Creative at Heart: Being Brave Enough to Follow Your Own Path

August 16, 2017

When I heard Creative at Heart was holding another conference, I knew I had to attend. You see, I went to round 2 in Roanoke, Virginia and while I had an absolutely amazing time, I wasn’t fully myself. With a cane and a lot of baggage, I went to that conference with a lot of questions. I was inspired to start my business officially afterwards in 2015 and I have been learning ever since.

Things started to really click into place this year and I was finally making a profit. I bought my ticket to round 7 in Raleigh thinking I’d have the opportunity to be myself, more so than before, but I wouldn’t want to make too many changes to my business. I was finally making money after all! If anything, I’d probably add more services, more revenue, more followers…I’d grow my business to new heights because that’s what you do: you expand as quickly as you can.

But it’s Creative at Heart for a reason. I came with an open mind and walked away full of ideas. I realized while I was there that there are so many more options when running a business than a million followers and 6 figures. You can help so many more people live a more fulfilled life, whether they book you or not. And your version of success, happiness, and a life well lived is something you need to define for yourself.

Today, I’ll be sharing the amazing time I spent in Raleigh, North Carolina and how my mindset has pivoted to a new way of running my business. I hope to help you see that you can be a success today. You can have a business that brings you joy now.

The Conference Itself

Before I dive into my own personal experience, I have to share the details! The venue was simply stunning. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was made for a Creative at Heart Conference, like Kat built it herself. The house, carriage house, and outdoor space were simply amazing. The food we had from floor tacos (more on that later) to a food truck to the best damn bagels I’ve ever had were of course awesome as well. The whole experience was so well thought out and just plain fun. Having that great of an experience while being poured into with education and heartfelt talks was just what I needed in my life right now. Creative at Heart delivered that and more.

The Speakers

Another reason I knew I had to go to this round of Creative at Heart was definitely the speaker lineup. This time around, the conference was a full day longer than Roanoke so I had so many opportunities to connect with people I really look up to. Each and every speaker said at least one thing that I could connect with. I appreciated the variety of talks we got to hear. I know that just within my circle of roommates that I shared an Airbnb with, we had such varied types of businesses and were in completely different steps of our journeys. But we were all able to get helpful content from each speaker that could apply to our current place in life and being a small business owner.

The City of Raleigh

This was my first trip ever to a new place by myself. Heck, this was my first trip farther than 25 minutes from my house by myself. Emily, my fellow Michigander, flew with me and we roomed together with 4 other amazing women. Getting to explore such a beautifully rich city with new friends was simply amazing. If you’re ever travelling to a new place, it’s always good to start with trying all of the (insanely good) food that is local to that area. I never put one subpar morsel of food in my mouth the whole trip. I will definitely be visiting Raleigh again.

The Floor Tacos

My love of Chipotle transcends state lines. When I heard we were having floor tacos, I was super confused. Do we sit and eat on the floor? But Kat shared such a touching story with us on the purpose of the taco dinner. Special touches like these throughout the conference reminded me that I wasn’t there simply to learn more about business. There is so much noise out there, I already had ideas floating around in my head before I even went to Creative at Heart.

I was reminded that I started my business out of a dark place. I couldn’t work anymore after 2014 was a health nightmare for me. I’d been designing websites since I was 12, so passionate about the merging of technology and art. Running a business is no easy task and I needed to give myself more credit and enjoy these special moments. The connections and relationships my business has brought into my life is just as important as any income I’ve gained. The freedom to live life in a way that makes me feel whole is a gift. This was the moment that I began hearing a big question in my heart: “Are you living your life the way you want to?”

The Surprise Guest

But let me back up for a moment…as I mentioned before, I walked into Creative at Heart thinking that I wanted to grow my business as big as possible. I needed 6 figures to be a success and then I’d have it all figured out. I thought the speakers would be giving me the magic formulas and the best kept secrets to being a leader in the creative industry. And then we had a surprise…

Lara Casey walks in and I felt my stomach flutter. I look up to her so much because she found her own way to define success. Her talk really shifted my entire interpretation of the talks to follow. I heard her asking, “Is your arrow aiming at your target or someone else’s?”

My head started racing to all the ideas I’d had of what it meant to have a business that was a success. But they all seemed more like someone else’s ideas. I felt the seed planted in my mind weaving through the rest of the experience for me. Through many tears (many, many tears), I began to search for my answer.

The Conversation and Connections

Between getting to share my story with Shay and Graham Cochrane to chatting with Ashlyn, Megan, and Jessica at lunch, I had so many opportunities to dig deeper with people that I learned a lot from and made me feel like I finally got it.

After waking up from my medically-induced coma 3 years ago, life seemed new and important. I slipped back into waking up each day and just making it through; looking forward to events in the future and missing the exceptional moments I was within just living life. Two people really helped me to see my potential and that I am special and still here for a reason.

