anything is possible if you've got enough nerve - jk rowling - sugar and cloth

When I Wasn’t Sure If Sugar & Cloth Would Make It….

anything is possible if you've got enough nerve - jk rowling - sugar and cloth

While I know a lot of people are taking January to write about this year’s goals and reflecting on how awesome last year was for them, I wanted to take a moment to get really real with you. I still have lofty goals for this year and many, many fond memories of 2015, but equally important was the period that I wasn’t sure if Sugar & Cloth would make it.

After my post explaining how we make money blogging, we received a TON of additional questions from you all! I’m really glad it helped give insight to what we do, and how hard I try to make sure we’re just as genuine to you as you are to us in this little piece of the internet. There’s definitely FAR more thought, work, and time that goes into a blog post besides just what gets seen on the blog.

I also talked (joked really. it’s much easier to laugh at now, ha!) very briefly about us selling things on Craigslist in order to get by at one point, and I’m going to give you the full scoop on that season in life right now…

ashley rose - sugar and cloth - houston - blogger

October of 2014 was when I left my day job and moved to Sugar & Cloth full time. It was a really scary decision for me because up to that point, it was the most financially sound I had been as an adult.

I had finally bounced back from this financial and emotional hit, the blog was growing, we were getting frequent jobs, Jared and I were doing great, and I was still able to work my day job from home to keep the additional income. And to be honest, my day job was a security net that I didn’t want to let go of just yet. I wanted to ride that little wave of comfort after a rough patch for as long as I could.

I knew it was time to let go when I realized that I wasn’t being the employee I would want to have as a small business owner at that point, though. I went from being 150% committed to having one foot in, and one foot out because I literally was too busy to be focused on that and Sugar & Cloth. It became nearly impossible, and I knew it was a matter of time before I either let them down, or I let myself down.

We came to a mutual decision that I would continue working until they hired someone to replace me, and then I would phase out. I felt comfortable with this because I had a pretty good amount of money saved up, and we had already been getting regular work with the blog, so that was settled and everyone felt respected.

Jared had been doing all of the photography for the blog for a year at that point, and had just migrated to only doing freelance photography jobs outside of the blog for a month or so before I became full time at S&C. This meant we were now both relying on Sugar & Cloth for 90% of our income, and all things considered, we were as prepared as we could be.

So there we were, living together and working together for 80+ hour work weeks full time, in a studio we had already outgrown, but we we’re making it work. Then we started running into some issues with crazy loud noise (to the point where it was hard to have meetings or hear anything on phone calls), we had unwanted foot traffic (from people getting in the building that didn’t have a space there), and even down to heating and air trouble. For what I was paying in rent, this shouldn’t have been the case.

That said, there was no way I could go back to running S&C from my living room, especially now that I had no other job or office. Not only would my craft supplies alone not fit at this point, but it would have been a MAJOR step back in long term growth of the company. We wouldn’t be able to host workshops, host large styled shoots, or even make recipes without a cat paw in them again.

Inevitably we needed a new studio space, so it was either I start looking to solve the problem right then, or postpone it by doing away with the studio, moving everything back home, and then figuring it out later. That’s when I started the hunt for a new space.

We ended up getting an amazing deal for a sizable space in a prime location, just above our friends at Tout Suite that was only $400 more a month . For the square footage, location, and perfect natural light, it was a massive deal that couldn’t be passed up. This meant we were now paying for two studio rents during that month, plus the cost of our home and regular living expenses, and we had just left our jobs. It was risky, but it was necessary.

ashley rose - sugar and cloth - houston - blogger

To save money, we had my Dad come down and help us with moving the old studio and building out the new space since he renovates houses and rentals. What we thought was going to be a strategically budgeted move down the street ended up being a MAJOR ordeal, and approximately ten times more money than we thought it was going to be.

The contractors were supposed to be finished building out the space before our lease started, and it ended up being two weeks late, and a half finished job. We spent more time and money trying to fix their botch job than we would have had we had we done it ourselves. The sponsor we also thought we have for the new studio ended up only committing to a 1/4 of what was originally discussed, and we were out of a studio to create blog content in for an entire month. You can read about more of those details here, but it shorter words, it was an unexpected mess.

