Brand Coaching


We have been doing business as a design company long before we were ever known as Refinery Original. Being an entrepreneur for 8+ years (for my husband - 24 years because what 7 year old wouldn't want to rent a lunchbox space from him?!), we have learned costly lessons along the way, many being obstacles and test runs and failures but we did what every entrepreneur should do and chose to learn from them rather than being defeated by them. 

We are taking the invaluable lessons we've learned and offering them to you with our new service of brand coaching. Brand Coaching is incredibly valuable for many reasons and here are our top five reasons of why you should invest.


“There are no facts, only interpretations.” As an entrepreneur, this insight is gold. Understanding the image you are portraying and the message you are sending through your brand will better help you fine tune your brand, resulting in you reaching your ideal client, which is exactly what we all are aiming to do. Business Consulting will offer you a qualified professional's perspective, giving you a deeper understanding as to what your business looks like to your reader. 


“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” With our Brand Coaching, we work through your dreams and goals alongside you, addressing the scenarios that may arise and creating steps in order to reach those dreams. 


There are incredible opportunities presented to the creative entrepreneur every day, whether it be from an outside source or your own ideas. Through Brand Coaching, we are your sounding board. From ideas in growth to reaching your audience, there are so many choices to make and our desire is to narrow down the choices by determining the various outcomes. We love new ideas but we love when they enhance your brand ever more!


By choosing to invest in your business with brand coaching, you are making forward movement. You are choosing to make a change from where you are currently and in a huge way, entering a new season; choosing to be intentional with your brand. 

5 | TEAM

We love seeing success in our clients and we know it is a process and having a support and cheerleader is more than motivating. Feedback goes a long way in the minds of entrepreneurs and we are along for the ride. This is more than a one stop shop -- you are joining the family and we can't wait to see you grow!!!

Join our family and invest in brand coaching!


Image by Ike and Tash

Image by Ike and Tash


It is a big day for us at the Refinery!!! We have officially been named as a Design Partner with the incredible Showit! We have been hard at work learning the ins and outs of the Showit5 platform and can't sing it's praises loud enough. The ease of use, the capabilities, the engagement it offers to an audience -- it just can't be beat! 


Join the party!

To show our excitement and pride, we are celebrating in two different ways!!!

  1. All of the Market Floor designs are $200 OFF now through Wednesday! Crazy, right?! We know the importance of a strong website. It can easily make or break a sale and we all want sales! Not only are color and type combination important to a website, the flow and engaging content take your website from information to an experience. That is what one should aim for in every aspect of their brand -- an EXPERIENCE. Our goal when designing these sites was to provide an option for those with limited budgets to have a gorgeous site that is sure to impress! These are quality. These are sure to make an impact. These will bring in the compliments. 
  2. WE'RE GIVING AWAY A FREE YEAR OF SHOWIT5!!!! You read that correct! We are loving Showit5 so much that we want everyone to be a part of the goodness. So -- we want to give one special creative the opportunity to fall in love with Showit and they have a whole year to make that happen (which seriously won't take longer than a few days). Are you as excited as us?!!! Yes? Get all the details and enter now.

We love Showit and know you will too!!!

If you have any questions about Showit5, ask! We can't wait to answer them for you! Already in love with Showit? What is your favorite element of the platform?

We're Growing // The Market Floor

A lot has been happening behind the scenes here at the Refinery over the last few months. After our launch of the beloved Ike & Tash, the proposal was made to me to further our business into the realm of templates.

Templates...I had a real struggle with the idea of designing templates {insert extremely hesitant emoji here}. The Refinery has always held to the idea that each brand is unique; it is the capture of the artist, their passions, their goals and what they want to be to their audience. My struggle came to wouldn't designing templates take that unique quality away from clients?? I want to be the designer that brings that passion to reality in visual form. I want to wow each client I serve. How can I do that with templates? I didn't see a way. After so much thought and deliberation with my sounding board (read: my husband), we figured it out together! 

The initial proposal was that of considering the artists that can't realistically justify investing in a full brand design with me. Heart strings successfully pulled. I feel for those artists. I've been there and there is this awful catch 22 with investing in business: 

"You've gotta spend money to make money."

It is such a hard concept to swallow but it is so very true. {Disclaimer: I'm not saying spend loads upon loads of money that you don't have and you'll make bank. I am saying that wisely investing in your company can have a great impact. I am also saying that a well designed site wins almost every single time.} Templates provide an option for those with limited budgets to have a gorgeous site that is sure to impress! 

How does this impact the Refinery and what we believe? Truth is, it doesn't. We have designed many of our client sites on Squarespace, which is what? Templates. Ta Da! We are simply taking that idea and adding our own unique design tastes to it. We are providing an extremely in-depth, and intuitive tool that any artist can take and apply to their business. We believe a brand is the passion, the voice and the vision of the artist; the value you give your audience. We believe that the brand doesn't just happen by some pretty elements or designs, it's built over time. We also believe that an artist can take our designs and modify them to fit their unique design aesthetic. Bottom line -- we believe in you! You can totally do this!!!

The Market Floor

The location where a product or good is crafted and honed to perfection.

We will be launching our shop, The Market Floor, on August 1, 2016 with 5-10 show stopping Showit5 templates! Sign up for our newsletter for a special introductory offer!  Here is a sneak peek of the first 5 templates coming to The Market Floor:

The Vienna - Light + Airy

The Mélange - Deep + Moody

The Brevé - Calm + Artistic

The Triplo - Timeless + Romantic

The Long Black - Classic + Dapper

Subscribe to our newsletter for a special treat from us + The Market Floor!

Branding for Ike and Tash

Ike + Tash. A husband and wife duo that has the PASSION! Do you know them? They are fun. They are genuine. They are REAL. Isaiah and Latasha Haynes have together built a company that stands on principle, whose desire is to encourage and instill confidence in the hearts of their clients. 

When I was contacted to be the designer for a company that had such gorgeous values, I couldn't jump at the opportunity fast enough. I was SO excited! To come alongside a team that knows exactly where it has come from and can see where it is going -- I was hooked. Meeting with Tash and seeing the love she has for all of her girls on the Street Team and her desire to provide support to other photographers in the industry and also, hearing the WHY behind Ike and Tash, only sealed the deal.

