Blog Archives

BlogPodium: Why I’m Going

BlogPodium is this Saturday. I attended the inaugural event in January and it by far exceeded my expectations. For those of you who aren’t “in the know”, BlogPodium is a conference series dedicated to bringing design bloggers together. The only forum of it’s kind in Canada, BlogPodium is the brainchild of Jen from Rambling Renovators and Lindsay from Little House Blog. I am very lucky to living in the Toronto area and be able to attend an event like this.

Saturday’s topic is “The Business of Blogging” – specifically what opportunities are there to monetize your blog while staying authentic and true to why you write. Nicole Balch from “Making it Lovely” is the keynote speaker followed by a panel discussion and cocktail reception.

Why, you might ask, am I interested in attending an event where the focus is on “The Business of Blogging”?

#1 Blogging is Tied to the Future Growth of my Business

Yep, I said it out loud … my business. I have already generated referrals from my blog for my interior decorating business, Spruce Street Projects, even though I have not actively promoted or rarely mentioned that I have a job outside of blogging – right now. With this in mind, I want to know what other bloggers are doing, how they are doing it and what opportunities are there to collaborate and learn from like-minded people in the design community. Networking in this fashion only serves to generate better content to you, the reader, and by extension my clients.

#2 Meet the Brands that are Sponsors of BlogPodium

Jen and Lindsay have put together a fantastic line-up of brands that are keen to work with bloggers. I’m talking top tier brands in the design industry. These are companies that I’d like to work with both as an interior decorator and blogger. The panel discussion promises to provide insights on how to work with brands as a blogger followed by face to face conversations.

#3 Motivation & Inspiration

Every blogger event I have been to I have walked away inspired, connected and motivated to keep blogging and striving to the next level. Given some of the contests and conversations leading up to BlogPodium this weekend I have a feeling this might be the best event yet.

So there you have it. Three reasons why I’m going to BlogPodium. I will report back next week with a post-event wrap up.

Do you attend any conferences in your area of specialty that leave you energized and motivated?


I’m “So Canadian Eh”!

Just a quick note to tell you to take a minute today to check out the amazing blog “Hodge: Podge” where Barbara has featured me today as part of her “So Canadian Eh?” series. I am very excited to meet Barbara in person at the upcoming Blog Podium.

I am beyond flattered! Thank you Barbara!!

Enjoy your Friday!!

IDS12 & Canadian Design Bloggers – Design & Blogging Inspiration

Seriously, how much can a girl handle in one weekend. As I mentioned earlier this week, I attended Blog Podium and soaked it all up like a sponge. The balance of the weekend was spent attending the Interior Design Show and my second Canadian Design Bloggers Meet Up.

A few of the highlights from IDS12 that stood out to me:

I loved this beauty from Weavers Art. The colour and the movement of all the shapes really stood out to me. I might have even squealed when I first saw it. This particular piece was designed by Michael Pourvakil, the founder of Weavers Art.

Living Lighting on King Street had two standout light fixtures. The sparkle from these “bubble” lights danced before my eyes. Wouldn’t this look amazing in a dining room with high ceilings or in an entry hall?

This light fixture, also from Living Lighting, was also a standout.I’m not sure I would have been able to count that high but any guesses on how many individual strands there are?

I spent some time in the Snob booth. I’d never heard of this store before but love what they are doing. Each piece is from a different artisan in Southern Africa and they all tell a story. The wires in this light fixture were measured by the waist of the craftsman who made it. He wrapped the wire around his waist to size it.

I loved this grouping of people and the play of colour between the blue and gold created a real sense of movement with the eye. In the background you can see the bottom of a mirror that is bordered with rows of mussel shells. I look forward to checking more out in their store.

Then on Saturday night I attended my second Canadian Design Bloggers Meet Up. I remember being sooooo nervous back in June when I attended and this time was totally different. I KNEW people! Was so great to walk in and feel a true sense of belonging.

Cameron MacNeil and Lisa Murphy of House and Home shared insights about colour trends and the House & Home app for ipad & iphone. Cassandra LaValle of the popular blog Coco + Kelley shared her blogging journey from working in PR and event planning to now blogging full-time. She had fantastic tips on how to keep things fresh and networking with other bloggers. The final surprise guest for the evening was Brian Gluckstein – one of Canada’s foremost interior designers. He loves blogs and in particular the sharing of ideas with like minded people – said it reminds him of being back in school where ideas are flowing all the time.

Christine of Bijou and Boheme, Gillian of Gillian Gillies Interiors, moi, Susan of Saf Affect and Meredith Heron (photo courtesy of Allessia Lamonaca)

I’m still out of breath just thinking about the weekend. What does one do next weekend for an encore? Not sure if the hockey arena will cut it!

Blog Podium: My head is spinning with inspiration & ideas!

