First of all, a disclaimer:
- I am not a branding expert.
- I do not have a marketing degree.
- This is my personal journey through the branding process.
- This is my “side hustle”. I have a day job that I love. I have no plans to leave it anytime soon.
I have spent a lot of time researching other brands, I’ve watched how the “big deal” bloggers with hundreds of thousands of FB Likes use social media and I’ve scoured Pinterest in search of tips from branding companies. The whole branding process fascinates me. I love when I get to help guide a customer through this process. I’m a geek like that. And I’m okay with it.
If you missed my announcement about following along on my journey as I start a new business, you can read that here: Reboot & Redirect. Basically, I’m inviting you into the behind-the-scenes process as I set up shop.
This is the story of the beginning of my own personal branding of my business from the ground up. And it’s a glimpse of the beginning of a story of me embracing a new identity that no longer includes the word “wife”.
Also, it’s long. Sorry, not sorry. I’m breaking all of my own blogging rules about length and readability. Just this one time. As a courtesy, I’ll try to break it up a little bit. Consider this the ripping of the proverbial bandaid. I need to get it all over at once.
Let’s start at the very beginning…it’s a very good place to start.
I haven’t entirely lost my sense of humor, after all.
I started a business with my husband, but that partnership is no more. We were married 20 years this past May. My anniversary day was everything a wedding anniversary should not be. The business is dissolved, existing in name only, as we slowly tie up all of the loose ends. The same is true of our marriage.
Our joint business venture, Hardball Technologies, LLC, was branded in a very masculine way. I was okay with that because it was “ours”. I even helped pick our final logo. It was sleek. Modern. Very techie. It smacked of baseball, his favorite thing. The website was stark, full of words like SEO Optimization, Hosting Services, Server Management and all manner of things I am not capable of doing.
What I brought to the table was web design, the feminine touch, the social media management and services that we blogger girls bent on DIY’ing our way into a side or full-time income sometimes need a little bit of help doing.
I was happy with that. It’s what I loved doing. And I was doing it with my best friend. I had big hopes and dreams about this business until last September when everything fell apart.
While I’m not ready to speak at large about the end of my marriage, I’ve found that acknowledging the loss publicly is necessary to begin moving forward. One day, God may lead me to tell that story to this “everywhere”. But not yet. And when I do, it will be more about how God has used it to change and grow me, than to tell any specifics of how it all went down. This is not an attempt to get sympathy or pity or help. I’m okay. Not wonderful, yet. But okay? Yes. I’m okay. Our needs are met and my kids and I have many people loving us in very real and tangible ways every day.
Everything in my good-Christian-girl heart wants to defend myself. I know God hates divorce. I know I have judged other women for getting divorced, thinking they didn’t try hard enough or love their husbands well or that they just wanted the easy way out. I didn’t want to consider that perhaps a woman might have no choice, that she might have fought tooth and nail and spent hours and hours begging God to not let it be so. Because that’s exactly what happened to me. God’s answer to my prayer to save my marriage was no.
So, yes. God hates divorce. But I also know God loves His children more than He hates divorce. Now I know why He hates it so much. Divorce is ugly, devastating really. It rips the fabric of a family wide open. Its effects ripple far wider than the relationship between a husband and wife. And I know that there were two specific reasons given in the Bible that allowed for divorce and both of them had happened to me.
Hardball Technologies will be DBA Willow Creative Co. at www.willowcreative.co. I am working on my own identity as well. I am loved by God. I am chosen for this life He has given me, no matter how crappy it feels some days. And just because I got thrown a curveball at the bottom of the 5th inning does not mean the game is over. Far from it. One of my identifiers is gone. My true identity was there all along, although I lost sight of it for awhile.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
I know going forward as I build my new life I want my business to be a reflection of who *I* am. I am not a “Play Hardball” kind of girl. I went to baseball games to spend time with my family, but it was never my passion the way it is his. I enjoyed the game, but I enjoyed my people even more. I am a non-confrontational, soft-spoken, fix-it, grace-loving girl. I like reading, hanging out at coffee shops with my girlfriends and playing my french horn. I get excited about bullet journals and office supplies. Let’s face it…I’m a nerd.
Hardball Technologies was never about me. It was supposed to be about us, being a team, working together and combining our talents. I loved that! Now there is no us. So it’s time to change things up.
