How Self-Care Can Advance Your Mission


How Self-Care Can Advance Your Mission

Guest Post by Elisabetta is the Founder of the Global Dream Collective

This time last year I hadn’t quite learned the importance of self-care yet. I was in the middle of fundraising thousands of dollars to help one small, rural village in East Africa that was experiencing a hunger crisis.

This village was where I lived and worked for three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique, and where I now run my girls empowerment non-profit, Kurandza.

I was putting all my time, energy, and resources into helping this village. I thought that as an American with access to resources and influence, I needed to do my part to help, and that it was OK if it came at the expense of my personal well-being.

I mean, these people were eating one meal a day. I think I could skip my yoga class, dinner with friends, and hikes in nature to put 100% of my time into raising money to help this village, right?


Neglecting myself just created more overwhelm, anxiety, and confusion.

If I couldn’t take care of myself, how was I supposed to help others and make an impact in the world?

Only until after I returned to the US after spending a month in this small village in Mozambique, distributing food aid and leading nutrition and HIV prevention trainings, did I realize that I was completely burned out and experiencing compassion fatigue.

I realized that I needed to take a break and give myself some time and space to recuperate and get back to the important work I was meant to do.

I started up my yoga practice again, scheduled some spa dates, and spent more time traveling and reconnecting with friends. This time gave me the clarity I needed to realize that Kurandza’s model needed to change in order to make an even bigger impact in the world. It also gave me the clarity and vision to create my new project, the Global Dream Collective, a resource and community of global change-making women.

If I hadn’t taken the time to slow down and take care of myself, I would have never been able to create the impact that I’m now making in the world.

Now that I realize the importance of self-care, I make it my #1 priority, and urge all women, especially those who are leading their own movements and social causes to do the same!

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Say No! /

As heart-centered entrepreneurs, we tend to take the entire weight of the world on our shoulders, and we want to help everybody. For this reason, boundaries are not our forte. But creating strong boundaries and saying “no” to things that don’t feel good or that will create resentment later, is actually a gift.

Boundaries can be as simple as not answering e-mails on Sunday, or saying no to bringing a suitcase full of gifts halfway around the world. They help us protect our own needs while not depleting our energy.

Do What Lights You Up /

What are those activities that light you up and energize you? For me it’s going to a yoga class, exploring nature, and meeting new people! Anytime I start to feel burned out, I head straight into nature, sign up for a yoga class or get social.

It’s like pushing a reset button.

Once you figure out your own reset button, you can use this as a tool to stay balanced and avoid future burnout.

Schedule it In /

Take these energizing activities and include them in your weekly schedule. I’ve found that schedules actually create more freedom! I love to schedule important energizing activities before anything else each month—that way I make sure to do them!

Schedule in things like yoga/gym dates, doctors and dentist appointments, and other self-care like getting your hair done or going to the spa. You could even create a daily schedule with morning and nighttime rituals full of energizing and grounding activities like journaling, reading and meditation.

These activities are different for everybody, but once you figure out yours, schedule them in!

You do You /

With so many people in the world that need our help, it can be tempting to try and help everyone and leave nothing for ourselves.

I definitely learned this the hard way, but I now know that not until we are taken care of can we take care of others. Now I don’t deplete my savings to help with hunger crises—I make sure all my bills are paid and then with what’s left over, I chose to help those in need.

I take care of myself first, then I take care of others.

Find Your Tribe /

Doing the challenging work we’re doing in the world can be overwhelming and lonely at times.

When we start to feel burned out, talking to someone else who has been through it before and whom we can relate to can be profound. So many people in the humanitarian field are on the verge of burnout; finding a community of people who understand can make the biggest difference in the world!

Self-care is so important, especially for us purpose-driven women.

When we take time to take a break and refocus, we set ourselves up for sustainable growth and success. We create a strong foundation of practices and boundaries so that we don't get burned out or experience compassion fatigue.

This is why self-care can actually improve our cause and advance our mission. When we take care of ourselves, get enough rest, and rejuvenate the body, mind, and soul, we are at our best to do the work that we are meant to do in the world!

How do you incorporate self-care into your daily life?

Elisabetta is the Founder of the Global Dream Collective, a community of adventurous women dreamers and change-makers who are up to big things in the world! She is also the founder of Kurandza, a non-profit that empowers women and girls in Mozambique through entrepreneurship and educational opportunities. She enjoys writing about travel and conscious living on her blog, doing yoga and exploring nature. San Francisco is her home, and she spends over half the year traveling in East Africa and around the world working with her non-profit and through consulting with other social enterprises.

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5 Social Media Management Tricks to Save Time & Get More Done


5 Social Media Management Tricks to Save Time & Get More Done


We all know that social media is a core part of promoting a blog or business.  And whether you have a love or hate relationship with it, you know that you need to promote your blog posts, products or services, but it can be such a time suck!  

You post to your Facebook page then head over to Twitter but realize you forget to reply to that comment on your last post so back you go.  Or you start liking all of the photos in your Instagram feed then stop to Pin a couple of images and forget where you were.  Before you know it, you’ve lost a couple of hours and haven’t done everything you wanted to do!  

So how do you fix that? What do you do? I promise, you, too, can manage social media and have a life.

5 social media management tips to save time and get more done with Kaitlyn Pierce of Pierce Social as featured on the Belong Magazine blog - for female entrepreneurs, creatives and bloggers

The answer comes from people who do this kind of thing for a living (like myself!) – social media managers.  We are people who run our own social media and an army of accounts for other people. Yet I still have time to eat, sleep and even relax.  


Create a Task List to Break Up Jobs /

The first task may be the most important one – you need to create a list of all the tasks that you need to do on social media with a note about how often you want to do them.  Don’t worry if you end up going back and adding more as you think of them but once you start, it is surprising what comes to mind.  Things to add include:

  • Posting to your Facebook Page and Group

  • Posting on relevant threads in Facebook Groups

  • Replying to comments on your page or group

  • Finding curated content from FB groups to share with your page and mix things up

  • Posting to Twitter repeatedly for each post

  • Replying to notifications

  • Posting to Instagram

  • Liking and commenting on posts

  • Pinning like mad

Keep a note of these and the frequency of the job – do you post to your Facebook Page every day but only to Instagram three times a week?  Do you try to Pin a specific amount of times each day?  Do you use certain Facebook Groups to promote your content on certain days? Just brain dump all of the things you do for all of your social media. I bet you’ll be surprised by how much you come up with!

Set Up a Social Media Dashboard /

This isn’t as fancy as it sounds, but it’s going to change your life! Once you have your list assembled you can start creating your social media dashboard.  This might sound complicated but the reality is that it is that it can be really simple and one of my favorite tools for the job is Trello.  

There are lots of ways to use this tool or to organize your tasks  – there’s no right or wrong way, the important part is that it’s helpful and easy to use.

For example, you might want to create a list for each day of the week, then add a card with a checklist of items to be completed that day in a card under it. You can use the master task list you created to break things up over the week.  You might also want to add a monthly or bi-weekly task card for the less frequent jobs, like social media reporting (you can grab my free report template here!).  

You can also create a list to keep information you might want to reference when you’re working on social media, such as links to your profiles, information about your groups, lists of hashtags you use frequently, and affiliate links to programs you want to promote.

Use a Scheduling Tool and Batch Your Content /

There are lots of great tools out there to help with scheduling your content to save you from needing to manually post everything – CoSchedule, Buffer, HootSuite and Post Planner are a few that people like to use.  My favorite is called SmarterQueue and it’s been my favorite of all. It is cost effective, you can easily categorize your content which is important to any social media strategy, and it will store content that you mark as evergreen to re-share throughout the month.  

There are different ways to use the category system on SmarterQueue but my system works around the type of content I am sharing – for example, my own posts, quotes and memes, other blog’s content and promotional stuff.  I can set up slots in my schedule in SmarterQueue to pull a post from a specific category at a specific time each week. So for example, I can set it to pull something from my blog post category at 2pm every Monday, and it does it automatically.

There’s also a lot of analytic information built in to help track what works and what doesn’t.  (Remember that for tip five!)

Use Software to Automate and Simplify /

Some people think that automating your social media is a bit like cheating but this isn’t the case if you do it properly.  

Tools such as IFTTT and Zapier can automatically do tasks that reduce the amount of time you need to spend on social media while increasing your effectiveness.

Let’s use curated content as an example. If you use a service like Feedly or Pocket to store posts to read later, you can set up an automation that sends them straight to your Facebook Page or Twitter account if you mark them with a specific tag.  So, if you see an article you want to share with your audience, once you have the Zap or Applet in place, the software will take care of it for you.

You can also use browser extensions such as the one for SmarterQueue to send content straight to your sharing queue to be sent out later.  Another example is a tool like Tailwind which automates your Pinterest profile in the same way – save a load of Pins to it and it then sends them to your relevant boards on a pre-set schedule.

