How It Started: The Story Behind the Skyline

One of the biggest questions I get at pop-up shops and in person about the Fredericksburg Skyline designs is how did I come up with that? Where did the idea come from?

The real answer is: it happened accidentally. I didn't I wake up one day and know that I wanted to create this Fredericksburg skyline design. It just kind of formed from other ideas and took off from there. So I'll go back to the beginning.

A few years ago, I created a local logo using the skyline as a part of it. I found a real photo of the skyline from across the river, and digitally traced the skyline on my computer.  I incorporated it into what I wanted, and that was it. I didn't really think much of it. It was just....a skyline.

Not too long afterwards, the Burg Box came about, and incorporated the skyline into the logo and the main designs, because it just seemed natural. If the box was about all things Fredericksburg, why wouldn't the graphics reflect that? I also started including the skyline cards in the boxes, which really became my first big hit.

People LOVED the skyline cards. I sold more cards than boxes, and started really connecting with the community about this skyline. Selling these cards was when I had one of the first moments of 'man, this could be something.' But I had no idea how to make it happen or what to do. And of course I was scared, so I just kept moving forward with the boxes because that's what I knew. 

A little bit later, I stopped in to visit a good friend downtown, Catherine at Monkee's of Fredericksburg, and she proposed the idea of creating some skyline shirts and items that she might be able to sell in store. And that's when I really got the courage to start this, even though I won't lie, I was so scared and thought it was going to be a total flop. 

Up until now, most of the Fredericksburg items in the area are civil war based, maybe a little out of date, or tailored towards visitors, not locals and people who have grown up here. To be honest, until I started doing these designs, I didn't own anything Fredericksburg related. 

So I created a few designs to narrow it down from, we brainstormed product ideas, and the brand was born! We started with the t-shirts, cards, and drinkware, and it's grown since then. As most of you know, the gift boxes have since changed, and that's partially because of how well the skyline has done and how much people love it.


Ultimately, I love how this skyline and these gift boxes have brought me closer to this amazing community. The support and love I have received from it is unlike anything else. While it's so much fun coming up with new ideas myself, hearing from YOU about your ideas or suggestions and even just how much you love it, is the best feeling ever. 

You see, there isn't some large corporation behind these skyline products. It's just me. Every t-shirt, every mug, every tumbler, etc. you see at Monkee's or in my shop, has been hand checked. Every state cut-out or watercolor or sign was hand drawn or painted by me. Every order that comes into my shop gets a legit happy dance with my dog and a text to my fiance that I got another order. I'm really just a small town girl who's passionate about her community and happened to stumble upon something that people really like. Isn't that how any business really works?!

Moving forward, I'm looking into new products and activities for the skyline and am always looking to hear from you! If you have an idea or product suggestions, let me know! If you're interested in working with me on a particular project or want to use the skyline for something, please reach out! I would LOVE to work with you and hope to continue to expand the skyline in the future, but I know I can't do it alone, and I don't want to! Your support means everything to me. 

I could never thank Catherine enough for her amazing support and for believing in me and my designs. Without her encouragement, these designs would not have happened. And thank you to all of those who purchase and support local businesses, not just mine, but all of the amazing ones in this area. You have no idea how much it means to us as small business owners. You mean everything to us! 

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Passion & Perspective

Friday was Joe and I's 'Negative One Year Anniversary.' Which basically just means that one year from Friday is when we are getting married! Hooray! I can't believe it. We celebrated by having a date night, making some wedding plans and having some great conversation about our future adventures, particularly his snowboarding.

I would be lying if I said that being okay with Joe moving to Colorado to be a pro snowboarder was an easy decision for me. I mean of course I want him to be happy and I want to support him no matter what, but there was a lot of doubt about what that meant for us and our relationship. 

As a creative and small business owner, I have to say I'm almost embarrassed by how long it took me to come around to understand this next part. I spent years working at desk jobs that I hated where I felt like I was suffocating (read more about this journey here) just trying to get out. It even took me a while to convince myself to run my own business after people told me it would never work. Now, every day I get up, I sit at my own desk in my office in my home, work for myself and chase after my dream of being a creative. It's incredible and more than I ever dreamed it could be.

And a big reason I am able to do this year after year is because of Joe. He has supported me in every way possible: emotionally, physically, financially, etc. He lets me cry on his shoulder when something goes wrong, complain and rant about emails, assemble invitations and gift boxes, and picks up where I can't on those slower months. If he can help, he's right there, no questions asked. 

So why did it take me so long to understand that the way he feels about snowboarding is the way I feel about my business? To support him not just verbally because I felt like I should but also emotionally and with my whole heart?

For a long time, I was selfishly worried about how it affected me. What it meant for my life and my business. I'm not really a fan of change. I like things the way I like them. 

