By Chris Olsen
Sara Schultz and Rachel Seifert both lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but they’d never met in person. A mutual friend had written a book, and while Sara worked on graphic design elements for it, Rachel worked on photography. They communicated via phone and email for months and learned they had a lot in common, including a primary focus on the wedding industry. When the freelance project was done, Rachel reached out to Sara about meeting up to talk about how they might collaborate in the future. There was just one glitch: Sara was on a beach abroad.
After feeling tied down by a five-year career at Target Corporation, Sara had launched a graphic design business in 2014 so she could explore the world while remotely designing wedding stationery. Rachel had dabbled in a number of creative jobs as well as in special education, all while pursuing her true passion on the side—photographing weddings. She had finally taken the leap to launch Rachabella Photography in 2016 and create a dedicated studio space for herself. The two agreed to meet there when Sara returned home.
When it finally happened, their meeting was among the best “first dates” (excluding their husbands) either women had experienced. They talked for hours about the challenges that came with freelancing and owning a business. They had a better connection than they ever imagined. One of the ideas that emerged was hosting a meetup for creatives who also worked in weddings. It could be a great way to connect with others for referrals, to share resources and ideas, and to offer support. What they really wanted was to replicate the magic they had felt that day.
In 2017, Rachel and Sara founded The Merry Hour, a meetup for women small business owners. Though their original vision was specific to the wedding industry, they quickly realized women from all industries were looking for an alternative to typical networking events. Instead of a corporate approach of collecting as many business cards as possible, women at The Merry Hour are encouraged to show up as they are, to be vulnerable, and make meaningful connections.
Though 2020 has impacted in-person events like The Merry Hour, Sara and Rachel are imagining what their meetups might look like in the future. And they continue to collaborate beyond The Merry Hour. Sara has shifted her business focus to branding for small businesses and works primarily with venture-backed female-founded enterprises now. Brand assets often include images, and Sara partners with Rachel whenever the need for beautiful photos arises. As a result, Rachel is spending more time on commercial and brand photography in addition to weddings.
They’re grateful for every opportunity to work together and especially proud of The Merry Hour. Many attendees have collaborated on projects and supported each other beyond the meetups. Sara and Rachel love hearing these stories—it reminds them of the reason they met in the first place.
Photo: The Merry Hour
About the author: Chris Olsen is a broadcast media maven turned communications consultant and the author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant, Chris realized her WHY—to support womxn-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.