How I cultivated TWO communities that fuel my brand OFFLINE

Community…noun. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

We all need community. Whether you are a human, a brand, an introvert, an extrovert or an animal, the need to feel accepted and supported is there. We travel in packs, mastermind big ideas and share a lifestyle that is important to us. We all set out to find them and once we find that community we feel like we have come home.

Now, thankfully, with the internet’s ever evolving technology, it is easier than ever to connect with people and brands that speak to your soul. With online communities we can connect with others far and wide, stay in touch between gatherings and share in each other’s successes. The internet is a great tool to help cultivate your community, but today I want to focus on the face-to-face, the power of word of mouth and the visceral energy created from in person connection.

I have found amazing groups of people online, no doubt, but it is not the same as meeting these people in person, or cultivating local communities in your area. These communities are vital to you as a business owner and as a brand. In person networking is not dead and neither is word of mouth marketing. Nothing is more valuable than you and sharing what you have to offer with others. And nothing is more powerful than the return of word of mouth support.

With fast tactic marketing, hard core sales newsletters and being hit everyday with the same media about how you are missing out on the next best deal is downright exhausting and let’s be honest, bound for burn out. You have to go at your own pace, and if the above path is your style then seriously go take on that world, because it needs you.

Maybe that fast-paced lifestyle is not what you want for yourself, your brand or your community? I am right there with ya. I am an introvert, a late bloomer and I am looking for something else completely. With no judgment on the other paths or the trends, I seek the road less traveled. The one where word of mouth is king, authenticity is queen and organic growth fuels the slow burn that eventually creates a bonfire kind of community. For my brand and myself, I want communities that are ready to camp out and enjoy the journey together. What about you?

So what does the journey look like exactly?

Here are the steps I take:

  1. I decided I wanted it and I never looked back.
  2. I got my feet wet, played in the background and took it all in.
  3. I dedicated my value with no expectations.
  4. I learned life lessons and what I wanted (or didn’t want).
  5. I found the support I needed and myself, along the way.

I have used these steps in two major communities in my life so far, but these steps have also worked on a smaller scale, or in smaller branches of these larger communities.

The first community found me… in high school. I consider myself a little bit lucky on this one because this community literally saved me and I feel blessed to have found it at a young age. My paddling community at NAC hooked me from day one. It was a great place to be after school and it became my sanctuary. I got to be on the water and I got to meet people outside of my high school life (thank goodness). As an adult, I have dedicated 11 years, every summer and handfuls of weekends to this community. I have volunteered my time, my creative eye and sweat to it. I have learned that no one was going to do this for me, that we are so much stronger when we are united and that I needed to open myself up to the world. From this community, I found my husband, amazing friends and rad clients.

The second community came much later, and I had to go out and get it. Starting a business was in my blood, but how the heck was I going to do it? I had a small side hustle (thanks to the first community), I was looking at transferring to Cal State Long Beach for Art and Etsy had just hit the scene…such exciting times. Art school gave me the skills and knowledge to know where I wanted to take my art career, but no business skills to build it. I felt a little lost and a need to find a community that fueled my creative and entrepreneurial spirit. I pursued a corporate graphic design job that gave me loads of experience but didn’t fulfill me in this way, so I decided to go to Craftcation, a creative conference. I found out about Craftcation through a newsletter sent by my favorite local store. I have to say this conference was intimidating, because at this point I had no idea this community even existed or what I was doing…and these creatives were badass. My mind was blown and I knew I had found another community to call home. I didn’t have any networking confidence, but I kept going each year, where I met new creatives, built up my confidence and expanded my horizons. Over the past 4 years I have volunteered my time, my tech skills, and hustle to this community. I learned that I can do this, that we are all afraid and that there is room for everyone to share their voice. In return, I have found my business, my support team and more rad clients.

These communities are a prime example that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing chip you can hold. It is worth your time and it is worth the organic growth. It offers you a healthy, robust base in which your business can rest its head. With this offline base, you can then start to grow your online communities with your marketing plan – whatever that may look like, because let’s face it…there are no rules anymore.

As a brand it is important to have an online presence through this whole journey…it doesn’t have to be perfect and it is never finished. I do not care what anyone says, Rome wasn’t built in a day and there are no fast, easy answers. There is just hard, smart work and the fact that everyone has to start somewhere. You rarely get to see the beginnings, so if you are looking for an organic place to start, you can look online but jump at the chance to take it offline when it calls to you.

