AN INTERVIEW WITH BETHANY GROW

An Interview with Bethany Grow I can't recall when I first stumbled upon Bethany's work, but what I do remember is reading her blog posts on launching her new business and her day-to-day life and work challenges on taking the leap into self-employment. I fell in love with honesty, clean designs and hilarious commentary. Meet Bethany Grow, a wildly talented designer, blogger, creative, entrepreneur and the cutest thing since cupcakes.

AN INTERVIEW WIT BETHANY GROW  |  DESIGNER & CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR

How did you get started as a designer and entrepreneur?  I actually got started after designing my own wedding invitations! I loved the challenge of creating the first piece that would introduce the whole look and feel of my wedding to my guests. I had such a great time creating my own that I decided to start designing more and creating wedding stationery for other happy couples! Through that I discovered a love of branding as I loved capturing the whole feeling and experience of an entire event in one design. Since then I've transitioned into working with businesses and blogs to style their look and strategize the brand experience!

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Looking back at your childhood, did you have any creative talents that eluded to a career as a designer/entrepreneur? Oh yes! I mean, I had so many ideas of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do when I grew up and I wanted to start as soon as I could! At one point I started a fake radio show called "The Cheese" and I wrote stories and songs for the show that were all about cheese. I used to draw and paint all the time and I would sell the finished pieces in my front yard (but I was never successful since I hid behind a tree when cars came because I was uber shy). I loved writing books and had many many notebooks full of novels that I would start.

I just knew that I wanted to do something creative and I don't think I understood this at the time, but looking back at my many ventures, I really wanted to run my own show.

Creativity and art has always been hugely important to me. Maybe someday I'll tell you about the one time I peed my pants in 1st grade because I just REALLY didn't want to leave art class to go to the bathroom.

How were you able to take the leap into self-employment successfully? Did you overlap your day job with freelancing for a certain period of time? I started my business about a year and a half ago and up until three months ago, I was always working another job while freelancing. There were a few times when I actually had 2 jobs! It was crazy stressful, trying to get a business off the ground in the evenings when I was already tired and grumpy from my other jobs earlier that day. Really I decided to take the leap when I realized how miserable my 9-5 jobs were making me and how much I loved my freelance work. And while I did LOTS of planning, preparing, and saving, I honestly couldn't have made this leap without my husband by my side. Together we've been able to set budgets and cut back on our spending so I don't feel too pressured to make tons of money during this truly vulnerable time. He is so supportive of my goals and dreams and can see the joy that freelancing brings me so he has been amazing and made lots of sacrifices for me. And I'm so glad we took this leap together because I'm so much happier and have been able to do so much more with my business!

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What are you doing today or what have you done in the past to successfully grow your business?  I work hard every single day to grow my business! A huge part of what I do that has contributed to my success is marketing with my blog. I've been able to connect with so many potential clients by sharing my knowledge and experiences for everyone! Beyond my blog, I'm constantly strategizing new ways to reach my target market and grow my business by creating new offerings, strategizing new marketing plans, and taking little risks that will push me further.

What's one of your greatest accomplishments?  One of my greatest and more recent accomplishments was taking the huge risk of quitting my job and giving up my steady income to invest my whole heart and time into my business. It was a big step and a hard one to take and I had many a panic attack before my first day of working from home, but with a lot of effort and sacrifice I've not only made it work but I've thrived! It was the best decision I've ever made for my business and I'm so proud of myself for having the faith and guts to do it! Because of that step I've been able to do so much more with my business and make new plans that will propel me even further!

What's one short term and one long term goal of yours?  One short term goal of mine is to finish my book! Over my Christmas vacation I got the idea and started brainstorming and just recently have had the time to get started on it. It's been a big adjustment as writing in this setting is so new to me, but I'm learning a lot throughout the process and I can't wait till it's finished!

A long term goal of mine is to travel all over Europe and Asia! I know that doesn't seem business related at all, but one of the many many reasons I wanted to quit my job to become a creative solopreneur was to have the freedom to pursue my dreams and not just my business dreams, but all of them! It will require a lot of work on my part to earn the money to do it all, but I'm determined and I'm making the steps to eventually get there. Hopefully it's not too far off! I'm itching to go see the world!

Ooh a book, do spill! I'm so excited about this book! It started as a way to fully gather my advice and lessons that I've given to design and consulting clients that have struggled with creating and maintaining a professional and successful blog.

