How I Built A Thriving Online Community — And Business — By Doing What I Loved
At 22, right before I was to be married, I was offered an amazing entry level job at the local electric coop. It was the kind of job that offered room to grow and retirement benefits that many people in my small Kentucky town dreamed about. I felt blessed. Over the years of working there, I grew to truly love my workplace and the people there. I was able to move up to some different positions along the way, and I was making a good living in a place that people would have worked for their entire career. But I knew in my heart I was meant for something more. You see, over my years there, I was turned down for a position that I thought was meant to be mine one day, my “dream job”, and it was something I could not ever shake.
As I continued working hard and doing the best I could in the position I was in, the stress started mounting. The pressure of that specific job was more than I could bear, and at age 29, the stress of it all caused me to have a mini-stroke and be life flighted to a neuro ICU.. I wasn’t even 30 yet, and I knew it was time for a change.
Doors of Opportunity
In the midst of all of this, my husband and I had started renovating our home and sharing pictures of it on my personal Facebook page. I realized I had a knack for decorating and seeing the potential in ordinary, “ugly” things. When I realized that I truly had a gift that I could share with people, I decided to start my blog, Re-fabbed. I wrote and shared all about beautiful DIY home crafts and decorating your home on a budget. I loved this new adventure and the joy and contentment it brought to my soul — I had found my passion.. Six months later, I handed in my resignation at the electric company.
Now, nearly a decade into this career shift, I have built an online community of nearly 1 million people on social media, am running two seven-figure businesses, and was just named a top new entrepreneur by Forbes. I also coach people who are looking to grow and expand their own businesses in the online space. Here are five main pieces of advice I give them.
Be prepared to put in the hours.
When I first launched Re-fabbed, not only was I working a full time job — I also had two toddlers at home. I had to find time to work on the blog, which was a true labor of love. In the midst of everything I was facing at work, I was staying up until 3 a.m. to work on Re-fabbed — even when I had to leave the house at 6:15 the next morning to drop my kids off at daycare. This was a complete act of faith. I had no idea when — or even if — I could make money with it. But I just kept working really, really hard. I had to bet on myself and trust that it would pay off.
Communicate with your support system.
I want to make this clear: When I left my full-time job six months after starting Re-fabbed, it wasn’t because the blog was making a ton of money. I was making no money. But I could feel I was being called to a higher purpose. At the same time, I was a young wife and mother — my life wasn’t just about me.
Before making the decision to resign, I talked it over at length with my husband. We prayed on it. We knew it was the right decision for us, and we would handle the reduced income — and everything else that came with leaving my job — as a team. We’re still a team years later. Recently I hosted a retreat in Nashville for about 80 women who are a part of my business coaching program. My husband was right there beside me as I worked to put everything together, and he’s beside me in just about every aspect of the business.
Stay true to who you are
As a woman, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of being the best “something” for someone else: The best wife, the best mom, the best employee. Throw in the pressure of social media, and this feeling can be even more magnified. Rarely do we really think about the importance of being ourselves.
But being authentically you is what will draw others to you, which is crucial when trying to cultivate a strong online community. Obviously Re-fabbed is based on things I love to do, make and see, but I love sharing the honest parts of my life that inspire me and why certain things – like Christmas trees and the brick floors in my house – mean so much to me. In my live videos, I am nobody but myself, ever. I am 100% the same online as I am in real life. Being authentic is what brings the right people into my community as a follower and even customer. The relatability factor is crucial, and it is what draws people to a brand.
Remember that perfection is overrated
This mantra “perfection is overrated” is something I believe about my craft projects, my business as a whole, and life in general. If you wait for the perfect time to follow your heart or start a new project — you’ll be waiting a long time. In fact, you would be waiting forever. Re-fabbed was far from perfect when I started it. But, I knew I just had to start. Besides, the imperfect parts are the honest parts, and that helps me stay true to myself and what I love. Don’t hold yourself back by focusing on perfection.
Even when things were far from perfect — when I was struggling trying to balance my job at the electric company, starting my blog, and raising two toddlers — I still found contentment in what I could. Yes, I disliked my job, but I enjoyed being around the people I worked with. Yes, I missed getting a good night’s sleep, but staying up late allowed me to work on my blog that I was so proud to have. . So, things may never feel “perfect” — but you just have to keep working through the imperfections.
You still need to take time for yourself
My mini-stroke was physical proof that burnout is a real thing. Not that anyone needs more evidence of this, but the World Health Organization says burnout is to blame for about 745,000 deaths per year. Even when you’re working for yourself on a project you love, it’s still work and it’s still so easy to get caught up in a to-do list. To prevent ever putting myself back in a dangerous situation, I make sure to take time to do what I love every single day.
Instead of always worrying about the business, I try to remember that not everything needs to get done at once. Realizing that I don’t need to feel guilty for taking time for myself has been the best change I could have ever made. Whether it is just getting out of the house to take a break or sitting out in the warm sun in my chair for a few minutes, my mental health excels with having that time. More importantly, it helps me to show up not only as a business owner, but as a wife and mother, which are by far my biggest priorities.
This guest post was authored by Brooke Riley
Brooke is the CEO and Founder of Re-Fabbed, a DIY decorating blog and online boutique where she also offers business coaching to help other entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners grow and maximize their presence in the online space. Re-Fabbed has been featured online in Forbes, Success, Country Living, Huffington Post, House Beautiful, Pioneer Woman, and Good Housekeeping. Connect with Brooke on Facebook @refabbedbybrooke or visit her website.