It started when I was little, I grew up with a Dad who owned his own electrical contracting company, and the entrepreneurial bug bit me early. I would collect soda cans from family to redeem for 5 cents each, I would create handmade cards with friends, and would sell friendship bracelets to raise money for missions trips. I never kept any of the money, I just liked the process of marketing & selling and being able to do something good with it! I’ve always been creative, I never had no ideas of something to work on or an idea to try out.
When my little sister Selah was born, the first girl after 4 brothers in a row, I started taking pictures of her. Lots and lots of pictures. I used our family’s point and shoot camera and couldn’t get enough of it. I was hooked, I knew I wanted to be a photographer. And once I set my mind to something, that’s that. I started writing letters to high school seniors in our church asking if they would model for me and a couple of them agreed! I was so excited! So as a 13/14 year old, I started taking senior photos of family friends and loved it. A year later, one of the first girl’s who paid me to do their senior photos, got married! She asked me to photograph her wedding and to this day, I remember the feeling of achievement on June 1, 2013 when I realized I had really found what I loved to do. I researched and learned as much as I could from everyone I could. I somehow talked my parent’s into taking me out to the largest photography conference in Las Vegas to learn from some of the greatest photographers. Two of my favorite senior photographers were hosting a workshop and I sent them an email asking if there was any way that I could help with the workshop, just to be able to watch them. Sarah & Meg said yes and I’m so thankful for their hearts and all the love they showed me on that day I got to spend with them.
Sarah Lane & Meg Borders out in Las Vegas before the workshop!
At 15 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a photographer & I did everything I could to make that happen. I had no fear in sending emails to photographers or other business owners asking for advice, wedding venues and vendors to plan styled shoots, and I honestly think that fearlessness of the word no is a huge reason of why I am where I am today. I was homeschooled and it allowed me to do this as part of my extra school & it gave me so much more time during the day to do it.
My senior year of high school came and I was faced with the big college question. I was never a fan of school, I was good at it but I just would rather be photographing or trying out some new marketing idea than doing algebra, so I didn’t really want to go to college for 4 more years. We decided to do dual enrollment classes from Clarks Summit University for my senior year of high school, just to try it out and also to let me get some college credits while I was still in high school. During the winter of my senior year, I applied to art schools in Boston, Philly & Santa Barbara, CA. In my mind, I had decided if I was going to go to school for photography, I might as well go to an art school & get the full experience. My heart was pretty much set on CA (I seriously just laugh at this now because I would have NEVER been able to move across the country from my family, oh I was so naive!) but God started working in my heart and I ended up deciding to go to Clarks Summit University to get my business degree. I had already started the degree through dual enrollment, it was close to home and I’d always be able to use the business degree. So I was all set to go there in the Fall!
About a month before graduating high school, we heard that the local bridal shop was selling in our little town of Montrose. We knew the owner, she was a family friend from church, and I talked Dad into “JUST going in to talk to her. Talking to her wouldn’t hurt anything”. I think he agreed to go hoping that talking to her would make my dreamer heart realize there was no way that it would work. The opposite happened, both Dad & I walked away that night realizing the possibility of owning it was really good. I remember one day before we had gone in to talk to Ruthann, I was riding in the car with my mom & I remember the exact place we were when I said “wouldn’t it be crazy if we were revamping a bridal shop this summer instead of getting ready to go to college?”. It would fit perfectly with my photography business as I had the same clients, high school girls for prom & brides. I prayed and prayed and prayed about it for a week. I didn’t tell any of my friends, it was just my immediate family that knew that it was a possibility. After the week, we went back in to talk to the owner again. I had never felt so much peace about a situation and never felt that God was completely in control and wanted me to do this. We decided to move forward and see if I could get a loan from the bank to buy the store. Those couple weeks, as I waited to hear back, were long & it gave me a lot of time to think about it. I knew that if God wanted me to do it, He’d keep all the doors open. My prayer was “God if you don’t want this to be, please slam a door in my face”. He kept leaving them open and the week I graduated high school in June 2014, I signed the papers to buy Ruthann’s Bridal. I had zero retail experience but here I was with a retail business in my name.
The day I bought the shop, just a little bit after signing all of the papers!
The next 3 months were a whirlwind that I honestly don’t really remember. It was so full of learning the ins and outs of retail. Long days of looking at bridal dresses and learning the types of fabric, styles, and all that goes into that. I had so many ideas! So many things I could do with the store, there just wasn’t enough time in the day! As my friends packed up their things to go away to school, I was picking paint colors to re-do the bridal shop. That of course changed my college plans because I couldn’t go on campus when I was still learning and trying to keep the business running. I decided to do business classes online that Fall and continued to get my business degree.
Once the adrenaline wore off, I’ll be the first to tell you (& my family a close second because they were with me every step of this journey) that the first 1.5 years of owning the retail business were the hardest. I had gone from having literally zero monthly overhead to a big monthly overhead. I grew up fast and was facing big decisions on a daily basis, it drained me emotionally, physically and mentally. I would come home crying because I didn’t know how I was going to learn what I needed to or figure it out. The photography business had come so naturally to me and the retail sales definitely did not. I thought I was a good people person until my first prom season when I realized that I had a lot more learning to do. The saying “the customer is always right” ran through my head continually. Right around the one year mark, it was right after prom season & the college classes for the year were done, I thought I had made the worst decision of my life buying the store. I was so done and worn out. I remember saying to everyone “I never want to see another prom dress in my life”. With God’s grace, I made it through that very uninspired time and He was faithful in continuing to help me learn about retail. The summer brought another wedding season full of weddings I was photographing which filled me back up, I loved spending my Saturday’s at weddings with my sister.
That Fall, I hired my first part time employee which brought on a whole new set of challenges and growth for me. I commuted to Clarks Summit University three days a week to take classes and she worked while I was at school. I had an amazing business teacher at CSU who took an interest in me and my businesses and I am so grateful for the education I received from the school. And then in the Spring of 2016, I finished the school & graduated with an associates in Business Administration. Last summer was filled with wonderful weddings I had the honor of photographing as well as so many high school seniors. I had one of the best senior model teams last year and I loved getting to become friends with those girls! Now they are about to graduate and we have started the Class of 2018 Senior Model team.
We are in the middle of my third prom season at the store and it’s as crazy as ever. But I’m thankful for this life and for the blessings God has given me. I don’t know what the future holds for my personal life or the businesses but I do know the one who holds those plans in His hands.