Have an Analytics System /

If you don’t track what you are doing, you can never know what works and what doesn’t.

Therefore, finding a system to track certain social media metrics is a crucial part of your efforts. I mentioned my free social media report template, it’s a great place to get started and is designed to be super simple. If you create your own, decide what metrics matter to you and keep track of them – many times this will be through the site itself while Google Analytics is another useful source of information which is great for seeing the traffic coming from social media.  And don’t forget, tools like SmarterQueue offer a lot of insight into what has worked as well.


It is completely possible to manage social media, promote your blog or business and still have a life!  By putting the right systems in place and using the different tools and software available, you can maximize your efforts, get the best return and make the whole process much more manageable.

If you’d like a done-for-you social media system then you might enjoy my Social Media Blueprint! The short and easy to follow course includes my custom Social Media Dashboard designed in Trello and pre-filled with all of my suggested social media tasks. The course walks you through exactly how to use your checklists and set up your process so you can save yourself a ton of time and stress, or you can even easily hand your tasks off to an assistant! It also includes a full walk-through of how to set up your Smarterqueue or content library like I do! You can get started here!

Kaitlyn is a wife, mama, newbie gardener- and might be a bit obsessed with all things tech + social! For starters, she was kind of the girl doing the blogging thing… before blogging was a thing. Kaitlyn definitely saw the proverbial writing on the (chatroom) wall in the years leading up to this super, crazy social world we basically do #allthethings in today. She loves working with small businesses looking to grow their social presence, but has also worked with some pretty well-known companies too, like What to Expect When You’re Expecting! She’s been happily doing this for over 7 years and gives business owners, bloggers, and social media managers the tools to streamline their own social success through social media management and strategy services, her blog and courses!




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how to establish partnerships


how to establish partnerships

I have a fear of asking for help--whether it be for tasks or financial or just some encouragement. It's hard! 

But we all need help. That's just the way it goes.

We can't do life alone (nor were we intended to).

The best way to explain how to establish partnerships is to tell you the stories of how Belong came to partner with Mixbook, Alaska Air, Evy's Tree, The Contract Shop, and The Magic of Motherhood for ISSUE 08. 

mixbook /

I first encountered Mixbook at AltSummit. Mixbook had a well-decorated booth at the summit showcasing paper products in addition to photo products--both of which piqued my interest. I didn't stop my first time by because I'd never heard of Mixbook and well.... I just didn't (introvert anyone?). 

When I saw that they were hosting various bloggers at their booth to do demos and share their collaborations, I was "in". The mocktail calendar (above) by blogger Jeran at Oleander and Palm was so well done and made me wonder why more bloggers and creatives were talking about Mixbook

That's when Raffi of Mixbook (one of the few males in a mass of females at the summit) and I started our chat. Together, we wanted to show bloggers and female entrepreneurs the opportunities available to them by collaborating with Mixbook which is what we hope we did by showcasing five talented women they've worked with and their collaborations. 

You can find this piece in ISSUE 08 featuring Oleander + Palm, Amy Tangerine, Francois et Moi, Design Improvised and Going Home to Roost.

From canvases to cookbooks, cards to calendars, Mixbook offers creatives a place for their work to shine.

But wait! It doesn't end there...

issue 08.jpg

I am always looking for creative ways to add more value for our partners, and way for you to see Mixbook at work in real life seemed like a great opportunity to do just that. Raffi and I worked together to create a print (card) with a hand-lettered design by Amy Tangerine (see photo above) that was created just for Belong to gift to our subscribers and online orders. And it turned out amazing--plus, it has all of MIxbook's info on the back so that you know who to contact when you're ready. 

(If you haven't already, we've still got a few of those cards left to include with ISSUE 08 orders placed on our website HERE.)

You can also read the blog post that Raffi shared on our blog HERE.

Photo by David Sowers / @dasophoto

Photo by David Sowers / @dasophoto

evy's tree /

My sister-in-law has been collecting these cute sweatshirts for years. She had been telling me about them repeatedly and encouraged me to reach out to the company as she thought that it would be a "good fit" for Belong. I'm not a big sweatshirt girl, so I just listened and nodded my head.

At Create & Cultivate ATL in the fall of 2016, I got in the backseat of a rental car and was introduced to Amy of Evy's Tree who was driving us all to Starbucks--clearly she had a problem just like me (wink wink). After spilling coffee on myself twice that morning, I put it all together and realized that this woman was the founder of the sweatshirt company my sister-in-law had been raving about forever (or what seemed like forever). 

Over the course of the day (and it's a long day), I got to talk a bit with Amy and Vanessa from Evy's Tree--not just business, but life--real life. The ups and downs and even further downs and how our faith affects our businesses. That time was such a blessing to me.

I even went home and bought a sweatshirt! (the style pictured above is my favorite--the Anne Marie)

I kept in touch with Vanessa (who handles some of the marketing side of things for Evy's Tree) and we came to a point when it made sense to them on the pages of the magazine, to share Amy's story and to share their great pieces which are ideal for so many entrepreneurs who work from home--be in your sweats and still look adorable!

But most importantly, I wanted you to meet Amy Miraflor, the owner and woman behind all that has become Evy's Tree. She is grounded, honest and has a heart to serve the women she creates for and those that work for her.

If you don't know her, you're really missing out. Find the Evy's Tree feature in ISSUE 08 and read about a routine day for Amy in a blog post HERE.

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alaska air /

Though I never met the marketing team from Alaska Air that was at the AltSummit in Palm Springs, I knew the moment we got a box from them that had SugarFina champagne gummy bears inside, it was meant to be. (Have you had them? They are unreal!)

Obviously, it's not that simple. Since I didn't have a chance to physically chat with the team, I reached out after the summit via email with some ideas to partner together.

A partnership with an airline that works with bloggers seemed magical!

And they don't just fly around in Alaska, silly! They fly all over the US, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba. 

Though it didn't look like it was going to work out, I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered the opportunity to put in a proposal for a print ad placement which was accepted. Alaska Air is experiencing rapid growth which is allowing them opportunities to partner with bloggers and social media mavens to showcase all they have to offer. Win win! 

And that is how it came to be that we partnered with Alaska Air and why they appear on the back cover of ISSUE 08.

And that is also why we hope that you'll consider them when you're booking your next adventure OR when you are have an idea you want to pitch that involves travel. 


The Magic of Motherhood book /

I have to be honest, I don't really remember how I came to work with HarperCollins/Zondervan, but Belong has partnered with them on several books--books written by female bloggers primarily. 

When I was approached with the opportunity to partner in promoting The Magic of Motherhood book, there were two things that immediately appealed to me:

  1. The Magic of Motherhood is not a schmaltzy book about how becoming a mom is the most beautiful moment in one will ever experience or tips on how to get your baby to sleep through the night. It is a book collaboratively written by mothers who were willing to be real. That was not something I encountered personally when I was a new mom, and it was very discouraging to me. This book could be an encouragement to other women just like me.
  2. The author of the book (or main author, I suppose), Ashlee Gadd, was first and foremost a blogger (of the blog Coffee + Crumbs) which is something that I think is appealing to the Belong readership--turning a blog into a book really is doable. 

In addition to these two things, I learned that Ashlee was also willing to share the story behind the book with our readers--a story of how a collaborative blog turned into friendships.

It is an encouragement to those of us who spend our time connecting online--it really is possible to have friends through those connections.

You can find this story of a how a collaborative blog turned into collaborative friendships by Ashlee in ISSUE 08.

I purchased the book myself and can attest to its authenticity. If you're a mom, you should check it out too. You can get it here.

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the contract shop / 

After having a large legal issue that created so much anxiety I almost quit Belong, I have been very diligent about the legal aspects of my business. Contracts and copyright are a big deal in my biz, but so hard to navigate on my own.

When Christina Scalera reached out about her new venture, The Contract Shop, I knew it was an ideal fit.

But this wasn't the first time that I had spoken with Christina. I first saw her on a Rising Tide Society webinar. Last year, she and her co-host Reina Pomeroy interviewed me for their podcast, The Creative Empire. Christina has written for Belong Magazine on a couple of occasions as well as on the Belong blog. Needless to say, we'd crossed virtual paths many times.

Knowing Christina and her expertise and knowing that many creative entrepreneurs do not have the legal structures in place that they need, partnering with The Contract Shop was a no brainer. 

Whether you're a photographer, graphic designer, florist, independent contractor--there is a contract for you in the shop.

