Blogger Interview: Stacey Lane

Blogger Interview: Stacey Lane

I’m back with another interview, this time with a fellow Austin local who I actually got to meet with in person! Meet Stacey Lane, a card maker, blogger and YouTuber with dreams of taking her business full-time.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, what did you do in school, how did you get into card making?

I grew up in Northern Vermont, but I’ve lived all over the United States. We just moved to Austin from the Seattle area and are loving all the sunshine so far!

It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to do in college. I landed on graphic and web design, since I’d had an interest in that when I was younger. Some time after I graduated with a 2 year degree, I took a job with Microsoft and worked on the X-Box One console for a year. It was pretty rad.

I got into card making right around the time my contract with Microsoft was coming to a close. At the time, Microsoft required their contractors to take a 100 day unpaid leave of absence. I needed something to do to occupy my time, so I decided one day that I just wanted to make my own Christmas cards. The rest was history.

Tell me about Stampin’ Up and how you got involved as a demonstrator.

Stampin’ Up is brilliant. Before I found Stampin’ Up, my shopping trips would be tedious because I’d always try to find paper that matched a ribbon I liked. And then I wanted some sort of accessory to match that. And, of course, it had to match my ink. Colors are very hard to match! One of my favorite things about Stampin’ Up is that everything matches. It’s taken the stress out of designing, which is wonderful.

I knew that I needed a way to get a break on the costs because craft supplies add up quickly. Enter the demonstrator opportunity. Demonstrators never pay full price for their crafting supplies! I really found success when I started to blog my creations. Before I knew it, I wasn’t spending any money on my craft supplies anymore!

My hobby now pays for itself entirely, which is amazing, and even earns me some extra cash on the side. When the time is right, I plan to take my business full time.

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When and why did you decide to start your own blog and YouTube channel?

I started my blog a couple of months after I joined Stampin’ Up. I decided I needed my blog for a couple of reasons. First, and most importantly, I wanted to grow my email list. As a business owner, your email list is the most important asset you have.

The second reason I started my blog was to document all the cool stuff I was making. I wanted a place I could come back to for inspiration and say “yeah, I remember when I made that card! What a great layout! Maybe I should recreate that card with some new products.”

My YouTube channel was birthed from my love of video production. In high school, I took multiple video classes and always wanted to do something with it. My love for crafting gave me something that I could teach, and now that’s part of how I use my YouTube channel.

In a nutshell, why should someone read your blog or watch your YouTube videos?

I make videos and blog to encourage and educate others about how easy it can be to get into card making and scrapbooking. So many times people are intimidated because they believe you need to be really artistic to make something beautiful. But it’s not true! What makes something beautiful is the thought that was put into it. When I make things, I make them from the heart and I teach you to make them from the heart. And that’s what my blog and YouTube channel is all about.

I also offer classes in the Hutto/Pflugerville area for those of you who want to get your hands inky!

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far?

Great questions! A couple of things come to mind. First, I’m proud to have been chosen as a display stamper for Stampin’ Up’s semi-annual demonstrator-only event called OnStage. It’s a high honor and one that not many people get to do and I’m so blessed to have been chosen twice in the last year.

Another thing I’ve accomplished this year is that I held a seminar on how to blog. I turned my love of WordPress into an opportunity to teach non-technical people how to begin blogging as well as how to develop a content and marketing plan. It was a humbling experience but also taught me a lot about who I am. I’m currently developing a curriculum for my website to help teach people how easy it is to begin blogging!

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What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I have recently applied to the Artisan Design Team, which is similar to a display stamper, except it’s a heavier commitment. Artisan Design Team members are sent a free box of products every month and agree to blog about those products. It’s a 12 month commitment and I’ve wanted to apply for years and never had the courage to do it until this year!

Another goal that I want to accomplish is to earn an Incentive Trip, which is an all expenses paid vacation. I have friends across the US that have earned this trip multiple times and I’m so very close to being able to earn it for myself.

But my ultimate goal would be to leave my day job and work my business full time.

Growing up, were you always artistic? What were some of your hobbies in high school and college?

I think, in a way, I was. I remember doing all sorts of crafts as a youngster. I did cross stitch, latch hook rugs, glass etching. I remember one year my mother and I made decorative oil infused bottles for everyone we knew.

My biggest hobby in high school was web design. I created websites for my favorite bands. I created a website that had all my friends names on it (of course, that one never made it live because I knew better than to put personal info on the Internet).

In college, I discovered scrapbooking. That’s where my love of paper crafting began. But, being a college student, I didn’t have the funds to really sustain my hobby for long. Fun fact: I remember thinking that rubber stamps were awesome, but some of them were like $20 each! I thought to myself “well there’s one hobby I’ll never get into.” Never say never….

