Fear Less Series | Chapter 4 – Sparrow Weddings
Welcome to Chapter 4 of The Fear Less Series where we chat with Emma over at Sparrow Weddings on all the good things in business like trying to get your friends or family to stop reflecting their fear onto you, big signs from the universe just when you need them and setting business boundaries to keep you happy (and sane!) while still keeping your customers smiling.
Chapter 4: Sparrow Weddings
This chapter explores the fears of keeping future business, reflection of fear from others and fear under pressure.
14 minutes estimated reading time.
Tell us a little bit about what you do and your business.
I was a travel planner for a long time, so my journey to be a wedding planner was a bit different. I wanted to be a wedding planner around 10 years ago but I did some research and there wasn’t much market for it in Adelaide, my kids were really little, and it just felt too hard at the time.
So I continued to work in travel until around 5 years ago when I wasn’t happy in that job anymore. The wedding planner idea then came back to me, so I did 2 years of study part-time so I was qualified and started Sparrow Weddings on the side.
It started to take off really well, and I got about 6 months in before I turned to my husband one night and said we might have to decide soon whether I quit my job and take on Sparrow Weddings full time.
The very next day, I walked into work and had a conversation with my boss who very apologetically announced that he had to make me redundant.
Oh wow! How is that for timing?
I just went – this is the sign!
Holy crap! That’s amazing.
It was pretty amazing at the time. I was like, “Don’t feel bad, this is a good thing!”
So that was 2 years ago, and Sparrow Weddings has been full time ever since.
Do you have a team or are you a one woman show?
I’m mostly a one woman show, although I’ve got an assistant who’s worked with me on wedding days from the very beginning. She is – oh my god – I just could not do it without her. She’s freaking wonderful!
Then as we’ve grown in the last 6 months, we’ve taken on a third person who is with us on days when we have a heavy workload. We’ll also have the need for a couple more coming up later this year as we’re now taking on larger jobs and double bookings for the same day.
It’s pretty exciting, but it’s also scary every time these decisions happen.
Yes, it’s like entering that next level and going – ‘oh, this is all new again!’
Well this is what you plan and what you dream about. It feels really wonderful when it happens but it brings up all these decisions you’ve never had to think about before that are hard. Especially, when there’s no background in events or wedding planning in my family growing up so it’s all just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks.
I think sometimes that’s the best way to go about things.
I’ve spent a lot of time training myself to think, “What is the worst that can happen here?”
If it’s not that bad, take a step back and just do it.
It’s a great motto to live by. So, how do you currently feel about your business?
I love it. I feel so empowered that I can make these decisions for myself, make the rules and decide how it’s going to be. It doesn’t have to be the same as every other business and I don’t have to follow the traditional route if I don’t want to and that isn’t what works for us.
It’s very freeing to have that power, but *laughs* “with great power comes great responsibility!” but I truly, truly love the results. You get in the trenches there, and some days it’s so hard – you work, stress and panic – then that moment arrives where the couple walks in and sees their vision come to life in front of them and everything is worth it.
That would be such an amazing moment to be able to witness over and over again.
It’s such a high for myself and such a privilege to be invited into that moment. To see people be ‘happily ever after’ so many times. It’s beautiful.
What was a scary step, early in your business that now seems small and insignificant?
Oh god – everything!
Registering a business name. That should be really simple and not scary because you don’t even have to tell anyone that you did it! But every time I did a step like that, it felt more real.
Then I’ve just kept kidding myself along. Come on – just do this one little thing… just one more.
Done is better than perfect. Then before I knew it, it was building up and I had to make it a thing, otherwise all that work would’ve been wasted.
Has there been any other aspect of your business that has scared, stopped or held you back in some way – even now?
Perhaps in the way we just spoke about where each time it pivots or grows, you have to make different decisions about business things that you haven’t had to consider before. I do really want to see it keep going, and make it into the business I dreamed about.
Now this sounds a little self-involved, but I keep amazing myself with what I can do. These are all things I never imagined for myself that feel really good.
I think you bring on those responsibilities and whenever you get to one of those plateaus where you’re a little bit comfortable, the next big job comes along as you just grow and grow and grow. Sometimes, you wonder when it’s going to stop!
