Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast, where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible and breaking stigmas along the way.
In the fourteenth episode of Becoming Buoyant, my friend, Mary Baird of Three Otters Photography, shares how her family’s relationship with cancer has made a lasting impact on her life and business. Listen in as Mary opens up about her battle with childhood cancer and the impact it has made on her health as an adult while running a successful business.
Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible, and breaking stigma’s along the way. In each episode, you’ll learn from expert guests exactly what it takes to build a meaningful and sustainable business without sacrificing self care. We want you to shine your bright light on the world, friend, and are honored to be part of your creative life giving journey. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Emilie: Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant Podcast, where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible, and breaking stigmas along the way. In each episode, you’ll learn from expert guests exactly what it takes to build a meaningful and sustainable business without sacrificing self-care.
Emilie: We want you to share your bright light on the world, friend, and are honored to be part of your creative, life-giving journey. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Emilie: In this episode of Becoming Buoyant, I am joined by my friend Mary Baird of Three Otters Photography. She is a photographer who specializes in newborns and children and families, and she has her own studio space that is absolutely beautiful.
Emilie: She started out as a very young child dealing with a very terrible cancer diagnosis, and she has worked so hard as a little one to beat that cancer diagnosis, but still deals with a lot of the repercussions of the treatment today, including chronic fatigue. So she has learned how to build a business that works around her health, not the other way around, and I think we can all learn a ton from what she has to say.
Emilie: I’m excited for you to hear her story and a lot more about the perspective she has on what it’s like to have a really tough diagnosis, what it’s like to beat those odds and move forward in your life, knowing that it’s all about serving others with whatever you’ve got to give. I hope you enjoy this episode.
Emilie: Hi, Mary. Thanks for coming on the Becoming Buoyant Podcast. I’m really excited you’re here today to share your story, and tell us a little bit more about who you are, the business you run, and what kind of health hurdles you’ve faced.
Mary: Sounds good. Hi, Emily. I’m just coming on from Three Otters Photography in Appleton, Wisconsin. Thank you so much for having me on today.
Emilie: Of course.
Mary: So I started Three Otters Photography about … Well, actually, let me backtrack a little bit. So I started my business about ten years ago, when I graduated from college, along the lines of the health hurdles and having to have my own business to kind of work, make money, but also be able to kind of make my own schedule.
Mary: So I started it way back when. I think I’ve gone through four or five different names now. So now it’s Three Otters Photography, and hopefully it will be that one for quite a while now. So that came about in February, and did a whole re-brand, kind of went 100% in, jumped two feet in. I was like, “I’m going to do this. This is it.”
Mary: So I did the rebrand, and so the Three Otters Photography comes from … The three represents the members of my family that have passed away, my immediate family. My brother Eric passed away before I was born, and then my mom passed away in 2007. Then my brother passed away in February, and that’s why we decided to do the rebrand, because we needed to have a third otter to represent him.
Mary: I chose otters because they are my most favorite animal. They’re the funnest videos to watch.
Emilie: They are.
Mary: They’re so full of joy, and I just love it. I just love the fact that they love entertaining people.
Emilie: They do. So before your rebrand, you were Two Otters Photography.
Emilie: So you were honoring your brother with the third otter, once you rebranded, which I absolutely love. I understand what it’s like to lose people really close to you, and I just think it’s great that you’re honoring them with that representation. It’s really sweet, and otters love to float together on rivers. It just makes me so happy to think about that, that maybe somewhere, you can imagine your family hanging out together like a bunch of cute little otters, just floating and relaxing on a river. You know what I mean?
Mary: Healthy and happy and fuzzy.
Emilie: Yeah, right? Just cute and warm and snuggly …
Emilie: … all together.
Mary: All the time.
Emilie: Perfect representation of what you would want your family to be.
Mary: Yeah, exactly, and it just kind of happened, in reference to coming up with the otters, because I love them so much. I wanted the number, for sure, and then I decided, “Well, I guess I’ll just name it after my favorite animal.” I love otters, though.
Emilie: [crosstalk 00:04:20].
Mary: Yeah, and so that’s how Three Otters came about. The big thing was my family has been such an inspiration, in reference to starting this business, and always so supportive, in reference to my dad was an entrepreneur. He started his own business in Appleton, and they were just always very encouraging about our independence. My dad’s favorite phrase of all time is, “All you can do is ask. What’s the worst they’re going to say, is no.”