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What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

There are so many! For starters, my husband. This man has sacrificed his career to raise our children and I’m so grateful that he has taken the time to do that. We are first time home owners and I’m also grateful for that. Owning your own home is an experience everyone should go through. It’s so liberating!

I’m also grateful for Stampin’ Up. I have met so many wonderful people through Stampin’ Up, and forged many friendships with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them!

Before I started this crazy adventure, I really struggled with self doubt. My upline, Jennifer, kept telling me that I had a talent and could turn my love of paper crafting into a business. For months, I totally didn’t believe her. And then, all of a sudden, I realized that she was right! She believed in me before I believed in myself. I’ve learned so much from her.

Where and who do you draw inspiration from?

My favorite sources of inspiration are the ones that make me feel like I can take on the world. A few months ago, I subscribed to The Middle Finger Project, and the emails that Ash sends are incredibly amazing. They really make you think about who you are and who you can become by shifting the way you think of yourself.

I also draw my inspiration from YouTube and Pinterest, just like a lot of crafty people! Sometimes I’ll just put YouTube on and leave it for hours. It’ll inevitably end up on something like clay modeling, which is really neat, and I’ll be glued to my screen soaking up all sorts of information about a craft that I don’t really know how to do.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

Start with WordPress, but not the free version. Purchase hosting and set up your blog on your own. My top recommendation for WordPress hosting is WP Engine, located right here in Austin. You really get what you pay for. And, for the sake of transparency, I do work for WP Engine…

My second piece of advice is to immediately start building your email list. Create an email editorial calendar and send emails at least weekly to your customer base. You may think they don’t want to hear from you that frequently, but here’s the thing: they sign up for your emails for a reason!

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I can remember things really easily, especially numbers. For example, I remember both my current and very first credit card number from over 15 years ago. All 16 digits, the security code and expiration dates… and I can rattle them off in a moments notice.

But it’s not only numbers! I can recite all 50 states in alphabetic order, starting with Alabama and ending with Wyoming. And, speaking of alphabet, I can say the alphabet backwards in 4 seconds. Because why the heck not?

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I hope you enjoyed this interview with Stacey! Be sure to check out her blog and YouTube channel, and if you are a fellow Texan, sign up for a class or two. You never know, you could become the next Stampin’ Up demonstrator! You can also find Stacey on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Jenny from the awesome travel blog Glam TravelGram over Skype. Jenny is such a sincere person, and her passion for travel and writing really inspired me to put even more work into my blog. I know you all will get just as much out of reading her responses to my questions, as I did with talking to her.

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Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I have a passion for travel, and it’s something I get to do a lot in my career [as a conference planner]. Throughout my career I’ve seen the beauty of travel, and with this passion I wanted to do more. I was always posting on social media and writing memoirs about my experiences. I found myself almost over-posting on social media, but my friends liked it, and they were always asking me for advice.

One night I was talking to my brother on the phone, and I said I had been thinking of starting a blog for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I should start it because there are so many travel bloggers out there, and I didn’t know if I could succeed. He said he thought I had the talent for it, and I should try it and just see how it goes. That same night, I started my blog!

I like what you said under ‘Why I Travel’ in the About section of your blog: “Every time I leave my home, I come back to it a different and better version of myself.” What exactly is it about traveling that you think makes you a better version of yourself?

I’ve met people from all walks of life, and seen people who live in much harsher environments than myself. Seeing people from different religions and customs has really widened my scope of knowledge about the world we live in, and makes me realize how blessed I am in my own life. After seeing so many people from different backgrounds, speaking different languages, I realized we aren’t so different. We all speak the same language of love. We all want to be loved and we all want to love. The world is so connected.

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What is the biggest lesson traveling has taught you?

Being present, in the moment, and really seeing what’s in front of you. I wasted a lot of time taking photos and being on my phone while I was traveling, and now I’m trying to focus on seeing things with my own two eyes, and actually recording those memories in my head so I have stories to tell instead of just photos to show. 

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

I’m proud that I got to learn some of the technical aspects of blogging. I like to go behind the scenes and make sure that I’m tuned into my website as a whole, to make sure it is running properly, and that it’s aesthetically pleasing to my readers. I want to know the ins and outs of everything.

But what makes me most proud is that I’ve been able to really explore my creativity and my writing skills. One of the articles I wrote recently on the Mojave Dessert, I would call my masterpiece, because I put a lot of thought into that. I hope to continue writing like that and really exploring the kinds of things I can do with my writing.

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I’d like to grow a steady readership, which I think is the most difficult part in blogging; building a loyal audience. My blog is still only 3 months old, so I’m just hoping I can keep a steady readership from here on out. To gain followers I’ve been doing what I did from the beginning, which is promoting on social media. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are my main portals, and they’ve all been doing fairly well, Instagram being at the top.

It sounds like you have a lot going on in your life from your career to your blog to your extensive traveling schedule. How do you balance everything in your life? 

