Jenn is a Waco-based entrepreneur who had a majorly successful Kick Starter launch and founded Sacred Ordinary Days. This past January she released her first day planner and is now working on the next two. After working with her on her visual branding, I knew that I wanted to share some of her experience with you guys. Thankfully Jenn agreed and I really think you will love what she has to say.
So Jenn, I do have to say, in the last two years, you have launched your new brand, created a new product and you started a podcast. How would you even describe what it is that you do? Who is Jenn Giles Kemper?
I can't believe it's been two years! I think that just goes to show how incredible your work is-- it lasts and lasts. I've done logos and branding for businesses before and I was tired of it or had outgrown it in less than two years. The work that we did together for the Jenn Giles Kemper branding still feels spot on!
When we first worked together, I was a solo entrepreneur working at home from my front bedroom-turned-office. Now I lead a small team, which includes my husband, Grant. The two of us work in our downtown Waco studio and my right-hand woman, Hayley Johnson, works remotely from Fort Worth. Sacred Ordinary Days is the business that grew out of my one-on-one coaching, consulting, and spiritual direction work. At Sacred Ordinary Days, we create modern resources for Christian spiritual formation. Our tools are rooted in ancient practices, but translated with a clean aesthetic and accessible language. We draw from the liturgical calendar, the lectionary, the daily office, and many contemplative spiritual practices.
Thus far, between all the projects you have on your plate, and the ones that have been checked off the list, what part of this journey has been your favorite?
Our liturgical day planner is still the thing that I am most proud to have created. That's at the heart of everything we do! We're currently making some small changes and improvements for the Academic Edition, which will be available for pre-sale at sacredordinarydays.com as of May 2! We'll make several more improvements when we release the 2017 Liturgical Edition this fall. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to tweak and improve our products based on the feedback of our tribe members who are using the planner so many different ways!
Ok, but there is another part of this journey that has been wonderfully challenging and cool and educational. Since the beginning, I wanted to find a meaningful way to engage in this conversation about leaning into the church calendar. I started the Sacred Ordinary Days podcast alongside my friend and colleague, Lacy Clark Ellman of asacredjourney.net. From the beginning, our goal has been to meet our listeners where they are and, essentially, host a conversation about how the liturgical calendar relates to us today and how we incorporate in into our lives. Podcasting is brand new to us, but as they say, experience has been the best teacher.
That is great! So many things to look forward to! Although you created the “Sacred Ordinary Days” planner, your days are far less than ordinary. What do your days normally look like in the world of ministry, entrepreneurship, and marriage?
First, how cool is it that I get to be both a minister and an entrepreneur through Sacred Ordinary Days? I pinch myself weekly. I'm so grateful to have found/created this work. These days my husband, Grant, and I head in to our office at Anthem Studios around nine in the morning. He's been working with our business full-time for a month and a half. It's a big change from aerospace engineering, for sure, but we're really enjoying working together and having more flexibility in our schedules. We communicate with Hayley, our designer and creative director, throughout the day via Slack, Asana, and Skype. We're in the process of hiring a few more folks, so lately we've been focused on streamlining our workflow.
Our tasks vary quite a bit day to day, and while I love the excitement and variety, I find myself looking forward to a bit more routine as our team grows and I can be in charge of less. Some days I'm recording a podcast episode or writing a script for our next video shoot. Others days I’m writing our employee handbook and figuring out how to actually build the kind of business that I desire to lead, (we’ve been working out all the details-- from work schedules to health care to pay and everything in between). The relationships with our "tribe" (our customers, supporters, people in our corner) have been such a key component. We know exactly who we're creating with and for. We talk and listen daily in our facebook group and on social media using #sacredordinarydays. I'm loving instagram and have been SO grateful for quick conversations on twitter. Seeing people share our initial launch was amazing! You could almost see different circles and networks lighting up on a map of the internet. It was very humbling to see so many strangers be generous!
Yep! Sounds like the life of a successful entrepreneur. What makes you come alive in work, ministry and marriage?
I'm an extrovert and love collaborating, so working with people whom I thoroughly respect and enjoy is a dream come true. I love the days that have a mix of creating something, refining something based on collaboration with our people, and interacting with our tribe. The idea of Sacred Ordinary Days was born out of a need that I saw in my own life, and having others connect with that need and respond enthusiastically to our solution is crazy encouraging.
The desire for life-giving relationships seems to bleed over into every area of my life. I enjoy the process of curating a hospitable home to open our home to friends and family. Grant and I share a love of cooking and eating good food, especially when we can share those meals around a full table.
Tell us what one or two things about this last year that surprised you the most. Good, bad, whatever...
The biggest surprise was the moment that my calculated-risk-taking/fiscally conservative/needs-along-term-plan husband looked up from his spreadsheets and flowcharts (yes, literally) and said "I'm ready to quit my job and join Sacred Ordinary Days full-time." Even though we'd been working towards that idea, saving and planning for it to be possible, it was still a BIG moment. I think we both expected it to be at least another 6-12 months, but things fell into place quickly and he was ready!
