What Happens When We Create A Blank Slate

Here. We. Go. That was the first thing that came to my mind July 13 when I woke up that morning. Scratch that. It was the afternoon when I woke up. What? It was the day after our three day conference in New York City, cut me some slack.

But when I woke up the next day after the conference, I knew we were about to embark on a whole new chapter. Our office no longer would be sprawling with boxes of planners and goody bags and packaged food, all of which went with the conference. When I walked into the office, it was as bare as the slate for what was next.

By this point, I knew what was changing. After all, I had been working on determining it for nearly a year. But it was only a general outline. I’m the kind of girl who knows what something feels like before I know any kind of visual or operational details. So it was very much a blank slate. But I was P-U-M-P-E-D. (Do people say pumped anymore??)

My teammates and I grabbed one of the conference rooms in our office, shut the door, and made a to do list. Unlike most of our spreadsheet-organized, crazy detailed agendas of the past, this one was pretty basic. We had a lot to figure out.

At the table was Quincy Bulin, Smart Girls Group’s Editor in Chief for the last two years, Hannah Ziegeler, Smart Girls Group’s Creative Director (and first full time employee!!), and Hannah O’Boyle, our rockstar summer intern who also happens to be my cousin and one of the original nine writers. Together, they were the exact team needed to make these plans a reality.

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As I said, Quincy gets my ideas from my mind into actual human words. Sometimes that involves interpretive dancing.

Quincy understands the reader to a very deep level and has the editorial know-how to integrate sustainable strategies to ensure that our reader doesn’t just read an article, but absorbs it into their inner being. She’s also a champ when it comes to getting my ideas from my mind into actual human words–you know, the important stuff.

Hannah Z. is a entrepreneur in her own right, having owned a photography business for the past four years and counting. When it comes to visuals and design, Hannah knows how to create an emotional reaction with every image, font, you name it.

And finally, Hannah O. knows the story behind Smart Girls Group like no one else because she’s lived it her entire life and has an incredibly high emotional intelligence, something I’ve always admired about her.

I think it is really easy for an entrepreneur, especially one without a co-founder, to get stuck in their own head and completely disregard other people’s ideas when planning something big for any business. Part of the reason is that when you start something, there’s such a deep level of emotional attachment to the idea that you don’t want to deter from that vision because in your head, it makes so much sense. You want to be protective of that vision.

However, what got accomplished in that conference room took all of us. Everyone knew my vision and my intentions for the change. And here’s where I think the founder’s role matters: you set the intention. Everyone else brings their ideas–from proposed editorial calendars to visual brand boards to budget proposals–but if you asks me, it’s the founder’s job to set the intention. It sparks the energy and focuses everyone’s natural creative juices.

That intention was simple: I was aiming for change. Not the kind that made the last four years of hard work meaningless but one that would raise the volume on what was already created. We sat there for days. We made Pinterest boards. We created design mock ups. We talked to readers, old teammates, and advisors. I rewrote our business plan.

Smart Girls Group has had many chapters. This next one is a turning point, like in a book where the character all of a sudden discovers the exact person they were always trying to be. This chapter has taken a long time to write and there are many writers.

But what it comes down to is this: we are pulling a Taylor Swift. Stripping away the outer framework of the brand, boiling it down to its core, and building from there. We aren’t burning it all down, but we are adding  some new furniture, painting some walls, and renovating the kitchen. You get what I mean, right?

Like I said last week, in the past four years the business has changed and so have I. I like to think we have grown together, like two best friends who met in high school and kept in touch throughout college. In the next week, you will see the result of what went on in that conference room in planning this somewhat natural change. We took our blank slate and we finger painted all over it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you like it as much as I do.

Whatever blank slate is present in your life, I hope you can set the intention of what is to come and have people at your table who believe in your vision as much as you do. If you ask me, it doesn’t get much better than that.

For more blog posts by Emily, check out the From Emily’s Desk series.