What’s Going On Around Here – Random Updates!

So on Tuesday I wrote a whole post, outlining the process I’m going through to take my business to the next level. And while I was writing it, it started taking on a life of its own–it was forming into a little e-course of sorts! What? I never planned for that! But as I wrote and wrote it became clearer and clearer how great of an idea this was!

It would be different than any e-course I’ve seen because I am not a self-proclaimed expert or guru. I’m a student, just like you. I’d be learning along with you and sharing my notes. We’d be study buddies!

So I got super excited and my brain started spinning. I wrote and rewrote and started and started over and started over again.

Then I took a step back. Because this idea was getting away from me. And I tend to jump into things without a clear plan or a real direction. And while there’s something to be said for lovely spontaneity, if this e-course of sorts is going to be any use to any one at all, I think it should be real. It should be planned and thoughtful.

So here’s what I’m doing instead. I am letting you in on the behind-the-scenes reality of crafting an e-course. I’m going to spend some time working on my business. Making it better and bigger and more authentic. I’m going to let you know what I’m doing and how it’s going. Where I’m struggling and where I’m soaring. And as I go, I’ll be crafting lessons and organizing them so that I can launch something real and useful for you.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

Also, over the last few weeks it’s become clear to me that I really have two different blogs here. I have my “mompreneur monday” thing and I have my wedding stuff. (Which I’ve been neglecting! Sorry!) And while they’re both part of ME, I feel like blogging about both of them in the same place feels disconnected and weird. I want my blog to be cohesive and feel natural. So it’s time for a change! Are you ready?

I am moving all wedding- and product-related posts to my website blog. The blog is not beautiful, but it is functional. And it makes more sense to me to bring brides to that site. (Head’s up, there are two posts on there and they’re old!)

Then this blog, will be more of a passion project. Just a behind-the-scenes look at my business and life. What I’m making, what I’m working on in business and at home. My thoughts on mompreneurship. (So pretty much what it already is, plus a little more “lifestyle” stuff.)

I already know I’m crazy to think about taking on two blogs. But really I feel like this is a way to let go a little. I’ve been dropping the ball on “Wedding Wednesdays” and now I have permission to drop that ball completely and just pick it up again from time to time on my website. I also feel like this move gives me permission to blog and talk more freely and transparently on this blog because I’m no longer thinking about it as part of Fresh Paper. It’s just a part of Emily. Connected to Fresh Paper? Of course! But not a part of it.

Essentially, the Fresh Paper Blog will be geared toward customers (and potential customers) and this blog will be geared toward creative people who run or want to run their own businesses. And people who just want to read about what I’m up to because they think I’m so awesome.

Which brings me to a big big question! I don’t know what to call this blog! Now that I have a new focus, I really need a new name. (Well and let’s face it, I need a real domain name.) I want something short and sweet and easy to remember. Cute and clever and fresh. It’s more about me, so do I give it my name, or is that too self-involved? I’m stuck! So I’d love your help! If you have an idea (even if you don’t think it’s a good one!) I’d love to hear it. Comment below!

I can’t wait to take the next step of this journey with  you!
Emily

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Mompreneur Monday – What’s Happening in April?

Wow, so it’s after 5 on Monday and I’m just now sitting down to write my Mompreneur Monday post. Things have felt a little scattered lately, but not in the classic overwhelmed way–more in a new-things-are-brewing-and-I’m-just-too-excited-about-too-much way! So a bunch of different ideas for posts have been rattling around in my brain and I just couldn’t stop and focus on one tonight. Instead, here’s a mash up of the exciting mompreneur things I’m thinking about for this upcoming month!

The E Myth Revisited

What I’m ReadingThe E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I told you guys last week about how inspired I was by Jess Lively. Well then she went ahead and outdid herself. In one of her email newsletters, she asked readers to write back and ask any question they want. So I did. And she wrote back! And suggested I read The E-Myth Revisited to help get some extra systems in place in my business to feel a little less overwhelmed by it. At first glance, I wouldn’t have thought this would be a book for me. But wow. Wow. I’m only halfway through, but I can already tell this book is going to change my business and my life. I am not a person who likes to hear that I’m doing something wrong. But Gerber’s style, charisma, experience, and real-life examples are captivating. I never thought I’d be eager to listen to someone tell me I’m doing everything wrong, but I love it! I’m staying up way too late reading every night. So if you’re in a spot where you feel like you’re working too much, or you feel like you can’t separate your business from yourself, or you feel like you’re managing your business on a combination of luck and coffee–this book is for you!

