Growth…

Growth, we all want it. Whether it’s in our gardens, our knowledge, wisdom, in our businesses or our bank accounts. Maybe you want to grow your circle of friends, your following on your blog or social media sites. We feel better when we are growing in all of the good ways. So how can we do it? And just how much growth would it take for you to feel good about it all?

The best lessons I’ve learned about growth has come from gardening. Real growth takes time, attention and appreciation. Whether it’s growing your business, your following on social media- personal growth or expanding your influence, there’s no real magic formula.  Here’s one ‘Don’t’ for growing your business or influence. Don’t just stay with folks who do what you do or have the same perspective you do. It’s far more interesting to follow folks who are like some of my favorite herbs.

  • Take common Oregano, I picked a big armful, it was full of Joy and Happiness, had a lovely light scent. Find folks who bring you Joy, believe me they will make your day!
  • Or those sweet silly Violas– they’re a baker’s decorating friend, a spring tonic maker, an artist’s inspiration- Now please tell me- you want Inspiration around regularly. Right?
  • Thyme the herb of courage, the Greek symbol of elegance and style and dare I mention: Some set aside a bed of Thyme for the wee fairies. It elevates my mood and lifts the spirits- oh my yes! I want  Courage, Elegance, Style and a bit of Whimsy and more… the scent of lemon and thyme is surely one of the most scrumptious anywhere. Add folks who bring these things into your circle.
  • Water, we all know we need an Oasis Add refreshing Mint and Lemon- well, you have a fragrant, refreshing moment. Yes, I want those types to be part of my day.
  • Sweet Lamb’s Ears is nature’s fuzzy bandaid, has healing properties- not I ask you, what would life be without those who offer healing to the mind, body and soul? That’s circle of Influence. Each adding something to the other’s life.
  • Ah yes! we must have some folks who spice up our lives, any place they’re invited- tend to ease frustration, anxiety and these Hot Peppers generally grow where it’s hot- why? We need this spice to cool us down, even make us laugh- oh yes, you want the spice of peppers!
  • Along with the Love and Good Wishes of Sweet Basil, there’s never enough of that!
  • We want folks who come back often, like Garlic Chives. From leaves to blossom- they re-seed, not trouble at all.
  • Last, yet certainly not all- I can always use some Sage advice. Wisdom.

A huge following isn’t as important as the level of Engagement, the need meeting need, the inspiration- the likes, comments- taking time to engage, inspire and be inspired. This is what community has always been about. If everyone was just alike, who would need anyone else? You may have or offer just what someone who does something different from you needs. Build a business based on trust, a good relationship, a friendship- appreciate what they do- not just by hitting ‘like’ but leaving a short meaningful comment. That’s why it’s so important to actually be inspired by others- not for the sake of more followers- that’s not authentic. It’s being real and ultimately- your business won’t flourish long unless you take the time, pay attention and show appreciation. That’s how to Grow the right way. Wait for it, true growth will happen. Here’s wishing you all the best!

Love y’all, Brenda

*This is a continuing series for helping small business, during these unprecedented times. I guess you could Camellia is becoming a Cottage Industry!

Stop, Look and Listen…

Stop. Look. Listen. Those street crossing instructions not only kept us safe, they also sent us across the street and on our way. In our continuing series of ‘What will I do with this Time?’ There are design tips, there are inspirational tips and there are marketing tips, which we hope to include as well. Creating streams of income in these challenging times is certain to be important. In a recent Instagram postBlue Doors, a series of doors were matched up with amusing human characteristics. ( Look for the opening photo of the Blue Door on my IG grid) If you hope to sell a service or product, you must Look at the individual needs, hopes and dreams of potential customers. It’s not enough to figure out a way to sell them what you hope to sell- your job is:

