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ISSUE 07 / BEHIND THE COVER

Let's be honest. Who really wants to buy a magazine when they don't know what's inside?! I'm a busy female entrepreneur just like you and I know that I need to prioritize and make sure that the "extras" are worth my time (and money). This is why I am so eager to share with you what is behind that lovely ISSUE 07 cover.

ISSUE 07 Features + Contributors

issue 07:

THE ART OF COLLABORATION / Tiffany Tolliver of The Emma Rose Agency + Kamari Chelsea Guthrie of Kamari Chelsea

5 TOOLS FOR EFFORTLESS COLLABORATION / Ari Krzyzek of Chykalophia

CARING FOR YOUR BLOG AND YOUR EMAIL LIST BENEFITS YOUR BUSINESS / Jessica Stansberry of Hey Jessica, LLC

GIVING BACK IS GOOD BUSINESS / Meg Clark of Clapping Dog Media

TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL BLOGGER + PHOTOGRAPHER COLLABORATIONS / Kimberly Murray of Kimberly Murray

5 WAYS TO CARE FOR YOUR CLIENTS / Rebecca Shostak of Galler.ee

TAKING CARE OF YOUR BOOKS PROTECTS YOUR BUSINESS / Dana Bucy Miller of DM Law, LLC

HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR COMPETITION AND WIN BIG / Bailey Hurely

CULTIVATING BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS THAT MATTER / Cyndie Spiegel of Cyndie Spiegel and The Collective (of Us)

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BUSINESS LEGALLY BEFORE YOU TAKE ON CLIENTS / Christina Scalera

COLLABORATION ETIQUETTE FOR ENTREPRENEURS / Vanessa Kromer of Vanessa Kromer Female Entrepreneur Success + Life Coaching

GET GORGEOUS: MORE THAN A HEADSHOT / Mallika Malhotra of Mikifoto + Co

FASHION + FLOWERS / with Ben + Joella Photography

THE ART OF GIVING: GIFT GIVING THAT GIVES BACK / Zhanna Tsytsyn-Hamadeh of Ames and Oates

GOT A PASSION PROJECT? LEARN HOW TO COLLABORATE / Teresa Lieh

COVELLE / Samantha Johnson + Megan Lusher

BLINK CONFERENCE / Latasha Haynes

CAMP WELL / Jenn Jett Sprinkle of The Well Studio

YELLOW CONFERENCE: LOOKING FOR DREAMS IN REAL LIFE  / Joanna Waterfall of Yellow Co. and Arielle Estoria

RESOURCE GUIDE  / over a hundred business resources to meet your entrepreneurial needs

INSPIRATIONAL PRINT / Juliana Cardoso of Ink + Nibs Calligraphy

Pre-orders open tomorrow so come back to be sure you reserve your copy and are among the first to get your hands on a copy of this amazing issue.


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Why Defining Your Intention Can Lead to a More Fulfilling Business

GUEST POST BY TIFFANY TOLLIVER

There are plenty of reasons why business owners decide to take the leap into entrepreneurship and trust me, the most successful brands did not set their intention to solely become instant millionaires, otherwise everyone would be knocking down the “I want to own my own business” door.

And lets be real..that’s just not happening. 

How defining your intention can lead to a more fulfilling business by tiffany tolliver of the emma rose agency (photo by ashleigh bing photography)

For those of us who brave the day-to-day rollercoaster of everything from elation to pure exhaustion, I want to charge you to take a closer look into why you are passionate about bringing your product or services to fruition. In the Brand Passion Guide: Five Steps to Creating a Beautiful + Intentional Brand, I emphasize how critical it is to set your intentions. Even such that I will not begin a client design until I fully understand their “Why to Thrive.” 

IS THAT EXCESSIVE?

You bet it is. 

DOES THIS ADD AN EXTRA WEEK OR TWO ON TEH PROJECT?

It sure does.

BUT DOES THIS BENEFIT MY CLEINT AND THEIR VIEW OF BUSINESS?

Yes, and that’s why it’s worth it!

Ready to take the challenge? Here’s what to do:

1 / Make a List.

List out the top three (3) reasons for starting your business. And make it good!  

2 / Take time to Reflect. 

While reflecting on those reasons, ask yourself “Will these things allow my business to thrive in 2017?” This is not an exercise that can be scheduled and quickly crossed off on your ever-growing to-do list. This deserves time and attention. There are certain things that will immediately surface and being honest, not everything will or should stick. 

3 / Create your Mind Map.

Remember those spider web, brainstorm charts that you used in elementary school. The graphics that allowed you to organize your thoughts pertaining to a specific area? Yup, we’re taking it back to the basics! However elementary, they absolutely work! When creating your mind map, place your intentions in the center of each bubble and enthusiastically jotting down all of the products, services and any other ideas that come to mind. 

4 / Get to Work.

There’s nothing to it but to do it! Taking that next best step, with your set intentions in tow! 

Remember that consumers buy from small businesses for a more intimate buying experience.

Building a business from the ground up is no easy task! The day-to-day alone can become daunting, even when you take the time to set your intentions. Always a remember that there is ALWAYS a special place in your respective industry for you to shine. There is no one who can do what you do, quite like you!

The passion and drive that is inside of you, is there for a reason. 


Tiffany is a designer, believer, educator an foodie and the founder of The EmmaRose Agency where she helps women make their dreams a reality with a little faith and helping them with their branding, web design and styling for creative entrepreneurs. If you truly desire a cohesive, beautifully designed, visually stunning, representation of you and your business, you have to take the step forward to make it happen.

WEBSITE / INSTAGRAM


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ISSUE 07 / COVER, THEME + CONTRIBUTORS

We hit the "send" button, and ISSUE 07 is officially at the printer.

While they're working their magic, we'll take this time to share with you all the goodness that is in store for ISSUE 07 of Belong Magazine--just how we are going to celebrate the art and community of blogging, social media and entrepreneurship?!

Let's start with the theme. We asked you all a while back what you would like to see and this topic was mentioned repeatedly. 

ISSUE 07 THEME 

care + collaboration

It's a good one, isn't it?! There is so much that we could cover with these two words--enough to fill up multiple issues. We try to use our themes as a jumping off point and hold them loosely in how they manifest themselves in the features. In this instance, care translated into caring for clients and customers, caring for your business and caring for yourself. You see how good this is getting?! 

Belong Magazine ISSUE 07

Look at this cover!

