When Summer Watkins Ball started her blog Grey Likes Weddings, no one was really doing what she was doing – curating design inspiration for brides-to-be. The more she posted about her favorite florals, décor, color schemes, bridal fashion trends, and DIY ideas, the more people started to pay attention. Today, she is considered one of the wedding industry’s leading stylists and curators.
And to think that it began with a love for flowers. Summer’s journey wasn’t without its twists and turns however. They say necessity is the mother of invention. A layoff from a corporate marketing job during the 2008 recession was the motivation Summer needed to take an entrepreneurial leap of faith. She hasn’t looked back since. Her creative business acumen now includes The Mrs. Box, a gorgeous collection of ring boxes.
With the end of engagement season drawing near, we couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to interview for our Women Paving The Aisle series than Summer. Here, she talks about the practical side of running a creative venture, how it feels knowing that Martha Stewart will be looking at your wedding, and how she heads two business while being a wife and mother.
We always like to start from the beginning. Looking back, was there a particular moment that made you fall in love with weddings?
Absolutely. When I was in college, I went looking for a job serving tables. After a few rejections, I found myself at a Conroy’s Flowers, a franchised brand of floral shops, and was offered a job within minutes of walking through the door. Despite being only a part-time job, it completely set the path of my life. I discovered my love of all things floral and weddings while working there. I eventually parlayed that into a side job doing flowers for friends’ weddings after I graduated from college.
You started out as the blogger behind Grey Likes Weddings and later founded The Mrs. Box. Can you walk us through your dynamic career as a wedding industry professional?
We launched The Mrs. Box in September of 2014, so this fall it will be our four-year anniversary. Wedding flowers were always a part-time gig for me. My full time jobs during my twenties were in marketing. I went back to school for my Master’s Degree in English and after I graduated, I returned to the corporate world. Then the big recession hit in 2008 and I was laid off. That period of unemployment was incredibly difficult and scary, but also extremely motivating and exciting. I had nothing to lose, so I launched my blog with the encouragement of my then boyfriend (now husband). He bought me a book titled “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber and it fueled me to start a blog (rather than open a floral shop, which is what I wanted to do). I’m so thankful to have had his wise input during a time in my life when I was completely broke! I’ll always carry a part of that healthy fear with me – it keeps me humble and hard working.
We have been longtime fans of Grey Likes Weddings. You’ve created this amazing source of wedding inspiration for décor, flowers, color schemes, fashion, and so much more. What is your curatorial process like? How do you decide what to feature on your website?
I think one of the strongest deciding factors for features is beautiful flowers, because I’m absolutely addicted to great design. My style is a mix of feminine and preppy, and I always love a modern take on vintage traditions or styles.
When you started, style blogs, let alone wedding style blogs, weren’t really a thing yet. What do you credit to your success in gaining readership during those early years? Would you have done anything differently?
Well, as you said, there weren’t quite as many blogs around as there are now. I think being early(ish) to the game was a huge factor. I also made some lovely friends in the industry along the way, which was very helpful in gaining support and readers via word of mouth through other blogs.
Social media has had a huge impact on the wedding industry. What are the biggest changes, good and bad, that you have seen during your career?
In my opinion, Instagram and Pinterest have had the biggest impact on the industry. As a consumer of inspiration, I love those sources for curating and centralizing a source for great content. On the other hand, as a content creator, these platforms have taken away the value of what we do. Users have become addicted to beautiful imagery in a way that almost devalues everything that goes into creating a gorgeous bouquet or perfect kitchen. The specialness of perfection and beauty has become a commodity.
When a wedding expert says “I Do,” people pay attention. Knowing this, how did it feel when you were planning your own wedding? Was there additional stress? Or were you happy to share all the gorgeous details from your special day?
I definitely felt a little extra pressure and stress to make the day “blog worthy”. We were featured in Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, which was an incredible honor! However, if I were to do it again, I think I’d opt for a little less stress. That being said, it was an absolutely beautiful day and an expression of so much that I love! The ceremony was actually my favorite part of the day, because it was the moment that I was able to stop caring about all the details and really pay attention to what mattered. I was so focused on my husband … I sobbed through the entire thing.
