Bailey Aro wants to give you permission to pursue your dreams. She certainly knows a thing or two about doing so, as an entrepreneur keeping several small businesses afloat during a pandemic.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Bailey! I’m what you might call a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Born & raised in Duluth, MN, I’m the founder & owner of three companies: Bailey Aro Photography, White Spruce Market, and Cedar Bound. My first business (photography) has evolved big-time over the past 12 years, and I now specialize in Boudoir Photography, based out of my downtown Duluth studio. White Spruce Market (est. 2017) is a curated gifting company, where we specialize in high-end gift boxes for everyday occasions, along with corporate & custom projects (with most of our products coming from independent artisans & makers throughout MN + the Midwest!). My third company, Cedar Bound (est. 2019), is a joint venture with my husband. We design & build unique luxury glamping cabins, and our business currently focuses on buildable kits of our structures.
When I’m not working on the above projects, you’ll find me dreaming up the next travel adventure (fingers crossed: SOON!), reading or writing my booty off, hosting a bonfire with friends, or hanging out with my two giant lap dogs (Summit + Mowgli).
How did you get involved in your work?
I stumbled into entrepreneurship because I could never see myself fitting into a traditional 9-5 (or even working for someone else!). Combine stubborn independence with a zest for creativity & organization, and small business life was a natural fit.
More specifically, my photography business started in college after I picked up my dad’s old Pentax film camera & fell in love with the darkroom. Shortly after, I began taking on client work and my first business was born! For many years, I was a full-time wedding photographer here in Duluth.
As a photographer, I became obsessed with providing an incredible experience for my couples, including sending thoughtful client gifts. I discovered a knack for color, composition, and curating beautiful products, and from there, White Spruce Market was born!
A couple of years later, my husband & I dreamed up Cedar Bound: A company specializing in luxury glamping cabins. That brand was born from a love for adventure, travel, and all the epic accommodation we’ve seen while traveling the world together (plus, my husband & I met at summer camp, which is a fun sidebar!).
These days, I also teach & coach small business owners about mindset, marketing strategy, and entrepreneurship through my mentoring sessions + digital resources.
Owning one small business is hard, but you own three! What has been your biggest challenge keeping up with all you have going on?
It’s a constant evolution. After many years, I’ve created solid habits around boundaries, delegation, and organization so that I don’t have to be the one single person keeping things running in each business.
With that said, I still have days when I feel overwhelmed, imposter syndrome, and even defeat. Listening to my mind + body, prioritizing mental health, and taking regular time off have been the key to refueling when life feels tough.
And your biggest success?
My persistence: The ability to keep showing up & evolving, even when it feels impossible or painful. I want other entrepreneurs and achievers to know that overnight success is NOT the norm (even if social media makes us feel like it), and failing doesn’t make you a failure! It’s a required part of the learning process, and also the currency for chasing your dreams.
How have you been staying connected to friends and family during such an isolating time?
Honestly? It’s been a challenge. I thrive with face-to-face interaction, so although I’m grateful for technology and the way it keeps us connected, there’s definitely something missing amid the Zoom calls & Instagram DMs. I can’t wait to hug people. To dance like a dork at outdoor concerts. To embrace good friends at beer festivals. All of it.
What is your favorite form of self-care?
A hike in the woods. Beer + bonfire with friends. Lots of white space in my calendar.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard recently?
No one’s paying that much attention to what you’re doing — so let that give you complete & total freedom to show up. To be imperfect. Don’t worry so much about results and just keep making stuff.
What do you think women need right now?
Permission slips to pursue their dreams (I’m happy to issue them!). It may sound trite: But you really only do get one wild & precious life. Tune into what makes you come alive, and figure out how to do more of it.