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Event Recap Series : Blueprint Retreat January 2015
Intro by Shanna Skidmore | Recap by Ginny Early
This second year of Blueprint Retreat felt like clockwork! I had an amazing creative team beside me filled with some of my very best friends in the industry as well as a group of incredible breakout speakers to help mentor the attendees.
This year felt like bringing together a group of my besties to talk about business and life at one of my favorite places in the world, Grove Park Inn.
Back in 2007, I was fresh out of college and still finding my way as a financial advisor. That year I won a contest in my office and the reward was a special trip to Grove Park Inn for me and one other person. I brought my sister along with me and we both felt so fancy and special. We got dressed up for dinner and drank out of fancy china. This was an experience I never dreamed of having and from that day on Grove Park has held a special place in my heart.
Bringing a community of women together in this place meant a lot to see them feel as loved and celebrated as I did that very first time at Grove Park. And today, one of those beautiful attendees, Ginny Early, is sharing her experience at the January 2015 Blueprint Retreat!
——floral experiences to feed your soul——
I own a custom luxury floral company, focused on equipping clients to host magical moments to nourish their community.
I passionately believe that everyone secretly longs to connect with beauty—our souls crave it. And when beauty can be experienced in an intentionally designed atmosphere that also connects people to each other – that’s when magic happens! My company exists to create those once-in-a-lifetime events that become our dearest memories.
I live just north of Atlanta, GA with my husband and two daughters. Our lives are full of middle-school sports, musicals, church, community, and cherished friends intersecting all of them. We love hosting impromptu backyard parties around our firepit, laughing until the embers die down. We’ve seen our share of heartbreak and struggle, and we firmly believe that life is more beautiful because of that.
I think I’m in the minority of Blueprint attendees in that I attended my first event as I was just opening my company.
I can’t overstate the value of this experience…to hear first-hand from Shanna and from other business owners about best practices and mis-steps to avoid was immensely helpful for me. It meant that I didn’t have to guess about pricing my work and services because I had a formula from Shanna ready to go.
The retreat widened my community of strong, brave women running their own companies—it meant that I wasn’t stepping out in total solitude because I had “co-workers” I could turn to along the way.
This was a scary, exciting, unexpected experience for me.
My daughter made up the word “nervous-citing” to describe happy jitters—I think that’s the right word for what I was feeling. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff, and I had no idea where I would land.
Years later, I still feel like this sometimes—I’m not sure it ever goes away!! But I’m far more at peace with that feeling now.
I’ve learned that those big, scary jumps—when taken with purpose and passion—often lead to greater results than we had dreamed. The big jumps propel us into community and collaboration in such beneficial ways, and Blueprint was my first taste of that.
That’s not the same as instantly successful, and it doesn’t mean that everything has been easy from there on out. It means that I left Blueprint with a greater understanding of my worth and skills, equipped with the tools I needed to use my gifts well for others. It meant that I had other people to turn to with questions, other people with stories I could learn from. And, maybe more importantly, it equipped me with people that I could support and encourage.
Community is not just a one-way street—it’s not a commodity to be used. It’s a give and take, it involves recognizing and celebrating another person for their own worth, without projecting their successes onto your own story.
It requires giving, without bargaining for what you’ll get in return. True community needs you to be the best version of yourself as you support others being their best selves, and I think the Blueprint family does this really well.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows here—it’s real and honest. In my opinion, that’s what makes it beautiful …that blend of dark and light that lets us view the whole picture, not just a small piece.
This event was even more special for me because I had no idea I would be a part of it. My ticket was a gift from an incredibly loving friend (shoutout to Shannon…I’m still so grateful for you, dear!). It was a last-minute gift that had a deep impact on my life.
I hope to eventually bless other women in the same way…to share my treasures and offer a hand up the ladder.
We are all stronger together, and the gift of my Blueprint ticket is an indelible reminder of that for me.
I came into the Blueprint retreat with so many questions: What even is this job? How do I start my own company? Will I ever make any money? Who do I think I am to say that I am capable of this?
I’m still answering some of those questions, as I’m sure many of you are, as well. But my time at Blueprint gave me the tools to begin answering my questions for myself.
I learned that I get to decide how I will answer, in a way that’s best for my life and my company—not anyone else’s.
I was hoping to find information and community, and I certainly got both of those things and more!
This is a tough thing to share, because I’ve recently learned that in the world of Instagram, many people have viewed me as someone who didn’t have to work…like they had the idea that I could rely on my husband’s salary to support us, so I could afford to only work when I wanted to.
GUYS….THIS COULD NOT BE LESS TRUE!!!!
I’ve clearly got some work to do to fix this misconception, but let me tell you—the root reason for this is GOOD, and it’s all Shanna.
When I started my company, it was in the midst of a devastating time for our family. My husband and I both lost our jobs with no warning—within two weeks of each other—at Christmas. Our girls were 5 and 3 at the time. Life was not in a good place for us.
As hard as that event was, it paled in comparison to what was coming…six long years of financial and employment struggles that took my husband away from home 98% of the time (as in, the kids and I saw him for roughly 5 hours in an entire week…which was also the only time he could sleep!).
I was a lonely, cash-strapped mama of young kids trying desperately to ease their worry and keep a roof over our heads, all while trying to hide my own fear and worry.
Eventually, I decided to jump into the wedding industry because I could work on weekends when it was easier to find someone to watch my kids. Yes, I could have taken the smaller weddings that every designer starts with in order to build a brand identity and client base. But I didn’t have that luxury. I’d do the numbers and see that the money I would make from those smaller jobs would be equal to or less than what I needed to shell out for childcare.
Learning from Shanna gave me the information and the courage to say NO. I had to say NO to so many jobs that would not have been financially or emotionally helpful for my situation.
I had no choice but to aim for the very highest and work like mad to get those jobs, because otherwise I would have no profit. I can’t stress enough how difficult this way of doing business has been…it’s given me a major case of Imposter Syndrome from Day 1.
But without Shanna’s encouragement and investment in me, there’s no way I would have stayed the course. This crazy-on-paper business model has meant that I’ve had to do so much more work on my own—if I couldn’t afford childcare, I certainly couldn’t afford web designers, branding consultants, styled shoots, or anything else. The hours and heart that I’ve put into this company may not be evident to the outside world. It may look like I’ve “had it easy” or just get to work part time when I feel like it. But you know what? That’s ok.
I know where my identity lies and how I am gifted, and Shanna gave me the tools to price my services accordingly. Without her rock-solid advice, I would have floundered and worn myself out doing work that wouldn’t take me where I needed to go. She gave me the tools I needed to be selective in a way that would benefit my unique situation.
GO…it’s so worth it! I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t have it all figured out, and I’m telling you how much it helps to know that there are others out there, just like you, longing for community.
Someone out there needs to meet you and hear your story, just like you need to hear hers.
In creative fields, we are often so alone. It is VITALLY important to connect with something larger than yourself, to feel a part of a group. And when that group is Blueprint…wow. You get a community and support and advice that will build you up and sustain you as you go back to your own world. It’s so incredibly valuable.
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