Our Journey to Minimalism

I have wanted to write this blog since January 1, 2017. That’s when I knew the changes Andrew and I made in our life between December 24, 2016 to January 1, 2017 would be so beneficial for our family that I’d have to share it with you.  And I was right.

Finally, a year later, I can say without a doubt.  Andrew and I are minimalists.  Or at least a version of minimalism that suits our life.  And our quest to get here started a year ago on Christmas Eve as we were wrapping presents and continues every day.

Earlier that week a friend on facebook posted the quote “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works” followed with a link to the documentary Minimalism – A Documentary about the Important Things.  It immediately peaked my interest.  So when everyone was finally asleep and we brought out the last of the Christmas gifts to wrap for the next day, we turned it on to keep us company.

The concept of the film is that things and consumerism do just that – CONSUME our lives with THINGS. They leave no room for living because we are chasing an idea that we need a bigger salary to be able to buy the things we think will bring meaning to our lives. So we work more and more to buy those things.  We become too busy.  We keep thinking we’ll be fulfilled by a content feeling we expect to have as we achieve those things. But, they don’t. The American dream has become a hamster wheel of chasing more and more.  With no finish line in sight.

Why do we need three car garages?  Or the stuff we store in them?  Meaning should come from what you do with your life, not what you own.  Instead with minimalism, every possession in your life serves a purpose or brings you joy.  You choose to live deliberately with less. You get off the hamster wheel.

It hit close to home for us because we’re already pretty minimal in our household in that we are attracted to a clean, tidy house and minimal, contemporary design.  But especially since being new parents, we’d begun to experience ways that having kids can bring so much more stuff into your life if you’re not careful.

So, on December 26, 2016, when the last of our visiting family left town we launched the most epic cleaning-out project of our lives.  Every cabinet, every closet, every drawer was taken apart and paired down to only the essentials.

Here’s what our version of minimalism looks like…
Let’s get one thing clear, we didn’t bring our lives down to the bare bones like Joshua and Ryan did on the documentary.  But we did clean a lot out.  We’re not trying to take the beauty of design, art and homemaking out of our lives, just a more simplified version of those things to create a sense of mental clarity.  In the film they say if you love books, keep your books.  That’s the direction we took. Here’s what worked for us so far…

We have 1 of everything we need.  Like dishes. Inside of our kitchen cabinets were several variations of serveware, all wedding gifts from 10 years before, that we had never used. What was I holding onto these for?  Yes. I had a bit of guilt to donate these items because they were thoughtful gifts from friends or family, but every time I looked into the cabinet they gave me the feeling of inadequacy because I didn’t have the time or energy to put together a grand celebration.  Let alone the desire. Cooking for big groups just isn’t my thing.  Bakeware representing my inabilities didn’t help my mental state of well being. So, off to the garage sale pile they went. Along with vases, candles holders, decorations, jars and jars and jars.

I adopted the capsule wardrobe and I love it.  Do you have a favorite outfit you love to wear and feel the absolutely best about yourself when you wear it? Okay. Imagine your days if you could wear it daily.  So I did!  I love wearing skinny jeans and a cute top.  Long sleeve, short sleeve, vintage tee, bunchy sweater. Whatever the case – I live for jeans and a top.  No crazy patterns or pops of color. Just classics like navy, green, black, gray and white.  Now, when I get ready in the morning, I turn to my sea of favorite pieces and easily select.  No fretting that I have nothing to wear.

I started by going through my clothes and pulling out everything I haven’t worn in the last year.  If I didn’t, even if the clothes were still style relevant and nice, I chose to get rid of them to minimize the distraction while choosing what to wear each morning. Obviously if I hadn’t worn the item in over a year, I just wasn’t that into it.

The secondary effect has been that it’s given me clear direction for shopping.  Now, I only buy select colors and styles of clothes instead of what looks good on a mannequin or what’s on sale.  I buy what I KNOW I like and feel comfortable in.  I have specific gaps to fill in my wardrobe and I don’t buy outside of those.

