Giving back through Kiva

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The best part about wrapping up a quarter is spending time deciding where to invest a portion of my profits. I've been partnering with Kiva for over a year and continue to be inspired by women entrepreneurs all over the world.

For my second quarter investment, I've chosen to lend to Georgina in Ghana. Here is a little of Georgina's story:

Georgina is 48 years of age and a single mother with four between the ages of 20 and 14. She sells assorted breads in the market and to passersby along the roadside of Accra. She has been doing this business for the past 13 years.

Her major challenge is limited funds to buy more bread from the bakery to sell.

With this loan she will be able to increase her working capital to enable her buy more bread to sell and distribute to the porridge sellers in and around the market. The profit will support her children in their education and enhance their living condition.

Georgina’s hope for her business in the future is to acquire a shop and an oven to bake the bread herself. 

 

 Photo credit to Kiva

Photo credit to Kiva

For this particular borrower, Kiva has partnered with the Ghana Women Fund. Here's what the Kiva site says about the GWF:

Ghana Women Fund (GWF) offers water and sanitation loans to people in Ghana living in slums and informal settlements. The high density of unplanned houses in slum areas of Ghana makes it virtually impossible for the communities to have piped water connections or sanitary facilities. GWF’s water and sanitation loans are used to provide safe, clean and hygienic water and sanitation facilities that improve the health of the people living in these slum areas.

Ghana Women Fund identifies and trains entrepreneurs living in the slums who want to engage in water-related businesses. The loans offer micro-entrepreneurs, including secondary suppliers of water, food vendors, and other water and sanitation-related businesses an opportunity to improve their economic livelihood through increased income. While improving their own lives, the micro-entrepreneurs also bring cleaner water to the slum communities in Ghana where they live.

As always, I'm incredibly grateful to my clients who really make these loans possible! I'm committed to both supporting local small businesses and non-profits but also helping these women entrepreneurs around the world. Without consistent, loyal clients, I could do neither. 

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Six tips for updating your website on a regular schedule

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One of the questions I get asked the most is "how often should I update my website?" While many questions I get have a pretty straightforward answer, this one is a little trickier. There's no set timeline that works for everyone. Instead, I encourage clients to ask themselves a few questions and often, the answer reveals itself. 

Has my business changed?
If you have recently added services, new products, or discontinued services or products, it's time for an update. If you have recently moved locations, renovated office space, or added new team members, you'll want your website to reflect it.

Is my website easy to navigate on a mobile device?
If the answer is no, it's time to update that site. With more and more people relying on their smartphone to access websites, you'll have to be mobile-friendly if you ever hope to convert viewers to customers. Google also continues to give preference to mobile-friendly sites. 

Is my website easy to use?
Ask a friend to look for something specific on your website (Hours, contact number, mailing address, staff members, etc.) and count how many clicks it takes to find the information. If it's more than two or three at the most, it's time to re-organize your site. 

Is my website accomplishing its purpose?
Now, this question requires that you state and understand the purpose of your website. Are you trying to increase sales? Increase traffic to your store? Promote a specific brand? Whatever your goal, you should be measuring it and then evaluating the performance regularly. If it's not accomplishing the stated purpose, it's time to re-think the design.

Once you have the website structure in place and feel good about the purpose and user experience, it can be pretty simple to make regular updates to your site. I definitely recommend using a calendar and scheduling updates. We're much more likely to update our site when we have it scheduled ahead of time and plan time to make it happen (my calendar said today was BLOG POST day so here I am!). So go through and pick one day a month that you can spend one hour on your website. Block it off and don't be tempted to ignore it. 

Here are some easy, quick ways to update your site that will help your SEO (Google loves new content) and help your website audience, too:

1. If you have a calendar, add a few events! Be sure to include helpful details like event times, locations, and directions, if appropriate. 

2. If you have a blog, add one or two new blog posts (Squarespace and WordPress both let you write posts ahead of time and schedule them so definitely take advantage of this option). 

3. Update your FAQ Page. Add one additional question and answer each month that helps your audience. Not sure what to add? Think about what you receive the most calls or emails about and see if you can answer that question on your FAQ page instead. 

4. If you have a rotating banner section on your homepage, add some new photos and delete any that are obviously dated. 

5. Squarespace offers a great announcement bar that is really easy and quick to update. If your platform has something similar, change this out as often as you can!

