Hi friends! Welcome to the first episode of 5 Questions with The Loveliest. An Honest Discussion with my dear, sweet and wise friend Brea Schmidt! from The Thinking Branch. I have the joy of having an honest discussion with her about how she, as a women entrepreneurs sets aside her doubts and fears and stepped into who she was really meant to be!
Maybe your journey to success isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about you unbecoming everything that isn't really you so you can become who you are meant to be in the first place!
FUN FACT: Brea and I met at my Brick and Mortar store and hit it off instantly!! You know that feeling when you talk to someone for the first time and they instantly feel like they are your people? That's her!
LISTEN TO FIVE QUESTIONS WITH THE LOVELIEST
In addition to the interview above here are more questions so we can really dive into Brea's Journey! I hope you will follow along and see yourself in her story!
When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up? Candidly, I don't remember what I wanted to be when I was really little. But I do remember that in middle school and into high school I had my heart set on going into psychology. (Those who know me well would not be surprised by that).
What was your first paying job? ( like when you were a teenager..) My first paying job a cashier and concession worker at my hometown's city pool! I loved it because I have always liked counting money -- and well, I got to see my friends on the daily!
Did you go to college? What Did you study and what were you wanting to be? I did - I'm a proud Penn State grad (We ARE!...) graduating from the College of Communications with a degree in Advertising/Public Relations. At the time, I thought I would be a PR executive for a company, non-profit, or a concert entertainment venue -- and while that didn't happen, my degree has certainly come into play in business ownership.
What made you want to start your own business? I did the corporate world for the first six years of my career. I can tell you that my experience there was INVALUABLE in helping prepare me for entrepreneurship. And while I loved the organization for which I worked and the people with whom I spent time with at the office every day ... there was a voice inside me that kept telling me there was something different for me. Deep down I knew the next step in that career wasn't a match for what I wanted to do ... but fought those feelings of, "well, that's what you're SUPPOSED to do. That's what you've been working for." But eventually, I listened to that inner voice and decided to take a step that would allow my personal approach to business to combine with my personal passion to allow me to follow my own dream.
What did your life look like at the time (kids, single, married)? I was five months pregnant with my daughter who is now 9. My husband was still working his corporate job so we had that stability, but it was definitely a huge leap of faith to walk away from my career (and consistent salary) right as we were about to start a family.
Once you decided to make your dream a reality what did the path look like to start your own business? Were you scared? Did you dive in or take baby steps? I was definitely scared but definitely dove in. It was a lot of change at once -- going from a job in professional sports that really became a lifestyle -- to now starting a business from scratch while preparing to become a mom. I knew that if I didn't dive in -- I would overthink myself out of it, and I knew I wanted to get a foundation under me before our daughter was born.
How did you learn how to open or start your business? What were some of the curveballs along the way? Were you always good at it? I 1000% did not know what I was doing! (Do any of us?) I learned a lot about "business" from working in my previous job, but that experience doesn't teach you everything about OWNING a business. So while my "business" experience definitely played a huge role in my overall success, I also had to acknowledge what I DIDN'T know. And what I DIDN'T know, I turned to other people to help. My high school basketball and track teammate did my logo and branding. A hometown friend helps me build and host both of my websites. We turned to a family friend for accounting. I paid for another photographer to mentor me. I asked friends and families for referrals. Candidly, all of the logistical things / expenses / equipment / etc. that come along with starting a business can sometimes be overwhelming enough to make you want to quit - but, the dream that was on the other side made it all worth it.
"I 1000% did not know what I was doing! (Do any of us?)"
What are some of the early memories of total flops or failures? The first thing that comes to mind is when, early in my career, I had a camera break right at the beginning of a session. It was a family with whom I had worked before, but this was their first outdoor family session. The mom had taken the time to get her makeup and hair done, and I think they had rescheduled something else in their life to make this shoot happen. And on the first click of my camera, I saw nothing. And heard nothing. The camera wasn't working, and I didn't have a backup. Now, most people would say, "But couldn't you just reschedule?" Well, we definitely did that... but there was NO way around "fixing" the negative experience / the letdown that happened for that family. And as a photographer who marketed herself for the experience she provided for her clients, it was a HUGE flop. But that day taught me something about preparedness. I bought a backup camera. I checked my gear before every session. It also gave me an opportunity to build my skills in handling negative-experience situations.
What was a BIG win early on? A small moment, but a big win. I was working with a family for the first time -- they had three young kids and we played along the shores of Lake Erie for about 1.5 hours for their session. As the parents were getting their kids in the car, the dad turned to me and asked me for my business card so he could hand it out to some of his colleagues and friends. When I got in the car I thought, "He wants to refer me, and he hasn't even seen the pictures yet!" That was a great lesson for me in truly understanding what it was that I sold. I didn't "just" sell pictures... I sold an experience to these families. And just as important it was to deliver beautiful, memorable pictures -- it was important to give these families a high-end experience too. I think of that often during any sales process with a client. It's not just about the final product, it's about how you make people feel... and the experience you give them along the way.
"That was a great lesson for me in truly understanding what it was that I sold. I didn't "just" sell pictures... I sold an experience to these families."