Speaking of shopping – we just don’t.  Unless of course, we have something specific to shop for. But the freedom that comes with choosing to only have one of a specific item means, you’re not compelled to stroll the aisles of Marshalls for random items that make you feel good that day.  Retail therapy is expensive and short lived.  I don’t need a new potato peeler and I definitely don’t need 14 pairs of nude wedges or stilettos in every color.  I have a plenty good potato peeler and I have a beautiful, high quality pair of Tory Burch wedges… I don’t need another until those go bad.

Retirement savings and knowing we have money in the bank is our therapy at this point in life.

This means gifts too.  We don’t exchange gifts with each other and our families and this has alleviated so much stress at the holidays.  I don’t need things. I need quality time with the people I feel compelled to buy for.  I crave meaningful conversation and laughter… not scented candles.

Kids need minimalism too.  This was an easy transition for us because Asher is still young and we’ve intentionally not overdone the baby and kid gear since his birth.  I’m a big believer that clutter contributes to confusion and being unfocused in kids.  I just don’t think children need every toy they want and 50,000 pieces of legos.  So, we merged the playroom with Asher’s bedroom and kept only the toys that he really liked and got rid of everything else.  A playroom made room for a lot of things and keeping it only made me feel like I needed to fill it up.  I noticed the less toys Asher had to play with, the more time he actually spends playing with them.  Every toy has it’s designated space and we teach him to put it back where it belongs each night before bed.  Structure. Amen. Hallelujah!

To keep this under control we asked our families to minimize the gifts around birthday and Christmas and ask us before they opt for anything big.  Since Asher’s birthday is the day before Christmas I often pack up a few of his gifts and store them in the closet to bring out later in the year when he’s bored with his current toys and that has worked well.

We run a minimalist office.  This was a biggie for us and very hard for me to swallow at first.  I was fearful that this would create an impression of downsizing and that we weren’t growing.  I was worried what other people would think.  But, not one single person even noticed anything changed because nothing did, except where we logged onto our computers.  Now we have a home office with four computers set up.  Our two employees come to our office from 9am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and work from home on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  This gives us time to come together a few times during the week but also the privacy to focus on our task lists without distraction.  We use chat a lot throughout the day to communicate quickly as well.

An office space represented our need to buy two of everything for our small company.  Two toilet papers, two paper towels, two microwaves, two refrigerators, two internet bills, two electric bills.  All so we could have a few readers stop by to pick up magazines a handful times throughout the year.  Nope.

Minimalism isn’t just about things, it’s about reducing distractions, to-dos and activities that take our attention from our core focus.  At the office, this was our internship program.  While a great way to give back to younger generations at my alma mater and fun to have extra chatter in the office, when we went to a home office scenario, this meant we couldn’t have our internship program anymore.  It’s very difficult to manage a team of interns in office, keeping interns accountable while they work remotely is down right impossible in my experience.

Minimalism for us equals mental clarity.  It frees of from the weight of “shoulds” and “wants” and just lets us be present in the moment.  But even more so, it’s given us laser focus on our finances because when you stop buying things you really don’t need, you really start to notice how much money you wasted overtime.

As of today, we consider our efforts still a work in progress.  We act intentionally with our purchases and plans to keep our lives simplified as much as possible so we can live.  We don’t want to spend time cleaning our house and maintaining our stuff.  We want to do things, go places and see people.

You CAN do more with less.

4 Ways to Improve the Way You Track Your Advertising and Better Understand Your Results

If you think “How did you hear about us?” is an adequate way to track your advertising – we’re here to tell you you are wrong.  Sorry to be so brash, but someone has to tell you. Before you get offended or leave this post, scroll down to be enlightened on the most effective ways to track your advertising and better understand your results.

First, understand that transactions are different from reach. 