6. Swap out photos throughout the site for new ones and be sure to add captions, as well as metadata for the photo. 

By spending just one hour each month on your website, you'll make a big impact and drive new traffic to your site. And since it's fresh on my mind, if you're looking for a great planner to keep track of when you need to update your site, please do check out the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley. I love my technology (hello iCal -- I will never leave you) but I still find that using a paper planner for daily and monthly tasks is necessary. The Simplified Planner helps me manage all the things -- kid schedules, house tasks, business plans, appointments, etc. and with so many designs available, there's one for everyone! I'm using the daily planner this time around but there is also a great weekly version. 

Simplified planner by emily ley.jpg
Monthly Simplified Planner.jpg

If you're interested in purchasing the Simplified Planner, use can use my referral code and save lots of money. Just use this link to get started! 

As always, if you need help updating your website, creating strategic content, or both - please reach out to me and see if I can help! 

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Three summer project ideas: Which one will you tackle?

  image copied from Google

image copied from Google

While it's not officially the summer season for another few days, my summer schedule began the day my kiddos celebrated the last day of school. So in short, my office hours have been sporadic at best and my list of books completed is growing -- sounds like a good life, huh? 

I'll admit, it's been nice. But I also love my work so I'm happy to have some dedicated office days too while the boys enjoy their summer camps. If your schedule is anything like this, it's time to embrace it. These three summer-type projects that small business owners or non-profit leaders can adapt might give you a place to start if you're feeling like you need to check a few more boxes off your list during this typically slower season. By tackling one, or even a few of these projects, you'll feel like you've accomplished something big (because you have) and you might even be motivated to keep going. 

Here are three great summer project ideas:

Organize your email list.

I've had emails on the brain because I'm designing a brand-new service that I'll begin offering this fall all about email marketing. Organizing your list doesn't have to be overwhelming. Start by exporting all of your emails into Excel and making sure you have as much data on each person as you can. Things like first name, last name, and category are the most important (think donor, volunteer, etc.). Once you have the list organized, you can begin to group your people into meaningful segments that can be communicated with in very unique ways. I recommend using a product like MailChimp to create one master list and then using the grouping tool they offer to avoid sending duplicate emails. Seem too complicated? At least get them organized and then check back with me in the fall to see if I can help you with the rest! 

Refresh your website.

Have you taken some time to review your website lately? Have you checked on your analytics to see what your traffic numbers look like? Are your forms converting? Are people shopping on your site? What is your bounce rate? Take some time to dive into the data and then make adjustments to your website that align with your goals. Swap out photos. Check all the links. Spending even just an hour or two to update your site will go a long way! 

Stock up on content.

Take advantage of volunteers who might have a little extra time to give this summer and put them to work on gathering content for newsletters, websites, social media, and any other project for which you're going to need words. Give them a framework for how to reach out to donors, volunteers, event attendees, members, customers, etc. and ask them to gather testimonials. People love stories and using stories in your marketing plan is one of the best ways to engage readers. Adapt longer stories to short snippets that can be used on social media. Add a testimonial or two to your website (as part of the refresh!), and stock up another few stories for that fall e-newsletter. 

When you tackle one or all of these projects, you'll be making your life easier down the road. Pick one and dive in. So tell me...which one will it be? 

You might like some of my more recent posts...

15 ways to start a social media post and 2 words to stop using right now

We've all been there. We're staring at that little box asking us "what's on your mind" and we just need to make the post and get on with our day. Sure, we *know* we're supposed to have a content calendar where we've meticulously planned out what we're going to post about, what photo we want to use, and an extremely clever post that is sure to skyrocket engagement and go viral.

Buuuuuuttttt.....let's get realistic a minute. It just doesn't happen that way sometimes. (Goals are good, keep trying). So we do it. We start the post with two words that are just...well, overused. 

We're excited. 

Blah. I cannot count the number of times I read those two words on a Facebook post and just keep scrolling. Are you really excited? Maybe you are. But there are better ways to start your post that will keep people reading and hopefully inspire them to click that like button, share the post, or even leave a comment. 

Ready for them? Here they are! 15 better ways to start a social media post. 

