Taylor Miller is the founder and designer behind Hazen Jewelry. She started her entrepreneurial career at the age of nine by creating jewelry with her grandmother’s beads and dental floss. She attributes one of her biggest breaks to her first show in Oxford, Mississippi. What was once a stress-relieving hobby is now her life’s work. Her freshman year at SMU she decided that she wanted to make this business her career. Because she started very young, she did not have a business plan. She now says that she periodically reviews, reevaluates, and maps out how to better her business. During her junior year at SMU, she registered her company for trademarks and copyrights to maintain the originality of her idea. She has focused on organic growth and remaining in control of her designs and company. Since this time, she has outsourced the manufacturing of her pieces to Houston while all of the designs remain uniquely her own. Taylor says she wants to be fluid and open to change, especially in this season of her life. She notes that her community and mentors have been crucial when it comes to avoiding mistakes and gaining valuable insights.
Taylor reminded me that when creating and starting a business, “you can not please everyone!” Be specific and designing pieces that work for you and your consumers. She said that constructive feedback is pivotal to improving and growing. She also allows herself freedom saying, “Some things do not have to be perfect, but they just have to get done.” This was particularly encouraging because young entrepreneurs allow perfectionism to inhibit them from starting their venture. One of her favorite parts of owning her own business is her ability to donate thousands of dollars to causes that are close to her heart. When asked where her designs originate, she says that Dallas provides just the right amount of community, adventure, and color to get her inspired.
JACY WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY
Jacy’s photography career started when she was working in college in the
marketing department of UT, Tyler. She was given a “soccer mom” camera to take pictures of on-campus events. Jacy’s grandfather had instilled in her a love for photography, so she began photographing save-the-dates and graduation pictures. She then took a job at Stephen F. Austin under the head photographer. She did not have a business plan when she started, but notes,” Once you decide to make it a business, you need a plan.” Her shared hobby with her grandfather became her life’s passion. She went from casually photographing her friends’ moments to capturing a strangers’ weddings and intimate moments. As she started her career she wanted to be fair with her pricing as her skills developed. In the beginning, her skills were developing and she wanted her prices to reflect that. She also did not want to underprice her work because she is confident in her ability to offer quality photographs. Her week consists of multiple sessions where she can develop a relationship with her consumers and better cater to their desires. She shoots and offers around thirty Photoshop edits as well as printing rights.
Jacy advises potential entrepreneurs to be fair to their consumers as well as to yourself. When both pricing and quality are fair to both parties, the consumer leaves the experience with your company on a positive note. She says that one of the most valuable pieces of advice she has received is to not try to start your business off too big. She had to realize that you have to build up to higher prices and larger client bases. Dedication is what she says will keep you in business and growing. If a client needs to schedule a meeting or wants to voice concerns, make time to cater to your consumer. In addition to being loyal to your consumers, entrepreneurs must be dedicated to their mission statement. Jacy says that the most rewarding part of her job is capturing life moments of her customers. She plans to continue to grow her company with the purchase of additional equipment as well as a second photographer.
The Bloom Bar
Kayli Head is an enthusiastic floral designer who is passionate about her calling. Since the age of fourteen, Kayli started learning about floral design because of the courses offered at her school. Although she started her professional career in event planning and digital media, her passion remained floral design. She felt unfulfilled in her career and decided to dive into her passions, which are flowers and teaching people the trade of floral design. She committed herself to her dream and founded “The Bloom Bar.” The Bloom Bar is positioned in the Austin, Texas and most often services wedding flower arrangements and décor. She admitted that she did not have a business plan when she started her business, but she whishes she did. Kayli believes that building a business plan and learning how to bootstrap a company are valuable assets.
Kayli advises that everyone have a mentor. She says a mentor is someone who loves their craft and opens their hearts and studios to take you under their wing. She elaborated on how mentors play a pivotal role in attracting your tribe as a company. Her second piece of advice states, “I would rather fail at something that lights me up, rather than succeed at what makes me miserable!” Entrepreneurs will get burned out on their job, but be relentless in their passions. Her third piece of wisdom is to hire a CPA, especially if you are not gifted with that skillset. Much like Kayli, I found this piece of advice particularly helpful because I avoid numbers and embrace creativity. She says that one of the largest challenges that entrepreneurs face is the lack of steady paychecks when you are building. She charges those wanting to start a company to open your heart, be vulnerable, and do not be afraid of your passions. In the coming years, The Bloom Bar wishes to grow, teach workshops, and gain a steady client base. Kayli wants to engage the creative community in which she lives and continue to develop her company.
Throughout these insightful interviews, I learned the importance of a mentor. Mentorship proves to be a way to avoid mistakes and increase likelihood of success. Every one of the entrepreneurs said that you do not have to decide between living out your passions and making money. This was personally encouraging to me because they are living my dream of getting paid to do what they love. They said the uncertainty of a paycheck keeps entrepreneurs on their toes and always generating ideas on how to improve. One point I thought was particularly interesting was that almost all of those I interviewed talked about hiring people to help you with parts of your company that are not your strong suit. Similar to many other creatives, my weakness would be math and accounting. I appreciated getting to learn that entrepreneurs do not have to master all parts of creating a business to start their plan. I have learned to be vulnerable when sharing your art or idea with your consumer and remember that you cannot possibly create for everyone. This is why it is important for entrepreneurs to create with a living breathing person in mind. Each of these participants desires to help other entrepreneur explore their craft and discover how to profit off of it. These interviews reiterated what we learned about mentorship, passion, and planning throughout the semester.