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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.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?
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.
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.