Their hope was to have a site that fully captured who they were as a team and individually, focusing on their passions and goals. Together, we worked through the different pieces of their company to bring their audience a cohesive experience.


These three words gave the perfect trajectory for their design.

The inspiration board was perfect. It was modern. It had edge. It was clean and crisp. It definitely captured all of what both I knew and what their audience knew of Ike and Tash. Not only does this board give me, as their designer, inspiration for their brand, it gives Ike and Tash a base for their individual photography styles. One of the most important elements to a brand is cohesiveness, from your web and print to the actual product you provide. The end goal is to have your audience see your product and instinctively know it's yours without ever seeing your name. That is branding.

With the base of their design finished, we moved on to their website! This project was very different from any other project I have completed prior. Their website is designed in the all new Showit5! Now, I am a Squarespace designer. I know the ins and outs, the workarounds, the special features, etc. Being presented with a new platform to learn and design in, and not to mention, design for a well-known photography team who is showcased on the front of the Showit5 website, well, it was a little intimidating but the excitement quickly outweighed the nerves. 

We got down to business and designed a GORGEOUS site. Don't take our word for it, visit the site for yourself at and show them some love! We always love love. 

Branding for Nicole Starr Photography

It is my goal, as a brand designer, to create an identity that encompasses the passion and WHY of each client. I want to provide them with an image that can grow with their vision and enhance the story of their brand, after all, a brand identity is just an image if there isn't a vision or story behind it. It comes down to the WHY? The WHY is the foundation of your business, the thing that brings you the most satisfaction and the thing that builds the passion. A big piece of my WHY -- the grand finale! Experiencing the brand building from start to finish, watching each client work through their WHY, their passions,  their aesthetic, and coming to launch day excited, motivated and ready for the future of their business. That is it! The pure gold. The part that makes my heart jump. 

My latest client -- all that satisfaction and more. Nicole had the passion, the vision and the most important aspect of her business, her WHY.

So much depth and meaning in that simple statement. It gives the impression of her story and vision while allowing her work to be the catalyst of telling her story. She simply needed a brand identity that would capture it perfectly.

Airy. Whimsical. Pure. These were the words Nicole used to describe her brand aesthetic and each of her images represents them fully. The joy she captures in each face, the innocence, the beauty = absolute perfection. To say I was thrilled to be designing the brand identity for the new Nicole Starr Photography would be an understatement. We each have our ideal client and she was mine!

We started her design process with creating an inspiration board that would be the base of her design. Each of the images not only followed along the lines of being airy, whimsical and pure but also provided key elements for her design. The color palette lent to a soft and airy aesthetic with a combination of grays, peaches and pinks. Her board also brought out the sweet element of stars, not your usual 5 pointed stars, but a softer, childlike, nursery feel. The stars plays off of her name in the most subtle of ways. A simple, special touch to elements within her brand.

Now that we had refined the inspiration, I moved on to her logo design and brand style guide.


By designing the inspiration board and brand style guide, the next step of designing her website was natural. Most of the heavy lifting in brand design comes from those first three elements, the inspiration board, logo, style guide. The foundation was laid.

Nicole tells her story through her photography and that is what made her brand. Nicole's photography captures the very essence of childhood in every photo. There is joy in the faces of every new parent, innocence that exudes out of child's smile, magic in that little moment in time of having a newborn. It's beauty in its purest form. My goal was to allow her images to be the binding element in her design.

These pictures are just that -- only pictures. View her website to experience the full magic of her brand.

We finished her branding design process with collateral that would enhance her client's experience. Every piece of collateral represents the story that is her brand. They compliment each other and her brand aesthetic perfectly.


Nicole's new brand is my favorite to date, not because of the elements and design but because of the passion. The greatest satisfaction in designing a brand identity is knowing it will encompass the fullness of the brand.


Creativity Takes Courage

I wanted to take today to encourage you as a creative entrepreneur. You are diving into a world of unknowns but it is totally worth the risk! It's your passion, your future, your dream! Pursue it wholeheartedly and BE COURAGEOUS. The world will only become more beautiful with your creative eye. 

Enjoy this free desktop wallpaper and lock screen image! My hope is that every time you see it, you'll be bolstered, motivated and encouraged! Share it with others to offer the same bit of encouragement. You never know who might need that heart boost today!

How did this encourage you today? Did you step out and do something amazing? I want to hear about it!

Lock Screen

How To: Make the Most of Your 16 Hours

As a small business owner, it seems time passes by before we realize breakfast is over. We're inundated with emails and correspondence, client deadlines, marketing, not to mention the busyness of life outside of work, if you even could manage to escape work. If you don't have a solid system in place, you'll continue to lose and miss out on those precious 16 hours of awake time we have every day. ("8 hours of sleep -- ha!" I wish." Don't worry, I'll break this down in a few minutes.)


One of my goals for this year is to be more intentional; intentional with my business and my clients but most importantly my family. I don't want to wake up and realize it's January 1, 2017 and have nothing to show for the last year. More than desire to have a recognized business, a booked calendar and even bigger goals for the next year, I want memories and those memories will only be made if I am intentional with my time.

Before I begin sharing my system, I wanted to take a moment to encourage those that think this is not possible, specifically the mom and dad entrepreneurs. To give you a little insight -- I am writing from the position of being a believer, a wife, a mom of 5 (yes, 5!) and a small business owner of a growing business. You can imagine the craziness of our home but honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. With so many huge factors in my life, making the most of my time is crucial. Take heart, dear friend, it is absolutely possible. It is hard work that takes consistency and dedication but it is so fulfilling. (Disclaimer: before you start to realize that I have it all together, I don't. I fail so many times. The determining factor to staying on course is whether or not I get back up again and for my sake and my families, I most definitely do.)


First and foremost, in whatever job, activity or task you are doing -- be fully there. You can't be efficient if your mind is in 30 other places, even if it's only 2 other places, it takes energy and effort from where you are and what you have set to do currently. Being fully present also allows you to fully experience what you are doing and when they are fun activities that means memories!


"I'll pencil you in!" Our first instinct is to laugh at this remark. It sounds ridiculous but those four words will be your best friend in a few short weeks.

