Posts Tagged: 'alt summit'

Pom Pom Wreath

My First DIY: Pom Pom Wreath

This is a story about Nebraska. And crafting. Yarn and DIY pom poms.


And the path of this story will surprise you. It certainly surprised me.


For the past month I have written at length about my experience at Alt Summit. It was my first time attending the blogging conference, and I was rather curious about what to expect. Harnessing the power of the web, I posted a question last fall in the Alt Summit online chatroom about Omaha-area attendees.


September 7, 2012

Two of my gal pals and I are eagerly making plans for the trek to Salt Lake City in January. We live in Omaha! Do you?


-Wendy Townley


January 16, 2013

Hi Wendy,


I currently live in Chicago, but grew up in Grand Island, NE and I’m always excited to meet fellow Nebraskans! I don’t know of many Nebraska-based design bloggers, so I’m looking forward to checking out your blogs. See you next week!


-Haeley Giambalvo


When Haeley’s reply arrived in my inbox, I smiled and made a mental note to connect with her at Alt. I did not, however, take the time to track down Haeley online. Her blog, her Twitter account, her Facebook page, her overall appearance were all completely foreign to me.


Alt arrived.


I landed in Salt Lake City on a cold and foggy evening. The next morning, the first day of the conference, I spotted this sweet, petite young woman across the room. Her outfit matches mine!, I thought. Not knowing who she was or making any sort of introduction, I sheepishly asked to snap and share a photo on Instagram. She kindly agreed.




Following the Alt tradition, she and I swapped business cards. In the flurry of the conference, I didn’t read her business card before tossing it in my bag.


Later that day, at lunch around noon and in a room of 600-plus attendees, we sat at the same table. She had since looked at my business card a bit more closely and said, “I think we know each other. I think we talked online. I’m from Grand Island!”




Once Haeley Giambalvo identified herself, mentioning our online exchange just a few days prior, I was speechless. Speechless! What are the odds that in a conference of hundreds of women, I approached one of the very few whom I chatted with online? The experience, it seemed, was a bit more than just coincidence.


Which does, in fact, lead to my first DIY: a Valentine’s Day pom pom wreath originally featured on Haeley’s blog, Design Improvised. After (slowly) learning how to knit, my interest in crafting and DIY-ing has started to grow.


Haeley was certainly an inspiration. Her pom pom project was cute and easy. And with the extra yarn I purchased for knitting, the wreath was just asking to be made.


I spent about a week following Haeley’s tutorial.


I practiced peak patience with each pom pom.


At 34, I purchased my first glue gun.


Seven days later, I had this to show for it, on display in my living room.








Aside from contracting the crafting bug, and my dining room table being covered in scraps of colorful yarn, I have a new friend. Her name is Haeley. She is from Nebraska, lives in Chicago, and is one of those girls you know from the start is as sweet as can be.


Day Designer Creator: Whitney English

My affinity for paper knows no bounds. Likely a result from my newspaper background, I develop an emotional reaction when beholding paper that is simply beautiful: note cards, letterhead, envelopes, tablets, books, magazines, even basic birthday greetings. Despite the growing hours I spend each week working, living, and playing in the digital world, I am still continuously pulled back in a space of paper. And I love it.


While attending an Alt Summit session last month about organizing my online life, our presenter, Erin Loechner, mentioned a very analog method to manage blog posts: through paper! Yes, paper. It is a spiral-bound day planner that has quickly become a favorite of bloggers everywhere. When Erin mentioned The Day Designer and its creator, Whitney English, who was in the audience, I made a mental note to investigate.



After connecting with Whitney online and learning more about her business, her philosophy, and The Day Designer, I collected my notes (paper and electronic alike) to share with you.


>> Also! Whitney was kind enough to include a Day Designer giveaway as part of her Q&A. To win your very own Day Designer, simply comment below. Share your goals for organization, online or elsewhere. One winner will be selected at random and contacted via email. The Day Designer giveaway closes on Wednesday, March 6. Good luck!


WT: Let’s start with your background. Provide an overview of where you grew up, what you studied in school, any activities or memories that you fondly recall.

WE: I was born in Texas but grew up in Oklahoma City. I went to a small private high school, then graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Facilities Management (which is basically interior design with business courses). I completed an internship with designer Charles Faudree in Tulsa, and later did some graduate work in Design and Management at Parsons in New York City. All through high school and college, I worked for various entrepreneurs in creative fields, and loved every experience I had in the creative/entrepreneurial arena.


