It's easy to look at someone and think they got to where they are because of sheer luck. The chances are that's rarely the case! What you don't see or hear about are the failures, long hours (sometimes even all-nighters), blood, sweat, and tears (literally)! The success story of Sugar And Cloth is anything but a fairytale! Not all those who wander are lost, and in Ashley Rose's case, she needed to take a few turns to find the right path. After switching majors and finally dropping out of art school, Ashley Rose waited tables to make ends meet while figuring out what her passion was. Sugar And Cloth was born in 2011 as a hobby and has grown to be the destination for all things craft, DIY projects, recipes, entertaining tips, and more. We're inspired by Ashley Rose's journey of turning Sugar And Cloth from a hobby into a full-fledged career alongside her significant other, Jared Smith, who is the resident photographer. Ashley Rose and Jared's work ethic proves that your dream job can be more than just a dream with hard work and perseverance. We were lucky enough to sit down with one of our favorite creative couples to talk about their journey, get some industry insight and creative advice in the midst of their crazy holiday schedule!
Hi Ashley Rose & Jared! Please share your humble beginnings and how you both started working together as a creative couple.
Ashley Rose: I'm Ashley Rose, and I founded Sugar & Cloth in 2011 while waiting tables at a local restaurant and trying to decide what I wanted to do in life. I knew I wanted something creative, but after having gone to (and quit) college after switching majors several times, I had no idea what I loved doing the most. Sugar & Cloth was a place where I could cover anything creative that I wanted, and I never get tired of dreaming up new ideas to share. I worked several jobs while moonlighting with Sugar & Cloth, and just over two years ago, I finally started working towards it full time with Jared as the resident photographer. Jared: I'm Jared Smith, the resident photographer at Sugar & Cloth. I met Ashley while working at a local creative company in Houston. After multiple "dates", which consisted of me helping her build and photograph blog projects in her living room while still working a full-time job, eventually, we decided we should transition into working together full-time.
What were some of the highs and lows of starting your own business -- a crucial lesson you've learned along the way and your favorite collaboration/project to date?
Ashley Rose: There's always a steep learning curve when starting a small business, especially one that heavily relies on social media and other evolving platforms to flourish. We definitely had our fair share of money scares in the beginning when clients were way past due on invoices, and the cost of running the company while it was growing was scaling up. I quickly learned that determination was the single factor that would make or break us. We obviously stuck it out, and thankfully those days are behind us. My favorite project I've gotten to work on since the beginning was our collaboration with Amazon Party, where I got to style and conceptualize amazon.com/party and have it co-branded. Jared: It takes a lot of sacrifice to start and maintain your own business. Sometimes that means not seeing friends and family as much as you would like, or working well into the night, but I do think the benefits outweigh the negatives. One of my favorite collaborations to date was getting to visit Lindt Chocolate's factory as ambassadors for the brand for 2016. I felt like Charlie in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, ha!
It must be tons of fun working at the Sugar And Cloth studio (we live vicariously through your Instagram and blog)! What are your roles, how do you manage and stay organized from project to project, and how does your "normal/not so normal" workday look like?
Ashley Rose: You never know what you're getting into when you stop by the studio. Some days we're focusing on admin tasks and writing blog posts, then the next day could be photographing dog pool float costumes with french bulldogs. My favorite part is getting to share our final projects with readers! Jared: We have definitely improved this process throughout our time working together. Ashley conceptualizes and styles the project, and then I photograph. Kayla, our operations & marketing manager, has been very influential in helping us stay on task and keeping us organized. We try and stay on schedule as much as we can, but there are certainly days when we stay very late at the studio. Every day is different, and I think that is what I like most.
How have you used social media for your blog/business and how has it helped your business flourish?
Ashley Rose: Social media has become a huge portion of our business and income streams. Instagram and Pinterest specifically are the platforms we dote on the most, and it's definitely been returned to us. One thing I've learned is not to try and make everything work for you. For instance, there are a lot of apps that we never used, like Periscope, Vine, etc. Instead, we focus on what brings the best ROI for the company and what we enjoy using the most. This helps us really grow certain platforms while also avoiding getting burnt out too quickly.
Being in your position and the nature of your business, how do you maintain a work/life balance as individuals and as partners in work/life?
Ashley Rose: Honestly, I'm naturally terrible at keeping a work-life balance. Jared has actually been the voice of reason in this realm. When we first started working together, it was also the same time that we had transitioned to Sugar & Cloth full time. Priorities got really out of whack, and it wasn't pretty! Since then, we've started specifically planning things in advance so that we can't make excuses for passing up time with family, date nights, or letting ourselves off the hook a little. For instance, we might be super busy for a season, but we'll plan a trip to some place new, or host a game night or dinner at our house to hold ourselves accountable to taking time for ourselves. It also gives a something to feel like the long hours pays off, and we have something relaxing that we're working towards. Jared: It's definitely difficult, but we have since learned to schedule time to ourselves so that we can take time to focus on our relationship and enjoy each other's company away from work.
What insight, advice or tips do you have for aspiring creatives wanting to get into your field (i.e. blogging, content creating, diy, styling, photography)?
Ashley Rose: Don't underestimate the amount of work it takes to get your feet off the ground, but know that as long as you stay motivated and are willing to put in the time to learn your craft, focus on the big picture, and meet people that will help you grow, then you'll always succeed. Celebrating the little victories is always a great pep talk for yourself, too. ;) Jared: Echoing Ashley, staying motivated and not giving up is very important. Sometimes it's hard to get out of bed in the morning and stay motivated after a week of really long hours, but always being willing to put in the extra effort will help you succeed in your field.
Being an in-demand content creating force can easily and quickly burn you out. What inspires you and how do you stay inspired?
Ashley Rose: Traveling to new places, whether it's a different city, country, or as simple as a new coffee shop in town. There's something really inspiring about taking in new surroundings that get me out of a stale mindset and reinvigorates me. Jared: I agree, my inspiration comes from traveling and getting to experience different cultures as well. I also love being challenged by new, out of the box ideas from the work of my peers.