We hope you love it as much as we do. The photographer is Sarah Atkinson of Moments Defined Photography and the model is Cyndie Spiegel, business coach, speaker and the founder of The Collective (of Us). The shot was taken at The Saguaro in Palm Springs at the BLINK! Conference which you'll also find featured in ISSUE 07. It just makes us happy--as we hot it makes you as well. 

When it comes to the pages, we are beyond grateful to our contributors, women (and a couple of men) who are laying out their expertise just for you, to support you, encourage you and enable you to be the entrepreneur you always dreamt you could be--and they make the magazine look pretty too which is a total bonus.

Here is who you will find in ISSUE 07 (in no certain order). Don't worry, I'll let you know what they'll be sharing about soon too. I just love stringing you along a little. (wink wink)

  • Tiffany Tolliver, The Emma Rose Agency
  • Kamari Chelsea
  • Ari Krzyzek, Chykalophia
  • Jessica Stansberry, Hey Jessica LLC
  • Meg Clarke, Clapping Dog Media
  • Kimberly Murray
  • Rebecca Shostak, Galler.ee
  • Dana Bucy Miller, DM Law, LLC
  • Bailey T. Hurley
  • Cyndie Spiegel, The Collective (of Us)
  • Christina Scalera
  • Vanessa Kromer, Vanessa Kromer Female Entrepreneur Success and Life Coaching
  • Mallika Malhotra, Mikifoto + Co.
  • Ben + Joella Photography
  • Flowers at Will
  • Laura Tully Co.
  • Blush by Jamie Rose
  • Zhanna Tsytsyn-Hamadeh, Ames and Oates
  • Teresa Lieh
  • Samantha Johnson and Megan Lusher, Covelle
  • LaTasha Haynes, BLINK! Conference
  • Jenn Jett Sprinkle, The Well Studio
  • Arielle Estoria
  • Joanna Waterfall, Yellow Co.
  • Juliana Cardosos, Ink + Nibs Calligraphy
  • Photography by: Sarah Atkinson of Moments Defined Photography, Cacá Santoro, Leah Michelle Photography, Kirth Bobb, Joshua Dwain, White Quill Creative, Brian Ramos, Anna Mileya, Shaina Lieh, Stacy Pierce, Sabrina Hill, Laura Neff, Rachel Rouhana of Haute Chocolate, Kim Friesland, Luna Bear Studios, Wojoimage Photography, Ashley Bing Photography
  • AND a stellar Resource Guide with hundreds of services and products ideal for the busy entrepreneur (yes, that's you!)

Quite a list, right?! Whew! We are incredibly excited about sharing ISSUE 07 with you in just two short weeks.

Sign up now to stay in the loop and find out when pre-sales open.

So, who/what are you most looking forward to seeing in this issue? Comment below to tell us!


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5 Things Every Product Based Business Needs to Know

GUEST POST BY CAROLYN KEATHING

Running a product based business is both exciting and overwhelming. I will be the first one to tell you, this path isn’t for everyone.  Launching a product based business requires a new level of commitment. Whether you plan to sell directly to customer or wholesale you’re going to need to spend more time designing, connecting with customers, and shipping products. That’s on top of all the back end stuff like implementing new systems.  I think it is so important to understand the big picture before jumping in head first.

What Every Product Based Business Needs to Know with Carolyn Keating of Wholesale4Creatives on the Belong Magazine blog

Let's pull back the curtain and sharing a behind the scenes look at some of what you can expect when you run a product based business.

Success probably won’t happen overnight

Contrary to what social media may lead you to believe, running a product based business isn’t going to get you rich quickly. We’ve all seen those businesses that seem to skyrocket overnight. While every once and awhile yes, a small business catches their big break early on the more typical story is that they have spent years growing their business and made some costly mistakes along the way. Developing your product based business is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but so worth it when you know something you’ve created put a smile on someone’s face and those 5-star reviews start rolling in.

You will spend a lot of time number crunching

There are a lot of things you can just wing in life but your pricing should not be one of them. The strategy you implement for products sold directly to the consumer is going to look very different from the strategy you would use if you were to offer your products wholesale. It’s not fun or sexy but spending time on your numbers, especially in the beginning, will save you so many headaches as your business grows. As tempting as it is focused on creating new and amazing products as a business owner you need to get down and dirty with your numbers. Your pricing strategy will also help to set some parameters as you add new designs to your assortment. While you may be tempted to add additional bells and whistles those added costs may not make sense with your strategy. By looking at how some of these add-ons impact your pricing BEFORE you start designing you can save yourself a lot of time and money.

At some point you will probably come across a similar product or two and asked yourself, “how the heck is their retail so low?!” and “how am I supposed to compete with that price?!” Your initial reaction may be a bit of panic followed by a reduction of your own prices. Before taking such a big step and lowering your prices out of fear look back to your numbers for validation. When you’ve done your research and know your numbers are in line with your strategy you can be super confident that your pricing is on point. There’s also a very strong possibility that your competition didn't run the numbers as they should have and they are actually losing money!

You never really know what is going on behind the scenes of another business.

Selling Cycles Vary

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your product line to a place where you can start selling to customers or retail stores and then not getting any bites. Next thing you know, the self-doubt starts to creep in and you begin questioning everything you’ve been working hard to develop. You’re going to have days where getting an order feels like the easiest thing you’ve ever done and others where everyone seems to be saying no. When this happens, you may start asking around to see how other people running product based businesses are doing. Answers will vary but the ones that will sting the most are those who say their business is awesome while you are struggling to make a sale. It’s really hard to not take those no’s personally when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your designs + creations. Purchasing and sales cycles can widely vary between industry, region + product so when you do encounter a slump use it as an opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate. While these slumps are discouraging and frustrating, it’s normal. Even the most successful brands have products in their assortments that aren’t as popular as others and go through periods where sales are slow.

Keep creating an amazing customer experience and continue to put yourself out there and the sales will come!

This isn’t a set it and forget it business

There are no guarantees when it comes to your product based biz. You have to constantly hustle to grow your customer base, get repeat business from existing clients, develop new designs to keep your line feeling fresh and deal with behind the scenes challenges. You are continually pushing to maintain the relationships you have while working to add new ones to your list. If you want a business that is smooth sailing, generates easy sales and essentially runs itself on autopilot a product based business is probably not going to be the best fit for you.

Copycats are a real problem

As a creative, your brain is constantly swirling with new ideas. You try so hard to differentiate your business from all the other and to create something unique. Suddenly you start seeing a product that is almost identical in style popping up in your feeds. What’s up with that?!

