Five Tips To Minimize Risk In Small Business

1. Do your homework.  Ever heard of those lovely little things called business plans? No matter how simple or intricate your business is, outlining every aspect of how the business will run will save you a lot of headache in the long.

From the mission statement to pie charts and projected numbers, the business plan acts as a vision for the healthy growth of the business. It will also help you clearly define who your ideal audience is, which in the end is where you want to spend your energy promoting your product or service.

Need help with your business plan? Head over to the U.S. Small Business Administration's website to get started.

2. Know your numbers. Finance is not a strong suit for a lot of business owners, but thankfully, it doesn't have to be. Align with a Certified Public Accountant who can walk you through the process of setting up your accounting software (i.e. Quickbooks, Wave, Freshbooks), educate you about how to manage your daily Profit and Loss, and answer any questions you may have as the need arises.

CPAs can also assist you in filing your taxes, determining when to pay your taxes--yearly or quarterly--and how much you'll pay out depending on your incoming and outgoing. 

3. Pay the IRS. What's more important to minimize risk in your small business than to pay your taxes? The answer is nothing. 

I will say it until I'm blue in the face, but you do not want to owe the IRS. 

Whether you pay quarterly or yearly, you should always keep tax time on your radar and allot accordingly. 

And the answer is yes, if you are running a small business, you need to pay taxes.

4. Get insured. Every business insurance needs vary greatly depending on the type of business, but at the very least, you will need General Liability Insurance. General Liability Insurance provides protection for your business if you, your employees, or products and/or services have caused bodily harm to a third party.

5. Get everything in writing. Whether you're working with a business partner, customer, client, friend, or family member, it's important that all terms and conditions are clearly defined in writing and agreed to by both parties.

For example, when I owned my company as a makeup artist, my bridal clients had to leaf through and sign an eight page contract. Seems excessive, doesn't it?

The reason my contract grew to eight pages in the first place was due to all the policies I had to instill each time something occurred that I wasn't able to protect myself against. Contractual agreements hold definite weight in court in case things do unfortunately go South with a client or customer. Of course, we never wish these things to happen, but they do, and in hindsight, we wish we would've done our due diligence.

This will also safeguard you in the event a customer or client wants to take legal action against you.

#womenwhoinspire: Epicurean Emily, Clean Beauty, Health, + Wellness Blogger

I met the lovely, gorgeous Emily of Epicurean Emily at a TriFabb Event hosted by our dear friend and fellow blogger, Still Being Molly. At the time, Emily was a fashion and beauty blogger. However, in the time since I've been following her though, Emily's life, health, and blog have undergone some intense growth and change (for the better!).

Because of the all of the turmoil and development in my own life, I have really resonated with Emily's journey. She is a major advocate and voice for change both in health and beauty--something that is desperately needed in our culture today. Through her story, she continues to inspire countless others and myself, which is why I wanted to feature her on my 'Women Who Inspire' series.

Take the time to read through this interview with a cup of tea, coffee, or matcha, I promise you that it will be eye opening and incredibly worthwhile. You'll also want to follow Emily's journey with stunning photography, food, beauty, and pictures of her cute pup on all relevant platforms.

(Links are listed at the bottom of this post.)

J: You’ve had a lot of transition in the past year, but before we talk about all of that, I want to hear where the idea of Epicurean Emily came from.

E: Epicurean Emily began as a personal outlet for me to explore several different passions, and at the time, industries that I had an interest in pursuing a career in. I had just graduated with a photography degree when I began the blog, and at the time, I was interested in commercial photography and wanted a creative project where I could begin to build my professional portfolio. Epicurean Emily got it's name after the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who was a “patron” of the finer things in life, believing that one should often indulge in things that bring them pleasure and since my blog content was originally a bit “frivolous”, I thought this philosophy was the perfect description of not only the content I was creating, but also of myself--I’ve always been a bit “extra”. 

J: Your blog started out as a fashion, beauty, and travel blog, but then you began to focus on living a healthier, cleaner lifestyle all around. Tell me a little bit about that.