1. Tell us
2. How did we
3. Would you consider
4. You'll be surprised to know
5. We were inspired
6. From (blank) to (blank), we're working to
7. I bet you had no idea
8. Can you imagine
9. When you think of
10. We're doing the happy dance because
11. What exactly comes to mind when
12. Our hearts were broken when
13. Take a deep breath. We're making incredible progress on
14. We hear you're concerned about
15. It's true. We've been 

Try these out and see how they work. And promise me....no "we're excited" posts this week! You can download a PDF of this list over on my Freebie page, too! Print it out, stick in your social media folder, and get posting. 

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How to quickly add a box around text in Canva

Creating graphics for blogs, social media, or your website can be exhausting and often time-consuming. But, to elevate your brand and ensure the appearance of your small business or non-profit is professional, great graphics are a must! 

While most designers prefer software like Adobe Illustrator, using an online solution like Canva is perfectly fine for smaller projects. And while Canva does make it easy to find templates to customize, there are a few features it's missing! 

One of those is this little trick...adding a box around text. There are plenty of square elements available but spending time to get it just right...well, it's no longer necessary. This quick little keyboard shortcut is all you need! 

Here's a quick little video explaining this little Canva trick that can take your next design up a notch! 

Now, go try this out and let me know what you create! Would you be interested in more Canva tips? If so, follow me over on my Facebook page! 

You might be interested in some of my previous blog posts...

An easy way to improve your website today

Do less with more focus..png

There is a really easy to way to improve your website that is absolutely free. It will take you some time and creativity but it will result in a better user experience and keep visitors on your site longer.

What is it? Well, I'm glad you asked :)

Reduce the amount of text on your website. 

Take a good, critical look at your website and figure out a way to say what you need to in fewer words. Chances are, this will be easier than you think. We have a tendency to add more words to our website than we need to. And you know what? People probably aren't reading it all. They are skimming, trying to find that one piece of information they came for. 

There is a time and place for long descriptions and back stories but that place is not your home page. Good navigation structure (aka the right menu options) will give you a place to write *all the things* for those who want to read it. But your home page should be concise and get to the point. It should include things like:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do/offer? 
  • Why are you different or what makes you unique?
  • Why should that matter to me? What problem do you solve?

There is no magic number of words but there are a few ways you can accomplish this.

  1. Use bullet lists to break up your text
  2. Use headings and sub-headings (also critical for SEO)
  3. Decide what has to be on the home page and then find a good place for everything else
  4. Use buttons, lines, or other decorative elements

By reducing your text to what matters most, you'll simplify your message and entice your reader to stay on your website longer since their user experience will be vastly improved. 

Start small. 

Pick one page (I suggest starting with your home page) and try to reduce the text by at least 30-40%. Add some headings, try a bullet list, and a design element or two. You'll be impressed at how much cleaner the page looks and be inspired to tackle another page, too! 

Leave me a comment with a link to your site so I can see your progress! 


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Sunday prep for the week ahead

Sunday is my almost favorite day of the week (Monday wins by just a smidge)! I love starting my day with worship at our church, I love getting to spend intentional time resting and hanging out with my family, and I love getting organized and prepped for the week ahead. 

I've always been the planning type but for years, I struggled with finding the right systems. I tried them all but rarely stuck with anything specific. I remember thinking that the Franklin Covey planner was going to CHANGE MY LIFE. I mean, how could you go wrong with the swanky leather case, the weekly refillable pages and that nifty little ruler/bookmark? And then there were the days of the Palm Pilot! Oh man, how I loved that thing. (I was the coolest, obviously!). 

Last year when I started One Nine Design, my systems really changed. All of a sudden, my calendar no longer revolved around 8a-5p. I had school activities to juggle, after-school pickup duties, volunteer gigs to manage, and business meetings all mixed in between meal prep and laundry. I don't remember how I discovered the Simplified Planner but the name was enough to intrigue me and on somewhat of a whim, I bought one. It has changed my system radically and helped me in so many ways.

The planners are as you might imagine, simple. There is a daily and weekly version (I used weekly all last year but I'm switching to daily this year). They are darling (new covers are releasing this Wednesday) and small enough to throw in your purse or work bag. I still use my iCal to share events with my husband and appointments that are going to affect people other than me. But, my planner becomes the primary place I write *all the things!* I keep track of meal planning, to-do lists, work appointments, deadlines, school reminders, etc. 

