My husband likes to joke around and tell people I made a very successful business and name for myself from arts and crafts (LOL.) On the surface, that's probably a good description of it. But as most business owners know, there's a LOT that goes into a business. And in reality, though he may joke around a lot- I wouldn't be where I am today without his support. (I love you honey!)
So let's start there- with my husbands support. When Ric and I met I was managing retail stores. As a natural born leader, I've always marched to the beat of my own drum and loved to be creative. I had massive dreams that I would tell him about my desires in making a career out of performing or fine arts. At the time, I thought I was going to be a professional vocalist of a female fronted metal or hard rock band. (Lol, yes. You read that right) It may even secretly still be a desire of mine- but that's another story for another time. Ric saw this desire I had and saw something that I always knew was there, but never was in a position to do much about because before him, I was a massive bread winner in my relationships and always was relied on for bills, and honestly that's all I ever knew. Work to pay bills and live to work. I always dreamed and knew I'd do big things but was never exactly sure how. Ric was in a position financially at the time to be a massive support and offered the greatest gift I've ever been given and probably ever will receive in my lifetime. He said to me one day in a loving, yet rather serious conversation:
" I am in a position to support the bills financially, I want you to spend every day finding out what you want to do in your life. I want you to spend time finding a career you would love to do. If you want to go back to school, do it. If you want to do makeup, do it. If you want to create music, do it. But the moment I see you not actively working on your career or being lazy- I will ask you to please get another job and help with the bills again."
Little did I know that my life would completely turn around in a years time. Ric knew that it would- or else he would have never ever offered that type of support. However, I don't think either of us knew the extent to which I would have taken that opportunity. At the time, Ric was also starting out in photography. As an analytical person who has the brain of an engineer as his fulltime job- He takes knowledge of something he enjoys and really runs with it. He will study the ends and outs of a subject and all new techniques and dedicate HOURS of his day learning something he's passionate about even after a full day of working. So, at the time I thought it would be really cool to learn SFX makeup and work hard to become a makeup artist for the film industry. Makeup was something I was good at, and I was interested in the film industry and not just beauty makeup so I really studied every day and networked with people in the industry. Ric would come home from work almost nightly and my entire face would be done up with prosthetics or some extravagant makeup. This not only amplified my career, but also his as a photographer. I would get him to take photos multiple times a week of different looks and he would always have to learn some new editing technique because of it. This dynamic really pushed us both forward in our own ways and will always be a "Dynamic Duo" because of it. We challenged each other. It was almost a fun game of "What other crazy concepts can we do next?" That 'challenging each other' mentality lead to so many creative concepts including underwater photography and the challenges of makeup underwater, to the creation of five Rio Carnival themed models- where I would be responsible for not just the makeup, but also the COSTUMES. Why in the world would I do that? Because I wanted to test my strengths as a creative individual and everything is a learning experience. And thank goodness I did that because that specific shoot was the birth of Kayla Douglas Artistry. You can read more about that shoot on this blog post HERE.
At this time our social media following amongst the creative community was booming. We knew a lot of people in Atlanta, but also the entire south east who ranged from Photographers, to models, to makeup artists and everything in between. Those elaborate costumes - especially one in particular -caught some eyes with the photography community. I created a floor length set of cotton candy blue and pink angel wings to go with a model. (Granted, this was my FIRST EVER set of wings. They do NOT look good like they do now- and they sure as hell weren't durable for long term use.) However, I had SO MANY messages about creating angel wings for these photographers. At the time there was only one other person who was a big time name who made them, and they were pretty expensive- and super heavy. (Granted I do NOT blame that creator for the cost. You guys, when I mean these sets of wings take so much work- I mean it takes me no less than 20 hours of straight attaching each feather by hand. So, I will never ever ever say anything negative about someone's work. Especially the price. So you go girl!!) At the time of course- I didn't know what I know now. But I wouldn't change that for the world because everything I went through was such a learning lesson early on in business that I will cherish and take with me for the rest of my entrepreneur journey.
Okay, so let me fast forward because I can write a ton of different blog posts based off of a few stories in my business journey. (I am a story teller- can't you tell?) So if you want more details on those stories be sure to comment so I know what stories to tell first!
