NASE News


Loving Self-Employment

Friday, June 30, 2017
Rev. Laura C. Cannon is the owner and founder of Ceremony Officiants™ located in Ellicott City, Maryland and does business in seven states in the Mid-Atlantic region. Her company has provided wedding officiants for over 10 years, and happily works with couples from all backgrounds. After a student asked her to perform the ceremony at her wedding, Laura knew she found her calling.

When and why did you join the NASE?
I joined NASE in 2014 after feeling really alone in the world of entrepreneurship. As a self-employed person, you often don’t get to have the same camaraderie with other people as you would in an office setting. I thought that NASE would be a great way to meet others who intimately understood the unique challenges and joys of self-employment—and the benefits are great.

When and why did you start your business?

I started my current company in 2003 when a student of mine asked me to officiate her wedding. It turned out that performing her ceremony was a pivotal moment for me and one of the best experiences of my life. I felt totally invigorated and like I was following a deeper calling. It must have showed, because after the ceremony the caterer working the event came up to me and told me it was the best ceremony he had ever seen and asked me for some of my business cards. I replied immediately with, “I am out of cards but I’d love to take your address and mail you some!” Needless to say, I went home, designed a logo, had cards printed, and started officiating weddings on the weekend while still working my full-time job. As the business grew, I knew I had to take the leap and leave the security of my full-time job in higher education and really give the officiating business my attention and energy full-time. In 2010 I left the day job behind, and never looked back.

What challenges have you faced in your business?

The biggest challenge I faced was knowing when it was time to let my full-time job go and devote all of my resources to my own company. I don’t think you can be a self-employed person without being a risk-taker, but I prefer taking calculated risks. I overcame this challenge by realizing that I was never going to “know” when the right time to do it was, likely because there was no “right time.” Instead, I made the very practical decision to create an exit plan. I decided how much money I would need to save from my full-time job to give me a one-year cushion while I made the leap. As soon as I knew that the financial stability was mostly there, I put in my notice. At the time, I told myself that if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to working for someone else and I would have gained a ton of skills. It’s been 6 years, and thankfully I’ve enjoyed a lot of success—I love being an entrepreneur so much I don’t even know if I could go back.

How do you market your business?
I market my business in many different ways: networking with other vendors in my industry, advertising on industry websites, online and print advertising, wedding showcases (trade shows), writing for industry publications, speaking at industry conferences, word of mouth, and personal referrals.

Do you have any employees?
Right now it’s just me and a part-time office assistant, and I’m able to hire contractors to fill in the functions that I don’t love or don’t have enough time for—like bookkeeping! As my businesses continue to expand, I foresee that adding dedicated staff will be necessary. For now, I’ve been able to manage it myself and leverage technology to build a very lean, efficient operation.

What’s your schedule like, what’s a typical day for you?
Flexible! I am not only a solopreneur but I am the mother of a very active 3-year old daughter. I have an office in my home so I’m able to let my day flow organically, but every day I do have some things that are non-negotiables. For example, I have a dedicated spiritual practice that starts every morning with a routine of yoga, meditation, gratitude affirmations and spiritual reading. Each work day varies depending on my responsibilities that day—I could be writing, public speaking, officiating a wedding, working on a project, volunteering at hospice, managing clients, consulting entrepreneurs, or heading to the playground with my daughter. Most evenings I end up working in my office until well past midnight. I’ve always been a “night owl” and I find that I’m the most productive when I’m not distracted by incoming calls, texts, and emails. When everyone else goes to bed, I get things done. Ultimately, my key ingredient is space—I like to make sure I have a lot of unstructured time so I can answer the call of whatever that day brings.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?
Flexibility! The day I left my full-time job I had a giant banner made with one word: FREEDOM. I still have it hanging up as a constant motivator and reminder as to why I made this leap into self-employment in the first place.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?

I began performing same-sex marriage ceremonies in Washington, DC back when it became one of the few places that legally allowed same-sex unions. I performed the marriage of two men who had been partners in secrecy for nearly 40 years, and one of them had become terminally ill and was bedridden. It was just the three of us present for and intimate and emotional ceremony, and they both cried tears of joy and disbelief that they were finally able to honor each other in this most sacred way after so many years. They thanked me for bearing witness to their love and told me that without me and my company, DC Elopements (another one of my companies) , it may not have been possible for them to get married before their time together had ended. I believe that love is the greatest gift we have to give and receive, so to know that I was able to facilitate that for them was truly the best compliment I could ever receive.

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own business?
Make sure your heart is in it. Don’t start a business simply because you think it is going to be a great money-making opportunity. When you are an entrepreneur, you often work way more than someone with a typical 9-5 corporate job. You end up devoting most of your life to your company when you are self-employed, especially when you’re first starting out. In the times when you are over-worked and exhausted, you are going to need that heart and that passion to pull you through. Having others invest in your business might get you off to a good start financially, but ultimately without heart, it is unsustainable. I am a true believer that if you follow your heart, the money will follow.

Any other information you would like to share?
For anyone interested, last summer I published my first book, The Conscious Entrepreneur: A Guide to Maximizing Your Potential for Success, Freedom and Happiness, which is available on Amazon and Kindle.

Comment

  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
       
    Toolbar's wrapper 
     
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
      
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.