Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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7 Lessons From the First Year of Business

7 Lessons From the First Year of BusinessI still have a hard time believing it, but I launched my business, Signify, on July 1st of last year! Some days it really does seem like yesterday, and others feel more like a seasoned pro. Regardless, it’s been an intense learning experience.

I created Signify out of a desire to help my friends. I knew people with small nonprofits and purpose-driven for-profits and social enterprises that needed someone like me who could lend another set of hands and breakdown marketing and communications for them. They cared deeply about their mission, since it was the driving force of their organization, but marketing and communications weren’t their strong suite. They knew they needed to look and sound more professional in order to get noticed and grow, but they didn’t have time, or maybe even the know-how.

So, I stepped in. I’d already been freelancing, giving them advice, volunteering, and helping them as best I could along the way, but with this as my full-time business, I was going to be able to help them even more.

Many of these relationships became my first clients, and they’ve even stuck around for multiple projects, or referred their friends to me. It’s been a wonderful way to sustain and grow my business. Whether they need writing, consulting, or strategy help—and most often a combination of all three—these organizations have been a privilege to serve. I wanted to assist cause-focused organizations who were doing great things in the world. They were already making a difference, and I knew I could help them create a bigger impact.

It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m eager to start year two.

But first, here are seven lessons I learned from these first twelve months.


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Answering the Question: What Do I Do?

hands-typingSince leaving my old job in May, I now frequently get asked what kind of work I do. So, I figured I’d take the time to spell it out here.

The gist is that I am a writer and consultant (mostly marketing and communications) for nonprofits, social justice organizations and social enterprises. I also do a little magazine writing, and hope to expand that soon. Now and again, I do other odds and ends upon request or for friends, but writing and consulting is really the core.

I particularly love partnering with small organizations. I’ve found that many of the people who run and are employed at those organizations do so because they have a heart for the work, but may not be strongly suited for the strategy when it comes to communications and marketing. This is where I come in. I have always loved helping small businesses grow, and being in on the ground floor to build them up. So, when I apply my skills to their needs, I can help them get their message out in a bigger and better way. And in working with those three types of businesses (nonprofits, social justice organizations and social enterprises), I am ensuring a greater success for the types of companies that I want to support personally and see thrive.

Here are a few examples of the work I’ve done so far, and an introduction to some of my fantastic clients:

  • Atlanta Dream Center: They protect and support the area’s most vulnerable populations, including the homeless, at-risk children and women who have been trafficked or prostituted. Among other things, I wrote many of the communications pieces for their annual benefit dinner, such as the website, save the date, invitation, newsletter announcement, press release and sponsor package. I also created a marketing plan that they can use to more effectively organize the event moving forward, and provides a comprehensive strategy for the who’s, why’s and how’s of the annual dinner. Additionally, I consulted on all aspects of the dinner, and was able to give marketing and communications insight they didn’t have before. All of this resulted in their most profitable fundraiser to date—by far! I have been a volunteer with them for the past three years, so I was beyond excited to see them surpass their goals, and for a new audience to become aware of their amazing work.
  • Habitat for Humanity: Ok, so you’ve probably heard their name before. They provide safe, affordable homes to individuals and families around the world. Habitat is a solution to the global housing crisis, and while I’ve always had great respect for the organization, it’s in overdrive now that I’ve learned so much more about them. We both celebrate the big 4-0 this year, so I’ve been rewriting some of their web pages as they prepare for a new digital online presence. And I’ve been able to work with a friend from college, so that’s been fun too.
  • Connect Faith: I started writing for this magazine several years ago when I was at Orange because the focus is Christian event planners, and I fit that mold at the time. So, it’s been a place where I could use the knowledge from that job to help educate and inspire others in that field. I also attend a lot of Christian conferences, as you already know if you’ve read this blog much at all, so I could share the things I was learning with a larger audience. They are a great publication, and it’s been fun working with them. I hope to also be able to write for some of their other magazines soon. And, as I mentioned above, I hope to write for other publications as well before too long, particularly in the areas of social justice and travel.
  • Be the Bridge: This budding organization utilizes resources and conversations to further racial reconciliation. They believe that the Church must become a bigger answer to this issue, and are equipping people to host racially diverse small groups that create open lines of communication.  We should not be having the “race conversation” as only white people or only black people, but as friends and Christians. My friend, Latasha, started this organization because she was willing to have the awkward, but necessary conversations, and build bridges that foster healing. It’s important and timely work. They just held their launch parties here in Atlanta a few weeks ago, so I assisted in strategy and communications, and also did live Tweeting, Instagram and Facebook during the two inaugural events.
  • Dr. Bombay’s and The Learning Tea: This darling little tea shop in Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood funds “life scholarships” for girls in India. With these funds, girls can go to college, have a safe place to live, and have all their basic needs provided for. And her chai tea is my absolute favorite! I was introduced to Katrell, the owner, in 2012, and we’ve been friends ever since. I even traveled with her to India in July 2015 to meet the girls! I provide ongoing communications and marketing consulting services for both organizations, as well as for her book, Tiger Heart.
  • Naeem Fazal: My friend, Kitti, collaborated with Naeem on his first book, Ex-Muslim. It’s really fascinating and funny and heart-warming, so check it out. She was unable to collaborate on his second book, so she recommended me. We’re just getting started on the book proposal, so we have a long way to go. But it’s been fun getting to know him. This project falls into more of the odds and ends category, but my friends who know I’m working on this ask me about it a lot. I guess books are just more interesting. 🙂
  • TrueNorth: I just started working with them, and I’m really excited about the work that they do! My friend, Anne, started this organization just a couple of years ago after working with women who had been trafficked and prostituted. She decided that she wanted to work more “upstream” to focus on more of the source and start of the issues, rather than toward the end when women had already been abused. I think that is a terrific strategy. So, she is creating resources and providing information to combat our sex-saturated culture. Porn is a huge issue now, which probably isn’t hard for you to understand. But did you know that kids as young as eight are now seeing pornographic images, and most porn is consumed while individuals are at work? Anne wants to get to the root of that issue, and also help remove some of the shame associated with these behaviors so that individuals, children and families can get the help and freedom they so desperately need, and can only be found in Jesus. She currently speaks about the issues, and is working on a book and Bible study, and will also soon be expanding into events. So, I’m assisting in the writing, strategy and execution of their year-end giving campaign. I can’t wait to see her work and presence in the community grow!

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what I’m doing now that I’m a full-time entrepreneur. It’s been so fun to partner with these causes that I believe in, and to do different kinds of work that furthers good things in the world.

If you know of anyone that I can help in these ways, please reach out! (Website coming soon!)

PS: Don’t I have some amazing friends? I’m so proud of them, and blessed to be a part of their work.