home-sweet-homeYesterday, I was spending time with friends in their adorable (shared) rental house/cottage.

Inevitably, we started talking about their décor, and how cute they’ve made the inside of the house look… But they lamented that the exterior color scheme of the house leaves much to be desired (and being only tenants, they have little say in it).

That surprised me because, prior to her mentioning that, I hadn’t even paid any conscious attention to the exterior of the house! Because all our fellowship time was being spent indoors, it was the interior of the house that I really soaked up and appreciated—while I completely overlooked the outside.

So this morning, as I was thinking about what to write for this post, it occurred to me that websites are a lot like that. I mean, if you look at which pages your peeps spend the most time on, chances are your Home page is very low on that list—maybe even at the very bottom.

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Sweet-Brand-graphic{The Sweet Brand! series appears on the 1st Monday of each month, and features awesome niche brands, small companies, solo businesswomen, and even celebrity brand personalities. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to businesses that are kickin’ it in their brand, and to point out what they’re doing right—principles that you can apply to your own brand.}

You know how much I love to celebrate design…beautiful colors, bold type, gorgeous branding…*breathes contented sigh*

But Sweet Dreamer, you know what’s even more beautiful and magnificent than design itself?

When someone brings their full truth & authenticity to the (business) table, and shows it in a big way through their visual brand.

And that’s exactly what copywriter and “Communication Stylist” Nikki Elledge Brown has done.

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Cobwebs Are NOT Attractive

tangled-web-siteFACT: Your website is a complex animal. (It kinda has to be, with everything you’re asking of it, right? Lead gen, conversion tool, marketing hub, sales maker/transaction processor…)

ALSO FACT: When you update or change anything in your business, there are bound to be lots of places on your website that must be changed in process. And unless you have a team of people who are all over it, you and/or your assistant might miss some of these.

Which is NOT good, because outdated pages, broken links, and conflicting info are no more attractive to your tribe than, say, cobwebs are to a prospective home buyer. Not to mention, they’re confusing and very unhelpful.

Now, I know it’s not easy to keep on top of every nook and cranny of your website 100% of the time. Inevitably, things slip through the cracks, and you may miss a spot.

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The Secret to a Totally *Sweet* Brand

MEBe yourself already!

No, seriously…that’s IT.

And it seems so easy…so simple…so OBVIOUS.

But it’s not. It’s actually kind of hard, especially if you get caught up in the whirlwind of trying to appear overly professional…or trying to put up a front… And then there’s the fear of vulnerability, and putting oneself out there in such a BIG way.

But let me tell you, it’s actually pretty freeing and awesome and all that jazz, once you actually get the hang of it! (I know, because I spent the last four years trying to “figure it out”, and finally came full circle and realized “OH, duh! I had it all along. Just me, like God made me—sweet.” (If somebody could explain to me why I’m “sweet” though, that would be awesome…because I do wonder sometimes what it is about me that I get called that. It’s kind of a mystery LOL).

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My #1 Tip for Putting Your Ideas Into ACTION

Today, I’m trying something new!

I’ve decided to experiment with doing occasional “visually-rich” posts: sort of like a video-blog, except it’s not a video—it’s a 2D image with a simple tip baked in. And little-to-no extra words.

Fun for me to create, and easier for you to “digest” quickly and then get on with your day. Comment if you like!

implement your ideas

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Sweet-Brand-graphic{The Sweet Brand! series appears on the 1st Monday of each month, and features awesome niche brands, small companies, solo businesswomen, and even celebrity brand personalities. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to businesses that are kickin’ it in their brand, and to point out what they’re doing right—principles that you can apply to your own brand.}

If New York City has Tiffany & Co, Texas has…James Avery!

James-AveryAs a Texas gal, I grew up with my mom and grandma wearing James Avery jewelry, and as a little girl I was always admiring (and sometimes begging to wear) those beautiful necklaces, rings, and other pieces. Here in Texas, JA is a widely admired, respected, and sought-after brand, and I’ve been wanting to profile them for a very long time now. So I’m finally doing just that, simultaneously kicking off what I hope will become a regular series of featured brand profiles.

As I’ve grown up to become an entrepreneur, it has become even more apparent to me how much James Avery has done right, both from a business perspective and a branding one. Inside, they’re a family-owned company, started by Mr. Avery himself out of his garage in 1954. But to fans like me, they’re quite simply the epitome of quality—a true gem in the midst of today’s abundance of made-in-China, cheap plastic, lead-containing, throwaway products—James Avery makes timeless, high-quality jewelry that celebrates life, and that thus will still be just as beautiful and relevant when today’s customers bequeath their JA pieces to their grandchildren decades from now.

So from a brand standpoint, what can we learn from them? Here are three things I’ve identified…

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4 Secrets to Publishing Your Own Digital Magazine

magazineI won’t lie—publishing a digital magazine is a lot of work. But, I just keep going back for more…because obviously it’s a great way to gain new subscribers (some of whom later become my clients)…but also, I just love the medium, and I have a blast designing each mag! I’ve done four in all, and am currently putting together my fifth—the all new One Sweet Brand.

If you’ve been considering doing your own magazine, or you’re just curious how I do mine, here are a few “secrets” that I’ve learned (mostly the hard way), that will help you to create a successful magazine for your own business.

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Crafting a New Goodie for Your Tribe? Consider This…

trophies from Free ImagesWhen you’re creating a new course, a product, or a new e-book or magazine for your tribe, of course you want it to stand out on its own, right?!

But what if you get so caught up in giving your product its own mini-brand, that you forget it also needs to align with your BIZ brand and your offerings as a whole?

Once upon a time—like, a few years ago—my own collection of offerings was kind of like that—a mess of things that didn’t necessarily “belong” in my brand.

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blond girl is worried♪♫ Bad girl bad girl, ah-what-ya-gonna-do, ah-what-ya-gonna-do when they come for you? ♫ ♪

So many of us have done it: Used copyrighted photos without permission, posted an image online without crediting the photographer, and risked inviting stock photo companies and photogs alike to come after us with copyright infringement suits and who-knows-what other legal troubles. (Yikes!!)

You might think that being a “small fry” in the large world-wide-web makes it highly unlikely you’ll be caught, but as detailed in this article, any website—even a ten-visitors-per-month site in the farthest corner of the internet—can still be targeted for a very expensive (read: messy, pain-in-the-beehind, even business-ending) lawsuit.

I know you don’t want to get cornered into paying out $5,000 of your hard-earned dollars for an easily avoidable copyright infringement suit (I don’t either!), so here are two simple steps you can take to ensure that the photos you use are legally and ethically sound.

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Disgusted woman in red making a funny faceWould you believe, I once thought that branding, marketing, and advertising— all the things that allow us as small businesses to connect with our customers— were despicable?

In college, my heart’s desire was to be a greeting card designer for Hallmark…because I thought it would be a fun career where I could really make a difference, as opposed to working for some ad agency where I would be responsible for churning out billboard ads, sales brochures, or other things that I as a consumer traditionally found annoying and obtrusive.

But, as you might’ve already guessed, I warmed up to branding over time…choosing to design for small biz’preneurs like yourself, because you’re awesome and a blast to work with! What’s more, becoming a small business owner myself has helped me understand the need for, and role of, branding. In fact, I had forgotten there was a time when I thought it was despicable…

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