Before I started Bonnie Bryant Creative, I had all sorts of excuses as to why I couldn’t be a creative business owner. I told myself that I’d need a trust fund or filthy rich spouse in order to make it work (having married for love instead of money, I had neither!). I told myself that all the creative business owners I admired must have SOMETHING that I didn’t, because they were making it work when I was sure I couldn’t.
The truth is, I was terrified - of not making enough money, of failing, of not being good enough. And to be a kickass business owner, you need to face your fears head on, PLAN on how you’re going to reach your goals, and IMPLEMENT those plans despite any setbacks. It’s like Dory says in “Finding Nemo” - just keep swimming.
I’ve decided to start the Fierce & Fearless Biz Owner series to highlight some amazing creative business owners and how they make their businesses work behind-the-scenes: the challenges, the rewards, and how they started living their dreams.
First up…. is me!
Who are you? Bonnie Bryant O’Connor
What’s your biz? Bonnie Bryant Creative
Tell us about your biz.
Bonnie Bryant Creative is a boutique consulting firm and creative studio. I’m fortunate enough to have lots of creative talent, so I wanted to build a business model where I could make money doing all the things I enjoy!
Creative brand design: designing logos and brand identities and custom graphics, and consulting on brand identity
Marketing/Social Media strategy: consulting on marketing and social media strategy; designing and writing sales pages, marketing campaigns, press releases, and email marketing campaigns for clients.
Art: I paint custom watercolor art, sell art prints, and starting in the spring of 2017, I’ll be teaching watercolor classes (you heard it here first!).
Interior decorating and event styling: decorating and design is one of my biggest passions, and I feel very lucky to be able to make a living off it!
How did you get started in this industry?
When I was little, I was always doing something creative: playing the piano, singing, acting, writing stories, drawing, painting, and reading vociferously. It never crossed my mind that one day I would do something creative as a living. It wasn’t until some post-graduate soul-searching that I started to believe that I could make my passions into a career.
What did you do before starting your business?
It’s been a long, winding journey. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in social work and human services, and received a full scholarship to law school. Halfway through 1L year, I realized that I did NOT want to be a lawyer for the rest of my life - I naively thought I’d be rescuing abused children from orphanages and quickly learned that being a lawyer meant spending most of your time doing lots of really, really boring work. I left law school after finishing my 1L finals.
I began taking courses in interior design, and soon got a job in the interior design industry in textile sales. I then worked for an interior design firm doing interior design and project management, then went back into textile sales in the NYC market.
When did you make the leap to decide to open your own business?
I opened an Etsy shop in 2012, but it didn’t make many sales at first and I never thought I could afford to do it as a living.
When I was working for another design firm, I would dream about opening my own business, but was 24 years old with a serious lack of self-confidence, and never thought I’d be able to make it work. I knew I was good at the design side, the project management side, and the business management side - I basically had all the ingredients for success, except for the confidence part.
I went back into textile sales and was REALLY unhappy. I had a hellish commute: 5.5 - 6 hours a day. I was really good at my job, made a ton of big sales, and my clients loved me, but management fostered a really toxic and negative work environment. I knew I'd never be able to advance or grow in an environment like that, and was sick of worrying about work all the time.
One day, my dad got sick of me calling him, stressing out about work and what to do. He said, “You don’t need this job. You can either shut up and deal with the bullshit, or quit.”
I’d been putting half my paycheck into savings for a while, knowing that I was going to leave someday soon, so with that in mind, I sent in my letter of resignation the next day. It took me a few months to crystallize my vision for Bonnie Bryant Creative - having a cushion of money saved up allowed this to happen. My biggest advice for quitting your day job is to save up as much money as possible beforehand!
What are the biggest rewards in running your business?
The freedom of schedule. After waking up at 5 AM for years, it’s so nice to be able to sleep in every day. I love being able to meet friends for lunch, or run errands if I have to, or even schedule doctor’s appointments during the week without having to take PTO time.
Also - the knowledge that every penny I earn is from my hard work. Every single dollar in my bank account is one I’ve hustled for and scraped together from working my ass off, and it’s really rewarding!
What are the biggest challenges?
Going from having a few thousand bucks magically appear in my bank account every two weeks via direct deposit to having to scrape together every penny was a huge adjustment. The freelance life is a 24/7 hustle: you always need to be building relationships, talking about your services, getting your name out there, and thinking ahead to the next client or project.
The marketing side is exhausting - and I’m a marketing consultant! Marketing is essential for every business, but it sometimes feels like so much work without seeing direct sales right away. Designing e-blasts, blog posts, and social media strategy takes hours, and it’s challenging when prospective consulting clients don’t understand that it’s worth the effort.
Learning to trust myself has been a huge challenge that’s gotten easier. Sometimes my closest and most supportive friends and family members give me well-meaning advice that isn’t great, and I need to believe in myself and my mission to stay the course.
What are you most excited about in 2017?
I’m really excited to start teaching watercolor classes - click here to get on our info list!
I’m also working on lots of samples to offer my artwork to the wedding industry.
What's your favorite social media platform to use for your business?
I LOVE Instagram! Tailwind Pinterest scheduler makes Pinterest a breeze, I highly recommend using it for your business!
Give us one fun fact about yourself!
I grew up in a funeral home! My grandpa, dad, and uncles are all funeral directors, and so is my husband.
WANT TO BE FEATURED AS A FIERCE & FEARLESS BUSINESS OWNER? EMAIL US AT HELLO@BONNIEBRYANTCREATIVE.COM!