What I’m Focusing On At Home – Cleaning and Organizing! This is something that’s always on my list. But this month it is my main focus. My only focus. Sure, I’ll continue doing great work and aim to be a present wife and mother, but getting my home and office organized will help ALL the areas of my life. Work will flow smoother, Olivia will have more room to play safely, and it will create a space of calm and beauty for the whole family. Plus my birthday’s coming up! So it would be awesome if the house was in order and we could actually have people over to celebrate.

I had a lovely conversation with a lovely mama last week about her new Etsy shop, and afterward she offered some tips for organizing. I told her the trap I fall into is that I’ll clear one surface (my desk or my work table usually) but then it really just shifts stuff to another surface. And then I lose steam and don’t move onto the other surfaces and stuff comes back on to the clean surface. She suggested thinking about steps in a different way. Instead of focusing on one surface, focus on one “layer” if you will. Like all the recycling. Or deal with all of the envelopes.

So today I started! My first goal is to get all of the garbage and recycling out of the house. Garbage isn’t a huge problem in the office, but the recycling! I’m in the paper biz! And since it doesn’t smell bad, it’s so easy to fill a box and let it sit and then just start another box. Today I emptied the boxes. And gathered random paper scraps off tables. And picked things up off the floor. And I got it out. First I just set a timer for 10 minutes and gave myself permission to do only that much. It went by quickly so I did another 10. Then took an instagram break. Then did 25 more minutes! And I’m still not finished (told you–a lot of recycling) so I’ll plug away more at it tomorrow! On this one, I didn’t take before pictures–too embarrassing! But some before and after pictures may be in store for other phases.

New Designs – I’m committing to at least 3 new wedding designs this month! Now that I’ve said it on here and know you’ll be expecting to see them, I have to do it, right? I’m focusing on keeping things fresh, modern, unique, and quirky, with a focus on fun typography and bold colors.

Business Stuff – I’m starting a newsletter! I’m a little nervous, but totally excited about it! I’d be honored if you feel like welcoming me into your inbox once a month! (And then I’ll come back and recap about what I learn about the whole process! You know me.) Sign up for free fresh tips and new product releases right here!

And I think that’s enough for one girl for one month, don’t you think? What about you? What’s on your agenda this April? Comment below!

3 Ways to Say No Without Saying “No.”

I think at some point in our lives as mompreneurs, we all find ourselves saying “yes” to things when we really should be saying “no.” This is something I struggled with long before becoming an entrepreneur or a mom. I’m a Yes person. I enjoy helping people, I feel honored to be asked to do things, I hate missing out, and I love feeling like I did something that makes someone happy. But too often I find myself saying “yes” to too much. I over-commit, over-promise, and over-extend myself, which really doesn’t do anybody any favors. As my plate has gotten fuller with a growing business and a growing toddler, the room left to say “yes” to things has gotten much smaller and I’m having to learn how to say no. I can’t say “yes” to everything and do a good job at it all. So I’m learning how to carefully choose what I can (and want to) commit to and let go of the rest.

A big part of the whole “no” issue for me is that I feel guilty. The moment someone asks if I can do something, I feel like I’m letting them down if I can’t. I want to be a problem solver, and saying “no” feels like I’m leaving them in the lurch. But this doesn’t have to be the case! These are my three go-to answers when I want to say “yes,” but have to say “no.”

1. “Not now, but later.” Sometimes the request is for something I really want to do, but the timing’s just off. I really really do want to go to happy hour and catch up on gossip–but my family needs me more this week. I really really do want to attend every play group–but I have to complete my invitation orders instead. I really really do want to help you with your new logo, but I can’t devote the time until after wedding season. So the “not now, but later” response helps ease that fear of missing out. I’m not saying, “I’m too busy for you,” I’m just saying, “This week is really busy, next week would be better.” The tricky (but important) part is finding the time that does work. Sometimes a whole month is just crazy and I have to say, “Gosh, I am booked all month, which is insane! But I really want to see you, so let’s plan on getting drinks the first week of April.” Whether you have to say no for the week, the month, or even the whole season, pick a time that does work and communicate that. If you can’t find a time that works–then it’s probably not something you really want to say yes to.

