Launching a Successful Styling Business with Abby Capalbo of Abby Capalbo Styling, Style Me Pretty

In 2012, The Everygirl had the honor of interviewing some of the amazing, hard-working ladies behind the infamous wedding blog Style Me Pretty, and it turned into a career feature that we still regularly talk about. When we learned that Abby Capalbo, editor of Style Me Pretty and SMP Living, recently launched her own styling business in addition to her work at SMP, we knew we had to chat with her once again. Exactly how does one manage to be an editor at one of the most highly acclaimed websites in the space and launch an exceptional side business? We wanted to know!

Hard work has never scared me,” says Capalbo. “When I was 12, I snuck over to the farm next to the stable where I rode horses in Tennessee and hoed tobacco for $7 an hour because I wanted a new saddle and my parents wouldn’t pay for it. It didn’t last long, because my parents found out (and there were probably some child labor laws involved) but it just goes to show that I will do whatever it takes to get things done.”

To say that we were excited to hear how Abby launched her new business and her strategy for growing clientele all while managing her full-time job would be a huge understatement. Keep reading for more on how Abby structures her days, prices her services, and handles the marketing for her new business.

Full name: Abby Blaire Capalbo
Age: 33
Current title/company: Founder / Creative Director at Abby Capalbo Styling, Editor at Style Me Pretty and SMP Living
Educational background: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The last time we caught up with you, you were the managing editor of Style Me Pretty. While you’re still writing for SMP, recently you launched your own business Abby Capalbo. How has your role with SMP evolved since we last spoke?
That was such a fun visit! We loved having Alaina and Danielle at SMP HQ!

Since then, my role at Style Me Pretty has evolved a ton. There is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Style Me Pretty. Building that little blog into a brand was an experience I’ll never take for granted, and I am so thankful I got to be a part of it. I also got amazing, life-long friends out of the deal too, so it was a win all around.

I used to wear so many hats at SMP (social media, submissions, editorial, you name it) but now that I started my own gig, I’ve definitely scaled back a bit. Now, I just write and produce content as a contributor to SMP Living. I feel really lucky that I am still able to have my hands in SMP a little bit—it’s like having the best of both worlds.

 I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. There was a little tug in my gut that kept saying, “There is something more you should be doing.”

What inspired you to launch your styling business?
At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, it was something driven from deep down. In that place Oprah always tells you to listen to. If I can be totally honest (and that’s all I really know how to be), I really needed to get out from behind the computer. I wanted to create and bring some of the ideas floating around in my head to life—to really get my hands dirty.

I wanted to take my dog for a walk and go for a run without any self-induced anxiety that I was missing something. I wanted to travel with my husband and not be tied to my phone the entire time. I know that’s not the right answer and I know that being busy is cool these days—and, truthfully, I am busier than I have ever been—but I wanted to busy in a different way.

I had an itch to move and it got to the point that I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. I’m not even sure if that makes sense, but there was a little tug in my gut that kept saying, “There is something more you should be doing.” Finally, I just gave in. I’ve learned in my life that listening to your gut always leads you to the right place, even when it’s absolutely terrifying.

I feel really lucky that everyone at SMP totally understood. We’ve all been like family for years, and making sure it stayed that way was a big priority for me.

Tell us more about your styling services and what you offer your clients. Has your list of services evolved?
If you have it, I’ll style it. That’s been my mentality this year. I’ve said yes to anything that gives me butterflies. My services are a bit untraditional—I offer styling services for editorial, weddings, and home. So I constantly have about 1 million tabs open in my brain, and I really like it that way.

Editorial and photo shoot styling is a section of my business I thought would take forever to grow, but I have been so pleasantly surprised that it has been my busiest. That makes me so proud. Working with other creative types to bring an idea to life lights my fire in so many ways. I am always so flattered when a brand or company comes to me to help take their images to another level. It’s really so humbling to be given that level of trust.

My work with weddings can range anywhere from vendor recommendations to design plans to day-of styling. I’ll come up with the style blueprint and design plan, and work with the planner to help it all come to life. Or if the couple doesn’t have vendors yet, I connect them up with my favorites in their area and give them a design plan so their vendors are all on the same page. I also do day-of styling on a very limited basis so I can work with the planners and photographers to make sure they get all the shots they want for publishing purposes.

For home, I offer e-design services for interiors that are affordable and attainable—which I truly love. I give my clients a questionnaire to help me get to know them better and then they send it back with measurements, photos, Pinterest boards, etc. I treat it like it’s a room in my very own house, and I source every little detail—from flowers to shelf knick-knacks to pillows—to give a easy-to-follow guide to making their room their dream room.

