That Time I Made a Huge Life Change: One Year Later!

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boothOne year ago this week, I quit my full-time job. After uprooting my life to St Louis, I had started my third job in 9 months and I was miserable, again. I was working for an organization that overworked and undervalued its employees. I worked a Monday-Friday work week that frequently pushed into nights and weekends, and I didn't make nearly enough money to justify my frustration. I managed an enormous staff and hundreds of labor hours, but someone else held the purse strings and wrote my budget, leaving me with little say in how I actually managed my employees. Not enough time for proper training or supervision, not enough staff hours for the size of the business, and not enough management to handle emergencies. I had been seriously reconsidering taking the job after only 35 days, but I told myself to stick it out at least 3 months. JCC St Louis

My mom and sister came to visit last February (for wedding dress shopping!) and they got me talking about what I really wanted for my life. I talked about wanting to follow passion and creativity. They asked about my business--the hobby I had turned into Katherine Elizabeth Events. How about following that and really trying to make it a career? We talked it out, and over the next couple of weeks I kneaded the idea around enough that it turned into something. Anthony encouraged the challenge, and promised to support me if I had trouble paying the bills. 

 Around the same time I gave my two weeks' notice, I found out Paper Source (where I have always bought all my paper supplies) was opening a new store in St. Louis. Great news for my materials cost! I could buy from the store instead of paying shipping fees! And then I realized, what a great opportunity for a part-time job!  Turning a very part-time second source of income into a full-time career doesn't happen overnight. It's a lot like the chicken or the egg. You can't afford to quit working for someone else without having enough business to be full time, but you won't get the amount of business you need to be full time until you have the time to dedicate to building it. I decided a part-time job was the right next step, and I was hired at Paper Source for a 20 hr/week position.

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The combination of building my business and working at Paper Source part-time has been perfect. I've met some of my best friends in St. Louis at Paper Source. I've had the opportunity to work with creative people every day, it gets me out of the house a few days a week, and it ensures I've been able to pay the bills every month. I get a great discount on anything I'm not reselling (not my materials for my business, but there's SO many other things to use it on!). And the bonus is that I'm working in the same industry as KEEvents--keeping up with trends, and getting sneak peeks into what's coming down the pipeline from some of my competitors. At first I was afraid of Conflict of Interest, but rest assured--I've been entirely open about my business, and I make sure to keep the two separate. 

 The last 12 months have definitely been the most challenging, rewarding, and exciting of my life. I spent a significant portion of the year planning our wedding and learning a lot about the other side of the bride/vendor relationship. Some days I don't remember what it was like to be in the wedding industry before I was a Bride. I don't know how I did it! There are definite challenges to working from home and being your own boss that I didn't expect. It's not always as glamorous as it sounds (keep an eye out for a future post about this!) I spend way more time on finances and paperwork than I'd like, and this spring I've been so busy that I'm working early mornings, late nights, and almost every weekend. 

 For the first time in my life, I reap the direct benefit of my hard work and long hours, and that feels better than I ever could have imagined. Last week I looked back at the business goals I wrote down for myself a year ago, and I've reached Every. Single. One. And more. Today I closed out Q1 of 2015 with 55% of the gross revenue I had in ALL of 2014. Quarter 1 Last Year brought in 30% of my total revenue, but in 2015, I have enough orders in the pipeline for Q2 to surpass Q1. 

 But enough of the financial mumbo-jumbo. Business is on the up and up, and I have so many ideas for growth down the line. The possibilities are kind of endless, and I'm PUMPED.

Long story short, I'm happy at the close of every single day. My stress level, even when I have a lot going on, is completely manageable. I swear less and smile more. Many, many days my work doesn't feel like work. I honestly LOVE what I do. And that's so much more than I can say about where I was a year ago when I chose to make this huge change. 

 So... April 24, 2015 will be my last day at Paper Source. I will officially work full-time for myself at Katherine Elizabeth Events (with a couple of A Bride's Ally weddings to close out the spring in St. Louis). And June 1, Anthony and I will move back to the east coast and set up our home (and shop) in New York City. We are SO excited for the next adventure, and I am so proud of myself (which is not something I say often) for making this HAPPEN. Pinch me!  

If there is something in your life that you love doing, find a way to do it as more than just a "when I have free time" hobby. Our "free time" seems to disappear more and more every year, and if you neglect your passions, you won't ever be as happy as you could be. 

 What's your passion? How do you make time for it? 

 Have a great weekend! 

 XO, 

 Katie

  Katherine Elizabeth Events


The one GENIUS idea that makes the home office/guest room combo REALLY WORK.