It’s been a whirlwind weekend of design inspiration, seeing old and new faces and learning so much my head is about to explode! Today I want to share with you what I learned at the inaugural Blog Podium which was held in conjunction with the Interior Design Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The blogger brains behind this fantastic event are Lindsay of Little House Blog and Jen of Rambling Renovators. The mission of Blog Podium promised Conversation, collaboration and connection in a conference series that brings design & lifestyle bloggers, marketers, and the design community together.

Friday’s session didn’t disappoint. The topic was “Blogs & Media” and the panelists explored everything from the evolving relationship between traditional and new media to how to make your blog stand out to how to pitch magazines, television and other media with content ideas.

Blogs have leveled the media playing field and magazines are paying attention. As Margot Austin of House and Home said – she loves the dialogue it creates with readers and the feedback she gets on articles that are run.

To be a successful blogger it is critical to have a key message and stay on point. Kimberly Seldon wants to learn something from the blogger and is looking for an original voice with original thought. Kate Moore wants to see more about who we are and moments from our work. Who is the individual behind the blog? And, Margot Austin loves a beautiful, well edited blog. As she said: “There is space for appreciators not just creators”. She really appreciates someone who “creates a package of lasting beauty” with their own unique voice in how they present their words and images.

Jen Flores provided a unique blogger voice to compliment the media panel and her key pieces of advice for bloggers are to network, do guest posts on other blogs, make sure you have a blog roll so your readers can link up to other like-minded blogs and make sure that your content is easy and concise for editors to find.

So, how do you pitch your content to get published? All three media panelists had specific suggestions but the key elements to consider are the story behind who lives in the space, what does the space look like and a bio on yourself. But most importantly know who you are pitching to. For example, Chatelaine has a very different look than a House and Home story.

And finally, credit, credit, credit. Too many bloggers take liberties and don’t credit their images appropriately. It’s a hot topic in the blogging world and a message that was shouted loud and clear by the Blog Podium panelists.

Many thanks to IDS12, Delta and Olioboard for sponsoring this fantastic event.

So what am I going to do differently after Blog Podium?

Well, for starters … ReDesigning Sarah is about to introduce a new logo (thank you GS&B!) … Here’s a peek:

I’ve also got some ideas on how to structure content and better interact with other bloggers – stay tuned for more!

I’ll provide a recap of the IDS12 and Canadian Design Bloggers Meet Up I attended in the next few days but was so inspired by Blog Podium it deserved a post of its own.

Have you ever attended a conference or seminar that got your creative juices flowing?

A Sense of Community

I went looking for inspiration. I went looking to learn.

What I found most of all was an amazing sense of community. I found myself in a room full of people who loved the same things I did and loved sharing it with others.

On Saturday night I attended the Canadian Design Bloggers MeetUp at the fabulous Brassaii. The group was full of the whose who of the Canadian Design blogging community. Sponsored by Ikea Canada, Delta Faucets and CIL – the room was literally buzzing with chatter, laughter and more than a few squeals.

Tommy Smythe, the hilarious and insanely talented HGTV star was the keynote speaker for the evening. Tommy & Sarah (that’s Sarah Richardson – to be clear!) are known for creating amazing spaces in shows such as Sarah’s House & Sarah 101 to name a few. When I had my photo taken with Tommy I nearly melted (insert stalker fan visual here) when he said that I could be his “Sarah” for the night. Ahhh!

Sarah (as in me - not the other Sarah) & Tommy!

Tommy opened his presentation by observing that we shouldn’t be called just “bloggers” but rather “bitches who blog” – brought the house down! I am still laughing at that line!

He shared photos of his recent trip to Scandanavia with us. I was wowed not only by what I saw on the screen but also his commentary and the inspiration he found. He showed us one picture of a building that he wanted to use as inspiration for a headboard – the windows in another building suggested a design for a rug. Did you know that there are hardwood floors in the Copenhagen airport?!

It gave me pause to look at buildings for more than their detailed finishes and focus on the overall image a building or facade portrays and how it looks in it’s environment.

Using the “Lack” sidetable from Ikea as an example, Tommy pointed out that good design at whatever price point will always be relevant. The “Lack” table can be found as much in student dorms as in million dollar homes.

After Tommy’s presentation it was mix and mingle time. I was able to meet face to face with writers of blogs that I’ve been reading and admiring such as Rambling Renovators, Life Begins at Thirty, Decor Mentor, Little House Blog, First Time Fancy, Bijou and Boheme and Decor Happy.

I also met new faces behind blogs such as Recreated, Buy Borrow & Style, Yummy Mummy Club, Mod Missy and Not A House But a Home to name a few.

Check out these blogs – you will drool with inspiration!