In working with these clients, I've discovered that many don't understand the concept of branding and are missing out on a hugely important part of what they do that can really propel them forward in the blogosphere.

Have that brand experience- the stories, voice, feelings, actions, expectations, style, everything that goes into creating a brand- is what will set them apart and help them be more successful. My goal is to show them how they can create a brand for themselves and their blog all on their own with lots of brainstorming, strategic planning, some helpful tools, and tons of work. I want to empower readers to go out on their own with clarity on who they are, who they want to reach, and how they're going to reach them and then the confidence to go out and do!

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What's one challenge you've encountered as an artist and what did you do to overcome it? One challenge I really really struggled with for a long time was comparison. It's so hard to not compare myself to other creatives when everything seems to be so quantifiable these days! They are making more money than me, they've had more sales, they have more readers on their blog, more Twitter followers, everything! But almost a year ago now I was having a conversation with a friend about competition in the creative fields when it hit me that we are all so different and have so many different styles that why on earth do we compare ourselves to others? That's the great thing about being creatives is that we can all work in our own ways and have so many opportunities to be unique! Since then I've made a huge effort to avoid the comparison trap (though I admittedly still fall into it sometimes) and instead focus on putting my heart and soul into the work that I do. I am unique and do great work and that's all that matters!

Any words of advice for other creatives and artists looking to start and grow their expertise and business?  Remember to relax. It's funny because I almost wrote "work hard" because of course a lot of work is required to grow any business.

So much time and energy goes in to running your own show, it's so easy to become a workaholic and let your life revolve around your work. But don't forget to live your life!

Get outside, go on vacation, read a book, see your friends, try new foods, go see a movie! Regularly stepping away from your work will be so good for your sanity and creativity. And chances are, if you take a step back you'll be so much more excited about being able to get back to your work and it will remind you why you love what you do so much!

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What's the first and the last thing you did today? The first thing I did was cuddle with my dog Bruce Wayne in bed. I'm not a morning person at all so I like to wake up slow (and late) and what better way than to hang with your cute fluffy pup? The last thing that I always do before going to sleep is write in my journals. I have one to record my day to day activities and another Q+A journal where I can answer fun questions! I love to take time every night to look back on my day and write down the things I really want to remember.

Tell me more about your journaling process - the Q&A sounds interesting. I've always been really terrible at journaling. I love writing and I love the concept of saving memories and being able to go back and remember the good stuff, but I've always been terrible at committing to a journal and sticking to it. So this year I started two different journals- the one line a day journal and the Q&A journal. The One Line A Day Journal is five year journal where I can record just a few short sentences about my day. It helps me to stay focused on the things that truly matter that I'll want to remember in years to come. Each day in the journal has five different lines, one for each year and in years to come I will keep writing in that journal and share my quick thoughts on my day. So in five years, I'll be able to look back on the things that happened on each day for those years and see how things have changed! Then there's the Q&A journal. It's similar to the One Line A Day Journal as it only lets you write a few sentences and it's also a five-year journal. But instead of just summing up my day, I answer a random question! This is a fun way to record the simple stuff that might not be important enough to mention in my One Line a Day Journal, but things that will be fun to look back on. Like the song that was stuck in my head all day or what I wore today or who I'm mad at or if I could travel anywhere, where would I go? I have a feeling that these answers will be fun to compare in the next five years.

I just love being able to spend a few minutes every night before bed thinking back on the day and remembering the things I should be grateful for. It helps me to clear my head and to go to bed feeling happy.

What's the last music you listened to? The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack! It's my favorite movie and I listen to the soundtrack a lot while I work

What’s the last book you read? Daring Greatly- amazing read! Go read it. Do it.

What's your favorite dessert? Right now, eclairs! But that will change in a week.

Coffee or tea? Hot Chocolate! I actually don't drink either coffee or tea, but you can often find me with a mug full of hot chocolate!

To see more of Bethany's work or to say hello, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

THE POWER OF EMPATHY

the-power-of-empathy My husband and I are trying to get pregnant. We began this journey about a year ago and had the blessing of experiencing 12 weeks of pregnancy. Our first ultrasound showed that our baby stopped developing at 6 weeks and that I had what they called a blighted ovum or a missed miscarriage.

