Featured: ‘She Is Fierce’ Podcast + Four Things I Want Every Woman in Business to Know

Last year I was interviewed by my friend and fellow St. Augustine local Kelly Youngs, for a podcast she hosts as a part of her organization, She Is Fierce – a global women’s network that connects established leaders and women on the rise to give them the tools they need to follow their dreams.  Kelly and I met early on in her venture and my magazine, St. Augustine Social has featured her in several stories while we watched her events and initiative take the local women’s business community to new heights.  So… you can imagine my excitement having the tables turned and to find myself seated in the interviewee’s chair for a change.  Any chance I get to level with other business owners and also share my personal journey, I enjoy.  After listening to the podcast this afternoon, 4 things stuck out to me that I want to make sure you know…

1 – You don’t have to use your degree now.
On the day I left my job at Debbie’s Day Spa before my big move to Atlanta and our upcoming wedding, Andrew sent me flowers with a card that said “Happy Retirement”  Ha! Honestly, I was ready for a break, but I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to contribute to our household and guilt that I would be wasting all the money I spent on college by not diving head first into my next career move.  Looking back 12 years later I just want you girls to know – that is B.S.  It’s okay to take a break. Some of the most amazing, influential women of our times did their best work in their 40s,50s and 60s!!!! Don’t rush it!  Have kids while you’re young and have energy.  My 37 year old self currently chasing a 4 year old has a lot of experience in the field of exhaustion lately.

2 – Ask yourself if it’s worth it.  
I think we live in a world that over glamorizes the hustle and #girlboss movement of our time.  My fear is this leads women down a path of entrepreneurship that will take their time, treasure and talent away from their already busy lives, but doesn’t guarantee the financial win fall they’ll be expecting because of the filter of Instagram. Time is our most valuable resource that you can never get back.  Protect yours with extreme ferocity. Before you venture into a good idea, ask yourself if it’s worth your time in the sort and long term.  Do the math, twice.  Andrew always says to me “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should” and I wholeheartedly agree. Edit and choose wisely when it comes to your time.

3 – Do not, whatever you do, compare yourself to others. 
There will always be someone better than you, more experienced than you, prettier than you and skinnier than you.  So trying to catch up or keep up is pointless.  Put blinders on, keep your head down, drive in your own lane and know this world is incredibly abundant. There is room for all of us.  Don’t compare yourself to your competition, it will only make you resent them and feel worse about yourself.  My friend Mandy Kellogg Rye said it best “I’ve never had to unscrew another woman’s lightbulb in order to shine.”  Amen.

4 – It takes time to become a good manager. 
This is the number one best lesson I have learned in my 10 years running our company.  No matter what school of business you attended or not, no one starts off as a perfect manager.  It takes time, trial, and error to establish the perfect system and tact for managing people. Don’t hate yourself for the mistakes you will make. Be humble and honest with your team and learn from every hiccup you encounter.

To listen to the full interview, click the picture below. And, LOL pay special attention around the 19:29 mark for a surprise guest. 😉

Introducing The Hope Planner

Almost two years ago I started reading the Bible everyday. It was at a time in my life where everything I was working towards was working against me. Eleven years into our marriage, after the birth of our son, while I was still trying to manage my role as “the boss” in the growing company I had founded before motherhood, I was miserable. Self-doubt consumed my thoughts, exhaustion overwhelmed me, our marriage was suffering and I thought “this is not the life God planned for his daughter,” and then it occurred to me in all of these new things in my life, I had left God out of them.

I had it all wrong. I sought encouragement from business books, followed other entrepreneurs on Instagram, got up earlier and earlier to crush my to-do list, yet I rarely spent time in prayer, I never opened my Bible, I had zero fellowship with other Christians, and we hadn’t been to church in years.
I was empty and the only thing left in me was an overwhelming feeling that I just needed Jesus and that God was calling me to invest my time in the Scriptures.
And so I did.
Because I’m a graphic designer, list maker and generally pretty organized, I turned the weekly to-do list I had designed for myself into a daily one that split my to-dos between “God, family and work” so I could visualize on paper where my priorities were each day.  I wanted to find the harmony between my role in our household as a wife and mother, my faith and also my desire to lean into my career ambitions…. without letting one area become neglected as I was currently battling.  Over the last 18 months I have used that daily planner (printed and bound at Staples every 3 months) to make a habit of reading the Bible every morning and letting that study lead my prayers, reaffirm my faith and help me grow confident as a wife, mother, business owner and Christian.
When I tell people now that I read the Bible everyday, they look at me in amazement (mostly shock) and ask me “How?!!? How do you find time for it!?” And I say this: I simply made a space for it on my calendar and remained committed to my daily “appointment” with God. However sterile that my sound here on this blog, I can assure you what started out as something I needed to do, has now become something I want so badly to do each day. It has made me realize that no amount of planning or organization…. or crushing, or hustling, or competing, or dreaming …can hold you together like the glue of God’s grace.  Absolutely nothing compares.
As the pages and my faith have matured over the past 18 months, I realized this planner was meant for something much greater than my own personal use. It’s meant to serve you too.
In the last year, between growing St. Augustine Social, negotiating and managing the sale of The Celebration Society, launching Littleature and writing two children’s books, I took what I know about publishing and design and used it to move the production of this planner from my local Staples to a mass production facility on the other side of the world so maybe it could change your life too.
Today, I am humbled to introduce to you our latest brand, Hopefuel – a faith-based publisher of workbooks, planners, and journals and most importantly, home of the Hope Planner.
The Hope Planner serves two purposes…

