Name: Sarah Oliver
Name of Company: Uptown Gowns
Year Started: 2014
Based In: Columbus, Georgia
Military Affiliation: Army Spouse
First, tell us a little bit about yourself and your brand/company.
I am a 25 year old proud military wife to Mitchell and a mama to two girls, Olivia (4) and Lucy (2) with plans for more babies to come! I love Jesus, I am proud to be an American, I am a breast feeding encourager, a pig enthusiast (we have a pig who lives in our home), I am the second of four daughters, I am a thrifter, lover of old things (I just bought a house built in 1855), I am addicted to coffee, I always have too much to say, I cry with almost every emotion, I'm hard-headed, I have the attention span of a squirrel, there is always the most random thoughts happening inside my head and I almost never meet a stranger.
Uptown Gowns is a sister owned and operated bridal & formal boutique with a heart for the Lord and for people. I have three sisters: Jennifer, Abigail, & Hannah- I have a dream job with a dream team, I wouldn't be where I am today without my sisters, they are my best friends. When we started thinking of our mission statement, two bible verses came to mind. The first verse is Proverbs 31:25 "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." The second verse is Song of Solomon 4:9," You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." Our mission at Uptown Gowns is to provide every woman with confidence when choosing her dream gown- a gown that clothes her in strength and dignity and reminds every woman that she is fearfully and wonderfully made; every day should be a celebration of that beautiful truth!
What were some of the big challenges you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
Oh the challenges! I would say that our greatest challenge has always been financing. I started the business plan about a year prior to trying to obtain financing which made me 23 at the time. I was not working, I had NO credit history, (which I quickly found out is bad and no one was about to take that risk), and my only co-signer would have been my husband but due to security issues with his job, he could not sign and to top all that off I was about seven months pregnant with Lucy. After the seventh bank denied me and what credit I may have had now being shot, I considered giving up. Thankfully my dad, who has always been one of my biggest fans and encouragers, stepped up said "I've always believed that whatever you touch, turns to gold" and provided enough to get us up and going, not that he had it to give, so it was a very selfless act of love. To this day, we are self financed and let me just say y'all- it's an ongoing challenge.
Another obstacle, which sounds so crazy to say, would be that I am young. People don't take young blonde girls seriously (who would have thought?!). I have had to really learn to stand up for myself which is hard for me because I never want to be portrayed as rude or unkind. This is something I have to work on daily, not being young (obviously) but having people take me seriously.
How do you balance family life and your business?
My saint of a mama. She is a HUGE part of, if not, THE reason I am able to have any balance what so ever. As a small business owner and a mama, there is no such thing as "clocking out". My mama takes care of my girls with the business needs my undivided attention. She even works shifts at the store when needed. She has always been the backbone or balance of our family and the same can be said where the store is concerned.
The other thing that helps keep me balanced is setting boundaries. This means, limiting the work you bring home and yes, this includes how much time you spend on your phone: verbal or non-verbal communication. Set a work schedule and make the most of your time while you are at work. If need be, work once the kiddos and husband have gone to sleep, but don't make that a habit! Keep it healthy.What are some pieces of advice you can share with other women entrepreneurs?
As cliche as this is going to sound, I am going to say it anyway because I believe in it: Don't you dare quit your daydream! Starting your own business is going to be tough, if it were easy- everyone would do it. All things in life worth having require hard work, dedication like no other and a lot less sleep... ok, ok, the sleep part may not be true for you (most of my work is done after the girls and husband are asleep and the house is quiet). Additionally, don't do it for the money, do it because it is something you love and something that you are passionate about and
I promise you won't be disappointed or feel empty handed. Oh, and don't cripple yourself, mentally or emotionally. Know your worth and own it.
What do you love most about what you do?
I am sitting here so emotional right now trying to pin point what I love the most, because the whole deal is a labor of love, in the best possible way. I think getting to be part of so many love stories, no matter how small a role we play, would be what I love most. I always remind my sisters and myself that 20+ years from now when these women are telling their daughters or granddaughters about the experience they had when they went shopping for their own wedding gown, I want them to remember feeling important and treasured and loved. I don't even care if they can't remember our name, but how amazing is that thought? It gives me goosebumps!
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered for loving people like Jesus does and glorifying the Lord with my life. Plain and simple. There is a worship song from the band "Unspoken" and it says,"Leave me in rags and ruins and I'll praise You (God) through it. Clothe me in glory and riches, I'll praise You (God) just the same. All that I have, all I've been given, all of my life's ambition is to worship, is to honor, is to bring You (God) praise" and I would love for that to be said of my life.
More about Sarah:
Starbucks order? Venti White Chocolate Mocha with an extra shot of espresso.
Go-to workout? I love to run but rarely get to.
Guilty pleasure? I absolutely LOVE two shows: "When Calls The Heart" and "Call the Midwife"
Your phone camera is filled with photos of... Olivia and Lucy, Our new "old" house, and our pet pig (yes, I am obsessed with him)
If you could have dinner with any woman, who would it be and why? I think it would be Nicole Nordeman, she sings the most beautiful lyrics that always seem to speak right to my heart. I have loved her music from a very young age and I love her that much more now.