Let me give you the to the point version- I saw a massive opportunity in business with these inquiries but I didn't know where to start. I didn't understand pricing art very well in terms of physical product but I also am a perfectionist. I knew that if I was going to do this, I had to give people QUALITY. Once again- my husbands support in being an engineer helped me assess my original design and then compare it to other DIY versions on the market and combine some of his engineering techniques with my creative brain. That birthed the first version of our patented design. We wanted to focus on quality, durability, lightweight capabilities and the integrity of the design as a whole overtime. After our first few variations and quality control tests- I did something incredibly stupid from a business professionals perspective- but incredibly smart in terms of creating Word of Mouth marketing.
I hosted a $700 angel wing sale........
I felt a dramatic pause was necessary. (LOL)
Okay, so for those of you that wouldn't understand- that is an INSANE deal. Rather, unheard of for those types of wings made out of ostrich feathers and the amount of time it takes to make them.
Man, oh man was that the beginning of a looooooong hard lesson but also the biggest blessing of my life. I had 15 people order a set of those dang wings. Orders were coming in faster than I could keep up with the messages. People just ready to hand over their money and get their place in the queue before I caught on to the fact that this was an unheard of deal. I want to write another blog post on the personal emotions and very human experiences during this time. I didn't even have a website yet- or even an official way to take these peoples money. Everything went through my personal Venmo and Paypal while I wrote notes in my phone about the order of which I received payment so I knew whose order to work on next. Even writing this is bringing up memories of emotions and growth that I just smile at now.
Those 15 orders gave me so much anxiety, imposter syndrome, excitement, and fear of people hating my product. But once again- Ric is my rock and ALWAYS anchored my emotions to a loving place and understanding of the blessing that is. He would always tell me that its impossible for everyone to always love your product in business and to detach yourself from a personal attachment to that. Although funny enough everything I was fearing was just that- fear. In fact, the response was polar opposite. Many people raved over my quality and the unique ability to fold the wings in half and them able to adjust in width. It was also a bonus that they were lightweight, weighing less than 5 pounds. I think that was the start of a wildfire of word of mouth marketing. I also like to remain very personable in all of my interactions with my clients- adding a lot of them on Facebook and really just being more than just a business owner. (Granted, I still have very strict boundaries in place for business talk as the years go by. I also use my Facebook in a very personal way. I don't ever post anything negative and rarely on social media for long.) I plan to use this method forever, even though the further my business booms the less I find myself on my personal account. That doesn't change the fact that I still love to log in and see the accomplishments of my fellow clients and social media friends.
Anyways, those 15 orders gave me 2 full months of anxiety, carpal tunnel (True story. I could barely close my hand all the way after those orders for at least a month.) and a lifelong lesson of pricing, marketing and business tools I carry with me forever. I made SOOOOOO LITTLE off those orders lol. So much work and exhaustion and I maybe made $100 from each order (before shipping) when each order took like 20-25 hours of labor. Needless to say, I learned my lesson on how to price myself after that experience.
I still keep in touch with some of those first ever clients- and though my design has evolved even better since then and been registered at the USPTO and popularity has grown- Most of them still use those wings! I'm so proud of that. My biggest fears actually proved to be just that- fear.
This experience and ride has been the greatest experience of my life and continues to humble me as a human and grow as an entrepreneur daily. Even on the hard days, doubtful ones, and ones filled with fear- I can always reference that first conversation with my beloved husband, Ric. I can reference how far we've both grown in our individual talents and businesses, as well as who we are as a couple. This isn't a sappy blog post on my love life. This is a success story on how important belief in yourself and support around you truly is. In these few years, I am now a top Couture Angel Creator for photographers and cosplayers around the world with over 500 sets sold in countries everywhere. That is surreal. I was also asked to be a vendor at this years 2022 Portrait Masters Conference alongside names like BH Photo, Tamron, and Zeiss. Buy your ticket to Portrait Masters Conference September 11th-14th in Pheonix, AZ and say hello to Ric and I at my booth! Also have an amazing opportunity to listen to some other business and creative geniuses speak.
Ric also now has a successful photography business in Editorial and Adventure Photography and offers mentorship to upcoming photographers. You can check out his website here .
I am living my dream everyday and have high hopes to eventually host business coaching classes and wellness retreats in the future to continue to inspire young entrepreneurs and be the support that I am so blessed to have in Ric.
Pictured below is some different sappy and beautiful images of Ric and I throughout the years from different photographers credited in the title of images.