Honestly, we're doing ok. It was hard at first and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from losing our baby, but it doesn't scare me to talk about it any more. I kept it a secret for so long that when I finally did share it, I felt relieved and more healed than ever before.

The point I bring this up is to not scare you, sadden you or shock you - although I realize this subject tends to sometimes accomplish all three - I bring this up to share with you my experience with a doctor a few months ago and what I learned about empathy through the experience.

New to Nashville I searched for a OB/GYN that seemed to have the traits I was looking for not to mention they accepted my insurance. I made an appointment because it had been almost 5 months since we started trying again and nothing was happening. I was afraid there might be something wrong down there since the surgery. I felt confused, uneducated and had a lot of questions that I wanted a professional to answer (not the internet). 

There I was in her private office, she was sitting behind her desk, I in a chair on the other side, being told I was trying too hard, that nothing was wrong and to not expect that every time we try, to have success like we did the first time (we got pregnant the first time we started trying last year).

I felt like I was sitting at the principles desk being lectured, like I was a child who should know better. I truly believe I was a waste of her time and I was just another one of those clients that she could care less about. 

Now, I realize there are a lot of woman like me and that it might be easy for her to categorize me. But that's not the point. My point is she lacked empathy.

Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by others. 

Not for a split second did I feel she put herself in my shoes. She was cold and made me feel terrible about tracking my ovulation and that I must stop trying so hard.

I left that office feeling alone, upset and wishing I had never went in to see her. But the one thing I did learn from this experience was that empathy truly is very powerful and is she would've applied some to her practice I'd bet I'd feel a whole lot better about the entire thing.

So today I want to share with you 3 tips on how to bring empathy to your business so that we can improve our relationships and experiences in business.  

1. Put yourself in their shoes: No really, try to feel what they're feeling. Maybe you're a invitation designer for a wedding and your Bride is acting a bit crazy. Truth is she might not be crazy at all, she might just simply be stressed. Maybe her in-laws are getting to her, maybe it's the dwindling  budget, maybe it's the fact that she has a full-time job and almost no time for planning. Whatever it is, try to be empathetic. The last thing you want to do is have your client regretting they ever hired you.  

2. Meet Face-to-Face: Nothing says I care more than a face-to-face conversation. Phone calls don't cut it and texts are out of the questions. Anytime I am hired for a project that lasts longer than a few weeks, I make it a requirement to meet over Skype or in person. This has helped me develop some amazing relationships with my clients. Whether your clients live on the other side of the country or in your city, make time to meet them, develop a relationship with them, listen to them and get to know them. Most times when people are hiring you, they're not just interested in your service or product, but they're interested in a relationship with you. So give them the time of day and schedule that coffee meeting or Skype chat. And don't be afraid to meet multiple times face-to-face. Anytime I feel like my client and I are not communicating properly, I schedule a Skype or in person meeting to go over what were trying to say. This eliminates any stress and gets our ideas clarified, not to mention it deepens our relationship and creative chemistry.

3. Define & educate your clients on how your process works: Grab a stack of post-it notes or a pad of paper and jot down all of the steps of your process. If you're using post-it notes, use one sheet per step. For example, your first step might be receiving the an email from them, second step would respond to the email with a breakdown or pricing and details, third step might be scheduling a Skype chat, and so on. Organize the steps into a timeline, outlining your project from start to finish,  including any alternative paths too. Look for patterns that emerge and ways you might improve the steps. Create ways that might help your client feel more joyous and relaxed from beginning to end. Type it out, create a pdf of it, insert it in your contract, create a fun comic-like illustration that shows each step or send a welcome packet that clearly outlines what they can expect and when. Whatever it takes, clearly outline your process ands share it with them. They will feel grateful they hired you and excited for each step.

Do you have an experience you want to share that lacked empathy? Or perhaps you have a great idea on how to implement empathy into our business? Share your thoughts in the comments below and receive a response from me.

STORYTELLING WITH SARAH ROSBORG

Sarah-Rosborg-Storytelling I'm excited to embark on my new Storytelling series that interviews creatives, individuals and entrepreneurs doing remarkable things, creating amazing art and inspiring ideas and movements all over the world.

