2013 Reflection: Struggles and Successes

by Whitney on December 31, 2013

Last night, I started to get a bit reflective, as I do at the end of every year, thinking about the past year, and trying to decide what I want to change about 2014. I thought I’d post a summary of thoughts here, since I think it’s fascinating to read other people’s year summary posts. Each bullet point is listed as a STRUGGLE or SUCCESS, but I’ve learned to even look at the struggles as part of the success story.

  • Success – I attended Alt Summit in January. Amber Housley and I roomed together, I met lots of new friends, the Day Designer received a surprise shout-out from Erin Loechner, and I’m excited to return again in a few weeks as a speaker with Hilary Rushford.
  • Struggle – Also at the beginning of this year, my wholesale stationery business of ten years filed for bankruptcy. This is the first time I’ve mentioned this live, on the internet, so I’m quivering in my boots a bit admitting that, but it’s part of the story. In case you are setting up judgements in your mind, I’d like to ask that you please remember that it’s actually a very complicated legal story, and I wouldn’t recommend the process to any entrepreneur. I don’t like that it happened, but I also don’t want it to become some weird skeleton in my closet.
  • Success – Blogging has worked really well for me this year. Surprisingly, the more I’ve blogged about the struggles, the easier they’ve been to fight with, partly because there is a community of people who step forward and say, “Me, too!”. Blogging has definitely helped me feel not so isolated, and I’m so grateful for the blogging community I’ve found.
  • Success – I continued mini-Authenticate sessions, which worked really well. One thing that I started to notice mid-year, however, was that one mini-session didn’t really allow me to get to know my clients on the level I felt would service them best, so I’ve evolved the Authenticate process and am hosting a sold-out, online Authenticate group that is starting on January 8!
  • Success – As the Authenticate mini-sessions got their little revision, I started offering a Pow-Wow Session in their place. No worksheets, no chit-chat, just me and the client brainstorming for a bit. I’m in my element on these calls, so I’ve enjoyed them immensely.
  • Success – Kate Baird and I accepted five full branding clients this year! I had SO much fun on these projects! I love, love, love working with Kate, and our clients were all different and creative, so it was a blast to execute on their visions!
  • Struggle – As much as I love graphic design, and GOOD graphic design really makes my heart sing, I’m having to say no to design clients for 2014. I dabbled with creative direction some this year, and can easily step into that role if needed, but I’m closing the door on logos and design work for branding. In the Authenticate process, one of the things I talk about is that “niche is necessary”, meaning, if you want to survive this creative entrepreneurship thing, you’ve got to get really, really, really specific. Trying to be everything to everyone is only going to burn you out. That’s what how I’ve felt every time I’ve accepted a design client in 2013–burnt out. It took a while for me to realize that just because I love the work, doesn’t mean I won’t feel burnt-out doing it. On that note, I feel like this discovery is leading towards more balance, so yay!
  • Success – I said goodbye to my good friend, Anna, as she moved out of OKC early this past year. Anna and I worked together through thick and thin, little and much, crazy and calm, and I love that girl oodles. I’ve always said that if the world was ending and I was given the option of being the last person here and getting to pick one person to stay with me, I’d pick Anna. She’s really a bit of a Macgyver. I say that with no exaggeration. She is also the reason there is a Day Designer today. The research she did on that thing was mega, friends. I have to call this a success, though, because I’m delighted to see Anna’s adventures continue, and I’ve been blessed to still get to see her and work with her on a few small things!
  • Success – I attended Blissdom in Dallas this past February, with Holly Mathis and Chrissi Shields. Along the way, I was blessed to meet Camille Dickson, Meg Harrington, and Jana Hunter. I loved hanging out with this group, and know that we were all put in the same place at the same time because we needed that encouragement from each other that weekend!
  • Success – In May, I went to the National Stationery Show for the umpteenth time, this time helping Stationery Academy alum exhibit in the Stationery Academy booth! It was a great time! While I was there, Oklahoma was also hit by a tornado, and while we don’t directly know anyone that was affected, it was very hard to be in New York and feel so helpless and concerned.
  • Success – Because of the Oklahoma tornados, we had a tornado shelter installed this fall, that I hope we never have to use. About a week after I returned from the National Stationery Show, another tornado hit and was headed our direction. I’ll never forget the anxiety I felt as I tried to convince three children under the age of four to put on bicycle helmets, and rounded up blankets to wrap them in in case the tornado hit our house. Fortunately, the tornado changed directions, and instead of hitting us, hit my husbands workplace, where he was able to shelter behind some much-safer-than-our-house concrete walls. I’m so thankful for God’s protection.
  • Success – In June, I went back to NYC for Alt NYC. While it was fun to connect with Hilary Rushford, hang out with Jessica Bishop for two days, and meet more creatives, and actually get to see Martha Stewart in person, the trip was a whirlwind and made me realize that I can’t travel the way I used to.
  • Success – This year, I hired Heidi! She started working for me as a virtual assistant and then moved back to Oklahoma and has been a literal life-saver! We’ve also been blessed to be able to add another member to the Day Designer team, who stepped up, learned the ropes, and has navigated those waters with amazing accomplishment! I’m leaving her name off for safety reasons, but I am so, so, so thankful to have her help!
  • Success – My friend Shannon Ho and I traveled to Nashville this past summer, where I hosted the first ever Authenticate Workshop with the help of Amber Housley! There are definitely things I’d do differently if we did it again, but it was an amazing trip, and an amazing day. I’ve been able to stay connected with many of these women throughout the remainder of the year, and have a sneaky suspicion that we haven’t seen the last of each other.