E: About two years into starting the blog, my health plummeted. A lot of changes were happening in my life--I had just moved away from home for the first time and was living in a new state with my boyfriend, Luke, who I was accompanying while he completed grad school. I’d never really experienced anxiety or depression before in the past, but they both became real struggles for me during this time. I’d also had a lot of ongoing physical ailments that I was tired of dealing with- chronic sinusitis even after an invasive sinus surgery a year prior, adult acne, severe seasonal allergies, lack of energy, etc. About a month after I’d moved, I went to a TriFabb event where I met April of Be Pure Beauty and I learned about all the toxins and chemicals in cosmetics for the first time. After I began to clean up my beauty routine, I wondered if I could approach my health problems holistically, too. I found a local naturopathic doctor (Jack Weber of Carolina Clinic of Natural Medicine) and scheduled my first appointment. Instead of writing out a handful of prescriptions and recommending I see specialists, Dr. Weber “prescribed” a plan of action which included removing dairy and gluten from my pseudo-vegetarian diet, meditating, working out, and keeping in closer contact with my family. I loved cheese, so these recommendations were not what I wanted to hear, but I had nothing to lose and stuck with the plan which ended up changing my life forever. This experience made me realize just how vital a healthy diet is to overall health and well-being and I knew that I had to use Epicurean Emily to share this truth.

 A look at some of the clean beauty products in Emily's own personal beauty arsenal.

A look at some of the clean beauty products in Emily's own personal beauty arsenal.

J: It’s amazing to me that you have made such radical changes in your life. I think a lot of women struggle with managing a healthy work-life flow. Typically, we find ourselves with everything overtaking our days and stop caring for our own well-being. At what point did you know it was time to make a change in your life?

E: I think this is a constant learning curve for all women- we are nurturers by nature and many of us put others’ well-being before our own without even realizing it. I don’t have it all figured out and I often have days where I fail to post on Instagram because I worked all day, then came home, ate dinner, and cleaned the house from top to bottom (I’m a major clean freak!). And since I’m a self-diagnosed clean freak, I think it’s important to make the mundane tasks more enjoyable. I love listening to podcasts while cooking, turning on some upbeat music while cleaning, enjoying my favorite TV show (Parks & Rec, in case you wanted to know) while folding laundry, or catching up on emails/blog posts with a cup of tea and a candle in the evenings. In my opinion, the secret to self-care is to find ways to nurture yourself in every little thing you do throughout the day. And obviously, baths and face masks are nice every once in awhile! ☺

J: This blog focuses primarily on inspiring and encouraging women. What would you say has been the biggest change in your lifestyle to date? And why?

E: I’m really proud of recently adopting a vegan lifestyle because it’s such a freeing way to live. To know that with every meal I eat, I’m not only saving the lives of animals, but also safeguarding my health, minimizing the impact of climate change, ocean devastation, and deforestation, and refusing the support of companies whose bottom line is more important than the welfare of their commodities AND their employees- that realization is just really indescribable and empowering. I think so often we underestimate the impact that we as consumers (primarily women) can have on real, meaningful change, so it’s been really encouraging to see all of the recent interest and innovation in plant-based nutrition and I’m excited to be associated with this new, more compassionate way of living.

J: Blogging, as we all know, is an oversaturated market. Even with all of your new content and lifestyle changes, how do you keep yourself separate from the rest?

E: Blogging has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done- I would argue even more frustrating than changing my diet 180 degrees- haha! I’ve dealt with many periods of discouragement and still struggle with this. Something that I constantly have to remind myself is to remember why I started. And I know that people say this all the time, but if you truly have a passion for helping others, I think that just comes through in your content. I’ve also recently started unfollowing A LOT of people, especially fashion bloggers because it got to the point where I didn’t even recognize the people showing up on my feed anymore and I realized that I wanted my platforms to be a true community. I want to recognize and interact with people who inspire me by who they are as a person, not because they’re wearing the season’s “it” bag. Without realizing it, I let Instagram hinder my own creativity for a long time because honestly, mindlessly scrolling through perfectly staged and photo-shopped pictures all day does something to your brain on a chemical level. I still find a lot of inspiration in print magazines, probably because of my interest in editorial and commercial photography. I think it’s always nice to see things from new perspectives and since so many consumers are using social media platforms to consume fashion content these days, you could try recreating something you’ve seen recently in the pages of Vogue instead of recreating a shot that you’ve seen every other blogger post. Wherever you draw inspiration, I can’t stress how important it is to look for it offline- in nature, in an art museum, etc.

J: Is there a specific individual who has been monumental to your success? If so, who? And in what way?