Having the support of my husband has helped a lot. He is constantly reminding me what’s most important in life, and helping me prioritize. I’m also a very organized person. I plan out my days and set goals for myself which helps me accomplish everything. But I wouldn’t be able to do all of this without the support of my husband. He understands and supports me. So no matter what, I make time for him because he is my priority.

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Who are you most inspired by in your life, and why?

My main inspiration is my mom. She’s Super Woman and I don’t know how she gets everything done. I look to her and I think “okay, I want to be like that.” So she definitely inspires me in a lot of ways.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

My biggest piece of advice is to not give up. After about a year, a lot of people decide to stop blogging. So I say, push through it. Get through that year. Keep going no matter what. One of the biggest lessons blogging has taught me is to have patience.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m a hardcore perfectionist, from the way that I dress to the way that I write. It takes me ten times longer than most people to do things because it’s never perfect, and I want to produce excellent things. My dad taught me growing up that you have to always be striving to be better than you were yesterday. And those have become the words I live by. I can’t even help it, it’s in my blood! A lot of people don’t know that about me, but I guess now they’re going to know…


Don’t worry, Jenny, your perfectionist secret is safe with us! 🙂

I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Please take a moment to check out Jenny’s awesome travel blog and social media accounts (linked below), and as always please get in touch with me if you’d like to be featured on my interview series!

My email if you’d like to collaborate: shelly@shellyray.com

Table Talk Tuesday With Jessica Short

Table Talk Tuesday With Jessica Short

Another Tuesday, another Table Talk. My next guest is someone who I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting with over the past few weeks, and after hearing her answers to the following questions, I realized we have even more in common than I thought! Help me give a warm, virtual welcome to Jess.

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Do you remember the moment you decided to start blogging? What made you take the plunge?

I’ve had three blogs so this is a hard question to answer! My first blog was really more of a journal in high school. My second one was a travel blog when I studied abroad for a semester in London. But I consider Short & Sweet my first “real” blog!

A little backstory for why I started my blog: I got married in January of 2016, and officially moved from my home in Oregon to where my husband and I went to school in California. Many of my best friends were still in Oregon and my husband was still a student, so I felt really lonely. I realized I needed to find something other than Netflix to fill my time, but didn’t really have any hobbies because for the past year or so I was wedding planning, getting ready to graduate, job searching, and then working two jobs, so I didn’t have time for it. I really enjoy processing through writing, so I thought doing a blog would be great, but I had no idea what to blog about. My husband and another friend gave me the idea of doing a blog about trying out different things every month, and I thought that was a great idea since most blogs have only one niche. I launched my blog in June 2016 after lots of prep, and it has been such a great thing to keep me busy!

Can you give me the elevator pitch for why someone should read your blog?

The Short & Sweet blog is different from any other blog! It is an experiment, a journey if you will, of rediscovering interests and adventuring into new ones. It is about making time purposeful, being adventurous, and having fun! Each month, I choose a new hobby/activity/skill to learn and blog about my experience. It could be a new passion or I could never want to do it again, but this is the time of life to try new things!

I love what you say in your About page on your blog: “I want to prove you can do something fun and meaningful with your time, even if you don’t have much of it.” I think a lot of us, myself included, can sometimes feel as if we don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. What’s your advice for making time for the fun and meaningful things in life?

That is a real struggle I have every day! Two things that have helped me make time for fun things are 1) Make an action plan! Even if it’s just one day or afternoon a month, put it on your calendar and plan something fun to do, either by yourself or with friends. And protect that time! Don’t let other things get in the way. 2) Once you make that plan, tell people who can keep you accountable, who will remind you to take a day off or to spend time on yourself even though it may feel counterproductive. I read a great quote the other day: “I’m learning that to rest is to not be weak.” Don’t feel guilty for spending time on doing things you love – see it as an opportunity to be rejuvenated so you can be the best you you can be!

What is your number one goal for your blog?

I want to show people that they can make time to try new things and that their time is valuable – it shouldn’t be wasted on watching TV all day or doing things that don’t have meaning! (Although I will admit, I’m a huge Netflix fan!)

A lot of 20-somethings battle with feelings of self-doubt and questioning if they are good enough, especially after graduating college and during the job hunt process. How have you managed to stay positive and not be too hard on yourself?

I really struggled with staying positive during the job search after college – it’s rough! I had this idea in my mind that I had to find my dream job right after college and if it was anything else I would be settling (even though I had no idea what my dream job even was). But once I realized that everyone has to start somewhere and that I wasn’t chained to a job for forever if I didn’t love it, that really helped. We have our whole lives to work, so it’s not the end of the world if we don’t find the perfect job right away!