Unfortunately, there’s a very good chance someone will copy your design or idea. This is an industry that sadly, is full of copycats and imposters. Someone sees your idea and knocks it off. It happens ALL THE TIME. Fortunately, there are some options when it comes to protecting you and your products. Your best bet is to connect with an attorney who specializes in working with creative businesses to learn about the best options to protect you and your business.


Carolyn Keating of Wholesale for Creatives

Carolyn Keating is the owner of Wholesale for Creatives, a resource for product based businesses looking to grow. Prior to launching her business, Carolyn spent a decade in sales with an NYC-based women's accessories company where she developed and sold products to retail chains throughout the country. Her mission is to educate small businesses about the industry’s best practices so they can successfully compete in the marketplace and avoid making costly mistakes. 

www.wholesale4creatives.com / Instagram @wholesale4creatives 


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What Bubble Bath Taught Me About Business

GUEST POST BY CAROLYN KEATING

My journey to entrepreneurship took a pretty unique path, one that favored scented lotions, lip balms, and bubble bath.

Yep. Bubble bath.

What Bubble Bath Taught Me About Business - Carolyn Keating of Wholesale4Creatives on the Belong Magazine Blog

For nearly a decade you could find me sprinting through airports across the country with 80 lbs of bubble bath, lotions + shower gels in my suitcase, hustling to catch a flight. Samples exploded, TSA tore my case apart more times than I can count, and taking a 6-hour flight for an hour-long meeting, often returning the same day became normal. It was a job I was good at and really enjoyed but there was a little part of me that still felt like something was missing. 

Like so many others, I had dreams of doing my own thing but was held back because I didn’t feel like I could provide anything that people would want.

I was terrified to fail. I didn’t think I knew enough to be a business owner.

So I kept chugging along where it was safe and I was comfortable.

It wasn’t until we moved to Upstate NY that the lightbulb finally went off. I met a local stationer who wanted to start to wholesale and we got to chatting about her plans. During our conversation, I quickly realized that all those years of big sales wins, failures, number crunching and learning from my mentors had set me up for my next step. I was in the PERFECT position to help others grow their product based business. In that moment Wholesale for Creatives was born.  

Looking back, almost every element of my corporate career prepared me to be an entrepreneur. Here are the 10 biggest lessons that my career in bubble bath taught me about business:

1 / Relationships Are The Foundation For Success

It’s so important to cultivate relationships. As an introvert, I initially struggled with this but I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best. Watching how the owner of my company and more experienced colleagues treated their buyers and valued those partnerships taught me how to build and cultivate strong business relationships. When you invest in people by committing time and effort to build friendships + partnerships you set the foundation for so much more.

2 / You Need To Lead With Your Heart

Life happens and sometimes, it isn’t pretty. Having a heart and not acting like a robot will get you much further than if you lack flexibility and understanding. Running your business with heart and taking the time to put your customers first will get you much further than being rigid and unsympathetic.

3 / Your Numbers are EVERYTHING

One of the biggest lessons that was ingrained in me early on, you need to be the expert in your business. This means a lot of number crunching to know and understand those numbers inside and out. Profit + Loss isn’t sexy, but it is what will allow you to keep your doors open and a roof over your head. When you take the emotion out of the equation and focus solely on the numbers you are able to look at your business with more clarity.

4 / Good Communication is Critical

We live in an age where it’s so easy to have a conversation with someone without even picking up the phone. While it’s great from a convenience perspective, not everyone thrives with this form of communication. It’s important to stay personally connected to clients and that means picking up the phone or sending them a piece of snail mail instead of relying on email or sending a text.

5 / Put Everything In Writing

I learned this lesson the hard way. When important conversations are had you need put something in writing. This may be in the form of an email recapping your conversation or reiterating the details of an important phone call. Something that says, “yep, we talked about this and are in agreement.” I got screwed more than once because I didn’t have a paper trail so I make it a point to always follow up important conversations with an email.

6 / Always Present Yourself Professionally

First impressions matter. While dress codes are much more casual now than they were even 10 years ago it’s important know your audience and dress appropriately. In my corporate days, I never knew who might walk through our doors at any given moment so I couldn’t risk showing up a hot mess. How we present ourselves leaves a lasting impact on our clients and will influence how they perceive our business.

7 / Do Not Make Assumptions

You know that old saying, right? Assuming people have read our emails, contracts + terms is much more comfortable than asking because we don’t want to make others feel like they don’t know how to do their job. You may think people understand how the process works, what your return policy is or any number of things related to your business. It’s really important to take all the guess work out of what it’s like to with you. The more room you leave for interpretation the greater chance you have for miscommunication which will set you up for some not so fun conversations down the road.

8 / Attitude is everything

Even on the crappiest of days, it’s important to handle every meeting, email and phone call with a big ole smile on your face.  Bad attitudes have no place in business. People want to talk to and work with happy people, not sit through a meeting with someone who complains about everything under the sun. Having a good attitude will lead to more sales, better partnerships + a stronger business.

9 / Honesty + Integrity Matter

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a buyer who told me I was the least salesy salesperson she’d ever met. My mentors taught me that when you make a conversation solely about the sale you will inevitably lose. Instead, it’s better to have open and honest conversations with clients about their business. While these conversations didn’t always lead to immediate sales they did help to build trust and develop our relationship which, over time, resulted in more orders. Today, I'm the first person to tell someone when my services aren’t the best fit because I know how much people appreciate and value an honest conversation. 

10 / Don’t Take Rejection Personally

When you have a big business fail it’s hard to not take it personally. It can weigh heavy on your heart and seriously stress you out. I’ve had massive failures and while they stung, I know I gave it everything I had and had to accept that sometimes the cards just don’t fall in my favor. I learned how to pick myself back up and keep moving forward which is something that as an entrepreneur, I need to do almost every day.

I believe that we can learn business lessons anywhere. Whether you’re just starting a career or years into one I’m sure you’ve learned some lessons along the way and know much more than you’re probably giving yourself credit for!


Carolyn Keating Wholesale for Creatives

Carolyn Keating is the owner of Wholesale for Creatives, a resource for product based businesses looking to grow. Prior to launching her business, Carolyn spent a decade in sales with an NYC-based women's accessories company where she developed and sold products to retail chains throughout the country. Her mission is to educate small businesses about the industry’s best practices so they can successfully compete in the marketplace and avoid making costly mistakes. 

www.wholesale4creatives.com / Instagram @wholesale4creatives 


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What's in a Name? / How to Choose one for Your Business

What's in a name? That is the question. How do you strategically, rationally and legally approach the naming of your brilliant leap into entrepreneurship? 

what's in a name and how to pick the right one for your business - plus a worksheet for female entrepreneurs and women in business

There are a plethora of considerations when choosing a name for your business. But start with looking around. What are some of your favorites? Don't choose those. (just kidding....kind of.) What is it about those names that you like? The simplicity? The emotions it evokes? The way it sounds? 

Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Identité Collective (IDCO) / Small business branding and websites.

Squarespace / Website platform

Sugarfina / Candy boutique

I think these are great examples of names that are unique yet reflect the purpose of the company.

So how do you come up with a name for your biz?

Well, you could do like some and spend $80k to have an agency name their business for them. OR, as creative women, we can handle this process with a few tips and a little help from our friends. 

We put together a worksheet to walk you through some of the important steps in picking a name for your business. 

But don't stop with the worksheet. Sometimes you need a little help from your biz friends. So join The Belong Collective and ask what the community thinks! It's the perfect place to ask your "stupid" questions and keep it real.


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Coming Soon: Weddings/Celebrations Issue

It's in the works, and we couldn't be more excited--our first, special Weddings/Celebrations Issue. Full of all of the same stellar business tips and beautiful inspiration as our regular issues, but with a focus on the wedding/event industry. The line up for features is pretty amazing (more to come soon).

Belong Magazine Resource Guide

Are you a wedding/event professional that offers a product or service that would be useful for others in your industry? Then we need you in this special issue's Resource Guide. 

The Resource Guide is a multi-page feature showcasing brands and businesses that support the weddings and event industry and professionals. The Resource Guide is divided into the following categories:

  • ATTEND (workshops/conferences)
  • BEHIND THE LENS (photography/videography)
  • COMMUNITY (business or creative groups)
  • DECOR + SUPPLIES (floral/backdrops/party supplies/rentals)
  • DESIGN (website/graphic design)
  • FAVORS + GIFTS
  • FOOD (cookies/candy/cakes/caterers)
  • LISTEN + LEARN (podcasts/webinars/education)
  • LOOKING GOOD (dresses/tuxes/makeup/jewelry)
  • PAPER (invitations, menus, etc...)
  • SUPPORT (planners/coaches)
  • TOOLS (apps/paper planners/other helps and resources)
  • VENUES

The Weddings/Celebrations Issue (where this resource guide will appear), is a 100+ satin-finished page print publication that will release around May 1st and will be distributed through our website and at Barnes & Noble stores nationwide. The issue will also be available in digital format on the Belong Magazine website.

Why should you be part of the guide? 

1 / This is a way to reach your people--we reach a very targeted and influential audience. 

2 / 90% of our readers keep each issue as a resource (which means your listing will be there for a LONG time).

3 / Get your name in front of the eyes of thousands of women across the country through our distribution channels.

4 / It's a steal of a deal--the most inexpensive advertising you'll even invest in with the largest impact.

5 / It's going to be really pretty.

Ready to sign up? 

It's really easy. Just fill out the form (click below), and we'll send you the rest via email!

Need a little peek at what our Resource Guides look like?

Still have questions? We're here to help! Just email info@belong-mag.com and we'll do are best to get you all squared away!


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5 Tips to Stay Motivated While You Create Your Unconventional Lifestyle

The web is full of people who have succeeded in creating lifestyles, unique to their own personalities. I love to read about the unconventional ones. Success stories are just so encouraging in general, aren’t they? But what about those of us that haven't quite made it?

5 Tips to Stay Motivated While You Create You Unconventional Lifestyle for female entrepreneurs and creatives

Those who feel as if success is a distant thing that we have to strive to attain. Maybe strive for 3 to 4 years before seeing results, let alone profits. It's rough to create that unconventional lifestyle. I often think I've swapped a 9 to 5 job for a 24/7 life of working. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it (I know, that's a common line, isn't it?).

Below I've shared some of my best tips on staying motivated during this rocky period of self doubt and burnout.

1 / Be Kind to Yourself

I don't know what voice can be more unkind than the very one inside my own head. Often things can become too much. You feel like you've taken on an unconquerable task. You feel you aren't enough. Or maybe too much? Too complicated and frazzle to get all those ducks in a row. Whether you’re starting a blog or a brick and mortar store or a shop on Etsy. You name it, it's difficult. And you'll find that it's so much more work than you thought it'd be.

But really, girl. You've got to take it easy on yourself. Give yourself credit that you are actually doing it. You’re further along than most people. And don't begrudge yourself some down time along the way. Lots of down time in fact.

Otherwise...

2 / Beware of Burnout

Ooh, what a horrid word "burnout" is! Don't you think so? Down and out. No energy. Why get out of bed?

This my dear is when it's time for pampering. Take the day off. Go get a massage. Curl up with a good book. Call your best friend or your mother. Or video chat. Video chatting is super, in my opinion.

When burnout strikes, be prepared to take it easy on yourself. Have a "comfort plan." My plan involves binge watching shows like Laverne & Shirley or The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And baking cookies. When things become too much, baking is my calming thing. You need to find yours!

It's also good to learn the signs of burnout. That way you don't ever reach the end of your rope unawares, and the blues can’t take you off guard so easily.

3 / Rejoice in the Mini Victories

Are you a list maker? I can't get anything done with out a list. At least it seems that way sometimes. My mom is a great list maker. So I think it's hereditary in my case.

The great things about keeping a list is that wonderful feeling when you mark something off. I like to use brightly colored gel pens, so my notebook always looks like a kid's coloring book gone wild. And I've been coloring outside the lines since I was three. So what else is new?

Sometimes at the end of the day, I'll feel like I didn't do anything. I didn't accomplish one single, solitary, productive thing. I glance at my notebook, approaching it with trepidation. My eyes scan the page. Huh? I mark something off. What? I find another thing accomplished.

When you put a lot of pressure on yourself, you can forget the things you’ve accomplish due to the fact that there is so much left to do. Make a list to keep track of your mini-victories!

And don’t forget to reward yourself. Cookies are a great reward for goals that you accomplish throughout the day. Goodness... do I eat cookies for every occasion in my life? I plead the fifth.

4 / Appreciate the Process

Odds are that you’re a creative. After all, we're talking about creating an unconventional lifestyle. For that you've got to have at least one creative bone in your body (not to mention a bit of a free spirit). Many artists will tell you, whether a person is a painter with a blank canvas or a writer with a blank page, it's that period of time between the beginning & the end that is so important. Meaningful.

There is such meaningfulness in your work, in the process. It's the fervor involved. It's the passion. As a writer I thrive when I'm in the middle of my story, my hands flying at the keyboard. That's when I'm happy.

