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Anniversary: Happy 10 Years A Beautiful Mess

So this is kind of crazy. This month A Beautiful Mess turns 10 years old! Whoa. We have been blogging for a whole decade now and it’s kind of surreal! Our archives tell us that the site started back on July 6, 2007. The world was much simpler back then; I mean that was the year the very first iPhone came out (maybe there were other things going on in the world too … maybe).

Elsie and I have been looking back and talking a lot about what’s happened over the years and we’re both feeling pretty darn grateful. We thought it might be fun to take a peek back, so get a coffee and get ready because this post is going to be a long one. Since we both have different perspectives we decided to write this post together, but also indicate who is talking so you can hear both of our thoughts from the years. We also have some other celebrations and thank yous planned and we’ll tell you more about that at the end.


Let’s take our time machine back to 2007. If you want to see our full archives from any of these years, check here. Or you can see some highlights we’ve put together.

Elsie: I always say that I feel SO LUCKY that I started a blog back in the day when it was ACTUALLY just for fun. I started ABM because it looked FUN to have a blog. I truly had NO IDEA that it could ever become a business in any way.

I honestly started the blog because some of my friends had blogs, I enjoyed reading them every day and it looked fun. So I just started.

I still miss the days when we just wrote about literally the first thing that came to our minds. We didn’t plan. We didn’t try too hard. We just shared our lives.

Augh … so long ago! I love what blogging has become—there is SO much opportunity. But I do miss how pure and simple it was. Good times!

Emma: Really, Elsie started this site and I joined her in 2010. But I’ll still share a few of my thoughts from over the years. And 2007 was a crazy year for me. I graduated college and not too long after I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting (which didn’t really work out and you can read more about that here). Rachel and I were selling a scrapbooking kit together and we had this “group” called Red Velvet that was loosely just the three us being friends and making things together. I showed up here on the site pretty often though, just being in photos when I visited Elsie or when she visited me, which was actually really often. We’ve always been really close and supported each other in whatever we were doing, so I knew and had helped in various ways with her scrapbooking line, her Etsy shop, and then of course I knew about her blog.

Oh, and looking back at these photos I am thinking I should never go full brunette again. Just doesn’t look right to me anymore. I think there’s going to be a lot of embarrassing hairstyles and other phases ahead though. Let’s see what was going on in 2008

Elsie: 2008 was a beautiful year in my life, because it’s when I met Jeremy. Our “kind of” first date was actually New Year’s Eve (but not really, we were still “just friends”). Jeremy infamously kissed my SISTER (on the cheek) when the clock struck 12 and not me. Haha! Our REAL first date was a couple weeks after that. And we’ve been together ever since!

Besides falling in love, 2008 was significant because it was the first year I began to support myself through my Etsy shop. To be honest, I think it was premature and I spent some years struggling before I truly made a living wage. But those lessons learned the hard way were still valuable lessons. And, I mean, hindsight is 20/20. I look back and think, “WOW, crazy,” but at the time I was just living my life, doing my best. It was a good year.

And what about 2009 …

Elsie: Our first shop! This was a huge step for me and a beautiful memory. Opening that store meant so much to me and was a bucket list item for sure. Looking back, I’m so grateful I got to try such a unique and risky business venture in my 20s.

I will always remember this year because it was when I got really serious about blogging. I began to “try” (Haha). I started to write not just every day, but a lot of times twice a day. I remember being amazed by how fast it was growing, and even thought I didn’t realize that my business was kind of starting … I did feel the start of something. I guess I would call 2009 the start of something.

Emma: Do you see that weird little hipster looking guy in the bottom left? That’s Trey. Elsie had many gracious friends be in product photography over the years and Trey modeled a few T-shirts and then this felt sleeping mask I had sewn by hand. I knew Trey from college but it was really he and Elsie who had stayed friends over the years. So I totally laughed when I saw this photo in the archives from 2009. Ha! Little did we know that about four years later we’d be getting married. Life is so weird. You can also see a few old Red Velvet T-shirt designs in these photos. Do you think we should bring back the skeleton looking one or new version of it with Oui Fresh this Halloween? I still kind of like it. 🙂 Also, this was the year that Elsie started what would become one of our longest running series, 10 Things I Love Sunday.

Let’s go back to 2010 now.

Elsie: This is the year we expanded our store to its second location. Jeremy and I got engaged.

Our store wasn’t very successful. We’d have a decent number of customers on the weekends, but during the week it was crickets. So this is really the year Emma and I started to blog together and I asked her to become a co-author with me. Since then we have done everything together and owned everything 50/50. By far the best decision of my life.

