Amanda Cookson is the founder of Be My Guest, an online wedding stationery store based out of Dunedin, New Zealand. They offer pretty and unpretentious paper goods for weddings.
Meet Amanda Cookson!
What inspired you to launch your business? I started Be My Guest after the birth of Henry 5 years ago. After a nasty dose of PND and PNA, the thought of returning to a demanding full-time role was overwhelming, especially while hubby worked out of town during the week (which he still does).
I wanted a part-time job that would keep my brain active and contribute financially (mainly towards my coffee habit). I couldn’t find anything with the flexibility a young family needs, so self employment it was! I now manage a small team who look after the different aspects of designing and printing our range of beautiful wedding invitations.
How has your previous employment experience aided you professionally? My first role out of high school was working for the local council, so I got used to working in a very rigid environment where every decision was very black and white. I began studying at Uni via correspondence part time and halfway through that degree I got a role as a Marketing Exec for a training company within a larger accountancy firm. I was designing flyers for a very different demographic – 50-something accountants – so I started designing pretty things (like wedding invites…) on the side for fun. I then was promoted to Manager of the company at 26, where I built confidence calling the shots and holding my own with much more senior clients/colleagues. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to do what I do now without that experience.
What is the best part about being a businesswoman? I work the hours I want to work, where I want to work, and how I want to work. I came into business to call the shots for myself, so I like that I dictate how clients work with me – something that’s taken me awhile to work on (prior to having my second child I would work however clients wanted me to – Facebook messages, Insta DMs, meetings, and website). Now I am really strict, you order via the website so everything goes into my email and I’m only working out of one place. Much more organized for me and my ideal customers are happy to do it.
What is the most challenging part of being a businesswoman? Probably the inconsistent work – I will randomly get a week with absolutely no orders, then the week I want to go on holiday I will get triple the orders I usually get.
What is your favorite way to unplug from work? Creating art. I have been doing printmaking classes.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments? I better say my kids! But also completing a degree while working full-time with an A average is right up there.
What are some risks you have taken that resulted in positive outcomes? Completely ignoring my very expensive and experienced business coach who wanted me to focus on custom designed wedding invitations and going for a pre-designed invites approach. Less back and forth/meetings and less stress for my clients (because they know exactly what they’re ordering).
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date? Get paid or it’s an expensive hobby. I won’t do any work without payment or a deposit.
What tips would you give other businesswomen to maintain work/life balance? Not the right person to ask! I absolutely love doing what I do and so struggle to just sit and enjoy the kids when I know I could be doing something on the website. 🙂
Business-wise, where do you see yourself in ten years? Would love to have a full-time employee who looked after the emails and loading bits and pieces on the website… all the stuff that I know needs done but doesn’t excite me.
Where’s your favorite place to work from? I’ve just moved out of my home office into a spare desk at a local business so I can have coffee with grownups on my breaks and don’t get distracted by housework.
Are you part of any mastermind or networking groups? If so, which ones? I founded Southern Bride Verified Vendors as a way of connecting with other like minded wedding industry vendors. We try to get out for a drink and wine every couple of months.
What is a quote you live by? Show up every day.
What is the one book that you recommend other female entrepreneurs read? The $1000 Project by Cana Campbell. It’s not a business book but great at expanding your mind on how to hustle up some cash when things are quiet.
What has helped you grow your business? Just sticking with it. Looking at decisions rationally and not letting my ego drive them.
What has been your best business investment? Decent web hosting. I had so many headaches before finding my current guys. They’re expensive but worth it. My whole business is based around my website so I need hosting to be fast and reliable.
What does your typical day look like? Up around 7 and sorting the kids for daycare/school, while they eat breakfast, I check my emails for any orders overnight and pack/courier what I can, to leave at the door for my courier who comes past around 10. I get into the office at 9 after dropping the kids off and start on a project till morning tea (10.15ish). Once I’ve had a coffee and completed the task I started on, I’ll go through my emails and do design work – either creating their designs or making changes. Then I will send files to print that are approved.
I’ll then work on blog posts for Southern Bride till around 2:30 when I go pick up the kids. In the afternoon while they’re occupied with afternoon tea or an activity, I package up completed orders or maybe do a bit of admin (send info to my VA to add to the website, accounting – yuck, or scheduling social media posts).
What advice would you give your younger self? Care less about what other people think – the fear of judgment and failure is the biggest barrier to success.
What is the #1 piece of advice would you give to women who are aspiring to run a business and become Wild Web Women? If you’re going to do it, do it properly, don’t half-ass it. If you don’t believe in what you do, why should a customer believe in you? Nothing happens overnight, so stick with it.