Building a Blissful Business

Abby Larson’s idea of a perfect wedding is “intimacy, unabashed style, a sense of timelessness and grace built into every detail.” And if she could turn back time, she’d host her own in her backyard with chandeliers decorating trees and a Spanish guitar entertaining guests.

But when she said “I do,” the wedding resources seemed to depict only the “perfect” cookie-cutter weddings. Bridal magazines provided access to the exclusive celebrity ceremony and the flawless photography spreads of models and professionally styled details, but it was all staged—it was, essentially, fake and unrealistic for the real modern bride. That’s why Larson stepped in, to create a space for the many, many weddings that weren’t inside those glossy pages.

So, in 2007, Larson founded wedding and lifestyle resource Style Me Pretty. She started the company with just her laptop and $9. Now, she’s running a multimillion-dollar brand with a full staff, working relationships with almost 2,000 vendors, and readers across the globe edging toward 2 million unique visitors every month. With 400 real wedding submissions per week, the brand is now publishing around 60 weddings a week across 12 regional and national blogs.

The heart and mission of the company is in that “real wedding.” With close to 2 million wedding-inspired images, a collection of DIY projects and a comprehensive, edited vendor directory, Style Me Pretty is a pot of gold in the wedding space and for brides planning their dream weddings.

“Style Me Pretty blurred the lines between publisher and reader and took those curated, edited, only-seen-in magazine weddings to a place of pure approachability,” Larson says.

As founder and editor, Larson must creatively and strategically grow the brand, and she did just that with the launch of Style Me Pretty Living—an addition to the Style Me Pretty family. The new site is home to all things before and after the ring, including homes and design, DIY crafts, parties and entertaining, recipes and more, like fashion and travel.

The SMP brand might highlight all things pretty, but being an entrepreneur isn’t always that warm and fuzzy.

Before starting her business, Larson zigzagged through different jobs, from a PR firm to a stationery store to a hedge fund. After quitting her stint in investor relations, she started helping girlfriends plan their weddings. She had a talent for creating stationery and invitations, so she started and kept an invitation brand for three years—her first brush with entrepreneurship. Armed with that business knowledge, she sold the invitation brand and started Style Me Pretty.

With a successful, blissful business to her name (one that she’s continuously fine-tuning), these are Larson’s top tips for entrepreneurs looking to build their own:

1. Work’s the name of the game. “Be prepared to work. Hard. On the weekends and while on vacations. There is no replacement for hard work.”

2. Leap forward. “So many people are afraid to leave their well-paying jobs to go out on their own. And that fear can be crippling,” she says. “But it isn’t until you take the leap and really put yourself in a place to feel hungry—not literally—that you will thrive in entrepreneurship.”

3. Do it better. “Ask yourself this question: Is your idea better than or different from what is already out there? If the answer is yes, you’re off to the races. If the answer is no, which for most it will be, consider this: The fastest way to success is either in doing something differently or doing something better than what is already out there.”

4. Get scrappy. “If you can’t afford to outsource your bookkeeping, do it yourself. If you need to customize your website, figure out a way to do it on your own. Learn to barter services, negotiate everything down and find answers to questions that stump you.”

5. Help—give it and get it. “This is a lesson I learned that I have carried with me throughout the life of my career,” she says. “I’m not afraid to ask people for help. At all. Even if it seems like a stretch. But I’m also always open and ready to pay back the favor.”

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