  • Success – In a crazy turn of events, my husband found himself the new owner of an insurance agency this year. The best part about this is that he LOVES this work, and I couldn’t be happier for him. This was a major game-changer for us this year. It meant he had to travel quite a bit this past fall, which was challenging with the kids. But it’s been amazing, other than that. It is truly another reminder of God’s amazing provision in our lives. I’m humbled by His grace and grateful for His mercy.
  • Success – After a rough week, I traveled to speak at Amber Housley’s AH Inspired this year, as well. It was a tough few days to be gone from my kids, and another very clear reminder that I need to be focusing on family more. AH Inspired was wonderful, however. I loved getting to hang out with Jess Lively and Amy Flurry, as well as the other amazing creatives that spoke and attended!
  • Success – Despite sheer exhaustion, Natalie Chang and I co-hosted two back-to-back sessions of Stationery Academy in August. Heidi and Natalie did everything. It was an amazing success. At the end of the events, Jennifer Faught joined the hosting team. I’m excited to be returning to two sold-out sessions of Stationery Academy in 2014–one in Nashville and one in Chicago!
  • Struggle – I’ve thought about friendship quite a bit this year. I’m feeling some loss and emptiness in this department right now. I’m looking for trust in intimacy. I don’t know why it’s so hard to find, but friends, if you have it, protect that relationship with all your might. I love the sweet friends I have, but frankly, and not ungratefully, I feel like something is still missing. Definitely will be pondering this more as we head into 2014.
  • Success – Probably one of my favorite events this year was the Influence Conference in September. I found people there that could encourage me in this whole motherhood adventure, understood this whole online and social-media thing, and shared my values. I’m excited to return again as a speaker next fall!
  • Success – I also had a fabulous time speaking at Bliss & Bokeh this past fall, and getting to know all the women there! I’m headed to Bliss & Bespoke in just a few weeks to do one-on-one sessions with those attendees!
  • Success – In October, Heidi and I figured out a new calendar management system for work on my Mac calendar. At the beginning of each month, I go through and pre-book all appointment openings and title each event with the word OPEN. When a client emails, wanting to set up a call time, Heidi looks at the available OPEN slots and gives the client a list of choices. It was an amazing little process implementation that had immediate and incredible results. Yay!
  • Struggle – I’ve been working on an Authenticate book for over a year, and have tabled that project right now. I struggle with whether or not I’m supposed to finish it, and how to find the time to do that.
  • Success – Also in October, I attend Making Things Happen in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and had the delight of getting to hang out with Kate Baird for two days, as well as stay with my husband’s aunt and uncle for a brief visit. It was wonderful to catch up with family, and the content at Making Things Happen left me with a few new things to think about going forward. One major realization I had while I was there was that I have a voice, and I could use that voice to help people, and it would be pretty incredible to be able to help orphans and kids. I’m still feeling my way through this whole realization. I can also say that I’ve recognized that I don’t have to take action on this realization tomorrow–sometimes a vision is a burden. I’m scheduled to attend Making Things Happen again next March.
  • Success – A light bulb went off about dreams this fall. We are just stewards of dreams. These ideas, and hopes, are not ours. They are gifts, loaned to us for brief windows of time. Sometimes we are supposed to take action and execute, and sometimes we are just supposed to pass the dream along. Either way, if there is an idea or dream that has been laid on your heart, don’t fear nurturing it, don’t fear abandoning it, and don’t fear executing it. Just take care of it. I could write a whole blog post on this, because it’s a principle that I see changes the way I react to things, and is probably now part of my core operating principles. Will definitely be exploring more in 2014.
  • Success – The Joy Thigpen workshop this fall was another favorite event of the year. I styled my first floral arrangement, and really found spirit-rejuvenation in the fellowship and beauty of the simple event. Joy’s stories and thoughts were huge blessings for me, and I’ve been so encouraged by what I learned while I was there. I’m looking for more of this, so that’s on the wish list for 2014.
  • Success – We’ve sold out of three runs of 2014 Day Designers already this year! I also launched the Year Designer recently, which is a core-discovery and goal-setting system designed to be used with any planner! Over the past two years, I’ve honed in on this one very specific thing: I am passionate about helping creative entrepreneurs uncover and understand their core. My efforts in 2014 will be focused around this concept.
  • Success – We hung a mantel over our fireplace just weeks before Christmas. It still needs to be painted, but just getting it hung signifies the progress we’ve made over the past year.
  • Success – I spent some time with the gals at Braid Creative this year, and greatly appreciate what they are doing for the creative community.
  • Struggle – We are working on feeling settled in a church home. We attend church here when no one is sick, or frankly, tired or cranky, and I wish we got points for intention instead of action. We live a good half-hour from church, so it’s a drive, and it’s during Charley’s naptime, so, safe to say, it’s a struggle. We’d like to feel better about this in 2014.
  • Success – Our kids are awesome. Kiddo is getting really great about “helping”. He and I had a chat yesterday about helping around the house, and the communication connection was there. I was so encouraged. Bubba is a delight. He calls himself “Super Bubba” and walks around the house with galoshes over pajamas. It’s a riot. Charley-girl is brilliant. She’s talking better than she’s walking, and it’s so different having a girl than having boys. Yesterday, she looked at me and said “Uh tay bat.” (Want take bath.) I clarified, “You want to take a bath?” to which she replied, “uh-huh”. I told her not now, and she looked at me, waved and said, “Bye. Ee oo oon.” (Bye. See you soon.) And then walked off. A complete conversation. I was in total shock.
  • Struggle – Three kids under the age of five is total chaos. I worry that they’re not each getting enough one-on-one time, that we’re not reading enough books. I know it will pass, and until then, I’ll give them my best.