Clearly you have an affinity for paper and the like. Share with me your initial thoughts as you began spending more time communicating online. Did your letter-writing drop off due to email?

Sadly, my letter-writing has suffered lately, but I would say that it’s due in part to being busy with kids, not because I communicate and connect mostly online. It’s definitely a personal mission to work towards connecting with loved ones more via the hand-written note, and my kids will definitely be learning how to write thank-you notes at an early age!




Much like you, I live for the handwritten word. What are your thoughts about so much of our personal communication moving to digital platforms?

Social media has been a fascinating journey into the science of human connection. As humans, we’re hard-wired to want to make that connection and engage with others. As creative entrepreneurs, we find social media is an excellent canvas with which to share our ideas with the rest of the world. As digital communications have become a commodity, I believe it’s actually driven up the value of the hand-written word. Sure, we can send a tweet, or leave a message on a Facebook wall, but it’s never going to mean the same as a hand-written note. Digital communications make the hand-written word worth more – not less.


Let’s transition to your professional world. What prompted you to launch your website?

I launched my website back in late 2002 or early 2003 whenever I started a wholesale, imprintable stationery company. Over the years, the website was used to showcase my imprintable designs, but I’ve been slowly transitioning it into a more personal platform and blog.


Tell me more about the line of products you design and sell.

For over a decade, I designed imprintable invitations and note cards and sold them wholesale to stores all over the world. At one time, our products were in almost 3,000 stores worldwide. With the success of the imprintable line came forays into personalized stationery and gift products. Some of my more popular products were a line of note sheets on a clear acrylic clipboard – we called them ClipSheets – and a line of eco-friendly, reusable shopping bags called Trend-E-Totes. As the imprintable industry declined, however, I found it necessary to close the wholesale business. I learned a lot from that decade in business. If anyone asked me if I would do it all over again, I definitely would! I’m glad I have some experience under my belt now, and I’m definitely going to apply those lessons to future ventures.


Let’s talk the Day Designer. This little beauty seems to have taken the blogging world by storm. Tell me first about your inspiration to create it.

Last year I started a new venture with a product called the Day Designer. It’s a yearly strategic planner and daily agenda for the creative entrepreneur. I created the Day Designer because after years of sitting through strategic planning meetings and brand strategy sessions, I realized that I had done very little to internalize my values and execute living them through my brand. I also needed a product that would help me organize my appointments and schedule as a creative entrepreneur, and not just as a mom. I’ve been a creative entrepreneur for a lot longer than I’ve been a mother, and I always felt like there was a void in the marketplace when it came to agendas for female entrepreneurs. I have a few other product ideas up my sleeve, so who knows where the coming years will take me!




Why design something so “analog” as paper, especially when your primary audience for this project is primarily online?

I believe in writing things down. I believe that the lists and notes and ideas that we scrawl across bits of paper are incredibly powerful, and I don’t think the truly digital folks give writing much credit. I think our brains process what we write differently than we process what we type. The process of writing, literally, by hand, helps get ideas and thoughts and novelties out of our heads and into our hearts. When ideas live in our hearts, we find the energy to act on them. Heart-action produces much more powerful results than head-action. Heart-action can change the world, right? That’s why I believe in paper, and the process of writing things down.


Tell me how you, personally, use the Day Designer to manage your work and your life.

My Day Designer sits on my nightstand most of the time. I partially fill in future events – my husband’s work schedule, important events like kid’s programs and school parties, travel schedules. I use my Mac calendar to keep track of client appointments, because I make the appointments via email. At the beginning of each week, usually on Sunday afternoon when my kids are napping, I sit down and fill in that week’s events, and do some meal planning. Each daily page has a spot for the Top Three most important things to do that day – and I try to leave this as empty as possible until the day-of. When I was on maternity leave, every day literally had “make milk” in every day’s Top Three. The Top Three is so important because it helps you prioritize your day, and it also serves as a reflection tool. Writing down “make milk” every day brought the realization to the front of my mind that my kids are the most important thing in my life right now.