What’s a mistake you made that in the long run was a blessing because it led you to something bigger and better? Kathryn, you know what I have to say first! ha. There really aren't mistakes. EVERY part of business ownership -- good and bad -- is meant to teach you something. But I will say there is a consistent mistake I make that I need to work on ... and that's pushing the important stuff to the side, and getting too caught up in the day to day. My friends at ThistleSea Business Development would call this "Working more IN your business, than ON your business." I have had dozens of those "inner voice" moments where I know I'm supposed to be making a move in "x" direction -- but I let my fears get in the way and instead work "in" the business which is where I'm comfortable. I'm really good at being comfortable. That said -- I think there are lessons in those experiences where you learn the things you need to work on. (And I'm working on that!)
When did you figure out how to stop listening to others and fully invest in your dreams? Oh gosh - every single decision I've made about my career has been questioned by SOMEONE. "Are you sure you want to do that?" "How are you doing to make any money?" "Isn't it kind of strange to share your story on the internet?" "Won't you be throwing away all that time you spent growing the corporate ladder if you leave now?" All of those questions made me reconsider. Was I making a mistake? Is this wrong? In the end, I always followed my gut -- and THAT feeling was so much better than listening to the naysayers. So I think the more I've trusted my own heart and seen where that has led me, the easier it is for me to block out the noise.
How do you support other business entrepreneurs in your industry and in general? There are so many ways to do this. In my writer community, I think the best way I support them is through encouragement. I'm a natural encourager... and usually am drawn to those who have an immense amount of talent, but lack confidence or self-worth. And I love to do what I can to pull that out of them so their gifts can be shared with the world and more importantly, THEY start to believe in their value. I also believe in community over competition. And listen -- this comes from a person who is INCREDIBLY competitive. I am always trying to figure out where my edge is. But, I also don't have to "take people down" along the way. So I love finding ways to work together with people in my industry or share tips/tricks with each other to ultimately help each other grow. There is space in the success room for all of us.
Lots of my followers want to know how do you know if an idea is the RIGHT idea? OR when to take the leap? I really don't think there's a black and white answer to this. For me, it's always been about a FEELING. Usually, if an idea keeps coming up in my thoughts enough (nagging me while I'm driving, right before I go to sleep, while I'm cooking dinner, etc) that I know I better pay attention. And know this -- there have been MANY times I've acted on ideas like this and they haven't worked -- but it doesn't mean the idea wasn't RIGHT. Because usually there's something to learn within the experience of choosing to go after it. It's why I encourage all of my biz owner friends to MAKE SURE they take time in the quiet to listen to their own voice. It can be SO LOUD out there that it can drown out the voice that really matters. So, the first step is just making sure to take time in the quiet -- and HOLD THAT SPOT IN YOUR CALENDAR -- the same way you would a coffee meeting with a potential client. It's important!
What advice would you give your younger self?
I don't think I'd give my younger self advice... instead, I think I'd just walk beside her and talk to her more kindly. I'd remind her she's worth it. I'd remind her that there is beauty to be found even in the tough spots. I'd remind her often how much potential she has, and how she WILL see it fully come out one day if she just keeps at it. I wouldn't tell her to walk another path, I'd just be a more positive voice walking alongside her on the one she took.
What’s the future of your business look like? Thanks for asking this question -- because it put a smile on my face. My answer is I don't know ... but I'm excited to see. I see myself standing on stages delivering my message of self-care and empowerment to more people. I see myself recording podcasts. I see myself working together with the people I admire most in this industry. I also can't wait to see what unexpected doors pop up along the way for me to peek into... because those doors have been the ones that have led me to special things I didn't know were possible.
How do you balance the financial risk for new opportunities with financial security? Such a great question, and a hard one to answer. When I left my job in professional sports, I was leaving behind a big part of our family income right before we were about to have a baby. That was SCARY. But what was scarier to me never trying to do the thing my heart was saying it wanted to do. That said, we had to make a plan. We had to make sacrifices and figure out how we were going to make it work. It wasn't easy, and there have been times during my entrepreneurial journey that I thought "It would be a lot easier to go back to a job that gave me a consistent salary" -- but that just reminded me that I needed to put more effort into finding financial consistency in my OWN business. I had to find ways to cut costs, evaluate my prices and see where I could do more no-cost marketing. I don't think there's an answer to this -- I think it's an ongoing journey -- one that requires you to understand your WHY along the way.
Anything else you'd want to add to help women on their journey? YES - first and foremost, don't do it alone. Everyone thinks entrepreneurship is the dream until you get there and realize you're doing most of it by yourself. It can get lonely. Having a community around me has been key. To go even further than that -- having the RIGHT people around me has been key. I have learned some tough lessons along the way about being around people who didn't align with my business values and ethics, were taking advantage of me, talking one way to me in person and another when I wasn't around, or just bringing overall negative energy. That's not healthy for business or for me personally. I found myself stressing/worrying about / complaining about these situations, instead of using that time to grow my business and work on myself. So I've also learned to set boundaries while building that community. It doesn't mean I can't be supportive, but it does mean I'm allowed to protect my spirit. And lastly - make sure you are taking time to work on yourself just as much as you are working on your business. When you're a business owner (and the face of your brand) all your insecurities come out and sometimes keep you from using the tools you've worked so hard to obtain. Keep taking care of yourself along the way. Success is great - but it's greater when you get there being YOU... and get there being happy.
Where can people find you and support you?
YAY! Come join our community!