In Conversation with Jessica Bellinger: Author, Photographer and Founder of Bess & Color

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Describe your business in a few words?

I’m a self help author, wedding photographer, and also own an e-commerce beauty brand.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I knew after doing photography for a few years that I wanted to start an online business to bring in additional income. After learning a lot about e-commerce and the beauty industry, I realized nail polish was my best bet. Shortly after launching, I started writing. A lot. With no intention to write a book. I found I could write about humility non-stop. I eventually wrote so much that I realized I better make something out of it. I started getting into the process of self publishing, and alas, the launch date is on the 12th!

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I was a stay at home mom for a few years before starting photography full time. Before having kids, I worked as a phlebotomist for a year at a hospital, and before that I was a waitress. Nothing too interesting. Funny thing. I was a terrible student. I dropped out of high school at age 16, got my GED, and never had an interest in college. Honestly, dropping out of high school was the best thing that ever happened for me. It really set the course for where I am now.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I never realized it. But I had many characteristics of someone who is inventive and a self starter. I think before I realized I was an entrepreneur, I first realized I never wanted to work for another company or under anyone else. I remember feeling excruciatingly unhappy at every job I had. I think that was my first sign.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

My photo business grew a lot more naturally, by word of mouth. But my e-commerce business was uncharted waters and it was a completely different world. It did not go as planned. I had no idea how to even launch my product. I would say the first 6 months were hardly profitable. I started to understand more about the beauty brand world the deeper I got into running my business. I thought I was doing what I needed to, but I was so uneducated about the e-commerce world when I first started, that it was all trial and error. I learned the hard way during almost every step.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

This is hard, because I cannot think of a time that was damning enough to feel like “the hardest thing I went through within my business”. I think collectively I have learned the hard way over and over, and I still am. One thing I take away from it, is I have never let a road bump discourage me. In fact, I think out of all rational logic, I become more motivated to try harder. I feel like setbacks just put me in a position to innovate and do better next time. I have not easily been discouraged, no matter what is at stake. I fail so often. It is just a part of being an entrepreneur.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Besides birthing my children. Writing my book. I never would have imagined I would be an author. I am so thrilled to have something so everlasting to continue my legacy with.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

My photography business has been impacted a lot. Tons of weddings rescheduled. But my nail polish brand has actually grown. Due to many people doing their nails at home now. More people are buying things online now, and creating an online brand was the right way to go.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

My book, The Humility Paradox, launches November 12th! 

A lot more growth with Bess & Color. I also hope to speak more on the things I’m passionate about, and maybe even write more.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I have a funny answer. I don’t think there is anything I would have wished I knew. I very much appreciate my journey, and all my hardships needed to happen for me to learn.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I kept busy. I didn’t let the world changing stop me from continuing my work. I did have to pivot into new directions to keep up with the times, but this year has actually been a good year for me in terms of inner growth.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Not really. My work is my life, my life is my work. Part of my identity, who I am as a person, is being a business owner. I can’t explain it, but it’s very much just who I am.  I work on and off all day. Floating between family time, and work time when I see fit. That is just how my brain works. One thing I do try to remind myself, is to completely disconnect from my home sometimes. I am a homebody for the most part, so sometimes I forget to enjoy myself away from home. It helps create a nice mental break. But I honestly loathe schedules. I think scheduling my day would be far more stressful than just winging it.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

Oh God. Well for one, when I was 13 I shaved off the sides of my hair and gave myself a mohawk. It mortified my parents. On a serious note. I am 14 months sober from alcohol. I quite cold turkey over a year ago. I also suffer from dermatillomania, which is an OCD disorder. I talk about it in my book, and I am currently talking about it more publicly.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Have something to enjoy or reward yourself with. Such as a coffee, a swim in the pool, a slice of pie! 
  • Find things that can break your work cycle when you start to get frustrated. Such as  leaving your house to see a friend, gardening, anything to change what your mind is focusing on. 
  • Have an idea on what needs to be finished, and make sure it gets done. Finish at least 1-2 hard tasks a day.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means my journey is my own. It won’t look like anybody else’s and I shouldn’t worry trying to make it look like anyone else’s. There are absolutely no rules on how any of this is supposed to work.

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