  • to figure out their lifestyles,
  • their means to purchase or
  • if what you’re offering is even relevant to their lives.
  • If it is, then this post will help you in your marketing efforts. It’s mostly, Listen and Stop. Here are a few examples:
  • You: ‘Throw out those old spices, make potpourri bags or something.’ * When actually – ‘I was hoping you could help me organize and plan new shelves.’ *If you’d stopped long enough before advising and just listened.
  • You: ‘Why in the world would you put a chair out here?’ ‘Oh, I thought it would be fun to have our coffee out here, while we talk about that new addition.’ *Yikes, if you’d just stopped and listened…
  • Take this dark linen closet- You: ‘Let’s get this cleared out, lighten it up, put in some shelves…’ Stop. Listen. ‘No, I wanted to step into my little home office first- am really interested in…’ *What you saw, wasn’t what she wanted you to look at!’
  • Or listen in on this exchange- You: ‘Mary Beth, the sewing circle would love to have all of this! Then you could have a guest room!’ No, no no. ‘Actually, I was hoping you could design a craft room for me.’ *I hope you didn’t dampen her enthusiasm or talk yourself right out of a job!
  • Look at this all white kitchen- You- ‘We need to get you some color in here, liven things up!’ Really? Here’s what was said- ‘Well we like it, I just need a sisal rug and was hoping you could tell me what size to get.’ *Stop. While you’re ahead.
  • What about those lovely old windows? You: ‘We can get you some shades or curtains in here to cut the glare.’ Um no. ‘I love the light coming in here.’ *Listen. You just lost that job. Full stop.
  • Take this lovely old plant room… You: ‘Let’s replace these rickety doors, get you some metal shelves you can wash down.’ * Really, you just said that? ‘Well, I wanted to give you a plant before we talk about replacing the bathroom wallpaper.’ Thud. Just stop. Listen.
  • And this gorgeous flower room? Please don’t say- ‘Let’s clear it of all the clutter, make it easier to clean…then see where we are!’ Uh NO. ‘Actually, I’m hosting a flower arranging workshops- I really needed help with my son’s room.’ *Please stop while you’re ahead.
  • Doors of opportunity will open if you’ll focus on the customer. The best sales happen when you Stop Selling and Start Listening. Give compliments, not unsolicited advice. And. Listen to this – which applies to anything in life- ‘The cry of the human heart is to be heard.’
  • Marketing today is about making connections, building friendships and gaining trust. Stop. Look. and Listen – first.
  • Love y’all, Brenda
  • Abundance…

    As much as I admire simple, curated space – there’s a case to be made for abundance. Let me ask a question first- which organ of the body uses the most energy, the Heart or the Brain? The brain uses a full 20% of the human body’s energy. Sight, sound, scent and taste – these senses originate in the brain, That’s why visual images are so important in design.

    The same brain that loves order also enjoys abundance. Half full or mostly empty are generally unattractive. In any type of brand or campaign for products- balance is key. A product page needs to be simple and curated. A special display benefits from negative space. Your physical store, the cover of a catalog, a travelogue or business blog even newsletter are the perfect places for abundance. And don’t get me started on our homes and gardens.

    Abundance -without looking cluttered, stuffy or just plain messy- which is universally unappealing. Where to use it? Abundance is a design principle and when selectively, the human eye finds it appealing. Abundance is that satisfying sensation we feel when we see a good harvest, a basketful in fact!

    Set an abundant bowl of fruit on a simple table and it immediately becomes more attractive. Common food displayed in rustic basket or a bundle of garlic on burlap speaks abundance to the eye. A well stocked store is far more appealing than empty shelves.

    In the landscape, abundance is what we enjoy seeing. An ornate bench is a type of abundance. Used in just the right setting or proportion is beautiful. Generous bouquets are always a welcome sight and tends to warm a simple space up. Green plants generously added to even the most curated space, have a calm, cooling effect in an overly sunny space. Fresh flowers and plants always add to the experience of a home or an event.

    I’m convinced one reason grazing boards are so popular is we like a generous spread and selection of food.

    Coco Chanel loved her many ropes ..and ropes of pearls- her simple designs were often set off with generous strands of pearls.

    And isn’t that what we really want? Generosity? Without saying a word- abundance is generous, satisfying and ‘no worries there’s enough to go around’.

    Yes, abundance as a design principle is amazing. You can do this! I know you can- finding the right balance is key -with a bit of practice you’ll find other folks will appreciate it too!

    Love y’all, Brenda

    Simplicity…

    Simple. Curated. Space. The concept of simplicity is at once easy and difficult to achieve. Ask any realtor the difference between the way a buyer sees a property is often a simple matter of getting rid of clutter. A simple, curated space is visibly more attractive.

    Neutral paint colors actually help the buyer’s imagination as to how the place can be made their own. The mix of simplicity and abundance in landscape design is also highly prized. Though a cluttered, unkept yard is off putting. So, how do we choose? There’s an art to abundance and an art to simplicity in almost any design.

    Businesses, large and small, are turning more and more to online shops to support the loss of in-store purchases. If you’re setting up an a product page, a website, an online shop or even an in store display- simple and curated helps your customer decide, then imagine your products as their own. Simple isn’t boring. The vintage wooden spoons aren’t lined up like soldiers, they’re artfully arranged with simplicity. Simple table settings may seem plain, yet the color will come from the food and personalities around the table.

    If you’re a seller of unique one of a kind pieces- a simple display on frayed fabric is a simple charming display. I once wrote about my favorite small and useful kitchen tools, On white foam core board, I snapped a pic and the tools were easy to recognize. In store or an online shop, this sort of display is easy on the eye, very little explanation needed and easy to price.