The evening was organized by Vie of Verdigris Vie and Daniela of Dress, Design & Decor and what a fabulous job they did. I was so grateful to be among such an inspirational group.

Then … the icing on the cake. I won the draw for an iPad2. I was so stunned it took me a minute to react and I basically walked around the rest of the evening with a dorky grin on my face.

Today I am one inspired and motivated lady. Can hardly wait for the next meetup.

Have you ever been to an event and walked away with a newfound sense of community?

Images via moi, here, moi & here

Great Minds

Happy Friday. I’m going to an event tomorrow where I look forward to meeting some new faces and finding inspiration in their ideas and wisdom. Will share more next week!

In the meantime, I leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest


What are you up to this weekend?

I think I can, I think I can …

im·pos·tor (noun): one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception

Can I do it? Do I know what I am doing? Can they see that I’m nervous? What if they find out that maybe I don’t know everything I should know!

Ever feel like that?

Being a new business owner I’ve experienced that feeling more than once. It’s a feeling of overwhelm, a feeling that maybe I don’t really know what I am doing.

I had an experience several months ago where I had pitched some business and when they called and actually hired me (gasp!) all of a sudden I wasn’t so sure. I was telling a good friend of mine how I was feeling and she barked at me (‘cause she talks in “bark” sometimes): “Hepburn, you know your sh**, you’ve done this before … you’re just gonna have to fake it ‘til you make it.”

For me, it was so powerful having someone else say that I could do it because at that moment I knew exactly what I needed to do and went out and rocked it.

Ever heard of “Impostor Syndrome”? Valerie Young, a public speaker with a doctorate in education, is a specialist in helping individuals overcome their feelings of professional inadequacy, has defined Impostor Syndrome as follows:

Despite evidence of your accomplishments, you continually discount your success, thinking instead that you must be fooling everyone and thus in constant danger of being unmasked

She has put together a quiz that looks at how you handle mistakes, or your approach to challenges and your perception of those around you (clients, colleagues, competitors). At a certain point, a lack of confidence in yourself will hold you back and Young coaches people of how to manage those feelings.

In exploring the idea of “Impostor Syndrome” I decided to talk to other business owners and see if they had ever experienced the feelings of doubt that I periodically did (or if I was just really a complete headcase – shh don’t tell my clients!).

I started with my dear husband, Brad. He’s a Chartered Accountant and partner in a local accounting firm, and far more reasonable than me at times. He said that one of the things that he has learned over the years is that he can’t possibly know everything off the top of his head – particularly as it relates to the ins and outs of tax etc. He’s learned to be upfront with clients in these cases and get back to them with the answer.

My friend Jane, who owns her own consulting company, The Reeves Group, pointed out that the whole idea of “Impostor Syndrome” or “Faking it ‘Til you Make it” is really just the stories you tell yourself in your head – it’s all made up. She also pointed out that the minute you don’t feel nervous about a new client meeting or a project you probably aren’t caring enough about your work.

So … with all this in mind, how do I overcome perceived feelings of inadequacy and boost my own confidence?

Prepare, prepare, prepare

This includes knowing the client, knowing the scope of work and making sure I have a buttoned up list of exploratory questions if I am meeting someone for the first time

Follow up and follow through

Always immediately follow up after a meeting and always follow through on what you said you’d do – setting client expectations gives me confidence to do my job because I know that we are all on the same page and are working towards the same goal

Dress the part

Pull the outfit together ahead of time, walk with confidence, hold that head high and for gosh darn sakes clean your shoes and ladies, apply the lipstick

So, now that you all know I am not always the ballsy confident woman you might have thought I was … how do you boost your confidence when you know your stuff but just need a little help convincing yourself?

All images via here

Networking Used to Make Me Nervous

One of the early activities that I mastered in starting my own business was the art of networking. Seems easy and intuitive, right?

As I mentioned in my inaugural post, at about the time I went back to school to study Interior Decorating I started to do ad hoc project work.

The work I was doing was right up my alley. A mix of design, managing trades and logistics. I love making order out of chaos and this project was no exception. As the project wrapped up I started thinking about what my next move was. I had learned a ton, had a solid lessons learned list and was keen to keep going.

My instincts were telling me that there was a real need for small and medium sized business owners to have someone help them with their space needs leaving them to focus on running their company. The question was … how do I take my idea, figure out if it is viable, then turn it into reality?

I had a bunch of questions ranging from is the niche I am looking at too narrow? How much should I charge and how (hourly/fee)? How do I set up a business name, website, banking, tax info? How can I learn more about the industry?

I needed to ground my business idea by talking to people already in the interior design/decorating, construction, project management fields and other small business owners. That meant “networking”. Ick. Really? It sounded so pushy, so gauche. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk with the best of them but for whatever reason the idea of reaching out to people I didn’t know and ask for information gave me hives.

