Balanced Hustler: Meet Jessica Morse, Blogger + Co-Founder of The Water Room
Being an entrepreneur can seem glamorous. We own our schedules, build our companies based on work we love—and sometimes we can even work beachside. But the glamour is second in command to the hustle.
The hustle is what really defines the ups and downs of the entrepreneurship journey. And to shed some light on the work it takes to build a business, I’m interviewing fellow entrepreneurs who are ready to get real about their journeys. I’ll ask them how they manage to balance the hustle with the passion of what they do, and they’ll share what they had to overcome to get where they are today. It’s all in service of inspiring, supporting and illuminating the path for you, and we’re calling it the #BalancedHustler.
I’ve known Jessica Morse, founder of Bare Beauty, for what feels like forever. She’s been a strong and powerful voice in the online clean beauty community, showing other women that it can be luxurious and glamorous to switch to safer beauty and personal care products. She says she got into the blogging game practically by accident, when she started cleaning out her beauty cabinets in 2012. Now, she’s capitalized on her entrepreneurial spirit by opening The Water Room, a cleaner, safer natural nail salon in Charleston, South Carolina. We chatted with her about making the switch from blogger to business owner, and how she manifested some of her dreams to make them a reality.
Fast Facts: Jessica Morse
When did you launch The Water Room?
The Water Room opened in 2019.
In one sentence, tell us why you started The Water Room.
The reason I opened The Water Room is twofold; one, I wanted to expand my love of clean beauty into a business, and two, I saw a void in the market, and knew it was a good business opportunity.
How did you get capital to start?
My partners and I all contributed financially.
How long or how long do you think it will take for the business to get profitable?
At first, I was sure we would be in the red for the first year of business (as many businesses are), but I might be proven wrong!
Are you growing your business to sell? Or this is your dream job and you want to be doing this in 10 years?
Honestly, I could see it going both ways! A lot can happen in 10 years, and I don’t want to tie myself to either of those scenarios.
How many hours a week do you work when you started versus now?
Since I would consider myself as just starting now, I would say I work about 50+ hours per week. However, the month leading up to opening and during the first month of business, it was more like 60 hours per week. That was rough, and I don’t know how people do that for years on end.
How many employees do you have?
More than 16.
What two business goals do you have for 2019?
It’s rare for a start-up business to be profitable in its first year, but that is definitely one of my goals—I do think it is possible. It is just as important to me that the business runs like a well-oiled machine by the end of 2019. Every day, there are less hiccups, less questions and more answers. I look forward to the point where we are reacting less and have time to plan ahead and be more proactive and creative.
How Jessica Balances the Hustle
You began your career in clean beauty as a blogger, garnering followers on social media and your website. Why did you choose that as your first entrance into the wellness world?
The blog was not incredibly premeditated. I started writing Bare Beauty as a way to document my findings in my quest for effective green beauty products. I also wanted to share this information to help others who were interested in making the switch, but overwhelmed by all the noise out there. When I began writing Bare Beauty, I always knew it would lead to something more, but I had no idea what that would be. I just trusted myself and the process and kept forging ahead.
How did you transition from blogger to business owner at The Water Room? And why that route?
I have a classic entrepreneurial spirit. I love to create, I love to share, and I love business. I’ve always had a knack for seeing voids in a market and being in tune with what people want. I suppose that is one of the reasons I started Bare Beauty, and it is most definitely the reason I started The Water Room. The transition from the blog to the business was a very natural one. Since the two are related, they feed and help each other, and I am able to slide and back forth between them, which I really enjoy, even though it is very challenging at times!
How did you decide this was the next right move, given that you’re a mom a two young kids as well. Was it risky? Did market research say it would be a slam dunk?
I know this sounds cliche, but I just knew in my gut that opening The Water Room was the right move for me. That is not the same as thinking it would be easy. I knew it would be hard, and trust me, it is. I constantly hear every old woman I’ve ever met in the back of my mind saying “…[your kids are] only young once.” Those old women are right. It’s flying by, and I am missing out on some things, and sometimes, it really saddens me.
