Well y’all, my secret is out. I am SO. FREAKIN. EXCITED to share with you that I am officially a FULL TIME entrepreneur! I can’t believe I even just typed those words. This is so surreal.
If you’ve followed me from the beginning of my A Little Rusty Shop days (and I mean way back when I was selling lace covered mason jars…bless my heart) or even if you’re new around here and just started following along recently, you’ve probably heard me talk about my journey a little bit. But you likely don’t know the whole story, so here it goes.
In 2013 I started “A Little Rusty Shop” with big dreams of opening my own store one day. I love antiques and unique finds However what started out as a way for me to go “junkin'” (one of my favorite things to do to this day) and flip the items I found, ended up with me wanting to keep 90% of my finds! I realized after a while, that my boyfriend couldn’t call me a hoarder anymore if I rented it all – HA. 😉 This was around the time that specialty rental companies were becoming more popular in the US, and I’d noticed that the Eastern Shore didn’t have a vintage/specialty rental company. So ALRS Rentals was born.
ALRS holds a very special place in my heart. It was my first solo venture as an entrepreneur. My family and friends helped me out a TON, but it was my first dream I seriously pursued. I loved every second of scouring for new and unique vintage finds. I longed for the days I got to go to “work” setting up beautiful lounge areas and details for my clients on their wedding days, parties, or events (I say “work” because it never felt like work to me – I loved every second). I’m a perfectionist who loves to decorate, so it was perfect for me.
However I also had a full time job, and I took on too much. While my family and friends were helpful beyond words, it was MY business. It all fell on my shoulders. When there were days I couldn’t find anyone to help me, it was me lifting my old heavy couches out of the small room in my parents barn, and out into my truck. By myself. I was burnt out. Beyond repair. It got so bad, and I am ashamed to admit this, but I stopped responding to emails. I couldn’t mentally deal with the thought of renting anymore. I was constantly stressed out. Always on edge, and felt like I couldn’t catch up with my own life. It was a bad time for me mentally. In 2017, what would have ended up being the most profitable year for ALRS, I made the tough decision to close. And my oh my am I so happy I did that. Keep reading and you’ll see why..
ALRS opened up amazing doors for me. It connected me with some incredible business owners, clients, and friends. It also gave me the opportunity to utilize my love of photography. Something I had kept to myself my entire life. I have always loved taking pictures. My Mom had a DSLR when I was a kid and I used to try and swipe it so I could go explore on my farm and take pictures of random things. Or would play “photographer” with one of my friends modeling. I’ll have to find some of those picture one day – lol. However when ALRS came about, I knew I needed to start learning how to get better at photography, because I needed content. I wanted my business represented from my own point of view. The day Billy got me my first camera (Lorelei, a Nikon D5300) on Christmas Day 2016, was the day my life changed for good.
It took me months and months to work up the courage to take “real pictures” of another human being. I’d always looked up to professional photographers in this dreamy how-on-earth-do-you-make-such-magic-happen kind of way. Never ONCE considering I could do that myself. I’d started studying photography here and there as a way to take better marketing pictures for ALRS, and slowly they started to get better. Several of my friends and family members asked me when I would start taking pictures of PEOPLE. I was like excuse you? I don’t do that. Part of what kept me from moving forward sooner was that I had so many friends that were photographers. My own sister had pursued photography at one point. I never wanted to be “that friend” that was trying to do what they were doing…somehow I thought that made my dreams and desires less valid. Boy was I so wrong. I called up one of my best friends and photography idols one day, Leah Adkins, and told her my fears. She told me I was crazy and that if I wanted to do it – to DO IT. There was no reason not to. She gave me the pep talk I needed and coming from a close friend who was also a photographer, I needed to hear that. I don’t think she knows how much she helped me that day. After that, I just had to pluck up the courage to actually take pictures of PEOPLE – HA. Luckily one of my best friends stepped up to the plate. She came to me and said she’d model for me…it was about time I give it a try. I needed to just do it already. I nervously agreed. (Only because she was my friend and I knew she wouldn’t judge me if I was terrible.) I took her to a beautiful creek near where we lived, and brought one of my favorite chairs because for some reason, having something I knew better (like a chair, apparently?) made me feel better. I remember coming home from that shoot, uploading the pictures, and when I saw this one I’ve posted below, I thought “wait..I think I can do this”.
