Thursday, January 28, 2016

2016 Word of the Year: Intention

While I originally intended to publish this post on the first of the year...stuff happens, aka other posts I wrote and instead of following my rule of adding them to my schedule I just published immediately. It's a work in progres.....

My "word of the year" in 2015 was surrender. December 29th, 2014 was full of excitement and fear. I had just seen my daughter's chubby cheeks on a 3D ultrasound and while one of the best days ever, it also made my fear of delivering her that much more real. (Do. not. worry. I will not be sharing any labor details or words that will make any one squeam. That's just not my thing.)

What could I honestly do to ease the fear and worry of everything that came along with childbirth and sheesh, raising a child? Surrender. 

Doing nothing meant doing everything.

Surrendering my fear and worries to Jesus. As I meditated on this word and His Word throughout 2015 I came to understand that surrendering was the best way to show His glory in my circumstances. Not writing more blog posts, not attending more birthing classes, just surrendering.

Surrending was me reminding myself that I know His Word is true. Surrendering didn't mean I trusted that He would hand me a pain-free and complication free situation. And it was this truth that made surrendering difficult. It was me surrending to his sovereignty. Recognizing that no matter what the circumstances I could walk boldy into them knowing that He is sovereign over our family's life.

This would have never been my first instinct. In fact my exaggerated fear of labor was totally used by the Lord to draw me closer to Him. Because honestly, what else could I do? I practiced breathing exercises...a few times..., I tried to do some pre-natal yoga....a few times...I read a lot of horror stories on the Bump and other places...a lot of times..., there just honestly wasn't anything no matter how far into the depths of google I got that would ease my worries or guarantee me a pain free or complication free process. The only thing I could trust in is that the God of all created my body perfectly to handle this situation.

Funny that I preface that sentence with "the only thing" instead of "the best thing."

But anyway, surrendering to His sovereignty, His perfect plan, His living and active Word, His truth...nothing but amazing things came from that. And that is the most detail you'll get into my delivery experience.

But I want a life of surrender, not just surrendering to my absolute fears. And I'm working on it day by day.

Now I'm moving towards a year of intention. Intentional choices in all aspects of life. Because when you are truly living a life of surrender to the Lord you recognize the importance, or maybe a better word is potential, of each moment.

We have a lot of changes coming up this year for our family and all the more reason to make the most of our time and create strong foundations as we move into this next chapter!

I'm particularly seeking to be more intentional in: media activity
...relationships with friends
...moments with Lydia
...moments with my husband decisions
...scheduling time to be creative
...budgeting and meal planning

Last year I really did stick with my word and I'm hoping I do this year as well!

Want to order your word of the year or one little word on a chalkboard to display as a physical reminder? You can here! Custom colors and custom word. :) 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Creative at Heart Birthday Bash: Photos and Reflection + You are definitely "good" enough.

On one of the first days of January, a fellow creative friend and I headed out to Richmond for the Creative at Heart Birthday Bash. This was an event celebrating one year of the Creative at Heart Conference, a conference that provides education and inspiration to all types of creatives. Now, I actually hadn't gone to any of their conferences the previous year, you know having a baby and all, so I wasn't sure this was appropriate for me to go to - but MY did their pictures look gorgeous advertising the event. I read on their website that this wasn't just for alumni of their conferences but for new faces who were potentially interested in the future. Ok, yes, everyone says that but did they really mean it?

I could have spent days overanalyzing this convincing myself that this wasn't for me, I wasn't good enough to go to something like this, I'm not a "real creative." And the list goes on and on. But something Jess Connolly of the Influence Net said during a webinar I attended was (quoted to the best that I remember :)) "Who told you that? Who told you that this event wasn't for you? That you aren't good enough? That you aren't a real creative? God certainly didn't tell you that. Can you imagine your child looking up at your saying "I'm not good enough"...don't do that to your Father in heaven either!"

And that is the truth!

So we bought tickets and headed out. I'm not going to say I was suddenly perfect and didn't second guess my outfit, how I introduced myself, or if my business cards looked good enough..because I did. But I reminded myself of the truth Jess shared and went in!

Friends, I am SO glad I had the courage to go to this, it was just a lovely event with finishing touches on every detail. First of all it was at Paisley and Jade.  Pause right now and go look at their website, but don't get sucked in. Come back to me. But do it. Seriously. It's gorgeous. 

