Raleigh Portrait Photographer for Creative Small Businesses

Cup of Creative: Erin Brown, Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur

This is the second article in a series called Cup of Creative, where Jenna and I interview aspiring creative professionals in Atlanta over a cup of coffee (because that's how we roll).

Jenna and I asked the people we chose to interview what their biggest challenge has been so far in their creative business pursuits. We'd love for you to participate by linking up your blog post below.

An interview with Erin Whitlock Brown, multi-passionate entrepreneur // Photography by ChristinaElyse.com
I've known Erin for 2 years. In fact, when I first had the inkling to develop my niche as a photographer for creative entrepreneurs, she was the first person I reached out to in the hopes that she would want to collaborate, and I'm so honored to be able to call her a friend now.

Erin likes to describe herself as a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I love that. It's true about her. Every time we catch up over coffee, she's got another iron (of many!) in the fire.

When Erin and I met, she was blogging at Brains of the Outfit, her personal style blog and creative outlet where she blogs about fashion for less.

"I don't believe you have to pay an arm and a leg to look stylish. Style isn't really about labels and brand names and really expensive pieces," Erin said. "I really think personal style is about how you envision yourself and how you communicate with what you wear, and not necessarily where you purchased it."

Erin Whitlock Brown - Blogger at Brains of the Outfit // Photography by ChristinaElyse.com
Out of Brains of the Outfit, Erin started offering personal styling services for the everyday woman who doesn't have time to shop. She loves helping women in the corporate world who are too busy or need guidance in choosing items they might not need every day, like a great power suit for a speaking engagement at a conference.

As if being a blogger, stylist, and full time social media professional wasn't enough, Erin also started an e-commerce business last summer with her best friend over a glass of wine.

They took their love of design, fun gifts, and making others happy and started Celise Designs, a lifestyle brand serving up tote bags, mugs, and printed pieces.
#Werk Coffee Mug by Celise Designs // Photography by Christinaelyse.com

Now, Erin's main challenge is balance. 

"2014 was such a crazy year for me in really figuring out what I wanted to do with my life," Erin said. "Did I want to continue to work full time for someone else or did I want to transfer into self-employment and entrepreneurship?"

While she's happy to say she chose the self-employment route, she's still relying on that full time gig. 

Finding the balance in her full-time job, developing her passions, and being a wife has been the most difficult part about being a creative entrepreneur for Erin.

"It's really difficult because I have my head buried in my laptop, easily, 13 hours of any given day, and some days, I don't get to come home and cook a meal. I just have to do turkey sandwiches," Erin said. "It's unfair to my husband, and my dog who is looking at me like, 'can we go for a walk today, please?' That's something that I struggle with and I'm trying to figure out how to strike that balance between really focusing on my pursuits and not neglecting the things that are really important to me on the opposite end of the spectrum."

On top of trying to establish a healthy work-life balance, there's balance needed within Celise Designs. 

"We’re [actually] thinking of hiring someone to come in and help us with social media because it takes a lot of time to get a really strategic social media presence to reach out, stay relevant, and grow your business."

With so much going on in the back end of the business, it's hard for Erin to stay plugged in to what's going on in social media.  Erin stress that it's so important to be in social media and constantly engaging and communicating, but when you start a business, there's so much more that needs to be considered other than getting your name out there, like product development or quality control. 

"There are other business things that need to happen, and I can't just sit there and scour Pinterest all day for great photos, or go outside and do staging for two hours," Erin said.

Hello Gorgeous! Coffee Mug by Celise Designs // Photography by ChristinaElyse.com

While Erin definitely has her hands full, she's grateful to have so many creative outlets, and gets excited about all the possibilities ahead of her.

“I’m really trying to prove to myself that I can juggle because I don’t have children; it’s just my husband and my dog, so I’m trying to get out as much as I can before I put on my mommy hat, "Erin said. "And I think it can get done, I just have to be really stingy with my time. Any free time or down time that I have  - I start feeling guilty because I’m like ok, Erin, this is time that you can sit and focus on your business and solve a problem that you guys had the week prior. Any free time I have, its basically poured back into my business.”

The exciting thing about Erin is that she is confident this juggling act won't stay like this for much longer. With the growth of Celise Designs and the backing of Brains of the Outfit and styling, Erin feels she's close to transitioning into self-employment. 

"I used Brains of the Outfit and I used styling to kind of help me create that security. I've been able to monetize my blog. Styling brings in a nice amount of revenue. Plus, I save. 2014 was all about saving money because I knew that I wanted to have the financial freedom," Erin said. "So once I can kind of let go of this whole full time job, I think that will make it a lot easier for me to get the things done that I want to get done for my other businesses to help them grow and flourish."

So for now, Erin is still juggling, but she's doing it with passion and creativity. Make sure you follow her on twitter (@erinwbrown) and Instagram (@eewb) to keep up with her latest creative adventures.

// A Gift For You

Be sure to check out Celise Designs for a fun tote bag, coffee mug, or print. Erin's letting you all use code CUPOFCD at checkout for 15% off your purchase for a limited time!

This post was not sponsored by Erin Whitlock brown or Celise Designs. Erin graciously volunteered a coupon code for our readers. All opinions expressed are my own.

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