As I was closing out my to-do's for the year for 2016, I remembered this end of the year post from Dec. 31, 2015. While reading it, I found I was amazed at how much has happened, changed & grown in two years, and even more so in the last year. I even got a little sentimental (surprise, surprise!) and decided it should be an annual thing. It allows me to look back fondly at the year, set aside the difficulties, and rejoice in gratitude for the amazingness! Plus, I almost see this as a yearly log for future "me" to remember where it all began and to see the progress, not perfection, that was made year after year.
I won't lie, I had full intention of writing this yesterday (Dec. 31, 2016)... but instead I spent the entire day prepping an amazing French-inspired dinner for friends to ring in the new year, and honestly, I don't mind that one bit. So even if this is a day late, I decided I'd still share the year in review for 2016 with a few highlights - my own personal "Top 9" if you will. Gosh, it was a good one! And here I am, cheers-ing to 2017 with you all on this New Year's Day!
1. Capturing everything from weddings to food & travel to branding portraits: If there is one thing that happened this year, it was that I was kept on my toes day-to-day in all things from weddings, to shooting food, to partnering with creative and food-based business to communicate their brand through imagery, ha. In every aspect of my business, my desire is to serve and love people exactly where they are. While the work may look different from shoot to shoot, the heart and the message is the same, and I'm grateful to be able to work alongside so many wonderful clients, companies, vendors, and friends. Even if my brain feels like it's in 7,000 different places each day, I wouldn't want it any other way for 2016. I learned, I grew, I stumbled, I stressed, but most of all, I celebrated in the good and bad and showed gratitude for the steps forward every day. I still have a hard time believing this is my job!
2. Going back to my roots pursuing a new side of my business through messaging coaching & brand strategy: It's no doubt I love to dig deep with other business owners, craft a strategy, and help align communications efforts to ensure the message is on point and the target audience is reached. This year, I went back to my roots and rekindled that flame for writing and coaching others through communications, brand strategy, and often: transition. In fact, it felt like a bit of transition for me - back to something I've always loved - letting that public relations major and years of career shine again. It felt good!
In 2009, it began with my work as the Marketing Director of a local Chick-fil-A in college, then as part of the See.Spark.Go dream team serving clients like Nike, Airstream, The John Maxwell Company and more. After moving to Augusta and launching my business, I eventually took on the role of full time photography, and set the "pens" down for a season. I began seeing LCP as my new "client" - applying all I have learned in my major & career to building this business. Then, in January, I was invited to speak at the Rising Tide Society Leaders Retreat in Charleston about "Community Investment through Intentional Storytelling." It was scary, it was exciting, it reminded me how much I love to share and teach.
In August, the opportunity presented itself to fly to the former Rising Tide Society headquarters in Annapolis, MD to train their founders on public relations best practices. It was a privilege and an honor - and honestly, I still can't believe it. If you've followed me for any time now, you know that this is an organization I am so passionate about and believe so wholeheartedly in! Shortly after that visit, I signed on as a contractor for the RTS team, assisting in all things communications & brand strategy, and have been working alongside the Founder and Community team to craft strategy, write, and dream big. I still pinch myself daily that I get to serve an organization that is truly paving the way for community over competition in the creative industry!
Since then, I've begun coaching other creative and food-based businesses on messaging strategy, leading the charge in copywriting and communications for some amazing brands, and helping others define their voice in this industry. It's truly such an honor and so humbling to know that these leaders trust me with their brands. I don't exactly know what is in store for this portion of my business in 2017, but I sure know it's going to be something good!
3. Continuing to grow our Rising Tide Society TuesdaysTogether community, and finding community all over the world: And speaking of the Rising Tide Society, not only am I honored to serve alongside the leadership team, but I'm so grateful to lead our local TuesdaysTogether group in Augusta. This year has brought such monumental growth for so many of our members. It's so exciting seeing friendships form, barriers broken down, collaborations grown, and businesses built as a result of our group. I learn so much from our members and am inspired by them daily! One of my favorite memories from this year with our group was our Brunch Styled Shoot where we all collaborated to create the most beautiful shoot I could imagine - stunningly delicious food, gorgeous styling, & all about community. You can find all of the gorgeous images and vendors here! If you're local to Augusta & count yourself as a creative entrepreneur, we'd love to have you join! And if you're looking for something powerful like this for your city, join us here or apply to lead!
Additionally, I made the most amazing friends through Instagram, business, coffee chats, and more throughout this year. I can't imagine this business without them! And finally, I don't know where I would be this fall without my Mastermind group with 4 amazing ladies who speak encouragement and truth and honesty and clarity into my business. Cultivating community this year has been one of the biggest game-changers for my business and life!