From client deadlines and bookings to grocery shopping and date nights. Do yourself a huge favor, buy a day planner and write everything down. Don't leave it up for your mind to remember, that's just using unnecessary energy. Write. It. Down. Nothing is too small to schedule in. One of the biggest needs we lose sight of in entrepreneurship is our own. We need time to unwind and decompress. Schedule that in daily. If we don't take care of ourselves, everything else will suffer. If you want to grab coffee during your spouse's break, pencil it in. If your daughter has an awards assembly, pencil it in. If you want to grab lunch with a friend, pencil it in. If you need to exercise, pencil it in. By everything, I mean everything.


One small action of determining my work hours made all the difference in the world. I set my work hours for 8:30 - 4 and I'm readily available to my clients from 10 - 2. It works beautifully. I open and close shop along with those hours. Clients also know exactly when I'm available. When I close, I am close. These hours allow me to get the kids ready for school and pick them up when their day is over, allowing me to spend the evening with them. Work hours give structure to the day. Keep in mind -- there are many times when I work at night when the kids are in bed. This happens most often for client launches or special events or when I'm on a roll with a project that I can't put it away.


Wasting time looking for things is just that -- a waste of time. Organize your business processes, your home, your schedule. This will allow you to be more productive in your day because everything has a place and everything is in its place.


I do my best to wake up at 5am. Understand this, I'm NOT a morning person but those extra hours every morning are absolutely amazing. With having so many children at home, having uninterrupted time to spend with my husband or work is clutch. It prepares me for the day and gets me in the right mindset to start the day with motivation and excitement.


Every morning, in those minutes before the sun rises or even the evening before, write down all of your tasks for the next day, not in any specific order. Go through your list and mark the things that absolutely NEED to get done today, mark those with an "A". Do the same process with the remainder of tasks and mark with a "B" or "C". Next, go through your A list and number each one to mark their priority level. Do the same with list B and C. You now have a list to go through in order of priority when tackling the day.


The first hours of your work day are statistically the most efficient hours of the day. Your mind is clear and ready to get things done. The common thing to do when you first start working is emails, after all, you don't want to miss those important emails. Emails tend to be mindless and monotonous and using your best work on emails is not using your time efficiently. You're then left with the late morning and afternoon to meet deadlines, complete client work, edit, design, etc. You then hit the 2 o'clock slump and crave the nap. In my case -- I'm home, my kids are napping, I can throw in a 20 minute cat nap, right? Rather, I would suggest, use your best brain hours in the morning for the work on the top of your priority list. Meet the deadlines before they arrive, present your design work ahead of schedule or create your best work, saving the monotonous tasks for that 2 o'clock slump.


Such a hard thing to swallow because let's face it -- life is BUSY! However, you can't give your best effort if you are running on 80% power. Sleep is revitalizing and necessary. It allows your mind to reset and be ready to go the next day. I am a night owl by nature, however, with rising before the sun, it has changed my internal clock to wake up naturally at 5 am and ready for bed at 9 pm. 8 beautiful, glorious hours of sleep! It leaves me refreshed and ready to be productive.

Life is busy any way you look at it. Take steps to get ahead of the busyness! What are your tips for making the most of your day?

What To Expect From The Refinery Blog

"Blogging" tends to be one of those words that makes creatives cringe. We're creatives, so we create -- visually! Sitting down to write doesn't come naturally to most creative entrepreneurs. It forces us to sit, be still, think and produce. The most creative minded person I'd ever met was a friend of mine. He was passionate, eclectic, ahead of his time and I knew it when he started describing the most unique colors as something you can taste. One can only imagine what the world was like through his eyes. I say that to say, this is only a small insight into a creative mind. Creatives are inspired by things around them. Sitting down at a desk to write is no small thing and the reason why so many cringe at the thought. (Side Note: Short story writers, poets, novelists, journalists are definitely creatives!) Though the thought of blogging is one of the last thoughts we'd like to entertain, blogging is one of the most powerful tools in entrepreneurship. 


Blogging is one of the foundational pieces of my business and my goal is to blog every day during the week. I wanted to give you an idea of what this blog will be and why I chose to work this way. I designed The Refinery with the goal of preparing and supporting creatives on their journey in creative entrepreneurship by answering and clarifying some of the most common questions of being a business owner. I'll be highlighting different ways for managing our time, our clients and our life with efficiency and effectiveness. After all, work should yield to your life not the other way around. I will introduce topics regarding branding, social media, the client experience, tutorials and some behind the scenes at The Refinery, amongst many other topics. Each day of the week will be a different genre of conversation.

Here is what you can expect each day of the week:

Business Success, Organization, Efficiency, etc.

BRANDING - Tuesday
Branding, Coherency, Client Experience, etc.

Processes, Client Homework, Contracts, Personal History, etc.

HOW TO - Thursday
Squarespace, Social Media, Utilizing Your Brand, etc.

The Creative Gala, Creative Highlights, Design Freebies, etc.

I desire transparency and that is my priority in each blog post. I want you, as a creative entrepreneur, to have access to a resource that will both clarify and encourage. I know the feelings of doubt, frustration, confusion, and wonder but I also know the feelings of relief, comfort, clarity and confidence when I've found an answer to my question. I am by no means an expert but I do have experience from many different entrepreneurial adventures and I only wish I had a resource as this blog will be available to me at the time. Those feelings and experiences fueled the passion to bring a tangible tool to the creative community.

PS. I am always willing to hear different topics of conversation that you would like discussed. As business owners, we encounter so many different issues, please feel free to contact me with a topic on your mind.

I hope that you leave the blog encouraged, bolstered, and confident.

Branding Is: Your Story

"Our desire is to design a gorgeous brand that defines and encompasses the passion that fuels the artist behind the magic."

That statement is why The Refinery exists, to bring an identity to your developing brand. But what exactly is a brand? In our Branding Is: Series, we'll go into the 3 components that make a brand. In short, your brand is the perceived idea that your clients have towards your business. Let's go deeper, shall we?

Branding Is Your Story.jpg

The first component to your brand is you. You passion. Your story. Before ever developing a business, you come to the question of "Why?" Why do you desire to build a business? Why this business? This is where your story becomes reality. That passion inside you developed somehow. It didn't happen overnight. Your story may have been simple at one point but the development and fueling of your passion is what makes your story great. Your story is powerful for your company as you break into the industry. A well told story can easily set you apart from the competition. 

A great brand tells a great story.