Second, the speakers were phenomenal!! So encouraging and real. They talked about the exact insecurities and fears I highlighted above. Natalie Franke, photographer and founder of the Rising Tide Society, spoke about not believing the lie that "everyone else is successful." She talked about how we are flooded with success stories on instagram and gorgeously photographed highlight reels of life. In fact, there were a lot of failures that led to those successes and we shouldn't be afraid of them. We should also define our OWN version of success and not struggle trying to figure out what success is to the world around us or how to get to the place someone else is at on instragram or on a blog, etc. It was wonderful and exactly what this girl (me) needed to hear, as I'm sure many of the other lovely creatives did too.

So what does this mean for you? First - check out the Creative at Heart Conference coming to Annapolis, MD this March. I won't be there but hope to go in future years when baby girl is a bit older and can handle being away from me for more than 35 seconds (seriously, that's what we're at right now with this whole teething thing...). Second - don't ever think you're not good enough. Don't ever think you're not creative enough. Don't ever think you just don't fit in in this beautifully curated instagram world. Remember that many of the accounts you are following are BUSINESSES. They are advertising. They aren't writing a feel good blog. If you're looking for business mentors try to meet the people behind the feeds, join a Rising Tide Society Tuesday Together group (it's free and I'll talk about this in a future post next week) and get to know people in person.

You are a creative masterpiece, you are made in the image of our awesome God and you are certainly, definitely, good enough.

Now enjoy some drool worthy photos from Hope Taylor Photography and find the rest of the vendors involved listed below.


Photography: Hope Taylor Photography 
Venue: Paisley and Jade
Videography: The Herrinton's
Name-Tags: Jess Creates
Florals: So Lovely Weddings & Blooms
Cakes & Sweets: Sorby Sweets
Sponsor/Mugs: Rising Tide Society
Behind the Scenes, AV: Handspun Cinema

Friday, January 15, 2016

Rebranding: who we're working with & how we knew it was time! + Questions to think through if you're considering rebranding.

Up to this point in my business I thought I had to be good (read - perfect) at everything. This shop helps support us while my husband is in school and therefore I haven't had much of a budget to invest back into growing my business. Because of this, I have found myself wearing all of the hats: accounting, strategic business decisions, crafting, packaging and shipping, logo design, product photography, trademarking and business formation, social media marketing etc. I started this business because I wanted to make paper flowers. I wanted to put them on crosses, I wanted to put them on tiny signs and I wanted to share a piece of my passion with people everywhere. I did not start this business because I wanted to learn how to take and edit photos in Lightroom, how to strategically use social media to market and run promotions, how to apply for a trademark, and the list could go on and on.

Naturally I understand as tiny shops starting out without money to invest we HAVE to do all of this our selves. However, when you're stressed  because you're not spending any time being creative and instead you are trying to learn 15 new skills and not only learn them but be PERFECT at them, it might be time to take a breath and step back.

For me, that meant that there are a few things I just had to let go of. (Italics because I want you to know that it was and is still not an easy thing for me!)  Learning how to be a professional product photographer was one of them. Learning how to be an SEO (search engine optimization) expert was another one. And most importantly, learning how to be a graphic designer and website creator....I'm done with that! I've spent countless hours fiddling with fonts and logos and spending money that adds up on bits and pieces here and there. I've also spent hours upon days upon weeks learning some basic HTML coding to make the tabs and social media buttons at the top of my blogger up there. See them? Yeah, you better appreciate those things because I'm pretty sure my husband didn't see me for a week.

I'll talk more about letting some of these other things go in later posts but for now I'm going to focus on the biggest one:

re-branding and website design. 

**Before you read this. If you're  thinking there's no way you'll ever have the funds to pay someone else to do ANYTHING for your shop, don't get discouraged. I honestly never thought I would either, and this may not be an appropriate decision for you, now or ever - who knows?! Our businesses are all so unique and working to achieve different goals. I'll be sharing in the coming weeks about how to lessen the burden of product photos, making etsy listings, social media marketing, etc. All things you can do for free or a small monetary investment to take a load off and give it your best shot for success!

Yes, re-branding and desiging a website is definitely a financial investment. But it's just that, an investment. We prayed about this and felt that now, three years in and in the final months before my husband starts his new job, was the time to give things a final push. To see what the capacity of this little shop is and to fine tune our processes so that when we do move and start up a new routine we know *as much as we can* about what the shop and we can/can't handle.

Here's some of my thought process and advice I'd offer to you, yes you, you unsure business owner who doesn't think your shop is good enough for a re-brand, or you - you wild thing - who keeps no business records and is slowly eating into your child's college fund pursuing your crafting passions!

I encourage you to first set financial goals for your shop because this can be a rather large expense. For instance:

  • when I reach two months in a row with XX profit I will invest in a branding package, or 
  • when I reach a year of XX income from my shop I will invest in a website outside of Etsy.