To help counter some of the costs, and mostly out of a tad bit of fear, we started taking any job we could that was honest even if it didn’t pay like it should as a preventive measure. We stayed super busy during December of 2014, and finally made it through the studio switchover. Going into January things were finally calming down to where we weren’t at each other’s throats 90 percent of the time out of sheer chaos.

We had already dipped into a huge chunk of savings trying to get the through the studio renovation, which was a super scary way to start the year, but at least we had a decent amount of money coming in from powering out a bunch of jobs despite the setback.

For those of you not familiar with blog payments, it’s not uncommon to get paid 60 to 120 net days after the work has gone live, and that’s IF the company pays you on time. So for instance, a branded post you saw on the site two to four months ago probably still hasn’t been paid to us yet, even though we put out the money to create the content waaaaay back when. Basically it sucks.

I don’t know if it was a test of faith, patience, or just dumb luck, but out of all of the jobs we did at the end of 2014, we only received ONE decent payment during the first four months of 2015. It was rough, we had to get lawyers involved, and I was terrified that I had made a huge mistake moving to S&C full time.

Mind you, Jared and I are both riding on the blog for our income now, and there’s no fall back. My parents aren’t wealthy and can’t help me pay for my things, and neither do his, yet we still had bills to pay and almost no money coming in. I don’t have a trust fund, or hidden source of income, and I didn’t start out with a golden egg of a savings account, I just did the best that I could.

We had $5k+ a month going out to cover rents, basic living, and still creating good blog content so readers would be none the wiser, and this was after an unexpected studio renovation that cost more than $10k. And we were mutually agreed upon NOT taking out any loans to not create uneccessary debt. 

We continued pitching ideas and reaching out to potential sponsors every single day, and we’d either get turned down or get no reply at all. It was one of the most discouraging seasons ever.

In March Jared and I had a talk about what the plan was going to be if things didn’t look up. He was going to go back to a regular job so that we could balance the income so I could still work towards Sugar & Cloth, which meant I would go back to taking photos on my own during the week, and we would do the big shoots on the weekend when we could help. It was all very heart wrenching to talk about. I also admitted to myself that if it didn’t take off within the next year, that I would go back to a regular job as well, and just continue on as a hobby.

As if it’s not hard enough working with your significant other full-time, it’s REALLY hard to swallow the pride in thinking that you may have failed or made a wrong turn somewhere and now it’s hurting the both of you. I had quite a hard time with the idea of that.

It would’ve been much easier to give up right then and decided to go get different jobs instead of finishing the race while still choosing to love each other, but we weren’t ready to throw in the towel when things got bumpy. So we kept pumping out content, made a more intentional effort to take specific nights of each week to just hang out with each other or friends and family, and we kept introducing ourselves and pitching to people even if we got a “no” every time.

We still hadn’t gotten paid a decent check yet, but right when we were wondering what else we were going to sell, we finally got a check in the mail from a big job we had done in November. It might have been the biggest sigh of relief of all time! It was seriously God’s grace because we had pretty much run the river dry on what else we could sell that was worth anything. Right after that we got a big break, and got signed by a management company and everything just started falling back into place.

It was almost as if we had to decide if we were going to pass or fail before it was going to get better. I’m definitely a firm believer that it’s those key difficult moments that try us enough to separate the people willing to stick out entrepreneurship from those who aren’t.

Now, even despite a four month drought, we were able to more than double our income from last year, and we have a whole new view and appreciation for our circumstances.

It’s been one heck of a year of learning and growing, but what I hope you take away from this is that it doesn’t always matter how prepared you think you are, or if you have a safety net or not, it’s all in how genuinely willing you are to stick it out in the face of adversity.

anything is possible if you've got enough nerve - jk rowling - sugar and cloth

When I Wasn’t Sure If Sugar & Cloth Would Make It….

anything is possible if you've got enough nerve - jk rowling - sugar and cloth

While I know a lot of people are taking January to write about this year’s goals and reflecting on how awesome last year was for them, I wanted to take a moment to get really real with you. I still have lofty goals for this year and many, many fond memories of 2015, but equally important was the period that I wasn’t sure if Sugar & Cloth would make it.