But there's also so much more--such as terms and conditions that are necessary for every website (do you have them on yours?). The Contract Shop is such a great resource. Check it out--you'll be benefiting your business as well as supporting another entrepreneur. Once again: win win!

how to establish partnerships /

All of that is a lead into how to establish partnerships. From my experience, this is what I've learned:


Networking is key. Meeting people face-to-face makes a big difference. If you're able to attend conferences, those are ideal. And there are so many good ones for female creatives and entrepreneurs (see this post I wrote about my 13 favorites here).


Partnerships are about more than making money but about forming a relationship. Relationships take time to establish and develop. And if you haven't had the opportunity to meet a company face-to-face, it may take longer. 


You have to ask. This is the hardest part for me. It can be awkward and stressful. But you don't get what you don't ask for. (I talk about "the big ask" in this blog post.)


Be patient. You may have to wait and ask again. That's ok. Sometimes the time is just right, so don't give up. 


Execute a contract so that both parties are on the same page. (Perhaps The Contract Shop has the contract that you need?)

SIX / 

Follow-up to thank your partner for their support and collaboration--send them a small gift, a handwritten note, etc... We all want to be acknowledged and appreciated. It simple but thoughtful thank you can go a long way.

So there you have it! My two cents and then some. I'd love to hear how about your favorite partnerships, how you established them and why they were so successful to you! Please share in the comments!

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how to become an accidental entrepreneur


how to become an accidental entrepreneur


Some people know what they want out of life. If they’re driven enough, focused enough, they work hard and reach their goals. In the world of entrepreneurs and start-ups, these stories are everywhere. But you know what? I don’t think they’re helpful. Most of us don’t know what we want out of life. We follow things that we’re good at, or that interest us, and see what fits.

I’m a creative person that wants to have a net positive impact on the world; that’s a pretty general mission statement.

how to become an accidental entrepreneur with Yana Barankin of Tamga as featured on the Belong Magazine blog - celebrating the art and community of blogging, social media and entrepreneurship for females creatives and business women

I've lived and worked in six different countries, from walking catwalks to working in a cholera hospital. I was building experience in marketing, fashion and humanitarian work, not knowing how they would all come together – just following my interests. Strangely, it wasn’t until I ended up in Dhaka, Bangladesh that it all started to make sense.

i’ll start there.

Arriving in Dhaka for the first time is a sensory overload. Heat, mosquitoes and a whole lot of attention from strangers awaits you as soon as you land. My partner Eric had landed a job with the UN and already been there for 6 months. We found an apartment in the neighborhood where most Westerners live, and I started working on a contract with Save the Children.

It wasn’t long before I noticed the impact of the fashion manufacturing industry on Dhaka. The rapid growth and construction, the thousands of young women in colorful salwar kameez making their way to work in the factories, the stalls on the side of the road selling popular western brands at impossibly low prices (or were they impossibly low?). The country had just gone through a painful experience when the Rana Plaza complex, a shoddily built building containing several garment factories, collapsed and took more than 1,100 lives with it. Fashion manufacturing in Dhaka isn’t just an industry, it’s a life force. It’s building cities, wiping out poverty, and causing astonishing vulnerability all at the same time.

becoming an entrepreneur was an accident.

I was buying vibrant and colorful local fabrics and making kimonos with a local tailor named Dino that was known in the expat community for making great clothes. We visited Dino at home and his place of work, and gradually became close friends. He paid all his workers well, trained young people so they could earn money, and ran both an orphanage and a school for slum children with whatever extra money he could cobble together.

Eric and I saw the chance to support Dino and his workers, produce beautiful clothing, and create a positive example in a fashion industry that sorely needed it. 

I never thought that TAMGA would be received so well. Within 13 months, our Etsy store had customers from all over the world who were so excited about our brand and mission.

We started to feel that we could have more of a targeted impact on the world through this project than our respective jobs.

But we had one problem: the beautiful fabrics that we were buying in Dhaka’s old city were part of the major environmental problems caused by fashion. We wanted to prove that fashion could be socially and environmentally sustainable, but had no control over our materials.

taking it full time.

In the meantime, our contracts were finishing up in Dhaka, and we made the difficult decision to take TAMGA full time. Eric and I began a journey to start the new TAMGA Designs from scratch, with full accountability for our impact on people and the environment. This journey took us to Indonesia, where we knew that some suppliers were willing to work with the sustainable wood-cellulose fabrics and eco-friendly dyes that we had been seeking out. Our friend and super-talented designer Anna had been living in Dhaka at the same time, and joined us on this exciting and crazy journey.

Our team of three spent eight months in Indonesia looking for factories that saw the value of treating people and the environment with respect. We were a nearly non-existent brand asking tough questions, so we got rejected across the board. After four months, we had found a total of zero factories that were willing to work within our social and environmental standards.


Eventually, we found a mix of suppliers that were perfect for TAMGA. We finally had a “supply chain” and somehow managed to channel our million design ideas into a dream collection. Our prints are inspired by the weavers and textile artists of Indonesia, so we called it Dreamweaver.


We launched the brand through a Kickstarter campaign in November 2016 (you can see an in-depth series about our crowdfunding experience on the TAMGA Blog). Since then, we’ve found amazing new customers, partnered with renowned start-up incubators and universities in our home city of Toronto, and continue to learn more every day about running a business.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming – the accounting, marketing, shipping, online analytics and product development – but I always remind myself that it’s not about knowing exactly where you’re going, it’s about following your passions.

I managed to combine my interests in fashion, and humanitarian work into my current job, so I’m lucky enough to be doing something I’m passionate about every single day. 

Yana Barankin, co-founder, brought TAMGA Designs to life while working in the NGO sector in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2014. Having previously worked in fashion, she received her MA in International Development from Kent University in Brussels and was inspired to make a difference in the industry by merging both of her passions to create the TAMGA label. Forever inspired by art and travel, you are likely to find the road less traveled, with a camera in her hand, looking for the next white-sand beach.

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How to Create Content that Gets Clicked


How to Create Content that Gets Clicked

Established in 2006 as one of the first design blogs in the world, DECOR8 is a thoughtfully edited interior design, travel and lifestyle site featuring stories and products to keep readers inspired and in-the-know on topics they loves most.

Over 11 years later, founder Holly Becker is considered a pioneer of the design blog movement, has won multiple awards for her work online and off, and is truly a tastemaker and influencer with a global following of over 2 million. (not to mention the four books under her belt). 

How did DECOR8 get to its acclaimed status? How did Holly create content that got--and continues to get--clicked?

Blogging and social media are changing every day. The internet feels very full right now, have you you noticed?

Yet honestly, who cares what is changing and how fast it's all going and how many people are sharing and posting and talking... Because in the end, if we know how to create great content and share in a way that gets seen (and heard), then we always have the ability to reach out online regardless of the platform or medium we choose. Everyone has a chance to rise and shine.

How many times have you posted something on Instagram and it just sat there, with very few likes, and your heart just sorta felt like it was sliding down your chest, making its way to your leg, until completely falling out onto the floor. Plunk! I've felt this before, like my heart dropped, because I was so sad that so very few responded to my words and photos.


We create to be seen after all, right?

I believe everyone creative has a sensitive soul, whether they'll admit it or not. Sensitive people want to be seen, but also wish to be heard and felt and understood.

We want to know we matter. We are a complex bunch.

This is also why when you partner social media and blogging with sensitive, creative people, you will see lots of hearts on the floor and sad eyes when a post doesn't "perform" well or an Instagram photo is a bust.

We aren't being dramatic or immature, we are human. We feel.

It happens to us all, so Holly has used her decade plus of experience to create a class that will educate you on what makes content "sticky" and interesting to others, but also to hold a very open discussion around what we as content providers can do to ensure a better track record for our content. She will show how to make your content meaningful and valuable but also how to create content that you actually are excited to make.


Holly is going to be retiring this course so if you want to take it, you'll want to get signed up now! The class starts September 15, is limited to 100 people and will include open live chats with Holly so that you can directly interact with her. 

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Five Ways to Build Trust Through Your Brand


Five Ways to Build Trust Through Your Brand


As relentless innovation continues to birth new brands and ideas, establishing lasting connectivity with a client vitally changes the game for business owners.

Among other great strategies, consistency builds trust with any given community; and trust is the fundamental factor people search for within their decision making process.

When you go about starting a fresh brand or new business, people want to feel something real. As hustling business owners, it’s easy to place value in the logistics and numbers; of course, you desire the levels of success that will create better opportunities in the future. However, in order to create an impact through your brand, people need to get to know you--the real you.

Since people want to feel connection with a community rather than a price tag, it is vital to curate human touch through the pages of any website, social media link or other branding platform.

By utilizing the following practices, your business can flourish in a way that benefits the world around you in a powerful way.

5 ways to build trust with your brand as featured on the belong magazine blog - for female entrepreneurs and creatives


First and foremost, build trust through your brand by starting an authentic conversation.

