Growing up, I didn't really watch afternoon cartoons, but I DO remember watching Oprah after school every day. Every. Single. Day. (What 7-year old watches Oprah? Lol.) I remember feeling her passion for what she did through the screen. She was inspiring. She was confident in what she had to offer the world. And I mean...if I can just be honest, she was a BOSS. But building that empire wasn't easy..and I'm sure, just like many others, Auntie O (yes, she's my aunt in my head. judge me. don't care. lol) had plenty of bumps and bruises along the way as well on her way to the top. In "O" Magazine, Oprah often has a column somewhere in the pages entitled "What I Know For Sure." In this article, she shares messages that she has learned in business, personally, and life in general. This particular post will be just that... Things that I know for SURE...and I can only speak on it because I've lived it, I've learned it, and most importantly, I've grown from it.. Transparency 101. *deep breath*

When starting a business years ago, I will admit that I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. Ok, granted I knew the basics and I understood the concept, but knowing it, and DOING it are two ENTIRELY different things.  Transitioning from Corporate America to being a full-time entrepreneur was...interesting, to say the least. The corporate 9-5 world is an ENTIRELY different aspect as opposed to the world of entrepreneurship. I'm a firm believer of the #SharingIsCaring concept... Whether it's a tidbit of knowledge, a great sale, a new makeup product, a recipe or simply a word of encouragement, I love sharing with others what I know and what I've learned along the way. Now...there is definitely a disclaimer to this post...I DO not know it all...I DO not have it all down, but I DO know what has and has not worked for me...so today I've decided to share just a few valuable lessons that I've learned as an entrepeneur;) The good thing is, my nuggets don't solely apply to just photography, they can be used in many fields, whether you are climbing your way up the success ladder or even if you're a budding business owner.. Don't hold me to these tips, but hopefully, you may find a small bit of knowledge and apply it where necessary:) That being said, I present to you...'"What I Know For SURE."

1. There is no Secret Formula.  

...because in reality, there isn't. No shortcuts. Starting (and growing) a business takes work. Lots of it. One step at a time. Initially, I knew that I'd have to put time, effort, and capital into my company, but I don't think I realized HOW much time, HOW much effort, and HOW much capital was required. I was up for the task, but I'd soon find out that every day wouldn't be smooth sailing. It definitely took some adjusting. It was a one-woman show. I was the secretary, the assistant, the photographer, the note-taker. the boss, and..and..and...all rolled up into one person, me. Eek! Those early days were brutal, however I also had some REALLY good days. I captured some REALLY sweet moments, and most importantly, I learned REALLY valuable lessons.

2. Write a business plan.

So...since we're laying it ALL out here..(covers face), my truth is that I didn't have a written business plan in the beginning. Terrible, right? I know..I know...Which is the reason I'm almost CERTAIN I write EVERYTHING down these days. Yes, I knew what I wanted to do, I knew (somewhat) what I wanted to offer, I knew how much I thought I should be making...I had it all figured out. Or so I thought. But you see a business plan will help you to ensure that you are effectively communicating the vision for your company as well as outlining the plans to achieve your goals. It's a clear method of seeing which measures you need to take to secure the success of your endeavors...and plus it just always helps (for me, at least) to SEE your vision on paper and to work towards bringing that to life.

3. Provide excellent customer service.

Give your all EVERY time. Leave the customer with a lasting impression EACH time they come in contact with your company. I'm a people person, so naturally, interacting with clients is always a part I enjoy, but even still, I try to always go above and beyond. Are they satisfied from the very first interaction all the way through the end?  Am I prompt with communication? Am I timely? Am I pleasant? Am I consistently delivering quality goods? All things to constantly keep in mind when dealing with your consumers:) I love working directly with the customer, hearing their desires and providing that very thing to them (and hopefully exceeding their expectations at the same time). What do your clients say about you when you're not around? What does your character represent?

4. Don't take it personal. (Easier said than done, right?)

Whew......... I could write a BOOK on this one. Personal and business interactions are 2 ENTIRELY different things. You have to be able to clearly distinguish the difference . Over the years, there have been numerous situations where I didn't necessarily like what a colleague did, but I understood their method because they were doing what may have been best for their business at the time. And THAT, I understand fully. The reality? Well, the reality is that being an entrepreneur, running a business, and climbing the ladder of success takes guts...and tough skin. But you've GOT this! Re-adjust. Re-assess. Keep going;)

T'mil Curtis, entertainment industry expert, sums it up perfectly by adding that being an entrepreneur your feelings and emotions should not dictate your ability to preform, produce, prepare and or present. Couldn't have said it better myself:) (Thanks, T'Mil!)

5. Lastly...STAY THE COURSE.

Seriously. There will certainly be good days in business and in building, but if you're anything like me, there will also be those days where you're just unsure of what to do, and how to do it. And frankly, there may even be a time where you can't see past your current view. But STAY THE COURSE. Remember why you started. Remember the plan. Remember the goal. 

Gina Miller, music industry executive, motivational speaker, friend, encourager, my godmother (and so much more..) quoted something SO GOOD yesterday that stuck with me and I thought it was too good not to share with you dreamers as well;) "The building blocks of your legacy, what will be left and said when you finish, begins today! Dreaming it is one thing. However, there won't be anything to talk about, celebrate and leave later, if you don't start, stay determined and disciplined to building it now."  (Thanks for sharing, G!) Gosh....Isn't that good?!

Stay the course, guys and dolls. You're closer than you think:) Again, these tips may not work for everyone and/or every unique situation, but hopefully you can take a few nuggets away for yourself, and we can all continue on this journey of development, growth, business, success, and more...

Have a great day, Dreamers!

Until next time,