Of course, life happens. Writer's block, plot holes, etc. But don't forget all the happy moments. The moments that make what you’re doing the thing that you love best. The thing that's the core of your chosen lifestyle.

5 / Find Your Tribe

Don't live in a vacuum. I lived in a vacuum. It sucks. (Yes, I'm so pithy, I know) A year ago I was a newbie blogger, with no connections in the blogging community. Six months later, I started reaching out to other bloggers. I started making connections. Then I took a giant leap and went to my first bloggers conference, one that was specifically for women in my industry.

I was a hot mess. Before the trip, that is. I was a damp-palmed, panicky girl, with a bad case of social anxiety. Why in the word did I choose to leave the comforts of my bedroom to travel halfway across the country to MINGLE? I've loathed mingling ever since I was... Well, forever.

What about my trip though? Was it worth it? Did I have a good time? Well yes, actually I did. I had an incredibly memorable time. And thanks to it, I now have my tribe. I have two dear, blogging friends that share many of the same passions as me, from traveling to artsy stuff. We video chat every few weeks (didn't I tell you video chatting is the cat's meow???), and after those talks, I am so motivated. So motivated it's nearly frightening! I feel like I can conquer the world. I feel... brave.

And, my one-of- a-kind friend (we are friends, aren't we?)... Never forget how brave YOU are!


Hannah Harding is the founder of Hepcat Hannah, a travel & lifestyle blog reflecting her own personality: random, quirky, and vintage.  A introverted 21-year-old, Hannah is determined to succeed as an entrepreneur, and loves encouraging others to transform their dreams into real life.  She is wild and free in Christ, and always excited about what adventures lie just around the corner.  In her spare time, she's hard at work on that "must finish" first novel, reading books on rainy afternoons, and being a committed night owl with a cup of spiked hot chocolate in hand.

Website || Instagram || Pinterest || Bloglovin


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How To Create a Sense of Belonging For Your Customers

Imagine this...you’re recognized as an important part of a collective. You feel safe and loved and appreciated. You know you’re accepted and your value is recognized.

You feel as though you BELONG.

How to create a sense of belonging with your customers and clients for female entrepreneurs and creatives.

It’s no secret the sense of belonging is a core human desire, sitting high on our “hierarchy of human needs." We all strive and search for belonging constantly - in our family, friendships, partnerships and workplaces.

As a business owner, creating this powerful sense of belonging with your customers will result in a community of switched-on and loved-up fans. When you’ve created this community you’re able to engage, encourage and expand in an intentional and powerful way.

Basically, you’re able to grow your business and your profits in a non-pushy, non-salesy, non-aggressive environment - and for a positive, heart-centered business owner, that’s what you want, right?

So brew a cup of tea, take a deep breath, get your notebook ready...and let’s get to it.

How to create a sense of belonging for your customers:

1. Clearly define who you are, what you’re amazing at and who you serve.

This may seem like an obvious point, however you’d be surprised how many business owners are confusing their customers by not quickly and clearly providing this key information.

When you have offered an explanation of who you are, what you specialize in and who you serve, it sets the stage to attract your ideal customers and allow those awesome, special people to quickly move from a stranger to an essential member (and paying customer) of your community.

Every time a customer decides to subscribe to you and purchase from you - they’re joining you. They’re actively aligning themselves with you and your brand. They’re saying “you have answered the call better than anyone else and I want to be with you.”

Be honest, be yourself, be proud and happy to explain who you are, what you believe in, what you stand for and who you work best with. Try not to complicate it with a lot of copy and headlines, simple works! It’s the first important step to create a sense of belonging for your customers.

2. Understand the small (but oh-so- important) details about your ideal customer.

When your customers feel as though they belong with you, they feel appreciated, recognized, safe and happy.

It’s up to you as the leader of your business to investigate what makes your ideal customers feel this way. Most business owners have an ‘ideal customer’ checklist or avatar full of socio- economic stats (female, 25 - 35, single, earning $50 K etc) but lets take it a few steps further.

What annoys your customer?
What are they afraid of?
How do they prefer to communicate?
How do they express themselves?
What makes them smile?
What makes them feel secure?
How do your customers like to buy?
How do they like to be recognized and rewarded?
What is their number one concern right now?
Who/what have they tried before meeting you?
What lets them close their eyes and think, “Sweet Lord! Yes, they get me!”

When you can answer questions like this about your customers, you’re tapping into their desires, concerns and motivations. You’re getting to know them on a more emotional level.

By understanding and using the small details to craft your customer’s best ever experience, you help them to feel a sense of belonging.

For example, knowing your ideal customer “Betty” is incredibly stretched for time, has 3 kids to ferry to and from school and soccer and has no desire to sign up for another 45 minute webinar, why not give Betty a series of four 5 minute live videos throughout the week which she can consume on the go and still gain much-needed advice? Betty now feels as though you understand her situation and you are creating ways of still providing her with what she needs, based around how and when she needs it.

This is just one example, however by intentionally using small (but important) details about your customers you can create a massive impact in their lives. Your customers take notice - and they feel they belong with you because you understand them.

3. Create experiences (not products)

Have you ever enjoyed a flawless experience with a person, company or brand and thought: “My gosh, where have you been my whole life?” I had one of these experiences checking into a W Hotel and will never forget that sense of ‘coming home’. That feeling was not by accident; it was part of a well crafted experience designed to make me feel impressed, safe, appreciated.

You can create this same sense of belonging for your customers now that you have clearly defined who you are, what you’re best at, who you serve AND you know more about your customers desires, motivations and needs.

The next step is about planning a brilliant customer experience. This experience let’s your customers know in a thousand ways ‘you belong with me’. The ‘experience’ involves the steps involved for your customer to journey from a stranger to a paying customer - then again from a paying customer to a returning customer or community leader. The power of the experience lets your customers feel deeply aligned to you!

When your customers feel this alignment, this sense of belonging, they’re motivated to take action. It’s why customers line up and camp overnight for the latest version of your product. It’s why customers spend thousand of dollars and purchase plane tickets and accommodation to see you speak or attend an event. It’s why customers buy from you.

4. Allow for more intimate opportunities for your customers to feel a sense of belonging.

When planning your customer experience, you may want to include a more ‘intimate’ option for some of your customers. Why? Because our urge to truly belong is a hard call to ignore! It’s why subscriptions, closed groups (thanks facebook), memberships and masterminds can work so well; being accepted into an exclusive group allows your customers to gain a closer relationship with your brand and enjoy a special ‘red carpet’ experience.