In an age where the superficiality of mass media can be deafening, a genuine spirit comforts any listening ear. At times, tools such as Internet and social media easily provoke a sense of altering reality. We see images and immediately compare ourselves--instead of simply being inspired.

With this in mind, create a language within your platforms that refrains from the typical, cookie-cutter phrases. People long to hear a voice that is different and nuanced. Avoid copying other companies’ verbiage; instead, get creative and craft the messages your way.

Your perspective is timeless and needs to be heard.


With authenticity, vulnerability is a vital open door for people to identify with your brand.

People crave community--one that relates to their every day battles and successes. No one wants to feel alone in the process.

Curate a weekly post or social campaign that allows for people to hear more about the daily struggles or wins your brand is experiencing. In doing this, you are giving a personal touch to your brand.

Back in the early 2000's, Dove began to create a space for women who used their products to be vulnerable. Through social media campaigns and promotional videos, people began to dive into to Dove products because of its open conversation on female insecurities. To this day, Dove powerfully promotes vulnerability, and guess what? People trust the brand.


In addition to authenticity and vulnerability, remain consistent in your message.

If a brand begins to constantly change its name, its message or its motives, people quickly lose interest and start doubting your durability.

The world changes at a rapid speed on a daily basis. From methods to trends, the popularity of a company or product is susceptible to experience various changes throughout its business. However, make known the brand’s values and let everything you do stem out from those same values.



The heart of a business matters more than a business’s product.



The public trusts a brand who chooses to stay consistent in their reputation and in their values. The name of your brand should reflect its value, and if you maintain reliability, people will trust the name you have worked hard to create.


Amongst those strategic steps, avoid being stagnant.

Make goals that will exceed the typical five-year plan. Don’t choose to plan for the year; build out the year to set you up for the years to come. Let people know that your brand is always up to something.

When you have an unquenchable drive to grow, you will excel at whatever you set your mind to.

Author, John C. Maxwell says, “Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not.”

Remaining in the same place you were ten years ago will not only fail to advance your brand, but it will fail to grow for the benefit of the world. People will trust your brand when your passion shows its plan for longevity.


Finally, choose to make your brand relevant.

Communications plays such an essential role in the creation and execution of a brand.

Once you have established a strong mission statement and plan of action, begin to brainstorm ways to develop a voice that speaks to the audience of today. Although old methods can be appreciated, brands build credibility by acknowledging the times and producing outlets that convey relevant content and practical messages.

People aren’t looking for you to solve a problem from ten years ago, but rather, they want to know why you’re brand benefits them personally in the modern day. Gather research studies that provide information to help evaluate your audience’s preferences of reach.




Trust is a timeless attribute and to gain it from others is a privilege. As humans called to impact humans, it is important to be intentional and build the brand from grassroots to ensure its future.

Choose to be yourself in the journey. Don’t ride on someone else’s idea; start your own. People love the weight of creativity and will give anything to be part of it. Each one of us has the opportunity to build community out of a dream that lies within our heart.

Take your brand and dream big. When you value people in the process, the reward is greater than what is ever imagined.

Victoria Bardega is a freelance editor, photographer and writer currently residing in her home state of Florida. She completed her Bachelors of Science in Public Relations/Journalism at Southeastern University. She has previously interned for successful publications, such as Darling Magazine and The Letter Magazine. She also avidly travels with a love for community, exploring culture and indulging in culinary finds.
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How to Find Inspiration in the Sweet Spot Between Your Thoughts and Memories


How to Find Inspiration in the Sweet Spot Between Your Thoughts and Memories


Sitting on my front porch on a wooden glider, there is a cool light breeze that feels like spring on my skin, and I can hear the birds singing songs to one another. In the distance, someone is mowing their lawn, and across the street, my sweet elderly neighbor's grandchildren are laughing while they play.

I could write for hours about life in a setting like this. The memories of the better moments of my childhood come rushing back, and I feel joy roll over my skin. Thinking up new, fun, and creative blog posts comes easily when I am relaxed, and the setting brings back so many joyful memories.

This is where inspiration teases us all, and we fall head over heels in love with who we are created to be.

Inspiration has long wispy fingers that play with the passion barred within us and with one kiss sets it on fire to guide us when times get dark and walls go up.

how to find inspiration in the sweet spot between thoughts and memories with Christina Lyons as featured on the Belong Magazine blog

Creating space to develop my craft hasn’t been easy. I am talking about that space that is deep down in the pit of my soul and the space that is between my thoughts and my memories.

I usually have to start with the physical space right in front of me. I have a hard time working with the laundry piled up next to my desk, or when the kids are knocking at my door telling me I forgot to get groceries and they want a snack. So, I start there, but that is not where the real work has to be done.

The real development of my work comes from creating my routine and recognizing when that routine is no longer serving me, and then changing it. I have been getting up at 6:00 am for a couple of years now. I drink coffee and read. I write and write and write and write. I recently added yoga and meditation to my routine because I hurt my back and felt caged up in my body.

Then about two weeks ago I stopped waking up. I don’t know why, but I suddenly started sleeping through my alarms. I don’t know if this shift in my sleeping habits will last long, but I feel it is important to continue to develop my skills as a writer. I know how important that practice is when one is in the beginning stages of listening to inspiration.

So, for now, I spend my afternoons with my fingers wrapped around a pen or dancing across my keyboard.

I read once that an artist should practice his or her desired skill at least one million times.

Once you have reached such a significant number of dedicated moments to yourself, you forget that you are practicing and you begin to just work through life, side by side with inspiration.

So, I write. You create art, websites, and jewelry. Maybe you work with clients that don’t see the world in color like you do, and you dance through their business with passion, bringing what they love to life.


Some days are dark; winter sets into the project in front of me and I have to search for passion’s flame. You’ve been there, you know.

Inspiration feels far away, but you still know why you are here.

Why you are more desperate for all this nothing than for someone else’s so much something. You find yourself stuck but not miserable.

Physically, when I find myself in this place, I do yoga or take a walk. I watch Doctor Who with my children or a put on some music and get moving. Spiritually, I go looking for joy. I usually find her when I shift my perspective or while accepting what I cannot change. I find her laughing, I never know at what, but her laughter spreads, and I come alive.  

The space in-between my thoughts and my memories needs to be freshened up.

Developing my skills and pursuing my dream comes at the cost of cleaning out what isn’t useful anymore and knowing the difference between the two. Creating a space for calm to take up residence, so I can find it when my thoughts run away with my heart, has been a saving grace.

Some days I walk away. I have written many chapters that have or will be deleted. Blog posts that don’t make sense and artwork that just isn’t right. I am learning to let them be and to stop asking them to be anything more than what they are.

When I started on my journey, I wanted my efforts to produce exceptional work every time. I needed my words to reach out and come alive. I asked too much of them, and many of them fell flat. I have written this article a couple of times already, and I will start over if inspirations whispers, “Look from over here. Come, see what I see.”

Don’t be scared to look at your hands and say, “Thank you for what you have created today, but I think we can do it differently tomorrow, and I can’t wait.”

I can’t wait to see what we as a collective will do with the world in front of us. Knowing you belong, and believing that you are unique and needed, yet still understanding that we are just one of a million here to serve the world is more powerful than I can handle sometimes.


No one can tell you how to become a better you.

I can only say just practice until you forget about it. Then one day you will wake up, and you won't have to remind yourself to create. You just will, and it will be more than you ever hoped it would be because you will be the perfectly imperfect version of yourself that you are desperate to find right now, at this moment.  

May you find the space between your thoughts and memories to be soothing and the realm of possibilities just under the layer of constant practice.

Christina spends her days living out life with her three children and lumberjack of a husband. Amongst the day to day, Christina co-owns a tattoo studio in central Oklahoma with her husband, Caleb. He tattoo's and she writes. She writes because it feels like breathing and life come alive. Christina is currently working on her first creative non-fiction book, a true story of a young mother learning to live life after a tragic loss. 


journey quote printable + download


journey quote printable + download

"It doesn't matter how slowly you go as long as you don't stop." - confucius as hand lettered by @sugarandtype for Belong Magazine ISSUE 08

We love this hand lettered quote by Confucius that Ilana Griffo if Sugar and Type designed for ISSUE 08. It is perfectly suited for this issue--our journey issue. 

As usual, we're pleased to offer you the opportunity to download is for yourself--use it as a computer/phone background or print it and tack it on your inspiration board. Whatever you'd like. But if you post it on social media, please be kind and provide credit to Belong @belong mag and our gracious artist @sugarandtype. 

For those who purchase the magazine, you can (gently) tear it out of the very end of ISSUE 08.

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a day in the life of a female entrepreneur / amy miraflor of evy's tree


a day in the life of a female entrepreneur / amy miraflor of evy's tree

My name is Amy and I am the owner, designer and CEO of Evy's Tree, a luxury hoodie company.

