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The Why Behind the Workshop

It’s been years since I had a blog. (I’ve always hated that word, by the way – “blog”.)

I used to love doing it - getting creative with storytelling, using fun and funky words to paint a picture, sharing my thoughts with random strangers on the internet (let’s be real, it was just my mom and aunties reading any of my posts, shrug). It all felt sort of avant-garde and grown-up to eighteen-year-old me.

Almost a decade later, I’m sitting here staring at my screen, wondering how to jump back into something that used to be fun and fancy and now is merely necessary for running a successful business that shows up when you search on Google. (I know you feel that, too! Unless you’re my mom or my aunties - then, ...thanks for being here. I love you.)

And while it’s true that I am jumping back into blogging *partly* so that I can show up on Google more consistently, I’m really jumping back into blogging for the same reason that I started the Workshop in the first place. And if you have the stamina to keep reading, I’ll tell you why that is! (Hint: it’s about you!)

Disclaimer: I did not get a fancy four-year degree in design. I got a fancy four-year degree in science (I know, it shocked me, too). I went to Colorado State University in sunny Fort Collins, Colorado, where I studied Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and Global Environmental Sustainability (and also met and ditched a handful of classes with the LOML, my darling husband, Drew – more on him, later). I thought that mayyybe someday I wanted to be a sustainability consultant.

But I found myself in the final weeks of my senior year, in a group project for one of my capstone courses, volunteering to be the group member tasked with creating a logo for a sustainability cooperative run by the university. Easy, right? Quick Youtube tutorial, choose some colors, choose a font, bada bing, bada boom.

But something happened – my destiny reached out a tiny little hand and beckoned me to follow…

That project went swimmingly - they loved the final product, I loved the final product, aaand I almost failed the capstone course itself because I spent too much time on the project instead of studying for the final exam, which did not go swimmingly.

But I loved the entire process – everything from brainstorming with the decision-makers in the sustainability cooperative, to sketching the initial concepts, to learning the Adobe programs and stretching my creative muscles. It was totally enthralling!

A circular logo for a collaborative conservation network
The logo that cost me exactly 60 hours of studying time and almost cost me another semester of college.

And it took me an entire year to take the leap and start a design business after that project. Drew (you remember, the LOML) begged, pleaded, convinced, threatened (jk, not the last one) me to commit to it – heck, it was his idea in the first place – but my main hang-up?

I was afraid it wouldn’t contribute to the world in the way that I wanted to contribute. Read: I didn’t think it was a profession that was meaningful or valuable.

Gall dang – what I would say to freshly-graduated Ella now!

Flash forward to my first Workshop project, a brand identity for a sustainable tailoring service called Nodie. It may have taken me a year to finally launch the Workshop, but it took me approximately 0.01 seconds to realize that I had been absurdly mistaken about the value of my new profession.

A green logo for Nodie
The logo that launched me into a DTR with my new job in which we did both determine that we were MFEO.

It was, for lack of a better word, a dream to work with Tori, Nodie’s multi-talented, delightful founder/owner. Not only was I nerding out about how cool the concept of a sustainable stitchery was, but it was such a humbling experience to translate somebody’s seedling future goals and dreams for their business into something that could actually help them to get there.

I thought that my favorite part was going to be creating something beautiful. But actually, my favorite part was the connection that I made with Tori and the multiplied contribution that my work made, not only to Tori and her family but to the world! – to all of the people that would send their clothes to Tori to get Nodied up.

TLDR: It was an honor to partner with Tori to create something that would support her livelihood and make the world just a little bit better.

And that has (mostly) continued to be my favorite part of this job – a happy accident, an unforeseen purpose, the why that makes the more difficult parts of the job worth bearing. (And being the bossy boss – that’s also my favorite part.)

I’ve loved getting to hear passionate people talk excitedly about their own reasons for starting businesses, about the struggles that they’re facing, and the goals that they have for the years ahead. I’m a small business owner myself, for heaven’s sake – so I understand a lot of the struggles that my clients face on a personal level!

I’ve loved learning more about the world of design and how good design is design as a problem-solving tool, not just a logo that *slaps*. I’ve loved doing strategy workshops with my clients to figure out exactly how we can use design to solve problems and achieve goals, move merch, increase customer loyalty and engagement, foster connection, and increase conversion.

It all makes a real difference and it is so fun to be a part of. In a way, I’m still using my Bachelor’s of Science – my job is to create an ecosystem for a brand that provides an environment for all of the other parts of the brand to flourish. (How’s that for contribution?!)

So, there. There’s the why behind the Workshop. I don’t have any fancy downloads, links, or calls to action for you – just wanted to share from the heart for my first blog post in almost a decade. Thanks for reading, even without the promise of a carrot at the end. (I’m talking to you, mom.)

But do stay tuned – next time, I’ve got a whole slew of downloads, links, calls to action – maybe even a gif. It’ll be juicy, and relevant, and helpful, and free. You’re not going to want to miss it! Until then, my friend!

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