When you buy an ad, you don’t buy a transaction, unless you buy a coupon or special offer style ad.  EVERYTHING ELSE IS REACH.   We get it,  when you spend money, you want a guarantee that you are going to get what you paid for…. especially when it comes to advertising, especially print advertising.  Unfortunately, that’s not how advertising works.

In order to be at peace with your marketing plans you have to stop tracking only transactions and start measuring value in REACH.

When you buy an ad, you buy the # of people you can reach within a demographic…. NOT the final customer. So when you are choosing advertising options…. choose base on reach and ask yourself what type of awareness can this media outlet bring for my business. Not how much money can I make from this ad?

But I still want to track my ad…. 

Ok.  Yes! You can track the performance of your print advertising!  And no, it’s not by verbally asking “How did you hear about us?” In fact, with the technology of today’s world, you should never have to utter those words again.

Here’s why the question “How did you hear about us?” Doesn’t work.  Human error.  Rushing.  Not caring.  It’s not the job of your potential customers to keep track of your marketing efforts, it’s yours. So don’t leave their response to the question “How did you hear about us?” open for interpretation. The response should be pretty simple. Comparing your marketing plan.. it was either.. your print ad, your online ad, a friend, or recent PR coverage, etc.  OR ALL OF IT.  But Betty, who just wants to know how much it costs to have a wedding at your venue, doesn’t care about your marketing, she just wants to get down to the reason why she called.

Don’t grill her, or waste her time trying to validate your marketing….

Instead do this…..

1 – MAKE YOUR YOUR WEBSITE FORMS WORK FOR YOU

Your contact form or request for proposal form on your website is more valuable than you think.  Since your website is your new receptionist, it’s crucial that she/he is accepting all the necessary valuable information you’d normally have a human ask. Besides the obvious information you need from new inquiries, asking the question “how did you hear about us?” is likely the 2nd most important question to have on the form.

Doing these steps will immediately improve the marketing tracking answers you get from customers…

  • Make the question “How did you hear about us” required.  This should be obvious.
  • No open ended questions.  It’s not the job of your new client to track your marketing. Trigger their memory with a list of all the potential places they could have seen you.  “How did you hear about us” is an open ended question.
  • Use checkboxes for multiple answers.  Once you’ve listed all of the print, bridal shows, websites, social media, friend referrals and even editorial your business is in, use checkboxes instead of a dropdown list so that the client can click ALL THE WAYS they’ve seen you instead of only one.  If studies show it takes multiple impressions for a client to take the initiative to call your company, it’s likely they’ve seen your business in several places.  This will help you get more specific results.

If your contact form or RFP form does not look like this, you are leaving information on the table and not accurately tracking your ads.

 

2 – USE & UNDERSTAND YOUR WEB ANALYTICS PROGRAMS

Your website is your receptionist.  Period.  No longer do people see your ad, scan for your number and dial up right away.  They research you first.  And where?  Your Website!  So, having a bird’s eye view of how people have found your website (it’s not all links from other sites!) and what they look at on your site when they get there are crucial indicators of your offline and online marketing and how effective your site actually is at keeping their attention once they’ve arrived.

Web Analytics programs tracks three different ways visitors get to your website.  Only one of those actually tracks internet referrals from other websites.  Here are the other two best ways to keep track of your offline marketing with Web Analytics…

  • DIRECT TRAFFIC.  Direct traffic is a list of people who have gone to a search engine and specifically typed in your website address.  Meaning… they already knew it.  They didn’t search you or find you on another website, they saw your website address somewhere else (eh hem, perhaps your print ad) and typed it into the URL address box.
  • SEARCH.  Organic (meaning not-paid for) search traffic is two fold.  There are people who search for your business type and people who search for your business name.  Type is true organic search that you can thank the search engines and SEO for.  However, Business Name searches should be attributed to your offline marketing and general brand awareness campaigns. Whenever you see someone search your business name, ask yourself… “How did they know about me to google my business name?”