Yeah, and will there come a time where I can’t handle it or think just how far can this go? What am I comfortable with and do I want it to go forever or do I want to find a spot where I’m happy to keep it.
It feels almost like a forever journey at the moment.
Yes! It’s just learning every day. We learn something for every event we put on and it’s right down to the little things to really big, “Okay, that’s a next step for Sparrow!” type thing.
I think a lot of the fears maybe come from the people as well.
As in, their fears reflect onto you?
In the beginning, I didn’t tell very many people what I was doing, because while I’m not that person that shouts about myself anyway, I find it really difficult – and it’s probably my biggest challenge – to talk about my business.
I told one person who I was really close to and she meant well but it completely deflated me and like we said – all her fears and insecurities on how she would feel doing that, she totally put onto me.
I started to think, “Maybe I am being stupid, maybe I can’t do this, this is a dumb idea…” and it took me quite a while to pick up from that and keep going.
I just learned you can’t take on other people’s opinions. This is my thing and I’ll do it my way.
I think the other thing is, when you work for yourself and all of your friends or family don’t, it’s so hard to get across how you are feeling or how things work when they don’t get it. They tell you all these things to be helpful, and I’m thankful for them wanting to care, but it usually doesn’t help. *laughs*
Especially when they say – “You did it wrong.”
Yes, and you’re like – “Thank you very much!” *laughs*
That’s why SA Woman is amazing. That’s the squad in my life that encourages me and lets me know I’m on the right track and gets excited for me.
How does fear affect you? Emotionally or physically or both?
A bit of both.
It’s quite a physical reaction to start off with – the knots in the stomach and the whole, “put it off and do fun things for a while and don’t think about that until you have to put your big girl pants on.” I can feel myself mentally pushing through it and I have to make that conscious decision to say no, this is what needs to happen, and you’re the only that can do it.
It’s so important to recognise that conscious decision to literally tell yourself off in your head and be like, “Do this thing and stop whinging!”.
Because you bloody well can!
You’re capable of so much more than you think and when you get to prove it to yourself, it’s incredible. It affects all other parts of your life in such a positive way. I hope my daughter is seeing that actually, that she knows she can do whatever she wants.
100%. Running your own business, making all these decisions, being brave and confident – that’s totally going to reflect on your kids and they’ll see that and be like, “Wow, my mum is so cool! I want to be like her when I grow up.”
I hope she thinks that!
People say, “You’re so brave to be doing this,” to me quite a lot, I don’t think of myself that way at all. I just wanted to reach a place where I was happy every day.
This is what makes me happy so I just make myself do the hard bits because happiness is the payoff.
That’s where I find it so sad when I hear stories from friends or family when they’re like, “I really want to do this thing or I’m really envious of the lifestyle that you lead, I’m not happy and I hate my job…” etc but they don’t have that conscious decision to want to change or make changes to their life. So I think that’s where you can congratulate yourself – say, “Hell yeah! I did take those steps” and they were hard, but as you said, they weren’t hard enough that you couldn’t reach it so you could get that reward.
So, what kind of things do you end up doing when you’re avoiding the obstacle?
Can you guess! I get online and look at pretty wedding blogs. *laughs*
It even has a proper name – it’s called ‘media monitoring’. It’s important research to keep me up to date with trends…when I don’t want to do other stuff.
I like that. Do you put a timer on yourself?
Hell no! *laughs*
I love it.
I know I’ll get to the nasty job eventually, I just don’t want to face up to it.
Sometimes it does work in your favour when you have left it for 15 minutes or half an hour and you’ve done your ‘media monitoring’ *laughs* then you can come back and go, “I feel refreshed, I’ve looked at some pretty pictures and that’s actually sparked an idea.” So I guess, sometimes it can definitely help.
Then, seeing where you were when you first started and where you are now, what’s an aspect of your life where you’ve felt you’ve changed or become better as a result of overcoming your fear from running your business?
I have gotten much better at doing the things that please me.
When there’s a decision to be made, I’m so used to putting my own needs and feelings aside to please other people, and it makes me really unhappy a lot of the time. I go, “It’s just being nice, it’s the considerate thing to do, it’s what people expect from you,” then I went, – “You know what, no! People don’t get to expect that, they get what I’m giving today.”
Yes, and set those boundaries.