1 – TO HELP YOU STAY ORGANIZED.  Like a traditional agenda or daybook, it’s a place for you to keep track of all the priorities of your daily life –  tasks, appointments, shopping lists, reminders. In addition to that, I’ve added my personal system of weekly “big picture” planning and monthly goal setting as well as progress tracking that has helped me keep my family and company on track. 

2 – TO HELP YOUR FAITH GROW STRONGER.  Unlike a traditional planner, its primary purpose is to help you make a place for Bible study and prayer in your daily life.  Because it is your trust in God’s direction that is the ultimate peacekeeper in our lives. 

This planner is not a Bible study – it is a tool you should bring with you to Bible study. There are no pre-selected Bible verses for each day, instead blank designated space for scripture and prayer. I know that everyone’s journey is unique, so I wanted it to serve as a clean slate you can use during each phase of your life, where you can pair it with the scripture you are being led to study at that time.   

A few key features to note….

  • It is undated so that you can begin devoting yourself to daily bible study among all the other things on your to-do list at anytime.
  • It has a 6 month layout out because I just don’t feel like I want to carry around 12 months worth of paper at a time.
  • It is 6″ x 9″ linen wrapped hard cover with gold foil.  So beautiful!

For women who are craving a way to be more “in Christ” in real life I can tell you based on my own personal experience that starts by spending time “with Christ” everyday.  The Hope Planner helps you prioritize your daily devotions before you ever tackle the to-dos and serves as a subtle reminder throughout the day that God is with you, wherever you are.
We are now accepting pre-orders for the first batch of planners currently being produced.  They are $34 each and will be shipping in October 2018.
I don’t know where this brand will grow or how many people will use the Hope Planner like I have, but I can tell you I am leaning hard into the direction of God in my life these days because of it… and if I can help one person or one thousand do that too, I will have succeed beyond my wildest dreams.
Here’s a direct link to our new Hopefuel.co website and the Hope Planner.

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

Showing the Way

I recently came across this quote on Facebook that struck a nerve with me. A good one.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~ J C Maxwell

It made me think of how I feel about this blog.  I started it with the intention of sharing marketing and business advice with friends and clients and not with the intention of being a blogger.  A money making blogger that is.  So, posting here gets put on the bottom of my to do list after I’ve tended to everything relative to what I DO make money at.

Then there’s the whole “perception” thing that comes with bloggers. Perfect perception that is. I’m a big believer that there is way too much emphasis on being the most stylish, most put together, and most successful person out there in the blogger hemisphere and I just do not have the time to keep up with that nor do I want to mislead my people to thinking this life of mine is so simply perfect.  It ain’t.

And don’t even get me started on the whole “but who really cares what Heather Vreeland has to say?” ever looming question I ask myself everyday.  There are A LOT of people claiming to be experts on the internet and whether they are just making noise or making a living….how is my experience/take any better/different?

But, I’ve found that as a result of being concerned if this is the best way to be spending my time, or are my pictures pretty enough for this blog, or is anyone even listening… my voice has become stifled.   Which is sad because I really like helping people and I really feel like I can help the most amount of people here.

So, when I read that quote this week I realized – that’s me.  A leader.  I know the way because I work it every single day.  I don’t proclaim to be an expert, but I AM experienced.  I go the way because that is what it takes to survive and be successful.  I’m not a millionaire, but I am making money.  And, because I know in my heart of hearts that sharing those two things can make all the difference in someone’s life who is just starting out….  I will show the way.  Okay maybe not the way.  But, my way.

