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The Best Kind of Growth

February 26, 2012

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up so DRAINED that you know SOMETHING has to change. Something has to give…

I woke up like that today. Just exhausted. Just ready to take the bull by the horns and take CONTROL of the noise that seems to float around me all day long.  I say that in the sense that I have SO MANY THINGS going on that its hard to focus sometimes.

When I started my business I took on anything and everything that sounded like a good fit – I spread myself thin quickly. The better I got at my craft, the more opportunities came my way and the more I said YES. I thought that growth for a business happened just like growth happened for plants – one flower, two flower, three flowers – we’re growing!!

YAY RIGHT!? For a while…

Then add other priorities into that mix (family, baby, friends, self, God, etc) and what are you left with? Easily a jumbled mess.

I haven’t made it to the jumbled mess stage yet, but before I did… I knew that there were changes to be made. NOs to be said – though they may be painful. I decided a few weeks ago it was time to prune – like you would a plant (oh wait, we DO grow like plants?) cutting back the extra to allow room for the rest to grow, grow, grow in the purest, best, most authentic ways possible – the things that meant the most to you.

Life is too short to be spread thin.

This feeling started a LONG time ago. And looking back, it’s actually a very powerful, resolved, peaceful feeling. It’s a fierce dedication to what matters most.

Last week I was so conflicted over a few big, big, BIG business decisions that I had to sit down and write an actual pros and cons list. On one side I wrote down all the cons of this big decision… there were about ten cons for if I went this route. And on the pros side, I wrote on… MORE TIME, MORE FOCUS.

Done.

That pro might have well taken up twenty lines. And so the decision was made – after wavering back and forth, shedding a few tears and really struggling with it… it’s done. I feel so at peace with it. And so excited for the direction it is headed, even without me.

I decided to leave the Stationery Academy. I will always and forever love what the Stationery Academy is about and LOVE the girls who are at the helm, but I just couldn’t give it the love and attention it deserved. This year’s Stationery Academy is going to be WONDERFUL and I highly recommend it. Last year’s class is so close and so supportive. It’s a joy to know each of them. This will allow me more time to continue offering private stationery business consulting as well as focus more attention on MBH and the new Emily Ley Paper Shop.

How did I come to this conclusion? Well, another list. I’m a list maker.

One of my favorite parts of Making Things Happen is our YES/NO list. After doing a lot of deep digging exercises and coming to some pretty big conclusions, we do what might seem so simple and easy – we write YES/NO lists. And that’s what I did last week.

I took this giant list and whittled it down into something manageable. Something I could base these big decisions on. And here it is.

I love the concept of the YES/NO list. I’m just going to keep coming back to it every time I get overwhelmed. When all else fails, try one of these. Or heck, before everything fails, try one of these : ) Make decisions, stand firm and move forward. Something my dad used to say to me that stuck with me.

All that being said, I am SO EXCITED about what lies ahead. We’ve made enormous progress with the Simplified Planner – and the next release will knock your socks off. I say WE because I’ve hired an AMAZING (!!!) Assistant Creative Director. More about her soon with a proper introduction. And the ELP shop…. it’s been a long time coming and is going to be GORGEOUS : ) Fully based on the Simplified Collection.

The Making Brands Happen webinars are filling up QUICKLY and kicking off soon – as is our Making Things Happen East Coast tour coming up! It’s going to be an amazing Spring : )

Something that I learned throughout this entire decision making experience… is that sometimes in order to grow, you have to cut back. Sounds silly, but its like pruning plants – cutting back to allow room for pure, good growth.

xo,

Emily

Our first ever Business & Branding Webinar Series!