I think having goals like this in mind that you write down, talk about, and stick to, can be extremely freeing. *Cough* While I didn't do this, sitting down with my husband at the end of the year and looking at trends, revenue, and profit led to some great goal setting conversations and the decision that I'm now at a benchmark where this is appropriate. Boy, would they have been helpful to have earlier!

If you're wondering exactly what that looks like I'll share a bit more that I normally would for the sake of helping you think it through. It means that:

  • last year I had enough profit to cover this branding package and website re-do without putting us in a bad financial situation. Do you have profit set aside from your business? Are you willing to make the jump right at the beginning and invest your personal money in this, or wait and try your best and invest business profit (if you earn any) later? 
  • my shop has started to stall/decline when it comes to profit because of more competition. I know the potential it has financially for us and we want to invest in this branding package to attract customers, keep up with and surpass competitors, and see if we can get it back to what it use to be and beyond. Who is your competition? Is your business declining? What does your logo/website/etc look like compared to your competition? Why specifically do you think updating your look would help you stand out amongst the competition? What other issues could there be with your product or business practices beyond your look?
  • we have a specific monetary goal in mind to help us pay for student loans that we start payments on in November and investing in the business now will hopefully help us invest in our personal future later. If it doesn't work - that's totally fine. But at this point if we didn't try we would always wonder. This gives us enough time to build the shop up before those payments begin. What is your goal for your business (personal, financial, etc)? Is it worth investing in? Investing how much financially? Are you and any other financial decision makers on the same page? What evidence do you have that rebranding will help you meet financial goals? What if rebranding doesn't help your business? 

So, now the best part.

I am literally over the moon excited to show you the mood board for our new/updated look coming soon by Chelsea of 23&9 Creative.

What do you think?! I'm so in love.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Three Years of Paper Flowers, Pancakes and Glue Guns Style

I can't believe today marks three years since opening up shop. I remember the moment so clearly! I've actually decided to share more about my journey to becoming a full time creative and how the shop opened soon, so I don't want to share too much about those initial conversations. But, keep an eye out for that later this year. For now, I can let you in on a preview. It involved (in no particular ord
er and skipping some MAJOR moments) growing my own flies in a science lab, waitressing, failing a polygraph while wearing the itchiest tights known to man, and having a baby. *Insert ALL the emojis here.*

Anyway, to celebrate this milestone I've compiled some of my most memorable projects, moments and mistakes. This post will just be a bit of overview and a timeline and I'll share more practical tips I've learned next week.
*Sidenote. Yes, I did go to college. The apostrophe just didn't look good with this font so I decided to ignore grammar and go with what I liked.

Image result for praise hands emoji
When I think back about my shop and look back on my numbers and sales you can't find any clear patterns. The fact that there wasn't a clear growth trajectory or a moment when things started getting real is evidence to me of what I've known all along - that it's not just me, it's not just my decision to change a title or tag it's God's sovereignty over my life and that means, yes, my shop too. *insert praise hands emoji* Ok, don't worry, I won't insert any typed emojis anymore.

When we moved to Williamsburg almost three years ago, we were excited but nervous. Sidenote - look at that picture!! We look like babies!! Wow, I've even had a baby since this picture. Wow. Ok anyway, we were going to be a one income family and incurring quite a few student loans while my husband went to school. My shop was selling about 2-4 items a month leading up to that August. I had been "in business" for 8 months. Well, August 1st comes and we move in. I didn't bother to put my shop on vacaction, because why? It was manageable and easy.

Once here, suddenly our lives weren't filled with families on weekend and friends during the weekend, it was just us. And while my husband was physically at school it was just me at home for a good chunk of the day without any kiddos or friends. I really think the Lord knew this was a pivotal time in my life, well of course He did, but you know what I mean. I had been wanting to spend time in the Word to get to know my God on a personal level but life was busy and it was just a thought in the back of my head most days that I didn't act on.  Well, now here and alone, it was easy to do. I didn't have to turn down parties or family get togethers. It was a sweet time to myself to schedule time to work from home and time to spend in the Word.

And friends, it is crazy. When you are in the Word your life changes. Even if you were a believer before, the bible just breaths life into your every day. It brings a different purpose, energy, everything. And the more time you spend in it, the more it makes sense and the more it directs your life. It's true. I bet everything on it. And I was totally ok being alone here. Because even when I had to be reminded, I was never really alone.


So what did this have to do with my shop? Well for the first time in my life, it felt like my priorities in life were in line. When I first opened up my shop, I did it for me - to bring some sense of purpose to my life that had been totally thrown out of whack by an unexcected career change. And don't get wrong, there's nothing at all wrong with that. But then I started to get more and more wrapped up in it. When someone purchased something I was excited, when they didn't I was really insecure. My identity was too wrapped up in this. But, God. He's so merciful friends! The more time I spent in the Word the more I started to figure out where this shop should fall in line when it comes to my priorities and my identity and things started happening.

