March 26, 2013

My New Adventure: Say it Brightly

Earlier this year, I told myself (and YOU) that I was going to write once a week to strengthen my consistency muscles.

But here's the truth:

I'm having a hard time making time to write over here, and I don't feel bad about it. (Okay, I do a little. But I shouldn't.) Because I'm still writing, it's just not here.

You know that big dream I mentioned a few weeks ago? It's growing wings. Quickly.

Things are really happening, and it's pretty amazing.

The Mini Reveal
I've been reading, thinking, and praying (about this and plenty other things) a LOT over the past several weeks. And I've decided to launch more than just a website.

I'm launching a full-(home)grown business:

Nikki Elledge Brown - Communication Stylist.

There - I said it! I'm a communication stylist. (Yes, I just made that up. But I put a lot of thought into it!)

It's the best way I can think to summarize what I love to do!

My website will be www.nikkielledgebrown.com, and my motto is "Say it brightly."

Why Say it Brightly?
Has someone ever called you bright? Have you ever called someone bright?

To me, it's the loveliest compliment there is.

It means intelligent. Articulate. Even brilliant! It also implies positive. Light. Sparkling from inside.

I love it. 

My mission is to help women (especially those who are growing their families while growing their businesses) communicate more effectively. To say it brightly.

I'll write weekly blog posts about (brilliant!) communication AND the fun (and sometimes chaos) of growing my fam while growing my business. I'm even going to incorporate video (yep I said it - now make sure I do it!).

My favorite part of teaching in the face-to-face classroom was witnessing those "lightbulb moments" in my students' eyes when they really GOT it. So. Since it's my business and I get to do what I want, I'm also offering services to work on-on-one with women on their communication styling.

Lightbulb moments galore!

Another way I'll make this "job" dreamy is to give a portion of all of my fees to amazing organizations like Holden Uganda. If that motivation doesn't get me excited about showing up for work, I don't know what will!

The Bright Start Power Session
As a coming out party for my new biz, I crafted an offer for my fellow entrepreneurs. Not sure if I'll open this up again as an option in the future, but for now it feels like the right thing for where I am. These sessions are exposing me to really great women (from all over the world!) who are really passionate about their unique business ideas.

PLUS, after just a handful of free sessions today, I've already booked my first official paid sessions with three women I thoroughly enjoyed working with! (WHAT?! Pinch me.)

Instead of trying to explain to you what I'm actually doing, I'm just gonna let you read it. (So go on - read it! I'll catch you back at the bottom.)


The Bright Start Power Session:
you + me + 30 minutes of brilliant, wildly effective communication creation. FREE.

Are you a charming superstar in person but a bit of dud in writing? OR… Are you brilliant writer who would rather give herself a paper cut than speak in public? You’re not alone, sister.

And I’d love to help you. Free of charge.

My heart, expertise, and formal education is in communication studies – not just effective writing and speaking, but the actual social science of how and why we communicate the way we do. I am a word nerd. A communication stylist. I’ve spent the last seven years teaching people how to say what they need to say in the brightest way possible. Now it’s your turn.

A half-hour of power will fly by, but we’ll make every minute count. You get to pick how we spend our creative time together. Here’s a freshly minted menu of ideas to get you started. We can…
  • Write the perfect tagline, byline, or headline
  • Polish and edit existing content so you look like the intelligent pro you are
  • Hone in on your ideal customer avatar (and how to reach her)
  • Brainstorm relevant, sustainable blog post ideas
  • Start creating a bio that sells the story of YOU and attracts your ideal customers
  • Jumpstart that reeeally important email or newsletter you’ve been avoiding
  • Build your social networking toolbox
  • Learn how to be genuinely appealing to people you meet face-to-face or online
  • Practice getting those pesky public speaking butterflies to fly in formation
I’m offering ten of these sessions over the next two weeks. Why? 1. To celebrate communication week (Module 3 - woohoo!), and 2. To start my new business with a healthy dose of giving goodness and happy clients.

As you know, it’s important we’re a good fit. As a matter of fact, I’d like these sessions to go to the 10 best “fits” I can find! In order to ensure our brains will storm brilliantly together, please fill out this survey to give me a feel for our communichemistry: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/K7XPL5G.

Please note: In addition to building my biz, I’ve got a day job and a 17-month-old lil buddy to love on. These time slots are very specific. If our calendars and expectations match, I’ll get back to you ASAP to schedule our power sesh. If they don’t, I’d love to thank you for your time by offering an A to your burning communication Q here in the Facebook group. Just be sure to tag me in it!

Sound good?