I was on cloud 9. As much as I loved my rentals, I had just enjoyed myself more than anything I’d ever done professionally. Fast forward to a couple of months later and I had dove head first into photography. I never once looked back. July 2017 was when I officially launched “Paige Elizabeth Photography” and I spent every spare moment I could studying, taking classes, and shooting, shooting, shooting! I practiced as much as I could. I saved every penny from my shoots so I could upgrade my gear or attend a class or workshop. And I haven’t stopped loving every second. I am constantly wanting to learn more, to try more, to do new things. I know with every fiber of my being that I have finally found my calling.
The past year and a half have been a serious whirlwind. My hard work paid off and it wasn’t long before I was truly working two full time jobs between my day job at the hospital and my photography business. This fall wedding season was the busiest I have ever been and I honestly can not put into words how thankful I am, however I also was close to burning out the way I burnt out with ALRS. I knew I couldn’t let that happen, but I wasn’t quite ready to leave my job. It was time to build a team. I hired my sister, Sarah Anne, as my virtual assistant to keep the business side of things running during the day, until I could get home from my day job and get back to work at night. I also hired an editor, Annie Velenovsky to help me with editing! If it weren’t for these two amazing ladies, I am really not sure if I’d still have a business at all. I was so mentally and physically exhausted. I went over 6 months without a single day off. Think about that y’all. Every spare moment I wasn’t at my day job, I was working on my business, or thinking about things I needed to be working on for my business. I’d come home from working 8 hours only to work another 8 minimum. I was getting an average of maybe 5 hours of sleep a night MAYBE, and this is coming from a gal who NEEDS her sleep.
In November I attended the Creative at Heart conference and for the first time in my life, was surrounded by people just like me. People who didn’t always know their path right from the beginning. Who constantly want to, NEED to be creating. Who simply don’t work well under a boss, and longed to be (or already were) their own boss. The incredible women I met there made me realize that I was the only one holding myself back. That fear of letting my family or friends down shouldn’t keep me from pursing my dreams, and that if I’ve come this far in just over one “official” year and a half, then I absolutely can go full time, and I can do it NOW.
I came home from that conference with my mind *almost* made up, and I prayed and prayed the whole way home asking for God to just give me a sign. I’d do whatever He wanted. I’d stay in this job I didn’t enjoy and spend another 6 months working my butt off if I needed to. But lucky I didn’t have to wait long because God showed up in a big way for me the very next day. I took his signs to heart and told my whole family that day I was quitting my job. Every. single. one. of them was 100% behind me. I’m crying all over again just remembering it. I put in my notice the next week and on December 21, 2018, I walked out of my day job for the very last time and was officially 100% self-employed. The tears are so real, y’all.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my amazing family and friends who have been there for me this whole way. I’d be lying if I said they all were on board from the beginning, but they always supported my idea and drive to prove them wrong. And it didn’t take long for them to see that I was doing this, one way or another. Their love and support, during all if it, has gotten me to where I am today. They were there for me when I came home from shoots so excited to tell anyone about what happened. They were there for me on the days I was grouchy because I’d had to pull an all nighter, then go to work the next day, only to come home and work more before I could go to bed. They were there for me with food on the days I forgot to eat. They were there for me on the days I came home in tears because I was so stressed out from working constantly. They were there for the all of it, and I will never be able to thank them enough.
But of course, this blog post wouldn’t be complete without me mentioning my INCREDIBLE clients. My clients have truly changed my life. They have given me the chance to follow my dreams, and have become some of my most amazing friends in the process. They have given me grace when I’ve needed it most, and have trusted me to capture their most precious memories. We’ve laughed, cried, fallen down (really that was just me), eaten great food, and enjoyed times together I will cherish for the rest of my life. I will never, EVER, get over the fact that God has given me a gift that allows me to build these relationships with such amazing humans.
If you’ve read this far, let me say a personal thank you to you. Chances are you’ve been following my journey for a bit (if you’re new and read this whole dang thing you are a true hero) and I could not be more grateful to you for taking time out of your life to be a part of mine. That may seem weird if you just follow along with me on Insta, but you truly are a part of my life and have had a very positive impact on it. I hope you continue to follow along this year – because things are about to get real good y’all.
I can’t wait to dive into 2019 with my FULL FOCUS on this business, and on serving YOU to the very best of my ability. I have so. freaking. much. planned for y’all. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your support. I mean every word of this when I say: You have changed my life.
I love you all! Here’s to 2019!
This post is dedicated to: Mom, Dad, Sarah Anne, Kyleigh, Billy, + Grandma. And to all my close friends who have stood by my side and supported me every step of the way. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without each of you. I can never thank you enough. I love you.