I started my business almost 8 years ago when my son was two and a half and my daughter was about six months old. You can read about that HERE. I worked out of my house for about 5 years, where my typical outfit was PJ's and a hoodie. Between juggling two kids and a business I ran from home, I was lucky if I got a shower in each day, or got dressed at all for that matter.

Then in 2015 my husband and I took a big jump to create some separation between our personal life and our business and leased two 3,000 square foot warehouses that are home to our 17 staff members, our local shop and our inventory and shipping department.

a day in the life of a female entrepreneur featuring amy miraflor of evy's tree

Now, I go to "work" every day, and as much as I wish I could, I can't go in my PJ's! That means I have to be a little more organized about how my days unfold. 


5:45 am /

My alarm goes off around 5:45 AM. Both Brandon (my husband) and I try to get a work out in before we the day begins, otherwise we will never find time for it. He works out in the garage, and I either attend a super hot vinyasa power class or run on the treadmill/do yoga at home. I don't eat or shower before I workout, I just jump into some workout clothes, grab a giant bottle of water, and go.

6:15 am /

If I attend yoga, I usually leave the house at 6:15 and arrive home around 7:45, just in enough time to help the kids get out the door. Brandon always takes them to school on his way into the office. After they leave, I cherish the only hour of quiet alone time I will likely get in the day and make a quick breakfast smoothie, take all my vitamins, glance over my daily calendar, make sure social media is running smoothly, and answer any emails before I jump into the shower around 8:15.


9:00 am /

I leave for work at 9 and arrive to my office around 9:20 with no makeup on and a hot cup of green tea in my hand. If my meetings for the day involve anyone outside my staff, I'll stop by the warehouse bathroom and put some mascara on before the meeting. ha.

9:30 am /

My first meeting is almost always at 9:30 and will vary between a meeting with my design team, my sales team, my financial analyst or really anyone else who needs me.

I keep track of all my appointments via google calendar. We are BIG google calendar people at Evy's Tree. We have a giant master calendar stock full of every single thing that's happening at almost any moment. We almost always know where everyone is at any time. We love the google hangout option, which we use often.


If I do have a free moment in my schedule, I always tackle my emails or look over our weekly cash flow. Emails especially get left behind often, as that is usually the first thing to go when my day is packed and everyone needs me. If that's the case, the emails will have to wait until later that evening if I can squeeze them in between dinner and kids functions, or the next day. Emails are the bane of my existence and someday I hope to hire someone who can answer them all for me. ha. But for now, I have to live with starting out each one with, "I'm so sorry I'm so behind!" 

3:00 pm /

Our staff works in the warehouse from 8:30-3. Shipping is the only team who stays later depending on our shipping schedule. Since our company value is Family First, all of us are off picking up our kids, driving to sports, making dinner and doing all the "mom" stuff in the afternoons.


5:40 pm /

Usually, after all my kids sports activities, any grocery shopping I need to do or errands that needs to be run, either Brandon or I start dinner around 5:30 or 6. We try to meal prep ahead of time, so we know exactly what we are making. That helps us get dinner on the table quicker. While we are cooking, the kids are showering and doing homework.


7:30 pm /

Our kids are in bed by 7:30 PM. I know, super early. But our whole family needs our sleep and we learned the hard way that if our kids aren't rested, they won't have a good day. After the kids are in bed, Brandon and I clean up the kitchen, do a load of laundry and try to watch a show or a movie to unwind.

If our days were super interrupted, I will pull my laptop out and work for another hour or so before bed. I try not to do that though. Brandon and I find that if we don't spend time together, we suffer, so usually we cuddle on the couch, drink a glass of wine, or pop a bowl of popcorn and try to mentally unwind. No work talk! ha.

10:00 pm / 

We are in bed between 10 or 10:30, no later, or else we can't get up in time for our workout the next day. 



other interesting bits about Amy + Evy's Tree

what is the process of designing a sweatshirt? 


Typically, we start with a calendar of releases we'd like to have for each season. For example, if in January we'd like to release eight pieces, we develop a google spreadsheet to share with our production team and factory; we place eight rows under a column for January, with about four more rows added for "extras".

When you design, you learn really quickly that pieces fall out.... a dream hoodie that you thought would be beautiful comes back in the proto stage AWFUL, so you put that one aside and work on another. To get eight pieces in a month, we typically design and plan for ten to twelve, knowing that not everything we design will turn out as we like.


After we get our "footprint" or spreadsheet (our spreadsheet is our design lifeline) all made up for the season, we start the fun part.


We come up with designs all different ways: sometimes we storyboard, sometimes we find a body of a particular piece of clothing (it doesn't have to be a hoodie) that we like and design vertical from there, using that as the base, sometimes we sketch or other times we find fabric we love and work a style into the fabric.


Our CAD artist and designer then develops a CAD for approval for us, at which point we move into proto stage.


Proto stage is typically available fabrics in available colors, so you really have no idea what you will get back, but the hope is the body will be what you want.


After we nail a body, we decide on colors.


Usually we pull the trending colors out and have them on our design board so we can create color schemes. When a proto needs a color, we spend some time discussing which color we should put where. After a color is chosen, a lab dip is presented with the fabric in the color we choose. 


If we like it, we move to bulk fabric development...


...then top of production for approval...


...then production.

All in all, the process can take anywhere from three months (if we work fast) to up to eight months. Some of our hoodies we have been working on for almost a year!

why is what you do so important to you?

I started this business because I didn't want to leave my kids and go back to work as a school teacher. I didn't mind working, I just wanted to be flexible and to be able to be there for my kids at any time they needed me.

I guess if you asked me why I love what I do, I would tell you my number one reason I do this is because of the flexible schedule.

I make my own timelines and my own rules. If my kids need me, I can cancel everything I'm doing to be there for them.

Our #1 value at Evy's Tree: Family First. And we mean that.

If anyone working for us at any times needs to put their kids or family first, we all will do anything in our power to support them. They can leave work at any time, drop everything they are doing, and stop a meeting at a moments notice. Our families come first. 

I think that is the main reason why I do what I do is so important to me. Not only do I get to be flexible, but I allow a dozen other moms who work for me to do the same. 

And let's not forget that I get to make some pretty cool clothes. ha.

All Evy's Tree product photography by David Sowers/DASO Photo/@dasophoto.

Learn more about Amy and the amazing business she has built by visiting HERE


AmyHeadshot2 copy.jpg

Born into an entrepreneurial family- both her parents, grandparents and great grandparents were self employed- owning a business just makes sense to Amy. Although being creative was not initially something she thought she thrived at, it has become a way of life for her and to this day she considers creating for Evy's Tree one of the best jobs she could ever have found herself doing. Amy's number one priority is her family, and in any free time she gets, she strives to spend it with them. Other interests include getting lost in a good book, cooking anything from Barefoot Contessa or Giada, watching movies with her husband, redecorating her house, and spending time with her friends and church family.

@amymiraflor / @evystree

see EVY'S TREE featured in issue 08 -- on the cover (the "Amy" shirt in polka dot) and business tips from Amy inside!

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Belong is privileged to have Amy and Evy's Tree as supporters and sponsors of ISSUE 08 and this blog post. We are beyond grateful. If you're interested in working with us, please send us an email to


made with mixbook / creativity for the win


made with mixbook / creativity for the win


When it comes to working with influencers, designers, and curators, Mixbook likes to think outside of the box. Our primary approach to partnerships focuses on finding creative ways to integrate our beautiful products with our partners’ beautiful content in a way that feels natural.

By focusing on compelling content first, we find that social communities engage, share and create more. Inspiring content should be authentic to both a brands voice and our partner’s too. This has helped us develop a formula that we’ve really seen take off.

What’s important to us is to establish relationships with passionate people we’ve met at events, online, and through other partner collaborations.

We aim to make collaborations not only fun, but truly inspiring—creating something people haven’t seen before.

With our line of beautifully designed photo books, stationery, and home decor, our partnerships have encouraged creative freedom. Our campaigns are based across two categories: featured designers and product collaborations.

When it comes to working with influencers, designers, and curators, Mixbook likes to think outside of the box. Our primary approach to partnerships focuses on finding creative ways to integrate our beautiful products with our partners’ beautiful content in a way that feels natural. By focusing on compelling content first, we find that social communities engage, share and create more. Inspiring content should be authentic to both a brands voice and our partner’s too. This has helped us develop a formula that we’ve really seen take off. What’s important to us is to establish relationships with passionate people we’ve met at events, online, and through other partner collaborations. We aim to make collaborations not only fun, but truly inspiring—creating something people haven’t seen before. With our line of beautifully designed photo books, stationery, and home decor, our partnerships have encouraged creative freedom. Our campaigns are based across two categories: featured designers and product collaborations.

