About two months ago, I was a vendor at The Lovesick Expo here in Los Angeles. The Lovesick Expo is a wedding show for alternative couples, and they feature suitably alternative wedding vendors. Co-produced by Ariel of Offbeat Bride, the expo tours around the country, and this year, Los Angeles was on the tour for the first time.
Having experienced some mainstream bridal shows last year as a vendor, I knew I was DONE with regular wedding shows. They are just so icky, you guys. The day (literally THE DAY) Lovesick started accepting vendor applications, I applied. I emailed my application before I could talk myself out of it. And then I waited.
The doubts started immediately. Chief among them was, What if I’m not “offbeat” enough?
Here’s the truth: I, Renée, am not really offbeat at all. Nothing about me looks offbeat. I have average brown hair, no tattoos, and just one piercing in each ear. My favorite designer is Kate Spade, and if I could, I would dress myself head to toe in Ann Taylor. My own wedding was a pretty traditional affair.
The only thing that is offbeat about me and my business is that I LOVE non-traditional weddings. As a wedding planner, I want to plan unique and meaningful celebrations for my couples that reflect who they are as a team. If that vision includes rocket ships or a beer pong table, who am I to judge? Also, I am very pro marriage equality. I guess in wedding world this leaves me just left of center? I hope one day, that isn’t the reality.
A few weeks later, I was accepted to the Lovesick Expo. I was able to put my doubts and fears on the back burner. After all, there were still six months until the show – I had plenty of time to figure out my booth design, marketing strategy, giveaway idea, and obviously, my suitably offbeat outfit.
Do you know how fast six months feels when you’re working on and growing your own business? It feels more like 6 days.
Cut to February 14th. I’m attending my good friends’ Galentine’s Party, and she asks me how my Lovesick planning is going. I told her my booth decor idea and she said, “No. Not offbeat enough.” Uh-oh. Back to the drawing board.
I drove over to Target after the party, bought all the best tissue paper I could find, and ran home to start Plan B decor: tassels. Who doesn’t love tassels, especially gold polka dot tassels?
I wish I could tell you that I busted out all the tassels in one day, but that would be a lie. Tassel making is time-consuming! Note to all DIY brides: Start your tassels early! It took me three days, six packages of tissue paper and lots of hot glue gun sticks to make all the tassels I wanted – about 75 total.
I spent so much time & energy on the tassels that the other aspects of my booth got waylaid. Who needs a backdrop or printed materials when you’ve got tassels? Um. FAIL. Here’s my to-do list from 2 DAYS before the expo:
Stop freaking out. An apt note to myself that day. I was so overcome with nerves that I was procrastinating like it was my job; and I had given myself a stomach ache. I debated cancelling the whole thing, and forfeiting my investment. “I CANNOT DO THIS!”, said the voice in my head that sounds like fear. “Shut up. You’re doing it.”, said my husband, aka Bob the Builder.
Soon, enough Expo Day arrived. I successfully packed up All The Things and off I went, with Bob the Builder and my friend/assistant, Kristie in tow.
We constructed our booth, I put on some glittery sneakers (the extent of my offbeat attire) and we began! Before we knew what hit us, the day was over! We spoke to well over 200 people, successfully signed up most of them to my free e-book, we gave out all the Square Treats (thanks, Tanya!) and then we went to get Chinese food. As you do.
The Lovesick Expo did not kill me. Putting together all the elements of the booth did not kill me. Talking non stop for five hours did not kill me (who are we kidding, that part is my favorite). No one said, “Oh, you’re not offbeat enough!” and walked away laughing. This day made me stronger.
Being a small business owner is challenging in so many ways, but I have found that “putting myself out there” may be the most challenging aspect for me. I’m naturally very outgoing, so I think most people who know me would assume that it’s easy. But I put so much pressure on myself to make sure everything is perfect, that sometimes I become paralyzed by my own high standards. Every business decision has to be worth it; there isn’t a huge advertising or marketing budget that can be squandered. Every penny counts. Every decision counts. Everything has to be perfect. It’s exhausting, you guys.
Lessons learned? I learned that wedding shows aren’t so bad and they are even better when you surround yourself with good people. I learned that tassel-making takes FOREVER but you probably need less tassels than you think. I learned you can hem an Ikea curtain with duck tape. I learned that I can speak non-stop for a solid five hours.
Mostly, I learned that you cannot grow and thrive if you do not engage with the world outside your office. No one ever took over the world sitting at home talking to their cat.
I know that the more I put myself out there, they easier my (sometimes lofty) goals will be to achieve. My advice to anyone stuck in a perfection paralysis is this: BETTER DONE THAN PERFECT.
It’s a statement I am going to repeat to myself when I feel myself getting caught up in a perfection spiral. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Anyone else out there struggle with putting yourself out there? Or perfection paralysis? I’d love to hear how you deal – let me hear from you in the comments!