Emilie: That’s true.
Mary: So I grew up with that mentality of just, “Well, I guess I’ll just try it out, and I’ll jump two feet in.”
Emilie: You might as well.
Mary: That’s what I do with most things.
Emilie: I love that, because [inaudible 00:05:06] you don’t have to have a fear of rejection.
Emilie: The worst that they could say is no. Well, that’s not that big of a deal, in all reality.
Mary: No, because you just go back to the original.
Mary: You just go back to how you were.
Emilie: It has no reflection on your abilities, your character, anything. Maybe it’s just a “Not now” or “This isn’t a good fit” or whatever it may be, and that’s totally fine. So I love that. It really instilled some good roots for you.
Mary: Yeah, yeah, and it’s funny, because my boyfriend, Mike, is the complete opposite. I think he has an Excel sheet for everything.
Emilie: Right? Yeah.
Mary: He plans out his day to the second, and I’m just not that way at all. I couldn’t even tell you how to use Excel.
Emilie: Right? Right? I totally get it. I don’t think I have Excel on my computer. I use Google Sheets.
Emilie: So great that there’s that, but it’s funny. I think I’m pretty basic at any of the formulas. I think I can do a sum. I can do an average.
Emilie: The basics. I don’t do much more than that, and that’s okay.
Emilie: I’ve learned what things I’m really great at and what things I’m really great at outsourcing.
Mary: Yeah. Right? Yeah, we’ll come up on that question, but that’s mostly what I would say to …
Emilie: Yeah. So let’s talk about that …
Emilie: … because I know where you’re going with this. So what kind of things have you put in place to make sure that you can run your business smoothly? Let’s tie that also into what kind of health hurdles have you faced? Because I know that that’s a big part of this story.
Emilie: So your health hurdles, and then how have you built a business to work with that?
Mary: Sure. I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was eight, so that was 1996. This sounds so horrible, and this kind of goes back to the whole we make it what we need to if we go through these experiences. I always said I was the one who started the trend in our family, with the cancer trend – which is not funny, but it makes it [crosstalk 00:07:01].
Emilie: It’s kind of a morbid thing to say.
Emilie: But I get it. I get where you’re going with it.
Mary: So yeah. So I had leukemia, and I did four years of chemo, which, at the time, was average, because childhood cancer was just underdeveloped. The research into it was so new at the time, and, I mean, I think kids go through maybe six months of chemotherapy now.
Mary: So we went almost three years over of just … I mean, chemo is life-saving, but it’s also … It’s a poison, I mean. It’s very aggressive on the body, and being so young, it could’ve messed with organ growth. I don’t know the full extent, in reference to all the things it might’ve done.
Mary: But one of the things was my adrenal glands, just the development of them. So I have struggled with chronic fatigue for a really long time. I struggled with arthritis for a while. It’s not as bad now, which is great.
Mary: Yeah, it attacks the bones and the muscles around the bones, and so just … It was sore for a while, but that has gone down. But the chronic fatigue is the hardest thing, because I never feel well-rested.
Mary: At night, I’m wide-awake. I get my burst of energy probably around three or four.
Emilie: Oh my gosh, in the morning?
Mary: No, no, at night.
Emilie: Oh, okay, so afternoon?
Mary: So PM.
Emilie: Okay, yeah.
Mary: But then I’m like …
Emilie: I was like, “You wake up at three in the morning?”
Mary: No, no. But that’s the problem, because I really go to bed around 2:30, because I’m so wide awake.
Emilie: Oh, wow.
Mary: So, yeah, and then I tried the whole getting on a better sleep schedule and going to bed at a 11, and, one, I can never fall asleep, and, two, I still wake up. I could sleep for 12 hours, and I still wake up exhausted. It doesn’t matter. That’s been really difficult, in reference to trying to figure out a photography schedule, because, I mean, I can schedule my sessions for later, and I guess I do most of my editing in the evening. So that works. So I’ve kind of make it work for me, working my schedules, and my clients are great with understanding that I am not a morning person.
Emilie: You know what? Whether you have a chronic illness or not, there’s a lot of people out there that are just, plain and simple, not morning people.
Emilie: So nobody’s alone there.
Mary: I have friends who get up at four in the morning and go to the gym, and the idea just … I’m always like, “Oh, gross.”
