Writer, Alexandra Brown has been sidetracked by all kinds of distractions: college, marriage, career, and motherhood. With a diagnosis of hypomania, stopping to smell the roses includes an idea to breed a new strain. Alex suffers from a constant creative influx of ideas – most of which she takes the time (and resources) to explore.
Romantic Shorts is the culmination of all of these experiences, demanding all of Alex's strengths, and – magically – avoiding virtually all of her weaknesses! Specialties: In no particular order: creativity, building design, and construction, writing, woodworking (unique furniture design), publishing, storytelling, painting, cooking, budgeting, family.
Find out how this mom turned her wide variety of passions into a business that revolves around them all.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
I’ve often said that having my first child changed my life. But having my second child, a beautiful baby girl, who needed open-heart surgery at five months of age, and is now beating the odds that Down Syndrome set in her way, changed me.
I quit my cushy job as a Building Official after twelve years to be a stay-at-home mom of two, and life was never the same again. With the most understanding (and gullible?) husband in the world, I had the opportunity to try my hand at any creative idea that came my way.
And there were plenty!
Five years later – in for a penny, in for a pound, the big guy always said – we adopted three more children, and my life turned into the chaos it remains today.
But it was the day the two youngest spent their first whole day away in the first grade; six hours of pure, silent, heavenly bliss, that I realized I had to start thinking about life post-kids. I realized I'd be going from 180 to 0 in a heartbeat. And if I didn’t start preparing now, it was going to hurt.
What did you do before launching your own business?
I painted my first mural for my first nursery. It was pretty good. I figured if I could do that, I could paint a room. If I could paint a room, I could move a wall and drywall it. Of course, if I could drywall a wall, I could gut and renovate a house. Each success led to something bigger – something I’d never considered before. Looking back – my first just turned 18 – I am astonished at the furniture, novels, projects, and children I’ve created.
But on that momentous day that I decided to choose my new career path, I drew a mural-sized blank. If I could do anything I wanted, what would it be? There were too many choices.
So I sat at the new dining table I'd just built, covered it with a paper tablecloth, and began the journey to review my future. I drew a four-square grid, and labeled each square:
- What I’m good at
- What I’m NOT good at
- What I like
- What I DON’T like
It was just as important to consider the NOTS and DON’TS as it was the GOODS. Decisions were far more clear and comfortable after taking the time to eliminate as much of the junk as I could.
I considered every idea I could think of, but it was in reviewing my old idea drawer that I realized where I was going. Back when I was deciding on a college path, I'd thought of taking some of my writing ideas and publishing a magazine of short, half-hour romantic stories. I was going to call it “Nooners,” and I had designed covers and written a few stories.
At the time, the idea ended up in the drawer due to the ridiculous cost of starting up a magazine. Now, however, the Internet had changed all the rules of that game. And my decision was made.
My first glitch came on the first day. I Googled ‘Nooners.’ Then I spent the next two weeks coming up with a new name, a logo, and a brand. The rest is quickly becoming history.
How did you fund your business?
The highly underappreciated bank of husband.
The website start-up costs have been well within my comfortable spending limits. It's now, though, that I’m finally in a place where I am able/want/need to start a viable advertising program. I want to pay my writers. To attract more writers. To attract more readers. To attract more advertisers. To attract more writers… A Catch-33 if you will.
How many hours do you work a week, and how much is spent in your home office?
My little start-up has turned into a full-time gig. I can spend anywhere from 2-12 hours a day at the computer, in my home office, actually turning the gears, oiling the joints, and making repairs. Then there are the hours every week that I spend waiting – doctors’ appointments, the orthodontist, baseball, swimming, part-time jobs – for one kid or another. With Shaunessy (my iPhone) and a good data plan, I’m constantly tweeting, posting, connecting, searching, reading, meeting, editing, replying.
It’s a good thing I really wanted to do this. If I hadn’t decided on an idea that really floats my boat, I’d be ripping my hair out by now, instead of excitedly jumping out of bed at 6:15 this morning because I had interview answers bouncing around the brain!
How would you rate your success?
There are as many measures of success as there are hairs on my head.
I've spent at least one hour every single day since I decided to do this, doing something – anything – to move it along. This brings a slight grin of pride.
I have learned things – web design, editing, social media, … – That I never knew existed, didn’t want to learn, didn’t think I could learn, and mastered many of them. This is a personal accomplishment.
I've developed relationships with so many people around the world. So many strangers have stepped up to lend a hand and become friends in the process. As a former paranoid introvert, this is nothing short of miraculous – and a great source of joy!
I didn’t start this to get rich. I wanted to create something from nothing. I wanted to help other writers boost their careers. I wanted to provide great entertainment value for readers. I wanted to give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to promote their businesses.
Now, looking at what it’s become and where it can go, I have to revisit my goals and direction. Now that I have a product, a niche, and a customer, it’s time to see what this baby can really do.
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
Being a one-woman show is probably the biggest challenge. I now have several colleagues and friends who have been involved enough that I can bounce ideas around and get some really great feedback. But until I realized that – and realized that that was possible! I was ultimately out there on my own. It takes a lot of determination and confidence to keep going when the world is looking at you sideways and wondering if it should step in and have you committed.
There is a world of support out there. Finding the right support is the hard part.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
I have a plaque on my wall. I painted it after my daughter had recovered from her heart surgery, and I was looking at a baby I knew nothing about – didn’t even want to learn about. Nobody wants to learn about Down Syndrome. A mom makes a lot of promises to her new child – to protect, to love, to help, to teach – no matter what. But this one was beyond anything I was prepared to deal with. Still, I made those promises, knowing I could never break them and having no idea how I would manage that.
But the words that came to me, as I spoke those words to her, were these:
“From the moment that I decide, ‘I will,’ it does not matter that, ‘I can’t.’”
That one sentence has made all the difference.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
With humor. Lots of it. Take the time to stop and laugh. Dance in the kitchen and lay in the sun. Watch for the special moments in life, and stop to enjoy them. It’s not the planned activities that bring the most joy. It’s noticing that your children are all laughing in the next room, and taking advantage of the moment to stop and watch them, join in. Work will still be there. And nothing has astounded me more than the reaction of someone who’s been trying to get hold of me, when I tell them, “I’m sorry. I had to play with my kids.”
Thanks to Alexandra Brown for sharing her story!
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