Throughout the day, I use the checklist section on the right side of each page to make notes of things I tell people I’m going to do. When I sit at my desk, I flip back to previous lists in my Day Designer and make sure I’ve done everything I’ve said I’m going to do. If I complete a task, I mark it off with a check. If the task has become obsolete, I mark through the entire line, crossing it off. I’ll also use this column in my Day Designer to make notes if I’m on a conference call. The idea is to get as much writing off of little lists that float around my desk, and into the Day Designer. I love that I can look back and celebrate accomplishments that might otherwise go unnoticed in my life!




What has launching your website and following your passions taught you about yourself?

Actually, I think I’ve learned more from NOT following my passions than I have from following them. I’ve learned that money is not a motivator and that profit is not a purpose. About five years into my wholesale business, I started chasing the dollar signs, instead of my passions. Nothing but heartache came out of that. I also think that as a creative entrepreneur, our passions can change, and wax and wane, and we have to be cautious but defined about consistency. It’s important when building a team. I’ve learned that it’s important not to rush, and I’ve learned to never sacrifice the luxury of creative self-expression. That’s fuel for us creatives. The moment we stop creating, we’re headed to scary purpose-less burnout zone.


What motivates you to continually create beautiful things?

At the end of 2011, I was incredibly burned out. I stepped back, evaluated what needed to change, analyzed some actions, and then intentionally made some decisions that others would probably have defined as selfish. To a certain extent, the decisions were painful in the short term. However, they were the beginning of creative liberation. I started finding myself again, and the ideas started flowing again. So, I guess you could say that I create in order to preserve my sanity, to make my home a better place for my family, and to make the world a better place while I’m in it.




I noticed that you live in Oklahoma City. (Yay for the Midwest! I’m in Omaha.) What do you enjoy most about living in this part of the country?

Oklahoma City, is, for the most part, a small town, and I think that anyone who lives in a small town would tell you that it has it’s pros and cons. My favorite thing about Oklahoma City, though, is my family, and the network of friends who continues to support me without hesitation, and embrace my wild-fangled entrepreneurial ideas with so much unconditional love. I’m truly blessed.


Anything else I didn’t ask about? 

I talk about purpose a lot, and people often ask me what my WHY statement is, so I thought I’d share it: Glorify God authentically, exemplify the power of choices and change, and love with gratitude and creativity. I try to practice the discipline of using that framework to make every decision.


And now … a few fun questions!


Describe your perfect meal.

Some kind of champagne cocktail, for starters. Then tuna tartare, followed by beef wellington, and if there is still room, some kind of extraordinarily exotic ice creams: think basil, honey, lavender flavors.


What’s your best-kept beauty secret?

Newly discovered Got2B Dry Shampoo. Secret revealed to me by my dear friend and Alt Summit roommate Amber Housley.


When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to combat such feelings?

A couple of things. I’m pretty good at pep-talking myself, so I tell myself that feelings aren’t facts, they’re just emotions trying to get me off course. I go back to my WHY statement and see if it’s in alignment with my actions. I love inspirational quotes, and my faith sustains me through Bible verses I’ve memorized over the years. If that’s not cutting it, I ask my husband or one of my best friends to listen to me. I’m not against resorting to therapy if I just can’t shake it.


What book changed your life?

Hands down, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Start With Why by Simon Sinek was a more recent eye-opening read, and I also really enjoyed the paradigm shift provided by Daring Greatly by Brene Brown recently. Bottom line, I love books.


Editor’s note: Whitney English photos courtesy of Shannon Ho Photography.


Notes from Alt: Social Media 101

This recap rounds out my Alt Summit experience quite nicely, and bookends the other recaps I’ve posted on my blog during the past few weeks. What follows is an overview of my most beloved social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


Although the Alt Summit session was titled Following the Conversation: Social Media 101, I still learned a thing or two from our four panelists: Erin Souder of House of Earnest, Allison Silber of Engaged & Inspired, Kelly Beall of Design Crush, and Meg Biram of Meg Biram – The Edit.


• For example, did you know it’s best for your Twitter and Instagram usernames to be identical?


• Do you use Pinterest to promote your own work?


• Have you considered creating a Twitter list of people with whom you wish to continually network?


These three tips alone were enough to get me thinking about my social media activity, and how it can always be improved – regardless of the platform or purpose.


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad


>> What social media platform do you prefer? Got any tips or tricks to share? Comment below!