2. “Not me, but her.” One of the greatest blessings of attending Stationery Academy is that I met two dozen incredibly talented designers that I get to call friends. People have asked me, “But aren’t you all in competition with one another?” and I can honestly say, “Not at all!” We all have unique styles and our own areas of expertise and it’s fabulous. One of my struggles as a designer is that I’ve tried to be everything to everybody. When someone asks, “Have you ever done ___?” my answer was always, “I haven’t, but I can!” I guess I was afraid to ever turn down any orders. Well as my brilliant friend Natalie Chang put it, “Just because you know how to do something, doesn’t mean you should.” I can’t be everything to everybody and still be true to myself. And–news flash–I’m not the solution to every problem! So sure, I can design whatever it is you’re asking about, but that doesn’t mean I’m the best person for the job. I’ve found that when I say “yes” to jobs that aren’t my specialty, I spend way more time than I should on them and the client doesn’t get the absolute best design she possibly could. That sounds like a lose-lose to me. Now that I know so many great stationers, I can say, “You know, I’d absolutely love to work with you, and while I’d hate to turn you away, I know that I can’t do as great a job on that as you deserve. But I know just the girl for you! My friend specializes in exactly that style and she’ll take great care of you!” At first it felt weird to turn down orders, but it really is the best solution for everyone. My time is freed up to work on what I love working on, the client gets a better product working with someone who specializes in that style, and a friend gets a job that they enjoy!

3. “Not this, but that.” Sometimes I receive inquiries for products I used to offer, but have discontinued. It’s always hard to say, “You know, I don’t offer that anymore.” Again, it’s something I can do, something I used to do, and I hate to let people down. But I have to remind myself why I stopped carrying those items and stick with my decision. (Usually because they took more time than they were worth or because I couldn’t get the quality as perfect as I wanted.) So I’ve tried this strategy: instead of just saying no, I say, “Gosh, I’m no longer able to offer that. However, I do offer this!” and point them toward a similar, but better product. And they often say “Yes!” Usually more excited about the new product than the old one. Another win-win in my book. The customer gets what they need and want, and I feel good about working on it because it’s a product or design that I’m proud of.

So these examples are pretty specific to my life and line of work, but I think they really apply to almost anything! If you need to say no, but feel guilty or don’t want to miss out, rry out one of these strategies: pick a later date, refer a friend, or offer a different option that you wouldn’t mind saying “yes” to!

I want to hear from you! Comment below and let me know what you’ve been afraid to say “no” to. What can you say instead of “yes” that will be a win-win?

Mompreneur Monday – On Fear and Failing

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Happy Mompreneur Monday everyone! Let’s start this off with a bang. By talking about the Big Fs. Fear and Failing.

I was humbled and overwhelmed (in a good way) by your positive response to this whole Mompreneur Monday idea. And as I listened to my friends and read the comments on facebook and on my last post, it became pretty clear that the biggest thing holding us back from starting our dreams is fear. And more specifically, fear of failing.

Olivia and I were building the tallest tower the other day. Our goal is to build a tower from the floor to the ceiling. And we’ve come really close, but it keeps falling. So the other day, we were building and building and without warning, it toppled over. I was disappointed. Frustrated that our hard work was sitting in a pile of rubble in front of us. Pondering the physics of these stupid blocks that will probably never reach the ceiling. But then I looked at Olivia. And she wasn’t disappointed or frustrated or sad or angry. She was laughing.

“We’ll build it again! And it will fall again.”

Oh. Good point. “Have you been reading Seth Godin?” I said. (To which she laughed again and said, “No Mommy! I been building blocks!” Silly me.) How could this kid who’s only been stringing sentences together for a few months be so damn wise? We will build our tower again. And it will fall again. And then we’ll build it again! And each time, we’ll learn about what in our structure is failing. And we’ll try something new and get closer to the ceiling. And that’s pretty much how everything in life is. We will try something. And we will fail. And we will try again, but this time smarter. And we’ll fail again. And do better next time.