If you had a life motto, what would it be? (Besides “Taylor Swift has just as many hours in her day as you do”, which I also loved on your About page. 🙂

Thank you! I love Tswizzle 🙂 I think my life motto would be Choose joy! I tend to be a little bit of a pessimist, and sometimes the way I feel about things can really shape my attitude. I have two “choose joy” signs – one at home and one at work – to remind me that I can choose something else. I can’t control what happens in my life, but I can control the way I respond to things.

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My husband – he is spending hours every day studying for his MCAT exam to get into med school, but he still makes our relationship a priority and serves me so well.

My church – I have such a great community through my weekly community group and in serving in the high school ministry; every time I’m with them I feel refreshed!

My job – I feel really blessed to have not only a full time job, but a job I truly enjoy, coworkers that are friends, and a company that I can get behind.

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Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

I have a huge girl crush on Shauna Niequist – she is an AMAZING blogger, author, and speaker. I just got her new book, Present Over Perfect, and it is really shaping the way I view myself and how I want to spend my time and energy. I would HIGHLY recommend her book! Also I love Blake Lively, she is just the cutest.

Your blog is all about rediscovering interests and finding new ones. I’m curious what your main hobbies and interests were as a child, and how they have changed as you’ve grown up?

I had SO many different interests as a kid! I was always really into art and crafty things, and I even went to an art school in junior high. I also did theater and musicals from a young age through high school. I did ballet for 7 years and then transitioned to cheerleading in high school, and I have always been a big reader. But I would say one of my huge passions ever since I was a kid was singing – I was always in choir and in high school I led worship at my church. I wanted to be the lead singer of a band for a really long time, but I ended up doing Communications instead. I still love singing, and I am definitely one of those people who will belt it out along with the radio in the car 🙂 Although I don’t do all of those hobbies anymore, I enjoy seeing other people do them and participating in them when I can!

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could be any animal, which  animal would you want to be?

This is always a hard one for me – I would probably either be a horse because they are so majestic and free, or a golden retriever because they are so loyal and cuddly!

 

Thanks to Jess for being a great interviewee, and thank you to all of you for continuing to read my blog! As always, feel free to email me or reach out on social media if you’d like to be featured on a Table Talk Tuesday. And be sure to follow Jess on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Table Talk Tuesday With Haley Marie

Table Talk Tuesday With Haley Marie

I’m back with another Table Talk Tuesday, and I’m so excited for all of you to get to know my interviewee, Haley, from the blog Haley Marie. Haley and I have been chatting over email for a while now, and I was immediately impressed by how smart and driven she was, as a freshman in college. I can remember back to being a freshman and how lost and confused I was about where I wanted to go with my life, so I am really blown away by how Haley’s ability to set goals and go after what she wants.

So without further adieu, let’s get into the interview so you can see what I mean…

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Can you tell me the story of how you decided to start your blog, and what your blogging journey has been like so far?

Though my current blog, Haley Marie, is only a couple months old, I have actually been blogging for about three or four years now. I guess the best way to start is actually with the story behind my first blog, so I’ll just roll with that! I was fifteen years old, and I was in a bit of a rough patch as far as my personal life was concerned. I was aimlessly searching for something to fill my time and build myself back up again. So, I followed my gut and returned to my roots by filling my time with something I’d always loved to do: writing! I channeled all my energy into starting a blog, the Chick Lit Kitchen, where I wrote about my loves of food and romance novels. 

Though the Chick Lit Kitchen was a bit of a flop (I started running out of time to read and make time-consuming recipe posts as I advanced in my high school career), I eventually returned to blogging as a kind of therapy when I entered another rough patch in my life. When I was a bit older, the dormant anxiety and depression I’d always carried deep within me started to become too much to bear. Finally, the thought occurred to me: why don’t I start a blog again? So I did! Love, Haley (my second blog) didn’t start out about mental illness, but it quickly morphed into a place where I shared my deepest thoughts and feelings about the anxiety and depression I was battling. 

Yet as my anxiety and depression began to improve with time (and therapy), I sort of felt that I was outgrowing the old label of “mental illness blogger.” So, as I graduated from high school and began to transition into college, I started to experiment with a couple of new niches. The result was that my blog ended up all over the place. I strayed so far from my original brand that I eventually felt like my best course of action was to start from scratch, rather than rebranding Love, Haley for a second time. That’s how Haley Marie Blog began! Now, while I consider myself a college, beauty and health blogger first and foremost, I will never forget my roots as a mental illness blogger. 

I contributed to your blog post about why I picked my college major. Can you talk about how and why you picked your major, and what your advice would be for picking the right major? 

I actually have two majors, Journalism and Political Science. Somehow, I think I always knew that this was where I would end up eventually. I have always known I wanted to be a writer, just like I have always known I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself (like politics!). Personally, I identify with the word “writer” before anything else, besides maybe the word “woman.” 