A huge draw in our culture today is social media (or rather, tools in which people use to tell their stories). People crave the excitement, the intrigue and the suspense, which is why countless hours are spent scrolling and scrolling. As humans, we love the development of a character and plot and we feel as though we are experiencing the battles and victories with them. 

In branding, your story starts with the your experience and the passion you have to create this business. The difference between a book and your brand story is the avenue used to tell a story. Your brand story is conveyed by the personality you present. The way you share your story will be the factor in drawing them in. We've all read books that you just can't put down. The books that you can start and finish in a day and leave you feeling what the characters felt as the story unfolded. We've also most likely read only the first page of a book and haven't opened it since. This same idea applies to telling your brand story. You have to captivate your audience with your story telling, offering them a great read and something they keep wanting to come back to. 

A brand story gives your clients a way to connect with you personally, building trust in their hearts towards you and your company. The only way to build that trust with your clients is to be honest and real. Trust will go further in establishing your brand than anything else. has a great article about the art of brand storytelling.

There is a wrong way of story telling and a very right way. Lead your clients through a story that will leave them wanting more. That desire for more creates a positive perception of your company in their minds, leading to a great brand.

5 Common Misconceptions of Branding

With the 28+ million small business in the U.S., standing out from the competition is becoming more dependent on branding than the product or service itself. Unfortunately, most small business owners fail to understand and see what branding is and the great impact a solid brand can have on a company. Let's address the most common misconceptions of branding that are circulating the small business world and more specifically the creative world.


1. Branding is a logo and website

This is perhaps the greatest misconception of branding that we hear of today. The difference between a brand and an identity is highly misunderstood. The brand of a company is the heart, vision, goals and dreams that the creator has for their company and industry. It is the passion that brought the entrepreneur to build this business in the first place. It's the satisfying, meaty soul. A logo, website, print collateral, packaging, etc. are each elements that together form your corporate identity, an expression and representation of the brand. While the corporate identity is visual or tangible, the company brand is a feeling, emotion or thought that clients build in their minds towards the company. It's what they perceive you to be. 

2. Branding isn't necessary

As mentioned above, branding is the perception a client has of your business. If a business owner has a bad work ethic, poor customer service and low quality work, odds are this company would be branded negatively in the minds of their clients. While their identity can be beautifully designed and cohesive, the experience a client has will become their brand. On the other hand, a thoroughly thought through business plan along with outstanding client experience, a company would make a long lasting impression on their clients = their brand.

"My pleasure!" This is the response of every Chick-fil-a employee nationwide. Think about it for a moment...those simple two words make you feel cared for and appreciated. With those two words (and we can't neglect their delicious menu), they leave you wanting more. That, my friends, is branding! That is what we want to leave our clients with -- a positive, amazing feeling of satisfaction after working with us. Branding is necessary to every company, big or small. It turns a one time client into a lifetime supporter. A solid brand makes all the difference in the world.

3. Branding is a one time thing

A one time strategy is only that -- one time. A brand, however, takes care and effort and it's constant. It's who you are to your client from the very first moment of hearing about your company and on. It takes nurturing and consistency. The investment you make in your company's visual identity is long term and only worth the investment with a continued care for your brand.

4. Branding is marketing

This idea goes back to corporate identity vs. branding. Marketing is represented by what you put in the hands of your customers. It's tangible. Marketing serves as a way to get people in the door of your company. Branding is the intangible emotion you give to your audience and clients long after they're gone. 

5. Branding is expensive

Sure, there are companies that spend millions of dollars building their brand but that large of a budget isn't necessary to effectively build your brand. Your brand is a representation of who you are and want to be perceived as. While an investment in your brand's visual identity is worth every penny you spend, branding your company takes passion, vision, hard work and consistency. But think about that -- passion, vision, hard work and consistency are each free. F-R-E-E. I strongly recommend investing in a visual identity. That investment brings your passion and dreams full circle. 

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another. Design is essential but design is not a brand.

-Seth Godin

A brand encompasses the passion that fuels the artist behind the magic, the identity brings that passion into a tangible reality. I'm passionate about creating that tangible reality and would love to speak with you about moving forward with your brand's visual identity. Read more about our design services to learn more.

Branding for Clarity & Class

 "Think about entering a grand ballroom with a gorgeous chandelier hanging from the ceiling, the elegance and sophistication." 

This is what I was presented with at one of the first consultations I had with Sonia, the owner of Clarity and Class. I could picture the emotion, the warmth and the class that filled the room and this feeling is exactly what I wanted to bring out in Sonia's new brand. Being a wedding planner, she needed to be represented by a brand that would immediately capture the elegant bride. 

Her brand captures just that. It's classy. It's elegant. It's polished and delicate. Her vision and dreams for Clarity and Class is what inspired this brand.  

We started with her inspiration board. There were the obvious elements of light pink and gold and florals but the more subtle element of lace definitely brought the elegance to her brand.

Next we moved forward with the logo, alternates and branding guide. A chandelier was a necessity for her brand. After all, chandeliers exude class. 

Branding Guide.jpg

One of the main goals when designing the website for Clarity and Class was functionality. She wanted her brides to get a glimpse of the high end experience she offers to each of her brides. The purity in the white background with the lace accent lends a delicate touch and the same emotion that comes when envisioning that grand ballroom. 

Experience the grandeur of her website.

Lastly, we collaborated and chose collateral pieces that would enhance her client experience.  We chose a business card, stationary, a note card that can be sent at booking or at completion and a comprehensive pricing guide. Each of them bring that extra special touch to her brand. 


Working with Sonia was such a great experience and I have grown to appreciate the hard work and dedication that comes with the job of a wedding planner. She is an amazing woman with a genuine, sincere heart for each of her brides. 

What is your favorite element of Clarity and Class' new brand?

How to: Plan Your Business Year


With my recent lesson on why having too many clients hurt business, I approached the new year with different goals and ideals. I wanted to avoid the pressure that comes without having a schedule or plan at all costs. With dedication, time and a plan of attack, a successful, enjoyable, stress reduced, fulfilling year is possible. I'll show you what has worked for my business and myself personally and the tools I used to get started.