Featured Designers /

Our designer partnerships have grown to be some of our most popular themes for books and cards. By teaming up with illustrators like Hello!Lucky, ceramists like Molly Hatch, and crafters like Amy Tangerine, we’ve expanded our selection of beautiful designs while driving growth for both our brand and the designer’s partners brand.


Amy is a powerhouse in the hand lettering and craft community. Naturally, her designs worked perfectly on custom Mixbook stationery. Her cards are top sellers on and we’ve furthered our partnership with her at local events, for custom hand lettered name tags.

Photo courtesy of Ann-Marie Espinoza

Photo courtesy of Ann-Marie Espinoza


DIYers are designers too! We fell in love with Rachel’s ability to DIY literally anything and make it eye candy. With her knack for bright colors and geometric shapes, we saw an opportunity for a photo book designed by her. You can really get a sense of her style through the two photo book themes she created. Paired with Mixbook’s ability to offer a quality photo product, customer’s enjoyed how this theme complemented their photos.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Hinderliter

Photo courtesy of Rachel Hinderliter


Bonnie has created beautiful fabric designs for quite some time. Pattern makers like herself have been great additions to our designer product line. She’s created stationery, photo book, and calendar themes inspired by her fabric patterns.


Anyone with a design eye can create with us. Even if you don’t illustrate or do graphic design yourself, our design team can work with you through curated mood boards taking an “inspired by” approach.



Product Collaborations /

Mixbook’s products have been influenced by a wide array of creators: DIY, home decor, family, and travel. As we mentioned earlier, we look for sponsored collaborations that create natural and inspiring content. Your baby’s birth announcements, your living room remodel, or your year-in-review photo book are all projects close to the heart. These are things that will resonate with not only influencers, but your fans and followers as well.


Jeran is a modern maker and the creator of Her focus is simple California living, designing and making livable spaces that incorporate vintage finds, handmade pieces and global inspiration. By partnering with Jeran, our home decor acrylic, poster, and canvas prints were incorporated into beautiful spaces that were attainable design goals for readers.

Photo courtesy of Jeran McConnel

Photo courtesy of Jeran McConnel


Molly has actually done both designer and product collaborations with us. Her most recent project was beautiful and personal. She crafted a totally custom birth announcement using our editor for her newborn baby boy, Arlo. A great example of authentic, creative and unique content.

Photo courtesy of Molly Madfis

Photo courtesy of Molly Madfis


A huge lover of books, Janssen’s blog often shares her favorite reads for both children and adults. Naturally, it was a great idea to create her own year-in-review picture book for her family. It was one of those projects always on the to-do list, but together we created something special.

Photo courtesy of Janssen Bradshaw

Photo courtesy of Janssen Bradshaw

Whenever we decide to partner with designers, influencers, or curators we are proud to say these are real relationships above all else. Together, our partnerships help to drive growth through engaging content that’s both creative and inspirational—something that’s true to our core. We believe there’s a meaningful photo project or design collaboration for all types of creators and we hope to be the brand that helps further creativity.

Ready to create together? Contact us directly at


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issue 08 / theme & contributors

journey / entrepreneurship from any age, stage or place. this is the theme of our eighth issue. 

This issue is over 100 satin-finished pages of business tips, inspiration and ways to connect with other women in various stages of the journey themselves. 

you don't have to do it alone! Join other women on the journey.




THE JOURNEY TO HAPPILY EVER AFTER / Jody Jean Dreyer with Stacy Windahl


FROM WORKING MOM TO BIZ MOM / Alma Garcia-Tuia, My Savvy Budget


INTROVERT-PRENEUR / Roniece Wright, The Introcreative




FROM BANKRUPTCY TO BLOGGER / Erin Odom, The Humble Homemaker

JOURNEY IN BUSINESS / Amy Miraflor, Evy's Tree




OLYMPIAN TO ENTREPRENEUR: Q &A / with Sanya Richards-Ross

LIMITLESS CREATIVITY / Mixbook featuring...

  • Bonnie Christine, Going Home to Roost
  • Haeley Giambalvo, Design Improvised
  • Erin Francios, Francios Et Moi
  • Jeran McConnel, Oleander and Palm
  • Amy Tangerine


CREATE & CULITVATE / ATL, with Brooke Saxon-Spencer

S.H.E. SUMMIT / Claudia Chan





HAND LETTERED QUOTE / Ilana Griffo, Sugar and Type

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The One Person You Can't Afford to Lose


The One Person You Can't Afford to Lose


The criticism came via text. And, like most criticism, when I least expected it.

With a casual glance at my phone screen, I anticipated the flash of a child’s name or my husband’s name. Instead, an acquaintance.

Then, the words. Long paragraphs of them. Painful words. Words stinging with accusation, disappointment, judgment. I looked at the screen stunned, confused. I didn’t understand the source. The words burned like poison as I swallowed them whole.

I felt sick.

Within seconds, I shook myself from my shock and jumped into action.

I need to fix this!

Without stopping to contemplate niggling questions and future consequences, my fingers flew over a miniature keyboard, typing apologies and explanations. I felt feverish, desperate to save the relationship at whatever cost.

the one person you can't afford to lose by Michele Cushatt as featured on the Belong Magazine blog - for women in business, creatives, lady bosses, entrepreneurs and more

Whether from my history as a nurse or my current profession small business owner and author, I knew what to do: Assess, diagnose, treat. My task was simple: To identify the needs of the person right in front of me, and then to work hard to meet those needs. That’s what I do. What I’ve always done. As long as I can remember.

Thus, for the following forty-eight hours, I texted and emailed, reassured and apologized. Again and again.

I didn’t want to lose this relationship. Couldn’t lose it.

It wasn’t until emotional exhaustion and sleepless nights slowed me enough that I stopped to think about what happened.

Wait. What was that all about?

The truth is, I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. Not a thing. And yet I reacted as someone guilty of a federal crime. Before I could stop to consider the facts, I assumed the position of the condemned, became a person I knew in my heart I wasn’t. I morphed into someone I didn’t recognize to save a relationship that was difficult at best, unhealthy and damaging at worst. And that fact left me equally devastated. And not a little bit angry.

Although scenarios vary, I’ve played a role in similar scenes throughout my life. Whether it’s a disappointed reader, a frustrated customer, or a disgruntled family member, I exhaust myself trying to preserve relationship regardless of the facts or cost. Many times my drive has absolutely nothing to do with any external expectations. Instead, I become a slave to my own perfectionism, busyness, need for achievement and affirmation.

This forces me to face a hard reality. My real full-time job isn’t writing books and speaking.

My real full-time job is proving I’m enough.

It’s important to note that, early on, this served me well. It made me a type-A workhorse who accomplished more than her share in a twenty-four-hour day. I started businesses, mothered six children, volunteered in my community. Like coal into diamonds, the intense pressure—from within and without—forged me into a woman of high-standards, excellent performance, and absolute dependability.

But it also forged something less attractive: Lostness.

A woman who didn’t know who she was anymore.

A chameleon skilled at adapting to her environment but who no longer felt at home in her own skin.

Although such a revelation is painful in the public realm, I find courage in this truth:

I’m not the only one.

Through my social media account, Facebook live videos and blog comments, I hear from scores of other women who feel extraordinary pressure to measure up. Even so, in spite of their effort and exhaustion, many believe they’re failing.

No one is satisfied; everyone is disappointed. Not the least of whom is herself.

The problem isn’t a desire to meet needs and serve those around us. The problem is thinking we must do that at the cost of ourselves.


Deep at our core—wired into our DNA by our Creator—is a desire to be loved, wanted, valued. It’s instinctual, a force that drives us whether or not we’re aware of it. Thus, we learned early on, to scan our environment to find the best way to get that kind of belonging. We decide what those around us need, and then we set out to become the kind of person who can make that happen.

We become experts at everyone else, and strangers to ourselves. When just the opposite is needed.

My friend, Cheri, recently told me,

“I began to be loved when I started being myself.”

Stunned, I sat with her words for a day or two, letting them sink deep into tissue and marrow, changing me from the inside out. I thought the only way to “close the deal” and find love was to be what everyone else wanted me to be. But what she was saying was just the opposite:

I first needed to get absolutely clear about who I am. Only then would I be able to offer anything to those around me.

The world needs YOU. Not some made-to-order offering. Not some replica of someone else or a stripped-down, department store dummy.


In all the serving and satisfying and loving those standing right in front of you, the real person you can’t afford to lose is yourself.  

I’m not talking about your talents or appearance, your roles or career or relationships.

YOU. The purest, truest you. The you that isn’t poisoned by criticism or puffed up with praise. The YOU that was present at your birth when you could do nothing but receive. And the YOU that will be present at your last breath, when all you can do is let go.