3 – GET A UNIQUE PHONE NUMBER

By assigning a unique local phone number to each advertising or marketing campaign, you will be able to track all of your phone calls back to the campaign that generated the call. This will allow you to discover exactly which advertising campaigns are generating sales and revenue for your business.

Here are three custom phone number companies I recommend…

4 – USE COUPONS & PROMOTIONAL CODES

I placed this at the bottom of the list because it’s truly an old school method, however still effective in some cases.  If you’re going to do a direct mailing piece or promotional hand out at a bridal show, tradeshow or ad, use a promotion to get people to pick up the phone or call instead of just a branding piece.  Then, give your promotions unique codes that your management can track when clients turn them in.  If you don’t have a computer system that keeps track for you, create a spreadsheet that your manager can enter the customers into when they bring in the coupon.  Remember, no one is going to bring in your ad/postcard for no reason, they need the incentive like $500 off or a free gift so don’t forget that part.  At the end of the promotion or year tally up the results to see which promotion worked best.

If you aren’t doing all of these things together, you simply cannot accurately say “I didn’t get anything from my ad.”

Celebrating New Beginnings with The Celebration Society

Today our company announced some big news regarding The Celebration Society over on the official Occasions Media Group site.  You can read it here.  I’ll wait.

Okay you’re back.

Yes!  You read that right, we’re growing, but we’re not doing it alone.  We’ve partnered with Nei-Turner Media Group out of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to take the mission of The Celebration Society nationwide and I couldn’t be happier about the serendipitous sequence of events that led to this new arrangement.  So I thought, for our friends and family who’ve been following our business for the past 10 years, you’d like to hear a bit of the backstory of how this came to be and what it means for the future.

Here goes…

When God births a burden in your heart, lean into it.  – Andy Stanley.   I read this quote in my favorite book “Thirty One Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer” and it has been burned on my memory every since.

If you read my previous post about Remembering Why I Started you may have sensed that my heart has changed a bit since becoming a mother.  It has.

The best way I can explain it is to quote Kristin Pidcock of the Limelight Theatre from her recent feature story in St. Augustine Social.   She said “You know that moment in The Wizard of Oz when the movie turns from black and white to Technicolor? Well, that’s what happened to my life when I had my kids. My life changed to technicolor.”

It did for mine too.  Before Asher, I had no idea what he would do to my schedule, but my heart was craving a way to replace relationships of convenience (mostly business related) with FAMILY.  And he has.  Now, my days of networking events, business meetings, and being glued to my computer at the office to gain the slightest popularity advantage over my competitor have been replaced with tickle sessions, cannon balls in the pool and seeing all of God’s glory in this earth through the eyes of a three year old.

Heather Vreeland and Andrew Vreeland

Okay, okay that’s very sappy – it’s not always rainbows and unicorns.  That dude makes me crazy most days, but he’s my crazy.  😉

Being a mother brings a whole new meaning to the term work-life balance that I wasn’t prepared for.  Not only do you balance working and being a mom, but add in being a loving wife too and I’m like… “can I get an assistant up in here?!!” Or a stunt double.  That would be helpful.

Managing it all – business, marriage and parenthood – made my new technicolor world a little dull though.  How could this happen?!!  2016 was a hard year for us while we adapted to working more and more together, managing the uncertainty of business and the multiple personalities of a 3 year old. By early 2017 we both knew we wanted to change our lifestyle.