It’s an avenue for your customers to dive deeper into their sense belonging with you - and an avenue for your to engage and connect with them on a more personal level.

So if you’re able to create the platform for a more intimate experience where you can help fulfil your customer’s need for belonging - do it now!

Whatever stage of business you find yourself in right now - whether you’re still just researching, you’ve recently launched or you’re a seasoned professional, you can intentionally work towards creating a sense of belonging with your customers by following these 4 steps.

As a Business Strategist, I’m a big advocate for being in love with your customers. Why? Your customers are the life force of your business. Your livelihood and success revolves around your customers and how powerfully you can serve them.

So take the time to craft experiences for your customers, invite them in, engage with them, let them love their experience with you, make it really easy for them to join you...help them BELONG!

Sarah is a Business Strategist who is passionate about customer love! If you're a positive business owner looking to craft smart customer experiences so you can convert, retain and nurture more of the customers who help your business shine - then Sarah is your gal. An exceptional and intentional customer experience is often the missing key to long-term business success. With over 13+ years of marketing, communication and selling success, Sarah brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to all her customers. Reach out and speak to Sarah today about how you can work together.

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What to Do When Your Brilliant Biz Idea Doesn't Make Money

I am going to throw out this disclaimer at the onset: I am totally contradicting myself in this post, but I think it's necessary to offer two points of view on the subject of what makes a successful business when it comes to money.

If you are reading this, you probably fall into one of two camps: you are a woman looking to follow her big business dream or you are a female entrepreneur already trying to make it happen. Either way, you're wondering what to do if your "dream" doesn't make or isn't making any money.

what to do when your brilliant business idea doesn't make money - belong magazine blog - for female entrepreneurs, creatives, women in business

I previously said that your brilliant business idea is only as good as its profit potential, right? What do you do when you have gone through the numbers (if you haven't, find our handy worksheet and post on this topic HERE) and just don't see family sustaining "profit" in your future? Do you ditch the brilliant idea?

Just because an idea isn't financially profitable doesn't mean that it is a failure. Just because an idea isn't financially profitable doesn't mean that you should give up on it altogether. 

WHAT DO YOU DO? 

It depends.

IT DEPENDS ON A COUPLE OF FACTORS.

1. Your Resources /

Sometimes, we have to face reality. If you need to support your family financially, you may not be in a position at this time to pursue your idea in a full-time manner. And, if you are already working, maybe you need to spend your remaining time on your family if you have one. In this case, your resources (time and money) are probably best used on the necessities. But don't give up on your dream--keep notes and find ways to take tiny steps while keeping your expectations realistic--it is going to take time and it may not make money.

If you do not have the responsibility of providing for your family financially, you may find that you are able to take larger steps (or more tiny steps) towards your dream. 

If you are super confident in the success of your idea, maybe you need to seek out investors. That's always an option!

I'll just say this: we all have limited resources. Be sure that you are being responsible with yours and using them thoughtfully.

2. Your Heart / 

There are just some things you can't shake. If you have a brilliant idea that can help others and brings you joy, maybe you should go for it but consider it a hobby. There is nothing wrong with using your talents and passions to serve other people--in fact ,I think we often forget the importance of this. But if your idea is not making money and is causing you stress and anxiety and zapping your joy, it's time to put it on the shelf--or time to pivot into something new (a whole separate topic). 

Only you can determine the course of action for your brilliant business idea if it is not financially profitable. And only you can change how you define success when it comes to your idea. 

Remember this: Success is not always defined by money. 

Where are you today? Struggling to make ends meet? Frustrated because you're stuck in the mindset that financial profit equals success?Tell me in the comments so I can know how to better support you. 

Or better yet, join our facebook community, The Belong Collective, to get advice, encouragement, feedback, etc... We'd love to have you and support you in making things happen with your brilliant ideas.


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The Imperfect Boss / And Why That's Enough

I’m no rookie at this whole #imperfectboss thing. Not only have I participated in previous campaigns, but I am truly an #imperfectboss.

I don’t say this to put myself down or make you feel sorry for me because it seems I have low self-esteem. I say this in an effort to: 1. shatter any illusions there may be about “having it all together” and 2. encourage others that perfection is not the goal.

the imperfect boss and why that's enough - belong magazine blog- the imperfect boss campaign - encouragement for small business owners, lady bosses, fempreneurs, female entrepreneurs

I don’t have a staff, so I am technically a boss of one—me. And I am a darn good boss, if I may say so myself. But I’ve got a long way to go. I excel at so many things, but fall short in so many more.

So let’s shatter the myth together. Whether you have a staff of one or hundreds, none of us are doing it all right. We don’t have it all together and we’re messing up. And that is OK! This whole boss lady thing is tough and a lot of work. A LOT OF WORK.

MY STATEMENTS OF IMPERFECTIONS:

1. anxiety + depression /  

This is no newsflash as I try to be very open about my anxiety and depression. I don’t like to use the words “struggle” and “deal” because those have negative connotations, but I will say that these diagnoses are challenges for anyone, but are amplified in the world of “bossdom.” When I’m sitting at my desk with my hands shaking, heart pounding and frustration building as these feelings are out of my control, decision-making and productivity become a challenge (on top of the everyday challenges we all face).  

2. I don’t know what I’m doing /

It’s exhausting keeping up a front of “having it all together” and acting like I know what I’m doing when I HAVE NO IDEA! This is all new to me and I’m figuring it out as I go. I think I’m hard on myself for not knowing what I don’t know and don’t offer myself enough grace.

3. I am afraid of offending people /

I recently realized this is a big deal to me—ultimately, it comes down to my pride. In a sense, I feel like I’ve reverted to junior high status again, hoping that everyone likes my new jeans or hairdo. I care what people think. Too much. And more specifically, I am afraid of unintentionally hurting or offending people. It makes me sick—literally—like sends me into a fit of anxiety. I have a hard time remembering that I know my heart, I know my intentions, and I am not going to please everyone all the time. I wish I didn’t care, but I do!

but...

I am still getting it done, making things happen and running my business like a boss. And so can you. Why? Because you are enough. Just as you are.

WHAT IMPERFECTIONS DO YOU DEAL WITH?


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The Art of Simple Living: 3 Ways To Simplify Your Priorities & Get More Done

GUEST POST BY OLIVIA OF SIMPLY LIV & CO.