Minimum Wage Debate: If You Want to Make More Money, Do Something to Earn More Money

Somedays I jump back and forth between baby and business so much that I never make it into the office, rather I post up at the kitchen counter with my laptop just steps away from baby mania set in the middle of my living room. Today was no different.  I had Fox News on in the background and while I typically never pay much attention to what’s being aired I couldn’t help but be sidetracked by the minimum wage debate and protesters in California who believe fast food employees should have their hourly wage raised to $15 per hour.

Wait. What?

My opinionated self couldn’t keep quite so I charged to my personal soap box (facebook) to sound off on the topic.  Here’s what I posted….

“Imma be honest. I do not agree with the minimum wage debate.. ESPECIALLY the people who are protesting in California that fast food employees should get paid $15/hr. Are you kidding me? I have a bachelor’s degree that I paid A LOT OF MONEY FOR and I didn’t make $15 an hour until I started to pay myself just one year ago! Get an education, start a business or learn a specialized trade if you want to make more money. “Can I take your order” is not a specialized trade. It’s a minimum wage job.. that’s what you get when you don’t choose to do anything else. ‪#‎dropsmic‬ ‪#‎sorrynotsorry‬

For the most part my friends agree, but I do have several friends whom I adore that have polar opposite views thus leading to quite the debate.  You can see the whole thread here if you’d like..

To understand my opinion on the subject, first you have to know my history.  I believe in a hard days work and moderation.

I was not raised in a wealthy household of privilege. My parents both came from DIRT POOR families, my dad worked from 7am to 7pm at night while my mom stayed at home with me and my two sisters. They drove used cars for 300,000 miles, we didn’t drink soda, we didn’t have cable, we never went out to eat, we wore hand-me-down clothes, we vacationed at Grandma’s house, heck I didn’t even fly on a plane until I was 25 and that was for a company trip! I went to the same public school that everyone else did. Yes, my parents encouraged me to go to college but honestly I hated school every second of the day. I bought my first car for $1,800 with money I had saved from baby sitting over the years.  I went to college and my parents helped me pay for it.  I had a job the entire time I was in college and I also took out about $30,000 in student loans to pay for school and living costs.

Fast forward to 2008, already in debt from bad spending habits in my early 20s and student loans, I started my company with more credit cards and ZERO cash.  To date, I still have $18,000 to pay off from the original credit cards and lines of credit we used to start Occasions.  I pay them with a smile on my face every month.

So the whole… I can’t afford to get a good education, learn a trade or start a business does not fly with me.

Here’s my ultimate take on the issue.

If you want to make more money, do something to earn more money.  That means working your way up the corporate ladder, learning a new skill, save and invest in money making venues, venture out and becoming an entrepreneur yourself, start a business.  Everyone has the equal opportunity to do all of these things.  They will give loans to anyone these days so if you want to learn something new, take a class or go to school…invest in your future and pay it back when it pays off.

Yes.  Cost of living increase is an issue, but it can’t be just the argument for minimum wage workers alone.  If a company has to increase the hourly pay rate for minimum wage workers because of a federal mandate due to cost of living… so too should they have to raise the hourly rate of everyone else.  Cost of living doesn’t just go up for some people…. it increases across the board for everyone.  So everyone’s hourly rate should be increased too right?

But here’s the biggie….

If you want to have more, spend less.  My biggest problem with the whole “deserve” mentality of this country is that many people way outlive what their incomes can afford already and it’s not buying bread and milk.  It’s buying flatscreen TVs, cable tv, sodas, eating out, vacationing at Disney, buying new cars, visits to Starbucks, highlights, haircuts, pedicures, manicures…. you get the picture.  All of the above are frivolous extras in life that NO ONE truly NEEDS, but everyone is overspending on.  If I was certain that the minimum wage workers who are fighting for $15 per hour weren’t doing any of the things I listed above, were trying to work their way up the corporate ladder and still couldn’t put a roof over their head or food on their table, THEN I would take the minimum wage debate seriously.

But if you must have all the things I listed above, then let’s revisit my first point:  do something to earn more.  I’d like to point out several careers that anyone can do without an expensive college education their parents paid for.  All you need is some moxie.

  • Event Planner
  • Florist
  • Dog Groomer
  • Trim Carpenter
  • Landscaper
  • Bartender
  • Police Officer
  • Firefighter
  • Insurance Appraiser
  • Loan Officer
  • Electrician
  • Advertising Sales Executive
  • Realtor
  • Personal Trainer
  • Truck Driver
  • Sales person
  • Direct Sales person (pampered chef, mary kay, etc)
  • Medical Billing

Don’t see what you like here:  just google “highest paying jobs without a college degree” and you’ll be occupied for days reading through the results.  Think of something I don’t have listed here?  Comment below to add it to the list.

In the end my friend Jennifer Shields said it best “A minimum wage job is a starting point, not an end point.”  Period.