After some serious soul searching, Andrew and I realized we’ve been chasing a goal, that doesn’t fit either of our personalities. The bigger we got, the more disorganized and out of control we felt… not to mention absent from Asher’s life.  And because we never stopped to identify the goal we were shooting for besides “paying our bills” we just kept selling more and growing more only to feel like we ended up with a net zero (mostly emotionally) in the end.  So we stopped and started asking ourselves what is the ultimate goal we’re after?  Turns out, we both just want to be financially secure and provide for our little Florida lives. And we want to be present in Asher’s life.  I cannot say this enough!  I’m not trying to buy jets here people.  Just juice boxes and maybe a new pair of jeans each season.  We don’t want to be media moguls, we just want to manage the media we have in the most efficient, simplest way possible and without unnecessary stress.   If the past three years have taught me anything besides how to raise another human being, I have learned that contrary to what I have been working towards for the past 10 years, I actually don’t want to manage a big staff.  I want to be a mom and the time I spend away from my family I want to be spent working alongside a small, trustworthy team of people who have common career goals and who look out for each other.

Heather Vreeland and Andrew Vreeland

That was a ground breaking discovery for us personally and one that we knew would limit where our products can grow from here.

We had to make a decision about what we would say “no” to so that we could say “yes” to a more balanced life.

So I asked for help.  I prayed long and hard about how I was feeling as a wife, mother and business owner and I knew I needed relief.  Over and over I asked God to unveil to me his plan for my life and his plan for our business.  And mostly, as those things started to become apparent to me, please let me heart be at peace with that plan.

And then one day I said to Andrew  “We should sell The Celebration Society.”  My baby. Our baby. The brand we invented from thin air.  At that moment, I knew that we alone could not lead the The Celebration Society anywhere beyond its current status.  It deserves more.

But something so much better happened.  Through a mutual industry connection and an extremely divine interaction, I met Nei-Turner Media Group.  I made an off-the-cuff remark to a vendor about finding a partner to help take The Celebration Society to the next level and that same day Barb Krause, the publisher at Nei- Turner Media Group mentioned to that same vendor that they were looking for new projects.

What are the chances?!!  

After an email introduction we immediately clicked and began devising a plan of partnership to satisfy both of our interests.  The long and short of it is: The Celebration Society won’t be run, grown, managed by just me and Andrew anymore.  Hallelujah!

The team at NTMG will manage the day-to-day transactions of accounting, bookkeeping, sales, and production and I will remain as creative director and strategizing with the team on growth strategies for new markets.  Together, we are taking The Celebration Society coast to coast!

Meet your main point of contacts at The Celebration Society.  From left to right – Dena Frisch, Advertising Sales Manager,  Barb Krause, Publisher and Heather Vreeland, Founder and Creative Director (that’s me!) Super, extra double bonus:  Nei-Turner Media group brings a team of 25 to the table so there are many more faces behind-the-scenes too!

dena frisch barb krause heather vreeland the celebration society

Not only are these gals experienced in the publishing world, they are quite the tour guides too. I had so much fun visiting Lake Geneva, WI.

The 2018 Annual Weddings Issue is already in the works.  The advertising deadline is November 10, 2017.  The editorial submissions deadline is September 15, 2017.  If you want to be featured, submit using your “My Events” dashboard on TheCelebrationSociety.com (we’ll be picking from published events there) or by using Two Bright Lights.

If you are a current advertiser of The Celebration Society, you will notice no interruption in service, other than more people serving you and a different address to mail your checks to. 😉

St. Augustine Social, our city magazine for St. Augustine will remain independent from this partnership and run by our Occasions Media Group team in St. Augustine.

Disregard my bandaid – I smashed my thumb in the car door on my first day in Wisconsin!!! ;-(

10 years ago this January, I decided I wanted to quit my job and start a business. And while being an entrepreneur does come with incredible perks, it does have an alternate effect of making a business owner feel very isolated, like living on a deserted island at times.

I’m happy to report that feeling has all been entirely replaced with peace and I know, this is truly what is meant to be.  I’m so excited to see where we take The Celebration Society from here!