February 15, 2012

Introducing the first ever Making Brands Happen three part Business & Branding Webinar Series!! Join us (Lara Casey and Emily Ley of Making Brands Happen… and a whole lot of other great companies we own), for a series of webinars that will transform your business and revolutionize (i.e. simplify!) the way you work.  We know branding, and we’re ready to dive in with YOU!  After droves of requests, we’ve decided to share our branding secrets via the wonderful world wide web and you get to join us from the comfort of your computer.  We suggest PJ’s and hot cocoa for the full experience!  From evaluating where you are, to digging deep into where you want your business to be, we’ll go into detail on the key things you need to know to take your brand to the next level and spread the word with strategic marketing.

We’ve created this curriculum as a SERIES OF THREE ESSENTIAL WEBINARS so we can cover all the essentials you need to know:  Get BrandedThe Client Experience and Get Published.  You are welcome to just take one, but you’ll be missing the total package!  Each area directly relates to the other.  We’ve made this super affordable so it’s a no brainer to join us for all three and really take things to the next level.  Our motto: Life is too short to play small!

Live Q & A will follow each webinar, including a live branding evaluation for one lucky attendee! (First come, first served with the single ticket above!)  This webinar series is open to any creative professional — whether new to the business or a seasoned pro — that wants to take his or her brand to the next level. Ready to make 2012 your biggest year yet?  Cancel that hair appointment and Get Branded!

Part 1: Get Branded Wednesday, March 14th from 1pm to 4pm Eastern Standard Time.

Strong, powerful brands are built on foundations of passion, authenticity and unmatched attention to detail. Join us as we dive into these details and create an actionable plan for bringing authenticity and personal connection into every aspect of your business and into every step of your ideal client experience. Your brand should tell your story in every detail and should invite your ideal client to be part of an experience she won’t soon forget.

Part 2: The Client Experience Wednesday, April 11th from 1pm to 4pm Eastern Standard Time.

Client experiences are viral. From start to finish and beyond, your client experience should be simple, streamlined and full of unexpected, personal touches. Together, we’ll create a strategy for mapping unforgettable client experiences and discuss how to utilize that experience to create a viral buzz around your powerful brand.

Part 3: Get Published Wednesday, May 16th from 1pm to 4pm Eastern Standard Time.

Join Southern Weddings Magazine editor-in-chief/publisher, Lara Casey and art director, Emily Ayer as they discuss the key things you need to know to take your brand to the next level and get published in print and online media.

Location: Your computer.  Platform details to follow once you are registered.

Prepare: Have your branding and publication questions ready, your computer open and something to take notes with.

Follow: on Twitter for updates @PowerfulBrand

VERY LIMITED SPACE AVAILABLE. 

Please note: This intensive does not cover any of the Making Things Happen curriculum.  To register for Making Things Happen, click here.  Please note #2:  These webinars are just a very SMALL TASTE of the full Making Brands Happen experience.  They do not in any way replace it.  Please note #3:  After the webinar, a recording will be a available for attendees, as well as branding homework.

*Dates and times are subject to change.  Seats are non-refundable and non-transferable.  Space is very limited. 

Warning: this webinar series is awesome. ENTER TO WIN A SEAT HERE!

 

 

Why authenticity matters

February 14, 2012

When I first dreamed up Emily Ley Paper and decided to take my love for drawing and making cute things out of paper and turn it into a business, I think I thought that’s what it’d always be about… the cutest designs, the biggest name and being the “silent face” behind a ginormous business.

ELP morphed into Goodpaper for a while there. I decided I needed to hide behind a “pretend” infrastructure of a ginormous business. Many of my favorite brands were named catchy names and had multiple “employees” (think accounting@whateverbrand.com and inquiries@whateverbrand.com). And who was I to represent my brand? I was just a girl with a stack of envelopes, an Epson printer and Microsoft Publisher (cringe). No one cared about me. They only cared about having the cutest stationery from the greatest brand. Right?

Wrong.

Big bad business decision wrong.