A solid plan starts with a goal. Every person when given the opportunity will rise to the occasion. We, as people, need motivation, whether it be overcoming your current financial situation, giving more to your family or growing your business and following. I would highly suggest Lara Casey's Powersheets, the comprehensive worksheets bring clarity to why you are doing business and the direction you want to go. Take a few hours to write down every goal you have for the upcoming year. Take that list of goals, section off the top 5 goals and write down steps to getting there. Start researching those steps and get an idea of timeline. If you need to take a class to get closer to your goal, find the class and register. If you need to organize your books and accounting, remember to schedule it. Try to make any possible forward movements to reaching your goal. 

Tools Used: Lara Casey's Powersheets


As creatives, inspiration comes from things we see around us. Getting outside of our usual office setting allows us to release, unwind, declutter and soak in the beauty. Write down adventures you want to experience during the year. I recommend one or two a month. A weekend getaway with your spouse, going to the pumpkin patch with your kids, a day trip to the spa, whatever your heart desires -- write it down!


Print off a calendar for the year and start with crossing out the days/weeks you want off; the obvious dates would be holidays and vacations. The way I setup my business allows me to keep a steady work schedule. With my calendar, new clients can be scheduled every other Monday. While the schedule may change in different industries and business plans, every business owner should have an idea of their tentative work year. Highlight your tentative start dates and deadlines. For photographers, the bulk of the work load tends to take place on the weekends, I would suggest highlighting these dates as your starting days and your turnaround deadline as your end dates. Know your turnaround time for clients and stick to it. Being true to your turnaround time keeps you on target and also gives you better insight to how heavy of a load you can take on.

Tools Used: Day Designer Yearly Calendar


Buy a 12 month planner for the year and start plugging away! When adding my yearly calendar to my planner, I make subtle marks with a color coding system. This keeps my planner orderly and the monthly calendar with space to write in other matters. Start with marking off the days/weeks you crossed off your calendar. Next, schedule your adventures, after all, what good are writing them down if you don't ever take them! Lastly, mark your start dates and end dates. In the image below, orange marks my days off, periwinkle marks my start days and teal marks my end dates. 

Tools Used: Simplified Planner


By working through this process, you are giving your business a solid foundation for the coming year. Remember, January is only a month of the year, get on board and start bringing structure to your business!

What are some tools or systems you've found helpful in planning your year?

Why Having Too Many Clients Hurt Business and Tips to Avoid It

When I wrote my business plan at the start of establishing The Refinery, I knew I wanted to have a tighter schedule than I had in years past. I developed my two week process with the thinking that there would be a definitive start and end date with each client, allowing me to know exactly who I was working with, offer undivided time, and maintain consistent start dates for new clients. I planned to overlap clients; the bulk of design work was done within the first week, leaving the second week for the smaller work such as file prep and last minute changes. New start dates were set for Mondays with launch dates scheduled for the second Friday following. With this business plan, I could potentially book 4 clients a month and 40+ clients a year. It could be considered a huge load by most but in my mind, I was ready for hustle. I wanted to grow and do it asap. 


The Refinery was launched in September of 2015. With excitement and anticipation, I made the launch announcement on social media and received an incredible response - within 24 hours, I had received 30+ inquiries regarding my design services and within two weeks, I had every Monday booked for the next two months.  The first week of hitting the pavement with The Refinery was beautiful, I blogged and posted on social media daily and had such a great feeling of accomplishment. I had this business under control. Proud, confident, and motivated, I was ready to hit the ground running with my first client. Design week went off without a hitch. From Monday to Friday, her and I were in constant communication and continually moving forward in the design process. Within the scheduled two weeks, we went from start to launch with strength. It went exactly as I had hoped.

Did I forget to mention that I took a break from blogging? A break after one week...I reasoned to myself that I wanted to establish my process with my first client and then I could lay out my schedule for doing both concurrently. To put it into perspective for you -- I was overwhelmed already. Although design week was seamless, it was more than I expected to complete in one week, with designing, blogging and emailing, all the while, being a wife/mom and fulfilling my role as such. I quickly realized I allowed myself to get spread too thin, too quick. Monday after Monday and client after client kept coming and blogging (my source of marketing) kept being put on the back burner. Sure, I had business for the next couple months but how was it supposed to continue if I didn't draw an audience. My mind was sadly almost 24/7 business, from sun up to sun down, even in my dreams. The worse part is that never ending business thinking didn't include my necessary marketing strategy, blogging. My blog is the backbone of my entire business plan. I knew I needed to build content in order to 1) establish my expertise, 2) keep readers coming back to my page, 3) fulfill my mission for my business in being a resource for the creative entrepreneur, and 4) bring in leads and clients in order to maintain an income.

My ultimate goal for The Refinery wasn't being met because I always felt like I was playing catch up. I didn't allow myself a break in between clients, or room for error or changes within design week and it was draining, mentally, physically and emotionally. While I had made an income, it was only temporary. I didn't have the infrastructure to handle this business plan and even with the income coming in, it wasn't enough to hire someone to tackle the busy work for me. It was hard. I had hoped to have the first quarter of the year booked by January 1st but because of my lack of marketing, that didn't happen. I had to make the move to step back for a few weeks and gain composure. I knew I had a huge passion for branding, design and supporting the creatives but this was not enjoyable. It didn't take long for something I once thoroughly enjoyed to be a job I didn't want to go to every morning. 

With the start of the new year and a new set of goals (you can read all about my attainable goals for 2016), I re-strategized and laid out a clear marketing strategy, daily schedule and design calendar.


- Emily Ley


When working on your business plan, don't take someone else's business strategy and apply it to your business without doing the research. Odds are you have a completely different personality and work ethic than they do. What works for them may not work for you. Rather, do your research. Run through a few different business models and how it would look in regards to your business. Ultimately, build your business plan with YOUR vision in mind. This is your dream and the structure of your business should be one that fuels your passion for the work, while giving you more time to enjoy and savor the things or ones that truly matter.

When laying out your yearly calendar, schedule time off. Time doesn't magically appear, you can't find time for relaxing or unwinding, you have to schedule it. Mark off days or weeks of down time. Give yourself time to breathe between projects. In that down time, do or find things that inspire you in your creativity.

Emailing each lead or client through every step of the process takes a huge portion of time in the day. Try not to recreate the system each time by writing the same email over and over again. Instead, spend a couple hours with a word document and write out all the potential email responses you will encounter through your client process. By doing this, you can then copy, paste and customize the response into the corresponding email. You just did 30 minutes of work in 3!