After my post explaining how we make money blogging, we received a TON of additional questions from you all! I’m really glad it helped give insight to what we do, and how hard I try to make sure we’re just as genuine to you as you are to us in this little piece of the internet. There’s definitely FAR more thought, work, and time that goes into a blog post besides just what gets seen on the blog.

I also talked (joked really. it’s much easier to laugh at now, ha!) very briefly about us selling things on Craigslist in order to get by at one point, and I’m going to give you the full scoop on that season in life right now…

ashley rose - sugar and cloth - houston - blogger

October of 2014 was when I left my day job and moved to Sugar & Cloth full time. It was a really scary decision for me because up to that point, it was the most financially sound I had been as an adult.

I had finally bounced back from this financial and emotional hit, the blog was growing, we were getting frequent jobs, Jared and I were doing great, and I was still able to work my day job from home to keep the additional income. And to be honest, my day job was a security net that I didn’t want to let go of just yet. I wanted to ride that little wave of comfort after a rough patch for as long as I could.

I knew it was time to let go when I realized that I wasn’t being the employee I would want to have as a small business owner at that point, though. I went from being 150% committed to having one foot in, and one foot out because I literally was too busy to be focused on that and Sugar & Cloth. It became nearly impossible, and I knew it was a matter of time before I either let them down, or I let myself down.

We came to a mutual decision that I would continue working until they hired someone to replace me, and then I would phase out. I felt comfortable with this because I had a pretty good amount of money saved up, and we had already been getting regular work with the blog, so that was settled and everyone felt respected.

Jared had been doing all of the photography for the blog for a year at that point, and had just migrated to only doing freelance photography jobs outside of the blog for a month or so before I became full time at S&C. This meant we were now both relying on Sugar & Cloth for 90% of our income, and all things considered, we were as prepared as we could be.

So there we were, living together and working together for 80+ hour work weeks full time, in a studio we had already outgrown, but we we’re making it work. Then we started running into some issues with crazy loud noise (to the point where it was hard to have meetings or hear anything on phone calls), we had unwanted foot traffic (from people getting in the building that didn’t have a space there), and even down to heating and air trouble. For what I was paying in rent, this shouldn’t have been the case.

That said, there was no way I could go back to running S&C from my living room, especially now that I had no other job or office. Not only would my craft supplies alone not fit at this point, but it would have been a MAJOR step back in long term growth of the company. We wouldn’t be able to host workshops, host large styled shoots, or even make recipes without a cat paw in them again.

Inevitably we needed a new studio space, so it was either I start looking to solve the problem right then, or postpone it by doing away with the studio, moving everything back home, and then figuring it out later. That’s when I started the hunt for a new space.

We ended up getting an amazing deal for a sizable space in a prime location, just above our friends at Tout Suite that was only $400 more a month . For the square footage, location, and perfect natural light, it was a massive deal that couldn’t be passed up. This meant we were now paying for two studio rents during that month, plus the cost of our home and regular living expenses, and we had just left our jobs. It was risky, but it was necessary.

ashley rose - sugar and cloth - houston - blogger

To save money, we had my Dad come down and help us with moving the old studio and building out the new space since he renovates houses and rentals. What we thought was going to be a strategically budgeted move down the street ended up being a MAJOR ordeal, and approximately ten times more money than we thought it was going to be.

The contractors were supposed to be finished building out the space before our lease started, and it ended up being two weeks late, and a half finished job. We spent more time and money trying to fix their botch job than we would have had we had we done it ourselves. The sponsor we also thought we have for the new studio ended up only committing to a 1/4 of what was originally discussed, and we were out of a studio to create blog content in for an entire month. You can read about more of those details here, but it shorter words, it was an unexpected mess.

To help counter some of the costs, and mostly out of a tad bit of fear, we started taking any job we could that was honest even if it didn’t pay like it should as a preventive measure. We stayed super busy during December of 2014, and finally made it through the studio switchover. Going into January things were finally calming down to where we weren’t at each other’s throats 90 percent of the time out of sheer chaos.

We had already dipped into a huge chunk of savings trying to get the through the studio renovation, which was a super scary way to start the year, but at least we had a decent amount of money coming in from powering out a bunch of jobs despite the setback.