Oh, also there was this one time when we launched our first planner on Kickstarter and reached our minimum funding goal less than two days in. Watching such a positive response to a project that was months and months in the making was absolutely indescribable.
Since we are now well into 2016 (crazy), since launching the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner this past November, what lays ahead for you?
Our long-term vision for Sacred Ordinary Days is that a new collection will release each year, with two main launch periods (one at the beginning of the year for our Liturgical Edition and one halfway through the year for our Academic Edition). We’re also working on a Weekly Planner to complement the Daily Planner we’ve already created. Other plans for 2016 include developing a Mini-Season for the podcast (coming this summer) and writing a book proposal!
Haha wow, book proposal + JGK = thriving.
How about some advice for anyone with a big dream. What are some helpful first steps to see that dream move towards a reality?
Love this question! Invest your time energy, and money (wisely, but generously) to learn what you need to learn. If you don't have much time or money, start with a book. As you have a little more, reinvest to take some courses. And, continue to do that! The other big thing is investing in real relationships. Invest in people that you love & that love you well. Invest in relationships that could become that, too. Your spouse, your family, friends, employees and contractors. Spend time with talented creators and doers who are also kind, good humans...you know?
Keep up with Jenn and her team!
Graphic Design can imply many different things, and I am blessed to work on a variety of projects. This past week, the title "graphic designer" meant : creating playful illustrations, mocking up a website layout, editing some photography, designing a couple vehicle wraps, creating and curating the look and feel of a endowment campaign, as well as researching and presenting bid on a large project.
Never a dull moment!
Liz Griffin, of Griffin Creative is passionate about people, growth and making change happen. She has a strategic mind for creating solutions, and big vision concepts. Liz and I have gotten to work together a bit this year on some dynamic client projects, and when two creatives (graphic designer & writer) get together and bring their insight and expertise to the table it's a win, win. Partnering together with other professionals in the same industry, or similar industries, often elevates the work created and the customer experience you are able to offer.
Among the many creative avenues Liz finds herself involved with, one of those avenues is her newsletter "Baller Status". Once a month she will interview one of her followers, so I thought it was time to turn the mic around and interview the interviewer. Liz was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions, so lets see what the Baller herself has to say...
Let's start with ... your 3 second commercial - tell us who is The Liz Griffin?
I am a writer, pep talk giver, creative and justice seeker. I believe that people's imaginations are meant to change the world for good. I work with an anti-trafficking organization called UnBound and have a creative agency called The Griffin Creative. In addition to that I write over at thelizgriffin.com. Coffee is my drug of choice, London is my favorite city and unicorns are one of my favorite things. Not cats though. I really don't like cats very much.
How would you describe "abolitionist" and "ideation strategist" to second graders?
I would describe an abolitionist as someone who works for the rights and freedoms of others. And I'd have to explain an ideation strategist as a person who comes up with ideas and ways to make them happen.
In your field, what 2 or 3 things would you consider to be your expertise?
Oh gosh. Well I guess it would be brand strategy and messaging. I love working with people to create a clear identity and path of growth for their business or project. Messaging would probably be my main area of expertise. Words are my jam and stringing them together to create the right message for the target audience is my favorite thing I do.
What is your favorite meal to cook for your family?
My favorite meal to cook for my family has to be maple roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and fruit salad. Hands down.
Being out in the creative work force as a self-employed entrepreneur, what is your strategy for making the "thing you do" an actual business and not just a hobby or a good idea?
Over time my strategy has shifted as I really narrowed what the "thing I do" is. Growth is a very important thing to leave room for. Each time I decide to take a step forward in my career I try it out for awhile as a hobby and see if I am actually good at it. Plus getting experience doing it gives me time to clarify exactly what it is I am wanting to build. Having like-minded people around me that are also entrepreneurs is really valuable too. A community of people who are aiming for the same things have been a constant source of help. I tend to "soft launch" my idea and then get that community's feedback. It has saved me lots of time and money getting as much clarity on the front end as possible. I think that is the reason most people stay stuck in the "dreaming" stage. They have ideas but not enough clarity to act. Trouble is usually you don't get that needed clarity until you kind of test drive the idea for a while.
What are 3 of your favorite books?
At the end of the day what 5 things matter to you?
Oh gosh. Thats hard to narrow down. Guess it would be :
- growing closer to God
- loving my family well
- influencing my generation
- living bravely
- helping people in a profound way
Most of us gleam from the wisdom and advice from those who have gone ahead. Among many things, YOU HAVE :
• lived in a couple different cultures
• had to pioneer hard ground to start different ventures out of nothing
• children of your own, and are in the process of adopting
• started your own business and still make time for rich community
• you have stayed on top of and in-tune to the global, technical, and
relational world around you...
What gives? What bit of wisdom or advice can you share?
What gives? I guess I am a bit insane! I started traveling the world in kindergarten and have been blessed to hear the stories of people in over twenty nations. I think when you engage the "bigger picture" in that way it allows you to see what really matters to you. I aim to accomplish a lot in my life and that means that I say "no" to a lot of things. I don't go to every social event or participate in every professional opportunity. I am very focused on who I want to become as a person and as a business. Plus, I don't believe in being insanely busy. If I don't have time to enjoy the life I am living, then I need to cut things out. So my advice would be to decide what really matters and not give in the the pressure to do or be more than that. Fight for clarity in your relationships and goals both. But always say "yes" to impromptu road trips. Those are the best.
