Photo by Daniel Peter
Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from the lovely Jess Lively. Jess is no newbie to the creative business realm, having started her first business in high school! While her business endeavors have transformed over the years, Jess has remained steadfast in her business goals and has learned a lot along the way. Today she shares a bit of the insights she’s gained along her career journey. Thank you, Jess, for giving us this glimpse into your business path! —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I actually began my first business, Jess LC, at the age of 15… by accident! I was making some (ugly) ankle bracelets next to a pool and some women came up to me and offered to by them. I spent six hours making bracelets for a grand total of $30 and I decided to start a jewelry business on the spot. It was as simple as that.
I then bought more supplies and kept making new designs and sold them to friends, neighbors, teachers, and eventually 12 stores across Michigan while in high school. From there, I studied business in college and launched the accessory company full-time after college graduation. It was not easy to do by any means (the recession followed a year later), but I had a clear mission and knew it was the right move for me.
In fact, the “clear mission” that I had in mind was what has now become my new business and full-time career: helping people design lives, businesses, and spaces with intention.
In college, a huge a-ha moment helped me realize that my purpose is to help people live intentionally. And I knew running my accessory company would keep my schedule and priorities focused on my own pursuits – not a corporate ladder. So in January, 2009 I launched my blog and started to help people live lives with intention there while running the business at the same time. The blog became the launch pad for my consulting and eventually my live life and business workshops across the country.
By November of 2012 I was able to fully support myself from the consulting aspects of my career and close my accessory shop after 14 years. Many people thought I was crazy for ending Jess LC because it was doing so well. But I knew having both companies would always divide my attention and not lead to my fullest form of service, so it had to go.
Since then, I’ve been beyond thrilled to be able to truly live my passion and serve people in the process.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
The accessory company was incredibly simple: I decided to make jewelry because people bought it from me. I later expanded to bags, iPad cases, stationery, trays, and prints to explore new mediums and apply my design perspective in ways that excited me.
On the consulting side, I decided to offer life, business, and design advice because those are the things that again, clients have asked me to do. I knew I was meant to help people and by sharing my journey on my blog people naturally wanted my help and advice with their businesses, lives, and even their home and business spaces.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
I didn’t really have any advice when starting out. I simply had my parents, friends, and teachers cheering me on! They were very encouraging and pushed me to just try new things and keep going with it. Which is, in fact, really great advice for business owners.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
The most difficult part of starting a business, especially full-time, is the “unknowingness” of it all. Every day you wake up you have no real clue whether you will make your financial projections. There is a lot of cash flow fluctuations and there can be days (or weeks) where you don’t get much, if any, new business.
That’s a scary prospect when your bills come every four weeks. But over time things even out and grow to a more sustainable level. You learn to trust the process and have faith.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned ties into my last comment about having faith. I’ve learned that following your purpose, especially if it’s entrepreneurial in nature, will require you to trust that the Universe is working out in your favor.
As long as you are dedicated to following your gut and serving others with your talents, amazing breaks will come your way, things will fall into place, and you will find things will be far better than you could have ever imagined.
But all of that does not come without its seasons of testing, of hard work, and of learning.
So for me, the lesson I have learned is to trust that things will work out… somehow. And that right this moment the Universe is conspiring in my favor.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
I personally only believe the term “failure” can be applied to the decision to stop a company without a better plan in mind. If we decide to end something and start something new, that isn’t a failure as much as a stepping stone to something better.
Or, if we stay put in our current business, as long as we keep going, there is no failure. We simply haven’t made it yet.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
I believe my greatest success in business has been the transition from Jess LC to With Intention. Leaving a successful 14-year-old business I had for almost half of my life was a big deal.
But for me, it has been a remarkable experience. With Jess LC I was “self-employed.” Though I was taking big risks with my career, it was still “a job.”
Now, I don’t feel that way. In fact, I often refer to my new career as a “pre-retirement” because I like to think of the things that I do from the lens of “Would I do this if I was retired?” This perspective helps me hone in on the things that bring me joy andserve others (even though I still gotta pay the bills).
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Hands down the book that has transformed my life and business over the past seven years is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I adore Mr. Covey, and his wise words and consider myself in constant study of these principles.
I also find The E-Myth Revisited a fantastic book which I recommend to many of my clients as well.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1 – Why are you starting this business? What unique point of view do you have to offer your industry? And who do you want to serve?
2 – Are you willing to “just keep going” when things get tough? When they get really tough?
3 – If you’ve answered the questions above, then you gotta do what you can with what you have and figure things out along the way!