 

 

Remembering Why I Started

A brief note: I wrote this blog almost a year ago but was too scared to ever press publish for fear of being perceived as weak or giving up in my vulnerability. But privately, I knew I needed to write what I was feeling and I’m so glad I took the time to do it.  Writing this blog was wildly therapeutic for me because as I re-wrote my story on getting started, gave words to the true feelings I was experiencing as an entrepreneur and re-hashed “my why” internally, it help me clear the weird fog that had been clouding my brain to unveil an incredibly strong foundation I’d forgotten I had.  Today, things are A LOT different and because I wrote this post, it helped me problem solve my way to a whole new reality by identifying what wasn’t working and what was working in our business and create a task list of what I needed to do to change it.  A lot of things have changed as a result.  I’ll be sharing more of that soon!  

If you are a business owner who feels stuck, uninspired or just bleh – I feel you, I’ve been you and I’m here to tell you, this too shall pass.  

July 19,2016 – I have been having a difficult time lately. I know that’s vague and incredibly opened ended, but that’s the only way I can describe it.  A difficult time.  Time.  I have been wasting time having difficulty trying to find my purpose, trying to hear my authentic voice again, trying to remember my decision to do what it is I do on a daily basis because sometimes I just don’t remember.

I am no longer the young, eager go-getter that got me to this place and while I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I’m having a hard time giving the new me a name.  So where is it that I am?  What place is this?  It’s not a magical island I bought with my millions or the top of success mountain I’ve been climbing for so long – it’s today.  No different than yesterday.  Same email inbox, same to do list, same business, same dreams, same goals – different girl with a different perspective because of experience, life season, employee turnover, competition, customers, age. Different hue of rose colored glasses you could say and to be honest with you, they’re a little dirty right now. #truth

The “cool-ness” of being in business has changed dramatically since Andrew and I started our company in 2008.  Now, starting a business is the in thing to do. It’s what all the cool kids do and if you’re not hashtagging and keeping up with the conversation on social media you’re not succeeding – or at least that’s the way it feels to me.  I feel like an outsider because I don’t self-identify with what everyone else sees as being a successful business owner on instagram or facebook.  I’m not all #girlboss #bosslady #cantstopwontstop – I used to be but it doesn’t feel natural to me now.  So, what do I call myself then?

Do I even really need a designation?  Is that what’s an expected of entrepreneurs?  To have a brand, a message, a greater mission than just making our company work?  Am I the only business owner that feels pressure to be more than just a business owner?  I don’t know.  And I think I’m becoming a victim of comparison and the climate of “getting everything you want”  is way cooler to look successful than to actually BE successful.

And then I saw this on my friend Mandy’s Instagram….“Remember why you started” and thought it would be a helpful exercise to recall just what is was that made me do, what I do.  Here goes.  

In the beginning…

I have always had an admiration and affinity for the media. The sound of NBC Nightly news instantly brings me back to 693 Blueberry Drive and recalls the smell of my parents house, the concrete on my bare feet, the sounds of pots and pans, the hustle and bustle of after school play, my mom making dinner and the clank of the garage door that slams so loud when my dad arrives home from work.  I have memories of standing in front of the TV to watch breaking news with my mom that I will be able to instantly recall for the rest of my days.  Baby Jessica, Columbine, Princess Diana’s funeral, Hurricane Andrew, the OJ Simpson trial, Oprah, Regis and Kathy Lee.  It’s not just TV either.  Back then, the Palm Beach Post weighted 5lbs and was 4 inches thick. An institution and a staple on the breakfast table every Sunday morning.

Jim Sackett, the News Anchor for WPTV Channel 5 in West Palm Beach went to my church and it was like seeing a celebrity every Sunday during communion. You get the picture.

Media is an elusive, powerful force that I’ve always respected for its reach and influence.  But I never thought about having a career in media. To be a part of such an institution – I don’t think I ever thought it could really be done.

Truth is, I didn’t have a lot of forward thinking about how to be a successful adult while I was in high school – I was a terrible student. I just wanted out.  To work, to make money, to be free.  But the connection I made with choosing a strategic school based on my career goals and it’s effect on my ability work and make a substantial about of money was touch and go.  Maybe even non-existent.  Eventually I found my way to St. Augustine, FL and Flagler College by way of a failed relationship with my first real boyfriend who I definitely thought was “the one.”  Newsflash.  He was not.  (L.O.L.)