And one of my favorite parts is the Sunday prep checklist. Every Sunday, there's a pre-printed prep list that includes:

  • Plan meals for the week ahead (which means this is my grocery shop day, too!)
  • Tidy up for a clean slate on Monday (a little house pick-up and office clean up)
  • Write tasks/appointments for the week (I transfer anything from iCal to my planner and vice-versa)
  • Fill your "tank" and enjoy what matters most (self-care, family time, etc.)
Floral planner image.jpg

This planner really helps me keep my life organized and when I'm organized, I feel better about everything. I know this sounds like a sponsored post but it's really not! I just believe in this planner so much and want others to know about it! Plus, they've launched a great new program where I can give you a discount code - yay!

If you use this link to purchase a planner, you can save $10 off: http://i.refs.cc/54mP9GVt?u=1525020165048

The new planners for the academic year (August - July) launch on Wednesday and sometimes they sell out quickly so if you're interested in getting one, I'd set a reminder to hop online at 10am and purchase! You can look at all the products ahead of time at emilyley.com or visit their Facebook page for lots of helpful videos and product listings! 

If you decide to get one, let me know which cover you pick! I'm choosing the Floral one but it was a hard decision! 

Happy Planning!
Andrea

Grow your Instagram followers by doing this on your website

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Last week we talked about how to connect your Instagram account to your website and how to use a creative hashtag campaign to step that up a notch, as well! If you missed those blogs or videos, you can see them here: ---> www.oneninedesign.net/blog2/instagram

While those are great features to include your website, there's one more way you can grow your Instagram following that's even easier! 

Here's a hint:

 

Embedding an Instagram post right inside your blog post is a great way to increase your Instagram followers.

People are already reading your blog posts. By giving them a glimpse into your Instagram account right inside the blog post, you'll show them yet another way to be connected to you. Even better, your Instagram post will take them right over to your Instagram feed where they can click that Follow button!

So, here's how to do it:

1. Go to your Instagram page on your desktop.

2. Click on the post you want to Embed

3. On the lower right-hand corner of the post, right next to "Add a Comment," you'll see the three ellipsis dots. Click on those. 

4. Choose Embed

5. Now, you *should* be able to click on "Copy Embed Code." However, full disclosure, this was not working for me. So I manually copied the code (select all using Command A or Ctrl A and then copy).

6. For Squarespace users: Come back to your blog post and choose to insert a new Embed block. Click on the </> to open the code window, paste the text you've just copied, click Set, and then click Apply.  {If you're on another website platform other than Squarespace, find your site's feature to Embed}

His happy place. #apple #easton

A post shared by Andrea Shirey (@andreashirey) on

7. You might see the "preview in safe mode" box until you publish your post. That's normal! 

8. You're done! It seems like a lot of steps but once you do it a few times, you'll see it's a quick and easy process! 

Now, your relevant Instagram post is right in the middle of your blog post and viewers can click right on the post to visit your Instagram page! 

Don't forget to share your blog posts over on your social media sites (are you using your social share buttons on every post??). Try it out and send me a link so I can see your posts, too! 

Follow me on social media using the links below!


You might like some of my previous blog posts...

Before and After: Gerber Ortho Studies

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Well, there's nothing like preaching to clients that they need to keep their blogs updated and then realizing how far behind my own blog was! I've been keeping really busy with clients so far in 2018 which is my excuse for neglecting my own work! 

But, today was a great day as we launched a brand-new website for Gerber Ortho Studies! So let's dive into a before/after look at the new website.

Before

 
Gerber old screenshot.png
 

 

The previous website was outdated and difficult for the staff to update. The navigation was cluttered and made the user experience overwhelming at times. It was not mobile-responsive which presented a major issue for busy dentists who often need information on the go. The website was also not consistent with the company's brand standards.

In talking with the Gerber Ortho team, their primary goal was to encourage the user to enroll in a course. The new website was created to push the user toward this goal with multiple opportunities to register online and easily view the available courses. It was also identified that Dr. Jay Gerber was synonymous with the brand so his recognizable photo needed to be prominent on the site. 