To get a better handle on this networking thing, I reached out to my fabulous neighbour Jill Donahue who, through her own consulting company, Excellerate, teaches people how to (ethically) influence. She is the networking queen and I sat down with her to pick her brain a little about this whole networking thing. She had three key suggestions:

1. Set up Informational Interviews

I wasn’t looking for a job, merely information but I was a little stuck on my approach with people I didn’t know. Jill suggested some helpful language to frame what I was looking for: “I’m trying to … “, “I have this idea and wanted to bounce some ideas off you … “or ” Tell me about your experience … “.

2. Ask for an Introduction

At the conclusion of your informational interview ask if you can be introduced to other people that might help you. Think of it as you complete one interview and walk away with information and three new people to talk to.

3. Leverage Linkedin for Networking

Jill suggested to adopt and leverage Linkedin as a way to network with like-minded professionals. Admittedly, I’ve been more successful with my Twitter networking but since attending a seminar on Linkedin have made progress on my profile.

Armed with the gameplan I developed with Jill, I set out to talk to people and ground my business idea. I found that once I started my information interview process it got easier and I was pleasantly surprised by how willing people were to talk to me. I’ve since expanded my business to include residential interior decorating and have applied the same approach to learn more in that space.

Now, networking isn’t such a big thing but rather just a conversation and act of information sharing. I’ve found by asking people about themselves and their business it often leads to asking me what I do – and a few referrals have come my way because of it!

Did networking ever make you nervous? What is your approach?

Making Linkedin Work For Your Business

Social media tools are a fantastic way to network and market your business. I am, admittedly, still figuring out what the best way is to leverage the online world and turn it into real, live connections. Facebook and Twitter are another blog post entirely – today I am going to explore things I’ve learned about Linkedin.

A few months ago I attended a seminar hosted by the Professional Independent Communicators (PIC) – part of IABC-Toronto on “Getting the Most Out of Linkedin”. The keynote speaker was Jaime Almond, a Toronto-based social media strategist. Her presentation was packed with strategies and useful tools to implement a successful Linkedin marketing and networking strategy. She taught us how to leverage Linkedin as more than an online resume. Linkedin, she said, is a tool that leads our target market right to us.

So, how do you get your target market to come to you? Jaime broke it down into three key step: build Interest, build Trust & build Credibility.

Build Interest:

Your profile is the key component to building interest particularly in the keywords that you use. Jaime highlighted three key areas:

  • Your Headline – did you know that you can use up to 160 characters in your Linkedin headline? You know, the space next to your photo that defaults to your job title. Jaime suggests that you use this space to highlight, in addition to your title, to your target audience, what is their main problem and what you deliver. This is a tall order for 160 characters but very effective.
  • Your Photo: Forget cropped bar shots or stunned computer pics – spend some money and have a professional headshot photo taken.
  • Your Recommendations: Increasing the number of times you are recommended increases the chances you will appear in Linkedin searches? Jaime has developed a “Recommendation Strategy” where she has a friend interview her clients and then write recommendations for them to approve and post to Linkedin. This produces recommendations that are specific and results focused. A win for all as you get an effective recommendation & it saves your client time. Jaime’s blog has a list of suggested questions.

Build Trust:

Think about Linkedin as you would a networking event. Personalize every interaction. Delete the default invitation that says “I’d like to add you to my professional network …” and write a personal note. Ask new connections about themselves – don’t dive into a sales pitch about what you do. Invariably a new connection will finish their overview about themselves with something like “What is it that you do?”. This is a perfect opening for you to talk about yourself and your business.

Build Credibility:

You’ve connected with someone, you are building a two-way dialogue so how do you establish your credibility and turn that prospect into an actual client. Jaime had two suggestions to achieve this: A Video and A Free Gift. Sounds cheesy right? That’s what I thought. Until I listened further.

She introduced us to the idea of a video call to action using Slideshare. This appears just above your Summary area in Linkedin. A video gives you the opportunity to personally introduce yourself, give a brief overview of what you do, invite people to connect and share a free gift with them.

So what’s with the free gift? Admittedly I heard the words free gift and thought branded pen, notepad or ballcap. No so. Jaime suggested offering something you aren’t offering anywhere else to get people onto your prospect list and give them something relevant and useful. Examples include a white paper, a resource list, a webinar or a how-to tip sheet.

Building Interest, Trust and Credibility are cornerstones of any successful marketing strategy. Jaime taught us how to utilize Linkedin as an effective networking and marketing tool – going beyond an online resume and making it work for our businesses.

I left the seminar with three action items for my Linkedin profile: build a better headline, get recommendations and brainstorm a free gift. If you get a chance to hear Jaime speak go for it. You’ll walk away with learnings you can immediately put into action.

How are you going to make Linkedin work for your business?