My desire to be independent and make my own decisions (no matter how bad they were) brought me to a beautiful small town that conveniently was home to an equally beautiful, small private college that had a “communications’ program.  I guess I’ll apply.  “WTF does communications mean?” I remember thinking.  Oh like broadcast. TV Stations.  Public Relations (what’s that!?) Ok cool.  Accepted. Sweet.

Fast forward through four years of college and the realization that – as it turned out – I did not have any interest in being a news anchor or anywhere in front of a TV camera.  Ever.  (Imagine my excitement watching social media turn into one big personal broadcast camera crew over the years – oh boy). And then, one fabulous college professional planted a little sales seed in my brain when he pointed me to the business side of media that ultimately altered my career path forever.

When I graduated from Flagler and did not find a job in the sales department of a TV station as I had envisioned I would, I accepted a position as the Marketing Manager at Debbie’s Day Spa. Little did I know, this job would teach me everything I know about myself to be true to this day.  Like:  I have chutzpah. I’m a doer, a problem solver.  I am creative.  I am a graphic designer. I love working behind the scenes. I treasure the close knit team of a small business.  I am a facilitator.  I like to make things happen. I am a natural sales person.  I am competitive.  I have big dreams.  I have good taste.  And, I can do anything I put my mind too.  More on that in another post.

Debbie hired me and unleashed me on a path to market her business.  That’s it.  No direction, just do it.  And that is when things started to fall into place.  When I took what I learned in school and put it to real life use, the thrill of getting published or featured in the news for me was no different than what I assume an olympian must feel when they secure their first place spot at the top of the podium (ok that’s dramatic). My affinity for the media became even stronger as my career developed and the thought of being on the other side – the deciding side of a media became increasingly interesting to me.  With my insight from the ad buying side of the table, I had a treasure trove of ideas that our business was looking for in an advertising partner but never found a solid match.  Light bulb: there are (were) no good local magazines (back then) in St. Augustine…..I should start one and then I could market multiple business and I could also be the person that makes decisions on who gets featured, facilitate community, create networking opportunities, help businesses spread the word….. THAT would be the ultimate thing.  And that’s when I knew I wanted to make a magazine.  Even though I had never worked for a magazine, designed a magazine, written an article, sold advertising… I just knew I could.

And I did.  (We did – Andrew and I).  It took about 4 years to get there, a whole new city, husband and inspiration, but a las I found myself running Atlanta Occasions Magazine.  A wedding & party magazine for metro Atlanta.  A far cry from my original “city magazine for St. Augustine” idea, but God has plans and I trusted them.

Here’s where I think started to forget….

Being an editor of magazine has it’s perks.  Respect is a big one as I eluded to earlier.  And while it was not the respect part that led me to start it, but the “I can do it and probably better” in me that did. There is (or used to be) very little competition in the world of media. Which means, there are very few editors (aka influencers as most are known as today) and it’s a powerful position to be in when you are a rarity.  It’s like when Andrew was a little boy riding in the backseat of his dad’s airplane.  When the air traffic controller came on the radio – you did not speak.  He’s told me several times that he wondered “who was this powerful man on the radio that my dad respected so much? I want to be him.” Now, I found myself in the position of authority I was so inspired by.  I took the responsibility seriously and immersed myself in our industry and made a name for our little magazine made out of our home (on my laptop) in Hampton, GA and that little thing grew to produce over $500,000/yr in annual review before we ever thought to expand into other markets.  

