In our new Inspiring Women blog series, we're shining a light on women who've built businesses and brands that we love. From beauty moguls and boss babes to publishing powerhouses and truly inspiring influencers, we asked these women to share their stories, advice, must-haves, and secrets for crushing it at work, life, and motherhood.
We first fell in love with Elsie Larson—one half of the sister duo behind A Beautiful Mess—through her colorful, whimsical world of decor, DIY, food, style, and more. Then Elsie and her sister, Emma, launched A Color Story, a photo editing app, and our girl crush went through the roof. Not only is Elsie an inspiration when it comes to running a handful of creative business, but she's also an inspiration when it comes to motherhood: Elsie and her husband adopted their daughter, Nova, from China, and they will be adopting a second daughter this summer. We couldn't wait to chat with Elsie about all things business, motherhood, womanhood, and more! Read our conversation below, and be sure to follow Elsie on Instagram for even more from this Nashville-based beauty.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story—what inspired you to start blogging and create A Beautiful Mess?
What steps did you take to start your business and launch your brand?
We took calculated risks. We've started a lot of businesses and projects that failed though the years, as well. Business is risk. We build on what is working and let go of what isn't.
What's one thing you've gotten right and one thing you've gotten wrong along the way?
Working with my sister, Emma, as a business partner is the best business decision of my life. It's definitely tough working with family (Emma's husband is also the CEO of our app company). We have had some bad fights over the years, but we also have really close, healthy relationships. Open communication is key! We've made so many mistakes along the way, I try not to start businesses just because something is a passion in my life. I've eventually learned that sometimes it's best to keep some parts of my life "just for fun."
What does an "average" work day look like for you?
I batch work, so whatever I do I do it all day. Some days I shoot blog content, some days I design for the apps, some days I write posts, some days I work on our renovation projects (our blog does a lot of home renovation and decor content) and some days I cram in a bunch of meetings with our teams!
How do you find balance between mom life and work life? Do you believe there is such a thing?
I definitely believe in a healthy work/family balance. What works for me is work hard when my daughter is in school (five days a week) and then totally log off, leave my phone, etc., when I'm spending time with her at night and on the weekends. Whether I am working or being a mom, I give it 100%. I absolutely believe it's possible to thrive in your career AND be a great mom.
You adopted a darling daughter, Nova, and are in the process of adopting a second daughter. Could you tell us about your decision to adopt and share some of the details of your adoption journey?
What advice or encouragement would you offer other parents considering adoption?
On the weekends or when you have a free day, how do you like to spend your time?
We have a pretty special weekend routine. We do a lot of the same things over and over. We go to the library, paint, have picnics, and we have a few special restaurants here in Nashville that make Nova feel like a guest of honor. When I was a child, my family stayed home a lot and I believe it gave me a more creative childhood and helped me to learn to invent my own fun. For that reason, it's important to me to stay home often and not be too busy in our routines. I want to leave space for those random little activities—like my daughter wanting to run through her rainbow scarf over and over in our hallway for 30 straight minutes. That's the magic.
Where was the last place you traveled and what destination is on your travel wish-list?
What's one fashion item or accessory you're currently coveting?
What are your favorite shops in Nashville?
What's one of your beauty or skin care must-haves?
What food, meal, or restaurant are you always craving?
What song or album are you currently listening to on repeat?
What book, podcast, or TV series are you currently loving?
What's one item that you always carry in your bag and never leave home without?
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your teenage self?
First and foremost: Stop plucking your eyebrows. LOL (not joking though).
I wish I could go back and really teach myself confidence. I was painfully shy growing up, and only recently felt released from some of my biggest fears like public speaking or feeling comfortable going places alone. I had a lot of hang ups that were unnecessary, but at least I got past them eventually.
Who is a woman that inspires you and why?
My mom—she taught me to love art, to make art every day, and to let go of the ideal of perfection. I can't really think of a better influence than that, and I strive to be like her for my daughter.
What words of wisdom would you offer other female entrepreneurs?
Don't compare yourself to people who have been doing it longer. I know sometimes people look at us and see an overnight success, but that's not how it played out at all. Almost every successful person I know was working so hard for ten years before they "made it." Comparison can really hold you back. It's so much better to celebrate each milestone—even the small ones!
Photos: Courtesy of Elsie Larson