Let’s talk about your latest venture, The Mrs. Box. Where did the amazing idea to make pretty little ring boxes come from?
I cannot begin to tell you how much I love my engagement ring. When I got engaged, I was completely obsessed and wanted to have something to photograph my ring in. My diamond is a colored diamond, so I wanted a box that was light pink but couldn’t find anything out there. The more digging I did, the more I realized that ring boxes had been long ignored. The jewelry industry seems to be very male driven. I think the market was missing an understanding of women’s feelings toward their ring. I figured if I wanted something to show my ring in, others might as well. I was already searching for a product that we could launch as an extension of our blog, so it was the perfect fit!
Some of our brides have used their Mrs. Box to display their rings in wedding photos. You offer so many beautiful colors, which brides can mix and match to complement their wedding palette. Can you talk about the different styles and colors in The Mrs. Box collection?
Our line has now expanded to offer 44 different colors in 3 different sizes. Our classic, original size was meant to make rings appear bigger in photos. I felt that the boxes on the market at the time were way too large to showcase most rings, so we intentionally made the boxes tiny! Customers sometimes are surprised by the size, but they absolutely love how their ring looks in the box!! Our double size is perfect for those that want to show their engagement ring and wedding band. The larger size of the classic also accommodates thicker bands and larger stones. We’ve taken to naming many of our boxes for sentimental reasons, using the names of our two children, nieces, nephews, and close friends.
And we just added a new product, The Gem Pen. It’s a super cute, on-the-go ring cleaner that is all natural and completely safe for any type of stone and jewelry material. It makes a great engagement gift!
Are there other ways to personalize a Mrs. Box? We saw that you offer monograms.
Absolutely. We offer four different monogram styles in three different colors. We’re working on expanding our offerings as well. With so much variety, it seems that almost every Mrs. Box is completely unique!
Between Grey Likes Weddings and The Mrs. Box, you seem committed to preserving a timeless beauty, grace, and tradition that go back to our grandmothers’ and even great-grandmothers’ generations. Yet, you do it all with a modern sensibility.
I think you’ve hit the nail on what I’m really passionate about as a creative entrepreneur. I remember being so taken aback by the quality and beauty of my grandmother’s wardrobe. The everyday clothing from her era was so exquisite and well made. The same goes for beautiful children’s toys, jewelry, home goods, and yes, even ring boxes. I love that our ring boxes harken back to that era, while still keeping things fresh and modern. I’ve got all kinds of other business ideas that involve a similar approach to items long forgotten and ignored.
In addition to running two businesses, you’re also a mother. How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
In addition to the business and motherhood, the last six months have been spent in the middle of a renovation on our first home! It is a full-time job in and of itself. For me, the key to sanity is HELP! I have a wonderful and supportive staff that really keeps our operations running smoothly. We have some help with our kids, and great grandparents that make it possible for us to keep it all together. When you have that many balls in the air, something is going to drop. So I’ve learned to get comfortable with not being able to do it ALL! I try to prioritize which balls drop. The main thing is putting family first!
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs who are thinking about launching a wedding related good or service?
I think creatives tend to focus so much on their art that they forget a business needs to be financially sound. Money doesn’t need to be your first motivation, but if your efforts are not fruitful eventually, it can be exhausting. So I encourage entrepreneurs to read business books and consider two important things: scalability and remarkability. Two great books to get you started with these concepts are “The E Myth” by Michael E. Gerber and “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin
Do you have a favorite celebrity wedding of all time?
Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy. Her dress, right? Such a classic yet forward thinking woman. Love.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Massages!!! I would get a massage every day if I could afford it.
You finally have a day off. How do you spend it?
Cocktails by the pool and a date night with my husband.
A big thank you to Summer for taking part in our Women Paving The Aisle series! For more wedding inspiration vision: greylikesweddings.com. Need a gift for a friend who just said “yes” and is flashing a new rock on her ring finger? Visit: themrsbox.com