My first semester, I was a part of both the student newspaper (as a news writer) and the student PR society (as a member of the digital/creative team, which does client work based on graphic design). I instantly fell in love with the newspaper – particularly with the positive energy and quick pace of the newsroom – and now I am (as a freshman!) an Associate City News Editor there this spring! While I enjoyed PR too, I felt like these were the same experiences I was getting through my blog, which I was much more passionate about than the student organization, and that it wasn’t really as valuable to me as being in a newsroom. 

Around the same time, I also happened to be falling in love with my first Poli Sci class, Intro to American Politics, and all of the heated election discussions it brought. And, I mean, not to be that person, but the 2016 election definitely shaped my perception of the Poli Sci field by showing me just how much the world needs strong female leaders! So, as long-winded as this story has been, that’s exactly how I realized that these two things were the subjects I couldn’t live without studying for the next three and a half years, and the fields I wanted to build my future career around!

What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog?

Ooh, this is such a good question! My advice for anyone starting a blog is this: whatever you want to blog about, make sure it’s genuinely what YOU want to blog about. Don’t blog about whatever’s popular in that moment (popularity is fleeting). Honestly, what keeps me motivated to keep banging out posts – even when it’s after 1 AM and all I really want is to eat a bagel and go to bed – isn’t getting views or comments or likes on Twitter (though I won’t lie – those things ARE nice!). Instead, it’s passion. And I think most successful bloggers would say the same!

I actually experienced the dangers of falling into this trap firsthand. For a while, I felt self-conscious about my blog because it wasn’t “serious” enough. Instead of blogging about scholarly things like politics, I blog about some of my favorite things: beauty, lifestyle tips and healthy eating hacks. At first, I worried this meant I was vapid and shallow, and that this was the way my readers would perceive me. However, I quickly found that when I wrote about something I was passionate about, rather than things I thought I should write about, I was able to produce better content and let my true sincerity shine through. Because I was writing about things I loved and could genuinely offer my advice on, my posts are more popular – plus, because I actually look forward to writing, I am able to produce more quality content, more quickly!  

A lot of college students and 20-somethings battle with feelings of self-doubt and questioning if they are good enough. Do you have any tips for moving past these negative thoughts? 

I’m not going to lie: though I’ve tried my hardest to be open about my battles with mental illness, body issues and self-esteem, I’m still in that age bracket and I still have insecurities and doubts. Sometimes, I act like I’m beyond the point of having negative feelings or self-doubt, when in reality, I haven’t fully pushed past it – and nobody should expect me to! I’m only 18!

The problem with being in college or in your 20s is that we compare ourselves too much to others – especially when it comes to people like celebrities, bloggers and YouTubers. When we’re confronted with posts and videos like “How I Organize My Life” or “My Perfect Morning Routine,” we always seem to think that everyone else has their life together, and we’re the only ones who are still figuring it out. If you’re someone who reads a lot of blogs, you probably know exactly how I feel. But here’s the secret no one wants to admit (especially not in the college blogging community, where we’re literally telling you how to lead more organized, productive lives): literally none of us have our sh*t together yet! No matter how many blog posts I write about having high self-esteem, no matter how “on-fleek” my eyeliner is on a particular day, no matter how organized my planner appears, I’m still not perfect. Nobody is. 

If you had a life motto, what would it be?

In one word, “balance”! Life, to me, is all about balance between work and play, health and pleasure, friendships and significant others, and all the other competing factors in our lives. To me, balance is all about listening to what your body needs and gratifying it. Maybe it’s all the yoga I’ve been doing lately, but I firmly believe when you give your body what it asks for and start to show it love, sooner or later your body will start to love you back! 

Meditation is a huge way that I achieve balance: my therapist recommended it to me, and I find that 5 to 10 minutes of meditating a day counteracts a lot of the stress I experience in my day-to-day life. Because I try to stay in tune with my body’s physical and emotional needs through meditation, intuitive eating and other mindfulness strategies, I can always tell when I’m getting tired or cranky, what I’m craving (whether that’s a chia seed smoothie and a sweat session, or Chipotle and Gilmore Girls) and when I’m starting to isolate myself because I’m working too hard, and need to plan a night out with my girlfriends. 

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My boyfriend, Ryan, always makes the top of my gratitude list! He lives about an hour away from where I go to school, so we don’t see each other very often; however, I’m eternally grateful for all of the stability, balance and positivity he brings me. Whenever he comes into the city for our weekly visit, it puts a smile on my face!

I’m also grateful for my family. My parents are divorced, so my family has had a harder journey than most. Working out the details of where I would attend college and who would pay for it was more difficult and complex than I originally expected; however, I can’t express enough how grateful I am that everyone is trying to make the best of our difficult situation. 

Finally, I’m grateful that I will (hopefully) be travelling to London for five days this summer! My boyfriend and I are planning a trip together. We haven’t finalized the details yet, but I couldn’t be more excited about the possibility of seeing the city together.

