District Boss: Shelagh Bolger

District Boss: Shelagh Bolger

SHELAGH bolger IS THE AMAZING guru of event styling and queen of the side hustle.

Ahead, she is sharing a glimpse into her life with her "side hustle" and encouraging those who may be in a simliar boat...

1. What's your side hustle?

I am a full time event planner based in Washington, DC with a passion for styling! I have had the amazing opportunity to build a side business styling events and photo shoots for clients in the DC/MD area, as well as share my styling tips in several online magazines including Darling and Verily. I absolutely love setting a scene, and hope that each shoot and event I design adds a little more beauty to someone’s day.  

2. Where do you look for your styling props and inspiration?

I feel like I’ve been a prop hunter since I was a child, before it was a “thing.”  My Dad is very artistic, and he instilled in me a love of antiques. We would go to this amazing store in Baltimore together which sells old architectural pieces from hotels, houses, churches. Everything is antique and there is so much beauty and thought in the designs of all the pieces. My level of excitement for vintage corbels is probably a bit excessive.

I derive a lot of my inspiration for color and texture from the art and architecture in Rome, Italy. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Rome on two occasions, in both undergrad and graduate school.  One of my favorite color concepts comes from a church on the Aventine Hill, Santa Sabina, which dates back to the 400’s. The church has this stunning wall where the paint is peeling, and underneath, a fresco peaks out. You can’t see a full image, just a series of colors. It’s breathtaking to me, in it’s simplicity and harmony. I look back at the photo I snapped of it often, for inspiration.

I was deeply struck by the power of beauty during my time in Rome - how it can move one on a profound level and bring one closer to the divine. There’s a term “Stendhal Syndrome” which basically translates to being exposed to so much beauty that you can no longer take any more in. You are so oversaturated with beauty that you faint! I don’t know if this is scientifically proven to have happened, but I think the concept gets at something of the truth.

3. What’s the most difficult/ best part of having a side hustle?

As an event planner, my work days and evenings are jam packed - since most events happen on weeknights. So that leaves the weekend to devote to my styling clients. Sometimes it’s difficult to “gear up” for a shoot on the weekend when my work week has left me drained, but I get such a rush from working on shoots that the adrenaline pushes me through. And espresso. :)

Having a side hustle that is separated from my 9-5 job allows me the freedom to say yes to the projects I feel will push and expand my creativity, while being able to decline others which I would have to say yes to if styling was my sole revenue stream. I don’t have the pressure of filling my calendar, rather, I’m able to keep styling as a passion project since it’s not my bread and butter.

4. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who have side hustles?

While this is probably the obvious answer, choose something you really love, something that energizes and inspires you, so that instead of being another task to accomplish, it’s a passion that makes you feel more alive, more fully “you.” In addition, establish a workflow structure that is effective for you. That’s essential for getting it all done! I have systems in place that keep me in line and ensure I don’t miss anything on the task list - prop sourcing, vendor management, creating vision boards and shot lists - it all gets done!

5.  what is your Favorite book?

I read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited every summer. This novel captures the beauty of things ephemeral, the fulfillment that comes from friendship, the highs found in “extreme youth.” But the novel points to something that is much higher, deeper, broader, than beauty and pleasure: grace. This speaks to me as I do place a high value on beauty (for how it elevates one’s day to day life) but also hope to not put too much weight in it on a superficial level. I believe that beauty is a reflection of something much greater: it is an instrument for leading one to God.

6.  How do you unwind at the end of the day?

On weekdays, I love to cook dinner in my Capitol Hill row home after work. I’ll sip on prosecco and listen to the Jayhawks or some other 90’s alt band. My older brother Judd was in high school when I was in elementary school, and he was the epitome of cool, so I’ve listened to his high school playlists since I was 8 years old -  the Jayhawks, Travis, Pete Yorn, Old 97’s - still stuck on all of them. I’m very close to my parents, 6 siblings, 3 siblings-in-law, and 9 nieces and nephews, so family dinners on the weekend complete with cornhole, local beer, mom’s cooking, and maybe styling the family dinner table with foraged pieces from around the family property and my mom’s beautiful antique tableware are things I look forward to.

7. What a recent project you have been most excited about?

I assisted on a Type A Society shoot. They are my styling icons and love seeing the beauty they create on set, and super honored to be able to learn more from them!



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