If you’ve written a summary or recap of your 2013, leave a link in the comments so that I can check it out!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Faught {Something Detailed} December 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I haven’t been able to write anything down yet to reflect on 2013, but I am also feeling reflective and quiet in this season. Early this morning, during a normal battle with insomnia, I was thinking about friendship – something that has been on my mind quite a bit over the past two years, and have similar feelings. I am introverted, shy and private – hard to be believe if you’ve met me. :) I call myself a “learned extrovert”. I’ve been burned so many times that I’m cautious and tend to keep my guard up with new friendships these days. Cutting out the friendships that have had a negative impact has also helped. It’s not worth it! That is where a lot of the cautiousness comes from–who am I letting in? With everyone around me starting or completing families (while we are not) and the busy pace of life, it’s hard to find time to create intimacy and trust in the friendships I do have, much less make new ones. I am beginning to understand that it’s a sign of maturing, getting older–and it’s okay because the close friendships I have are more valuable than ever and those are the ones I need to nurture. Love this post, Whitney. It’s so important to reflect so you can progress. 2014 is going to be a great year for you! xoxo


Christine Findlater December 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Great post Whitney, I love that you are reflecting on both the successes and the struggles….keeps it real in a world where it’s often too easy to hide the ugly stuff and just put out the good stuff. (I don’t blog and have no link so apologies if this is long!)

My successes this year:
* Marking our first full year of living in the US since leaving the UK in October 2012. My husband and I have built a new life here and feel very happy and settled in a beautiful town in NJ. I still have to pinch myself that I can hop on a bus and be in Manhattan in just over an hour!
* Getting my employment authorization to allow me to legally work in the US after being here 4 months. This got me fired up about being in business again and I was ready to get to work.
* Visiting the National Stationery Show for the first time in May (and of course meeting you!) I also attended the Let’s Talk Stationery Brunch, walked the show with some LTSers and had a fabulous dinner in NYC with new friends. It was great to finally meet stationery friends I have been in that forum with for so many years.
* I worked with 24 fee paying clients for my new business, some were very small design jobs, some were larger jobs but I ended the year on a high by wrapping up a full start to finish branding and web design client – a wedding planner in Florida. I want more of this in 2014.
* My income for the year was very, very modest but I made a profit….just! It’s a very small profit but it’s a profit none the less. I need to be happy with that.
* On a personal note, we travelled a lot and had some wonderful trips and adventures, countless trips into NYC, an amazing vacation to Napa to celebrate my 40th, we visited coast to coast (and some of the big bit in the middle!) and managed to squeeze in a trip back to the UK to see family and friends. This is what I live for…travel, adventure, seeing the world, enjoying good food & wine. More of this please in 2014.