    Often a product needs a bit of interest, the black striped napkins and ladle become the stars. It’s simple and curated. Cooling racks might not look inviting on their own, add simple cookies- the buyer sees the advantage of owning one.

    Often cooked food isn’t as pretty as the ingredients- my grandmother’s egg plate with a single egg sets the scene for deviled eggs. An iron skillet is simply beautiful- a pone of cornbread on a wooden table tell a story.

    Before spices are blended- they’re more beautiful than the mix itself as a display. Pretty vintage white linens, a bowl, simple utensils only need a sprig of lavender for me to write a story!

    Simple. Curated. Space. Works for almost anything. Simple, neutral and calm space is easy on the eye. It’s a subtle, yet Top Design Tip. Avoid overwhelm any time, now more than ever. Go easy on the eye as often as you can. Simplicity is at once easy and difficult to achieve. It’s doesn’t have to be perfect, just really good. This is one tip I’m confident will boost sales and with a little restraint- you can do it!

    Love y’all. Brenda

    *Easy Spice Blend:

    1-2 Tablespoons Granular Coffee 3-4 Tablespoons Kosher Salt 1-2 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns 1 Tablespoon Paprika 1/2 – 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional) 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder 1-2 Tablespoons Pure Cane Sugar

    *Grind spices together into a rough chop. Store tightly. Perfect as a rub for grilled Meats.

    Time…

    img_5706Whether we like it or not- Time passes. Think of a clock… before we can say Tick- it’s already become Tock. That’s how fast time goes by. Being busy is a good thing- yet as Thoreau said- ‘It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is- What are we busy about?’ I’ve asked myself this question almost everyday in the past few months…‘What will you do with this time?’ Some days my mind is sharp and I’m clear on what I’ll do with the time…other days seem like a blur. Some days I’m busy and yet it seems nothing gets done. Other days, I’ve been less busy, more focused and gotten more done in one hour than a whole day through. That’s the problem isn’t it? Our minds are often so overwhelmed, then when the noise is turned down, we filter out the urgent and are focused and productive on the important.

    I think my best gift is to be on the support team. I’m never happier than when I’m cheering on others. In my immediate family, one was responsible for the adoptions of 1000’s of children, another is an excellent reading specialist- untold numbers or children will benefit from her work, still another is a software engineer working to keep our country safe, and another is an environmental engineer. What they do might look like luck or magic- yet,  I know it’s a combination of intelligence, imagination, making the most of their time and hard work.  To say I’m the underachiever in this bunch wouldn’t be an understatement. Still. During this pandemic, what we’ve found out is that those who are the support teams are the most essential workers now.  Hopefully cheering my family on, being their personal support, made a difference in what they’ve been able to achieve.

    img_5705So! In an effort to support creatives, here’s where I’m spending some of that precious time.

    • First, let me give you a critical piece of advice– if you write a blog that’s great, just make sure you’re active on at least one other social media platform.
    • Post about what you love, at work and having fun. History will be very curious about what ‘regular’ folks were doing this pandemic.
    • Just be yourself, show up in your feed- even if you’re like me and hate to show my face or take selfies, thank you very much! Don’t try to perfect- that’s not a thing anyway. Put as much of yourself out there that’s decent. ( That’s what Momma would tell you anyway)
    • Work and also have fun.
    • Connect with people. That’s what being social is all about! Engagement with others helps you and helps them too!

    img_5703If you’re interesting in growing– here’s my Rule of Four plan I’ve had in place for a while now, I try to do it everyday and uses barely any time at all:

    1. Like and leave at least 4 comments on accounts you follow. I no longer believe just leaving a “like’ is quite enough.
    2. Follow at least 4 hashtags- leave at least 4 comments on accounts you don’t follow. 
    3. Like and comment on at least 4 Stories or Videos. If they leave a message for you- please make a remark!
    4. Find 4 small accounts per week that you aren’t currently following- like and comment on their feed. This might be my favorite of the four! When someone’s starting out of beginning something-  leave a short appropriate comment. *And please don’t confine yourself to just one age or type, find folks who are creating things you aren’t, who are living lives in different ways.

    Years go by so fast, we’re never sure what we did with the minutes- we only see the results when if we look back.  Here’s what I know for sure- so much more is happening in the minutes than in the hours, days, weeks or even years. All of it accumulates into something- hopefully, it adds up to a life well lived instead of well spent. Not that time doesn’t matter, it does. Yet, just like money- how you spend it or save it matters less than how you’ve lived.

    Remember life rarely ever works out like we plan. We get sidetracked or distracted by all the setbacks, never realizing this- Life almost always turn out like it’s supposed to. Supporting others is never wasted time.

    Love y’all, Brenda