Emilie: Four in the morning is like … I’m only awake if I have to be on an airplane and I have to get to the airport at four in the morning.
Emilie: Other than that, there should be no reason I’m up that early.
Mary: No, no. I would rather do things in the evening. But, again, to each their own. So, yeah, so I’ve kind of tailored my business with just being very honest and being okay with the fact that it just is that way. I think it was really hard to forgive myself that I couldn’t be normal, and I’m putting quotes around that, because it’s really difficult for people to understand …
Mary: … and to think, “Well, you’re just going to bed late, and that’s why you need to sleep in.” To try to explain that I’ve tried every routine, I’ve tried the bath, I’ve tried the chamomile tea, I’ve tried the melatonin …
Emilie: Tried the blackout curtains.
Mary: Yeah, yeah. I’ve put my room at 65 degrees. I’ve done the research. Again, my clients are great about it – and my boyfriend, who is one of those people who likes to get up early in the morning. It took him a really long time to understand that it was actually real, it was something internal vs. just the way I had set up my life.
Emilie: Right. I think that that brings up a really good point, that when it comes to an invisible illness, something that you’re going through, something that your body is dealing with on the inside, and hopefully this doesn’t last for the rest of your life. I hope that, at some point, kind of like the arthritis symptoms you’ve had, it can resolve itself eventually, somehow, some way. But I feel like, with invisible-type illnesses, even with people that really know you really well, they kind of don’t fully understand, and it might take years, decades for them to be like, “Oh, that’s not a preference? That’s just the way your body works?” “Yes.”
Mary: “I accept you.”
Emilie: “Okay, I get you now. It’s fine. Go ahead.” It takes a long time, and I think a lot of it comes down to as well that we’re still learning how our body’s functioning …
Emilie: … and the problems that have come along with all of the different things that we’ve gone through. Nothing is constant. I feel like you may have seasons …
Emilie: … where you have more fatigue or less fatigue. So what you were able to do last year may not be what you’re able to do this year, and that is really hard, especially when you’re running a business, to feel like, “Did I backslide?” But your health may be just telling you to slow down a little bit, and you don’t have much of a choice.
Mary: Exactly, and I kind of have, again, forgiven myself for those things and just been … My clients will appreciate me for my photos and my sessions and my client experience, and I know that I can be a better photographer and a better creative if I am willing to just be honest and straightforward. This is just the way it is, and, again, cancer has run so much in our family now. Five out of my six immediate families have had it.
Emilie: Oh my gosh.
Mary: Yeah, my sister is the unicorn out of the family who has not had it.
Mary: Yeah, and so I think that was the other thing, is people have seen what we’ve experienced in our family. I think with each one has grown more and more understanding about, “Oh, this is something that is just hard to understand,” and especially for us to understand. That’s the thing. We don’t know what’s even going on.
Emilie: Right. We don’t have all the answers.
Emilie: Even with advances in medicine and things like that, there’s still so many question marks. Why is it that five out of six of your immediate family members have gotten cancer? That’s a great question …
Emilie: … and I think one that’s going to be really hard to answer. Maybe down the road, hopefully, you can get answers so future generations might know more. But it’s really tough.
Mary: Yeah, and we’ve met with genetic testers to see if it’s genetics. They have not found any connection.
Mary: So that makes it even more … They think it’s environmental, possibly, so it’s like how do we plan ahead for this?
Emilie: Right, especially when environmental could mean anything. It could literally be the four walls and the roof on your house or the radon coming from your basement, possibly, or it could be what you’re eating …
Emilie: … or the clothes you put on your body or the fumes in our atmosphere. That’s all environmental. It’s very overwhelming to think about.
Mary: Yeah, for sure, and it’s tough, because you want to do … I always say I need to put myself in the best shape that I can be in – so eating well, exercising – if this was to happen. So it’s almost like you’re just preventative …
Mary: … which I don’t think a lot of people feel like they need to be, because they may not have experienced …
Mary: … an illness in their family, especially an invisible one.
Emilie: Yeah, and I completely understand the looming feeling, that black storm cloud over your head, like, “Is this going to happen?” or “When is this going to happen?”, those types of questions, because I have something called Lynch syndrome, which is a hereditary condition. It’s a mutation of repair genes that … Long story short, it just means that I’m very likely going to get multiple types of cancer over my entire life, and who knows what that’s going to look like or when it could happen, but there’s a lot of preventative stuff that I have to do every single year – blood work, invasive testing, all sorts of stuff.