That’s the person you can’t afford to lose.

So how do you find her again? And how do you keep her from getting lost in all the busyness and achievement, criticism and success? Here are a few tips for staying grounded in who you are:

  1. SLOW DOWN / Breathe. You don’t need to always being doing something. Being works, too. Stop proving and striving and earning. Be you.
  2. OWN YOUR STORY / Like a narrator to a movie, catalogue the experience of your life. Write it down in a journal, diagram it on a timeline. Take a long, hard look at the experiences, circumstances and people that have crafted your narrative. You are the central character in that story. With both ruthless self-awareness and deep compassion, get to know her, walk alongside her, and understand how and why she’s become YOU.
  3. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR HUMANITY /  You are flawed. That’s part of the deal. Own it. Accept it. Apologize when appropriate. And move forward. It’s that hard. And that simple.
  4. INVEST IN YOUR INNER LIFE / This isn’t optional; it’s essential. Your emotions and spirituality are as much a part of you as your height and hair color. A life is built from the inside out, not the other way around. Pray. Meditate. Enlist the expertise of a counselor. Heal. Grow.
  5. CULTIVATE SAFE RELATIONSHIPS / No, your Facebook account doesn’t count. I’m talking about a small circle of trusted friends who know your most honest self—the good, bad and ugly—and choose to be in relationship with you. And you choose to be in relationship with them. These relationships are honest, reciprocal, and comfortable with both setting and respecting boundaries. And they are life-giving. Catholic priest Henri Nouwen described these friends as “holding a long line that girds your waist.” They can “pull you back when its members see that you are forgetting why you were sent out.”[1]

Remember, identity isn’t built. It’s received. No unexpected text message filled with painful criticism can take it away. That means, in spite of your doubts and questions, you are enough. Exactly as you are.  

want to read more from Michele?

Need a reminder of who you are? Download your FREE I Am Manifesto here, and discover you are not alone.

Earlier this year, Michele Cushatt released her second book, I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is  …And, starting October 2, she’ll be leading hundreds of women in an online conversation about identity and the only road to knowing who you really are. Grab a friend and join in! (Sign Up Here)

[1] Nouwen, Henri J. M. The Inner Voice of Love. Doubleday: New York. 1996, pg. 45-46.

Michele Cushatt has spoken internationally about identity and finding your truest self at both corporate and ministry events, including such notable venues as Women of Faith, Focus on the Family, and Compassion International. From 2014 to 2016, she cohosted the popular leadership podcast This Is Your Life With Michael Hyatt, including nearly 100 episodes and millions of downloads. Michele and her husband, Troy, live in Denver, Colorado with their six children, ages 10 to 24. Follow @MicheleCushatt on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Find out more about Michele’s incredible story at

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Practicing Self-Care to Become Self-Aware


As a health coach, I see many people going through their daily routines not truly knowing who they are or what they want.  Their decisions are being made based on their past or based on what society is telling them to do.  

The problem is not the past or society, the problem is we are a population that is EXTREMELY UNAWARE OF OURSELVES.  

We are completely wrapped up in being “normal” (whatever that is) and doing what we are “supposed” to do.  Our decisions are based on what everyone around us is doing and not based on what we truly want and need.

Part of the problem is we are caught up in being too busy that we rarely make time to just be by ourselves.  


How can we become more self-aware?  

practicing self-care to become self-care to become self-aware with Jess Mal as featured on the Belong Magazine blog - celebrating the art and community of blogging, social media and entrepreneurship for women in business and lady creatives

I believe that in order to become more aware of who you are and what you want is through SELF-CARE.


This is a hot topic in the health and wellness world right now, and I want to start off by saying your self-care does not have to be an hour-long, extravagant bubble bath or expensive massage.  

I’m going to give you some practical self-care activities that you can do at home and for as little as five minutes.  Take these activities seriously so your self-awareness increases and your choices start reflecting your true desires.

Journaling / 

We all have times where we get stuck in our own heads and can’t seem to gather our thoughts.  Instead of holding these thoughts in, write them in a daily journal.  I encourage you to take at least five minutes out of your morning and evening routine to write out what is going on in your mind.  Don’t hold anything back—simply let your pen flow and allow yourself to empty anything and everything you are feeling.

What you end up writing is truly eye-opening and brings awareness to your inner voice.  After a week of this, re-read your entries and see what keeps coming up.  Is there a theme or something you are always thinking about?  You might notice you continue to write about a business venture you want to start but are too scared to try.  You might continually write about the job you hate and how you want to find a way out.  You might even write about how you are feeling a lack of support from a friend, family member, or partner.

These thoughts that keep occurring will continue until you address the issue or take action.  

Listen to your intuition and where it is leading you.

Reading /

When is the last time you picked up a good book?  Reading a book can take your mind off of those daily stressors such as work deadlines, family issues, finances, etc.  We are a society that needs to come back to a place of peace, and an activity such as reading can do just that. Let yourself enjoy a fiction book or read a non-fiction book if that’s what you prefer.  

If you want to read a book that improves your self-awareness, I highly recommend reading one of these empowering books:

  • You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
  • The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein
  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

Set your alarm for ten or fifteen minutes earlier than normal and start your day by reading a chapter or two of your book.  If you aren’t an early bird, make time at night for reading.  I highly recommend reading a chapter before calling it a night—this will ease your mind and improve your sleep quality.  

Meditating /

The first thing I do in the morning is meditate for at least 5 minutes.  Some mornings, I meditate for longer if I am really struggling with letting go of something or if I am stressed to the max (I’m Type A, so I tend to put a lot on my plate).  

Choose a time when meditating will work for you.  You can choose to meditate first thing in the morning or it could be the first thing you do when you get home from work.  Some people also enjoy meditating right before bed so their sleep quality improves.

When you meditate, set a timer for at least 2 minutes and only focus on your breathe.  Let your mind go still.  When a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it, accept it and let it go.  You might not enjoy meditating in complete silence, so I recommend the following music options.  This first option will help you become more centered and connected to your higher power.  If you are seeking for a more creative vision and want to tap into where you are being called, I recommend this meditation.  

Meditate with either of these options for as long as you’d like and write out the visions you received.  Re-read your visions and notice what the Universe continues to send you through these meditations.

Saying No /

Do you ever feel overwhelmed or feel like you never have time to get anything done?  


Oftentimes, we say yes because we want to please people and do not want to rude.  I have great news for you—you can say no and still be a nice person.  If the person you said no to chooses to view it as rude or selfish, that is out of your control.  You know the reasons behind your “no”, and that is all that matters.

I want you to start saying "no" to activities that no longer serve you or do not align with who you are.  

This step might take longer to figure out because this requires a great amount of self-awareness.  Saying no will feel uncomfortable at first, but it is a crucial step to making more time for yourself and the activities you enjoy.



Try one of these self-care activities today and notice how it feels to make time for yourself.  Note how you felt before your journaling, reading or meditation session and then notice how you feel afterwards.  Incorporate the activity that you feel the most connected to, start listening to your inner voice and live your life according to your true self.

Jess is a Certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® and owns a health coaching business where she focuses on helping people establish self-care habits that lead to a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.  Her coaching programs start with a focus on food freedom and understanding the individuality of our bodies.  Once her clients reach a place of contentment with their food choices, she focuses on other areas of their lives that provide nourishment.  Self-care and self-awareness are Jess’s passions and she enjoys standing alongside people as they journey toward a life of love and peace.  Website | Instagram | TwitterFacebook 

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i always wanted to be a cover model


i always wanted to be a cover model

Do you know who that is hiding behind that beautiful bouquet of flowers? Yep! 

that's me!

No, I didn't really always want to be a cover model. But, it was kind of fun.

As the theme is "JOURNEY", it seemed to encompass my story--all of our stories, really. But as Belong is my journey, having a presence on the cover seemed like just the right fit. 

and the photographer?

That would be my incredible husband, Caleb. We actually met in the darkroom in college (back when there was actual film for cameras!) as we both were studying photography. But that's a story for another day (wink wink).

other cover details of interest...

  • Our cover shoot location was the glamorous backyard of my house--right next to the sandbox and standing on a step stool boosted with other mags.
  • The shirt that I'm wearing is from Evy's Tree who has a feature in this issue and is also a sponsor. I now own four of their button-ups and wear them all the time.
  • The bouquet is compliments of BloomThat. Their "brand guru" is sharing all the dirt on the branding journey in this issue. If you need to send flowers--this is THE place to turn to!
  • The bouquet paper wrap was a little project that I had fun with--I tried several different patterns, but ultimately chose the circles as they resembles the "O" in our logo. 
  • I really wanted a shot where you could see my "be still" tattoo on my right wrist, but it just looked awkward so we nixed it. 
  • Yes, I always wear my hair up in a bun. Always.
  • We took the shot with both a white background and a green background. The white was safe and soft and very insta-worthy, but the green just screamed at me. After consulting with FB friends who encouraged me to "go bold", I ended up choosing the green. I hope you love it as much as I do.