Notes from Alt: Online Organization

Not long after I starting spending significant time online exploring email, social media, and other websites, I discovered a problem: I was quickly growing overwhelmed.


So much great content! So little time! 


It appeared I was wading my way through countless levels of communication and the like while missing some of my most beloved blogs, my most enjoyable emails. And while I have since learned how to navigate my online experience, I’m always open to new methods of productivity.


That’s largely why Erin Loechner’s Alt Summit presentation last month on organizing one’s online life piqued my interested. Erin, of the popular blog Design for Mankind and an impassioned advocate of the slow blogging movement, provided suggestions on staying organized and maximizing efficiency while working, living, and playing online.


One of Erin’s key points, which is outlined in my Haiku Deck below, is this wonderful idea of Golden Hours. Erin suggests tackling your biggest, most creative, most ambitious projects during your Golden Hours: the time of the day you work best.


Anyone who follows me on social knows that my Golden Hours are between 5 and 10 a.m. My creativity is at its sharpest while rising with the sun each morning. In college, I was a night owl. But today? I’m an early bird through and through.


During your Golden Hours, click through my notes recapping Erin’s presentation and ask yourself: How can you make time to dive into your projects that matter most?


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad


>> Have a favorite app to stay organized online? Share it!


>> A more detailed recap of Erin’s January 25 Alt Summit presentation is available at Design for Mankind.

Notes from Alt: Personal Branding

Personal branding is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Unexpectedly, following the 2010 publication of Nerdy Thirty, my first book, my idea of personal branding took on a life of its own. Without knowing it, my book and my work promoting its pages culminated into who I was as a writer and (if I’m honest: a nerdy!) woman.


Countless organizations have asked me to write about and discuss this idea of personal branding. (A secret? It’s much more than simply social media.) So when I discovered a personal branding session last month at Alt Summit, I was curious to hear another woman’s perspective.


The energy, expertise, humor, approachability, honesty, and passion put forth from the podium by our speaker, wedding photographer Jasmine Star, made me a personal brand believer yet again.


Jasmine articulated what it means to build one’s brand, how to maintain its momentum, and the easiest way to identify your audience. And trust me when I say that Jasmine’s Alt Summit remarks were about far, far more than photography. (Although her presentation slides were pretty as a … well … picture.)


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad


What have you done today to enhance your personal brand? What has worked for you in the past? What are your personal branding goals? Share your thoughts below!

Notes from Alt: Sponsor Collaborations

Last month marked my first Alt Summit, a three-day conference designed to inspire and motivate (primarily female) bloggers of all backgrounds. Alt Summit’s goal is simple: show (and tell) bloggers how to transform their hobbies into paying businesses.


The sessions – much like the impromptu fashion shows made possible by the attendees’ ensembles – were colorful, diverse, and, at times, made for great photography.


The journalist in me cannot thwart the ongoing urge to take notes nearly all of the time. I planned for this, of course, relying exclusively on Evernote and my iPad for each session. (An aside: I first discovered this effective and easy-to-use note-taking app from my good friend, Andy Peters, at BarCamp Omaha a few years ago. When I learned that Evernote could be accessed on a variety of platforms, I fell hard and quickly became a user for life.)


Each Alt Summit session gave me something to consider for this very website. My first on Thursday morning, Collaborations With Sponsors, got my head spinning in the best way possible. Today’s bloggers can build successful relationships with brands of all sizes, yielding increased traffic, sponsored content, and user engagement like never before.


Our panelists included Camille Styles of Camille Styles, Merrilee Liddiard of Merg Mag, Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook, and Mitra Morgan of Joss & Main.


In the spirit of sharing my Alt Summit notes with you, I opted to take a different route for each session. Below you will see a nifty online presentation built using Haiku Deck. This free iPad app truly puts PowerPoint to shame, with a seemingly limitless image library to accompany each slide. (Best of all? Haiku Deck slides can be shared effortlessly and saved forever.)


But enough about the tools I used! Let’s talk brand collaboration by way of Camille, Merrilee, Jenny, and Mitra.


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad


Successful blogger/brand relationships that were also mentioned included The Girls with Glasses Show and kate spade, and Erin Gates and Joss & Main. What collaborations have caught your attention? Have a success story to share? We’d love to hear the details!