However, I like to work, and I enjoy and savor the quality time I do spend with my children; I do not take the time I spend with them for granted. I also hope that they will appreciate the fact that I am working hard at something I believe in, something that contributes to the greater good, and something that is financially profitable. I want to be a good example to both my daughter and my son, and I think opening a business of my own is only helping me achieve that.
To answer the second question, yes, there is risk involved, but my partners and I have been crunching numbers on this concept for years, and we believe it will be successful. Also, it’s just common sense. People want a nicer nail salon to go to, preferably one that’s not a health hazard. That part is pretty simple!
From idea to the doors opening, how long did it take you to get up and running?
Not long after I began my transition to nontoxic beauty, my friend, and now partner, Laura Pelzer, had just returned from a business trip to New York City where she attended the soft opening of tenoverten, the pioneer of nontoxic nail salons. Knowing I was a clean beauty diehard, she raved about it, and we looked at each other, and we were both like, “we need to open something like that in Charleston.” That was in 2012, and it was just an idea, but we never let it go. In 2016, we were both ready to bring the concept to life, and we knew Charleston was ready for a better nail salon. It took some time, but it has been worth the wait.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or was this endeavor something surprising for you? Not something five years ago you thought you’d be doing?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just wasn’t sure what my business would be! Bare Beauty is honestly a business unto itself, and it’s taught me so much. It’s been a great way to help others, help myself and keep a hand in the professional world while I had my babies. And, The Water Room is something I’ve been brainstorming for about seven years, so none of this is a surprise to me.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge, honestly, is making time for it all; motherhood, a marriage, a blog, a business, a personal life, time to myself. I need 30 more hours in my day.
How are you balancing it all—being a wife, mom, the blog, the new salon? Does something have to give?
Most of us have figured out by now that balance is a myth. Something is always suffering —honestly, when you start a new business, just about everything is suffering! I’ve had to stick to my two biggest priorities: making sure I get this new business off the ground, and being a good mother to my children. I won’t get a second chance at either. So, the first thing to go for me was working out, which surprised me, because I used to work out religiously more than four times per week in order to keep my sanity and feel good about how I looked. Now, I’m lucky to get to yoga once a week.
I don’t beat myself up for it, though—THIS is how I create my “balance.” I will make time for exercise again, but that time is not now. That is my decision, and I’m okay with it.
I’m also not making as much time for self care, and I’m okay with that, too. What fills up my heart right now is spending time with the people I love and spending time making my business a success. Most days, I’d honestly rather be with my kids or working than jade rolling and getting a massage. Don’t get me wrong, I love self care, and I love exercise. They are important, but they will be there; this is just a phase; it’s temporary. Self-care looks different at different phases of your life.
Jessica’s Advice to Entrepreneurs
What do you want to leave our readers with?
I want to leave your readers with this: If you know you want to be an entrepreneur, then you know. Listen to yourself, listen to your intuition. Take your time to do it right, but don’t get complacent or put things off. Jump on that idea. Gather data. Make connections with others in that space. Visualize the end game, and don’t give up. It is amazing what you can manifest and accomplish when you have a clear vision, you work hard and you surround yourself with the right people. It’s not just you, in front of a computer.
What is your number one piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Hire the best people, pay them well, and treat them like family; not because you “should,” but because you want to. Our staff at The Water Room is hardworking, genuine, kind and professional, and I never miss a chance to let them know how much I appreciate them and care about them.
What failure have you learned most from?
Early on, we almost took on another partner, even though it didn’t feel right. I kept telling myself I could make it work. Eventually, I listened to my gut. We lost some time, but we gained a valuable lesson.
How did you overcome it?
Intuition is everything. A huge weight was lifted when we ended that relationship, and I meditated, prayed and manifested our current salon director, who was the missing puzzle piece to our team. (She was manifesting a better fit for herself, too. It was match made in the stars somewhere!)
What does being a #BalancedHustler mean to you?
One of my favorite quotes is “know when to give up and have a margarita.” I hustle hard, but I also know when I’m so tired that I’m not putting out my best work. When that happens, I know when to say “F*$% it.” I’l pick it back up in the morning, or on Monday, or after a yoga class, or maybe even after a vacation. I work hard, I play hard, and I relax hard, and I don’t need to apologize for it. Being burned out zaps my creativity, clarity and patience. I am no good to anyone, including myself, in that state.
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