At some point, Joe started talking more about how snowboarding made him feel. How excited he got when he put his board on, turned his music up, and hit the snow first thing in the morning; how he felt at home on the snow and like that was where he was meant to be; and how amazing it felt when he landed a new trick or technical riding style. It's the same way I feel when I send off a new design I've been tirelessly working on to a client and they come feeling just as excited as I am about it.

I am not a snowboarder. I can make my way down the mountain (hooray falling leaf!), but after one day and a ride or two down a green slope, I'm good for like a year. Hand me the spiked hot cocoa and I'm good to go in the lodge. I just didn't get it and didn't allow myself to see it from another perspective.

When I finally realized that the way he felt about snowboarding was the way I felt about my business, it was like something just clicked in my head. I totally got it. I understood how he felt and was able to support him completely, not just go thru the motions. And when I pointed it out to him, he did too. Despite the fact that our passions are incredibly different, we were able to understand each other better by relating with how we felt. 

Sometimes we get so stuck in our own ways and in our heads that it can be hard for us to understand where others come from. Just because someone is different from us, doesn't make them wrong. And it doesn't make us right. It just means that we all find passion in different things.

Finding your passion isn't always an easy road. Sometimes we find it on our own, and sometimes it finds us. It comes in all different ways. No one's passions are the same because it's not just what we do, but also the heart behind it. It comes from our own experiences and how we relate to others using those experiences. 

If you haven't found yours yet, don't stop looking! It doesn't matter how old you are or where you are in life, it's never too late. And if you have, don't let it go! You can absolutely make it happen! 

Happy Monday, ya'll! 

Looking Back

While I try not to live in the past, I believe it's important to look back to see how far we've come. Especially in hard times. On days where we're questioning everything. Days where nothing seems to be going right. Days where we consider quitting all together. But then I look back and remember where I used to be, and suddenly it puts everything in a different light. 

Seven years ago I was working in a job that I hated. 

And when I say hated, I mean I let it effect everything about my life. My relationships, my friendships, my attitude, my health. I don't like to say that I hated my life, but it's really not far from the truth. 

Last week, it popped up on my time hop that six years ago I left that job (for another one, but one step closer to where I was supposed to be). And I couldn't help but message my old supervisor and reminisce a little bit about that job and why I hated it so much. 

I worked in a place void of color. Void of character. Void of light and animation. It was awful. And every day that I walked into that place, I felt like another little piece of me died. 

I remember one day in particular. The older man who used to run the company (it had since been passed down to his son) came in and complained that I had too many colors on my desk. I had purchased Lilly Pulitzer folders to brighten up my mundane desk and had some colorful frames to help bring some light into my very grey cubicle. And I just felt defeated. I felt like I couldn't win and like I was suffocating myself for a job that I hated for no particular reason other than to pay for an apartment I hated that was far away from my family. 

This is just one of many, many stories I could tell you about this place. I could honestly write a book.

Luckily, I had a boss who was amazing. I truly believe she was the reason I was brought to that job; to meet her and to learn from her. She taught me so much and I left as a more inspired and professional person because of her, despite how awful it was. 

After that less than colorful day, I told her about what happened and just how awful it made me feel, and while she continued to encourage me, it wasn't in the way you would think. She encouraged me to continue to work hard and do good at my job, but to imagine what life would be like outside of those grey boxes. To work hard to be able to work in an office with a corner desk and a window (yea....we barely had windows in that office....they were tiny slits in in the walls). To work hard to be able to do what I wanted to and to be my own boss where I could have things as colorful as I wanted them to be. 

Those memories feel like so long ago. Like a lifetime ago. And looking back, it reminds me that even my worst day of working for myself when I want to quit is better than my best day in that job. 

Even though there are ways I feel that I could do better and things I want to improve about myself and my business (hello comparison trap!), I remind myself of how far I've come in those past seven years and that where I am is MORE than enough. 

And now, as I wake up and walk the 30 steps to my office in my yoga pants, I look around my bright, beautiful office full of things that I purchased all on my own and then out my window at my dog playing in the back yard, it makes me feel truly blessed and amazed at how far I come. It reminds me to be thankful of what I have and appreciate where I am and not to look at others with envy and jealousy, but with appreciation that they too have had an incredible and amazing journey.

So wherever you are in that journey, now that you can do it. There is a path just for you and don't let what others tell you or what others are doing affect you- keep being the beautiful, colorful you. 

Happy Monday, Ya'll!

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Starting a Business

Starting your own business is not an easy step. Venturing out on your own makes for a lot of changes in your professional and personal life. This business becomes your baby; a part of who you extension of you. 

