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2016: what worked


What worked for me in 2016 as a small business, custom wedding stationery company. Read more at the Paper & Honey® blog!

I’ll just say it. 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year. Terrible, dangerous, and a little bit smelly, but dang if I can’t look away. Anyone else feeling the same?

While my overall feelings of the year could be summed up with a giant sigh and sticking my fingers in my ears, “lalala this isn’t happening,” to be sure there was a lot of profound good. Growing friendships, another spectacularly loving year of marriage, traveling to new places and expanding our worldview, serving more and more incredible brides and their unions. I hate to label an entire 365 days as a “bad year,” but 2016, you just weren’t my favorite. The best part about a bad year, though? Whatever follows is sure to be magnificent.

December is a weird time for me. I love looking back and doing a bit of self-reflection. I’m not the best at it, but I think it’s so important to be able to step back and examine how you’re doing. There’s nothing like the growth that comes from recognizing where your soil is dry and watering it accordingly. Like Lara Casey says, “there’s nothing magical about January first,” but I can’t help but feel that there kind of is! I know it’s just another day — just Saturday turning into Sunday as it does 52 times per year — but I feel something thinking about the new year. It’s like a do-over, you know? A brand new start. It’s like that feeling of slipping into your freshly made bed, the sheets still warm from the dryer — ahhhh. Yes. Bliss. I’m someone that carries my failures with me and finds it hard to give myself grace on the things I didn’t accomplish. But the new year almost does that for me. “Here, Laura,” it says, “tomorrow is not just a new day, but a new year. You can always try again.” Yes. Thank you Lord.

I began this post as an all-encompassing “what did and didn’t work,” but it quickly became way too long. So I’m breaking it up! Come back tomorrow for what didn’t work this year, and how I’m hoping to improve. For now, I’m starting with the good, the better, the best. Here’s what worked; the gifts that came with 2016.


Hiring a coach

This was huge! I’m a creature of accountability. I need someone to be counting on me to be able to get big, tangible things accomplished. And as a business owner, this is a really terrible habit and something I struggle with the most. Entrepreneurs need to be self-starters. We’re our own bosses — there’s no big, scary higher-up we need to impress! I flourish with my clients and do my best to exceed every expectation and provide the best, most enjoyable client experience possible. This comes easy to me and I genuinely LOVE my clients and the work we create together. But when it comes to long term projects or big picture planning, where I’m flying solo, I really struggle.

Enter Michelle Loretta! Working with Michelle of Sage Wedding Pros was a total gamechanger. We met in Chicago last year for Trouvaille 3.0, and I was smitten from the moment I heard her speak on finances. It was the first financial talk I heard that didn’t lead me with my eyes glazed over. I left with actual, tangible formulas that I could put into work immediately (and I actually understood them!) and was so EXCITED about what I had learned from her. I knew that if this lady could get me excited about formulas, she was The One. When I think about this year and everything I’ve accomplished, I know so much of it got done because of my one-on-one time with Michelle.

One of my favorite accomplishments is finally nailing down my mission statement and core values. Michelle asked me the questions I’d been avoiding for a long time, because they’re hard questions. And life is easier when you only ask yourself the easy ones. For so long I modeled my business by looking at others — what are they doing? Who are they serving? How are they doing it? I talked their talk and walked their walk. But once I put in the time and the work into looking deep inside myself and asking my why, what sets me apart and what makes me special, oh man. The feels! (I hate that expression.) But it’s true — looking at my core values and just knowing they’re 100% me, they’re what I stand for and they’re my foundation, I know I’ve curated something exceptional. And I try my very hardest to ensure my clients feel it, too.


Getting my finances in order (kind of)

I know this is a Big Deal Accomplishment because I actually look forward to bookkeeping now! I know — I might as well have three heads. Since opening Paper & Honey® I’ve always been fairly particular about staying organized and keeping my receipts in order, but dreaded the process of bookkeeping and filing transactions. Trying to reconcile my accounts and find that one transaction that was just a liiiittle bit off kept me up at night. I hired Michelle to teach me Quickbooks Online, and BAM, life became a pinch easier! You know how cool it is to have this fancy accounting software and actually know what I’m doing? Answer: IT’S DANG COOL. Hold on just a second while I flex my financially savvy muscles.

PS. To clarify, I’m not getting any kind of financial compensation from plugging Michelle or her services. She’s just life-changing, nbd.


2016 P&H brides

My clients are my pride and joy. This year I felt was better than ever for attracting My People! My clients are thoughtful, innovative, grace-filled, kind and hilarious women. They make my job a true pleasure to show up and serve them every day. Even some of my earliest brides from 2013 and 2014 still reach out once in awhile to cheer me on and let me know they’re thinking of me, which is the most omg-my-heart!! thing in my life.

This year I had the pleasure of working with some of the coolest women yet, and they gave me the gift of creating my best WORK yet. 2016 gave me design challenges and allowed me to stretch my creativity a bit further. When P&H bride Abby asked me to “make each insert a tiny, individual art piece,” I took that literally. And her suite is quite possibly one I’m most proud of this year. I worked with new techniques and materials, getting more comfortable with letterpress and venturing into a screenprinted invitation on linen (!!), and expanded my portfolio in ways I am just so fulfilled by. I cannot wait to get them photographed and show them to the world.