E: As the kid who ate Pop-Tarts for lunch in high-school, I never would have thought I’d be influencing people to make healthy choices, but here I am and I owe it mostly to April Kensington, who was the catalyst for all of this change because she first inspired me to clean up my beauty routine. April is one of the most genuinely kind humans I’ve ever known. She’s a mom, business-owner, girl-boss, and an amazing friend. I feel like we have been each other’s cheerleaders throughout the process of building our own brands and I can’t imagine going down this path without April’s friendship, guidance, and encouragement. She is truly the real deal and I’m so excited to watch her store, Be Pure Beauty, grow and flourish.

J: We all have one book, blog, or podcast that we’d recommend to others as a “must” check out. What is that for you? 

E: “How Not to Die” by Michael Greger has been my nutrition bible and is now why I lean on the plant-based side of veganism. The book is very dense and I recommend the audio book if you’re a slow reader like me. I love following Dr. Greger’s work in the book and also on and his podcast because he only covers “evidence based nutrition”, i.e. he and his team pour over every nutrition study and present the findings to you in an unbiased and easy to understand way. This book will change how you think about food and nutrition when you learn the ways in which your diet can prevent AND reverse ALL fifteen of the top causes of premature death in the U.S. He also has a great cookbook based on his findings in “How Not to Die”.

There are a handful of green beauty bloggers out there right now, but I really resonate with Amanda of The Organic Bunny. She began with just her blog, but now has an amazing online store filled with her favorite products, which are all clean, high-performing, and glamorous. Her mission is to show that green beauty can still be glamorous, which I love, because I’m never givin’ up all the glam no matter how crunchy I become, haha!

I go through phases with podcasts, listening to five old episodes the day I find a new one I love, then forgetting all about it a month later. Haha! I always listen to the Nutrition Facts Podcast, but I’ve recently discovered the Rich Roll Podcast and while the episodes are a little lengthy, the guests are amazing and Rich has great, meaningful responses and questions. Also, the Goop Podcast recently launched and they’re only two episodes in, but I’m already loving it. Gwenyth (Paltrow, the founder of Goop) interviewed Oprah for the first episode and it was so full of gold.

J: I find most people have a mantra or words that resonate with them. Do you have a motto you repeat to yourself daily?

E: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” has always been an encouraging quote that reminds me of my “why” whenever I feel overwhelmed or discouraged.

And I'm excited to share the newest phase of her journey--Emily is moving with her beau and pup to NYC in May! I'm so happy to have met up with her again and was able to interview her before she moves. Keep an eye out for what's up next with this lovely lady, because big things are sure to be on the horizon.

Want to keep up with Emily online? 

You can read Emily's blog and learn more about her at her website. Emily is also on Facebook and Instagram.


The Most Vital Thing Your Website Needs

Did you know that it takes .03 seconds for someone to decide whether or not to purchase your product or service when visiting your website?

I'm a little more forgiving than that, personally, but this means that you have a very narrow window to impress that potential client or consumer before they move on to your competitor.

Obviously, it's important to have a well designed, easy to navigate site; but, do you want to know the most vital thing your website needs?

Get ready for it.

Your website needs to have a clearly articulated 'About' page that introduces you, the owner, tells your company's story, and explains in a succinct way how you can serve that client or consumer.

More often than not, I leave a website when their 'About' page is empty or a basic reiteration of what's on the main page. If I can't get to know the face behind the business or even see a real person attached to a brand, then I'm not invested. On the other hand, when there is a face, a well written bio, or an interesting story behind how the company got started, I'm way more in tuned to what they do and who they are. It cultivates brand loyalty. 

So, quit losing business, because you don't want to be in front of the camera or talk about yourself! People don't buy from businesses, they buy from people, and they want to know about you and your story.

With all of that being said, I leave you with five easy tips for a better 'About' page:

1. Have a clear, well-lit, and professional headshot (not a selfie!). 

2. Break up text. Don't just write one long paragraph after the other; make it interesting for the reader to follow your 'About' by using headlines, body text, as well as Bold or Italics to make certain items stand out.

3. It doesn't have to be super personal. If you feel like writing about yourself is really hard, then just focus on the story of how you started your business or brand and go from there. You don't have to divulge every personal detail of your life to get people to like, trust, and know you.