4. Still being blown away by my amazing couples: Every year I say this, but I really believe it to be true: I have the best couples! This year, 23 genuine duos said "I do" in front of my lens - and 23 times, I was reminded of the honor it is to capture these people's first day of marriage. I shared a thank you and celebration in honor of those 23 here! And on their days I shared in the joy and love that emanates from two people in love surrounded by all of their favorite people in the world! It's pretty awesome. While I'll be taking on fewer weddings this year to speak more weekends at home with my family, I am counting down the days until getting to celebrate with my 2017 couples!
5. Food, food and more food: As always, food and travel dominate much of my adventures - and also photographic endeavors. I was so honored to shoot for some amazing restaurants, for the local Augusta Magazine, and even for myself at home to keep the creativity going and document delicious dishes. Food photography is one of my favorite types of photography. The colors, the textures and the variety is amazing! It's absolutely something I love to incorporate in the day-to-day and into client work!
We also consumed a lot of good food... homecooked, at our favorite spots, on our many adventures, and even tried out 6 different meal delivery boxes for our day-to-day meals in this busy season. I am excited to share more about that soon!
6. Travel: On our adventures, we pretty much design vacations around food (among other things... but mostly food). ;) We kicked off with the Caribbean and a trip to Harry Potter World (umm... amazing!), I took a workcation with my dear friend, Laura Foote, to Charleston for a few days, we spent a week in Hilton Head with both sets of families (and almost as many dogs as people), popped along coastal Georgia & South Carolina with friends, and we hopped on a plane to the most magical city, Paris, just the two of us. A highlight of the year for sure! January brings Charleston, Savannah & California (whew, big month!), May brings a potential European adventure, July brings Denver... and I'm sure there will be more added in there, as well! One thing is for sure, in business travel, I love traveling with and seeing my sweet friends all over the nation (literally, all over! I love this industry partially for that reason!), and in personal travel, I'll be hand in hand with Chipper.
7. My first magazine cover - and exploring editorial photography & writing: As a publicist, we would often encounter that the best pitches were when the entire package was ready to go: a killer story, impactful quotes, interview opportunities at the ready, and eye-catching photography all tied up with a bow. That, paired with a bit of hustle (and sometimes even crafting the article ourselves for editors in a pinch), honed my skills in the editorial world. When my dear friend, Layla of Glass of Rosé introduced me to the Augusta Magazine, I was so honored to have the opportunity to write and shoot editorial pieces for them throughout the year. There is nothing more special than seeing your work in print and being able to share a story with others. In October, I couldn't be more honored to have one of my images shot for Farmhaus Burgers featured on the cover of the Best of Augusta issue. I have that issue sitting on our side table and still am so humbled and in awe when I flip through that and other issues of the magazine to find my work printed. I am so excited to explore more editorial work in the new year!
8. Embracing who I am: 2016 was a truly defining year. I made progress, I stepped back, I moved forward, I moved sideways, I struggled, I stressed, I rejoiced, I celebrated. But in all things, I did them alongside the most amazing family and friends, and realized one thing that is consistent. Those people love me for me, regardless of my flaws or quirks, and walk alongside me in the mundane days and biggest of excitements. While driving to the most beautiful of weddings in St. Simons Island, GA, I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. If you've read the book, you may remember the chapter on Little Brother as a lobster in France. If you haven't read it, run, don't walk, to buy it now and turn straight to that chapter. It shares about embracing who we are, even if we feel like a fool, and I listened to the audiobook chapter 3 times in a row... and cried... every. single. time. It resonated with me. It hit home.
It reminded me that I am the best version of myself... not a second rate version of someone else. And it challenged me to truly embrace me. Around the same time, Instagram stories launched, and it allowed me to "let my freak flag fly" as my hilarious friend/RTS coworker Kait Masters coined. My life isn't glamorous, most days I wear pajamas all day with messy hair, and I cry at commercials with dogs more than I should probably admit, but in the end, I've found that it's so freeing to rock my lobster (now that song is on repeat in my head) with all my heart - and I fully intend to keep doing so in the upcoming year. I hope you'll join me, friend.
9. Excitement & expectation for 2017!: In reflection on 2016, I am so grateful to everyone who helped make the year, and this business and life possible. It's unbelievable to think of the growth that the Lord has brought into my life and how He moves through this business. He has opened doors on so many amazing opportunities and welcomed people into this little corner of the internet. He's taken them out of the digital realm and into the real, raw, everyday life. I am full of such excitement and expectation for what is to come in 2017! Remembering Ephesians 3:20 today as I launch into the new year with renewed focus... "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." He is bringing immeasurably more - and I feel Him calling me to trust in the big and small, and in all that is in store! Closing out 2016, and amazing year full of so much growth, and welcoming 2017 with open arms! Let's do this, friends!