Norcross resident Callie Murray founded The Big Fake Wedding, an unconventional bridal show, and The Greenhouse, a local creative workspace. We met with Callie at The Greenhouse to talk about her business ventures, the creative community in Norcross, and life as a working mom.
Callie Murray: My company was working out of a small space, and we knew we needed more space – space for phone calls, space for meetings. We also just wanted a space that was comfortable and inviting for someone to be in 40 hours a week. So I was driving by this house one day - it’s a house I’ve been watching for years – and saw that it was for rent. Called about it and knew that the space was too big and too expensive for our company, but I knew so many other small businesses that needed space as well. So we signed the lease on the house and found a couple other companies to join us.
Explore: What are some of the other companies that are operating out of here?
Callie: We have Laura who’s a graphic designer, Kim who’s a florist, Miss Milly’s which is a vintage rental company, Anthony with Up and Up Weddings is a videographer, Aaron Chewning who is a comedian, Michelle with Gwinnett Maids, Laura Ray Photography, and a furniture restoration company just moved into the barn.
Explore: Why did you choose to open this space in Norcross?
Callie: We live in Norcross, and we love the community here. We love that it’s close to Atlanta and close to the suburbs of Atlanta. It’s just such a convenient place, and it’s also this small town feel. A bunch of our friends live here. We go to dinner here. We love Norcross, so the idea of having office space a mile from our house was wonderful.
Explore: What are you most excited about right now in Norcross?
Callie: Food trucks, concerts every Friday in the summer, the Christmas here is so much fun - they've got a Santa walking around and carriage rides. Then we just love the fact that every time we go to dinner, we see someone we know or we know the restaurant owners, so we love being a part of that.
Explore: You were featured on the TODAY Show this past spring for your first business, The Big Fake Wedding. What was that like?
Callie: It was a total whirlwind. I had just had a baby and I was on maternity leave. About a week and half into maternity leave, I got a text from someone I work with saying, “Hey, the TODAY show emailed. What should I say?” [Laughs] So it was just such a whirlwind. They were amazing to work with. The whole experience was so fun, so positive. They came to our event in New York. I made the decision the day before to go. I flew up there for just that day, drove to the venue, did an interview, got to meet everyone, flew home, and it all just felt like a weird dream. It was great for our company. There was just the immediate effect: the applications we got through our website, opportunities, lots of reality television offers, which was funny. It’s just been such a great branding piece to have – being able to say we were featured on The TODAY show. It’s been wonderful.
Explore: Have Norcross locals connected the dots that the owner of The Greenhouse is also the founder of The Big Fake Wedding?
Callie: Not yet. It’s funny because there’s a bakery here – Gingerspice – they are based in Norcross. They just did one of our events, so it was fun to kind of connect those dots with them. They had heard about us. We are getting signs made for the front lawn, so that way all of the businesses will be represented. Right now The Greenhouse is kind of a big mystery. [Laughs]
Explore: You are a mother of three, run an existing successful business, and just launched this new company. How do you do it all and what advice do you have for working moms?
Callie: I have a lot of help. My husband is incredibly helpful and supportive of it all. We have great help with the business – girls I just really trust to do their job. I have childcare now, which is new. I think just realizing what you can do best and figuring out how you can get help for the rest. For a long time I tried to do it all, and it was really good to realize that there are people that can do things better than me. Like even with my kids - it’s going to be good for them to have other people leading them, be with other kids, and be away from me. So just realizing that number one, you can’t do it all and number two, you probably shouldn’t do it all. I also have people I can talk to when it’s hard, mentors or people in similar situations because it is very often that I say, “I can’t do this. This is impossible.”
For a long time I tried to do it all, and it was really good to realize that there are people that can do things better than me.
Explore: Where are your favorite places to hang out in Norcross?
Callie: I love the park. There’s a splash pad for the kids. The Crossing is my favorite restaurant. The Iron Horse Tavern has karaoke Saturday nights. There’s a local band that sings “Hey Jude” every Saturday night. It’s awesome. The Greenhouse – we’ve had cookouts here, and I had a birthday party for my three-year-old.
Explore: What do you think is the best kept secret in Gwinnett County?
Callie: I think Historic Norcross – is that too dorky? I keep coming back to that. We don’t understand why everyone doesn’t live here.
Explore: Who are your role models?
Callie: My husband. I just respect how he does life. He’s humble but confident. I have an amazing mentor named Shannon. She and her husband own a company. She’s got kids, she’s just an incredible person to learn from. My mom and my mother-in-law. They both are working moms, so I’ve learned a lot from them.
Explore: Did you grow up in Gwinnett? What is your fondest memory?
Callie: Yes. Stone Mountain Laser Shows.
Explore: How does this area inspire you creatively and business-wise?
Callie: With The Greenhouse, the natural light from the window is just everything – we all congregate to the window. Then being around other businesses. For example, yesterday was just a hard day for me and Laura the designer heard me talking about something, so she sent me an email later that said “being a boss is hard.” I think just having that support, like, “What would you do in this situation?” or “Do you have a referral for this?” Just being around other businesses is so helpful.
Explore: Are there any notable creatives on the rise in this area?
Callie: Laura Balfour’s a great one. She’s a designer, but she’s so much more. She and her husband made The Greenhouse logo and sign for us. I feel like I’m going to talk about all my people here. Like Kim the florist – hearing the way she talks about her brides, she’s always doing more than they pay for. Anthony is the videographer – he does amazing work and is really so thoughtful about what he does. I think that’s what’s so cool about sharing a space with businesses, is seeing how much they put into it – seeing the backend.
Explore: These are some fun either/or questions: Cats or Dogs?
Explore: Taylor Swift or Beyonce?
Callie: Taylor Swift
Explore: Saved by the Bell or Full House?
Callie: Even Tie –that’s hard.
Explore: Chick-fil-A or Waffle House?
Explore: Star Wars or Hunger Games?
Callie: Hunger Games
Explore: NSYNC or Backstreet Boys?
Callie: Backstreet Boys
Explore: Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Explore: UGA or Tech?