business

Yellow Conference 2017 Recap

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Yellow Conference is a 2-day conference (with an optional additional workshop day) in LA geared towards entrepreneurially minded women who want to use their creativity and skills for good. This is the first time I’ve repeated going to a conference two years in a row and I can honestly say the experience was just as inspirational as the first year I attended.

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I’ve been to many conferences over the years but there is a reason why Yellow is one of my favorites. The conference itself is organized by Joanna Waterfall who is a graphic designer and therefore every touchpoint and element of your experience is well thought out and designed.  From the way you enter into the conference, the art installations incorporated into the space, kiss ass welcome bags or even just the speaker intro slides.  Every single piece that you interact with is branded and fits into their brand story which I greatly appreciate.

Going back to the welcome bags, I am not saying I attend conferences just for the welcome bags but a good welcome bag doesn’t hurt. Yellow Conference by far has one of the best goodie bags of all the conferences I’ve been to. You receive a huge fabric tote bag (that is actually good quality and also an awesome design) filled to the brim with products from do good brands that the total value often amounts to more than the conference ticket price. It’s also a fun way to learn about companies that are making the world a better place and sampling their products. I learned from my mistakes last year of bringing a small suitcase to make sure I left room this year for all the great swag.

Every year the conference is held in a gorgeous warehouse space in the arts district of LA.  Despite being in LA, this conference is actually pretty affordable compared to other conferences I’ve attended. I’ll break down all my costs below for anyone considering the trip next year.  The arts district is definitely a transitional warehouse area but I never felt unsafe. And it’s full of lots of really cool restaurants and coffee shops you can walk to during your breaks.  Some of my favorite spots were Zinc Cafe, Cafe Gratitude, the rooftop at the ACE hotel and Groundwork Coffee Co (get their horchata cold brew which is not on the menu but is like Christmas in a glass). Last year I rented an Airbnb in the neighborhood with a few girls and this year I stayed at the ACE Hotel (the designated hotel for the conference and they offer a discount code) which did require using uber/lyft but the rides were $5-$8 at most.

There’s also a Do Good Goods marketplace with more than 20 vendors that produce either ethical goods or give back to charities.  From clothing, jewelry, stationery, and home goods it was a fun place to shop during speaker breaks and I learned about so many awesome brands who have beautiful products and are doing such great things.  The year before the market was smaller and it was great to see that there were so many more vendors this year and I hope it continues to grow with each year.

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 Just a few of the awesome goods in the swag bag.

Just a few of the awesome goods in the swag bag.

One thing I love about the Yellow Conference is the diversity of women who attend.  I’ve met photographers, fellow designers, copywriters, artists, PR and marketing strategists, magazine editors and more but the one thing they all have in common is that they are all passionate about making the world a better place.  The speaker lineup is also very diverse from an activist to a Grammy nominated musician to a founder of an ethical clothing line there were so many great perspectives from people who are so inspiring.

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I thought I’d share a few takeaways and themes from the various sessions that stuck with me:

  1. The time to start is now | Several speakers touched on the fact that there will never be the perfect time to start that project you’ve been dreaming of.  Ashley LeMieux of The Shine Project so perfectly phrased it “Right now is the only time we have that is guaranteed and sometimes all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage. Do one courageous thing a day” and “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. Done is better than perfect.” This really hit home for me as I’ve put off some projects as we’ve been going through the trials of fertility treatments. While this time has been emotionally draining I still shouldn’t be putting my dreams on hold and I can still make progress on them every day, even if it is just baby steps. It is all about moving the needle forward little by little.

  2. Self-care should be a priority | This is something I’ve “known” but I don’t always listen to very well! Many speakers drove this point home though pointing out that you are of no use to anyone and the good you want to do if you aren’t taking care of yourself.  As Natalie Warne, an activist and speaker said, “Give yourself grace, you aren’t meant to do it all, put the oxygen mask on you first, the healthier we are the most sustained we can work for our causes.” It’s not selfish, it is common sense.  How will you be able to help others and make a difference if you are passed out?  I think this point is especially important for women working in purpose-driven fields because it can feel wrong to prioritize yourself and we often feel guilty.