What didn’t work for me:
* I felt invisible for a large part of the year. Starting all over from scratch again made me feel like the last person to arrive at the party. It’s so hard to make real connections with people past the initial introduction and I found it hard to feel part of a community. Actually, I feel like I’m peering in through the window to a party I wasn’t even invited to!
* My first attempt at an Etsy store came to an abrupt end after only a few short months when Facebook closed me (and many, many others) down due to a copyright infringement issue. Seems you can’t sell custom color social media buttons on Etsy. Who knew? It was a whole big drama at the time.
* My second attempt at an Etsy store didn’t work. After just 4 orders, I realised my line of personalized social stationery was being lost in the vast ocean of Etsy. I was neither able or willing to fight that hard for a $100 order of thank you notes. I closed that store down and got stuck with a huge pile of inventory and a brand new (now dust collecting) HP printer that I rushed into buying.
* My current Etsy store with premade logos isn’t working (spot the pattern here?!) Again, I’m lost in the searches and the next to nothing prices. I can’t be found and I can’t compete. I need to address this early in 2014.
* I focused on the $$$ way too much. I have a constant battle in my head with not earning enough money, not contributing to the pot and listening to the voice in my head that says I should stop all this creative nonsense and go and get a ‘real job’. So I tried applying for real jobs, that didn’t work either.
* I wanted to sign up for workshops and events but found it so hard to justify the cost when the business isn’t making enough money. I mean, I can afford it, but it’s a personal dilemma to spend our own money to indulge my creative endeavors.
* I spent a lot of time being envious of some of the high profile creative entrepreneurs we all know who seemingly struck gold this year. People whose businesses I have followed for years, this was their year, they hit the big time. I know they will have their own struggles but still, I find it hard not to be just a little jealous and left wondering just how they do it.
* Blogging, Instagramming. I still have a lot of problems being comfortable putting the personal stuff out there but I know it’s holding my business back. I need to figure out how to get over that in 2014 if I want to move forward.
* My own brand and visual identity is still not where I want it to be. I need to get my head round the fact that I can design for other clients who are delighted with my work but can’t seem to get my own nailed down. I have A LOT of work to do on my business this year.

Thank you for allowing me write this out this morning. I needed this. Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2014!


vana January 1, 2014 at 12:42 am

Beautiful post, Whitney! I too love reading people’s reflections at the end of the year. It encouraged me to celebrate the successes (no matter how big or small they may be) and be “real” in acknowledging my struggles. I posted my reflections for 2013 here:

Wishing you and yours a blessed and prosperous 2014!



Elizabeth January 2, 2014 at 4:14 am

What a great post, Whitney. I struggle with the friendship thing, too. I feel I didn’t really nuture my friendships that I have out of fear of getting hurt. It sounds so silly, but I had a friend for over 20 years that was more like a sister who really hurt me. It’s been over a year but we still have the same circle of friends which makes things awkward for everyone. I felt like I could tell her about my hurt and we’d patch things up and move on, but that didn’t happen. I’m not really sure why. I think what hurt me most was not what she did, but the fact that she didn’t want to be friends any longer. I’ve moved on and have let go of the idea of reaching out to her, but it has definitely made me put a guard up. I feel like some of my closest friends are online friends whom I’ve never met. Pretty silly, huh? Ok, I’ll stop rambling. Happy New years! I look forward to seeing what 2014 brings your way!


Karen Thomas January 2, 2014 at 4:25 am

I love, love, love reading your blog. I have been a fan since I carried your products in my shop. Thanks for sharing candidly and being so honest about your journey. I just signed up for some info about consultation services from you – so looking forward to some wisdom.



Kyla Roma January 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

This is such a great recap – I love how open and vulnerable you are. I’m a creative entrepreneur and I have a personal blog too, but since I started working for myself three years ago I haven’t found other creative business ladies who are still sharing in this way on their sites. What a breath of fresh air!

I did a fill in the blank recap of my year here: http://www.kylaroma.com/2014/01/a-fill-in-the-blank-review-of-2013/


Veronica January 2, 2014 at 10:43 pm

I really appreciate you sharing your successes and struggles. Beautiful post! I’ve never thought to create a ‘recap’ of the entire year. This has inspired me to take my daily gratitudes to the next level by taking time at the end of each month to reflect on my successes and struggles. Thank you – wishing you a happy start to the new year!


Molly Wantland January 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Whitney, thank you for being so honest with us on your blog! Love reading your words…and I hope I’ll have another excuse to learn from you in the future (another Authenticate day sometime?!)


Danielle January 4, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Enjoyed reading this list! Particularly about using your voice/gifts to help others! God has been really showing me some ways that he wants me to be involved with improving education for kids in slums/impoverished areas. Scary to me because it seems so big, but waiting on God to reveal the exact role he would have me play! He is about making his things happen, so when he calls us he equips us! A truth I cling to regularly! Enjoyed stopping by!


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