I have had a few friends decide to start their own businesses and/or quit their 'day jobs' to go full time into their passion, and I couldn't be happier for them. It's such an exciting time! We've gotten to talking about the ins and outs of running a business, particularly about some of the things that people don't tell you.

I grew up watching my parents run their own businesses. I watched my dad start his construction business from the ground up, and my mom quit her job in Public Relations and go pursue her dream of helping people as a personal trainer and nutritionist and start her own business. It was really in my blood to start my own business from when I was a kid, so when I made the jump, I really didn't think twice. I thought I knew what it took; I saw my parents go through different life stages. And while I was prepared for somethings, there were others I definitely wasn't.

Which leads me into today's blog...Things that I wish someone had told me before starting a business. Whether you're still pursuing your business part-time, or you've jumped into it as full-time, I think (hope!) that these points either help you or resonate with you. Because you're not alone in this! A huge thanks to my friends who inspired me to write this and helped give me ideas of things to talk about.

The first month or so is very lonely. When you're in an office environment, your coworkers can get annoying. A lot of times you'd rather be at home in the quiet, watching TV, working in your comfy clothes. But when you first start working from home EVERY DAY, it's a big adjustment. You get lonely. You get cabin fever. If you have a roommate or significant other, they probably come home and you're like 'OH MY GOD, A HUMAN!.' It takes a while to adjust to that and to your schedule. 

But it gets better! Now, I crave my alone time. If I have too many meetings or not enough time in my office, I get cranky. And if I have too much time in the office, I run errands. At first it's weird to do things during those 'normal' office hours, and you almost feel bad for taking a few hours out of your day because you really should be working. But the beauty of running your own business is being able to create your own schedule.

Since I'm a morning person and my most productive time is before lunch, my best days start with a good portion of work in the morning and then running errands during the middle of the day because it's not busy and I can enjoy my time perusing through Target or picking out food at Wegmans.

Most importantly, figure out what works best for you! Go to the local coffee shop to work and be around people. Or find other small business friends to grab lunch or a mid afternoon drink. Don't be afraid to reach out to others and put things on your schedule. It may feel weird at first, but you'll start to develop a rhythm of how you work the best. 

You're going to want to give up many, many...many times. I have wanted to quit so many times. Or go back to my 9 to 5 job where I could leave at 5 and be done for the day and not stress or worry. But the good parts completely outweigh the bad. And when you land that first amazing client or project, you're going to feel exactly why you started your own business. And as one of my favorite small business owners says, 'If it was easy, everyone would do it.' 

Money is tight. Oh man. This is the hardest part. When I first started, it was a big shocker financially. The adjustment from a regular salary to a 'I'm going to make money I just don't know when' mentality. It's still hard for me today. There were a lot of times I couldn't go out with my friends or travel or buy the outfit that I wanted. There were a lot of times that I felt like I made the wrong decision because, hell, I'm in my 20s! I should be out having fun, not worrying about this stuff. But drinks are fleeting, and you probably don't need that outfit anyways. You're investing your time into yourself and your happiness. 

Everyone has an opinion about what you're doing and how you can do it better.  Oh my gosh, if I had the two cents for every time someone tried to give me their two cents for how to run my business, I would be sitting pretty. We start small businesses because we want to run things our own way. Sometimes its best to keep your opinions and thoughts to yourself unless we ask for it. And we will, I promise. 

You'll cry many...many times. I can't even tell you how many times I've cried. Over being too stressed, not stressed enough, too many clients, not enough clients, my client didn't like my project, or they loved it and I'm crying tears of joy. And I'm not a huge crier either...but as this is your baby, you will naturally take everything to heart. 

It's okay to cry! Once I let it out, the next day I always feel so much better. I come back to my desk with a new found gusto and I feel ready to tackle anything. So crying is almost encouraged. 

People are either jealous or proud of you. Yes, that's right. There's truly only two types of people out there when you tell them you started a business. They're either jealous that you're following your dreams because maybe they can't or don't have the guts to, or they're genuinely proud of you for following your dreams that they are supportive and excited. I know it sounds weird, but it's true. And you'll know which one they are from the moment you tell them your news. They are either going to be so happy for you and ask questions about how things are going, what you're doing, etc. or they'll try to talk you out of it or start with the negative questions about how you'll support yourself or do you think it's a really good idea. Particularly at these insecure, starting stages of a business, you don't need that negativity! You're already scared enough in your own mind, let alone that you need someone else to point it out. So hang on to those people who are genuinely excited; because those are the ones you really need during this transition in your life. 

REMEMBER: it's worth it.  As hard as it can be, just keep going. And you will have that moment when you're working on a project that you love or enjoying your cup of coffee from home on Monday morning about to check your emails, where you feel like this is  exactly where you need to be and what you need to be doing. And it's the best feeling in the world.