Your logo is not your brand.
Your logo is not your identity.
Your logo identities your company in it’s simplest form, and what your logo means is important.
Here are a few helpful questions I ask my clients.
> What is your companies mission and vision?
> What words best describe your business?
> What do you want your logo and the elements we create to say about you and your business?
What does it need to communicate to your audience?
Over the last couple weeks I was finding myself looking towards tomorrow, and the next week, and the week after that... more than I should. Planning out work projects, scheduling new timelines, and of course looking forward to our summer travel plans. It seemed like I was drifting into the future and skipping over the present.
My hope is that July's free screen download will encourage you to take a deep breath, and press into whatever is "your present" (instead of glazing over it)...and enjoy it. After all, you will never have that moment again.
It's JUNE - and I am so excited! The sun doesn't go down until 9 (which means staying up/out later), you can go swimming everyday, and grilling out in the backyard becomes a weekly activity! Im Looking forward to all that this summer has, and all that this summer can be. New design projects are rolling in, keeping me on my toes - the "Summer Blooms" card sets have almost sold out, and there is a bit of traveling ahead - these are the good days!
It's time to explore - so get out there and make some memories!
Let your summer inspiration begin!
I enjoy meeting and getting to know other small business owners. In this industry, there’s an amazing amount of inspiration and collaboration to be found talking to other creative individuals. Specifically, I love sharing and hearing about the journey to owning your own business. Everyone’s path is different but I truly feel that there’s something to learn from each of them. Today, I wanted to share mine with you. Many of the people following this blog already know some of it, but for those who don’t (and for those who want to know a little more), read on!
How long have you owned this business?
I started Cedar Gandy on January 1, 2014.
How did you decide to strike out on your own?
After 6 years of working for an amazing graphic design firm, I found myself wondering and dreaming about the possibility of something more. Something new and different. Specifically something a little more handmade, a little more broad, and a lot more me.
At the time I was making this decision, my husband Jordan and I were 10 months into marriage. My brother (who also happens to be my closest friend) had just moved across the ocean. We were talking about adding a fourth UPS Store to the three we already owned. To put it simply, transition was in the air and I felt it. After months of prayer and wise counsel, I stepped out of my design position and stepped into the world of a self employed designer entrepreneur. I’m going to be honest here: this whole thing felt like a huge risk! But I wanted to have faith and trust what I felt like God was calling me to.
What is the best part of running a small business?
The sense of having more freedom. As an entrepreneur, I get to have more say in the types of projects I work on. I’m now free to take on work that inspires me, which is an incredible blessing. I also have the chance to pursue the kind of clients and jobs that interest me. Now, I get to work on a wide variety of projects that include designing visual marketing pieces for larger companies and creating smaller custom projects for small businesses and individuals. Practical “freedom" is a huge part of why I started Cedar Gandy. I can easily take my work on the road and spend time with my husband while he travels for work.
What is the hardest part of running a small business?
The hardest thing about it is that I don’t get to design all day, which I would love to do. One of the common responses people having when they hear I run a small business is the classic, “Must be nice that you can do whatever you want!” Of course, that really is true to an extent! But people underestimate the huge responsibility that comes along with that well, especially if you want to grow and be successful. For now, everything is on my shoulders—at least until Cedar grows a little more.
I split my time between creative meetings, corresponding with clients and vendors via LOTS of emails, accounting and invoicing, creating quotes for different jobs, keeping up my website and social media, growing the business, continuing to learn and grow technically and creatively, and staying fresh and innovative with my design as much as I can. With that comes the daily pressure of starting work at 8 and not stopping until it’s done. So getting up, taking breaks and moving around can be a challenge, which is a bummer—most days I eat at my desk while in the middle of responding to clients!
What doubts or resistance have you had to face?
If I’m facing resistance, it’s usually coming from myself. It’s often the resistance to put myself and my work out there more, resistance to dreaming big, resistance to being totally confident in my work and where I’m at in this journey. Even though it can be a tough thing to admit, I love being able to share my story and be honest about the obstacles that I face. Even in the moments when I find myself worried about growing my business, it really is my clients (both new and regular) that keep me going. They don’t give me any reason to doubt my creativity, ideas, design aesthetic, or business. At the end of the day, that is one thing I am so grateful for!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on this journey?
Come up with a plan that involves your dreams, but also your mission and goals. For me, that is the key to sticking to your vision and staying motivated. Ask people that have gone before you for advice and wisdom. Pick their brain and expertise. Listen to their stories. Work really hard and ride the waves of highs and lows that come with owning a small business. Also, know who your support team is– whether it’s a business partner, parents, spouse, or close friends. Talk with them about expectations, goals, and even how starting your own business will affect the relationships in your life. Ask yourself: what am I willing to compromise? What am I not willing to compromise? Then have someone to hold you accountable to those decisions.