Dear Kiddo, Bubba, and Charley,

by Whitney on April 2, 2014

I just got finished washing the boys hair and trimming it. Today is picture day at school, and if I’m honest, it’s only the second one I’ve remembered. In months past, life has been just that crazy.

Also, you both needed haircuts. Badly. And fortunately, I’m getting much better at the haircut thing.

One day you may hate me for this, but I’m orchestrating matching outfits that ooze prep. Coral jeans with turquoise gingham shirts, sleeves rolled up. If I could, I’d be sending you in smocked jon-jons, but Oklahoma doesn’t roll like that. I will have to settle for monogrammed t-shirts.

Bubba, yesterday I took you to the store. Before we left, I asked you what else we needed. “Goldfish,” you replied, so we headed towards the cracker aisle. Once on the cracker aisle, you also asked for “robots”, these little Despicable Me shaped grahams, and the way you said “robots” was just too charming to tell you no.

Around the house these days, you wear boots. Two sizes too big, and often on the wrong feet. We aren’t quite sure why you like them, but I’m thinking it has something to do with astronauts. You love “space”, and Buzz (Lightyear, but you just call the movie Buzz). “Watch Buzz!” is a command, not a request.

Lovies continue to be a big deal around here. Right now, Bubba, you have four: New Lovie is actually the really well loved and now rather gross old lovie. Big Lovie has a jingle frog attached. The real New Lovie is actually your brother’s supposed substitute lovie, for when his fall to literal shreds. But you are taking good care of it for him. And the navy polka dotted lovie is some kind of trusty sidekick to the rest of your lovie collection. All of this is fine, as long as it’s not revealing a predisposition to hoarding, a characteristic I’m embarrassed to admit that you come by genetically.

Kiddo, you are growing up so fast. You’ve got this engineer’s brain, that’s constantly putting things together: old paper towel tubes become tunnels, and train tracks around chair legs, and puzzles. You have the entire Hungry Little Caterpillar memorized, except you call it the Hungry Caterpillow. I found a stuffed Hungry Caterpillar underneath the seat when I was cleaning out the car the other day, and you promptly repossessed it. Hungry Caterpillar is now the third most loved thing in your life, behind Two Lovies and your paci. Also, trains. All the time. When you are misbehaving, we threaten to put trains in time out, and it works, thank heavens.

Sometimes, right before bed, you curl up next to me on the sofa. You take my arm and wrap it around you, and ask for covers. And then we sit. And sometimes have small conversations, where you say, “Ohhhhhhhh, OK.” when you get it. You can be kind of bossy to your siblings, and your curious little brain is quickly figuring out the way this world works, and you’re very in tune to human dynamics.

Charley, we still call you Baby. You will always be our baby. But you are so grown up. You are so smart, so bright. You looked at me yesterday and said, “I want Chug-King-Ton.” (Chuggington). We only watch the Chuggington video in the car, and you know that, but you were pretty insistant about wanting to watch it right then. Chuggington is definitely a favorite for you, right along with Innie Da Ooh (Winnie the Pooh). Also, you are very clear about telling us what video you would like to watch by commanding us to “Turn Around!” while pointing an index finger at the Netflix choices.

You are into EV.ERY.THING. Pretzels, cups, toy kitchen stuff, puzzles, boots, hats, necklaces, brushing your teeth, finding pens, trying to scribble on paper, goldfish, brown bars, cans of pineapple, piles of pillows. It’s exhausting. You’re at that age where you can barely see to the surface of tables, and you’re constantly walking around, scanning for something to get into. It’s a stage that passes, I now realize, thank goodness.

Your hair is long, and we haven’t cut it. It hangs down in your eyes, and sometimes, when your bow falls out, we catch you turning your head to peek out at us under a mass of non-bangs. I don’t want to cut it, though, because the annoyance of having it hang in your face is the only thing that keeps you from pulling the bows out of your hair. And you look so cute in bows.

I’m so glad God gifted me with each of you. I love you to the moon and back.

Love,
Mama

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Next month, I’m so excited to be participating in Shannon Ho‘s first ever workshop for photographers (and, I’ll go ahead and just invite you: creatives)! I’ve been in on some behind-the-scenes conversations with Shannon about this workshop for a couple of years now. She’s one of the most talented photographers I know, and I’m so passionate about her work, and I’m so excited to that she’s going to be sharing her tips and tricks with other photographers. To even take it a step further, I’ll say that I’m excited to learn the secrets to her lighting technique. She’s been generous enough to share some lighting tips with me in the past, but I’m eager to learn more and get a little bit of practice in, as well.

