Updated: Oct 10
When I was handing in my resignation letter, jetting off on a plane to Greece that very same day, 5 years ago, I never could've imagined that my life would turn out this way. Today, I'm proud to say that we've lived up to that vision and beyond.
My journey has been filled with the resilient rollercoaster of highs and lows, challenges and triumphs, but through it all, we have persevered. It's the dedication, passion and integrity that has brought us to this point. Thank you to each and every one of you for coming along this journey with me! Together, we have built a company that values transparency, celebration, and efficiency. I have strived to be at the forefront of the design industry, constantly adapting to the ever-changing landscape with the rise of ai, and pushing the boundaries of what's possible and advocating care and well-being for each of us.
Over these past 5 years:
I've helped impact thousands of businesses - love my clients! Hundreds of no's And still made sure to make time for a well-deserved lunch break
These 5 years were great because... I get to live my dream every single day - to do what I love with who I love.
These 5 years have taught me... Care is one of the best strategies you can have. Not even a strategy, but to show up and be human. Navigating a business and life throughout a pandemic, it's really put things into perspective for me and the gratitude to work safely, proudly, and securely. It goes beyond the deliverables for a project. I care about you. Beyond your business goals alone. I care about the details. I care about the expertise and experience you are having and that you honour your well-being along the way. Care for other humans has been the defining factor from all my off-boarding sessions with my clients and has been a clear and evident unique value proposition that has allowed me to stand out on my own amongst all the other designers and business owners out there. On the flip side: not everyone is going to be your cup of tea or kind. You're not meant for everyone and everyone is not meant for you either. What is meant for you will not pass you by. Equally know your worth. Nothing or no one that is meant for you will require convincing to be in your life. I've sacrificed a lot in my 20's to get to where I am now with a business I'm proud of as I enter my 30's. My first dip into entrepreneurship was 10 years ago with a number of loved ones who had passed away that encouraged me to reflect on how I wanted to show up in the world. Balance is not a word or theme I strive for any longer. Rather, I am creating a culture of integration and harmony here. It's not something you search for, it's something you continue to choose and create. If I were to do this over again, I'd give myself this piece of advice: You can do so much to impact this world by just being you and shining your light. Be you and radiate the way you were meant to. By showing up as you and leading the way down a path that may be unchartered, you are showing others what's possible in this world too.
Go-to song to celebrate my wins: It's still "Happy" by Pharrell Williams
Most aligned offer: The VIP Design Day The ability to offer ease and relief to business owners looking to get everything checked off their design wishlist in a day has been tremendous. It's allowed me to revolutionize the way both my clients and I work. To have clients go from updating their websites on a sad lonely lunch break every 5 weeks to getting their website done in a day and attract only high-value and paying clients, this is what dreams are made of. It's not only about doing things efficiently but honouring the time it requires to get it done right together. If you want to see what's been possible, you've got to check out these amazing clients and their projects!
Community impact work: Institutional/accelerator speaking engagements and mentoring It's been an honour to work with numerous institutions and accelerators to give back to fellow business owners in the community. This has ranged from clients including YSPACE, Innovation Guelph, Seneca Herizons, Wilfred Laurier, CSI WOSEN, Business in the Streets, and more. A few of these programs have been instrumental for my growth as a business owner over the years. Being able to share insights and expertise on branding and storytelling strategies, impactful marketing, to ask me anything panels has been so fulfilling to support others.
Scadding Court Community Centre | workshops Ensuring educational resources are accessible has been something I've always strived for and am grateful to have worked with the Scadding Court community for a few years through their programs: Stitch Lab, We-Hub, and e-Hub programs. From supporting the local Toronto community, new immigrants, and budding entrepreneurs starting their businesses during COVID, it's been inspiring to work with the team at SCCC.
For those rocky road moments - the learning lesson: When you handle every situation and human with compassion and professionalism, that is what I want to be remembered for. As my parents always told me, if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all. The thoughts you have circling through your mind will become your reality. Do not give the power to those who do not deserve it but also stand up for what is right.
Surprising wins that I'm most proud of: The Brand Party Podcasts' top 10 Canada Design + Apple Podcasts' New + Noteworthy accreditation. It was something I was striving towards but if you rewind back to where it all started, I never ever imagined I'd have my own show. It started off challenging myself to 30 days of Instagram Lives (pre-TikTok and reels days) so I could break out of my comfort zone and with the intention to show up to my audience with value whether it was for 2 minutes or 20 minutes daily. Demand had grown. After a month it turned into 5 more months of a weekly series on Instagram live. At the 6 month mark, I had a decent amount of content developed and had polled my audience if they would prefer to show up for an IG live or to listen to a podcast. The people have spoken! After time going through a personal health scare and wrapping up projects before the Winter holidays, as a one-person army, I branded, invited and recorded episodes, edited, and marketed the show with a pilot for 9 episodes in its first season and here are we are 5 seasons in now. Market research is one of the most impactful pieces you can do as a business owner. And to truly listen and implement. It can be that simple to create real value to have folks feel seen, heard, and appreciated. With the DHL Discover Your Next campaign, I was found through a PR company looking through Instagram. At first, I wasn't sure if it was a spam message but I was intrigued to respond. After some chats and a contract, I was chosen to be their graphic and website design expert for all of Canada for this campaign! REPRESENT! This lesson is all about you don't know who may be watching that you are inspiring!