Whether you’re a business owner, a blogger, a mother (or a creative in any right) the words “running a million miles a minute” are probably so ingrained into your daily life that you don’t even think about it anymore. We live in a go-go-go world where downtime is frowned upon and having a calendar that isn’t filled to the brim is out of the norm. Darting from meeting, to photoshoot, to soccer game, to self-appointed-me-time can get overwhelming. If you’ve ever ended a fully-scheduled day and asked yourself if you really even got anything done, you’re not alone.

The art of simple living - 3 ways to simplify your priorities and get more done with Simply Liv & Co. - belong magazine blog for female entrepreneurs, creatives, women in business

Chances are that like most women, you have big goals, but without the proper priorities, goals can be difficult to reach at best — impossible to achieve, at worst.

At Simply Liv & Co. I thrive on “inspiring simplicity”. I love showing women how simplifying their lives — everything from their closets, to their hearts, to their social schedules — will not only help them be more productive, but allow them to find joy in what they do.

Living simply doesn’t come naturally for everyone though (myself included!) so I’ve come up with a few “steps” that can help you learn to simplify your priorities in your business, social life, and at home, so that you can get more done and love what you do.

1. Learn the Power of “No” /

It doesn’t sound glamorous or inspiring at first glance, but believe me that those two little letters can simplify your life more than anything else. More often than not, when we feel overcommitted it’s because we’ve said “yes” too often when we should have said “no”. Saying no more than you say yes takes the possibility of overcommitment off the table entirely.

List out all of your commitments (either mentally or on paper) and note the ones that are non-negotiable. Those, you can’t really say no to. Think things like parent/teacher conferences, meetings at work, or obligations that align with your values.

Then, focus on the ones that you don’t necessarily have to do, but want to do. Limit yourself to only one or two of these, so that you can truly pour yourself into them.

Lastly, any event that you’re committing to for the sake of someone else can be an immediate “no”. Causing yourself unnecessary stress or spreading yourself too thin just to make someone else happy isn’t worth it. Chances are, they’ll understand when you say you’re overcommitted and support your decision to step out.

2. Less But Better /

No matter what it is (except maybe in the realm of coffee and ice cream…) my mantra is always “less but better”. I’ll use your closet as an example, even though the rule applies to so much more than just the clothes you buy.

Instead of having an overstuffed closet full of clothes you never wear, don’t feel awesome in, and can’t really pair with the rest of your wardrobe, doesn’t it sound better (and more productive) to have fewer pieces but ensure that they’re all ones you love? If every article of clothing in your closet fits you well, makes you feel beautiful, and can be worn with at least three other pieces in your closet, it’s a keeper.

The same can apply to any aspect of life, really. Committing to do less while simultaneously ensuring that what you do commit to brings you real joy, will ensure that the things you put your mind to are fulfilling and that the work you’re producing is higher quality.

3. Lists Are Your New BFF /

Again, practicality over glamour.

Even if you’re not a “list person”, I always recommend that people at least make a “master list” of things that must get done. You can group your lists by day or by type of event (think “blog”, “social media”, “household”, etc.) but the main thing is having it all on paper. There’s nothing like the sound of a pen crossing off an item on your to-do list that brings focus and motivation to tackle the rest.

Once you’ve eliminated the excess through mastering the art of “no” and committed to doing fewer but better things, you list won’t seem all that overwhelming.

Do you often feel overcommitted and spread thin? Try these tips and watch as the stress slowly melts away as new habits take the place of old ones.


Olivia is the founder of Simply Liv & Co., an online resource and community for women looking to live simply and with intention. She shares everything from practical decluttering tips, to capsule wardrobe advice, to help with shopping ethically. When she’s not blogging, she can be found coffee(s) in hand with her two toddlers, dreaming about a mountain vacation.

Website || Instagram || Inspiring Simplicity Community


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How to Differentiate Yourself Without Losing Yourself

GUEST POST BY ANITA LOUISE

In a world filled with constant inspiration and innovation, it’s so hard to distinguish yourself from others, figuring out what makes you, as a small starting business, stand out. It can be frustrating coming up with an original idea that will be not only trendy and useful, but also marketable.

6 Ways to Differentiate Yourself without Losing Yourself - belong magazine blog - the life of a female entrepreneur, women in business, lady boss

Personally, I spend hours trying to figure out my business plan as a freshly graduated twenty- something with a million ideas. Besides having a great product, you have to strategize logistics as well. Starting off a new sole proprietorship, you are your own manager, marketer, advertiser, accountant, designer, and on top of that salesperson. As I'm busy juggling all of these positions in the launching of this project, I find myself struggling with doubt that I can even accomplish anything. I just keep telling myself over and over:

I cannot lose who I really am while in transition. 

It seems simple. However, in the stressful, anxiety filled stage of starting a business, the time comes where you have to pitch your business to future customers. There’s when the lies start to sneak in. That little voice whispers, "This is a terrible idea," "You' ll never make it," "What are you doing?" or "You’re not smart enough, creative enough, good enough."

You start to compare yourself with others and their successes. You start to doubt whether or not you can even accomplish such a daunting task of owning a small business. You think about logistical things like finances and how much you’re about to invest. As the whispers get louder, you doubt more and more until you are ready to quit. You start to lose focus of your goals. You start to lose yourself.

What distinguishes you? Why would people rather come to you for your product or service than go to your competitor?

"Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in." - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

1. Be yourself.

Don’t try to be anyone else. Customers are choosing your product over anyone else because they want you. At the end of the day, selling yourself is more important than selling your product. When a customer is deciding between two similar products, your product instantly becomes nothing but a commodity. A customer chooses you for you.

Being a creative, it's so hard to not compare your work to others. It’s okay to admire people. It’s okay to look up to others. It’s okay to set goals. It’s not okay to compare yourself. People don’t want you imitating another company.

Original ideas are the ones that will get you noticed. Be weird. Be quirky. Do something totally off-the-wall. Be YOU. Your voice and your creativity matters. 

The more you compare in a business sense, the more you will feel dissatisfied with other aspects of your life.

2. Focus on the customer.

At the end of the business day, it’s all about the customer. It is vital to cater to their needs give them what they want. Show them features of your product that maybe would be specifically useful for their scenario. By getting to know their needs and wants from your product you are building relationships with customers. Having a good relationship will not only keep them coming back, but also will give you relative feedback on how to improve your business.

3. Change the customer’s thinking

As you’re building relationships with customers, getting to know their needs and showing them the benefits of the product, let them know that what they are purchasing is an investment for them. Don’t just sell your product to the person who will be quick to say, "yes" and move on without further thought. Make sure to sell to the person who will see the long term benefits. These types of customers will be the ones that advocate for you, spreading positive word-of-mouth, reviews and also give you useful feedback to improve your product.