Emilie: It basically affects anything abdominal, so it could be your GI system. It could be reproductive system. It could be all of that.
Mary: Your core.
Emilie: Wow, that was a big thing that I had to find out about. I was able to, luckily, get a genetic test, and it confirmed it …
Emilie: … after several family members had passed away from or had been diagnosed multiple times with cancer. But I finally learned that this is what I have, what’s going on, and, for some reason, I took it more as, “Well, knowledge is power.” I was really shocked, but now I have so many more tools to be able to help me look every year, that maybe if I do get something, it can be caught early.
Emilie: So that’s the bonus there, is that I can be really aware and have those conversations with my healthcare providers and just make sure that we’re really on top of that. So, I mean …
Mary: Well, and also finding a community. That’s the other thing.
Mary: The problem with the invisible illnesses and stuff, a lot of times, you don’t find a community that you can share that with. So at least if you know … I was going to say the worst thing is not knowing. It’s the not knowing, I honestly think.
Emilie: It’s really tough.
Emilie: It’s really tough. When you have some sort of thing that’s hard … For me, I would not know that I have a heightened risk of cancer, had it not been for family members, right?
Emilie: So I’ve never had cancer, and I’m so grateful that that’s the case, but I don’t have any symptoms that would make me worry about it. I just know that it was really common in my family. Well, I don’t know what that means. But it’s like with my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is something I was recently diagnosed with in January … It’s a hypermobility condition I’ve talked about a couple of times in the podcast.
Mary: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Emilie: But, basically, I had so many physical symptoms of something’s not right – migraines and joint dislocations, GI problems, all sorts of weird stuff – but I had no idea what it was until January. I was just about to turn 32 …
Emilie: … and I had had symptoms since I was a teenager. So the big question is, “What was it? What is it? What is it? What’s going on?” Not knowing was such a struggle, and now that I have that information, it is such a huge relief.
Emilie: I’ve been able to plan so much more of my life and my business around my illness, not the other way around …
Emilie: … trying to get my body to cooperate with whatever I have planned for it.
Mary: That’s incredible, because, yeah, I feel like at least if you know, you can take steps to help yourself. But if you don’t know, you have no idea what’s working and what’s not.
Emilie: Exactly. You think, “Do I get chronic migraines because of the food I eat? Is it environmental?”, kind of like you were talking about.
Emilie: “Is it just stress of having a nine to five job?” There were a lot of things that I was wondering about, but had no idea. Now I know I have spinal and neck compression, and that can trigger a lot of those things.
Mary: Oh, yeah.
Emilie: Well, surprise. Now it makes sense. So many things in my life, I look back. I’m like, “Oh, that makes sense why that happened.”
Emilie: “Oh, okay. That explains all of that.” So it’s such a huge relief, and now I’ve felt so much more empowered and motivated to share my story so I can maybe help other people, too.
Mary: That’s fantastic.
Mary: Thank you for doing that, because, for a lot of us, who I think … Again, I think we are silent, a lot of times. That’s the thing. It’s the silent disease – or invisible disease, like you say, which I really like that term.
Mary: But usually you’re so silent because you don’t want people to look at you differently, and you just want, again, the whole “normal,” in quotes, in reference to, “Well, I don’t my clients to know I’m vulnerable, and I don’t want my clients to know that” … I’m just so happy that people are being more comfortable with being vulnerable, and especially talking about mental health as well and how that plays into physical health.
Emilie: Right. I mean, one in three creative entrepreneurs deals with some sort of mental health struggle. So that’s a big number. One in three?
Emilie: I would say that there’s actually probably more people who probably work with something going on that haven’t recognized it yet, even. So I feel like it’s almost … I don’t want to say it’s my duty. I don’t feel like that. But it’s a passion of mine to try to bring these voices out and say, “Hey, if you’d like to share your story, here’s a platform and an opportunity so that other people don’t feel so alone,” because we’re all walking around with something going on inside of us, but there’s no visibility to it. So nobody’s going to just spark up a conversation and say, “Oh, well, that’s a fancy thing you’ve got going on there.” Nobody would know …
Mary: Yeah. Yep. The whole idea that …
Emilie: … because you look so good.