4. Create a call-to-action. Whether it's sending them to your 'Contact Page', inviting them to 'Learn More' via your 'Services' page, or encouraging them to say hi through email, you always want to tell them where to go next, so they stay on your site longer (which means they are more likely to turn into a sale!). 

5. Explain what you do, but most importantly, share why you love what you do or how your product or service can solve a consumer's problem or make their lives easier. 

Learning To Say No In Business

Learn To Say No In Business

I've heard time and time again from other women in small business that they want to do everything and help everyone; much like them, I, too, am a self-proclaimed people-pleaser. I would accept every task or opportunity without thought for how it would affect me (especially, health-wise!), my business, family, or relationships.

Using the word 'yes' all the time is an easy path towards burnout.

 Photo by  Thought Catalog  on  Unsplash

I want to give you a few things to think about when you say yes to something instead of no:

1. Does what you said yes to serve your family? Is it worth it to be away from your family, friends, or things that bring you joy?

2. Saying yes to something means saying no the something else. Sometimes the opportunity cost is greater than the immediate opportunity directly in front of us. Perhaps we miss out on a better opportunity that would ultimately serve our lives and our businesses better.

3. Is this yes going to bring you added stress? Can you take on this task or opportunity? Do you really want to add to an already full plate?

4. Is there a financial win? If not, are there numerous other benefits that you can truly measure which will aid in saying yes?

Think about your answers. Are you starting to realize that you've said yes way too often? 

I highly recommend adding 'No' to your vocabulary; it deserves a place in your life. 
Joanne Maye
 Photo by  wu yi  on  Unsplash

Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

Just because you say no, it doesn't mean you can't continue to serve and love on others; it means that you are taking care of the time you do have for them to serve and love them well. 

Of course, when saying no, there are a few key tidbits to know:

1. You don't have to offer an explanation. 

2. Be firm. Sometimes people will try to sway you, but ultimately, you have to stand by your decision.

3. Shake off 'FOMO.' The fear of missing out get even the best of us; sometimes we need to miss out to further prioritize our lives for what we value most. If we take the time to design our lives, even better opportunities will present themselves.

4. You are setting boundaries. Some people may get upset with you, and that's okay. The people that don't respect your time probably aren't people you want to surround yourself with.

5. Be honest. Let someone know that they are important, but that you need to take time for yourself, maybe you need to schedule your meeting out a couple weeks, or perhaps you need to reschedule all together, because you've bitten off more than you can chew. Always, be honest, courteous, and respectful of other people's time and they will do the same for you.

And with all that being said, are you saying no in your business? Is this something you need to work on? What is holding you back from using the word no?


#womenwhoinspire: Ashlynn Miller, Photographer + Owner, Bluebell Photography

I'm pretty sure the first time I came across Ashlynn with Bluebell Photography, it was on Instagram. Even though she said she was 'newer' to photography, her work was that of a true pro. I was instantly drawn to the bright, ethereal quality of her photos (she is one awesome light manipulator!) as well as her appreciation for quality hair and makeup for her clients. In the end, we've worked together on many sessions over the past couple of years; it has been a true joy getting to pamper her senior girls, be a part of the collaborative process of every shoot, and watch Ashlynn inspire the young hearts of her senior model team from year to year. To book a shoot or be in awe of her photographic skills, you can follow her on Instagram or visit her ephemeral website. Here's Ashlynn.

J:  Bluebell Photography is a cute name for a photography business. Where did the name come from?

A: Bluebell is a name very personal and dear to my heart. I've always been a horse-lover, and when I was a little girl my parents bought our family this gorgeous Arabian mare - Miss Blue; the absolute best friend a little girl could ask for. I spent so many years riding, showing, and with the horses. When I started my photography business and was in search of a name, our mare passed away due to colic. I knew that Bluebell was a nod to the sweetest friend as well as my love for flowers and gardening.

J: Were you always interested in photography? How did you become a photographer?

A: I actually had no intention of ever becoming a photographer. Ha! I knew 100% I was going to be an agricultural extension agent for 4-H at some county office somewhere. So, I made the mistake of only applying to NC State for the pre-vet program. TJ, my then boyfriend, now hubby, was a Civil War re-enactor. He loves history and gets to teach the public at these events. My dad had just bought me a camera for my 18th birthday, so I grabbed it and started shooting the events. The rest is history. 

J: Did something come before photography? Do you have a degree in something else?