So, here’s the scoop:

  • The workshop is April 10th – 13th.  That’s a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Register here.
  • Including Shannon and myself, you get to hang out with Ashley Ann from Under The Sycamore and Alissa Mazzenga from Feast Calligraphy. There are only 10 attendees, so it will be an intimate retreat.
  • It’s a workshop about photography and balance, and it just so happens that several of us love Jesus. However, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to attend (amateurs like myself are welcome). We’re going to be talking about how to find and practice balance, so it’s only for people who kinda need help in that arena–and frankly, WE ALL DO. Balance is a practice, not a science. And while we’ll be looking at everything through the lens of how Christ wants us to practice balance and our art, you don’t have to have the spiritual side of things all figured out, either. Come to learn, and come to share.
  • It’s going to be in the most gorgeous house EVAH. People, 10,000 square feet of luxury. It’s going to be the best slumber party ever. And I’m not really into slumber parties.

Shannon Ho Beautiful Art of Balance Workshop | April 10-13th, 2014

No matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey, if any of that sounds like it strikes a chord with you, please consider joining us. There are only a couple of spots left. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me using the contact form!

The Beautiful Art of Balance Photography Workshop by Shannon Ho | April 10-13th, 2014

P.S. In case I’ve almost talked you into this, one more thought: it would help if you had a digital SLR camera. If you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you probably do, and in that case, you’d just need a decent lens to get the most out of the workshop from a photography standpoint. If you are just starting and haven’t made an investment in a decent camera, I can promise you that it’s an investment you won’t regret, especially if you also have kids. All that to say, don’t let the camera situation or your comfort using it hold you back from joining us!

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Ellington & Rose

by Whitney on February 22, 2014

Last year, when Kate Baird and I accepted a handful of full branding clients, I was thrilled to see the names of Lynn and Allison, the brains behind Ellington & Rose, land in my inbox. At the time, their business wasn’t actually called Ellington & Rose, so I challenged them to do some digging, and come up with a name that really resonated with who they were, as artists and friends. The brand that emerged was nothing but gorgeous, just like their work.

Ellington & Rose Brand Style Guide // Branding by Whitney English, Emily McCarthy, and Katelyn Brooke Designs

Ellington & Rose is a hand-painted home accessories company based in Norman, Oklahoma. You can visit their Etsy shop to snag one of their gorgeous, luxe frames. A perfect wedding or baby gift, or maybe just an anytime gift for yourself! You know I love these black and white stripes and roses, and I think my favorite frame is the Bridgette!

Ellington & Rose Etsy Shop

A huge thanks to Emily McCarthy for logo help, Rachel Shingleton, who teamed up the with E&R girls to offer her dynamite styling and photography skills, and Kate Baird for web development. (And even though I’m not accepting branding projects for 2014, those girls all ARE, so add them to your roster of branding gurus!)

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Why I’m Letting Day Designer® Go

by Whitney on February 22, 2014

First of all, announcement! Day Designer® is officially a registered trademark! Trademarking something is a lengthy process, and it’s never guaranteed that you’ll actually get a trademark when you start the process, so I’m delighted that it’s done! Wahoo!

When I started designing the Day Designer®, I knew one thing: that there wasn’t a planner out there that worked for me. I wasn’t sure what I wanted in a planner, but I knew it didn’t exist. I did know what didn’t work: tiny lines, huge typography, colored pages. The biggest sign that nothing was working: a pile of half-used planners in the corner of my still disastrously-disorganized office.

I started doing layouts in November of 2010. It was Thanksgiving, and we were staying with my in-laws. With my kids distracted, I started a weekly layout page. The analytical-creative in me started having a hey-day. The main question I was asking myself was: where am I disorganized? Where do I need to plan MORE? Where do I need structure, and how can I introduce that structure into my life via a paper planner?

The firsts draft layout was a weekly format, in two-spread, eight-column layout. In the original spread, I brainstormed including spots for marketing, ideas, and financial organization. With my business of that moment in financial distress, and with two small kids, there was no way for me to finish the planner and launch it that year. I also knew that my research wasn’t done. The planner, in the weekly format, wasn’t my last stop on analyzing how brilliant people could work better.

In 2012, I dove head-first into researching how productive people designed their days.