Emma: For me, this feels like the year that everything really started. I moved back to Missouri from Los Angeles and decided to work with Elsie and give it everything I had. Up until this point, I feel like I never truly committed to any path in life. I went to college because my parents asked me to (and I liked it but I didn’t really have a plan and ended up majoring in philosophy because I loved it). I moved to L.A. to be an actress but I always kept a backup plan in my mind, and I actually studied for and took my LSAT and was half-heartedly beginning the application process to law schools, but I never really could commit to that either. So finally, broke and feeling totally directionless, Elsie said “Why don’t you please just move home and help me with my business?” And, for some reason, I did. And I committed all the way to it. No backup plan. And thankfully, that has lead to a lot of really great things for me and it all started in 2010.

Some other highlights from the year included opening our new, expanded vintage store, making new friends, throwing our niece a birthday party at the store, starting to share DIYs on this site (I think this may be the first with steps), that time a couple got engaged at our shop (!!!!), and sharing the first hair tutorial we ever did on ABM as well. We were starting to get into our blogging groove, but I don’t think we really understood the potential of it yet. Plus we were very busy trying to build our local shop into a sustainable business, and the first year of any small business (ours included, for sure!) faces tons of challenges. It felt like we were learning a lot every single day. I actually remember I lost a lot of weight this year in part because we were so busy and I was pretty stressed out. Don’t get me wrong, I was also happy and I had chosen this path, so I’m not complaining. But it’s just something that stands out to me as a lesson in remembering to take care of yourself even when your life goes through major changes.

And then what? Let’s go to 2011.

Elsie: This year is a little fuzzy for me. But I can see from the photos that I married Jeremy AND got Dolly, so I guess it was one of the best years of my life. Wish I could remember more. Haha!

I think we were just so busy in those days. We were really starting to gain a bit of traction as a business and find our voice and our place in the blog world. We started to talk about wanting to write books together. We were working so hard, but just barely starting to see the positive. It was a lot of trial and error.

Emma: This year was full of love and transitions. To me, this was probably the year that it started to feel like we were more “bloggers” than vintage shop owners. Although we didn’t really know if blogging was an actual career or not, we just knew that we loved it and felt excited to build this site. We put more and more time into it and watched it grow. We hired Kinsey to work in the shop some during the day so we had more time to build our blog, and we loved her so much she ended up helping us with the site, too. She also got married that year, just a day or two (or maybe it was the following weekend) after Elsie and Jeremy, if I remember right. We went early to help set up things for her and I had bright blue hair from Elsie’s wedding, so I’m sure it seemed strange to many of her family. 🙂 We also got our first big press feature, in a magazine we loved at the time (RIP ReadyMade). The blog grew to be more and more like it is today, filled with DIYs, recipes, crafts, home decor, room tours, fashion, and still plenty of personal things (to me, it’s all personal, but you know what I mean). There was also a time Elsie took Trey and Abby’s photos for their EP, so once again Trey creeps into the archives before we ever started dating. And in case you’re curious on that front, that’s probably one of the harder things that happened for me this year. So many things were going well, but I also went through some heartbreak as a few months after Elsie’s wedding my then-boyfriend and I broke up (he dumped me, in case that kind of thing really matters to you). So in that area of my life, I felt pretty down on myself and pretty much had resigned to give up. Little did I know what the next year would bring.

So what happened next? Let’s go to 2012.

Elsie: Aww, HELL YEAH. One of the best years ever. We finally fully committed to being full-time bloggers. Our store was open for a little bit longer, but we hired other people to work there and we spent all our time and energy keeping up with blog posts while writing our first book.

Jeremy and I moved into our first home (purchased together) and I decorated it TO DEATH. I probably decorated every room like 4-5 times. But I learned so much. I feel like we were really coming into our own as business owners. Designing a dress collection for Modcloth (after doing a few independent lines on our own) was a dream come true.

Aww … Ugh, photo of tiny Bella breaks my heart a little bit (she’s 9 now!)

Emma: This year totally ruled. The blog was growing by leaps and bounds as we kept sharing content we were passionate about: recipes, crafts, home decor, personal moments and articles. Looking back has made me realize I have always absolutely LOVED writing this blog. It’s not always easy or perfect, sometimes things don’t turn out how you thought they would or things take longer or something goes totally wrong, but I love writing this site. It’s a total joy and this year was no different. Quite a few other big things happened too. So first, we started renting a loft to use for blogging as well as another big project that came our way: our first book! Writing a book and a blog at the same time is kind of nuts because it’s really creating double the content. So we learned a lot from our first book deal (which was for two books). We started new features, including At Home With. Elsie designed a clothing line for ModCloth which was totally different from us producing our own independent line the previous few years. We met Shawn and toured his chocolate factory and got totally inspired by how they do business. Later, we would get the opportunity to do a collaboration bar together. We hosted our very first Friendsgiving that year — can you believe we’ve done five now!? That first one will always be special to me. And I fell totally in love with Trey and by the end of the year we were engaged (which to me is lightning speed, but I know others of you may have a similar story).