Mary: Yeah. What you’re carrying may not look heavy, but it’s not really what is … I’m just carrying it well, I guess.
Mary: I think I saw a meme of something along those lines.
Emilie: Yeah, there’s a quote. “It’s not the load you’re carrying, it’s how you carry it.” There’s that aspect of it.
Mary: Yeah, yeah.
Emilie: You’re just carrying your burden really well, but it could still be really heavy.
Mary: Yeah, there you go. I think that’s it. Yeah.
Emilie: I don’t know the real quote, so I’ll try to find it somewhere, but the concept it all good.
Emilie: We get the concept. It’s everybody has their own things that they’re carrying around with them, and it’s just how have you learned to adapt your life and everything you’re doing around it is really important. As people, I feel like we grow so much, in terms of our acceptance – or, like you had said, even forgiveness. It’s not your fault that this just happened to be what was going to happen, but accepting it and moving beyond and learning coping mechanisms and finding that community is so helpful.
Mary: Yeah, and it makes me happy, because I love the fact that you found this platform, or you’ve created this platform for people to speak about it, because, with my photography and with this business – and I just recently opened my studio – but it was a big deal, in reference to because cancer has been such a huge thing, I guess, in our family that I wanted to be able to give back in reference to … because this brand wouldn’t exist if the cancer hadn’t been so prominent in our family.
Mary: Not to, obviously, honor the cancer, but to honor all the people who are fighting it and to give them … again, to have a public face in reference to saying, “I’m an entrepreneur. I struggle with these things. I’ve lost people. But I’ve created this kind of hopefully lighthearted brand” …
Mary: … “to carry this heavy story.” So each one of my sessions, for instance, I give 5% back of each session fee to either Love Your Melon or Stupid Cancer, and I’m actually a … not counselor, not certified. That is not my job. But Stupid Cancer helps connect people with either survivors of cancer and then young adults who are suffering it. So you can be a support system for them, if they’re going through it …
Emilie: Oh, cool.
Mary: … if you’ve already done it.
Emilie: So kind of like a mentor.
Mary: Yeah, that’s a better word …
Mary: … because you don’t need a degree. You’re basing it off of experience.
Mary: I’ve experienced this, so how can I help you?
Emilie: Yeah. Sometimes that peer mentorship, that community of seeing, “I hear you, I see you, and what you’re going through is real, but there’s still hope, because I’m here. We’re together, and we can be strong together,” that’s such a big thing. I’m really glad you’re doing that. With your business, framing it around that giving back is such a big deal. But the fact that you are showing up in a very visible way and giving hope to a lot of people that maybe don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel. They may not see that their dreams are possible, that they could pursue a passion of theirs. They may not realize that there’s anything out there for them yet, because it seems so dark. But you’re here, and you’re showing people that it’s possible and that it’s all worth it.
Mary: I think that is … Don’t get me wrong. There are days when I do not want to get out of bed, but I think that is what has helped give me a purpose. So I had to put the business on hold when my brother got sick, because my dad and I are the only ones in the area, and my brother, at times, he couldn’t drive because of chemo and stuff like that. So my dad and I became kind of his primary caregivers for the last two years, and I live only about a mile from where he lived.
Mary: He and I were super close, and we’ve been close since we were little, little. He’s seven years older than I am, but it was always I wanted to do everything he did. I wanted to be him. I just followed him around everywhere.
Emilie: That’s so sweet.
Mary: It continued into adulthood. I mean, I’m 32 now, and he was almost 40. It was just so much about realizing how close we actually were during the rough times and being his caretaker and stuff.
Mary: There’s not many people I can say about that they were ready, they had prepared themselves. He was such an optimistic person, and even when he was about to pass away, he still was thinking about others. He wanted to make sure that we were okay and we were doing okay, and so he wrote us notes, which I have a tattoo of now.
Emilie: Oh my gosh.
Mary: To each one, he … He was on an intubator, and he wrote out, “I love you, Mary. I love you, Dad.” He wrote it because he couldn’t speak, and it’s one of those things where he was such an inspiration for someone who can fight and fight and fight. We realized later that he was fighting for us …
Mary: … to be with us and to make sure that we weren’t suffering. So just to give hope to people who are suffering like that …
Mary: … to give them an outlet, to have them know, like you said, that their dreams are possible.