A few highlights of the new site include:

  • A completely mobile-responsive site that looks great on desktops, iPads, and iPhones. 
  • A comprehensive course calendar that makes it easy for users to see upcoming courses, download agendas, and register online. 
  • A Vlog to house Dr. Jay Gerber's YouTube instructional videos
  • A quick-glance event summary on the home page for quick reference of upcoming events
  • Social proof in the form of testimonials from previous course attendees
Gerber Ortho Studies new website.png

This was a fun project and I might have even learned a thing or two about orthodontics in the process! 

You can view the full website at gerberorthostudies.com

What's saving my life right now: Part 1

Millions of people have now made New Year's resolutions in nearly every category of life and this week, many are finding out the same thing I am -- change is hard. We make promises to ourselves and maybe to others to do more, be more, learn more, change more and it can get overwhelming. 

That's why I'm starting this four-part blog series called What's saving my life right now. If we can learn to use great tools to help us meet those resolutions, then I say why not? I'll tackle four categories:

1. Technology
2. Fitness
3. Faith
4. Personal Growth

(Click the blog title to read the full post)

Read More

Not ready for a website? At least do this one thing.

Even business owners and non-profit leaders that understand they NEED a website may not be able to take that step right now. And that's okay for a season. But there is one thing that virtually any business can do to help increase their online presence. And it's free. Yep. Absolutely free. 

What is it? 

Google Business Blog Graphic.png

 

Claim your business on Google and built out your Google profile. Here's how Google describes it: 

"Google My Business is a free tool that lets you manage how your local business appears across Google products, like Maps and Search. If you run a business that serves customers at a particular location, or you serve customers within a designated service area, Google My Business can help people find you. Verified businesses on Google are twice as likely to be considered reputable by users."

Before I lose you and you think it's too complicated, I promise you that it's not. It took me about 10 minutes yesterday to do this for a client. You *do* have to have a Google Account (or Gmail address) to use this feature. If you don't have one, it's easy to create one here: 

Once you have your account created, go to google.com/business and it will walk you through the process, step by step. 

When you've verified your listing (often via a postcard in the mail), you'll see your Google search results improve and see something like this on your search-results page:

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Plus, you'll have access to write short posts right on your new Google Business Page and receive email reminders when it's time to update! The great thing is that it's not time-consuming to manage like social media but it definitely helps with exposure and offering some credibility to your business. And yes, this is important for non-profits and small businesses, both. With the holidays right around the corner, there's no better time to make sure you're on Google's nice list! 

Take some time this week and try it out! If you get stuck, feel free to email me for help


You might enjoy reading some of these earlier blog posts....

How a new website can change a life

Kiva investment

When I started One Nine Design, I did so with the belief that even something as simple as creating a new website could be a blessing to someone. My niche from the very beginning has been non-profits and small-businesses -- those who need a professional online presence but can't afford to spend thousands of dollars trying to achieve it. 

One of the primary ways I give back to the non-profit community is by keeping my rates low. Even though the demand for services is high, I've promised myself and this community to not forget why I started this business in the first place. 

But in the last few months, I started researching ways I could do something more. It started by being a sponsor of the LaunchPad event (a local version of the popular show SharkTank). Then, I listened to several podcasts about ways to incorporate social good into your business. Before long, I was making long lists of ideas, pros, cons and possible organizations to partner with. 

The final plan? Invest a portion of every dollar earned through One Nine Design into offering a loan to an applicant via Kiva. My hope is that as I share this journey with others (clients, friends, etc.) several people will join me since this platform follows a crowd-funding model. If nothing else, my prayer is that someone will be inspired to give back, even a little, to be part of something bigger than themselves. 

If you're interested in following along, please like and follow my Facebook page so you don't miss the opportunity to be a part of this journey. And of course, if you're in the market for a new website or know someone who is, please send them a link to this post or direct them to my website: www.oneninedesign.net

 

Three ways to have better content on your website

better content

I want to update my website but I don't know what to write. Can you help me? This might be the number one request I've received lately.