I'll go deeper into this concept in the coming weeks but in summary, lay out a work schedule for your day. If you do your best work in the morning, prioritize your load and work on the most important task in the morning. If you dread the task of writing emails, don't save it until the end of the day but get it out of the way at the onset of your work day. If you need a 20 minute cat nap in order to refresh and reenergize, schedule it in! I do this every afternoon. If I don't, I'll end up spending double or even triple the amount of time on a project, than if I saved the project until after I rested.

Having a goal in mind causes you to work smarter, not harder. It gives you something to run towards in your business. Weigh decisions in your life against your goals, asking "Does 'this' help me get closer to my goal?" Set small goals that are attainable along the way to your big goals. You'll find it's greatly motivating and it gives you a reason to celebrate every time you reach a new goal!


What are some tips you have found worked mightily when first starting your business? What are some things you changed after starting business?


There's a huge misconception about branding in the world today. I've been approached numerous times by small business owners asking for a new brand but only the logo for right now. Friends --  a brand is so much more than a logo! It's you, it's who and where you want to be, it's what you want to be perceived as. Your brand is the base of your entire company and should be used as a filter for business decisions, posts, images, purchases, correspondence, etc. Your brand is everything!


Over the next 6 weeks, I'll be sharing different elements in establishing a solid brand; from the vision and the visuals to the words and the feelings. 

To start the series, let's take a look at a few iconic brands in an effort to give you a greater scope of what a strong brand is before we start going deeper into our series.


Coca-Cola is the world's leading company and their consistency to brand is one of the key factors in making them recognizable worldwide. Their logo has remained timeless and classic. When thinking of Coca-Cola, the thoughts that come to mind immediately are the refreshment  and satisfaction that comes with a drink, the sound of opening a can of Coke and the fizz afterwards and even their jolly Santa Clause that makes his appearance every holiday season. Their brand is represented from visual to sensory to emotional.


If I were to ask you, "What comes to mind when I say the word Starbucks?", most likely the first few things would be their green siren logo, the smell of their roasted coffee, the environment inside their store or their white cups (or red cups during the holidays). In 2015, there were a total of 23,043 Starbucks Coffee Shops worldwide and yet each one you enter still maintains their strong brand. They manage to keep the "small town coffee shop" feel across the board. Most everyone would know Christmas is here the moment you see your first red cup or a Starbucks is nearby when you get a whiff of their coffee. And you know that warm, cozy feeling that overwhelms you when you simply think of Starbucks -- that's branding! 


iMac, iPhone, iPod, iPad, iWatch -- simple word/letter pairing yet represents a dependable, ahead of the curve brand that is used by creatives everywhere. Think of the sound at the startup of your device, that infamous sound is now an Apple brand representation. Their brand is clean, focused and on point with representing a technology company. It's simplicity in design allows the brand to be more to the consumer than just visual. It's like sitting in a dark room, your other senses come to the surface in a greater way. With Apple, you become aware of the standard sounds of their devices and the feeling of holding or using their product, the size, shape, vibrations, without being distracted by the visual (even though their visual only adds on to the sleekness of their company).

In each of these examples, branding is represented visually, emotional, and sensorially. As we go through our series further, we'll see how these can be implemented into a brand and the effects they can have.

What are strong brands that come to your mind? What makes them stand out?

Attainable Goals for 2016

There is just something about the changing of that last digit in the year that is so refreshing. Maybe it's the new calendar that's ready to be filled with excitement, goals and adventures, or the clean slate marked with resolutions for the year ahead, or just maybe as you review the past year, you gain the beautiful, satisfying realization that grace is far greater than perfection. Oh, my friends, what sweet truth. That is definitely the one that makes my heart jump when pondering, planning and goal setting for 2016. Planning is necessary. Goals are necessary. Fun is absolutely necessary! Now, when combining those things with grace rather than perfection, it makes them attainable, the pursuit enjoyable and the victory so filling. 



James (my husband) and I spent last week working through Lara Casey's Powersheets, digging deep into the why's, pinpointing the heart, and discovering the goals we have individually and together. It was incredible. If you haven't heard of Lara's Powersheets, I encourage you to make the leap, buy them and work through them. The outcome is worth every hour. We sat down, set everything else aside and put pen to paper. We realized that we both have big dreams, reachable and definitely doable, but long term. After looking back at 2015, there were definitely areas that needed improvement. While it's perfectly ok to not be perfect, you need to keep standards high so as not to become lazy and laxadaisical, goals set so you have something to run towards and build motivation and challenges to better yourself as a person. With the improvement needed and the hope to better ourselves for our children, our businesses and each other, we decided 2016 was going to be our year! A bold and nerve wracking statement but don't some goals need to be? After all, those kind of goals cause you to push harder, to persevere and to fight. While this goal may seem huge, the meat of it comes from consistency and intentionality.


As I've said before -- I desire transparency. I want my readers to leave encouraged and motivated, taking the information given and using it to move mountains in their own businesses. With that, I wanted to share a few big goals for myself, personally and for The Refinery in 2016. You'll see as you read through that each of these go hand in hand.

Let's face it. It is super easy to get caught in routine, to talk without having actual conversation, to do because it's expected, to live without noticing the effect and to allow life to pass us by until you realize another year has come and gone and you have very little to show for it. Living intentionally is huge. If we took into consideration the effect being intentional with your words, actions and time has on not only your own life but the lives of others around you, I would dare say that choosing to live intentional lives would become the norm. However, people are too busy to stop and take notice. They allow the mundane, busyness, or hustle to be the norm, which rarely benefits anyone. Being intentional goes beyond what we see. 

My goal: to be very intentional with every word, with every minute. To encourage, to love, and to strive to make an impact on others for the purpose of their gain and the furthering of the kingdom. 

We all have to admit -- Instagram is beautiful! Seeing creatives using their gifts in beautiful, glorious ways is captivating. If we ask ourselves honestly, do you want what they have?, what would be your answer. I can almost guarantee that everyone has wanted to look like that, have that, be like that, etc. We take what they have and figure out a way to make it ours. Is it helpful? No. We can become robots, living through other people's lives, forsaking our own. Authenticity is defined as real or genuine: not copied or false. Satisfaction comes with being true to who YOU are, not to who someone else is. 

My goal: to unfollow those I feel cause me to want to copy, to make choices and decisions that are true to who I am and who I want to be, to be more creative, to be a leader and less of a follower and to be content with I was made to be and appreciate the flaws and the quirks.