When I first started this business, I really thought that I the majority of my work would be in the wedding world because, well, Style Me Pretty has been in my DNA for such a long time. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that branding and photo shoot styling side has been my biggest driver. I thought it would take forever before brands of the world started to knock on my door, but one of my very first clients was Elizabeth McKay, a fashion designer I’ve loved for awhile and when that happened, I knew I was doing something right. More importantly, I knew that I better continue to work my butt off if I wanted to attract the same kind of work.

I thought it would take forever before the brands of the world started to knock on my door, but once it happened, I knew I was doing something right

How did you handle pricing your services when you first launched your business? 
This is where you are going to learn that I am an open book. I had no idea how to price anything. At the time, I didn’t know anyone personally who did what I wanted to do. So I researched, read books, stalked people—I talked to anyone who would listen to me. And I talked to people who didn’t want to listen to me. I screwed up a lot, and I’m still screwing up. That’s the honest truth. But I am screwing up less each day. So I am running with that.

Because my product lives inside my brain, pricing was hard for me at first. It was really easy to undervalue something that comes to me easier than others. Talking with other people who really put me in my place made we realize how important it is to put a value on your time and talents.

My business is interesting—because I am working with folks on simple design plans for their homes or weddings and then, at the same time, I am designing campaigns for bigger brands. My brain is constantly all over the place, and, if you know me, that’s exactly how I like it. But there is a wide range when it comes to pricing, and I’ve had to figure pricing out the hard knocks way.

Your website is beyond beautiful and so well branded. Did you hire out your branding and/or website design?
Thank you so much. Branding is so important to me, and I am kind of a huge nerd when it comes to something that is branded well. I blame it on my advertising days. Since I’ve been in the online world for so long, I knew that a good brand can totally make or break a first impression, so if I wanted to attract the level of clientele I had in mind—I knew I had to invest in someone who could create a brand that could attract them.

I’m also honest with myself, and I wanted to attract the kind of people I really wanted to work with so it wouldn’t be hard to stay “on brand.” So I found Lauren Ledbetter and never let her go. I swear she got right into my brain and whipped up a brand that couldn’t be more perfect for me if it tried. I honestly love her. And I have a feeling we will be working together for a very long time.

How did you narrow down the scope of work you wanted to do?
You know, since my business is on the young side, I am still figuring that out. But I built this business on the need to create pretty things out of nothing. That’s a simple business plan. My heart is in editorial, though. It’s what I loved most about Style Me Pretty—creating content that inspires people, makes their heart flutter, and acts like a reprieve for their day to day. I love that I get to create moments on screen that make people walk away happier.

What has the process been like marketing your business and getting your service out there to potential clients? Would you say your work at Style Me Pretty has helped you land new clients?
I love marketing. It’s just how my brain works. I’ve had a lot of experience in brand building from my advertising and PR days, and then, of course, my days at Style Me Pretty, so I knew the fundamentals when it came to launching this little biz of mine. Style Me Pretty definitely helped the initial push, but more than anything I think it’s just waking up every day and busting my tush to make things happen and really, truly believing in myself. That’s the best marketing trick in the book.

I think it’s just waking up every day and busting my tush to make things happen and really, truly believing in myself. That’s the best marketing trick in the book.

What social media network do you find to be the most pivotal to your business?
Instagram. By far. I helped build Style Me Pretty’s social media for years, so when it came time to build my own little brand, it was a little daunting. It’s such a large mountain to climb. But I love that I can really get to know people through Instagram. It’s like a little window into what makes people’s hearts tick, what their sense of humor is like, what they find pretty. Obviously my Instagram is a highlight reel, and things aren’t always as picture perfect as they are on screen—but I really feel like it’s a look into how I see the world and that’s pretty neat.

How do you balance your new responsibilities as a business owner with your work at SMP?
I don’t sleep that much. Haha. But I never really have, so I guess that works in my favor. It’s definitely not glamorous, and most weekends involve work but it’s my work so it kind of feels amazing. I get paid to dream, to create pretty, to work with other creative people to make nothing into something spectacular. So you will never hear me complain.

What has been the most rewarding experience since launching Abby Capalbo Styling?
The fact that it hasn’t even been a year, and I can look back and say holy crap, I’m doing it! It seems so simple, but it’s kind of a big deal. I told a friend the other day to give herself some credit. To look back on what she has accomplished and take a minute to celebrate her hard work. And then I realized, I should practice what I preach.

It’s so easy to keep looking forward. To create lofty goals and not be satisfied until you reach them—which is obviously important too—but taking the time to pat yourself on the back from time to time shouldn’t be looked down upon. Because this running a business thing isn’t easy.