  3. Trust your Gut and think outside the box |  Golriz Lucina of Soul Pancake said “The best ideas sometimes start out as the weirdest of ideas. Get outside. Get out of your head.  Mostly, get inspired.” I think a lot of times we can feel uninspired or like there are no new ideas thanks to social media which is why it’s so important to think outside the box and never underestimate the power of the gut check. Also, you should really look up Soul Pancakes work, if you haven’t heard of them before (I hadn’t) they are a media and production company owned by the actor Rainn Wilson that tackles life’s big questions and celebrates the beauty of humanity.  You’ve probably seen one of their many viral videos on social media and not even realized it.

  4. What you do does not define you | Moorea Seal’s talk was sprinkled with so many good life nuggets but what I loved most was hearing about how she has pursued so many different passions through the years.  I think it can be easy to find something you are good at and just stick with it and be scared to try something else. As Moorea said “Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it. And when you let something go you don’t have to let it go for forever.  It’s ok to just put it to the side for a while.” As some of you may know, my business started as doing wedding and event designs on the side of my corporate design job. At the time it was a really great creative outlet but when I went full time I realized I had lost my love for it and missed the strategic aspects of design I had enjoyed from my day job.  That is when I pivoted to doing small business branding but it was so hard to let go of the invitation aspect of my business because so many people told me I was good at it and that’s where I started.  I actually just recently took event design down from my website all together but it took me a while to come to terms with the fact it no longer brought me joy. Maybe someday I’ll feel differently and will want to go back to offering invitations. I had to give myself permission to let it go but knowing if I want to go back to it someday it will be there. Also, if Moorea’s name sounds familiar it is because she is the woman behind all the 52 lists books. What started as a passion project for her turned into something so much bigger which I love.

  5. Speak to your customers like they are the hero | This one was in one of my workshop sessions but it’s such a valuable point.  The number one reason brands fail in their messaging is because they speak to their customers as if they themselves are the hero.  Empathize with your customer’s pain points and make them the center of your brand story.

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Lastly, I thought I’d break down what my costs were to attend the conference.  These may vary from person to person depending on where you are flying from or where you eat but if you haven’t attended very many conferences this will help give you a ballpark for planning. I find conferences are a really great investment both in myself and in my business and I prioritize budgeting for 1-2 per year.

 The ACE Hotel rooftop was a small slice of heaven. 

The ACE Hotel rooftop was a small slice of heaven. 

 I grabbed dinner at Cafe Gratitude one night and loved the healthy menu and positivity.

I grabbed dinner at Cafe Gratitude one night and loved the healthy menu and positivity.

3-day conference ticket: $269

I did get the ticket at the discounted yellow collective member price and in the future I think they are selling the workshops separately. Tickets for the 2-day speaker portion of the conference are currently on sale for $247 though I imagine the price will go up as it gets closer.

Lodging: $332

This year I shared a room at the ACE hotel with two friends also attending the conference for three nights. This did add extra uber/lyft costs as opposed to staying in an Airbnb within walking distance which is what we did last year. I honestly enjoyed both options equally.

Meals: $150

This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and extra coffees for three full days.

Flight: $178

I got a direct round trip flight from Denver to LAX on Southwest airlines and actually bought my flight less than a month before the conference. I flew in Wednesday night before the conference and flew out Saturday night after the workshops finished up and just brought my suitcase with me to the workshops where they easily stored it for me for the day.

Lyft Rides: $95

A large chunk of that is my lyft to and from the airport ($27 when I arrived and $48 when I left) and most of my lyft’s were $5-$8 between the hotel and conference.

Total Conference Cost: $1,024.00

The Yellow Conference is one of my favorite conferences and I’ve already purchased my ticket for next year to attend for my third time! If you are wishing to do more with your business or talents and want to spend a few days with a ton of inspirational women who are changing the world I highly recommend it.

I thought I’d close with an inspirational quote shared at the conference that I just love:

“If there ever comes a time when women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.” - Matthew Arnold

Five Lessons From My First Year in Business

When I hit my first anniversary of going full time with my business back in November I reflected back and wrote out a few lessons I learned.  But then I got scared to hit post as I was afraid they were too negative.  I feel so lucky to be able to build my own dreams and love what I do but that definitely doesn't make it easy.  Now that I'm halfway into my second year I realize how true these lessons still ring and would love to share them now.  I've worked hard in my second year to correct many of the areas I struggled with but these are the five tough truths I learned about running my own business that took me by surprise:

 

