.

After my anger subsided over this issue, I realized….  I have customers who sign contracts with unique terms and conditions I’ve outlined and nothing is more frustrating to me when they don’t honor those terms and conditions.  I get thrown the “friend” card and “how could you do this” comment now and then when someone doesn’t like our cancellation policies or artwork deadlines.  And ya know what…. I have had to hold my ground to that fact that this is a business, those are our rules and those conditions are outlined in contracts that everyone signs.  Period.

In the case of me versus AT&T…. I knowingly signed up for AT&T’s services, used every ounce of data that I was charged for and blamed them for my big bill.  While I do wish they had better practices for notifying customers of an enormous bill they are about to receive and prevent those things from happening.  I signed and acknowledged those terms when I chose to use their service.  For that I am responsible for.

I was able to negotiate with AT&T a reduction of $1,000 from the total bill and I went ahead and paid the remaining $3,000 and change balance.  Because that was my responsibility and I own it.

My hashtag for 2014 is #thisisabusiness….  I love each and every relationship that has grown from doing business with my clients, but ultimately we are engaged together for business purposes.  I am committed to working 110% for the success of our advertisers, but that commitment and willingness to promote our clients does come at a cost and commitment.  I invite each of you to embrace this thought for 2014 and I assure you, we’ll each have cleaner, better business relationships because of it.