Journey to Business Partnership - Part 3
Sometime about 11-12 years ago, when I lived and worked as an event planner in Georgia while my husband finished his PhD program, I decided that I wanted to start a business. These days, every third young person you meet says the same thing (after all, we are the millennial generation!), but at the time, those words, "I am going to start my own business" felt huge and foreign - both to me and to many of my family and friends. One thing I knew for sure, I wanted to be grounded and experienced in business and sales before launching an event planning and design business. With that goal in mind, once my husband finished school and we found out we were moving to San Antonio, Texas, I immediately began applying for jobs in the special events industry. Instead of merely applying for planning or design positions, I wanted to be sure I worked on the venue or vendor side of the industry. I did not immediately start a business. I firmly believe this step was vital to the early and continued success of Rebecca Rose Events. When the Hyatt Regency San Antonio offered me a position as a Catering Sales Manager, I jumped at it! The next three years were a whirlwind of exhilaration...and exhaustion.
As a Catering Sales Manager I was responsible for meeting aggressive monthly and quarterly sales quotas, as well as working with each social client to plan the details of their meeting, gala, wedding or dinner party. I worked hard and did very well - but I never felt fulfilled by it. In 2008, when the economy collapsed, I worried on a daily basis, that my job would be in jeopardy. It was a tough time to be operating in the hospitality industry that was experiencing an epic nationwide slow-down and lost revenue across the board. I worked long hours and felt determined to succeed... but I was also heading home each day with an unhappy heart. I would be lying if I said there weren't a lot of tears. My hotel's management team was awesome and my boss was an absolute role model. They encouraged and supported me and I couldn't possibly be more grateful for the experience. But I desperately missed the opportunity to design event experiences and knew with more conviction than ever that the time was coming soon and I needed to start my business sooner than later.
As I started to worry about how and when I would ever be able to pursue my dream, my husband and I received some devastating news from our alma mater, Wake Forest University. We both met at Wake as members of the university's highly competitive and successful debate team. The Wake debate community and alumni are like family to us and when we learned that our beloved coach had passed away from a sudden heart attack, it shook us both to the core. At the time, my husband was the director of the debate program at Trinity University in San Antonio. We loved San Antonio. We loved it so much we had vowed we might never leave. And then the unimaginable happened... in the midst of all our sadness over the loss of our former coach, my husband was recruited to apply for his position. It was an enormous honor. In an emotional whirlwind of weeks and months, he applied, interviewed, and was offered the job. After some prayerful consideration, we put our charming San Antonio home (that we loved, loved, loved!) on the market and prepared to relocate to North Carolina. We both knew that it was now or never... it was time for me to officially launch Rebecca Rose Events in our new hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
In the summer of 2010, RRE was officially born and I was off to the races. I had carefully crafted a business plan and then proceeded to beat my own timeline by leaps and bounds. It was hard work... really hard. In the beginning there was little to no pay and my husband and I made some big sacrifices to allow me to invest myself fully in this dream. Looking back, I can't really put a value on the love, drive, and sweat equity that went into the humble beginnings of this little business. RRE had my heart many years before it was ever a reality and it still does.
As Betsy shared in her story, we reconnected in May of 2013 and the timing was perfect. (If you didn't read her post from yesterday yet, you really need to now!) RRE was growing and my team of freelancers and interns and I were handling some very large-scale events, but I was working around the clock, non-stop. I had hit the moment that every woman in entrepreneurship encounters, where I wondered things like... "will I ever be able to have a family?" and "how could I ever take a maternity leave without leaving my clients in the lurch?" I had also hit a pivotal turning point in my career where I realized that I wanted to step back from planning and logistics to focus more fully on aesthetics and design. I was finally able to admit to myself that I was an artist, and not a planner. I could plan event exceptionally well and was trained to do so - but my gifts and natural talents were in the design realm. But how could I pull off a huge transition like that without jeopardizing the company I had worked so hard to build?
Making the decision to share your life's greatest work and passion with someone else is an incredibly difficult thing. It is not to be taken lightly. Betsy and I started seriously talking about a business partnership in May, but it was August before she moved to NC and we signed the papers. It was important to both of us to do things carefully and thoughtfully - if at all. I told her from the beginning that we had to treat it like a marriage. If someone wasn't right for either one of us, we needed to be willing to walk away before making the commitment. We interviewed attorneys and hired one that we knew would ensure we weren't cutting any corners. We had months of tough conversations and developed careful strategies for how to operate successfully as a team. Many people in my life advised me against taking on a business partner. Many. But those who knew me best and had the best understanding of the specific situation knew that I was the only one who could make such an important decision, and I was the only one who could get it "right". I chose "yes". Betsy and I signed a carefully structured agreement that established benchmarks for measuring success and exit strategies to protect us both if something went wrong. But here's the thing...in the end, a decision like this can't just be about finances. It has to be about an investment of trust.
We have co-owned and operated Rebecca Rose Events (and it's little sister brand, Rebecca Rose Creative) for nearly three years now. Betsy oversees all planning, operations, coordination, logistics, staffing and financial accounting. I oversee all sales, marketing, event design, floral design, graphic design, and styling. We each devote our strengths to our business and to our clients, and it works. It works well. We are both fulfilled and happy.
The timing of this post seems almost too perfect, as my husband and I wait for only two more days before we meet our little baby girl (induction is scheduled for this weekend)! Special thanks to my dear friend, photographer Nancy Ray, for convincing me to do a mini maternity photo session with her recently - even as a late third-trimester (read: awkwardly large, swollen, and uncomfortable!!!) pregnant lady. I promise to share more from that session later!
It has been a long road to get to this moment. Years of worrying about whether this would ever even happen for me are all in the past now. As I head into the next season of life as a mother, my goal is to embrace it for all of its inevitable imperfectness, and be thankful to have all that has been given to me: a growing family, a loving marriage, a thriving business, and a career that allows me to do what I love. Business partnership makes those last two items possible for me in so many ways. Over the next couple months, I'm leaning on Betsy like never before, knowing that she'll steer the ship while I'm on maternity leave. I trust her completely and am so thankful to be able to do so.
Partnership isn't for everyone... in fact I would say that it isn't for most people. If you're an entrepreneur considering a partnership and want to talk more about it, reach out and let's chat about it more in a one-on-one coaching session! I'll be back in the saddle later this summer after maternity leave, and look forward hearing from you.