And then, 2013 happened.

Elsie: Making an app started off all our ideas. It didn’t feel any different at the time than all the other dozens of products we’ve launched though the years, except it was way more expensive (we spent all our savings at the time to build our first app). We were warned by friends and family members that it might be a bad idea, that we might not get our money back. To be fair, this is true! There are tons of good apps that don’t make any profit.

But our story was magical. Probably the most magical business story of my life … like something I’ll tell my grandkids someday. I’m not saying it was all rainbows though, we learned a lot of things the hard way and we got screwed big time (it’s all good now; we believe in karma!). Any business is a lot of work and a learning curve to start, but we stumbled upon a really great place for ourselves in a young, emerging industry.

That app changed our lives forever and was the start of something really special that eventually sparked the idea for A Color Story.

Emma: If I had to pick a year to say when my career as a blogger officially started, I’d probably pick this year? I think. It’s hard to say. But 2013 was full of hard decisions, taking business risks, and ultimately it ended up being a crazy year of growth for our business. First, we had been blogging AND running a vintage store with more and more of our time and resources going to blogging. So we finally made the decision to close the store and after trying to sell it for a little while and not finding any buyers, we held an estate sale to liquidate our remaining assets (which sounds business-y, but really it felt like a giant garage sale). That was a hard decision, and it was sad to watch everything get sold and then have to clean out the building afterward (not to mention it was a LOT of work that many people helped us with!). Our first book came out and we were THRILLED with it. We hosted a book signing in Nashville (this was long before Elsie moved there) and that was SO special. We rarely get to meet readers in real life, so when we do it’s always a treat. We launched our very first app, which we named A Beautiful Mess (we had no idea we’d make more apps … if we had, *maybe* we would have named it something else … oops). We bought a house to function as our studio space, a major upgrade from the loft and working from our houses. We gave that house some major TLC and shared lots of room tours over the next few years. And on a personal note, I got MARRIED! We shared lots and lots of photos from our wedding and also our honeymoon to Switzerland. Oh, and yeah, we kept right on blogging and sharing content around all our favorite subjects still. I guess as things change all around us, that is the one constant: We keep on blogging. 🙂

So what happened in 2014?

Emma: The main thing that stands out to me from 2014 is that our team grew significantly. We had the money to hire more talented people, so we did. And that was pretty awesome, although our team is a bit smaller now or at least feels that way since we’re spread out between two states. Our second book was released, and that was awesome, but we decided to take a little break from writing books because, whoa, it is a lot of work. 🙂 We released our Blog Life e-course that year, which is still one of our most popular courses. We launched our second app, PartyParty. And we learned so much from that, plus all the updates and things we had learned from the first app. Always learning. And even though we were a bigger team, so at times it felt less “personal” (although to me almost everything about ABM is personal, but you know what I mean here again), we tried to pull back the curtain and share behind the scenes in a feature we called Casual Friday. Now I think IG stories are sort of the same thing, but it was a fun feature and now kind of functions like a business scrapbook for me. 🙂

Elsie: 2014 was a hard year for me. Our business grew so fast (both in numbers and in opportunities) and I didn’t know how to handle it at times. It was stressful. Looking back, I wish I would have found a good counselor. Growing pains like that are totally normal in business, but I fought it.

That Golden Girls halloween costume though??? So fun.

I was so incredibly proud of our second app, PartyParty. It was eventually made obsolete by Boomerang (which is awesome and it’s all good—haha) but it was still something I loved doing at the time.

And remodeling that work house was a huge education in design for me. I learned so much and LOVED doing it. You can tell because I basically replicated that kitchen in my own home that I have now … haha!

Now things are starting to feel familiar, so what about 2015?

Emma: This was one of those years where a LOT happened. Lots of beginnings and ends of things. So first, we had this crazy idea to renovate a house for ABM and then donate to our local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. We completed and donated the house this year and had a mini ribbon cutting ceremony (where our niece Penny stole the show as usual) to celebrate. I haven’t heard an update on the house this year (in part because privacy is important for this particular project/location), but as of 2015 the plan HFHS shared with me was to either use the house for a traditional single-family purpose or use it as a volunteer center, as they were thinking about doing more work in that same neighborhood. Elsie and Laura announced and started their move to Nashville. Emma was sad. I totally got left behind! 🙂 We hosted our first Nashville Friendsgiving in Elsie’s new home. We launched a small business e-course called Start Small Dream Big. We announced that we were writing a cookbook, which was a total dream come true for me! Elsie, Jeremy, Trey and I got to go on one of my favorite trips to date—Amsterdam and then Iceland. If you ever get a chance to visit Iceland, I would totally recommend it. It’s such a beautiful and unique place. And, of course, we kept blogging. One new feature we started this year was we started sharing travel guides of cities. So yeah, for me I’d have to give this year an A- only because it really was kind of hard for me to have Elsie move away. Even though I totally understood her reasons for doing so (to support her husband’s career), it still felt like my best friend was moving away. So yeah, lots of transition, but it was still a really great year.