Mary: The tunnel is really dark, but that there is hope and there is joy. There’s also an opportunity for closeness and to build a community and to be vulnerable and say, “I need help.” My brother was not one to ask for help, but he realized very quickly that, if he needed a ride somewhere, he needed to ask for help. That was really hard for him, but the community that grew around him was just … There were 30 people in the hospital on the day he passed away, because they just showed up, and they wanted to be there with him. That was just such an incredible thing to see – not, maybe, in the moment, but looking back now.
Emilie: No, but to know that that’s the impact that somebody can have is that when people are in their toughest times, people will come to them and take care of them. It may not feel the most obvious when you’re having just a bad day …
Emilie: … that people are there for you, but they really are. During the darkest, most difficult times of your life, people are really there for you, and I think it sounds cliché, but it kind of restores your faith in humanity a little bit …
Emilie: … that it’s not … We live in such a world where it’s all about the likes and the numbers and the popularity contest, in a weird way, but when it comes down to the reality of our lives, it’s those moments that are really pivotal. You see the deep good and joy in people and the giving nature of people.
Emilie: I’m really grateful that you shared that story. It’s a hard one to talk about, I know, especially since this is still so fresh, and I have very similar feelings, especially with my mom having been in the hospital and passing away from lung cancer. It was definitely a similar feeling of, “Wow, all these people showed up just to be here.” The whole time, I’m thinking, “Oh, they’ve only got kind of crummy hospital coffee, and they’re getting snacks out of the vending machine,” but nobody complained. Nobody cared. Everybody was just there and present, and I think that really brings us back to that feeling of, “What are we doing all this for?” and kind of bring it back to business. It really makes you start to think, “What are we doing all of this for?”
Emilie: It’s so easy to chase big dreams, and, “Oh, I want to have a big house, and I want to have nice cars” and all these flashy things that people talk about. For me, none of that … I can’t relate.
Emilie: I really can’t relate to any of it. I look at it as I want closeness. I want closeness with my clients and with my community. I want to know that I’m helping even just one person, one person at a time, one by one. That’s the way I think we can make a big impact on the world, is one by one.
Mary: Yeah. Well, and the cars and the houses, I’ve heard from multiple people who are older, I would say, probably in their 80s and stuff, “What is one thing that you would have changed about your life?” It’s always something. “I wish I had spent more time with my family” or “I wish I had done this.” Obviously, growing a six-figure business or getting all the likes on Instagram or all that stuff is … There’s some part of it that is very gratifying, but, at the same time, like everything, it’s kind of fleeting.
Mary: But I would love to have … Like you were saying, with my clients, I want to have a connection. I want to become friends with them, and I want to be their maternity photographer, their newborn for their first child, their second child. A lot of my clients are people that I’ve walked with.
Mary: Let’s see they have three kids now, and I did maternity sessions for their first. Those are the kind of relationships I want to build with my clients, that we’re building it almost like a small community itself.
Emilie: Yeah. What a cool thing to have, is that you can capture their family’s lives in all of the important moments. How cool. I mean, obviously, there’s more than just the newborn, those important moments. But to see that kind of a thing is such a big deal, and I think the fact that you’ve gone through so many things is literally what attracts them to you, because they know you’re resilient. They see hope in you. They see strength. They see so much that if they need somebody to understand, you’re going to be the person that understands them.
Mary: Yeah, I try really hard to make sure that they know that I’m walking this journey with you. Obviously, some clients are not as … It’s not as emotionally vested, but, I mean, even thinking about friends whose weddings I’ve photographed, and now they have three kids. I love to be able to look back on that, and, “Oh, I’m so sorry that your wedding photos are like that, because I was just starting out.” It’s the whole before and after, when we first started to where we are now.
Mary: But to see the growth gives me goosebumps. It’s just so awesome to have that relationship with my clients that goes just beyond them coming in for an appointment.
Mary: Some people may not want that closeness.
Emilie: No, but that’s okay.
Emilie: I mean, you’re going to get the clients across the whole spectrum. Some clients are just, “I want a quick one and done,” or there’s going to be people that, yeah, you have done their wedding and now multiple kids in, and now you can literally see on their gallery wall in their living room, because, obviously, everybody should be printing their photos.
Emilie: You can see the progression of here’s the wedding, baby one, baby two, baby three, and you’re like, “Oh, wow, my styles have changed.”
