Messy is beautiful, at least when sisters Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman are involved.
The team behind the site A Beautiful Mess started working together when Elsie expanded her retail store to a larger space. Emma jumped on board to tackle the business side of things. During that time they also started blogging, initially to further promote the store and make supplemental income. It was their collision course with online entrepreneurship. That was almost a decade ago before they realized blogging could be a full time career. “It evolved from there,” says Elsie, “one baby step at a time,” crediting partnering with her sister as the smartest move she’s ever made.
The retail space eventually closed and A Beautiful Mess became their full time job in late 2011. They now oversee five full time employees as well as a roster of talented freelancers.
Neither went to business school, but that hasn’t proved detrimental to their model. Though they’ve made plenty of “rookie mistakes,” from understanding what to ask in an interview to the complex intricacies of employees' personalities, life imitates blog titles in their case. “It's amazing how much attitudes and culture can affect productivity in even a very small office like ours,” says Emma. But she loves what she does, noting the 80/20 rule: “You should aim to love 80% of your job and the other 20% is just a job.” Elsie has a similar, healthy approach to work. “I love my job,” she says, “but it doesn't take away from family time or my big goals. And I love it more every year, so I think that's a good sign!” It follows suit with her favorite advice: “You can be anything, but not everything.”
The creative sisters have tips on how to recession proof your own biz. “Business isn’t always straightforward,” shares Emma. “Early on we focused on creating multiple revenue streams.” Elsie agrees. “Grow your business to at least four solid revenue streams, so if one dies you won't be screwed.” Every year they try to add one or two to keep pushing the company forward. “Not everything works,” Emma remarks, but if this year is any indication the messy team has a firm grip on what does.
This spring (2017) they are releasing their third book, a cookbook, and are excited to see how it’s received. Last year they launched their third app, A Color Story, which had over 2.5 million installs in under a year. They took it as a sign and simultaneously created a second company (which they named A Color Story) to work on their apps. They’re adding on additional staff and projects, though A Beautiful Mess will remain their “main gig.”
Emma, who is in the process of sewing her first quilt, insists on “saying no to the guilt trip game,” focusing instead on making to-do lists and attempting to finish said list. She’s also addicted to podcasts. A few of her favorites include: Smart Passive Income Podcast, Start Up, and Elsie Gets Crafty.
“I think women make themselves feel guilty for not working enough, not mom-ing enough, not having a perfectly clean house 24/7, not looking ‘put-together’ enough; it's too much!” Emma says. “Let’s celebrate all that we do because from my view—women are AMAZING!”
“Discovering your own boundaries is really important,” adds Elsie. “Now that I have mine, I think I actually get more work done, in less time.”