Sometimes my Grown-Up Gigs fall into my lap by circumstance (like being at a wedding catered by a pizza firetruck!!!), and some are presented on a silver platter. When Maggie sent me an email that started, “I have a Grown-Up Gig candidate for you…” and told me about Jenn Elliott Blake, I couldn’t not send my questions along. She started her career as a nurse, but took being laid off as an opportunity: first: to travel; then: to open an event design/stylist company called Bow Tie and Bustle; third: to set-up Scout Vintage Rentals to compliment that big event. Genius!
1. What did you wanna be when you grew up? Oh my gosh. I wanted to be a million and one things all at once…story of my life! I went from wanting to be an emergency room nurse, to a fashion designer, to a professional athlete, to a veterinarian and EVERYTHING in between. Similar to my issues in picking a major in college, I just couldn’t pick! Everything was enticing at one point or another, and I couldn’t imagine “being” just one thing when I grew up. To this day, I wish I had just been that kid that had it all figured out at the age of 5. Wouldn’t that have been a whole heck of a lot easier?!
2. You were a nurse until you got laid-off last fall. How did you react when you got the news, and how did it lead you to become an entrepreneur? I was absolutely devastated! For the first time in my nursing career I had found a position that I felt like I wasn’t having to work so hard to fit into. I had felt like I had made a significant impact on the couples and families I had worked with for the past 2 years and that felt really good. I also couldn’t imagine leaving the amazing nurses I worked with…they had become like family. BUT, the layoff was actually probably the major thing that catapulted me into becoming an entrepreneur. I had been “moonlighting” with paper goods for many months, handcrafting invitations and paper details at home for friends and family after working all day, and was itching for the confidence to pursue something new. When I was laid off I felt like I was forced to a fork in the road…continue following this nursing path that didn’t necessarily feel like the right fit for me OR take a leap of faith and follow my heart by pursuing a creative passion. I think actually being in that scary unemployment conundrum I was able to really open my eyes and see the person that I really wanted to become. One of the things I did after being laid off was take a 7 week solo trip to Europe to figure myself out. I took lots of pictures and wrote a travel blog about my trip. The whole experience opened my eyes to how passionate I am about the little details in life and how desperately I wanted to do something unique and different.
3. Nursing and event design/rental/styling are tooooootally different fields. What made you switch gears, and how were you able to own your “expertise” (everyone says “But I’m not an expert!”, so I put it in quotes in case it makes ya uncomfortable 🙂 )? One thing that was really challenging for me as a nurse was that there was ZERO creative outlet. I was consistently coming home from work and feeling totally burnt out and completely limited in creativity. I honestly felt completely suffocated in the medical field…I didn’t feel like I could live one more second not pursing something where I got to create something beautiful from scratch and inspire others with my designs. The most crazy thing about it all is that although the fields are so totally different I feel like on more days than not I’m still fulfilling the nursing “role”. I’m consistently supporting my couple’s emotionally through the crazy process that is wedding planning, and I find myself pulling out my nursing skills ALL the time at weddings. I’ve loved the transition, because I can still be the nurturer while also fulfilling my need to design and create. One of my favorite things to do in life is support others through major life transitions…as a nurse this was helping couples become new parents and as an event designer/stylist it’s helping couple’s become old married people.
The whole “expert” thing has probably been one of the biggest hurdles for me. I consistently feel intimidated by the fact that I don’t have a formal design degree of any kind, and did not shadow or intern with any other designers before pursuing my own business. I finally realized that although I may never consider myself an expert in my field, I AM an expert to the couples and clients I work with. Compared to what they know about event design and styling I know a whole heck of a lot more…this makes me an expert in their eyes. Allowing myself to acknowledge this fact has been a huge gigantic challenge for me.
4. I’m all about And Careers (as opposed to Or Careers), and love love love that you own both Scout and Bow Tie & Bustle. Can you talk about how/why you didn’t decide to “just pick one”, and how you make your head not explode with being the face of both businesses? I’m literally laughing out loud right now because I think my head did almost explode this week!!! : ) I decided to launch my vintage rental company scout. because I was renting out a lot of my antique props/decor to clients anyways and thought a full fledged business was the next step. There also wasn’t anything like scout. in Seattle and offering something unique to the wedding industry was super enticing. I’m also completely obsessed with all things vintage and so the rental biz was an absolute must for me. Quite simply, like picking anything else in my life, I couldn’t pick just one. I had to have both. Owning two businesses is SUPER challenging, but fortunately the two mesh really well together which makes it a whole lot easier. Anytime I’m out “scouting” for my rental biz, I’m inspired by something with regards to the designs for my clients. I feel like one is always working for the other. I do struggle with keeping that balance of which to focus on on which day, and there are days where I ask myself what I’ve gotten myself into. I work crazy long hours on most days (think 15+ hours) and often struggle to do things like drink water, eat healthy and exercise. Luckily, I have a super supportive hubby who is always willing to lug my rental pieces around, help me add my receipts into quick books, or force me to take a break and smell the roses. I honestly couldn’t imagine not having both businesses. Bow Tie & Bustle gives me my design fix, and scout. gives me my antique/hoarding fix.
5. If Present Jenn were to meet pre-Scout/Bow Tie & Bustle Jenn, what words of advice would you give her? Be courageous. Listen to that gut feeling and just go for it! Don’t be scared of what you don’t know, you’ll figure it out along the way….and that’s OK!
Wanna win 3 free taglines for your biz/product/project from bad-ass wordsmith Emma Alvarez Gibson? Well, OK!