Emilie: I mean, how awesome is that, though?
Mary: I always think to myself, I’m like, “Oh, can I please go back and re-edit your wedding photos now that I have a better understanding of things?”
Emilie: That’s so funny. I feel the same way about a lot of the art pieces that I’ve done. Not as much the copywriting I’ve done, because that’s a little bit more of a recent endeavor in the last couple years, but definitely some of the art that I’ve created in the past. I’m like, “Oh, wow, my skills have changed. Yep.” It’s probably not obvious to everybody.
Emilie: But it’s obvious to us, so we see those things for, like, “Oh, wow, have I changed.”
Emilie: In a good way, in a good way, but oh my gosh, yeah, it’s kind of overwhelming to look at old stuff. Then you’re like, “Okay, at least I’ve made some improvements over the years I don’t give myself credit for. So this is a good thing.”
Mary: Well, and it kind of goes back to our beginning conversation, also being able to let go a little bit of the control. Not saying that you don’t have control of your business, but in reference to outsourcing and being able to say, “I want to give my clients the best experience and have this relationship with them.” Along with that needs to be I might need a virtual assistant. I might need a social media manager to help me. Definitely, I would say the accounting and the contracts.
Mary: I need an accountant. I cannot do this on my own, and always having a contract in place. Those are things that I’ve realized over time, through experiences.
Emilie: Right? Well, yeah, I think, as business owners, over the years, you eventually … You make enough progress in those areas, and I don’t want to say mistakes, because I think mistakes are really just learning opportunities. We make decisions that turn into learning opportunities, whether it turned out good or it turned out bad. Sometimes contracts come out of things that we’ve had to learn the tough way.
Emilie: But the cool thing is learning how to outsource, how to bring on a team, even if it’s for a couple hours a month, lets go of some of the accessory duties that you normally do that, really, somebody else is really a lot better at and they can do really well so that you can focus on relationship-building, because that’s what you’re so good at. That’s what we need to be doing.
Mary: I think the business aspect, I think that’s a huge thing, in reference to if we’re going to be the face of the business and build those client relationships. We just have to be … I think one of the big things with entrepreneurs in general, we need to be humble enough to say we’re not good at everything.
Emilie: Right, exactly. Exactly.
Mary: Numbers freak me out, and so I am not a tax … I need someone to do accounting for me.
Emilie: Yeah. Totally makes sense. The last question I really want to ask you, since I know we’ve had a really great conversation, but I just wanted to know, if there’s something you wish other people knew about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur with a chronic illness or an invisible illness, what would that be? Those “others,” in quotes, could be people that either have a chronic illness or disability that do not have a business or people that don’t have either or they’re a business owner with no chronic illness. It could be any of those.
Mary: Sure. Yeah, I was thinking about this. I would honestly say it kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier. I would say, for those who have the chronic illnesses and have the business, to not give up. I’m sure we all get frustrated with ourselves when these things come on and we get mad at our bodies for being this way, but to just, again, forgive yourself and just show up and just also take care of yourself – the whole idea that you can’t pour from a cup that’s empty.
Mary: You need to be able to self-care. You need to be able to watch your body and know itself and to just be honest. Don’t feel afraid to be honest about where you’re at, in reference to struggling with the illness, because, most likely, a lot of other people are struggling with things that you may not know about. So it might be just really refreshing for someone to hear [inaudible 00:36:48], but also just to make sure to care for yourself. If you’re in a nine to five …
Mary: I haven’t been in a nine to five since before college, and, again, I struggled really hard with that because of my fatigue. But I would just say just forgive yourself and be honest, but also to … This is kind of like the “no BS” kind of part of me that’s like, “You also have to do the work to do the preventative.” We have to eat better and exercise and just even move – not even exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym. Just move, because …
Emilie: Move your body.
Mary: … we have to take care of ourselves, and that means also …
Emilie: That could look like anything, moving.
Mary: Exactly. It could be a walk.
Emilie: I mean, sometimes for me, moving is literally just going around the house and picking up laundry. You know what I mean?
Mary: That’s probably actually my most strenuous activity, is finding all the laundry.
Emilie: Right. Let’s go on a scavenger hunt. Yeah, just move your body and take care of yourself. It’s really important. It’s so important for the success of your business, to take care of yourself.