During the first Making Things Happen (literally, in the middle of it) I received a cease and desist letter from another company with no trademark at the time, but prior usage rights to the name Goodpaper. I thought I’d lost everything. I was devastated and embarrassed that I’d missed this tiny loophole in my trademark application. I’d done everything right. I’d hired a trademark attorney and paid a lot of money to have this big conglomerate name. I was going to hide behind this giant business and let everyone think it was ENORMOUS and build automatic trust on that name — kind of the way you trust Target or Macys but have no idea who is behind them.

The best brands in this industry aren’t built that way.

Today I was having a conversation with Kara, our nanny (aka Brady’s Valentine). She’s a remarkable person. And is going to take over the world with her own venture. More on that when she’s fully launched : ) She told me today that even though her business will be huge and probably one of the widest reaching brands I know personally (it’s pure fate and straight up GOD that we met online) that she feels its very important that she and her story be the foundation and face of her brand. I got goosebumps hearing her say this. YES!! I wanted to jump up and DOWN!!

After I lost that trademark, I sat down with Lara, who is now one of my best friends and business partner, who told me… Emily Ley Paper. Why wouldn’t you run with your Southern personality and be the next Martha Stewart? I laughed but inside I knew… why not? Why couldn’t I share my personal journey and let my face and my story be the heart of my brand?

Why not : )

And so as it’s morphed and grown over time, I’ve had those gut-checks where I’ve thought… am I sharing too much? Am I putting too much out there? But those blog comments and amazing connections with clients and the (still amazing to me) growing successes of two booming businesses say otherwise. Hiding behind a brand or even hiding behind your craft might get you only so far. But being authentic and allowing your story and journey to unfold organically and honestly and openly, that is amazing.

And at the same time, being true to myself while making big business decisions is hard. I’m a creative person – totally right brained. Accounting makes me nauseous (though I’m getting better!) And I tend to let my creativity lead my strategy. But over the past few months, I’ve found myself with a few gut-check moments. My businesses are quickly, by the Grace of God, outgrowing my plans for them. And outgrowing my capabilities. Thank goodness for Marissa, who works with both Lara and I (and is, by the way, an amazing writer and enormous part of the Southern Weddings team). She keeps me in line. And we’ve decided to add an Assistant Creative Director (thank you for all the amazing applications, by the way!!) But that still left big decisions to be made.

Today I followed my gut and made an extremely hard decision. A scary decision for a lot of reasons. But God showed me that He is bigger than my worries and my fears. Big decisions are so hard in business – in life, really. But when we trust our gut and we hold true to that promise of authenticity and allow ourselves those gut-check moments… well, in the words of one of my favorite people…

“I’m grateful for gut-check moments. They mean good things are happening.”

Amen to that. Scary as it may be, authenticity and holding true to that which matters most AND allowing our journeys to unfold organically and openly, well its the foundation of any strong brand – big or small. Transition is straight up HARD. Authenticity has two sides – your authentic mission (the core of WHY you do what you do) and being open in putting your authentic self out there to really connect with your ideal client thereby holding true to that authentic mission (see the giant circle?).

It’s not easy to lay all of my fears and ups and downs out HERE for all 600-1,200 of you a day to read – I get nervous hitting the PUBLISH button (I’m so humbled by the growth this little blog has experienced over the past 45 days). But I have no doubt that by holding true to my promise of authentic priorities (even in the face of enormous fear) that God is truly leading this crazy journey. I can’t ask for more.

So this enormous post is encouragement to any of you out there with your own brand – big or small. Be real. Be the face of your brand. Allow your ideal clients/readers to really connect with you in the best ways possible. And allow your work (whether it be a product, photography, services or blog posts) to mesh perfectly with your true, authentic heart. You can never go wrong when you operate your business that way and make those big decisions based on that clear, strong foundation.

xo,

Emily

Super sweet photo of Brady and I when he was just six months old taken by Gina Zeidler. This is a photo of us swimming at 1pm on a Tuesday. Sometimes my attempts to hold true to my priorities mean turning off the computer and hopping in the pool on a weekday. Those are the decisions I’ll never regret.


copyright 2018 emily ley