Did you cringe? I did. If I were to take the amount of time I've spent staring at a glowing screen and add it back to my life, I would gain months, probably even years. Embarrassed? You bet. How crazy is it that so often conversation happens through messaging, that getting sucked into a 6 season series is readily available by a single click and how following other people's lives can take away from your own life. Crazy. I fall victim to this over and over again. I mean, seriously, Instagram is beautiful and catching up on your favorite show(s) is relaxing. But we have dreams, we have goals and spending countless hours in front of a screen only pushes them becoming attainable out further.

My goal: to limit screen time to only the necessary (ie. social media audience interaction, inspiration, marketing, etc.), to take the hours that would have otherwise been spent in front of a screen and read a book, do something active, spend time with those I love and/or sit and be still, allowing my mind to take a break and rest in knowing that He knows and has a plan.

Being organized just makes sense, right? Organization = More Time. Having systems in place in every area of life allows for less confusion, chaos and wasted time spent frantically searching or trying to remember every little thing you had to do or process you have. By having an organized home, workflow, client files, etc., you give your mind the opportunity to work in bigger, more meaningful ways. Your mind becomes clutter free and can focus on your goals and dreams, writing steps on how to get there even faster. One of the business women I greatly admire is Emily Ley, creator of the Simplified Planner. She is currently hosting an Instagram challenge, the Simplicity Challenge, and I encourage you to jump on board! It's a challenge to simplify your lives, so you can focus on what really matters. 

My goal: to organize my business, home and mind, to create systems that work for me and the way my brain functions, to take it one step at a time, to have these systems in place by the end of January, to be consistent.

All of these goals are huge BUT within reach! I'm really excited to start this journey and to live a more satisfying, joyful life. Will you join me? What are your goals for the new year?






The Creative Gala!

You know that client that makes you love your job even more than you already do? You know, your ideal client, the one you want to work for, the one that will make this process more beautiful than you could have imagined not only in aesthetic but in heart -- well, that for me was Vikki. Her passion for photography, the desire to make her client experience incomparable and the care she had for every aspect of her company was clearly evident in our very first conversation. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with someone so in tune with her passion. With her passion and my excitement, this was bound to be an absolutely gorgeous project!

Vikki described her ideal brand as luxurious, dreamy and sleek and her Pinterest board was exactly that. It was filled with gorgeous metallic tones of gold, pewter and rose gold, refined by the sleek feel of a stark black. The inspiration board displaying these images was luxury at its height. 


Absolutely stunning. This elegance gave me a great base for designing her logo. Her logo and alternate logos stay true to the desire for sleek and luxury. They each offer a neutral aesthetic which allows her photography to highlighted in all its glory, all the while evoking the high end luxury that one would feel with the clean lines and sharp black coloring.


Once the logo and alternates were completed, we moved forward to her website. We incorporated the metallics into the background and wording, adding a touch of glitter and elegance. While Vikki loved the luxury of the logo and inspiration board, she also wanted to add in a bit of fun to her website. We chose a font that was handwritten and a little less on the luxurious side of the spectrum and more on the real and approachable. It adds just the right amount of fun to an otherwise very high end website. For the full experience, visit her website at Trust me, you'll love it.

Finally, we finished the process with her collateral. My goal with collateral is to enhance their client experience, providing elements that would make a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of their clients. Vikki knew from the very beginning that she wanted to have greeting cards for various occasions so she can send some love in written form. I loved it. Who doesn't love opening the mailbox to have a letter waiting for them! I also designed a mini brochure for her to give to her clients at their first consultation, a custom signature with her tagline and a gift certificate. 


Working with Vikki was an absolute dream. I couldn't have asked for a better client. Her style, her photography and her heart made this project one of my favorites so far. I'm reminded once again, the individuality of creatives makes for our beautifully documented world.



When Kristy at Inspirations Photography contacted me with an idea to change her bright, colorful and playful brand to a more organic, calming and serene brand, I was there -- 100%. My heart and eye will always be attracted to neutrality and simplicity, so designing this brand felt natural.

Kristy specializes is newborn photography and has such a beautiful touch with a babies; the nurture, the warmth, the love -- these qualities will bring a rest to any new mother's heart. Her new vision for Inspirations Photography was to provide a place of rest and trust for every new parent that comes through her studio doors.

The passion and heart behind Inspirations Photography was evident in every aspect of the design process, from the homework to the images she chose to use. Her desire is to capture this beautiful yet fleeting moment in a child's life and to give mothers and fathers a memory that can then fill the walls of their home. She left me speechless with tears welled up in my eyes. This is it. This passion is why I love truly getting to know my clients. There is always something that fuels the artist behind the magic. Digging deep and rediscovering the journey that brought each client to this place, more often than not, gives my goosebumps. It's beauty in the making and I get to be a part of their story.

So, without further ado, her brand! We started by gathering images from her Pinterest board that represented her desire for calm and light emotion. It was beautiful. The emotion easily poured over into the design process. It was peaceful, as though I was walking alongside the shore on an overcast day. And that was exactly what we were aiming for!

We then began working on her logo design, combining the color elements and the airy movement that was portrayed in many of the images within her board. We also created a few alternate logos, while still maintaining the cohesive brand.


The logo is only the beginning element to a brand! We moved on to her website, where we brought in the same elements from her inspiration board and also used the typeface from her logo throughout the website to add a touch of softness. Simplicity was key to her calming theme, having more content and clutter would take away from the serenity displayed. By keeping the layout clean and minimalistic, it allowed for her sweet babies to be the captivating element of her site.

Finally, we finished the process by designing collateral to enhance her client experience. Displaying her talent by using images from her portfolio, helped to create the desire and confidence for her photography in the hearts of her clients.

Working with Kristy was an absolute dream. Her passion made this entire process even more exciting. It was an incredible experience being a part of her brainstorming from the very beginning, refining and shaping the vision to bring about the gorgeous brand that represents her today.

Do you feel her brand evokes the emotion we were aiming for? What is your favorite brand element?


The time has finally come - The Refinery's very first Creative Gala!