Why do you think you’ve been successful in (what feels like) an oversaturated and competitive field?
I work my tail off. Hard work has never scared me. When I was 12, I snuck over to the farm next to the stable where I rode horses in Tennessee and hoed tobacco for $7 an hour because I wanted a new saddle and my parents wouldn’t pay for it. It didn’t last long, because my parents found out (and there were probably some child labor laws involved) but it just goes to show that I will do whatever it takes to get things done. That’s a true story, and one I think my dad is secretly proud of.

Anyone that knows me, knows that’s just how I am. But it’s not because I am competitive with others, I am competitive with myself. I know that I have one little life on this gorgeous planet. That’s it. I want to make it great.

In what ways would you still like to see your business evolve?
I’m so proud of how far it’s come in such a short time. The people I’ve had the chance to meet and collaborate with has totally blown my mind. But you know what I want more than anything? I want it to evolve and grow it into a business that still makes me happy, not one that overwhelms me or takes me away from the things and people that love and inspire me.

Abby Capalbo is The Everygirl…

Favorite pastime?
Travel—above and beyond anything. Boarding a plane with my husband Andrew, passports in hand, is my favorite feeling in the world. Getting out of my comfort zone and away from routine makes me feel like a new person. I see things in a beautiful new way when I’m in a place I’ve never been before. Colors are more vibrant, patterns are more pronounced—there is nothing that inspires me more than travel. And the fact that Andrew feels the same way makes me feel like the luckiest girl alive. Marrying your favorite travel buddy is like hitting the life lottery.

This summer I started a travel-inspired company (@travelinsiders on Instagram) with my good friend Jacin Fitzgerald because we both selfishly just wanted give our wanderlust an outlet each day. It’s been a fun little project for both of us, and it’s actually growing pretty fast! And why not add another hat to my head?

Morning routine?
I get up pretty early so I like to knock out some work first thing, because I wake up with a to-do list in my head that is ready to be conquered—and it’s pretty aggressive. I’ve learned that embracing those moments of productivity whenever you can is kind of the key to making things happen. Then when my husband is ready to go to work, we load up the dog (Otto) and head to Starbucks for our morning coffee. We chat about our day (usually it revolves around how we can’t wait for the weekend), and then Andrew heads to work and Otto and I walk home.

We live in coastal Rhode Island, and I’m thankful every day for that walk home along the water. It’s a little moment of peace I try to give myself each day before the craziness starts. I don’t email. I don’t Instagram. I look around and take in the prettiness I get to call home. I laugh at my dog’s crazy antics. I take random pictures. I wave at neighbors, and heck, sometimes I even stop to talk to the sweet old man down the street who takes such amazing care of his roses. I smell the salt air. In the summer I watch the boats pass by, and in the winter I watch the ice float. It’s all so simple, but it does wonders for my entire day. Allowing myself to be present and to appreciate the little things around me that I find beautiful truly makes me better at my job.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
“Good for you, not for me,” Amy Poehler, my best friend.

OK, so she didn’t say this to me directly, but when I read that line in her book something in me changed. I am a people pleaser in a big way. I love to make people’s lives easier, and to make them laugh. But when I read that I realized, there are so many things I do to make others happy that don’t make me happy. It’s like something clicked.

The comparison game is a tough one in this business, and it’s easy to look at someone and feel like you are doing things all wrong. But my girl Amy made me realize that what I had to offer is pretty darn unique. Because there is only one me. My perspective can’t be duplicated. So I took those words of wisdom and I’ve lived in my own little bubble of happiness since I started this business.

I keep my nose down, and realize that if it’s making me happy, and if I think it’s pretty it’s going to resonate with someone else too. And low and behold, it has. That mentality has allowed me to be happier than ever, and produce work I am super proud of. It also lets me be genuinely happy for others who are kicking butt. I LOVE to see other women chasing after their dreams, even if they don’t know what those dreams are yet. My belief is that there is room for everyone to succeed in their own way. I truly want that for others. I suppose being a people pleaser isn’t all bad.

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
The last time I was interviewed for The Everygirl, I said Tina Fey. And I’m sticking with that answer. But can I add Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling? That is my ultimate imaginary best friend trifecta.

Guilty pleasure?
You know what’s wonderful about being in your 30s? You stop feeling guilty for things that make you happy. That extra glass of champagne with your friends when you should totally be doing work, that delicious meal that makes you want to cry with happiness, that trip that might have been a little too pricey, a missed workout because you just wanted to cuddle in bed for a little bit longer—I have zero guilt about any of that now. Because those are some of my happiest moments. And I guarantee those are the moments I’ll smile about when I’m 100.