-maddie

How to incorporate travel into your brand

Whether traveling for business or pleasure it is fun to share your travels with your community and incorporate it into your brand. How you go about sharing your travels can be the tricky part, but it can offer some amazing and different content to share and engage with your followers.

First of all, ask yourself a few questions…

1. How important is traveling to me, my business, or my brand?

2. In what ways does traveling fit into my brand?

3. What would my community like to see?

When thinking of your brand, always think of your ideal client.

Take Folk Dreams, for example, my ideal client is active and outdoorsy, so a lot of my travel photos include nature and being outside. Plus a pop of creativity once in awhile.

Traveling for Business

Think about the different sections of your trip:

– The journey and/or the destination

– Downtime – working from the pool or how you stay creative during your trip…

– In the thick of it – conferences, meeting new people, events, planning…the chaos of it all is always interesting!

When traveling for business, there can be a lot of behind the scenes to share with your community. They love your product or service so show them what it takes to bring them what you are offering.

Traveling for Pleasure

If you are traveling for pleasure, you can still share with your brand. Here are a few things to look for…

– colors that match your branding

– how you like to take time off from your business to travel

– something inspirational that sparks new ideas for your brand

This is also a great time to share with your community that you are taking some time away and that you may not be as active online as usual. You deserve the break!

How do you share your travels with your brand? I would love to hear in the comments below!

Happy Friday,

-maddie

The Wave

Life comes in waves. It is all happening in sets, one right after the other or there is nothing like one big lull. I recently found this great quote that kind of sums it all up for me. And it seems to be my March mantra.

Life has a way of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen at once.

~ Paulo Coelho

Life doesn’t come in linear waves though, perfectly lined up like your favorite surf break. It comes at you from multiple sides…work, personal, health, family, friends, and so on. Their force can be groundbreaking like Teahupo’o or like little ripples on the surface, but they all have an impact.

One wave that holds strong in my life is NAC. In my previous post, I mentioned I paddle outrigger canoe at the Newport Aquatic Center. This could probably be a post within itself, but it fits here, so if you know it…bare with me. In high school, all I wanted to do Sophomore year was not run track. So I heard of this little sport that was off campus but you could still get sports credit…so I went down to NAC to give paddling a try and basically never left. It was meant to be right from the get go and NAC became my home away from home and the people there have literally become my family. I met my husband that very first day, we were both 15 years old and who knew 13 years later we would be married. At that time I could only dream. But beyond that, I fell in love with the water, Hawaii and the technical sport. I can really attribute all of this to one person. Sam Couch.

Photo Credit: RJ DeRama.

Photo Credit: RJ DeRama.

His wave of life looked a lot different from mine, but he would have never let you know that. He also grew up at NAC and never left, like a lot of us there, but his impact was huge (like Teahupo’o). He was the junior outrigger coach at NAC for way more years than I can remember. He is the one who taught me that I had to go out and get what I wanted and that things were not going to just come to me. He created a place that allowed kids from all walks of life feel accepted and accomplished in a sport. There are so many of us that would be in a much different place, if it were not for him. He always lead by example, because even though he lived with Cystic Fibrosis, he. always. won. And as I am sitting here not being able to hold back tears, I know, even though he is no longer with us, that he won even in his final battle. Since life is not about the final destination, and more about the journey, (all those waves!) he lived his shortened life to the fullest! Always doing everything he wanted, his way.

This week marks 6 months since he left this world, but I know he is still he with us. He is still at NAC, on the water, and in the waves we go dare to ride. This wave, the one of losing him, has been a hard one for me and for a lot of us. It is one that is feltdaily.

Sam was an amazing wood worker and he was just starting to sell his work. One of his pieces was, no doubt, named “The Wave.” You may have seen my posts about the logo design I did for him featuring his beautiful wave. And even though Sam was so good about not letting Cystic Fibrosis (CF) dictate how he lived his life, it was still probably the biggest wave of his life. I know more then most, but probably not even half of what he suffered, but honestly, that is how he would have wanted it.