Tiffany of The Emmarose Agency is a fellow brand designer that I really look up to. Her work is beautiful, I just think of how I can follow her example and make my own brand embody more connection with my ideal client. Her talk about branding had so much new information, even for me! During a breakout session all about life balance, she said she liked my work! Being in such a vulnerable spot and hearing such positivity from someone I respect so much was a moment I won’t soon forget.

Lacoya of Hello Love Weddings was the leader of the breakout session about life balance and not only did she take time to stay with me afterwards to talk but she poured love, positivity, and truth into me when I needed it most. Through her kindness and extra attention to my experience, I felt so cared for and I thank her for making me feel special and not crazy for all my crying.

The Mindset Shifts and Aha Moments

So after almost a week away from home, what were the takeaways I gained from this experience that I can pass onto you? So glad you asked…

  • More followers do not equal happiness

    You can have 600 followers, 10k, even every one of the 700 million users on the app, but would that mean a better business? As Megan shared with us, “If you had 10 people truly engaged in your content and excited for your business in a room with you, wouldn’t that feel amazing? Speak to those 10 people with your story on Instagram.”

  • More income does not equal happiness

    Shanna spoke to us all about money mindsets. When wrapping up her talk, she asked us to write down a number: the amount of profit we could make in one year of business and feel content. I thought it out before writing and I even surprised myself how small the number was. I’ve been in that state of hustle where I book more and more clients so that I can beat my income for the month before. But when was it enough? When would I hit that magic number and say, “This is enough for me and I have to put this much work into my business each month to meet this goal?” Figuring out what I realistically needed to bring in each month and what to price my services at so I had more time with family and friends, for travel, and to try new experiences was eye-opening and helped me shift my strategy. It’s a lot easier to aim for, “I just need 1 this month,” instead of, “I booked 8 but I can book more!”

  • Do the work that brings you happiness

    Shay spoke right after Lara, so her help with choosing a niche stuck with me even more with the new ideas I had in my head. Narrowing down who you speak to makes marketing so much easier. Then Katelyn and Davey & Krista spoke about making small changes and pivoting your business and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Katelyn mentioned outsourcing parts of your business that don’t bring you joy and how this allows you to extend your reach of service to someone else. Using my business to help others is a dream I’ve had but didn’t know what ways I could. Davey & Krista shared ways to transform your business when it may not be working the best for you or you want to try something new. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. I knew what I wanted to do!

  • These 3 ideas are the KEY to community in the creative industry

    When you hear all about the community over competition movement that is sweeping the creative industry, it can still be hard to grasp that you’d willingly give away work to another business rather than keep it for yourself. Or that feeling of, “won’t we be trying to book the same people?” But here is the best part: no, because you don’t need every single client. You can celebrate your fellow photographer hitting 10k followers on Instagram, because your followers are different and felt a connection to your story. You can refer a friend who also does brand design because the inquiry you got is her specific niche and she will create beautiful work for that person. Plus, you booked your number of clients you needed this month to thrive and make your goal income.

There are plenty of amazing and unique people for all of us to work with. Fighting over a person that may not be the best fit for you takes away the opportunity with a dream client you could have booked. We all have those special clients out there that want what we offer, created by us, and connect with who we are. This helped me to feel confident in the changes I’m bringing to my own business and freed me to build my network of fellow designers so that I can refer amazing people to them when they’re booking new projects.

The Bravery to Embrace Change

When Kat was giving her talk to wrap up the conference, I felt my heart tug. Not only because she was bearing her soul to us, but because I was sad that the conference was ending. I was so nervous! I could have all these thoughts and feelings and hard moments (did I mention I cried a lot) but if I don’t take them and shape my future, what was the point?

Our notebook that we got was staring up at me as I closed up my notes from the conference. How brave was I willing to be? How many changes was I willing to try to create a business I’m proud of and that brings my joy? If you stick with what is comfortable, you’ll never experience the extraordinary. I’m so glad I went to a second round of Creative at Heart. I’m so glad I got to be in a room with so many people who understand me. That leads me to an announcement that I’m thrilled to share with you!

What’s next?

Starting in September, Stefani Jessica will be exclusively offering website design and heartfelt content creation as one, business-transforming package. These 2 services are where my heart is at. I have a passion through design and copy to tell my client’s story and connect them with their tribe. Finding people that believe in who you are can be hard, especially when you offer a service you’re selling your time rather than a physical product someone can hold.

Are you a service provider, looking to transform your brand and business through your unique story? I’d love to work with you! I have extremely limited spots from this point forward. September 1, 2017 will be the reveal of the new website for Stefani Jessica with the new packages and availability. I cannot wait to build a relationship with each client and help them to shine and feel confident in their own skin as a small business owner!

A quick thank you to Kat, Matt, Emily, and the entire team involved in this conference. It’s just what this timid, introverted creative needed to follow her heart.

These beautiful photos were taken by Holly Felts.

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