I have had the absolute enjoyment of working with the beautiful and passionate Chelsea Hall at Chelsea Hall Photography. When The Refinery launched less than 4 weeks ago, I opened up my empty portfolio to the creative world, giving photographers and wedding planners alike the opportunity to be some of my very first clients, allowing their work and passion to fill my portfolio. Chelsea was my very first inquiry and she was set and ready to make her appearance. Her excitement and eagerness to work with me brought so much encouragement to my nervous, "I just launched, is this going to work?" heart. She was the PERFECT first client anyone could have!

As I studied her homework, her ideal client, the desire she had for her brand, I could see the underlying emotion she had for her company - intimacy and authenticity. Her goal for each of the couples she works with is to capture the genuine, captivating love they have for each other. It's beautiful. It's real. It's what every bride wants to see months and years after her wedding day when she looks back at the tangible memories. She described the brand she wanted to portray as natural, romantic, and luxurious, with a bit of fun and there definitely has to be love, potential clients need to feel the love in her photos when they enter the site. My designer heart was bubbling with excitement! What a beautiful word description that I had to work with and the icing on top - her skill! Her photography is absolutely gorgeous and those touches of luxury and romance came solely from her photos. 

We started with her Inspiration Board where I gathered images and colors to create the feel of romance and luxury. The board acts as the base of inspiration for the entire design week. Her board had both natural and luxurious elements in almost every image. Movement throughout her board images was evident and leaves and gold played a huge role in her inspiration. I kept those characteristics close in mind and moved on to her logo designs. 

After presenting 3 different logo concepts to Chelsea, she chose my personal favorite, which also happened to be hand lettered by yours truly! What an honor.

Isn't it lovely! There's movement with the letter motion, leaves with the simple accents on the C and H and luxury with the gold coloring. I then created two alternate logos for her use on various types of media. But a brand is so much more than a logo.

We moved on to her website design. Consistent fonts, colors and elements (especially in the highlighted pictures chosen) combined with a classic layout allowed for her talent to be the star in her design. This photo doesn't do her website justice. Chelsea has so much talent on you can see it in every image she shoots. Visit her website at

And finally, a client experience isn't complete without collateral. Your brand carries throughout every element of your business. We worked through every touch point that Chelsea would have with her potential clients in order to make the best decision on which collateral elements would make her client experience complete. Thank You cards were of upmost priority. I also designed a Mini Brochure for her new client welcome packet.

Print Collateral.jpg

After my very first Design Week, I have grown to love my process so much more. It's focused and directed. My client's feel included and important, just as they should. Chelsea was a dream client and I am so honored to be chosen as her designer. I'm proud to add this work as the first to my portfolio!

What do you think of the new brand for Chelsea Hall Photography? Which aspect of the brand is your favorite?


Fridays are usually reserved for The Creative Gala but today I wanted to encourage you as a creative. I read a quote today that caused me to think and act. The truth that is held in such a simple 3 words is absolutely inspiring. 

Each of us have been given a creative gift to use for encouragement and motivation. And yet, so often we get caught up in our businesses, in our to-do lists and in own thoughts that rage at high mileage speeds, that we forget to use our creativity specifically for the benefit of the community. Your creativity can spread like a wildfire and impact others in ways you never imagined. We need to step outside of the lists and constant running of life and take notice. Recognize creativity in others around you, be motivated and continue the wave of inspiration. 

I challenge you this weekend to use your creative talents to give back to the community, whether it be your local community or the creative community. Post on Instagram to share how you gave back to the community using the hashtag #refineryinspires. Let's start a wave of creativity! I have been taught since childhood that it is far better to give than to receive and oh, how true it is. The satisfaction and warmth the wells up in the heart after freely giving of yourself and seeing the smiles your giving has brought is beyond compare. It is so good for the soul and keeps us true to our passions. 

My desire is to inspire you and to give you that extra boost as a you navigate being a creative entrepreneur. I would be so honored to have you download this image for your lock screen or desktop.

Creativity Is Contagious [Desktop]
Creativity Is Contagious [Phone]

Know that you are made for great things.
Persevere, overcome and be victorious!!!



With so many website platforms in the market, the decision of which to choose can be quite overwhelming. Having worked with nearly all of the different options, I have nothing but good things to say about my platform of choice, Squarespace. I use it for The Refinery, as well as for each of my clients and it meets all needs. It's beautiful. It's simple. It's perfect. Here are a few reasons that Squarespace has my design heart.


As creatives, time is precious. You need to put your heart and efforts into your dream. Photographers specialize in capturing the intimate moments, planners specialize in organizing a pristine event and florists specialize in perfectly arranging those beautiful blooms. For this reason, on my search of the perfect platform to use for my clients, ease was an absolute necessity. You have other, more important things to do for your business, learning how to code and design a website isn't something you should need to worry about. Squarespace met the criteria in abundance. It is perfect for the tech savvy and not so tech savvy alike. It features a back office that utilizes drag-and-drop features, point-and-click editing and clean page layouts. Adding text, images or forms is as simple as hitting a button. Squarespace has done a phenomenal job at designing for the end user. 


With the percentage of mobile web browsing increasing day by day, having a responsive website is essential. Trying to navigate a desktop website on a smartphone isn't the most fun thing to do. I love entering a site to find it is mobile friendly. It is sure to keep me on the site longer and keep my attention while growing their reputation with being a current website. It's a huge plus for anyone. Now, not only is there an increasing amount of mobile users but Google recently released an algorithm update that is designed to give a boost to mobile-friendly pages in Google's search results. Every Squarespace template has the option of being responsive (which, in my opinion, shouldn't be an option but mandatory). It displays just as beautifully on mobile devices and tablets as it does on a desktop. Best of all -- you don't have to do anything! The code developed through your template is automatically translated when opened in a mobile device. Free boost and we'll take every bit of it! 


Website design has changed in so many ways over the past few years. It has gone from a content, content, content mentality to a sleek, fresh layout of all the content. Squarespace has hit the nail on the head with its templates. Each template offers a clean layout while still maintaining functionality and individuality. Squarespace shouts professionalism in every aspect, even for the new, small, just getting started business.  


So many platforms require the user to install new updates to continue running smoothly. With Squarespace, they do all the work for you and keep you running without a hitch.

My desire with The Refinery is to make life easier for my client. From all my research and testing, Squarespace makes maintaining and updating your website a breeze. After all, you have to go make beautiful things with your talent! Leave the heavy lifting to me and Squarespace and you are gold.