To kick off the series is the talented Sarah Rosborg, owner and charity guru of Castle Design based in Australia. A few years back I met Sarah Rosborg via email while working with a client on branding - Sarah was working on the clients web design while I was branding the clients business. We immediately hit it off and exchanged ideas and passions about charities and how we could collaborate to create something amazing together. Nothing has surfaced yet (my bad) but in the meantime, you guys should get to know graphic designer, business owner, mom, wife, philanthropist and creative Sarah Rosborg.

What are you doing today or what have you done in the past to successfully grow your business?

I did a lot of free work for charities when I started my business and from there I started getting more work through word of mouth. I treat my customers as I wish to be treated and I think I do a good job with their design work :)

Tell me a little more about your work with charities and your philanthropic roots. How did you get started working with them? What was your first charity and what did you give? How did you know you wanted to work for charities and give your time to others in need?

I do a lot of work with many charities around the world. I would only do this if I could afford to! but alas we all have to pay our bills. I started working with them when I first went to Kenya in 2005. 1 week after Ieft Kenya I was involved in a horrific car accident. I was pretty much bed bound for 9-12 months.. i taught myself web design and other items involved and set up a charity in Australia for Mission in Action who was who I had visited in Kenya. I havent looked back. I have always had a thing for Africa.. My mother says I have spoken of it my whole life.. so I guess I always knew!

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What's one of your greatest accomplishments?

I think my greatest accomplishment is starting my own company which allows me to work from anywhere in the world doing what I love whilst still having a wonderful family life. I have also set it up so I can continue to help charities who are in need. I couldn’t love my job anymore and have met many wonderful people on the way.

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What's one short-term and one long-term goal of yours?

Current short-term goal is to get a new a new charity I am starting in Australia registered and approved! It’s a lot of work to get a charity registered so I am able to fundraise in Australia but once that is done I am hoping to start a sponsorship program for the girls at Rafiki Mwema in Kenya.

My long-term goal would be to hire a web designer to help me with my workload. I would love to have a great team of people working for Castle Design.. I would manage the company and work and be able to focus on my charity design work more while other staff are taking care of all of my other clients..

What's one challenge you've encountered as an artist and what did you do to overcome it?

The only challenge I have faced since starting Castle Design is the lack of confidence that I am not good enough to be charging people or to have my own company. I would look at others and be envious of their wonderful websites and amazing skills.. Since I have stopped looking at others and focused on my own work and clients things have been much better.. There is enough work for all of us in the world and I believe if I do a good job and treat my customers well I will continue to have enough work.

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring philanthropists looking to donate their time or work to charities and others in need?

Money is not always what is needed. Skills and support is so needed.. There are so many people out there working in the field but they have no idea about the marketing , website, social media side.. this side of a charity is so necessary. Make sure you know who you are working for and if you can, visit the project. It will inspire you more than you can ever imagine.

Any words of advice for other creatives and artists looking to start and grow their expertise and business?

As I keep saying.. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Do free work for people in need. Give more than people expect to receive. Love your job and if you don’t love it STOP!

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Download this free quote as an 8.5x11" print here. 

What's the first and the last thing you did today? First thing I did was wake up to my daughter early this morning. I tried to convince her that it would be a good idea to come into Mummy's bed for a cuddle so I could keep my eyes closed for 5 more minutes but she wasn't as keen as I was. The day is not over yet and it is only mid morning and I am about to get a strong coffee!

As a business owner, mother and wife, what's your secret to balancing life and work and how do you stay inspired?

I am always inspired. There is no problem of that lacking.. my problem is knowing when to stop work. If someone can give me some advice on how to stop working and relax I would like to hear it.

And just for fun:

What's the last music you listened to? Sia - Breathe me

What’s the last book you read? It has been so long since I have read a book.. If I am not looking after my daughter my head is in my computer.. but I think it was a book on the band TOOL. Maynard Keenan fascinates me.

What's your favorite dessert? I don’t have a sweet tooth so would have to say a packet of corn chips! or wine. Wine is delicious.

Coffee or tea? Strong coffee. I am married to a Swede. strong is the only option!

To find out more about Sarah and her work go to her website, like her on Facebook and Instagram. Have any questions? Email Sarah.

Click the image below to download yourself a free 8.5x11" print of Sarah's quote, I think this would make a great addition to my wall. How about you?

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Storytelling is a series that interviews creatives, individuals and entrepreneurs doing remarkable things, creating amazing art and inspiring ideas and movements all over the world. Are you one?  I want to hear from you, email me today.