For those of you not familiar with blog payments, it’s not uncommon to get paid 60 to 120 net days after the work has gone live, and that’s IF the company pays you on time. So for instance, a branded post you saw on the site two to four months ago probably still hasn’t been paid to us yet, even though we put out the money to create the content waaaaay back when. Basically it sucks.

I don’t know if it was a test of faith, patience, or just dumb luck, but out of all of the jobs we did at the end of 2014, we only received ONE decent payment during the first four months of 2015. It was rough, we had to get lawyers involved, and I was terrified that I had made a huge mistake moving to S&C full time.

Mind you, Jared and I are both riding on the blog for our income now, and there’s no fall back. My parents aren’t wealthy and can’t help me pay for my things, and neither do his, yet we still had bills to pay and almost no money coming in. I don’t have a trust fund, or hidden source of income, and I didn’t start out with a golden egg of a savings account, I just did the best that I could.

We had $5k+ a month going out to cover rents, basic living, and still creating good blog content so readers would be none the wiser, and this was after an unexpected studio renovation that cost more than $10k. And we were mutually agreed upon NOT taking out any loans to not create uneccessary debt. 

We continued pitching ideas and reaching out to potential sponsors every single day, and we’d either get turned down or get no reply at all. It was one of the most discouraging seasons ever.

In March Jared and I had a talk about what the plan was going to be if things didn’t look up. He was going to go back to a regular job so that we could balance the income so I could still work towards Sugar & Cloth, which meant I would go back to taking photos on my own during the week, and we would do the big shoots on the weekend when we could help. It was all very heart wrenching to talk about. I also admitted to myself that if it didn’t take off within the next year, that I would go back to a regular job as well, and just continue on as a hobby.

As if it’s not hard enough working with your significant other full-time, it’s REALLY hard to swallow the pride in thinking that you may have failed or made a wrong turn somewhere and now it’s hurting the both of you. I had quite a hard time with the idea of that.

It would’ve been much easier to give up right then and decided to go get different jobs instead of finishing the race while still choosing to love each other, but we weren’t ready to throw in the towel when things got bumpy. So we kept pumping out content, made a more intentional effort to take specific nights of each week to just hang out with each other or friends and family, and we kept introducing ourselves and pitching to people even if we got a “no” every time.

We still hadn’t gotten paid a decent check yet, but right when we were wondering what else we were going to sell, we finally got a check in the mail from a big job we had done in November. It might have been the biggest sigh of relief of all time! It was seriously God’s grace because we had pretty much run the river dry on what else we could sell that was worth anything. Right after that we got a big break, and got signed by a management company and everything just started falling back into place.

It was almost as if we had to decide if we were going to pass or fail before it was going to get better. I’m definitely a firm believer that it’s those key difficult moments that try us enough to separate the people willing to stick out entrepreneurship from those who aren’t.

Now, even despite a four month drought, we were able to more than double our income from last year, and we have a whole new view and appreciation for our circumstances.

It’s been one heck of a year of learning and growing, but what I hope you take away from this is that it doesn’t always matter how prepared you think you are, or if you have a safety net or not, it’s all in how genuinely willing you are to stick it out in the face of adversity.

Comments

  • Carrie

    01.19.16

    Wow, Ashley!! You’re incredible…Not everyone could have gotten through all of that with as much grace and strength as you did, and now you’re on the other side of what sounds like a pretty harrowing season…That’s worth a big celebration!! I hope that this new year makes up for all of the past chaos, and know that we’re always here to support you! We think you’re a rockstar :)

  • Kathryn smith

    01.19.16

    Thanks for sharing your experience so openly! I just came through a really rough patch myself, and I’m still in debt from launching my business. It is easy to question whether or not I’m making the right decisions. I work so hard for what feels like no pay off. Thanks for the encouragement to keep going!

  • Thank you for sharing your highs and lows! It’s hard to imagine those we look up to creatively ever having a hard time, but your honesty is encouraging. Keep up the excellent work!

