Female Founder Friday: Laura C. Cannon
It’s Female Founder Friday…another chance to showcase an exceptional woman entrepreneur! Today I am delighted to introduce you to Laura C. Cannon. Laura is a speaker, author, coach, and a true serial-entrepreneur. She is the founder of several different companies including Ceremony Officiants™, which was recently rated the nation’s most popular wedding officiant company for the second consecutive year. After getting her start as a solo wedding officiant in 2003, she has grown the business to a large team of officiants serving 7 states on the East Coast, with plans to grow nationally.
So, on to Laura’s insightful and candid answers to my questions about her life as a female founder and her businesses!
What inspired you to create your company?
My first entrepreneurial venture was an event planning company in college, and I’ve always loved the special events industry. When I performed my first wedding ceremony for a friend, I hadn’t considered “officiating” as a potential business venture but I absolutely loved the experience while I was doing it. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the caterer came up and told me that it was the best ceremony he had ever seen and asked if he could get my business card to refer me to his clients. Since I was only performing that wedding as a personal favor to my friend I didn’t have any business cards (or a business!), but his inquiry sparked the entrepreneurial fire in me and I replied, “I am out of cards right now but I will mail you some!”
From there things just grew – starting with word of mouth client referrals, then to vendor referrals and venue lists, and then advertising and wedding shows. By this time I finally had some actual business cards printed by a company like Kaizen Print, to make sharing my business information easier. The business grew and evolved from just me as a solo-operator wedding officiant to a multi-state, six-figure company with a team of amazing officiants. What I didn’t expect was that it also grew into more businesses! I am currently overseeing operations for 5 different companies that sprouted organically out of Ceremony Officiants and my officiant career, and it’s been great using my skill as an entrepreneur to help people share love!
What was your biggest obstacle and failure in going from idea to business?
My biggest obstacle was probably the fact that I was unwilling to take outside capital to grow the business. There were many times that I knew if I had better (and more expensive) marketing, systems, or more staff that I could grow the business faster. Instead, I chose to rely on bootstrapping, hard work, and investing everything back into the business to make it grow. I knew that getting a great website up and running would be a top priority, so made sure I had set aside some funds to work with a company like GO Creative to ensure that this website was sleek and professional-looking right from the get-go. I don’t consider my unwilligness a failure, but I am aware that the business might have been able to scale faster had I taken capital investments. My advice would be to accept capital for your business when you need it, whether that’s for improving your IT infrastructure or purchasing the necessary business software. Don’t hesitate in case you miss your opportunity for growth.
Whatever calls to my heart! Presently, I’m feeling called to continue to scale the business and to spend more time working ON my business and less time working IN it. This past July I released my first book, The Conscious Entrepreneur, and I have been transitioning more into public speaking and sharing my experiences and wisdom with other aspiring entrepreneurs, and I look forward to doing more of that in 2017.
Please share your best piece of advice for aspiring female founders.
I actually have two pieces of advice for aspiring female founders: First, follow your heart. Follow what you feel called to create. I never thought of myself as a “creative” person because I was never good at artistic endeavors like writing or painting. I came to realize that it wasn’t that I wasn’t creative, it was simply that my medium was businesses – I create better with ideas than paintbrushes. Create what lights you up and inspires you. Don’t follow the money, follow your heart. My second piece of advice is to bootstrap whatever you can and don’t spend more than you earn. It may have taken me longer to build my businesses by not borrowing money, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have looked into lending many times when business got tough, but I have never borrowed. I have used a Bridging Loan Calculator to look into it, however never taken the plunge. I’ve consulted for many successful entrepreneurs, and the ones that are truly the most fulfilled and joyful weren’t the ones who received tons of investments; they were the ones who rolled up their sleeves to grind it out and made it happen while working for someone else full-time, or working in their garage instead of a fancy office. Not owing anyone gives you long-term financial stability and the freedom to take risks you otherwise wouldn’t be able to take, and is totally worth doing if it’s a possibility.
If you had a theme song what would it be?
“Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite. It’s not my ‘favorite’ song, but it has so much personal meaning for me that it invokes a feeling that reminds me specifically of my journey into entrepreneurship. When I planned my first event this song was the inspiration for the “vibe” of the event. The lyrics are basically unintelligible, but the feeling it invokes is so uplifting and fun. It reminds me of how far I have come since that first business was born. And it reminds me that to get in the groove or the “flow” of life we have to align with the heart.