Finding Your Tribe

Open Heart Creative PortfolioAt a networking event last week, a woman I’d just met asked if anything has surprised me on the journey from where I started my business to where I am today. Without hesitation, I replied, “The fact that my idea actually worked!”

During the year I spent dreaming about Open Heart Creative, there was one thing I knew for sure: I wanted to work with women-led businesses.

I got plenty of pushback. “Why target just women?” “Aren’t you limiting yourself?”

As if the universe of female entrepreneurs was so small, I was shooting myself in the foot. Setting myself up for failure. While I appreciated the feedback, I decided to put my stake in the ground.

Six years in, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a bit stunned by what’s transpired. It’s amazing to see my vision – of focusing solely on doing work I love and being of service to organizations of all shapes and sizes – become a reality. But there’s been an unexpected upside: in the process of looking for clients, I’ve found my tribe.

Yes, Virginia – there is an entire world of women who are building businesses and making a difference. And it turns out that many {many!} of them want to work together. Encourage and support each other. And have fun doing it.

When I tell people that virtually all of my business comes through networking and referrals, they tend to look skeptical. But what is often whispered during coffee dates or over martinis is true: women do business differently. We enjoy taking time to get to know each other. Relish opportunities to dig deeper and build relationships. And don’t hesitate to use each other’s services, try each other’s products, or pass along names and email addresses of colleagues we trust and respect.

I’ve often said what makes me happiest about being my own boss is having the freedom to choose my clients. Who knew I could also choose to surround myself with an incredibly diverse, talented, inspiring, and loving circle of colleagues and cheerleaders? Despite all the thought and care and planning that went into launching OHC, this is something I never saw coming.

If you’re a solopreneur, you know the struggle is real. It’s easy to become mired in uncertainty, overwhelm, and loneliness. Finding your tribe is the antidote.

As we celebrate the season of thanks-giving, my heart is filled with gratitude for the women who have trusted me to help them tell their stories honestly and fearlessly. And for those who I am blessed to call friends.

Take Heart

Open Heart Creative Read BlogThe heart-shaped balloons and bedazzled boxes of candy started hitting shelves January 2nd.

I think buying chocolate a month and a half before gifting it to your sweetheart is a bit sketchy. But I do enjoy seeing hearts at every turn. They’re a daily reminder of the value of moving through the world with an open heart.

I’m often asked why I named my business Open Heart Creative. The questions range from, “So, what’s with the heart thing?” to “Oh, you mean, like, open heart surgery?”

Well, in a way, working with clients can feel a bit like open heart surgery.

And it took quite a bit of “heart” for me to launch a business based on a hunch that other business owners could benefit from strengthening their connection to the emotional center of their work. And putting their passion front and center in their marketing.

There was pushback {“Really? That’s a thing?”}

But I’m here to tell you – it totally is.

If we’ve worked together – or you run a heart-centered business – you know how hard it can be to trust that it’s okay to put the heart and soul of your work out there for the world to see.

To infuse your marketing with your true, authentic self in order to connect with your true, authentic audience.

It takes an immeasurable amount of courage for many of us to dip our toe into this roiling ocean – much less dive in. The world we travel doesn’t always embrace warmth, tenderness or honesty.

I’ll admit I’m pretty thin-skinned. The struggle to bring my hopes and dreams to light was monumental.

But I made the choice to put my heart {literally} on the line. To come from that deep down place of trust and intuition. And what has happened since has absolutely surpassed my wildest expectations.

In her book Everybody Writes, Ann Handley says, “At its heart, a compelling brand story is a kind of gift that gives your audience a way to connect with you as one person to another.”

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I invite you to show your clients some love by giving them the gift of more of who you are.

Give voice to your business stories fearlessly, proudly, and without apology. Communicating honestly and authentically with your prospects and customers is essential to building meaningful relationships with them.

And that’s the heART of successfully growing your business.

Finding Your Voice

find-your-voiceMy throat’s been really sore the past few days. The kind of sore that radiates into your chest, makes swallowing torture, and talking a last resort.

Whenever this happens I’m reminded of the healer who once told me I had a tendency towards imbalance in my throat chakra.

