biz ladiesLife & Business

10 Lessons Gleaned from 2014 For a Better 2015

by Sabrina Smelko

Biz Ladies: 10 Lessons for a Better 2015
With the holidays behind us, the decorations put away, the confetti swept from the floors and “2015” on our calendars, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year and use the lessons learned from it to inform this year. But, aspirations aside, I have to admit that the thought of establishing a make-or-break New Year’s resolution (that I rarely keep) can feel a bit daunting. As a small business owner myself, I’m constantly learning and refining as I go, using the wisdom of yesterday to craft a better tomorrow. So instead of adding another thing to the list of things to think about, I’m using the lessons gleaned in 2014 to make 2015 more efficient, enjoyable and streamlined. In 2014 I took on every and any project that came my way, which stretched me far too thin, so this year I’m going to be more selective with whom and what I spend my time and energy on. I’m excited to share with you all the lessons that these 10 super-talented and successful individuals shared with us that they’re applying to make 2015 bigger, badder and better. — Sabrina


“I learned that you can place written orders to the universe and they will always be answered. We make business plans for our careers, write them out, research, and organize. But for matters of the heart, we expect happy accidents. Think about what you want, need, desire and write it down… it always comes back to you. And it’s free!”

Genevieve Gorder, interior designer & HGTV star.



Zen out more. Life is going to be stressful every day, so make it fun!”

“As contrary as it may sound, I think that focusing on making each day productive and happy is the best way to live a great life. Thinking too much about the future can be overwhelming.”

– Emma (top and left) and Elsie (bottom and right) of A Beautiful Mess, whom we had the pleasure of featuring in Biz Ladies.


“In 2015 I’m going to make a stronger effort to let my personal projects feel personal. I have to remember that my hobby isn’t meant to be my job, and if it really is work, then I’ll need a new hobby. Better separating the two will help me achieve balance as a human being.”

Adam J. Kurtz, graphic designer, artist & author of 1 Page At A Time.



“One of the biggest things I’ve been learning this past year is the need to slow down and make time for more of the important things in life… friends, family, laughing, travel, etc. I have so much on my plate with Rifle Paper Co. and I absolutely love what I do. But it can be so easy to get swept away in the hectic schedule and forget to take bits of time away from it all. Life is short, I’m learning how to delegate better and I’m looking forward to continuing to work on balance throughout 2015.”

– Anna Rifle Bond of Rifle Paper Co. who shared a day in her life with us back in April.



“My major focus for 2015 and what I am “shaking off” from 2014 and other years past is not apologizing for my expertise and not compromising on charging appropriately for it. An important factor in a creative industry is having the skills and experience to run all aspects of a business and to problem-solve on both macro and micro levels. Many people out there have creative talent, but in the business of event design and production, a host of other skills are required to get the job done. In my business, a single event can take a year or more to be be planned and the skills required to see it through have great value. Consistently presenting your professional self with clients, managing staff, budgeting and accounting, being disciplined about work timelines, setting agendas, trouble-shooting…not everyone has the bandwidth to wear all hats. Because I have proven that I do, I set the expectation that I will be compensated appropriately (just like anyone would in any other domain). Flowers are beautiful and I love them, but this is my job.”

– Sarah Brysk Cohen of Blossom and Branch, who discussed the changing value of creative work with us a few weeks ago on After The Jump.



“2014 has taught me to laugh even when shit is intense or stressful. 2015 we both plan to laugh more, achieve the perfect life/ work balance. Continue to create and have loads of fun doing it”

– Poppy Lane of Pop & Scott.



“I’m shaking off worrying about results. No more stressing about how many sales we need to make a show/advertising “worth it” or if we got enough traffic from some press. It is exhausting and this holiday season I fared much better just “giving it up to the universe.” So for 2015 I’m resigned to doing great work, putting it out there the best way I can and letting go of what happens next.”

– Jennifer Hill, designer behind J Hill Design. Read her D*S interview.


“Last year I learned that I was mistaking boss autonomy for ineffective isolation and poor communication skills. Next year I hope to open up and listen more to the people I work with and respond with concision and honesty even if it makes me uncomfortable.”

– Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop who shared with us a day in her life.



“In 2014 I learned that you can’t waste your resources on people that drain your passion and energy. It is so important to focus on projects and people that propel your business forward, rather than backwards. In 2015 I will invest my energy into likeminded people with positive goals—and no more fast food.”

– Shawn Lovering, filmmaker at Wild and Light.




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  • Totally agree with everything said here.

    Balance is my goal for 2015 after a whirlwind year. And look…it’s official since I just wrote it down!

  • Thanks for this list! It’s great to hear so many inspiring people struggling with the same things as me.

  • All great advice! In the future, I’d love to hear from more people of color. Thank you!

    • Annie

      I hear you and agree. I’m so appreciative of everyone’s advice and all of the hard work that Sabrina and everyone here put into sharing this advice, but I’ll do a better job of making sure that all of our posts, not just roundups, represent a the full range of talented people working in our field.


  • Thank for the inspiration. I have so many goals, and the first one surpassed, it was a jump for me over 1k likes on fb fan page. Keep up the great work and thank you for always sharing great content and design.

  • very inspiring and wise. I think about the future way to much and forget to enjoy my life as it is in this moment, even as I write this I am still wishing my life would fast forward through the next year. ugh

  • As Shawn said, it is important to spend time to likeminded people. Creativitity, enthusiasm and positiviness are contegious.

  • I love what sarah said ! yes- there are tons of creative “floral designers” out there who can rock out a stunning photo shoot (easy -peasy) but that follow through of planning and timelines and trouble shooting for an actual event that she talks about is huge and often overlooked in an industry that is bulging at the seams with “designers”. We do a ton of wedding work on an island that requires a ferry to get to where cars aren’t allowed! Unless it’s a huge event or wedding where we bring a truck that requires a barge schedule we must rely on golf carts for all transport for florals supplies, props. We manage to pull off really quality work (most of our work is featured on national wedding blogs and print) in spite of the many difficulties and I often wonder to myself how well certain “creatives” would fare within these same limitations – and as sara also said , charging accordingly is key because , yes , flowers are beautiful and lovely and la dee dah but it’s our job , it’s how we put kibble in the dog dish and keep all the lights on and as any other quality pro you should always charge a pro price.

  • Thanks to each of you for your candid sharing. 2014 was a personally eventful year without much room for creativity and personal inspiration. This year my planner includes daily time for creativity where I choose to be creative in something every day.

  • Genevieve, so wise. I wish that I had written that “list” and made those “plans” thirty years ago – would have saved me much time and wasted effort. Kind of like writing a cover letter to the “job” that you want your life to become. Speaking up for what we really want doesn’t always come easily (or pain free) but so worth it in the long run.

  • Awesome!! I know Elise & Emma, we live in the same town!! Happy 2015!!