My good friend, and one of the closest people to Sam, Kelly, found Great Strides and their local Orange County CF walks that raise funds for finding a cure for CF, so naturally, we had to get a team together. She worked her magic making the NAC4Life team and when she asked me to create a design for their t-shirt contest with Sam’s wave, I said, heck yes!

This design is now in the final running on the CF Foundation’s OC Chapter Facebook page, which is totally rad, but we need your help to win! If you could head over to this FB link and like “The Wave” team NAC4Life will love you forever! The one with the most likes wins the contest.

We are walking on May 2nd in Dana Point Walk for Sam. And he will be with us every step of the way. He was huge into assisting in the testing of the latest treatments that have all been amazing steps toward finding a cure! But there is still a cure to be found, so if you would like to make a donation on behalf of our team, you can do that here.

If you know someone who has lived, or lives, with CF you know what this disease does. If you don’t, then you can read more about CF here…they explain it so much better then I ever could! It is one that is slow, hard to watch and once it takes control it is so very hard to come back from. I can’t tell you how many times Sam came back to us. When he did actually decide to go, it was shocking, but I understood. He left on his own terms.

For Sam, there is no end. He was the ocean in a drop and he will forever be riding the eternal wave…with that huge grin on his face. I can literally see it now.

Happy surfing, Sam. We love you.

-maddie

I Say Hello

I thought I would do a little post with a few fun facts about me that are not on my about me page. Who doesn't love a good list?!

1. I love The Beatles (hence this post’s title)! Their Let It Be album is the best in my book and George is my favorite, always and forever. Enough said.

2. My husband, Jimi, and I have been together for almost 10 years, but we were good friends long before that. We just celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day. Yep, you heard that right… You can read more about our story on my old blog here.

3. I have 3 cats, 1 dog and a bird! They have all been adopted in one-way or another. I post about them occasionally here. I have a special place in my heart for all animals and want to save them all. My top three animals are for sure elephants, horses and dolphins…they all make me happy any day.

4. Even though I am a graphic designer and went to art school, my BA in studio art was with an emphasis in art history. It is the best of both words. I have always loved history and grew up in a really creative family, so it was a match made in heaven. It took me forever to get there though…I probably changed my major like 5 times. They all had to do with art or design, except marine biology.

5. I like to spend my weekends messing around with boats and being on the water. Motorboats and outrigger canoes are my preferred choice of transpiration any day. But really anything having to do with the ocean makes me happy. I race outrigger canoe competitively for NAC, in Newport Beach, CA and have crossed the Catalina Channel in an outrigger more than 15 times.

6. I have an extreme case of wanderlust. I don’t get more excited about anything else (okay…maybe animals) then I do about upcoming trips. I like to get away at least for a weekend once a month, and take one big trip each year. I want to see the world, but I also love exploring California (and the rest of the states). Last year’s big trip was Tahiti and I could talk for days about that, but this month I am off to Camp Texlake, Texas for TxSC15 and Ventura, CA for Craftcation (conference season lovin’)!

7. As much as I love traveling, I love coming home and resting. I live in the cutest little neighborhood that always welcomes me home with tree lined streets and adorable CA ranch style houses. Of course, snuggling up with my animals and watching the latest episode of The 100 (this show will be the death of me, no joke) or Nashville can’t be beat.

8. If you couldn’t already tell, I am a nature girl through and through. Camping is the only way to spend the night, s’mores make the perfect dessert and campfire is the best smell around. Large trees, salty waves and the cool mountains continually inspire me. My jewelry line, Folk Dreams, translates nature into wearable pieces of art for taking the road less traveled. I learned to metalsmith while at CSULB and fell in love with the process, skill and working with my hands.

9. I come from a family (I heart them) of rock stars! They are all so creative, are their own bosses, or are making big stuff happen on the daily. They are dedicated. It is so inspiring and has really helped shape my accountability and passion. It has been a dream of mine to be a #girlboss (full-time), so I have always had a “side hustle.” In college, I worked very part-time (because art school takes up all hours of your day), so I walked dogs and house sat all the time to bring in extra cash. Now I am sketching my own future with my freelance business.

10. Podcasts! A bit obsessed with any creative business podcast. Right now, my favorite is Being Boss with Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson and as I mentioned in my last postShe Percolates. Check them out and enjoy these inspiring ladies!

