As a young girl Annie Franceschi used to wish upon a star that she’d one day write movies. After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked her way up in the film industry to her dream job at her dream company – Disney – writing story presentations for upcoming films.
During her time at Disney, Annie sought an outlet to share her artsy side, and launched anniemade (now anniefranceschi.com). On the site, she shared her wedding plans. “It wasn’t about a color palette or Pinterest,” Annie says of her prep. Instead, it was about the couple’s story. The blog’s readers took a liking to her narrative, and many reached out asking for help telling their wedding story, too. “I’d never thought of combining my artistic side and my skillset in storytelling,” she says, “but I started to try it out – doing graphic design and writing for weddings part-time.”
Then, Annie’s story took a turn.
“When I got to this amazing career moment, I realized that I needed my life’s work to be about more than just fun,” Annie says. “My work needed to really start making a difference.” So, Annie left her dream job at Disney, her husband quit his talent agency job, and the two moved back home to North Carolina. Her new dream: Create a company based on telling real people’s stories. And just like that, Greatest Story Creative was born.
“I had no idea how to start a real business, or even if this crazy idea for a company could work,” Annie says. “But I couldn’t spend my life wondering ‘what if’ anymore.”
Find out about how Annie made a move that scared her, the impact of her decision, and why sometimes leaving a job you thought was perfect is only just the beginning.
What is a day like in your shoes?
I have four different arms to my company: Business, Weddings, Events and Everyday. So, as you might imagine, every day is very different! Since my job is always about telling one’s story, I wear a lot of different hats – brand strategist, copywriter, art director, and sometimes even a family counselor (especially when I work on weddings!).
Today, I woke up and spent some intentional time talking with my husband, Gus, before he headed out to work. From there, I read and answered my emails. The morning continued with a Skype call with a prospective business client in New York about crafting the story for her jewelry business. After this, I worked on the copy and design of a brand story guide for a current business client.
I switched gears in the afternoon to create some signage and table numbers for an upcoming fall wedding and sent some love story questionnaires out to a new couple getting married in April. I also wrote a few emails about some presentations and projects I’m working on for the fall with some other entrepreneurs/friends.
I wrapped up the day over dinner with Gus, talking through new ideas for projects and getting his take. He’s very creative and knows me so well – it’s amazing what we can dream up when we work together!
What are your favorite aspects of your job?
I love empowering my clients and working as their creative advocate. When I launched Greatest Story, I designed it to be an intersection of what I love and my talent. The work I do focuses on getting to know a person, seeing what’s amazing about them and then making that shine. It’s such rewarding work to do that for a small business owner or a couple for their wedding.
I also love the creative process and spending so much of my workday creating. In my previous corporate life, I would spend about 90 percent of my time on administrative work and trying to appease everyone’s expectations. Only 10 percent of my time was actually spent creatively. Now I feel like I get to spend 90 percent of my energy being creative and helping people, and only 10 percent working on my own administrative To-Do’s.
What keeps you motivated? How do you keep your creativity fresh?
Telling my own story publicly keeps me motivated. I’ve started speaking this year about how storytelling can transform your business and your career. I always start the presentation with sharing my own story about how I realized I needed to quit my dream corporate job to really begin living my dream.
To keep my creativity fresh I make new things happen. Speaking is new for me this year, and it’s opened so many doors that I never even knew were there. I think about it as building runway for myself. Right now, I’ve got some new thoughts on how to grow my speaking engagements. My rule is simple: If you’re fascinated by something, but also terrified of it, then that’s the sign that you’ve got to do it. It’s your gut telling you you’re on to a daring, great adventure you’re meant to undertake. Something good will come of it, even if it may not be what you expect.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? Or, has it become work/life integration?
I think it’s a struggle for everyone, no matter the career. As an entrepreneur, the work I do is very personal, and my business is definitely ‘my baby’ in a way. I work on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as the occasional late night. But the work is different. It’s more satisfying and motivating. It builds momentum.
What qualities do you feel it takes for someone to be a successful business owner?
Fearlessness: Being an entrepreneur requires you to face your fears and take risks, big and small, all the time. I still can get scared, but I believe in feeling that fear and doing it anyway. Taking on the uncertain has proved instrumental in growing my business.
Patience: What you want doesn’t happen overnight, and many things don’t turn out how they’re supposed to. Sometimes you have to plant a lot of seeds and practice patience as the right ones grow into fruition.
Kindness and Thoughtfulness: No matter your business – people invest in people. I believe it’s really important to be kind and thoughtful toward everyone. I very much live what I do, and I try to be the same quality of my person in my professional life as I do in my personal one.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
“Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.” This is from author Austin Kleon in his book Steal Like an Artist. I read the book when I was debating the launch of my personal blog. I had a million reasons why I shouldn’t do it, but then I read this quote from Kand it knocked me over. His theory is that if you wait until you feel you have all the answers, one of two things happen – either you figure everything and grow bored by it or you never figure it out. Either way the result is the name: You don’t ever start anything.
Do you think the adage of “do what you love, love what you do” is true?
Yes and no. I believe there should be an asterisk on this well-loved piece of advice. I think it’s not only about doing what you love – it’s also about doing what you’re great at.
A lot of us are taught when we are growing up that we should do what we are passionate about for a living. For me, that was movies – because I really love movies. But I learned that I’m not destined to make movies just because I love watching them. My talent involves helping real people tell their story in a creative way.
I believe to find true happiness in your life’s work you must find the intersection where your passion meets your purpose.