For someone who loves to write, this seems to always take me by surprise. My biggest issue is making sure I don't write too much on my website. But I understand that not everyone loves to write. If it doesn't come naturally to you, here are a few tips:

1. Pretend like you're having a conversation with a friend. This friend has just asked you what you do, or why you started your business, or how to find your products. What do you tell them? That's what you write on your website. You take out all the fancy jargon and the stress of making it sound perfect. Just write what you would say to your friend. Then....go back and edit it. Fix the grammar, correct the spelling mistakes (remember, it's never too late to edit), and now you've got a great start on some new content.

2. Look for similar sites to yours and get a feeling for what they are sharing. Hear me -- do not copy it. But, there's nothing wrong with getting a sense of what others tend to share and using that to inspire some original thoughts of your own. 

3. Start in the middle. Sometimes people get hung up on how to start the sentence or paragraph, or how to transition between topics. Just start writing. Open a Word document, or the notes app on your phone, and just write about what you do, what you sell, why you do it, what you want your customers to know, etc. 

Before long, you'll have plenty of content to choose from. Then, you can start arranging it in an order that makes sense and figure out what goes first. 

Not many people choose to start a business because they write well. However, all of us must figure out how to best communicate what we do to our audiences. Hopefully, by following a few of these tips, you'll see your writing improve and you'll be well on your way to a more effective website. 

Why your email address matters

email icon

When it comes to making first impressions, we cannot overlook the importance of an email address. Just the other day, I was scouting out a job opportunity for a friend and went to email a local business. The email address was xyz@roadrunner.com

Wait. Roadrunner? Does that still exist? The email wasn't returned so I assume that it does. And while this small business did have a web presence, the email address didn't reflect it at all. It definitely gave me pause. Do they not know how to set up email? Do I have the correct email address? Can I trust this business? 

A professional, branded email address can do several things for your business or organization (non-profits are not excluded, here). For potential customers or donors, it...

  • Shows that you are established. 
  • Builds trust.
  • einforces your web presence and advertises your website for you

So what if you don't have a website? (I can't leave that there without saying that you should!) You can still have a professional email address that matches your brand. Google's G-Suite app offers a multitude of options at really affordable prices. 

And if you do have a website, then it's incredibly easy to add on a domain name email address, also using G-Suite or other similar products. 

Don't overlook this critical piece of making a great first impression! 

Is your website actually helpful?

face palm

Tell me you’ve been there…you go to a website looking for something specific. Maybe it’s a customer service number. Maybe an email or address or even the business hours. And nada. You can’t find the most basic information, leaving you helpless (or okay, maybe not helpless but frustrated and left to actually call the place!).

This is more common than you might think. Why? Because businesses get so focused on their site being flashy, they forget it needs to be useful. Many are probably not asking the right people to review the site, instead depending on employees who know the business well instead of an outsider that can give a more diverse perspective.

Non-profits are not off the hook here, either. In a quick survey of five sites, three lacked a clear path for me to contact someone in charge. One site I visited had three broken links on my way to the staff page. These problems are easily fixed but require a certain amount of attention to the site on a regular basis.

Take some time and do a check of your current site. Ask someone who is outside of your organization to visit your site and give you an honest opinion. And then use that information to improve your site.  Try to imagine yourself as a donor, or potential customer, and see how many clicks it takes you to find what you need. If it’s more than one or two, your site needs an update.

If you decide it’s time for a site refresh and a new look, let me know! Or, if you’d like a complete assessment of your current site and recommendations on a fresh new look, I’m happy to help!

Welcome to the One Nine Design blog

Hi there! If you've navigated over to my blog on purpose, welcome! If you just stumbled on this page because you lost track of time and forgot what you were looking for, I get it. No judgement here :)

This blog space is new territory for me but I decided that since I love to write and I've started this new business journey that also involves writing, starting a blog was the next natural step. In my head, it looks like new posts a few times a week, sharing ideas for new business owners or non-profit leaders. In reality, I'm not sure! I'm a mom first, working a part-time job that I love, and running One Nine Design, too! (Hey, I like a challenge!)  So, keep checking back and keeping me accountable! If I know you're reading, I'll probably write more! Interested in a specific topic? Leave me a comment and let me know!

There's only a few things in life I'm really sure of. One of them is that knowing where you need to go is more than half the battle. It takes time and patience (and lots of lessons learned) to get to the right place but you'll never get there if you don't know where you're headed. Maybe it's time to take another look at your road map and make sure you know where you're going. I look forward to going on the adventure with you!