Okay enough about me! Come say hi on instagram and introduce yourself! What makes you happy? How do you stay inspired and motivated? How do you check in with yourself?

- maddie

Be intentional. Be kind. Be authentic.

Hi 2015!  You came screaming in like a freight train and now we are already at the end of February…what?!

My first goal for this year is to blog more (kinda took a long break from it in 2014). So here I am getting in my first blog post in a little less than a year…

2015 is all about breakin’ it down! (dance party)

I want to break down the clutter, the weakness, the fear and replace it with foundation, strength and confidence. Like I said,dance party…f*ing hard work, maybe with some T.Swift. or the She Percolates Podcast playing in the background. So waaay easier said then done, right?! But, I am pretty sure the future me will love me so much more for it.

2015 Intentions

I am going to start with being intentional. Doing things with intent. Sending those bad habits out the door and letting only the things I decide to have come in. To get through clutter, weakness and fear (a lifelong battle) I look into myself and my habits with purpose, because on the other side of all that are my dream, my strengths and my goals. On the other side is growth!

My second intention is to be kind. Not the kind of kindness that is all like “That’s nice,” with a fake smile, but rather, the deep rooted kindness that is not always going to be easy to give, the kindness that comes from a place of authentic love or carefulness. I am talking intentional kindness that is found through listening (not to reply) and understanding (even when I necessarily don’t). It is the month of love after all!

My word for 2013 or 2014 (is it bad I can’t remember?) was authenticity. It was about allowing myself to be vulnerable, putting myself out there and letting other people in. All I have to say is it has opened so many doors to so many of my favorite people. I have probably never felt so loved in my entire life and that is a feeling unlike any other. This means being surrounded by a few core groups of people that want the similar things, that are inspiring and understand one another. I feel at home with all of them, making them communities that can never be replaced. Looking back on the past 2 years, makes me think being authentic is a life lone journey that I never want to give up.

2015 Word

What word will help me break it all down?

Simplify! …let the light in, break it down, and getting back to basics.

2015 Goals

This blog post by Stacy Spensley, How to set your self up for Success in 2015 inspired me to write my goals based on only my 2015 word! She couldn’t have made making goals easier. Resolutions rarely stick and goals are daunting (even though they are important), so her strategy really helped me break simplify my goals for this year! I am going to share my one big business goal and one big personal goal that is broken down by month for the year.

Business

I will create and simplify all business processes by December 2015.

January: Office setup for productivity

February & March: Bookkeeping, Taxes and Inventory

April: Module 1: Lesson 1 & 2 Stress Less & Impress

May: Module 1: Lesson 3

June: Module 2: Lesson 1 Stress Less & Impress

July: Module 2: Lesson 2 Stress Less & Impress

August: Module 2: Lesson 3 Stress Less & Impress

September: Module 3: Lesson 1 Stress Less & Impress

October: Module 3: Lesson 2 & 3 Stress Less & Impress

November: Holiday Kick off and Prep

December: Holiday Shows and Orders

Personal

Purge! I will simplify my daily living by removing things that no longer serve me in our house by December 2015.

– January: Office

– February: Office Closet

– March: Bedside Table

– April: Bedroom closet

– May: Kitchen

– June: Bathrooms

– July: Hall Closet and Linen Closet

– August: Guest Closet

– Sept – October: Garage

– November: Behind Garage

– December: Yards

Here is to 2015 and…

Being intentional. Being kind. Being authentic. Simplifying.

- maddie

Why attend a Creative Conference?

Today I am over at the Dear Handmade Life blog talking about why you should be attending Creative Conferences, like Craftcation!

Head on over here to check out this great Interview Series! My interview is Part 5.

Nicole S. is one of the masterminds behind Craftcation and all of its glory…here is her favorite quote from our interview:

“Community, education, growth, and inspiration are all priceless as a creative and why conferences are worth it. Going to conferences (esp. Craftcation) allows you to breakaway from your everyday, take a look at your business and work on things that might take a back seat to making or customer service. As creatives, we often work on our own – having a community is seriously the best thing for your business. The support and friendship is a great reminder you are not in it alone.”

Will you join us at Craftcation this year? Find more info here: http://dearhandmadelife.com/craftcation-conference/

- maddie