The secrets behind "do what you love, love what you do" and some other nonsense

Hello world, it's Mary this time around! In preparation for my "career fair" presentation to Woodstown High School students today (I know, I can't believe someone invited me to ramble about A Garden Party either!), I thought I might put some thoughts down on virtual paper. What better place than my blog? So in hopes that I don't create a snooze-fest, let's start unveiling some SECRETS....ok that might be a little dramatic, but whatev.  

SECRET #1. Does high school actually prepare you for the "real world"?

Well, in a round about way, YES. You have begun to define yourselves with your interests, talents, achievements - do you like where you are going?

When I was in Woodstown High School (Class of '02), I did the whole soccer, FFA, 4-H thing (I probably did a million other activities too, knowing me, but they are kinda mute at this point...I wouldn't count honor society as an activity, yet I thought it was at the time. See secret #4 for more info). Looking back on my soccer past, the friendships I formed on the field are still my strongest to date. The lessons Coach Morgan shared with us are put to good use daily, so my advice to you is don't take these small lessons in life for granted. If they are important to you now, don't let them fade away.

Allie, me, Sarah (my soccer girls) in 2001 - we have about a million pics like this and I love em all!

Ahhhh....FFA, where to begin? This is where I really started to define myself and my passions. I have this horrible quality of always wanted to be the best at everything, and my experiences with FFA helped me realize that some things I am good at, and some things I am n.o.t. (think Poultry judging-but dang, I do not eat chicken patties anymore). Becoming comfortable as a public speaker (FFA is chock full of this stuff), learning how to present myself confidently, chat it up with total strangers, fulfill a responsibility - these are the elements I am using today to make my business successful! FFA opened the door to my passion for floral design as well, thanks to those competitions, I got offered a job at a local flower shop. That lead to a few years of training and that passion for being creative never left me.

Being a 4-H member offered a lot of these same life lessons, mixing in some new friendships and a real emphasis on family learning. It showed me that my mom took a LOT of extra time to teach us, I thought it was normal back then, but now that I am a mother, I admire it even more now. She RULES at the mom thing.

So those life lessons in combination with the classroom lessons, I would say I was on a pretty awesome path by the time in hit those sidewalks of Penn State. Are you on an awesome path? What are you doing to get there?


SECRET #2: It takes some real work. Like the kind of work that you curse.

I hate to break it to ya, but the horrible/awful/stressful/complain-the-whole-lunch-break-about-some-assignment kind of work that you are doing now is the easy stuff.  Come talk to me when you get the the thesis composing, business plan writing, budget creating, tax-filing stage of life. Speaking of taxes, I am going to use this moment to again state that yeah it is great to be 18 and eligible to vote, but what the heck to you know about the government at 18? You only really start to learn about the government when you are working real jobs and paying real taxes. Once you have felt the sting (this is an understatement) of your hard earned money disappearing into the black hole of the tax universe, then you can vote. Only then.

The kind of hard work that I am talking about started in college, when I decided I wanted to start my business upon graduation. Well, I had no idea how to do that. So I did something scary, very scary....I asked someone to help me. This someone (holla Dr. Hyde) spent 2 years guiding me to forming a business plan for A Garden Party, so when I did get that diploma, I also had this very handy tool, my business plan, to get me started! The work involved with writing this business plan taught me how to start. making. decisions. I have realized that a lot of people struggle with this decision making process, and I admit, it can be a doozy. I started to make some decisions about how I wanted to form my business (at the time I was a sole proprietor), who would be there with me (Sister Dawn was later brought on as a full partner in our LLC), where would I get the money from (We saved it. Borrowed from no one. Worked another job and built this one during late nights and long weekends.), and what would make A Garden Party stand out from the rest of the Salem County or South Jersey florists (fresh designs with personal touches, extreme customer service). So this 70 page document was a lot of work, I sacrificed a lot of "slacking off" time in college and chose to get head start on my career. And guess what, I don't regret it. I actually kinda liked it.

My other sister, Sara, and I on graduation day. May 2006. PS i miss U!!!!


SECRET #3: If you aren't happy, it is your fault.

So I did the "right" thing after college and got a decent paying job for another company, where I worked with some awesome people and learned a boat load of stuff about how to run a successful business. After 3 years, I sat at my desk on day and thought "I am better than this job". It had nothing to do with my boss, my pay, the hours, it had to do with the fact that I wasn't happy. I was starting to turn into one of those people, where my job was making me a "negative nelly", you know the type? I had all of these strong qualities (my creativity, my people skills) just going to waste! So I threw myself into A Garden Party in the off hours and built my business to a point where I knew I could do so much more if I just had the time to devote to it. I left my other job and started my career as an entrepreneur. It was the most frightening experience of my life to tell my boss that I was leaving, I bet he still thinks I am crazy. Who cares if I am crazy, at least I am happy :)

Dawn and I, just lovin' life!


SECRET #4: Discovering the meaningful things in life sometimes sucks.

I used to do a lot of things so I could "build my resume", in my current stage of life, that piece of paper is MIA. Yes, I am grateful for all of my experiences since they got me to where I am today, blah blah blah, but I don't think I loved all of those bullets on my resume. I now only do what I love, and I am loving it! My time is spent strengthening our business, developing relationships with my clients, creating a happy and healthy environment for my son, loving my husband John and embracing my crazy family. The part that sucks is finding a balance for it all. I know I sound like Oprah (I love me some Oprah pep talks), but balance seems impossible sometimes, especially to the kind of person who wants to do it all. Sometimes you can't....but I can keep trying! The other sucky parts include realizing that to be the best mom, sometimes that means sending your son to daycare. Realizing that to be the best wife, you have to stop cleaning up after dinner and start talking about life. Realizing that to be the best businesswoman, you have to work 7 days a week, late nights, and take out your own trash. These things might not mean much to you now, but maybe one day they will.

My son, Lee, on Easter. He helps (or plays) in the flower shop too!


Whelp, I guess those are all the SECRETS I am willing to unveil at this time...anyone else want to share some inner dirt?


PersonalMary Coombs