Most surprising story from a client: This is the true power of branding! I couldn't have made it up better if I tried. Never seeing this Kleenex box before, a client snapped a photo and had sent it to me. She mentioned that she immediately thought of me because it had the same colour palette and dynamic graphic shapes that evoked the look and feel of my brand. It astonished me and kept me top of mind immediately for her.
My holy grails to branding and marketing: Create a toolkit that you're excited about. Define a brand identity that feels 100% you. Create a toolkit of branded templates that make it easy to create consistently and cohesively to strengthen your brand story. These will help you on the days that you don't feel like showing up but continue to move the needle forward in sharing your business. Make social media and your marketing through your newsletter and lead generation fun for yourself. It doesn't need to be a chore or another checkbox on your never-ending to-do list. Create a habit and system that makes the most sense sustainably for you and build off of that. The biggest lessons I'll continue to carry with me: The way others are running their business does not have to be your way. Just because others may strive for a large team to manage and to sell their agency off for millions, that's never been part of my vision at CL Designs. My business is a lifestyle business and I adore that it has systems and has attracted the right clients in place to support me to take months off to spend time abroad with my partner to celebrating life's special moments with my family and friends. I love the intimate relationships I get to connect with my community and clients and make decisions swiftly and with autonomy. I've always looked at business and life as a choose your own adventure. If you don't like the path you're on, you can choose a different one. Say no more often. You know yourself and what is best for you. Lean into that intuition. That is where that power comes from. And it allows for room and flow for the heck yeses. Money doesn't make you happy, happy makes you money. "The amount of light you emit is not based on how positively you think; it's about how much of your darkness you accept." (Feel Free to Prosper book) Biggest mindset shift:
When I first started, there was a lot of language around being a freelancer both from myself and my community as I transitioned from trading in climbing the corporate ladder to climbing mountains around the world. The journey from freelancer, to solopreneur, to an incorporated business owner has changed drastically in how I show up and the actions I take. We're not playing small anymore.
Biggest game changer: Incorporating my business in 2023 and also hiring for the right financial support in my life and business from a financial coach, financial advisor and accountant. They are all wonderful BIPOC woman who know their stuff and I'm so privileged to know them. I'm feeling much more equipped with the right knowledge to make informed decisions as the CEO of my business that will continue to grow my business for years to come and support the lifestyle I choose to lead.
Your top 3 favourites of all time on the Brand Party Podcast: #5MinuteMonday: How to Achieve Success with Your Designer
The ultimate guide to brand copy and how to get a website in a day with Shannon Mulligan
How To Build Confidence With Your Personal Brand What is going to happen with the Brand Party Podcast? This show has evolved and has a catalogue of over 50 episodes to support you RIGHT AWAY in your entrepreneurial journey. It's been on a hiatus to focus on some other priorities in my business however there are plans to continue to introduce new episodes down the road so stay tuned! If you have an episode topic or guest you'd love to see on the show, send me a message.
If you'd like a free vision board template, click here for your own copy! Word for 2023? Nourish. The intention comes from nourishing my mind, body, soul to show up as the best version of myself to help serve others, instead of what's left of me. The more I relax, the more I receive. It's all about rest, movement, sustained energy, an expansive capacity and filled with sound investments and date nights. What's coming up in the next 5 years? Here's to a more adventurous and daring number of years together! This journey is a lifelong of learning. Honestly, I never enjoyed this question because as much as I may plan, I feel very secure and open to what the next 5+ years will look like knowing that I am fulfilled and joyful every step of the way. That will be my north star. I don't claim to know exactly what is going to happen but one thing is for sure: there's no sign of stopping.
As we celebrate this milestone together, let us also reflect on the lessons we have learned and the experiences that have shaped us. Let's use this opportunity to renew our commitment to our mission, our values, and our vision for the future. The next five years will undoubtedly bring new challenges and opportunities, and I have no doubt that we will face them with the same determination and vivacious enthusiasm that has brought us to this point. Grab your sunglasses, because the next 5 years and beyond are going to be a bright one! Want a blast from the past? Check out the 10 things I learned in my first year of business full-time Liked what you read and excited to create your vision together? Let's chat about your next project to bring it to life! Grab a time to have a dedicated chat that works best for you in my calendar at christineldesigns.com/contact