By the end of that semester I was bringing in enough to cover almost all of our monthly expenses and sometimes extra. It was amazing! When we started the adoption process and it covered exactly what we needed for initial fees. Sometimes with excess, sometimes down to the exact dollar.

Then things got busy and I got comfortable. Over the next year it was a refining process. My sales would rise and fall as would my communication with Jesus and there's not a doubt in me that these two weren't completely related. It started off as a bit of a struggle and ended as an easy conversation with a friend. And I love that the Lord meets us where we are and speaks to us each in our own circumstances. He gifted me these creative talents and then used this little shop to build our relationship. How cool is that?

We are all works in progress. Small business owner Jackie, she's definitely still a work in progress. I'd be lying if I said I didn't know how many followers I have on instagram or exactly how long it has been since my last sale. But, God. His grace is unending and he is refining me through my paper flowers. He's refining me through each one of my customers who has purchased from me. I love that I've sent a creative piece of my journey with Jesus out to all of you, and I seriously thank each and every one of you so gosh darn much!!!

So a few highlights to share, who doesn't love pictures?!

  • March 2013 My first sale. This blue bird went to a lady named Terri. I cried when I sold it. I cried again when I shipped it out. 

Paper Flower Blue Bird

  • March 2013 The first set of chalkboards I sold. I took this picture and the bird picture on the seat of my ikea chairs.  Too bad they are now legitimately covered in coffee stains and pieces of L's mushed up food. I'm laughing out loud just thinking about staging a photo on these crazy chairs.

Mini Chalkboard Signs burlap and lace - wedding, table numbers, party, dessert or food label

  • August 2013 The paper flower wall I made for my office when we moved. Here's the initial set up (which has since become a nursery that my baby never sleeps in!)

  • June 2014 What the chalkboards looked like now.

....insert big break here. Let's call it "The third trimester/being a huge whale and it's tough to use a glue gun without dripping it all over your belly + labor/delivery/recovery + a very mobile infant who likes to eat my flowers... 

But here is a cute picture of her little legs when I first started to make flowers again after she was born. 

  • October 2015 the Calvary Chapel Handmade Marketplace

      • August 2015 Ruth from Light & Dark Shop made a water color of a new product I was working on. (I think this was/is one of my favorite moments/things!!)

      • January 2016 What the chalkboards look like now. Plus. We are totally re-branding over the next month or two and finally opening up a website independent from Etsy!!!  More to come on that later, but I am so, SO pumped and excited to share with you about who we are working with and show you progress along the way. 

      Friends thank you for reading, for supporting my shop, for helping make my dreams of being a full time stay at home mom/creative real, for being encouraging, for inspiring me, for everything. I love each and every one of you! And just because I don't know you personally doesn't mean I don't remember your name from a purchase in the shop. You'd be surprised how many orders and names I remember, I truly value each one of you.  *Insert heart eyes emoji.* Just couldn't help myself.

      Sunday, January 10, 2016

      Don't worry I'm still here. I can't think of a title. This is a post about blogging in 2016.

      One thing I pride myself on is the consistency of this blog.


      My little piece of the internet went from a wedding planning journal to a DIY paper flower wall series. It detailed my journey in trying to become a pinterest home maker (don't remember this part? yeah I barely do either...hahaha) and then became a pregnancy journal. I could actually list about ten more topics.

      It's a pretty common piece of advice that consistency is key in building a readership and voice for your blog.


      Well, I don't have consistency but I can tell you it is a goal of mine for the future. A lot of topics go as quickly as they came because I never want to force a post or write about something I don't care about. I'm also not going to lie and tell you I'm definitely going to be consistent this year, because well - that's just setting myself up for failure. But I have good feelings about where this is going for 2016.

      I'm hoping to use this blog as a place of encouragement. Encouragement for everyone but I'm hoping it will specifically resonante with creatives. Creatives who are struggling building a business, who are overwhelmed with an unexpectedly successful business, who are putting their business before their marriage, who don't have a business but desperately want a business, who are working a 9-5 and side creative business and totally stressed out, who are too afraid to share their art but want to. I want to offer encouragement for all of these types and do so by sharing personal stories, highlighting other creatives' stories and spotlighting business to help gain exposure among other things.

      It won't only be that. You'll still hear from me about my paper flowers and about the bajillion huge life changes we have coming in 2016. Hey, maybe we'll even try to get a bit of that fantastic pancake art back up here.

      Sound interesting?