Get excited, lady! This is gonna be fun.
I had 34 business owners respond to this survey yesterday. I reached out to the ones who I thought would be the best fits, and once the spots filled up, I thanked everybody else for their interest (and offered help via Q&A).

I booked every session I made available (and then some, actually!). And as I mentioned, just from today's sessions, I've already got at least three lovely ladies who want to continue working together.

Is that confirmation that I'm on the right path or what?! (Thanks, God. This is awesome!)

Whew.

That's the scoop, amigo. Ever since I started to take quiet time and pray at the start of each day a few months back, this flood of ideas and inspiration has come down the pipe. I think it's NO coincidence.

You know what else I think?

This is gonna be fun.

What do you think? Am I crazy? (Because I'm doing it anyway.) Got a dream nagging at your brain? Need a kick in the booty to start before your ready? (Because I can help you with that too.)

As usual, I'd love your thoughts and comments below. Get to typin'!

P.S.  As mentioned, my business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

March 17, 2013

How to Build a Well with Your First Car*


*with the funds from selling your first (or any) car, item, or service.

Mind if I share something REALLY exciting with you?

Before we begin today's storytime, please note: I'm not sharing this for kudos of any kind! The old "I'm the faucet, God's the water" analogy fits, well, perfectly here.

Okay. Now we're ready. 

Here's the story of how we built a well with my first car.


A couple of months ago, my husband and I sold my first car, a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’d had “Black Beauty” for almost 13 years, since just before my 16th birthday (thanks again, Mom and Dad!). 

For a variety of reasons (even though she was still rockin' out and in beautiful shape), it was time to let her go. I’m not one to be emotionally attached to “things,” but I knew that I couldn’t just SELL her and leave it at that. There needed to be more. 

There are plenty of ways to donate a car, but according to my research, that's not the way to go if you really want to maximize your donation. There are plenty of third party organizations whose job it is to handle the paperwork for you and make it "easy." They'll even come pick up the car for you! But then they sell it at auction (for less than you'd make selling it yourself), and take a commission before giving the proceeds to your organization.

That wasn't the best option for us.

I realized the solution would be to sell her ourselves, then donate whatever we made from the sale. I used all the sales and communication skills I've got to create the perfect Craigslist post. {Fun fact: I started drafting a listing for the Jeep years ago. I knew it was coming one day. But every time I revised it, I convinced myself how great she was, reinforcing that I wasn't ready to sell her yet!}

The next step was to find the right organization to partner with.

Holden Uganda
Enter Holden Uganda Foundation, an amazing water organization founded by my sister-in-law’s college friend and her husband.

Sarah and Chet Erwin founded this organization shortly after losing their son Holden at 38 weeks gestation. Their initial goal was to build just nine wells, one for each month he was alive on earth. They’ve now built over 100. Holden’s story had always been in the back of my mind.

When I went to the website and watched this video, I saw the dire yet SIMPLE need for water these people face. I cried my eyeballs out. I knew this was a match!

Our last day together. YES, I took pictures.
Within days of posting (what I'll go ahead and say was a pretty great Craigslist ad), we found a PERFECT family to buy the Jeep. Like my husband, he’s in the military. He’d just returned from another tour in Afghanistan and happened upon my Craigslist ad while waiting at the airport.

They had three little girls and needed a second car to drive around the island. They appreciated what great condition we’d kept “her” in, and were happy to pay the exact listing price. No negotiating needed.  (When does THAT happen in a Craigslist sale?!) I told them what we planned to do with the funds, and they were excited to be a part of it. (Told you they were the perfect buyers!)

We made the transaction, sent the check to Snyder, Texas on January 31st, and yesterday, less than two months later, Sarah sent me the most exciting email of my life.

The Kaleke well, our well, is now complete, providing fresh water for 1,300 people in Uganda.  



Is that crazy or WHAT?!?!!(!!!)

It's ah-mazing to see the smiling faces of our brothers and sisters in Uganda with that beautiful clear H2O and think we played a tiny part in making it possible for them. We take our water for granted, but it is such a precious resource.

For example, did you know that approximately 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation? That's 5,000 per day.

It's heartbreaking. 

But that doesn't mean we have the right to tune it out and ignore the problem.

I wanted to share this to publicly thank the sweet Lord (and the Holden Uganda family!) for the opportunity to serve like this, and hopefully to inspire you to give how and where you can. You see, my husband's enlisted in the military, and I work part-time for the government. We're not rolling in the dough over here, people.

Please don't read this and think, "One day when I have enough to give...."

You DO have enough to give. The fact that you're even reading this blog post from a computer or smart phone or wherever you are with internet access is proof...you have enough to give.


We chose to list Hebrews 10:24 on our first well because a) 10/24 is a special day in this house, and b) its message says it all:

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Being a part of this is such a crazy and humbling thrill, friends. And that's because we were CREATED for this stuff!