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Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

I’m cheating and giving two answers, because I look up to so many women! I personally think that having empowering women as role models is one of the most important things a female entrepreneur can bring to the table.

When it comes to celebrities, Emma Watson is always my go-to answer. I admire her resolve to lead a private life and have a normal college experience at Brown, I love how intelligent and collected she is and I think she’s such an incredible role model for women everywhere. Her work with the UN to further the rights of girls all over the globe inspires me to think about what more I could be doing to help people outside my own backyard.

As far as business goes, I’m a huge fan of Nikki Phillippi. She’s a YouTuber rather than a blogger, but I couldn’t be more impressed by her brand. I discovered her by listening to her Tea Talk series, and fell in love with the way she connects with an audience. She always comes across as so authentic and genuine, and gives advice that makes me think she’s the big sister I never had! Plus, her work with sponsors is just so inspiring to me as a blogger. So, even though YouTube is a bit of a different world from blogging, I hope I can take a leaf from her book and adopt some of the same ingenuity and sincerity as a female entrepreneur in the media.

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

I would tell myself to spend more time focusing on the things that matter most to me and the qualities I would like to see in myself, rather than what other people think of me. I feel like growing up, I put so much energy into achieving “goals” that had nothing to do with my personal character or my entrepreneurial spirit. Though I’ve always been a self-starter who’s achievement-oriented, when I was in late middle and early high school, I sometimes lost sight of that in favor of striving for superficial beauty, popularity or the “right” boyfriend. So, I wish that I had channeled my energy into something productive and meaningful to me, rather than chasing guys who didn’t appreciate me or worrying that my stomach or thighs were “too fat.” If I had been in a more mature state of mind back then, I think I would have focused on giving myself something to be proud of and finding a reason to love myself first, without needing some random guy or friend’s approval.

What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?   

One of the things I love to brag about is my high school senior project. Besides my blog, this project is one of the things in life I am most proud of! Senior Project was a course in my high school geared toward preparing us for a career in our major of choice through completing a research component, internship and final project of our own design. Prophetically, since I’m now a Poli Sci double-major, I spent my year researching the impact of television on American politics. 

For my internship component, I interned in the office of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in his constituent affairs department. While I don’t always agree with the Governor’s politics, I loved the human element of getting to do casework for constituents and feel like I was really making a difference in people’s lives. 

For the project component, I invited a group of professionals for a panel discussion at my high school, on the topic of media and politics. For weeks, I was emailing people left and right, filling out grant forms and designing advertisements and tickets for the event. We ended up getting an almost $600 grant from the district’s education fund for my work. I also moderated the panel, which included a Massachusetts State Senator, the Director of MassVOTE, a Boston Globe journalist, a Northeastern professor, and a grassroots campaign organizer for a PR company. Educators and citizens from my town and the wider community attended the panel and even had the opportunity to ask their own questions at the end of the panel! Overall, the night was a whirlwind, and one of the most spectacular experiences of my entire life. 

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could be any animal, which  animal would you want to be? 

I’d probably transform into a cat. I’m notorious for falling asleep in boring lectures (sorry, not sorry to my Stats and Political Theory professors) and I am fiercely independent. I also crave attention and fall in love with anyone who feeds me treats…so, I guess I just have to face it: I’m pretty much a cat already! 

 

I hope you all enjoyed this installment of Table Talk Tuesday! I’m so impressed by what Haley has been able to do with her blog(s) so far, and at such a young age. I’m looking forward to continuing to read her posts and learn from her. Be sure to subscribe to Haley’s blog, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Also, if you would like to be featured on Table Talk Tuesday, leave a comment here or email me at shelly@shellyray.com!

 

 

CitySTRONG: My Interview With Erin Oprea, Shawn Booth and Kaitlyn Bristowe

CitySTRONG: My Interview With Erin Oprea, Shawn Booth and Kaitlyn Bristowe

Sometimes in life, you get opportunities that seem a little too good to be true. This was definitely how I felt when I was offered the chance to not only attend the CitySTRONG event in Austin, but get media/VIP access to meet and interview Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth from The Bachelorette Season 11, and celebrity fitness instructor Erin Oprea.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know I’m a fan of the Bachelor franchise, so meeting Kaitlyn and Shawn was basically a dream come true. Not to mention, it’s not every day you get to chat with the woman who helped Carrie Underwood achieve her famous legs.

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Photo credit: Zach Harrison Photography

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with CitySTRONG, it is a one hour workout lead by Erin and Shawn, with hilarious commentary and music provided by Kaitlyn. While the workout was no joke, and I am still sore today, it was also a lot of fun.

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Photo credit: Zach Harrison Photography (@zachharrisonphotography on Instagram)

CitySTRONG has events across the country, with all proceeds going to a great cause: CreatiVets. This cause is particularly important to Erin, who is a former U.S. Marine. CreatiVets provides disabled veterans with the opportunity to use art, music and creative writing to address the psychological and emotional needs that arise from service-related trauma.