But it’s 2017 and the industry has changed.  Now EVERYONE PUBLISHES EVERYONE.  There are a bajillion blogs for every topic in the market.  There is too much noise. It’s not special anymore. Or it hardly feels that way to me at least.   Anyone can start up a blog tomorrow and be like XYZ media corporation, LLC. Inc. and all of a sudden they’re little blog posts are being shared on Facebook by a company who is proclaiming they are “proud to be featured in XYZ media corporation, llc, inc.” that no one has ever heard of before.  Suddenly, our very legit, very hard working team, very expensive to operate media company is being lumped in with the newest blogger-on-the-block and I’m like “Wait.  What?”  Everyone is getting featured everywhere by everyone.  It doesn’t feel special anymore.  

Sorry, I sound incredibly cynical, but somebody has to say it… so I did.  

Couple that with 8 years of maturity, motherhood, employee turnover and the fact that I’m the type of person that if everyone is doing it, I don’t want to do it at all – it doesn’t make it easy to keep the engines running like I used to. #whatnow

Today

As I write this and relive each moment I see that even in the beginning, simpler times of running a boutique media it wasn’t being at the helm of a magazine as the editor that fired me up.  It was just DOING – and having the fervent belief that I could – that got me out of bed every morning.

Here I sit realizing I have no emotional attachment to my role as editor, but I have a sincere connection with my role in running a business. Doing it what it takes to make a business work better.  I just know I can.  

When I remember why I started, suddenly the fog I’ve been feeling has lifted and I can clearly see our company and my role and I can let go of the cynical resentment to the changing climate of magazines, websites, blogs and social media that has been weighing me down. There’s nothing cool, hip or trendy worth #hashtagging about that. It feels natural, not forced and real.

I started because I am a doer. I can literally get anything done.  I started because I wasn’t afraid, I knew I was destined to create something great and I could do it damn better.  I could facilitate a community and place to help a mass amount of businesses vs just working for one.  It wasn’t a love of media that got me started (and kept me going), that was just the direction I went in.  I finally realized media wasn’t my why, making something happen was.  So, no matter the changing tides of the wedding media (or any media, or any industry) the fire inside of me that burns to DO…. hasn’t changed one bit.

And that is the greatest realization I have ever made.

I want to hear your story.  What’s your why?  Leave me a comment below to introduce yourself and tell me a short bit about your WHY.  😘

Image by Rustic White Photography

Be the… Mother of the Bride

At my sisters wedding back in 200? (sorry I don’t remember) I recall saying to my mom “you’re not a loud to plan Dana’s wedding” (the youngest and next one to be married) because the poor woman barely had a chance to slow down the entire weekend while we alphabetized escort cards and showed up to the rehearsal dinner venue to find it closed.  Alas, Emily’s wedding went off without a hitch, but that’s was because we worked are bottoms off to make sure it did. WORKED being the key word.  We worked that wedding. Yes, there was lots of celebrations happening, but did we live in every moment? Grasp every memory possible and be present in all the conversations with friends and family?  Probably not. We were busy putting on the show!  That was part of our inspiration in rebranding Occasions Magazine to The Celebration Society.  In searching for our ultimate brand message and what separates us from every other gazillion wedding blogs/magazines out there the images that filled my brain were those of being too busy worrying about the event that I couldn’t just enjoy the events from my life.  The night before my wedding I was hot glueing artificial ivy and hydrangeas together (BARF << Don’t ask me what I was thinking) for the pew decorations instead of gushing with my sisters about why I chose to marry Andrew.

This is why The Celebration Society exists >> to elevate the importance of hiring professionals. To say it’s okay to spend that money on their services. To encourage delegation.  To build trust in the system and to eliminate the unnecessary stress of a wedding. And to help you make more memories. When we pinpointed what our switch would be, what it would mean, I always knew I would come up with a branding campaign to drive the message home to make it click…..and I feel pretty certain I was finally able to put into design the message my brain so clearly saw with these ads running in 2017 our Annual issue.

Tonight, validation came to me when I checked my phone and found a text from my mom with this picture and she said “best ad ever.”  😉