After sidelining this blog and my business for 9 months to cope with the many life changes and grief that happens when a couple goes through a divorce, I’m ready to start fresh. I already know my “why”. So let’s get going on this whole branding process already.
So, why Willow Creative Co.? Where did the name come from?
THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME. (PART 1)
As I was “processing” what is now my life (processing is a nice way of saying I spent a few months crying, raging, and even cussing a little at God and also dumping on my friends and my momma, but also allowing His words to flow over all of my broken places to allow me to begin the process of healing) I read a lot of Psalms. When I first started reading them they offered comfort. Also, I kind of liked that there were lots of harsh words about what happens to our enemies or to the foolish since my best friend and partner in life now felt like an enemy. I am human, after all.
One day I got to Psalm 137. It opens with a remembrance, with sadness over lost things. The Psalmist said they were in captivity. They lost their homeland and their freedom. They hung their harps up on the willow tree. They didn’t have a song left to sing anymore and they weren’t going to let themselves be forced to sing for their enemies. They quit singing. I’m a musician so this stood out to me.
The rest of that Psalm? Well, let’s just say, it’s probably not one you’re going to hear your pastor get up and preach about on Sunday. I honestly don’t understand it all. What I can take away from it is the God I have come to know ever so much more intimately these last few months is a God of mercy and grace, yes, but He is also a God of justice and holiness.
I also heard Ellie Holcomb’s new song “Find You Here” during this time of grief and “processing”. I felt like it was meant for me.
It’s not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear.
It’s not the road we would have chosen, no.
The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead,
But You’re asking us to lay our worry down and sing a song instead.
And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near,
You are overwhelming me, with peace.
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry us through everything.
You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fears, with peace.
I lost my song for awhile. I had “hung my harp on the willow tree”. I didn’t want to sing. I had nothing to praise God for in that moment. I didn’t want to pretend that everything was okay. I was hurt, sad, betrayed and lonely. I was in a completely different kind of captivity. But now I’m finding my song again.
Trees are often symbolic in the Bible. They can signify permanence, life, protection and so much more. I knew it was quite possible the “willow” in this verse was some kind of tree other than the graceful weeping willow I remember being in my backyard as an awkward sixth grader, but I couldn’t help wondering if there was significance to that tree being mentioned in particular. I’m a word nerd, so I hit up Google.
What I found was an idea that I was already coming to find to be true in my own life. The willow tree, both in the Bible and in literature was a symbol of sadness, yes, but it was also a symbol of celebration and strength. Its strength came from its deep roots and ability to bend and twist in the storms without blowing over or losing limbs. The willow tree was also seen as a shelter, a hiding place. That spoke to me right where I was. I needed a hiding place. I wanted to be strong.
I, the girl who blogged about my charmed life, not having a clue that my marriage was about to crumble, have now wrestled up close and personally with grief. I was bent and twisted beyond what I thought I could handle. Day after day I faced down my very worst fears-being a single mom, having to stand on my own two feet as the head of the home, becoming the subject of gossip. I didn’t always like the way I handled it, but I know that I can still say that God is good and He has good plans for me and believe that it is true. I survived! I am surviving! And on top of it I have found joy, and, dare I say, even happiness because I chose to be rooted in Jesus rather than curse God and walk away from it all.
There was one more thing that the willow tree symbolizes in the Bible. It builds right on top of the others.
The willow tree represents revival. Revival! I know something about that. Because I carried all of my junk, my hurt, my failures in my marriage, my insecurities and my fears to Jesus and found His grace. Repentance leads to revival.
In Ezekiel 17, my understanding is the priest Ezekiel picks up the same thought of Psalm 137. Google told me so. It goes into a parable about eagles and vines. I wouldn’t have pieced this all together on my own, trust me. The parable is explained by the priest. At first, it sounds like judgment but then he ends with this:
“And all the trees will know that it is I, the Lord, who cuts the tall tree down and makes the short tree grow tall. It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives the dead tree new life. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said!”
It’s a story of revival. And a promise that God will do what He says. Y’all…I just loved this progression of discoveries about the willow tree.
Sadness. Shelter. Strength. Joy. Revival.
And I knew it was the symbol I wanted to build my business on.
But the second half of Willow Creative Co. …that’s a story for next week.
SPEAKING OF A REVIVAL…
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