Mary: I mean, for me, I used to be a dancer, and now I’ve learned … So I hate running. But I was like, “Oh, you probably should do a little more cardio.” So what I do now is I turn on music, and I just have my own little dance party.
Mary: Because it’s super high-cardio, but it’s something that I’m familiar with, something I enjoy …
Mary: … something that makes me laugh. I look like an idiot.
Emilie: That’s good.
Mary: But just being okay, I think … I think the biggest answer to your question for that is just not being ashamed for having this, because, in the end, this is the hand that we’ve been dealt, and just to learn more about it and what we can do to prevent it, instead of … I use this example with my boyfriend. If we dig ourselves into a hole, it’s so much harder to get out of. It’s so hard to climb out of a hole, and if we can kind of fight from digging that hole and staying on level ground, it’s not as far as a journey out as it is to get out of that hole.
Mary: That’s really hard, but it’s a lot easier to learn what we need to do, as long as we don’t dig our hole in shame or embarrassment about these kind of illnesses that we’re struggling with.
Emilie: Yeah, I like that. I feel like, a lot of times, we always look at climbing mountains and achievement and all these big things, but sometimes just staying on level ground is good enough.
Mary: High five to hose people.
Emilie: Yeah, high five to those people who just want to stay on level ground and not fall into a rut. That is enough. That’s good.
Emilie: That’s totally good.
Mary: I know this cliché, but you are enough.
Mary: That idea. I have that on my … I’m not a huge fan of cliché sayings, but I do have that written on my mirror in my bathroom.
Emilie: Oh, I love that.
Mary: So when I wake up, it’s just … Because it can encompass so much. Your body is enough. You are enough. Just show up, and I love the whole idea of being grateful for things at the end of the night. Those are simple things, especially with people with invisible illnesses, like, “I got out of bed today. High five to me.”
Emilie: Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Some days, getting out of bed is a great accomplishment. Other days, running a marathon, like a legit marathon …
Emilie: I mean, that’s not on my list of to-do list items, but that’s a big accomplishment for people. Every day can be a different accomplishment list, and it’s not about judging yourself for how big or how small that list may be …
Emilie: … or how extravagant or how simple it may be. We just take it with what we’ve got, and I think accepting that is just so good.
Mary: Well, and also not comparing.
Mary: In a world where we live in social media and stuff like that, we see the best of everyone’s world, and so not to get down on yourself in the comparison game. That’s really, really hard. I mean, I fall victim to it all the time. But I think it’s really important to stay above that and just try really hard not to compare ourselves to other people in our industry and other people who may be starting businesses, or other businesses in general …
Mary: … or other people, their personal lives.
Emilie: Yeah, for sure. Well, thanks for coming on to the podcast today, Mary. I’m really excited we got a chance to talk again. I know we’re friends in real life, not just virtually, so this is one of the best gifts I could have. I cannot wait to have everybody listen in to this, and hopefully you’d be willing to come on to another episode down the road. I’m hoping to bring people onboard for the next season, where we talk a little bit more about business-building tips and, basically, how to build your business around your abilities as a person in your body and not the other way around. So that will be really fun.
Mary: Thank you so much. I would love to come back. Thank you so much for having me on today, though.
Emilie: Of course, Mary. I miss you.
Mary: I miss you, too. I’m glad you’re moving back to this continent.
Emilie: Hey, friend. Thank you so much for tuning into today’s episode of Becoming Buoyant. It means the world to me when I can read all of your comments and reviews. So if you’re listening on iTunes, please go to the “Leave a Review” section, send me a sweet little message, and, if you really loved the episode, you can leave some stars. Hopefully five would do the trick.
Emilie: If you’re watching on YouTube, make sure to like this episode if it resonated with you. Leave a comment if you have some suggestions on other people that might want to come on, and, of course, let me know what you think. Then make sure to subscribe. On either platform, subscriptions mean the world to me. It tells me that what we’re doing here on Becoming Buoyant makes a difference.
Emilie: So I hope you have a wonderful day ahead, and I hope you tune in to the next episode of Becoming Buoyant. Take care.
We serve small business owners who want a brand and website that is bold and beautiful in form and unapologetically strong in function. We believe in accessibility-first design principles so your website is available to all visitors, regardless of their need for assistive technologies. We cannot wait to help you reach new markets and increase your bottom line.