We can’t really avoid failure. Well we can, but it involves avoiding life and never trying, and having lived that life before I can tell you–it’s not worth it. It’s boring and sad and it doesn’t really make the fear go away (in fact, I think it magnifies it.) So the point is not to avoid the impending failure, but rather to accept it. To try anyway. To see how close you can get to success before your tower tumbles. To embrace the joy as you’re building. To pay attention to what you learn as it’s falling.

When I saw this quote all over Instagram this morning, I really didn’t want re-use it. I wanted to find another quote, or do no quote at all, or write a whole post about diversity and acceptance, or something. But this idea of embracing failure and moving forward anyway has been on my heart and on my mind all week and this is the post that I knew I needed to write today. And this is just the most fitting quote ever, so I’m going with it.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So there is your task for today. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in your dream. Be childlike in your journey. Know that you are going to fail and take the first step anyway. You don’t have to take all the steps now, just one. Buy that domain name even if you’re afraid your website will fail. Bake a batch of treats even if you’re afraid no one will taste them. Sketch your next dress design even if you’re afraid no one will wear it. List your first card on Etsy, even if you’re afraid no one will buy it. Write a blog post even if you’re afraid no one will read it. Put the next block on the tower, even if you’re afraid it will fall. It will fall. And you will build it again.

Calling All Mom-preneurs!

work at home mom fresh paper studios

I’ve always been a dreamer. As a kid I pretty much lived in my imagination–I had a thousand career ambitions (ok, still do). Artist, princess, spy, astronaut, actress, teacher, and author all seemed equally attainable and simultaneously possible. To a four-year-old, the future is vast and one can hold as many careers as she wants.

So dreams, dreams are not new to me. Living dreams? I’m a fan! For most of my childhood I dreamed of being a teacher. (And a princess spy, but mostly a teacher.) So when I grew up, I became one! And that was super rad. I was living the dream.

Then it was time to realize some of my other dreams–to be a mommy, to own a business, to create and design things–I went for it. I like living dreams.

But there’s a dream I’ve had for a couple years now and I haven’t been working toward it much. I have a dream of helping other moms live their dreams. On my mellow days I just dream of writing helpful blog posts, maybe even a little magazine article. On my wild days I dream of hosting conferences for mom-preneurs and raising up a generation of powerful women who juggle babies and businesses. I dream of book tours. I dream about what I’ll wear for my appearance on The Today Show.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to change careers. I love design, I love working with people embarking on new adventures in their lives, I love running a business. It’s just that I love it so much, I want to help other people find what they love and do it too!

I meet a lot of moms who have great ideas and they haven’t implemented them because they’re scared. Or they work outside the home and they want to be home more, but they don’t want to leave the security. Or they’re stay at home moms and they want to find a way to pursue their passions, but they haven’t found the time. I feel like I can be a cheerleader for these women. A listening ear. A friend. Maybe even a guide. I also want to start conversations–maybe even a community–of people who are in the same boat. Juggling entrepreneurship and motherhood.

I’ve had this idea for Mom-preneur Mondays for a while. Kind of a long while. So… why haven’t I started? I guess I’ve been scared! I’m really not one to shy away from dreams. Or at least I didn’t think I was. Then I read this little gem by my friend Beth. When I first read it, I thought only about Fresh Paper and the things I want to do with it. What I envision for the company, what I might have to let go of to make those visions reality. Yeah, it can be scary stuff!

Then after a few days of thinking on it, I realized… there are a lot of dreams I haven’t pursued! And why not? I like to say it’s because I don’t have time, but we just talked about that. If I really didn’t have time, I also wouldn’t have time for facebook. And instagram. And Project Runway Allstars. Somehow I’ve found plenty of time for those things, so why am I choosing them over actionable steps toward pursing my dreams?

Maybe I’m afraid.

I mean who am I to be doling out advice? To be coaching or mentoring? What makes me so special? I’m no guru, no expert. I’m not doing it all right. In fact, I think that I’m doing it completely wrong about 87% of the time. So who am I to have this dream?