And just like that, the Day Designer® was born.

I say the rest of this with 0% ego and 100% gratitude: it was brilliant. Very quickly, it caught on. We launched on Etsy in July 2012, and a few people bought it, and then received it, and then did the rest for us. The blog reviews started to roll in. People were using the Day Designer whole-heartedly, bringing it to every meeting, taking home every night. The tweets got conversations started, and endorsement came naturally, simply because it was helping people. Buzz was growing. Big bloggers heard about it from little bloggers, and the word organically spread.

It has been the coolest grassroots thing I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you for that. It’s always fun to start things, but it’s even more fun when the things you make start to resonate with people. It’s incredibly gratifying to see those good ideas start to take on a life of their own.

When ideas are great, and original, and authentic, they spread.

The Day Designer® concept has spread. It’s officially bigger than I am, and it’s about to be bigger than the awesome, but small, team I have that helps me manage it. It’s got a growth trajectory right now that’s blowing my mind. We’ve selected a handful of exclusive retailers to carry the Day Designer next fall. I’m using this opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and do things differently a second time around.

Which might mean that what I say next will blow your mind.

Day Designer® is for sale.

Or publish, or license. Not because I “don’t want it”. Not because I want to sail off into the sunset with a big fat check. Not because I can’t manage it. Not because I don’t understand production, or because I’m not good at production.

I want to let Day Designer go because it’s bigger than me, and needs a team of people who can give it the best opportunity for the path that it’s on.

In my research, I’ve started to recognize that the life of any creation has three stages:

  1. Process – This is where the ideas are formed and connected to create new ideas. Process is the “design thinking stage”, where lightbulbs go off and brilliance happens. This is my favorite part of bringing new creations to life.
  2. Production – This is where ideas are put into action. Designs hit paper, details are ironed out, numbers start to get crunched. I don’t mind this stage.
  3. Presentation – The idea goes to market. The public decides whether or not it’s a good idea, and then the product or creation will either go back to Production stage, or the idea will flop.

If you’re selling a service, you’re most likely going through this process with each new cycle of service. If you’re an event planner, you concept the event (stage 1), prep for the event (stage 2) and have the event (stage 3). Event planning is great for creatives, who typically love the process stage, because it allows them to creative process multiple times a year.

If you’re selling a product, it’s different. Once you have created a product, if it is accepted by the public in the Presentation phase, the product then lives for perpetuity in the Production phase. And the problem, for me, is that while I’m pretty good at the production phase, it’s not where I’m GREAT.

I’m GREAT at design process and marketing.

In recent weeks, as I’ve told people that Day Designer is on the market, the question I get repeatedly is WHY? If it’s making money, WHY would you want to sell it? It’s your baby, WHY do you want to sell it?

The easiest answer I have is: if you love something, let it go, right? When we hold on to things too tightly, we lose them, ideas and products alike. If we let ideas go, they can go on to become bigger ideas, better ideas, ideas that are influenced by the world around them, and then can grow to influence the world around them!

So, in conjunction with the official announcement of the registered Day Designer® trademark, I’m also announcing to interested parties that we are looking for someone to help us take Day Designer® to the next level, and that probably means out of my hands.

If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in taking on Day Designer® as a publishing project, I’d love to speak with any editors or agents. If anyone is interested in licensing the Day Designer® trademark and contents for a planner project for their own production capabilities, let’s talk. Or, on an even bigger scale, if anyone is interested in an outright purchase of the Day Designer® content and trademark, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. At this point, I don’t have any official interested parties; I’m just incredibly open to conversation about possible collaborations, whether they actually include my name going forward or not. If you have any experience in any of those fields, and just care to offer some advice, I’ll take it. I’ve never walked this road before.

One final thought: is it scary to post this? Yes. Is it scary to let go? Yes. But letting go is where amazing happens.

Cheers! Here’s to amazing happening!

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Not About The Money

by Whitney on February 18, 2014

Last week, at Bliss & BespokeTara Guérard told a story about an entrepreneur and a client. The client had asked an entrepreneur for advice, and the entrepreneur responded by whipping together a solution in ten minutes. Thrilled, the client asked how much she owed the entrepreneur, and the entrepreneur replied: $10,000. Shocked, the client exclaimed, “What? That only took you ten minutes!” “No,” the entrepreneur replied, “that took me ten years.”