Elsie: Deciding to move away from my sister was one of the hardest choices I ever made. You obviously know that I did it to support my husband’s career (and it worked, by the way; his career has grown so much) but it was not easy. I miss Emma every day. And we had to relearn so much about how to work together in this completely new situation. But after two years, I know for sure that this is what I want to be doing as a career and that Emma is the best partner in the whole world.

So many bloggers these days are leasing big studios to work out of, but we kind of did the opposite. We went back to working from home. And we love it! I feel like we really found what worked for us and that’s something I am proud of. Plus, working from home is one of my favorite things. I really, truly love it.

The other thing that really stands out from this year was doing the Habitat For Humanity house, which Emma talked about above. In reading this timeline, you can see how recently we were completely broke. So being in a place as a business to be able to devote time and money to a project like this was beyond special to us. I also have to say that Real Simple pitched in and did so much to help us furnish the house. It was unlike any media experience I have ever had—they have amazing hearts!

And last year, 2016 was a full one too.

Emma: Last year was just nuts! We launch our third app, A Color Story. And to the public, it’s just another (great) app, but behind the scenes we transitioned to apps being a totally separate company from A Beautiful Mess. Yes, it’s the same owners, but it’s separate in every other way as its own business entity. That company owns all of our apps now and we have big plans to expand it in the coming years. Not to mention ACS has been growing by leaps and bounds—we’ve already passed over 4 million downloads. What?! A huge part of this year was spent creating our cookbook and I can’t wait to share more of that with you all soon. We also launched our latest venture, Oui Fresh. Last year, it started as a clothing and accessories brand, and we plan to expand it into a few more (and REALLY exciting) areas soon. We’re working on a whole post to share with you about that ASAP. Trey and I, along with two friends, opened a bar in our hometown, The Golden Girl Rum Club. That has been going great and I have an update and a new feature to share about that soon. Elsie announced that she and Jeremy will be adopting from China soon, and I can’t wait to meet her! And of course, we kept blogging and sharing content we love, like always. It was a good year, for sure!

Elsie: Ugh … I might cry. This has been one of the best years of my life. ACS is hands down the thing I am most proud of in my career. It has been a dream project for me, and so fulfilling.

Adopting has changed my life forever. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like a different person from before we started the process a year ago. We’re not 12 months in and it feels like an eternity. We are currently waiting to be matched with a child (which we’ve been warned can take up to nine months). So I predict many more nesting projects in my near future.

And even though we’ve just reached our 10-year anniversary for A Beautiful Mess, we’re also in the middle of 2017, so I figured we’d share a few highlights from the year so far.

Oui Fresh is growing SO much behind the scenes right now. We have so many products and a new shop site to share with you this coming autumn—it’s going to be good year, for sure. We are branching out into new categories and cannot wait to share full details soon!

And speaking of growing, Laura and Todd welcomed a new addition to their family this year. Little Lola has already stolen all our hearts. 🙂

Emma: Trey and I decided to live and work from L.A. for a month this year and we did that in March. It was awesome. It was weird. I loved it. A sweet friend took some beautiful photos of us while we were there, which you can see here.

And Elsie just announced that she’s going to be renovating an East Nashville house this year that maybe some of you will stay in one day? Read more here.

Elsie: When I started this blog, I never imagined that I could be doing it for 10 years … but here we are. And what’s crazy is I can EASILY see us doing this for another 10. The cool thing about blogging is that you can change it up a little bit every year to suit your changing interests and lifestyle. We’ve been doing that for 10 years and we will continue to.

People ask me (privately) if I am over blogging and my answer is an honest HELL NO. I love this stuff. I even started a family blog on the side just for fun. I truly just enjoy having an outlet to share my changing life with people who have some things in common with me. It’s the best.

The last thing I want to say is that we could never do all this without our incredible team and you all who read this blog. Thank you for coming back here and being a part of our lives. We love you so much!

Emma: Ten years of blogging is crazy but what’s even more crazy to us is that none of it would be possible without you. Thank you SO much for reading and following our journey! We’re hoping we get to keep going for another 10 years, so stick around, please! And the rest of this month we’re going to be hosting 10 awesome giveaways with peeks back to the past for you all. We’ve got some pretty big prizes in store, so check back so you don’t miss your chance to win. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. xo. Emma + Elsie

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman and Elsie Larson. Photography from SO many over the years, check the posts linked for more complete credits.


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