Lilian Oliver is living the dream of creating her own business - Lily Chic Events, making a life with her love and best friend and raising inspirational children. We caught up with Lilian to find out what makes her tick, how she manages a busy daily life and get her tips for someone starting their own business.
Tell us a little about yourself, what’s the day to day life like for a small business owner in and around Melbourne?
I own and run an Event Decorating Business from home...home for me is in a leafy suburb 40 minutes from Melbourne CBD, in a three bedroom townhouse with my husband, his two daughters, aged nine and ten, and our 1 year old identical twin girls! My day begins when the twins wake...I usually get online whilst having breakfast to check what's happened overnight in the US. I then take my older girls to school and put the twins down for a nap...and I jump online again. Answer emails, package up stock, shop online, update blogs and complete designs for clients! The same continues for most of the day and concludes about 11pm each night!
I dedicate one day a week to the business and my parents take the twins so I can do this. For events on the weekends, I get ready two weeks in advance so I am ready to go on the day.
Who inspires you, that encourages you to reach out and make things happen?
My best friend...my husband James. He never gets sick of hearing about Lily Chic Events, he celebrates the small milestones, he spends each evening designing my website and new shop, and he is by my side every step of the way! My other inspiration are my twin daughters, Aurelia and Indiana. They were born at 25 weeks gestation and they were on life support for 4 months, and every breath was a struggle. They not only survived the odds but did it smiling. They are extraordinary and I guess looking at the hardship they went though so early on in life, makes me want to be just like them - inspirational.
How did the idea come about for Lily Chic Events? Was it something you’d always dreamed of doing or one of those brilliant light bulb moments?
I worked for an Event Decorator for two years and loved it! I was never part of the 'creating' side...more the 'implement' side. Another opportunity came up and I took different job...one that I thought I'd like (and did) but never loved. When I was told by doctors that I couldn't place my twins in childcare due to complications of being born very premature...my maternity leave became permanent. After 4 months I craved interaction from adults and my husband suggested starting up my 'dream business', event decorating. I was nervous, excited but most of all determined.
You obviously have a passion for design, colour and presentation – what do you find stimulates your inspiration, that gets your creative juices flowing?
Seeing all the Creative designs popping up on the net everyday both here and overseas drives and motivates me. Sometimes I see something so unique and beautiful that it sparks a fire in me to use a part of it in my unique way. And on the flipside...I could be walking through the aisles in the supermarket and see a bottle with a unique shape and I get idea's popping in my head on where I can use this bottle! My husband laughs at me when we are walking and I just stop. I see something and can see it come alive in an event setting!
Creating a successful business has a lot to do with grit, determination and enthusiasm, what do you think has been the hardest challenges you’ve had to tackle?
I have yet to advertise the business so rely heavily on networking and word of mouth. My hardest challenge is fitting my designing around my family life. I am getting steadily busier and stock keeps coming through the door. We live in a house that needs to house six, so dedicating an area to photograph stock or designs means moving furniture, baby toys, change tables etc. All my photo's are taken with a point and shoot camera, so trying to capture the 'feel' of the design can be quite challenging.
What do you think has been the most successful promotional activities you’ve explored to getting the word out about Lily Chic Events?
Facebook. Without a doubt! 90% of my clients have seen my work on my Facebook page. The other 10% are word of mouth. I network everyday to get my name out into the cyber world and this has worked so far with very minimal outlay. This year we are launching a shop and will begin promoting the business in search engines and directly contacting venues to get packages set up for clients.
You have a flourishing number of followers on Facebook – what do you think has been the best thing about being on Facebook?
Facebook allows me to meet other WAHM's. Some of my closest friends on Facebook live in another states but they always promote a new design on their page and vice versa. It also allows me to be me and I am my business. I guess if you like a person (or personality) you tend to follow them more closely than others and I am always conscious of allowing my fans to see the real me. Sometimes I post a picture of the twins, or of me and this let's others into my life. It becomes a lot more personable and I love that!
What are the hopes and plans for Lily Chic Events this year?
This year I will be focusing on weddings and the Shoppe With Lily brand. This will be a sub brand of Lily Chic Events and will hopefully become a big part of who we are once we decide to open a studio. I created many birthday parties last year and love theming, but this year I will be concentrating on weddings and creating unique concepts for brides. I would like to see more on a wedding table than candles and flowers (both are pretty but rarely showcase the personality of the couple getting married). When I create a table style I think about the details. Will the guests enjoy looking at something unique and beautiful that reflects the couple? For me, it is the attention to detail that makes a room go from bland to spectacular!
What would be your top 5 tips you’d give to someone starting out?
1. Have a business plan. Even if it's tiny, know where you would like to start and plan for at least five years.
2. You are your business so be aware of how you are portraying yourself to your clients.
3. Start small. Take small steps and celebrate each achievement. I framed my first event and placed it in my office at home so I could always remember that amazing time.
4. Be prepared to not make any money in the beginning. If you invest a certain amount, you have to be prepared to not get that investment back for awhile (maybe years).
5. Enjoy yourself. Once you stop enjoying what your doing, it will reflect in your work. You will need to make the decision to stop now or re-assess and keep going.