Definitely. Set those boundaries and know it’s okay to set them when it’s better for my mental health.
I find it’s also harder, especially when you’re starting out, that you do just want to please everyone and do the best job, as quick as you can with the best service as possible, but then there are those people who take advantage of that. It can then take time to recognise when that’s happening and to set those boundaries very, very quickly.
Absolutely, just this week I put my prices up-
-well done! I just need to say yes to this!
Thank you. It was one of the scariest things.
I was like, “What if no one ever books me again, what if people complain?” Then I was like, “No! My assistants are almost getting paid more than me on a wedding day and that’s not okay!”
We did the same thing, and I think we’re still asking ourselves those same questions! But we’re still here, still breathing and none of those evil thoughts have materialised.
Good, so we can chat again in a couple of months and say, “Go us, it’s fine!”
Yep, “We were so silly. Stop being idiots and keep getting your work done!” *laughs*
What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who is trying to overcome fear in their business?
Something I use a lot is, “Done is better than perfect.”
I know it’s a common one, but it’s about not putting things off with the silly reason of, “I haven’t got that quite right or I’m not sure how that’s exactly going to work,” and using that as an excuse.
It’s done, and that’s so much better than perfect. You can make it perfect later. Throw it out there first and see what happens.
The other thing I use a lot is,
“Don’t stop until you’re proud.”
Oh! I haven’t heard that one before. I like that!
Yeah! What that means for me is, if I’m designing the wedding day for someone or I’m literally on the ground on the day putting it together and I’m a bit scared to go the extra mile because that might be too much or wrong or whatever, I stop myself, look around and ask, “Am I proud of this yet?” – if no, then there’s more I can do.
I think subconsciously, I’ve done that with my designs but I’ve never put it into those words and I know the feeling, but you’ve literally gone and summarised that for me. I really like that!
So, what are some ways that you coax yourself through fear?
I’m not sure I’m real good at this yet, but, I go back and look through my good reviews.
Oh! That’s so good!
Or sometimes, I’ll ring my sister and literally say, “Tell me how good I am!” *laughs*
Oh that’s amazing too! We actually started a business gratitude journal where as soon as someone had said something nice in an email or a message, we recorded it in our book as a summary of amazing things to encourage us on the crap days.
Yeah, and do you know what else helps me and it’s completely out of my control but on the day if I’m feeling really scared or I’m on the site of a really big job and there’s a lot of moving parts – people, because I’m in charge of the site, other people come up to me and ask, “What do I do about this, what do you want to do about that?” and it just makes me stop and think, “I am in charge and they respect that.”
It gives you that extra boost of confidence.
Do you think moving through fear or working with fear is necessary to grow in business?
My gosh, I’m only four years in and I wouldn’t have gone this far without pushing through that stuff and like we said, the things that scared me in that first year are nothing now.
It’s all about perspective.
If other things go wrong in your life at the time, it can make some things worse than they really are, and you just have to separate those bad things out and just deal.
That’s a big one. I think the lines do get blurred when you’re running your own business – to separate your personal life from your business life – but we try.
I think it’s because we put all our heart into it. It’s a part of you, you’ve built it yourself, it’s not anything without you so of course it’s emotional.
Definitely. So, what’s your current relationship with fear and your business at the moment?
I feel like I’m picking fears off at the moment actually!
Good on you – yes! That’s what I like to hear!
It’s definitely up and down, this rollercoaster life!
I do have such a good support network now. My immediate family is right around me, I have the SA Woman girls when I need them, and you know what – that’s my other big tip – build a big support network. They’re out there and they want to help you, you just have to ask.
Yes, that is huge. Not enough people take advantage of that. They think their questions are silly or that no one is going to listen but like you said at the start – what is the worst that can happen? You ask a question and no one answers…big deal! Ask another group, ask anyone else. There’s always going to be someone to help eventually.
90% of the time, I ask that question and I’m going to be no worse off. What are you worried about?
What is The Fear Less Series?
There is strength in fear, if you know where to look.
The Fear Less Series aims to open a conversation and help women in business draw strength from their fears.
To help grow their own business, or find a connection with women going through similar thoughts and processes to better themselves every single day.
Last time we spoke with Emma from Fusion Accountants for Chapter 3, exploring the fears of earning enough money, confidence and trying new things.