Well screw that! Who am I not to pursue this dream?! Or any dream? If a friend of mine said to me, “Hey Em, I have this dream of helping other moms start businesses, what do you think?” Would I say, “Wellllll, can I see your resumé?” Of course not! I’d say “Go for it girl! How can I help?”

So I’m going for it. Consider this the first Mom-preneur Monday. With no real advice other than… have a dream? Go for it. (Kind of a theme with me lately.)

And since I’m going to go for it, I need your help. I need to know what you want to know. What questions do you have? As moms, as entrepreneurs, as moms who are entrepreneurs, as people who are just in the beginning stages of thinking about starting a business… what do you wonder? What do you struggle with? What do you want to talk about? Leave a comment below!

*Just as a side note, I’m not trying to exclude anyone. Not dads, not moms who are not entrepreneurs, not entrepreneurs who are not parents! I’d love to open this conversation to everyone as I think we all have things to contribute!

It’s November Already! 6 month goals start now!

Wow, where did October go? Heck, where did the rest of 2013 go?!  We are in fall full-force here in Portland–cold mornings, lots of rain, gorgeous bright leaves (Olivia loves to point them out when we’re in the car. “I see leaves! Red, brown, ye-woah, orn-age, green!” Cutest ever.) After a long stretch of amazing weather, it’s time for me to go shopping for rain boots.

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So the other day I was moping about feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything in October. Then I looked at my october post and… I accomplished EVERYTHING! Wow! I worked through my power sheets, I revamped my site (I’ll give you a tour this month!) and I launched my menu planner note pads! Hooray!

So this month–I’m doing more! This is my first real month putting my Lara Casey Power Sheets into action! It took me all month to really figure out my goals and why I’m making these goals and breaking them down into action steps. Not that I can even say I’m “done” with that. Goals are evolving. I was so excited to sit down on November first and fill out my first “tending list!” Talk about hard work! Thinking about my goals, figuring out how I was going to work on them daily, weekly, and monthly, it required some serious self-reflection. I’m really happy with my plan so far, though! And I left a few blank spaces to add action items as I think of them this month.

lara casey power sheets fresh paper studios

What’s in store for me this November, you ask? Lots! Both professionally and personally.

I’m going to go ahead and put it all out there. Here are my goals for the next 6 months along with what I’m specifically taking action on in November:

1. Nurture my marriage – It is important to me to show our kids a strong example of what love looks like. And it’s just important to me to show great love! I’m committing to date nights and love notes in November!

2. Be a present and playful mother – This is something that’s really been on my heart for months. It probably deserves it’s own post. In short, I just need constant reminders that the whole reason I quit my job as a teacher and started my stationery business was to be home with Olivia and enjoy her childhood. So being present and playful instead of consumed by busy-ness and work is a huge goal for me. My action steps for November include weekly play dates and fun projects. We’ve also started having spontaneous dance parties, which was an unexpected little joy initiated by my little rockstar. My big big super challenging goal for myself is to look at my phone less. A lot less. Less facebook, less instagram, less checking emails. Just less phone, more family. Simple. (Simple, but HARD!)

3. Build a bright, bold, and beautiful brand that reflects my authentic self – my number one take-away from Stationery Academy was that I need to stay true to myself and my personal design aesthetic. One thing I loved about my middle-school self was that I wasn’t trendy. I actually couldn’t afford to be trendy, so I didn’t have much of a choice. But that forced me to find my own sense of style. I wore the craziest outfits and people totally made fun of me for them. It hurt at the time, but looking back I’m so glad I stayed true to myself. I was just ahead of my time. I was cutting edge and creative. I’d choose that over being a bully in Gap jeans any day. Fast forward a couple years (decades) and I’m realizing my brand could use a big dose of Emm. (Yeah. I went by that for a few years. People from my middle school still don’t realize that there’s not really an extra m in my name. But in a class of 7 Emilys I had to set myself apart!) When I look at my invites that don’t sell well it’s because none of them are me. They’re trendy or they’re standard or they’re comfortable. The invites that get noticed are the ones that are different, clever, unique. The ones I designed when I was just playing around with fun ideas and being me. So this month I’m making a serious effort to weed out the boring and inject some serious fun into my shop. Stay tuned for some brand new designs and some “redesigned” looks!