  1. I got lonely working from home: I was so excited to work from home, set my own hours, and not be constantly interrupted like I was in my office job. What I didn’t expect was that it got lonely very quickly and I actually missed the interruptions and opportunities to socialize with my coworkers. It took me a few months to solve this problem but I started meeting other business owners for coffee, doing Skype dates with creative entrepreneurs in different parts of the country, going to networking groups and building my own community. My situation was also unique in that I went out on my own at the same time that we moved across the country and I didn’t know a soul in my new home. So I had to build a new network from scratch in all areas of my life. But creating a network of other designers and business owners has been huge for me. They’ve become my coworkers who I bounce ideas off of and share resources. I no longer feel alone in my business and am so thankful for the community I found but it definitely takes time to build.

  2. Working for myself wasn't necessarily freeing:  I thought with setting my own hours I would be able to work out all the time, make myself super healthy lunches, bring the dog to the park and run errands whenever I needed. Boy was I wrong. In theory yes I guess I could just decide to do those things. But running your own business is a lot of hard work and I actually work longer days than when I was working for someone else. I find my clients are on email during the day, making requests and its just hard to get away during that time. I definitely need to get better about setting boundaries with my clients so I can create more freedom to do these things, but this did not happen in my first year.

  3. My daily routine went out the window: Moment of true honestly, I definitely gained weight in my first year of business. To be fair my daily routine really got turned up on its head since we moved to a new place and I lost my regular workout studios/instructors. But when I worked a 9 to 5 job I consistently got up at 5 am to fit in my workout before going to work and my day was structured in such a way I made it happen. Now that I work for myself from home I’m working later hours, getting up later, and its been really hard for me to get out of the house and go to a fitness class. For a while I’d get up at 7 am, check email in bed, stumble straight to my desk with a cup of coffee and get to work.  Often I’d pick out a 9 am class to go to but then I’d get into a working groove and tell myself I’ll go to the noon class instead. Then a client would make an urgent request where I couldn’t leave and before you know it the day is lost and I’m promising myself I’ll go tomorrow instead.  Then just repeat that whole cycle again. As someone who used to work out 6 days a week and was religiously committed to it with an insane amount of self discipline, I never in a million years thought I’d have such a struggle. But now all my self discipline goes into running my business and not much is left over. This next year I’m working on finding more balance and prioritizing fitness again but it has been so much harder to build a good routine than I ever expected.

  4. I only was able to bill half the hours I worked:  It is pretty crazy how many hats you have to wear running your own business. There is a ton of admin work you have to do that isn’t necessarily fun and in most cases isn’t billable. Emails are constantly coming in that you have to respond to in a timely manner, working on estimates for new work, sending contracts and invoices, answering client questions, keeping projects moving, reminding clients of deadlines and the list goes on. Plus there is the marketing side of your business of posting to social media, blogging, updating your website etc. This is honestly the first thing to go for me when I get really bogged down in work (which is why my blog was dead for so long).

  5. It doesn’t stop getting scary: My goal for my first year of business was just to replace my old 9 to 5 salary which amazingly I very narrowly achieved. You’d think achieving this would make me feel secure or like I’m succeeding. And in some moments it does. But in other moments I panic that it will all fall apart or my loyal clients will just disappear. Owning your own business is a total roller coaster with amazing highs but also moments of fear and fraud. This fear never fully goes away and you just have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable at times.

Despite these five tough lessons of running my own business I absolutely love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else. The hard work and the highs and lows are completely worth it to me. But I think it is important to put a realistic picture out there for those considering seeking a similar path. Running a business is a ton of work and it is not for the faint of heart. I think a lot of people have misconceptions that it is a life of jet setting and relaxing afternoons spent in cool coffee shops. And yes I do get to do both from time to time which is amazing.  But it is also a lot of sweat and tears that people don’t talk about as much. Building a business takes time and there really aren’t any short cuts, its all about just putting in the work and showing up every day.  

Now that I am halfway into my second year in business I realize just how far I've come and its exciting to look forward and continue building my dreams.

7 Tips for Working From Home

While I'm still fairly new to working from home I get asked all the time how I manage it.  I thought I'd share some of the tips I've figured out so far that work for me in staying productive and resisting the distractions.

1. Have a Workspace
Having a space that is dedicated to only work is so very key in developing a good routine and work habits.  Even if it is just a desk in the corner, you've got to get away from where you watch TV or relax.   