  • Marloes

    01.19.16

    What a refreshing piece, thanks a bunch for sharing your experience! I absolutely love the content Sugar and Cloth creates and I admire the creativity that goes into each project.
    – X Marloes

  • Molly

    01.19.16

    So inspiring, Ashley! Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations with us all. Know that we’re all rooting for you and Jared. The best is yet to come!

  • Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I appreciate your honestly and insight. Way to keep pushing ahead! xo, Sara

  • Alisha Johns

    01.19.16

    Ashley!! Thank you SO much for sharing your story. I’m so inspired by your resiliency and passion for what you do! This is my last week at my day job and it’s encouraging to hear stories like yours as I dive into my business! Cheers to your successes!

  • Mary Billings

    01.19.16

    Go you! So happy for your success and very much appreciate you sharing your stories. You are an inspiration and a role model and I very much needed this story right now! XOXO

  • Krista

    01.19.16

    Your story is very inspiring… it just goes to show that passion and perseverance can lead to success. Wishing you luck with your future endeavors! :)

  • Fyda Noh

    01.20.16

    So inspiring.. sometimes we just follow our intuition. maybe its Good lead

  • Brenda

    01.20.16

    Thank you for your honesty. It is refreshing to hear about the hard times and the determination it takes, not just I made XXX amount a month you can too. I enjoy your blog and your courage to take the leap to full-time.

  • Ashley, this is probably the most honest thing I’ve read in a really long time. Thank you SO much for sharing your struggles, and your story with us, because that’s precisely what the life of an entrepreneur is like. I’ve been working on our small family business for almost 4 years, and I’m well aware of the ups and downs. I get so frustrated when I read all those pretty business features all over the internet, where things always seem so rosy and effortless – that’s just not the truth! A life as an entrepreneur is rewarding, that’s for sure, but it’s also an everyday struggle to bring money in, to keep your head above the water, especially when other people depend on it.
    Huge thumbs up to you and Jared, because you managed to get through hard times, and huge thumbs up for being so honest with us. I can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeve next!

  • What a great post. It’s so easy to feel like the end is imminent or that someone else has the secret thing that makes them successful (that we don’t.) It waste eat to read not only about how you overcame your struggles but also in true DIY sense, HOW you overcame your struggles in a very matter-of-fact, step-by-step way.

  • Sarah

    01.21.16

    Thank you so much for being honest and sharing your journey! Girl, you’re such an inspiration and I know tons of other people think so too!

  • Miriam

    01.21.16

    Good for you. Such an relief to read that someone succeed. I am still in debt and fighting everyday. GBY!

  • Malissa

    01.22.16

    Thank you for writing this! Your tenacity really paid off, so glad you kept at it!

  • Amy V.

    01.23.16

    Ashley — what a great, enlightening, raw post. I’m a big believer in fate and it’s amazing how in the most difficult of situations things seem to always work out. Hard work definitely pays off in the end. Wonderful things will be coming you and Jared’s way. Cheers to a successful and prosperous 2016 & beyond.

  • Suzy

    01.26.16

    What an inspiring story. I’m a little miffed by the $10k studio reno though. I’ve been blogging nearly 9 years and have been making a 6 figure income for the last three, without a studio. While a studio would be awesome, I can’t imagine making a move like that at that point in the “game”. I’m glad it all worked out for you.

  • Thank you much Ashley for sharing your story, for what looks so easy to eyes has so much going behind. You are an inspiration and my respect and love for you and your work has even more increased.

  • Ariel

    03.04.16

    Thank you for this. I’m making the switch to full time blogging when we move this spring, and it’s daunting and exciting at the same time. Your piece just confirmed all my worst fears, but also all my hopes. It has to be bad before it can get really good. The struggle is real sista! Keep at it <3

    • Ashley said:

      So glad this was encouraging for you! You got this!

  • Jessica Kramer

    03.04.16

    I’ve been reading your blog all day and I’m totally falling for you, Ashley! I’m inspired by your faith and your stick-to-it-ness, even while acknowledging the challenges. Thanks for your stories, I am learning so much from you!!

  • A friend sEnt me this post today. We’re there. And this means more to me than you know. Thank you so much.

    • Ashley said:

      So glad it resonated with others, thank you for the sweet comment Ashley! xo

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