There is so much more to come!

We will be revealing the contributors and content soon, and pre-orders for ISSUE 08 will be opening up along with some other great surprises. 

To stay in the loop with everything that we've got coming, be sure that you are an email subscriber. 

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Why Being Scared Can Be Good for Your Business


Why Being Scared Can Be Good for Your Business


Growing up, I was scared to death of dogs. It didn’t matter if the dogs were large, small, a stray on the street, on a leash, or even a dog that belonged to family and friends.

It was during my college years that I started to slowly overcome this fear. It was five years after the very beginning of this (unofficial) process that I became a dog owner! Yes, the girl who couldn’t stand to be in the same city block as a dog for the last 20+ years, became a dog owner.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I was totally over my fear of dogs (I’m not) when we adopted Morgan. It was a big risk for us to take, not knowing how it would work out. The end result? I’m obsessed with my dog. (And, I’m pretty sure I’m Morgan’s favorite.)

So, what does my dog adoption have to do with business? Everything.

Because, sometimes… YOU JUST HAVE TO DO IT SCARED. And, I’m going to give you two reasons why!

why bing scared can be good for your business with jessica freeman of jess creatives as featured on the Belong Magazine blog - celebrating the art and community of blogging, social media and entrepreneurship for women in business and female creatives

1. It will only get more difficult.

There is psychological research that shows, when you avoid things – it only gets more difficult each time you think about doing it. (It’s called avoidance coping, if you want to do more in-depth research on it.)

If you’re like me, I was terrified of being on video and starting a YouTube channel. I just kept thinking about it for a few months, while friends kept encouraging me to start, and I knew deep down it would be so good for my business.

Every time I thought about doing video, negative thoughts would run on repeat in my mind – I look funny, people will think I’m weird, what if I say something wrong, etc.

The only way to “beat” this avoidance coping behavior?

FIRST, YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS. Replace these false (and unconfirmed) beliefs with positive statements that are accurate. “So what if I say something wrong? I’m putting myself out there, I’m trying my best, and no one is perfect.”

Once you’ve started doing this, there’s only one other step – JUST DO IT.

2. It can inspire more creativity.

When you try something new, and you realize that you enjoy it, or that it’s successful – you’re going to enjoy your days more, feel more creative, and be more likely to try even more things.

After a few months of doing videos, I felt inspired to start a podcast. After a few months of doing that and connecting with people, I felt inspired to put on an in-person event.

Okay, but what about if _________ fails? Not sure I’ll be feeling so inspired.

Don’t worry – I’ve experienced failures and total flops, too. Yes, there is an initial period of frustration, embarrassment, and wanting to hide in a hole for a few months.


For example, last year, I launched an online course – and it totally flopped. I was so frustrated because I had spent months and months working on the course. For nothing. Everyone else was successfully doing courses, why didn’t mine work?

I learned a lot from that situation about launching, marketing, my audience, and myself. I got caught up in what ‘everyone else’ was doing. I realized (or remembered) that I value more one-on-one work, and actually connecting with people. It’s much easier to connect with people who work with you one-on-one or in smaller groups! Without this realization, I may not have ever had the idea to create an in-person event.


I’m not sure who originally said that line, but I remind myself of it constantly. Before I started my YouTube channel, I kept wondering, what if this was the thing that helped me take my business to the next level? Thankfully, I followed my gut, and have seen the impact that doing something new, even when scared, has had on my business.

Jessica Freeman is an award-winning graphic and web designer, helping service-based entrepreneurs create a brand that shines through every level of their business. Outside of designing, she also loves producing for her YouTube channel and podcast. Jess lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband, Aaron.

Find her HERE.

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How to Build a Brand by Being Unapologetically YOU


How to Build a Brand by Being Unapologetically YOU


Starting a business, and sustaining that business, is no joke.

We are living in a time where starting your own business is almost trendy. Everyone seems to be doing it. And as a result the market is oversaturated. Almost anyone can whip out their vinyl cutting machine and make a shirt or a mug. All over the internet you can see people offering their different types of services.


how to build a brand by being unapologetically you with Nicke Minder of @page261 as featured on the Belong Magazine blog - celebrating the art and community of blogging, social media, and entrepreneurship for women in business, creatives, and beyond

After spending much of my life, and the first few years of my business, trying to make everyone happy by doing ALL the things I’ve come to realize that this is the first way to fail in life and in business.

It’s impossible to make EVERYONE happy and it’s a surefire way to be miserable yourself.

Sitting down to reflect on what I wanted for my business was eye opening. What I realized during that sit down was that I wanted to be ME. I wanted to be sarcastic. I wanted to share my wins and fails honestly and openly. I wanted to CONNECT. I wanted it to be so much more than slapping some designs down and calling it a day. I wanted the people who showed up for me daily to know they were appreciated. And from that day forward I did just that. In life. In business. With no apologies.  And I finally saw my brand grow in all the ways had wanted from day one.

Maybe you too are starting a business and aren’t sure what the next steps are. Maybe you feel like you SHOULD be doing this or that, but it doesn’t feel quite right. At your core you know what you want to do or need to do but the social media comparison game is paralyzing you with fear. “No one will like me if I do (fill in the blank).” “This big biz is doing it this way so I should too.” “I will finally make it if I do (this thing).” I’m fairly certain we have all thought those things or something similar!

Let’s stop that nonsense right now and focus on the things we love about ourselves that will also help our business grow.

What makes you, "you"?

One of the first things I did when I decided my brand (and my life) needed a huge overhaul was to sit down and list all of things I loved (and didn’t love!) about myself. What were the things that make me click? What are the things people think of when they think of me as a person? What are my core values? My beliefs?

My list looked something like: I’m sarcastic. I’m fiercely loyal. I mess up a lot but I also admit it. I’m pretty funny. I’m probably too intense. I love the color black. I believe in kindness. I believe in honesty. I care more about the people that show up for me everyday than I do about any number count on any platform. I love connecting and empowering women, especially mothers. I love creating community. These are things I will not compromise in order to grow my business.

Once I was super clear on who I was and how I wanted that to reflect in my business it was easy to begin building a strong brand. What would your list look like? How can you get super clear on who you are so you can begin building  a brand that reflects YOU? What are you going to put out there that makes people trust you and connect to you?

What about you can make your brand unique? 

Once my list was made I began focusing on ways I can use ME to make my brand unique. My love of the color black, my toddler fighting me about wearing pants everyday, my sarcasm, my humor….all of those things make me ME and as a result they make my brand strong.

People connect with and recognize my brand because it’s real. It’s consistent.

They trust me to be truthful. Yes, I’m running a product business but I’m also showing them my true self in the process. I’m creating connection by living out my values and cultivating community online.


Maybe you have a strong love for movie quotes. Use those quotes to create social media graphics that relate to your business. Maybe your love for cats runs deep. How can you use that to make connections to your buyers? When you remain true to yourself those qualities will eventually shine through in your brand and people will start to take notice!


Once I made my list, I had to get real clear on the fact that I wasn’t going to be for everyone. Not every single person was going to appreciate my sarcasm, my honesty, and my personality that shows through my designs. Not everyone was going to flock to my Instagram and hit follow. And I had to be ok with that. And you will have to be ok with that too! (It gets easier, promise)

And while I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I am, in fact, lots of people’s cup of tea. I show up everyday for the people that show up for me everyday. There are days where the sales are slow but in that time I’m still creating community, building trust, and cultivating relationships. And when the time comes for someone to buy a mug or a gift, chances are they will think of me, because I’ve given them the space they need to trust my brand by getting to know me.

What are you creating besides your product or service that keeps people coming back for more? How are you allowing them to know the real YOU and the WHY behind your business?

When you are true to yourself, you are happy. When you are happy, your brand will shine. It takes work. It takes consistency. It takes knowing what you are willing to compromise on and where you draw the line. But you can build a brand you are proud of, that people take notice of, and a brand they trust…

and you can do it being absolutely, unapologetically YOU.

Nicke (owner of page261) is a monochrome loving, minivan driving mama of 3, using the craziness of life to design mugs and apparel that help you make bold statements! As the founder of the No Shame In My Mom Game Movement, she has cultivated an online community for women to have a safe place to land, feel empowered & know they are understood without any judgement. Through laughter, tears, and a no BS attitude she keeps it real when life seems anything but. Both the No Shame In My Mom Game and Minivan Mafia designs have been featured on HuffPost Parents. If you want to learn more about how she forces her toddler to wear pants & empowers moms all over the world head over to Facebook and join “page261 peeps”!


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