Now that you have a bit of context, let’s dive into my interview with Kaitlyn, Shawn and Erin. They were all so friendly and willing to answer all of my questions. It felt more like a casual hang-out than an interview, and overall I’m really proud of how it turned out.

Shelly: To start off, can you tell me how you came up with the idea for CitySTRONG, and what the experience has been like so far? 

Erin: My husband Sean, Shawn [Booth], and I were out on bicycles riding through the city of Nashville, and we just came up with the idea together. And three weeks later, we had our first workout! That was in September of last year, and from there it just grew. 

Shawn: We really just wanted to share our passion with others on a larger scale…

Erin: But in a fun aspect too. I didn’t want it to just be a serious workout. It’s more like a party – with the exception of wine today. 

Kaitlyn: I normally drink wine but I’m doing 30 days without it right now.

Shelly: I’m sure that’s tough!

Kaitlyn: It really is. 

[Kaitlyn’s commentary during the workout included many references to the lack of wine, including my favorite line from her of the day: “Oh good, I’m still funny without wine! Good to know.”]

Shelly: What would you say is the main goal of CitySTRONG?

Erin: I want people to realize that sweating doesn’t have to be boring. A lot of people think working out is boring and I want to show people it can be fun, especially if you have a workout buddy that energizes you. 

Shawn: And that you can do it anywhere. Like today, we’ll do a full body workout using just your body. There’s no weights involved. So if you’re at home struggling to get to the gym, or you’re traveling, it’s something you can do wherever.  

Shelly: I think that’s really important, because a lot of people (myself included) make excuses about being too busy or not being able to make it to the gym. So reminding people you can do it anywhere is great. 

Erin: Yeah I hear that all the time. There’s no good excuse, because you can always do ten minutes, go back to work, and then do ten more minutes later in the day. You can always fit it in, it just has to become a priority. When it becomes important enough to you, you’ll do it. 

Shelly: That’s so true. So what advice would you have for someone who is struggling to stay motivated or to put fitness as a top priority in their life? 

Shawn: Set short-term goals for yourself. I think a lot of people give up or get discouraged if they don’t see progress being made within a few days, so if you set goals for yourself such as ‘I’m going to work out three times this week’ it makes it easier. Take it day by day, meal by meal, workout by workout. 

Erin: I think an important one for women is to monitor based on how your clothes fit, not what you see on the scale. The scale sometimes can be the death of all of us women. 

Kaitlyn: My mom refuses to own a scale.

Erin: I just got my first scale of my life, I’ve never owned one. And I shouldn’t really even own one, it’s just stupid. 

Shelly: Erin, you wrote a book, The 4×4 Diet. Can you tell me what readers can expect from it?

Erin: It includes tabata workouts, which are my favorite. They’re 8 round bursts of 20 seconds of high-intensity moves, followed by 10 seconds of rest. The book also goes into having a clean, healthy diet that you can have forever, not a quick crash diet. 

Shawn: No fad diets here!

Shelly: What has been the best or most rewarding part of the CitySRONG experience so far? 

Shawn: We get the pleasure of meeting hundreds of people after the events, and just hearing their stories and how inspired they are by us keeps us motivated to keep doing what we do. 

I had so much fun at the workout and chatting with Erin, Shawn and Kaitlyn. Hope you all enjoyed reading the interview, and learned a thing or two about health and fitness. Be sure to check out CitySTRONG’s website to see if they’re coming to your city, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. You can also find Kaitlyn, Shawn, and Erin on Instagram.

 

 

Table Talk Tuesday With Jennifer Smith

Table Talk Tuesday With Jennifer Smith

I’m back with another Table Talk Tuesday, and I’m so excited to introduce you all to my guest this week: Jenn from the lifestyle blog The Art of Better, where she helps women live their best lives, and The Art of Better Blogging, helping others along their blogging journey.

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I’m so impressed by what you’ve built with both Art of Better Blogging and The Art of Better. Can you tell me, in a nutshell, how you got to be where you are today? 

Thank you! It’s been a long, winding path, for sure. I’ve been blogging on & off since 1999, way back in the day where I would hard code my sites in HTML from a blank page. A few years later, I had a fledgling graphic design business that I had to put it on the back burner for my corporate career. Can’t maintain a side hustle while working 60hrs every week!
Luckily I started my blogging journey back up again not long after because I just couldn’t seem to exist without writing. The Art of Better came first with The Art of Better Blogging coming about a year later when I started getting asked so many questions about blogging that I decided to segment them out. I blogged on the side for a few years and then finally got to the point where I was able to go full-time in 2015 and leave my soul-sucking corporate career!

A lot of people struggle with feelings of doubt, fear, and worrying about not being good enough when trying to accomplish big goals in life. Do you have any advice for pushing aside those negative feelings and going after what you want?   