Hawaii's Jr. HUF Spokesman ;)
This first well won't be our last.

This experience has inspired me to donate at least 5% of my (future!) business to Holden Uganda Foundation and other organizations that have my heart. My clients will get to pick who they want to support through our work together. I cannot WAIT.

I hope that reading this story makes your heart happy and inspires you to give too. Every little bit helps. And if you're feeling a tug on your heart as you read this, I think that means you're ready to find your little bit.

Trust me:

You have enough to give. 

Here's how.

  1. Don't ignore it. Find more water facts at HoldenUganda.org and other water sites like CharityWater.orgWaterAidAmerica.org, and Compassion.com
  2. Conserve water. Appreciate it for the precious resource it is. Turn off the faucet when you're not using it, take shorter showers, use every drop you can...you know. Hippie stuff! ;)
  3. Spread the word. If our story got you thinkin', please share it with your family, friends, and colleagues who might get to thinkin' too. Thinkin' could lead to doin'. 
  4. Get involved! Start contributing to a well of your own, or help another family finish theirs! Visit www.holdenuganda.org to learn more about how you can work with their amazing organization and help get fresh water to the people of Uganda. (Tell 'em the Browns sent you!)


What's your favorite non-profit organization and why? What's your favorite way to serve others, either here in your own neighborhood or across the world? Please tell me here in the comments. I'm always on the lookout!


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

March 9, 2013

My Public Display of Imperfection

Second grade. Spell "sassafras!"
Always take the work seriously. Never take yourself seriously.
~Paul Newman

I've always been a good speller.

Back in elementary school, I was usually first to finish the spelling tests and the multiplication quizzes. And I'd ace 'em. 

Speed and precision, baby. That was me. 

While out and about, I’d even ask my parents, "Ask me how to spell something. Anything!" in a thirst to hone my skills. (I'm not making this stuff up.)

Whether by default or actual job description, I've been a writer and editor for years. I try to present "areas for improvement" in a loving way. With my college students, I make notes in orange, not red. With my friends, I usually don't bother mentioning a typo unless it's clearly important. With myself, I read and reread and reread until I’m as certain as possible that the text is error-free before publishing. 

But there’s always a possibility that something will sneak by me. 

Let's call it: a public display of imperfection.

The Most Meaningful Typo of My Life

I’ve recently embarked on a new digi-adventure that required me to type up a profile. I needed a one-stop shop to share all of my social media links – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I realized my Facebook URL wasn’t “nikkielledgebrown,” so I hopped on over to change it real quick. No biggie. I clicked on Account Settings – Username, typed in my name, and clicked “Submit” (or whatever the button said).

All was well. Until it wasn’t.

You see, as I clicked “Submit,” I read some tiny print at the bottom that said something about only being able to change the username once. I thought that was strange, but it didn’t keep me from clicking.

Then the meaning of that sunk in a bit, and I looked a little more closely:

www.facebook.com/nikkelledgebrown...wait...I MISSPELLED MY OWN NAME!?!?!

Yes, yes, I did. 

And there was no way to change it. I felt like I was on Candid Camera. These Facebook guys are practical jokesters. I can figure out anything with a quick Google search. Surely there’s a way to get around this rule!

Trust me, friend. I have searched high and low, via Facebook support and via Google. They have these username changes on lockdown. Apparently people abused the privilege, so they moved from a free-for-all model to a request-approval model, and finally to a one-time only model. No ifs, ands, or whiney but(t)s.

It's like a misspelled tattoo.

Sliver Silver Linings

I have to admit, it still kinda bugs me. (And if there’s a way to fix it that you know of, I am all ears.)

At the same time, whether it’s fixed or not, I firmly believe there’s a silver lining to every cloud. The silver lining for me is that it makes a great story. As I move forward with plans for my new website, I'm armed with a tale to tell, and a lesson to share: It's okay (and liberating to openly admit) that you're not perfect!

Other valuable lessons worth revisiting here include:
  1. Read the fine print. It will usually remind you how important it is to…
  2. Always always ALWAYS double-check before publishing something. We all make mistakes every now and then. More specifically...
  3. Don’t change your Facebook username until you’ve had at least three people look over your shoulder and confirm it’s exactly right. Mmhmm.
Last, but not least:

    4.   Don’t take yourself too seriously, woman!

For real. Think about this.

Anybody and everybody who knows me can appreciate the irony of this situation. And if you don't know me yet, I hope you can see it too. As a distinguished star speller, grammar guru, queen of commas and capitalization, I have now permanently misspelled my own name for the world to see.

And I’m okay with it.