This wasn’t great news for someone whose livelihood revolves around communication, but it wasn’t a total surprise. The throat chakra is sort of like the Oval Office for creative self-expression: It‘s the energy center that allows us to communicate with clarity and confidence.

It also powers our voice: Our ability to speak our truth with conviction and compassion. To express our ideas, insights, desires, and feelings without worrying about being wrong. Without fear of being judged.

On any given day, finding my voice – speaking my truth – can be hard enough without throwing a blocked chakra into the mix.

And I know I’m not alone.

The struggle to communicate real thoughts and feelings is arguably the number one reason my clients hire me. When I tell someone I’m a business writer, they often say, “I have such a hard time writing about myself and what I do.”

In my heart I believe this is less about skill and more about the fear of giving voice to what it is we honestly want to say – about our products, our services, and ourselves.

“Voice” is one of the most important elements in any piece of writing. It conveys personality and character, attitude and style. It’s the thing that draws me in to a good story – and keeps me there until the last page.

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s equally important to have a “brand voice.”

When this voice speaks your language – when it conveys your unique values and intentions with honesty and integrity – it resonates with those who speak it, too. And when you boil it all down, that’s the key to building a brand – and growing a business.

Author Neil Gaiman says, “Most of us find our own voices only after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.” As a writer, that certainly has been my experience.

But many of us know what our voice sounds like. We use it when we believe in ourselves. When we’re comfortable with our ideas and opinions. When we’re sharing from our hearts.

Healing the throat chakra is about having the courage to use our voice even when it feels risky. It begins with having the confidence to own our story – and tell it as only we can.

Listen to Your Heart

open heartIt’s February – and we all know what that means. We’re bombarded with messages about love and romance and (if we’re women) keeping our hearts healthy.

All this heart talk got me thinking about my relationships with the people and things I love. Which eventually led to the following question:

When was the last time you fell in love…with your business?

How long has it been since you scrolled through your company website? Read your marketing materials? Looked at your business card? Or thought about your mission statement? If you had to rate your relationship with your business on a scale of 1 to 10, what would you give it?

At Open Heart Creative, we know that, deep down, you love what you do – or you wouldn’t be doing it. But as with any long-term relationship, our passion for our work ebbs and flows, often overshadowed by the demands of – well – actually working.

So we’ve decided that February is the perfect month to show your business some love. To reconnect with the emotions and desires that drove you to start your venture – and keep you showing up day after day.

Why does it matter? Because your vision, your integrity, your values – your enthusiasm – resonate with others. They are the reasons your clients choose you.

I spent last weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine. Four feet of snow blanketed everything in sight, and navigating the sidewalks required the focus of an Olympic athlete. But it was my sweetheart’s birthday. He’s a Maine man. It made him happy. And that made me happy.

Of course, not everyone is eager to go to Maine in the dead of winter. So Kennebunkport has designated February as “Love KPT” month to promote its reputation as “New England’s Most Romantic Town.” An array of love-themed hotel packages and events are being offered to lure visitors. And everywhere we turned there were hearts.

Lots and lots of hearts.

Snapping pix for my Pinterest page, I was swept up in a wave of joy. The same joy I experienced months ago when I was choosing the name for my business. It was exciting to be plugged back in to the heart of what fuels my work. And I looked forward to getting back to the office.

I invite you to do the same. Step away from the Smartphone and the computer, and take a little time to listen to your heart. You might just remember why you fell in love with your business in the first place!

  • Take a break from the “To Do” list. Put aside the marketing plan and money worries, the vendor issues and client complaints, and ask yourself what you love most about your work. Bonus points: Translate the answer into words – and use those words as marketing tools.
  • If you’ve been in business for a while, think back to how you felt when you opened your first box of business cards. Launched your website. Got your first client. Allow those feelings to re-energize your interactions with colleagues, clients and prospects.
  • If your business is relatively new, reconnect regularly with the passion that’s driving you to take this professional leap. Take advantage of networking opportunities and speaking gigs where you can share your excitement with others. It’s contagious!
  • Make a date with a business mentor and have a heart-to-heart about the issues or challenges you’re facing. They can provide the fresh perspective and confidence boost you need to return to the job with renewed energy and commitment.