One of the most frequented posts on this blog is Charge What You’re Worth and Don’t Apologize, but it’s advice I have such a hard time personally swallowing. I’ve had numerous requests for full branding packages lately, and it’s so tempting to put together a few packages and accept a few new clients.

To be honest, though, the thing I have the most trouble communicating is my value. It’s hard to communicate over a decade of wholesale business, eight years in the retail arena, four years of parenting, at least three years of massive web development lessons, print knowledge, branding knowledge, and countless business and self-help books read, analyzed, and dissected. I know what I NEED to charge, but finding the courage to charge that is another story.

Communication happens when there is meaning and emotional connection present, and that’s a side of myself I have to nurture. I normally lean towards logic, not emotion, which means I quantify and analyze things. Good for product development, bad for marketing. Good for listing features and benefits, bad creating emotional connection.

Whipping together a few branding packages is not a good way to nurture meaning and connection. Taking the time to understand what potential clients need is an investment well spent.

Instead of accepting new branding projects, I’ve committed this year to my Authenticate14 crew, and I want the best part of my brain and ideas to go to them. Last week I spent a great deal of time at Bliss & Bespoke, doing one-on-one consultations with wedding professionals. This year is about emotional connection (easy for some of you, hard for me). I’m trusting that taking the time to invest in others will open doors at some point in time in the future.

Quite simply, it is not about the money, after all.

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Smarts vs. Passion

by Whitney on January 30, 2014

There are smart people and there are passionate people. Smart people show up, do good work, and then go home. Passionate people can’t help but show up early, drive everyone crazy with ideas, suggestions, and numerous attempts at solutions that result in both success and failure. They stay late, and they annoy the smart people because they make the smart people look lazy. When they fall down, they can’t help but get back up, and try again. Smart people annoy the passionate people, because the smart people are just trying to get the A. Passionate people don’t care about the grade, they care about learning something, and being better.

Smart is boring, and easy, for the smart ones. Smart is safe and smart is average.

Passion is life, and risk, and adventure, and unpaved roads, and massive fulfillment.

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Balance and Dreams

January 29, 2014

David and I had some long chats last night. We are so busy right now. Actually, scratch that: I am so busy right now. And it was getting to him. I think I’d been trying to ignore my busy level, and the flashing warning signs that come along with the rise of busy, but last […]

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Do What You Can

January 28, 2014

I’m about to call it a night. I’m trying to put the finishing touches on the last couple of patterns for a new collection for Boatman Geller, and my creativity is feeling stretched thin. Today, I announced on I’m exhibiting at the NY Now show next week, officially offering the 2015 Day Designer as a […]

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Scarcity vs. Abundance

January 24, 2014

Scarcity says there is never enough. Abundance says there is plenty. Scarcity hogs attention. Abundance recognizes others. Scarcity hoards. Abundance shares. Scarcity is loud. Abundance is quiet. Scarcity doubts. Abundance believes. Scarcity is fearful. Abundance is brave. Scarcity is critical. Abundance forgives. Scarcity is easy. Abundance is hard. Scarcity is default. Abundance takes discipline. Which […]

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Paint Color Trends for 2014

January 19, 2014

For over a year, I’ve been working with my friend, Holly Mathis, on updating my house. She’s been a dream to work with. She is full of ideas, but coaches me along, and lets me make my own decisions. Since we have been a on a very limited budget, I’ve resorted frequently to one of […]

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Great Conferences for Creative Entrepreneurs!

January 10, 2014

Happy Friday, friends! I don’t know about you, but I feel like today is the end of one of those weeks where I breathe a sigh of relief, and, for me, it’s just about to get busier! I’m completely excited about these speaking engagements for 2014, and I wanted to share them with you so […]

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On Failure

January 7, 2014

Seth Godin’s short, and, as always, brilliant blog post yesterday was something I had to read twice. The first two sentences read: “But what if I fail?” You will. When I read that on his blog, it echoed in my head: you will, you will, YOU WILL. If only because you can’t win every single […]

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Success Suggestion #1

January 6, 2014

Sometimes, when you shoot for the moon, you land among stars. But sometimes, when you shoot for the moon, you land just outside the universe. The secret to success is being content with one and prepared for the other.

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Surreal and Humbling

January 3, 2014

If 2014 is going to be anything like today, I have one word to describe it: SURREAL. When I was chatting with Hilary Rushford for her new book launch a few weeks ago, one of the things we briefly touched on was the fact that when you’re starting out on your entrepreneurial journey, it’s kind […]

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