_MG_1799By a show of hands, how many people out there have a home office that doubles as something else? Is it a guest room? I don't have any statistics on this, but I'd guess there are a lot of hands raised. If you're anything like me (working from a home office, in a relatively small apartment in the city), your office is also your Guest Room. It may act like a home office and feel like a home office, but on most days it looks like a cramped bedroom with a lot of crap lying around. I don't have a picture of it at the "end of the day" because I'd never publicly admit to how much of a slob I can be when I'm busy, so here are a couple pictures of it looking pretty. From the first month we lived in the apartment, in 2013:

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Our Office/Guest Room is 110 square feet (10X11), with four large windows (a MUST for productivity), and two sets of french doors and one more doorway not shown in the above photos. Needless to say, there is really only one wall of the room that can be classified as an office... four pieces of furniture all crammed together to store all my office supplies and equipment for my work.

The bed, which takes up 40% of the square footage, is situated in the center of the room, and really makes the room look and feel like a bedroom. (After a year of working here, I can proudly say I've never given into the urge to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon). The bed is also right across the narrow aisle from the neatly organized shelves and office fixtures, and takes the brunt of the mess (which coincidentally helps fight the nap urges). As I pull freshly inked pieces from my printer, they are placed on throw pillows to dry. I prep my Silhouette mats on the bedspread. When I get a delivery of supplies, reams of paper and stacks of envelopes find refuge at the foot of the bed until they're put to use. Oh, and I forgot to mention--the closet in this room is my husband's. So, when his laundry is lying in wait to be put away, guess where it sits? You got it--the bed.

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My desk in this room would be fantastic if my business was just graphic design. But because my business includes printing and full assembly of stationery and invitation suites, as well as the Paper Florist work, I simply need more work space.

Enter the dining room table. And the encroachment of my "personal" space. One of the biggest challenges of running a business out of your home is keeping your work and personal life in separate spaces. Especially when you're sharing your space with your significant other and/or your family, it is important to draw physical boundaries between "work" and "life", or you run the risk of your work equipment, supplies and product littering the entirety of your home. As my business has grown over the last year, so has the amount of physical space it takes up. Having company over for dinner or even just a drink means I have to sweep the apartment and toss everything back into the Office/Guest Room, which means it lands... dun dun duuuunnnnn... on the BED.

With my business continually growing, something had to be done. About six months ago, I had this idea to find some sort of folding or portable fixture that would fit OVER the guest bed, creating a counter-height island-style surface in the middle of the room. I wanted to be able to have a work space where supplies I use every day (paper cutter, score board, Silhouette mats, adhesive, etc) could stay day to day. Maintaining a tidy apartment meant taking out and putting away these supplies every single day, which may not seem like a lot, but added up to probably 2 hours a week of set-up and clean-up. ("Genuis", as mentioned in the headline of this post, may be a stretch.. but it is a true sanity saver..keep reading!)

Last week, I looked at the next two months of my production schedule and decided I couldn't wait any longer. If I was to survive March, April and May, I would need to find a table. I did a ton of research and found that nothing of the sort exists out there. Even if I were to build a table top and legs, it was proving difficult to find the right folding legs to fit over a full size bed properly and at the right height. I drafted a plan to build the whole thing out of wood and hinges, and asked Anthony to borrow his truck so I could pick up materials. And there the buck stopped. My husband comes from a family with three generations of talented carpenters--it's in his blood, and he's pretty freakin' handy. So he offered to "think about it" for a couple of days and work on it over the weekend.

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Fast forward to last Sunday morning in St Louis--a sunny 65 degrees, and a perfect day for some outdoor carpentry. He decided on a relatively simple design--a table top with solid boards as sides, on hinges that would fold inward so the whole thing would fold up to a mere 2 1/2 inches thick--perfect thickness to tuck behind a door or lean against a wall when we wanted to use the bed as a bed!

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The table is made to fit perfectly over the bed frame, and he even made it so it can overhang the end of the bed, which created a standing desk for me! It's made out of MDF, so it is not exactly light-weight. But what it lacks in the easy-to-move factor, it more than makes up for in the stability factor. This thing is SOLID. And it's plenty easy to move with two of us. The MDF is dense enough that it can butt up against the perpendicular side with a 90 degree hinge and stand very sturdily. Anthony offset one of the sides so the boards lay flat against each other when folded.

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_MG_1803Long story short, this is a game changer. My office feels like a real, functional design space. I've always loved the natural light in this room, and now I can really work in it. And the best part? We have our dining room table back! Work/Life balance is SO important, especially in a home office. This new work space allows me to truly spread out my work and have a solid surface to work on, all the while staying out of my "living" space. And I'm obsessed with the height of the table. At 3 feet high, I can stand while I work and not have unhealthy back pain at the end of the day, and it's also the perfect height for our bar-height chairs if I need to sit!

What do you think? Comment below if you'd like more information about the construction specs or a tutorial on how this was built! (I'll ask the hubby to write up some instructions) Katherine Elizabeth Events