But most of all, the relationships that were built this year outshine the work. I tell each bride that it truly is an honor to work with them, and I mean it. The fact that I’m trusted to play even a small part in a wedding day, in a marriage, means more than I can say. I had more brides-turned-friends this year, and was even invited to bring Max along to a client’s wedding in ROME. We couldn’t go (UGH) but the fact that we were invited?? Talk about the most validating thing to show me that I am truly loving my clients well and whole-heartedly. P&H bride Nicole and I have never met, never spoken outside of email, but have shared so much together beyond just our stationery collaboration. When we couldn’t attend her wedding, she invited us to go to her family reunion, instead. “We will meet one day!”

To my brides, I adore you. Truly and deeply. I wouldn’t be here without you.


Getting my trademark

The most tearful, personally monumental accomplishment this year. Through 2014 and 2015 I made the very expensive mistake of trying to trademark myself through Legalzoom. You know what happens when you try to cut corners and save costs by not hiring a real lawyer? Those legal decisions come back to you, and you realize, “oh, wait. I’m not a lawyer either and I actually don’t know what any of this means.” Just call me Michael Bluth. It’s a story for another blog post (and it’s a good one!), but the lesson learned was don’t try to do the things you just really, really don’t know how to do. Especially big, important, legal-things.

I hired my attorney bff Christina Scalera to help me out and it was the biggest, clearest breath of fresh mountain air. How incredible to not only have a professional on your side, but a professional that you completely trust. And a professional who is also your friend! There’s nothing like it. Instead of trying to read an 84 page document regarding my trademark and struggling to understand it, I just chatted with Christina, sent over the cut-and-dry things she needed, and waited patiently for the US Patent and Trademark Office to get back to us. And in early December, they delivered. I received my trademark certificate, stamped with a Very Official gold seal, and Christina gifted it to me in a perfect gold frame. It represents four-ish years of hard work, expensive mistakes, service to clients upon clients, and building upon my dream. It represents that this thing I wanted for so long is now a REALITY in my life. I know that sounds weird! Sometimes it smacks me in the face that I’m here, I’m actually doing it. That paper gives that dream protection, and gives me permission to smack that perfect little circled R all over the place. It’s the most beautiful piece of paper I’ve ever seen.


Taking back my personal life

This happened through tiny changes that led to a big life shift. My days used to look like waking up at dawn and working until I went to sleep. Time on the weekends IF I already had plans or something going on. Endless time spent scrolling Instagram, reading and re-reading emails, dropping everything in order to get back to an inquiry or client.

This was exhausting. And completely unsustainable. Queue to immediate burnout.

2016 was the year I continued to love my business but not allow it to consume me any longer. I established office hours — 9 to 5, Monday to Friday — and stuck to them. No working on the weekends unless it was absolutely necessary to meet a deadline. Turning off notifications for my email and social media accounts so I actually have to open the apps to see what’s updated. And you know what happened when those notifications were gone? I spent SO MUCH LESS time scrolling for no reason! Without Instagram dinging me every five minutes, I stopped thinking about it. Without Gmail telling me about each and every email received, I stopped worrying about that client email I was expecting. Less notifications meant less time spent on my phone overall, and that meant much less technology-reduced anxiety. Hallelujah.

An unexpected and totally glorious result of this line drawn in the sand? My (I should say, our) personal relationships flourished this year. We stopped using “but we live far!” as an excuse to not see our friends and grew more dedicated to putting in the time, love, and effort. We took a spontaneous trip to Orlando (and more importantly, Harry Potter World) over our anniversary with our best friends; got a group of ten together to camp and beer-festival in Traverse City (in what I’m hoping will become a summer tradition); hosted our FIFTH annual Young People’s Thanksgiving with our nearest and dearest; and countless game nights, live music, meals shared, and laughter. Often this year I’ve gotten all mushy and emotional thinking about how our friends are becoming family. What a joy. <3 FRIENDS. <3


Hot yoga

I want to dedicate a whole other post to hot yoga and how it’s changed our lives in just a few months, but for now, I can say this: hot yoga is probably the single BEST thing we did for ourselves this year. The very very best. Never before have I felt so collected, in tune with my mind and body, and strong. I’m a little lady and seeing actual, physical progress is just the most profound feeling (especially as someone who’s always been a bit of a weakling).

Max and I embarked on our ~yoga journey~ together. Not only is it awesome to have him as an accountability partner — I’m not going to be lazy and back out if he wants to go, and vice versa — but he gets JUST as much out of the practice as I do. You know how you find Your Show on Netflix, and all you want is for someone else to watch it too, so they can receive the delight you have? So they can follow along with you, and you finally have someone to talk all about it with? That’s what doing yoga together feels like. It’s not this treasure I unearthed solo, where I’m receiving so much happiness and clarity and joy, but have no one else who feels it, too. We emerge from that hot ass room, literally soaked in sweat, completely exhausted, and go home together elated. We see each others’ progress (Max lost 15 pounds so far! FIFTEEN POUNDS!) and cheer each other on and it’s just such a cool addition to our marriage and our relationship. And our muscles.


Holy moly. I wrote so much more than expected. A sign that maybe 2016 wasn’t so bad after all, right? Thank you for reading, and thank you for being a part of my journey by being here. I’ll be back tomorrow with what didn’t work!


We *are* using their printing presses, though.

This ain't your granddaddy's print shop.