A: I actually applied  to NC State the day of the deadline. Guess what? They were full already. I was put on a waiting list. I had no back up plan, so I attended a community college for two years and planned to transfer. But God completely turned my plans around and I ended up going full "heart" ahead into photography building my business.

J: What types of sessions do you offer? What do you love to photograph the most?

A: I specialize in high school senior girls and weddings. My current favorite sessions have to be bridals. Holy goodness. The details in those dresses and the glow that brides have is absolutely breathtaking!

J: This blog is all about inspiring and encouraging women. Tell us, where do you garner your inspiration from or what inspires you daily?

A: I am so, so about lifting other women up because of how much I've been lifted. I've been raised into a very religious family and my sweet grandmother- MeMe has always been such a guiding heart. She prays constantly and speaks words of wisdom to me when I need them the most. I'm inspired by her faith, which in turn strengthens my faith. My business, my life, marriage- nothing would be possible without God. I would have nothing to work towards if it wasn't for His glory.

J: Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life to date and why?

A: Going right back to MeMe again! And yes, everyone calls her that. She's from a little town in Wales and has the sweetest British accent ever! My grandfather was a pastor, and she stood beside him and supported him every step of the way. When he passed 10 years ago, I never saw her dwell in sorrow for long. She lifted herself right back up and continued encouraging others. She prays without ceasing and brings laughter to every room.

J: What has been your biggest struggle as a photographer? How did you endure it (or are enduring it currently!)?

A: Holy moly! Struggles are always real. Haha! To get down in the raw and cruddy aspect of struggles, when I started photography, I struggled with convincing others that this job was going to pay off - literally. I was constantly having to get creative and find ways to raise our income as struggling newlyweds. This in turn made me doubt my worth as a creative. Hours of Instagram scrolling playing the comparing game made me want to quit so, so many times. I've had to remind myself that no one sees the world quite like I do. I am a creative mind that no one can duplicate or copy. There's no sense in trying to be the next Katelyn James or Jenna Kutcher - when the world already has those positions filled. Being yourself and doing exactly what makes my heart happy is what keeps me moving forward.

J: What does 2018 look like for you? What are your goals for the year?

A: 2018 is the year of hustle! I'm so excited to be bringing in more coastal destination sessions and focusing on my favorite cities - Charleston, Hilton Head and Savannah. A few more stylized shoots are planned than last year. I'm focusing on exactly what I want to do and the feel I want to give my brand. 

 Main Imagery and this image photographed by Cana Dunlap

Main Imagery and this image photographed by Cana Dunlap

J: How do you give back to the community or serve others currently? Any organizations or charities you are partial to?

A: I grew up with horses and was involved with 4-H many years. My mom is the leader of our local club, and my plans next year are to help her in any way I can. I remember being so little and so in love with horses and helping the community with service projects. I would love to get back to that!

J: We all have one book, blog, or podcast that we’d recommend to others as a “must” check out. What is that for you?

A: Girl, let me tell you, I've been binge listening to "The Goal Digger Podcast" by Jenna Kutcher. You can listen to every episode free on iTunes. There is not a single episode I've listened to that doesn't resonate with my soul. She talks about the hard stuff, the success, and meaning behind it all. Definitely listen to Jenna and go follow the podcast series. 

J: What is your day to day motto?

A: My daily request is that everything I do be done for God's glory. That he would find favor in my work and that I would be able to capture just a small portion of the beauty he's created in the world around us. I feel that my 2018 motto is: to hit the ground running. Hustle, baby!

J: If you could leave the readers with one piece of advice to take with them daily, to help them feel encouraged, what would it be?

A: Do whatever makes your heart happy. Do work that is unique to you and sums up your loves. Don't worry about the money. There will always be a way to turn what you love into a job. Keep on dreaming. Keep on trying. Don't ever, ever give up for what's easy. It'll be so worth it in the end.

J: Are there any other tidbits about you we should know about?

A: My husband TJ and I are doggy parents, who basically live on a farm. We've got two dogs, two cats, and chickens! The horse barn is right around the corner, too. If we aren't hanging out in Fuquay-Varina, you can find us in Charleston-soaking up the sun on a beach somewhere. We plan to have like three houses when we strike it rich. One in Charleston, one in Savannah, and then our home right here. Big dreamers, right? 

J: Where can the readers book you and keep up with your community?

A: You can keep up with me on Instagram at @bluebellphoto. [As well as] my website and blog