2. Get Dressed Everyday
I know part of the benefit of working at home is that you can stay in your PJs and nobody will know but this has proved to be very important for me.  It makes me feel like a productive human to get dressed like I'm going to an office and is a good indicator to myself that I'm starting my workday.


3. Schedule Skype Chats/Coffee Dates
Going from an office setting to working by myself at home every day was a tougher transition than I expected.  I didn't realize how much I needed that human interaction.  Scheduling Skype chats or coffee dates with other designers has been so key in helping me to not feel alone.  It is also a great opportunity to build a community and come back to my work refreshed.


4. Separate Devices
It may sound like device overkill but I try to use my iPad for fun internet surfing and my laptop for work.  In the morning I drink my coffee, watch the news and surf instagram and pinterest on my iPad.  When it is time to work, I shut down my iPad and get to work.  Having separate dedicated devices makes it easier for me to switch gears  and not fall into hours of surfing the internet, losing track of time.

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5. Build a Routine and Stick to It
I touched on this with the separate devices but I have a pretty standard morning routine which has been extremely important in building a structured day.  When I wake up I enjoy my coffee and inspiration time.  Then I go upstairs, get dressed and sit down at my desk to work.  One thing I'm still working on is dedicating a different day to a different task and trying to lump together my calls so I'm not switching gears so much.

Whitney English's Day Designer has also been helpful in mapping out the hours of my day and picking my top three priorities. I know there are a million apps and websites out there to help you manage your lists but I'm such a paper and pen girl and nothing beats physically crossing items off your list.


6. Pack a Lunch
Some days can get so crazy being a one woman show that I forget to eat or I have snack indecision and spend forever standing in front of the fridge trying to decide what I'm hungry for.  It makes it so much easier if I put together a lunch for myself in the morning before I dive into my work along with a few snacks to grab throughout the day.  To be honest I don't manage to do this every day but its been great for my super hectic days when I do.


7. Schedule Fun Field Trips
Being a small business owner is a 7 day a week job and I can't remember the last time I took an entire weekend off.  Its important to build in time to step away from the computer or you never will.  I try to schedule time during the week to check out a new store or go read one of my business books at a coffee shop.  The key is to put it on your calendar and stick to it or you'll end up just working the days away.  Its amazing what a few hours away from the computer can do for your energy and creativity.


In the end I think the key to successfully working from home is building a routine that works for you and sticking to it.  I'd love to know what some of your best habits and tips are for being productive when working from home.
 

Rose's Arsenal Rebrand Package

As many of you know I rebranded my company last month from Design District to Rose's Arsenal.  To share the exciting news with my current clients and thank them for their continued support, I sent them a fun box of goodies.  Designing packages is one of my favorite projects and I thought I'd share with you the treats I put together.

The theme around the package was to provide items that make work fun and provide encouragement. Because I was doing such a small quantity I personalized everything myself by using my silhouette cameo die cut machine to cut vinyl and adhere it to the mugs and notebooks.  This machine is meant for scrapbooking but it is a real workhorse and I've used it on all kinds of personal projects and client work.  

I found the most perfect enamel mugs at West Elm that matched the Rose's Arsenal red.  I selected enamel mugs since my rebrand also coincided with my move to Colorado.  And classic enamel just screams the great outdoors to me.  Even though I'm living in the city, you get the idea. Basically I just love enamel mugs.  Unfortunately West Elm no longer carries these mugs but Amazon has a nice selection.

I am a huge sucker for notebooks with phrases on them so I took Moleskin Kraft Notebooks and added fun quotes to the front.  Some of my packages needed to include multiple notebooks for my clients who have a larger staff so I used four different phrases "No rest for the rad" "Make today your bitch" "Just Start" and "Plans for world domination"  The pencils also included fun phrases and were from the online shop Design Darling.

Last but not least I included confetti poppers to add a little fun and celebration to the package.  Besides you can't make it about all work and no play!  Both the push pop containers and confetti came from Amazon.  The labels I printed on my home printer on label paper and punched out with punches.

Put all together it made a pretty fun package that hopefully brightened my clients day!  I'm already trying to think up an excuse to put together another package of designed goodies.  Maybe a celebrate spring package or just celebrate Friday package!  The possibilities are pretty endless.