4. Get physically strong and nourish my body with healthy food – There was a time in my life when I was fit. And now I’m not. So… time to do something about that! I like feeling strong and healthy. I have more energy when I exercise and eat good food. I am great at jumping in to serious changes. I am terrible at sticking with them. So I’m trying a different approach–one small change at a time. This month: I’m aiming for yoga 5 days a week and I’m using my menu planner to plan healthy meals and keep the fridge stocked with produce.

5. Explore photography as a hobby – I don’t have a hobby! And I want one. I’m choosing photography because it’s something that’s always been really interesting to me and something I would never want to do professionally! (I admire and respect photographers and am so envious of their talent!) Since I have some other huge business needs that are taking priority in my budget right now, I’m putting off my goal of buying a new camera until December or January. So for November I’m going to play with and practice using my current (point and shoot) camera and my iphone. I’m also going to start researching cameras so I can pick one when I have the money!

6. Be a good friend – I love my friends! Friendships are something I need in my life to feel fulfilled. So this month I’m going to start writing letters (snail mail letters with postage stamps! Good thing I know where to get stationery.) I’m also reinstating a Christmas celebration I used to do with my high school friends! Should be super fun.

7. Organize my home and life – This is always on my list. I am not an organized person by nature, even though I love planners and organizers and clear boxes with colored lids and label makers and and and… I think I just love that stuff because I want to be organized. I dream of an organized life. I actually live a clothes on the floor, papers all over my desk, where’s Olivia’s left shoe? kind of life. Home organization is a source of major overwhelm for me, so I’m really trying to just take this step by step. I’m only focusing on the kitchen this month–and if I manage to get the kitchen organized before the end of the month I’ll start on the bedroom. Even if all I manage to get a handle on is the daily dishes, though, I’ll be giving myself 17 gold stars.

8. Streamline my business – along with not being organized… this doesn’t stop at my laundry habits. I desperately need to organize my business. Physically, I need to organize my office so things are easier to find and I can work freely without being buried by a pile of paper scraps. I also need to start writing down and streamlining my processes. Someday I would like to grow this business beyond my in-home studio. And if I’m ever going to bring anyone else into this business, it’s going to need to be easy to explain how things work. My first step is just writing down my current processes as they currently are. I’m thinking I’ll make a binder–a “Fresh Paper Manual” of sorts. Should be interesting! I’ll keep you updated.

9. Inspire other women–especially other moms–to pursue their dreams and make them happen – this is something that’s important to me at my very core. 5 years ago I could have never imagined that I’d be doing anything other than teaching. It was a job I loved and was good at and made me feel fulfilled. Then I wanted a baby. And my priorities changed. It was scary to leave my job–my secure job with a steady paycheck and health insurance and sick days and summer vacation and a retirement plan–but I haven’t regretted it for a second! I meet a lot of moms with great ideas and they’re scared to put themselves out there. I really feel called to share my story and what has worked and what hasn’t and help other moms  figure out what they want to do and then make it happen! So for this month, my goal is to blog about it. At least one post this month will be geared toward other mom-preneurs. I’d like to make that a weekly thing eventually and then branch out from there!

10. Nurture myself and my soul – This is always something I put very last. And what happens? I run myself ragged and I get overwhelmed and exhausted. I’m becoming more and more aware that the thinner I spread myself and the more frazzled I become, the less effective I am as a human being. I can’t do my best as a mom, a wife, or a designer if I’m stressed out and panicked and tired all the time. So I’m scheduling massages, picking out a book to read for fun, and giving myself 15 minutes of “me time” everyday! Everyone says it, but it’s hard to really put it into practice. Well I’m trying to do it for reals. Nurture myself so I can nurture others.

I’m excited about November. Fall always means change–sometimes I think it’s even better to work on goals in November than January! (Although I’ll be the first to admit that I’m addicted to New Year’s resolutions!) We’re already a week in–can’t wait to start checking things off my list!

What about you? What are your goals this month? I can’t wait to hear what’s in store for you!