“Impostor Syndrome” can be crippling, but everyone grapples with it from time to time. The way I help my blog & business coaching clients through it is through helping them recognize that everyone has a unique story and angle because no two people have the same background, path or life perspective. Well, that, and making it clear that fear is just a feeling, an emotion. You can choose to acknowledge it, set it aside, and move beyond it.

You seem to be an expert in all things blogging, social media, and just life in general. What was your process for becoming so knowledgeable? Do you have any tips for someone who wants to learn more about blogging, social media, etc? 

Well, I don’t know about life (I’m kind of a self-development junkie!) but I’ve been around the blogging & online business worlds for so long that I have seen nearly everything. The best advice I can give anyone who wants to know more is to read everything you can get your hands on (but take everything with a grain of salt) and find some bloggy besties that are slightly above your skill or experience level. Hanging out with people who are more advanced will cause you to stretch your skill set more often.

What is your life motto?

Hustle 24/7? Hell no!
Everything I do is dedicated to better… and that includes rebelling at the idea that you need to grind away all day every day to have a successful blog or online business. It just isn’t true! Do you have to hustle with purpose sometimes? Of course! But not all the time.

What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog, like The Art of Better, or a business, like Art of Better Blogging?

Consistency is imperative for success. A lot of people start blogging and seem to have this idea that you can just write and they will come. I wish!

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

Oh! I love this questions. I do a daily gratitude practice and it has truly changed my life. Keeping it down to just 3 is really difficult!
1. My family (including our 4 dogs & close friends!)
2. My ah-mazing clients!
3. True red lipstick

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

I have so many! Of course, the usual suspects like Michelle Obama, Oprah, Marie Forleo, but also women like Rose McGowan & Ani Difranco who are so unafraid to speak out for what they’re passionate about.

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Learn to meditate much, much sooner.

What accomplishment are you most proud of, and what is something you still hope to accomplish in your lifetime?   

I’m most proud of becoming legal guardians for my niece a few years back. We didn’t have any kids prior to that time and we’ve managed to learn very quickly how to become good parents. I think in a few years we might want to have a baby- that would be a big accomplishment for us since we thought we’d never want kids!

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could be any animal, which  animal would you want to be? 

I’d have to say either an eagle or cheetah. I like to go fast!
Hope you enjoyed my interview with Jenn and learned as much from her as I did! For further inspiration and education, grab her free video training, How to Kickstart Your Blog’s Growth in 2017and join The Art of Better Blogging FB Community.

Table Talk Tuesday With Anna Gordon

Table Talk Tuesday With Anna Gordon

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Welcome to the first-ever Table Talk Tuesday, a new interview series I’m starting where I talk to bloggers and entrepreneurs that I admire. But before I get into talking about my first interviewee, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to my friend Lindsay for creating the cute image you see above!

First up in the hot seat this Tuesday is Anna Gordon, social media manager and creator of House of Hashtag, a platform for female entrepreneurs. She also has a brand new website in the works, so I will share that link when it is live.

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To start off, can you tell me your life story in three sentences or less?

My background is in art, design and photography. I have certainly had a lot of trials and tribulations in life but I am grateful for my struggles as they have led me to where I am today, and I am happy!

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

I would tell myself not to worry so much and to never miss out on an opportunity for the fear of being disliked. Up until the age of about 23 I was so insecure about my appearance, I would often avoid going out with friends and attending any social event. Looking back, I feel I missed out on a lot.

If you had a life motto, what would it be?

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

What is the most important thing for people to know before starting a business/blog?

Done is better than perfect. It’s important that we get things right for our businesses and blogs, but spending forever on something until it is perfect is a waste of time. Just get it out there! Also I think having a positive mindset is crucial as well.

Sometimes our failures/setbacks teach us more than our successes. Can you talk about a time when you failed and what it taught you?

Honestly, I have experienced so many ‘failures’ and setbacks but like I said in my first answer, I am genuinely grateful for those times because I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life. I think going through rough times and experiencing failures helps mold you into a more compassionate person to others. Ultimately, sometimes we all just have to roll with the punches when things don’t work out.

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My mum (she is literally my best friend) 2. My partner, David. 3. Finding my passion

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

Oh tough one, I have so many “girl crushes”. At the moment I’d have to say I’m crushing on Mariah Coz the most. She really knows her stuff, gives away so much free content and she comes across as genuine and down to earth.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’d have to say travelling solo around Australia and South East Asia (which was amazing by the way). I have always been such a shy and anxious person. So for me to step out of my comfort zone to that extent and follow my dreams makes me proud.

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. What is your go-to karaoke song?

Prince- 1999

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I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of Table Talk Tuesday with the very inspirational Anna Gordon! Be sure to follow her on Instagram, and keep your eyes out for another interview next Tuesday.
Interested in being featured? Email me at shelly@shellyray.com.