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Bloom Where You Have Been Planted

Bloom Where You Have Been Planted Mine is truly a story of learning to bloom where you have been planted. I’m just beginning to become comfortable calling myself a designer. I never had aspirations as a child to delve into the fashion world and I certainly never saw myself cutting patterns and painstakingly sewing buttons and cuffs and collars onto tiny dresses and blouses. I thought I would be a writer or a schoolteacher and completed a degree in Liberal Studies with an acceptance letter into a Masters of Teaching program in hand when I realized I was on the wrong path. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. I declined my position in the Masters programs with no idea that it would eventually lead me to start an independent design studio, PetalPetal designs, which is now home to two lines of handmade children’s apparel, PetalPetal, which focuses on custom flower girl and occasional couture, and VintageChild:Modern, vintage inspired apparel for the modern child. Both lines can be viewed at http://www.PetalPetal.com.

Five years after graduating college and struggling to find the determination and confidence in the future I had once had, I landed the job of my dreams. I was working for a nonprofit doing fantastic work for women and children around the world. I thought I would grow old in this job. I had, for the first time, a 401k, health insurance, vacation time and a new path for my life, but I soon realized I also had to give up many unexpected things for my “dream” job. There was no room for creativity or individuality. Yes, I was helping to do great work, but I was doing it from a tiny, cold office. My days were long, mindless and repetitive and while I loved to tell people about the work “I” was doing when I met up with friends on the weekends, my life during the week was monotonous and exhaustingly boring.

Bloom Where You Have Been Planted The day I sat down at a sewing machine for the first time was the day I woke up again. I would put in tediously long days at the office, but return home with a new energy knowing I would be sitting down and creating. At the time, my brother was about to get married and my soon to be sister-in-law and I had ventured out to look for a flower girl dress. Everything was silk and lace and fluff and nothing fit her outdoor, modern, down to earth wedding. That experience planted the seed that would become PetalPetal, my line of modern, customizable, cotton, mix and match flower girl and occasional couture.

In June 2010, I was unexpectedly laid off from that dream job that was slowly draining me and on the way home I heard Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and I knew something was right around the corner for me. At that point, I still had no idea that my future was in the little clothes I was now drawing and dreaming of. I began desperately searching for a job that would allow me to create, but also to use my organization and business skills. I wanted to do it all – marketing, creating, writing, and organizing. I wanted freedom, not so that I could run wild, but so that I could focus and grow my ideas. What I wanted was to run my own company, although I couldn’t see it at the time. I continued to use my sewing as my creative outlet and turned to my creative work more and more as I become disappointed with the opportunities available at other companies.

Somewhere over the summer of 2010, I went from unemployed to small business entrepreneur. By September 2010, I was officially in business with PetalPetal and VintageChild:Modern, a new line of handmade, vintage inspired apparel for the modern child, followed in March 2011.

PetalPetal designs was truly started on a shoestring, having been surprised by a layoff and without any initial intentions of turning it into a full time business. I am just coming to the point where each dollar earned does not go straight back into the business and I could not have made it this far without the support of family, friends and a new community of handmade artists I have begun to become a part of over the past year. Life has been simplified to accommodate the expense of starting a new business. The big, beautiful apartment was let go and shopping trips are now non-existent, but these are both easy to sacrifice when my days are spent pouring into work that I love. I have discovered that when you are living your life in the moment and doing work that you feel created to do, a simple life is a beautiful life and there is no desire to continue to fill it with more and more possessions.

Starting a business on a shoestring has meant, for me, that there is no room to outsource work. I am designer, seamstress, package shipper, marketer, sales rep, photographer and web designer. Finding the right tools to help me be strategic and, most importantly, save precious time, has been key. I had no desire to enter into the world of social media before starting PetalPetal, but as a small business owner I heard again and again how valuable Facebook, Twitter, and a blog could be. They can also take an immense amount of time! When I finally, begrudgingly, took the leap, I also discovered HootSuite. One of my time killers is constantly stopping to answer emails, send tweets or post on Facebook. HootSuite allows me to plan out my tweets and Facebook posts for the entire day. I sit down in the morning and answer pressing emails, set up tweets and schedule posts before jumping into the cutting and sewing that takes up much of my day. You can find my facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PetalPetal and my twitter account at http://twitter.com/#!/petalpetaldsgns.

I am still trying to break the habit of jumping to respond every time my Blackberry tells me I have a new email, but I am working towards a schedule of answering emails first thing in the morning, again over lunch and a final check before dinner. I would like to say I turn off my computer and set the business aside in the evening, but I feel constantly plugged in. This is perhaps one of the most common dilemmas of a small business owner. It is so easy to feel such a weight around staying on top of absolutely everything. There is usually a long list of tasks to get to throughout the day and a feeling of people tugging on your coat tails, always needing attention. My goal at the moment with my business does not relate to its growth or visibility, but to my ability to build up some much needed boundaries. As a small business owner, I will never again have a 9-5 job that I can leave behind me at the end of the day, but I am working on turning off the computer and silencing the phone for a couple hours each night to step away and refresh.

I also mentioned blogging, which I very unexpectedly discovered I could have a lot of fun with. You can find my blog, Petal+Handmade=Love, at http://petalhandmadelove.blogspot.com/. What I have loved about blogging is that it has connected me to so many other handmade artists whose support and inspiration I have relied on so much this past year. As with all social media, the best way to connect is to showcase OTHER people’s work. Talk yourself up too and share your daily thoughts, struggles and life, but by supporting others you will find that they will also turn around and help support you. It will open up their network to you. Tap into other people and find ways to collaborate. We all have so much to give each other! I have found that the bottom line when it comes to deciding how much time and energy to put into social media is to focus on the outlets you love being a part of. If there is an outlet, such as Twitter, that you just don’t enjoy, don’t do it! Let it go and focus on other outlets that you love and that will let your passion for your work show through.

The biggest thing that I have had to learn as a small business entrepreneur is to not be afraid to be afraid. Starting a business is absolutely terrifying. There is no escaping the worry, doubt, regret and fear that will inevitably sneak in, no matter how confident you are in your decision to start your own company. They will come. Acknowledge your feelings and then keep working. Take time to write down or look back on past successes if you need a little extra motivation, then put your head down and press ahead. I have found that after moments of great disappointment, fear or failure often come moments of unexpected success. Why they go hand in hand, I don’t know, but they so often do. Know that if you can press through a failure or a disappointment, you are likely right around the corner from something brilliant! And always know that no matter what situation you find yourself in, there is always a way to bloom where you have been planted.

Brianne, PetalPetal and VintageChild:Modern can be found at the links below.

Web: http://www.petalpetal.com/

PetalPetal Online Boutique: http://www.petalpetal.com/PetalPetalShopAll.html

VintageChild:Modern Online Boutique: http://www.petalpetal.com/ShopVCM.html

Blog: http://petalhandmadelove.blogspot.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PetalPetal

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/petalpetaldsgns

YouTube:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYBWiTZ7jls&feature=player_profilepage#t=4s

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