4. Use social media to its fullest potential.

Over the past few years, social media has exploded. Between Instagram and Facebook alone there are billions of users. Social media is not just for advertising. Use social media for customer relationships, gaining them, keeping them and deepening them. Having high quality pictures and videos that show testimonies and the product in use are the most effective way to show new customers about your pr oducts offered. Thanks to the comments section on social media, you can easily get customer feedback

5. Try not to stress.

In a season of growth, we tend to over-think every little detail. Sometimes, plans fall through and don’t go our way. That’s when we get upset and the lies slowly start to sneak back in. 

6. Remember to be still.

This one is tough. It’s sometimes so hard to find the quiet. Between starting a business, family, friends, church life or maybe even a second job, life is hectic. I find myself the most creative in the quiet.  It’s so important to remember to be still amongst the chaos. I found that even just 20 minutes of quiet time is beneficial.


 
anita.jpg
 

Anita was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio received a Bachelors of Business Administration from Kent State University in 2016. She has a heart for worship, traveling and all things breakfast food. When she's not busy songwriting and playing her piano, you will most likely find her deep into a book trying to deepen her relationship with Christ. In a moment's notice Anita's wanderlust will take her across the country on a spontaneous trip, in her never-ending search for the best coffee shop in America. She comes alive when she sees that her work genuinely encourages others. You can follow her adventures of music, writing and traveling on her Instagram • @anitalouisemusic


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stay in the loop /

I love Fridays. Not because it's the end of the regular workweek--because, let's be honest, as entrepreneurs, our workweek never really ends. It just feels like a day to take a deep breath and celebrate the accomplishments of the week.

I also love it because we go out for dinner as a family every Friday night. My husband, three kids and I like different things, so we go "up the hill" to a spot that has several options that quenches the hunger of all of us--Chipotle, The Habit, Pieology, Panera--nothing fancy, but so perfect. And we love it. And so I love Fridays!

favorite #youbelong instagram posts /

youbelong collage 02.17.17.jpg

You can get all the details on the individuals featured HERE on our instagram account. If you want to be considered, please be sure to hashtag your pics #youbelong.

favorite pin /

favorite freebie resource / 

We did a post this week to help women who are just starting--or trying to start--making things happen. These worksheets will walk you through the process of determining if your brilliant business idea can make money. Read the whole post here.

LET'S HEAR IT: 

what were your favorites this week?


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Can Your Brilliant Biz Idea Make Money?

So you've got this idea for a business--whether a side hustle, a full-time gig or somewhere in the middle, but you just don't know what to do with it, how to get it going, where to start, right?

Can your brilliant business idea make money? - belong magazine blog - female entrepreneur, creative women, lady box, woman in business - profit, revenue, all about the numbers and the bottom line

Maybe you dream of being a entrepreneur, maybe you just want to be a crafter, maybe you just want to earn a little extra money being a lady boss or maybe you want to follow your dreams.

Let's be honest for a minute.

Your business idea is only as good as its profit potential. So you need to really think good and hard about how (or maybe if) your idea can make money because there is nothing worse than putting tons of time, energy and money into an idea to have it pan out to nothing--and you've actually lost all of those resources in the process. It can be defeating and discouraging to say the least. So let's go in with our eyes wide open.

Take a moment to figure out if your brilliant idea could be profitable before you dive in.

1. What are you going to sell?

2. What resources will you need to start your brilliant idea and the costs associated with them?

3. What are the ongoing costs of "production?"

4. Who will buy your brilliant idea?

5. What quantity of your brilliant idea do you need to sell in order to generate profit and is this realistic?

Want to dig a little deeper? We created a worksheet to walk you through these questions and more so that you can do a thorough analysis before you start on your brilliant idea.

So that's the big question, right? Will your brilliant idea make money?

If yes, that's amazing! If no, do not despair. I've got a little something to say about that too. Coming soon!


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Using Your Experience to Create a Business + Find Joy

GUEST POST BY MEREDITH ROBERTSON

This is my reminder: You can find joy anywhere if you choose to look.

Using your experience to create a business and find joy - a creative entrepreneur's journey - women in business, start a biz, female boss ladies

When I was a freshman in high school I certainly didn’t know this. That year, I went through what I regard now to be one of the hardest times in my life. From an outside point of view, it made no sense—I was blessed with a nice house, a handsome dog, the most supportive family, and tons of friends. But despite all the surrounding joy, I found myself in the clutches of a sad time.

That was the first thing I learned: you can have everything it takes to be happy, and still not be happy.

It doesn’t mean you are broken, it just means it is time to grow into something better.

This sadness originated after I had my first “friend drama”, where I suddenly found myself navigating high school without my childhood BFF. Although it sounds silly, I was brokenhearted. I wasn’t able to shake it, and soon found that I allowed this sadness to linger too long and seep into other aspects of my life. Instead of bouncing back to the fun loving kid I had always been, I gave myself permission to stay sad. It was easier to sit in an emotion than to do the work to feel better. As a stubborn teen, I convinced myself that I didn’t need fixing anyway.

My mom had been my greatest friend during this time. Eventually, after seeing me struggle for too long, she placed a huge glass bowl of quotes on my desk, instructing me to pick one from it everyday. I said no. As both a teenager and someone who had always been self sufficient, I found it horrifying to accept any form of help, and I was embarrassed to admit I needed it in the first place. But, after weeks of feeling exceptionally sorry for myself, I decided to pick one quote from the jar.

“In the depth of the winter, I finally realized that within me there lay an invincible summer.”—Albert Camus

This simple sentence caused a great change that day. It was as if someone had turned the lights on and reminded me of a magic I had always known, but buried deep inside me. I tucked the slip of paper in my pocket and carried it around that entire day.

The next morning, I tentatively picked another quote, nervous I wouldn’t find this magic remaining. But again, the words I read were exactly what I needed to hear. For the next year I picked a quote every morning, completely sure there was a reason behind the timing of each message. If I didn’t understand it immediately, I carried the slip of paper around with me throughout the day until I could apply the lesson to some part of my life. Through this process, I became wiser, gentler, more understanding, and most importantly more joyful.

It wasn’t until a whole year later—after hundreds of quotes littered my walls and pockets—that I finally presented my story to a group of teens at school. Bravely, and with an open heart, I admitted that my life is not picture perfect.

In the days immediately following, kids began stopping me to tell me about their own stories, asking if they could have jars li