Don't be fooled...
I really don’t try to be too cool for school (literally – I love school and have always worn my nerd badge proudly). I don’t even want to pretend to be perfect. I am far from it. And pretend perfect is boring. This fiasco is a quality reminder of that.

The truth is, few people will ever notice my Facebook URL. (Except for those of you who read this blog, of course.) Still, most people won't type in my URL to find my profile. They'll click it from a link somewhere, and they won’t think twice. 

I will look at it though, in its second-“i”-missing glory, and use it as an opportunity reflect on my imperfect humanity. An ever-present reminder of why I’m in desperate need of grace.

And spell check.



What do you think? Do you try too hard to be perfect in certain areas of your life? How do you keep from taking yourself too seriously? Care to share the tale of your greatest public display of imperfection? :)

P.S.  My business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

March 5, 2013

The Question I'd LOVE to Ask You

Hello, friend!

After my “Dreaming Big” post two weeks ago, I got a lot of great feedback from you. Oddly enough, that post is now about to knock out B’s 1st birthday extravaganza for the #1 spot! I like to think it's because you'd like to join me on this next adventure.

Anyway. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I know it’s easier not to, but at this stage of the game, every constructive comment I get plays a role in the decisions I make moving forward.

You are my market research!

You told me that you enjoy reading this blog because it’s relatable, fun, practical, everyday stuff. Some of the stories take an otherwise mundane part of life and make it more exciting. Some of the stories touch you because you’re there in that same phase of life.

You were just packing for the hospital, your ideal birth plan was also turned upside down (get it??), or perhaps you also had your iPhone stolen and falsely accused an innocent Craigslist poster.

We’re simpatico!

If that’s what has drawn you to the blog, don’t worry. I’ll keep writing about the everyday stuff in some capacity. I just want to grow a bit (okay a lot) more and put more intention behind it.

What I want to add is a more helpful element. I am more than thrilled if something I write entertains you, makes you laugh, makes you cry (in a good way), or makes you think. That’s amazing!

But what I really want to do in addition to all that is to use my unique set of interest, skills, and talents to make your life better in some way. I’ve got a lot of interests and experience to offer, but in order to be effective, I need to get a bit more focused.

Here’s where you come in.

I’ve got a survey for you. There are 10 questions total, but there's ONE in particular that will be absolutely key to helping me figure out where to focus. If you've only got 30 seconds, this is the one you gotta answer.

The Background Breakdown

First, if you don’t know me that well, here’s what you need to know about my experience before filling out the survey:
  • I’m married to a man who proudly wears a US Navy uniform to work every day.
  • I’m the mother of a precious 16-month-old fella named Bryson. 
  • I live a good 4,000 miles away from my extended family, so we’ve got the long distance thing covered.
  • I’ve got two degrees in Communication Studies. (No need to call me master.) 
  • I work mostly from home, and work-life (family) balance is very important to me.
  • I’ve been teaching communication in an official capacity since 2006. 
  • I. love. teaching. 
  • I've got big dreams, and I'm not afraid to go after them. Starting now.

Take the Survey!

K. Now you're all caught up. Time for the Qs.

As I  mentioned, late last night I crafted a survey to ask you some burning questions. If you’ve enjoyed reading the stories here and want to join me on this next adventure, please take a few minutes to fill it out.

I know most of you don't even comment when you click on over here, and that's totally fine (although I'd always love to hear what you have to say!). But this is hugely important. Come on. You can do eeet!

If you don't think you've got a few minutes, but only like, 30 seconds, to spare, let's cut to the chase: Question #4 is the heart of the survey. If you're short on time, please answer at least that one.

I would LOVE to know what you think!

Here it is. 10 questions, just for you.

Go on and click. I’ll wait!

Need the link again? Here you go.

K. Did you do it?

Excellent! Thank you so much!! I seriously can't wait to read your responses. It'll be like Christmas morning, only instead of socks, it's guidance for my business plan.

I have just one more favor to ask.You're on a roll!

If you know of a few friends who would enjoy reading this blog, please pass this post along. I am hoping to get as many responses as possible to help guide my decisions behind the scenes before creating the new site.

I can't tell you everything I've got planned because, well, it's not planned yet. (DUH. That's why I'm taking the survey.)

But everything else is falling into place around the unknowns. This is going to happen, people! 

And just to make a public proclamation so you can hold me to it: I'm planning to have the website up and running by June at the latest.

Get excited.

P.S. If you don't have time for the survey now, but will later, like when you're in the bathroom or laying in bed setting your alarm for the morning, here's the link again. 10 Qs for YOU.

I appreciate you! ;)

photo credit: Oberazzi via photopin cc

Exciting update! My business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!