21 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out from the Crowd (aka, Become the Alternative)

21 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out from the Crowd

No matter what you sell, there are people out there selling something similar for less money. That’s just the truth.

So, why should we choose YOU?

How do you make it clear to your target market that you’re different than your competitors?

If you can’t answer those questions very easily, don’t worry. I’ve got 21 ways you can differentiate your business, making it the pumpkin spiced latte of lattes when autumn hits.

1. Think about what makes your favorite brands your favorites.

Why do you love them? What makes them special? The things you love about other businesses are often things you can pull into your business in a way that works for your brand. No copying—take the idea and twist it to make it yours.

 2. Build your business around what you stand for.

What are the big values you’ve built your business on? Are you true to them all the time? The best businesses are. {Think Warby Parker.)

3. Write your one-sentence message.

Often, we overcomplicate things. Can you define your brand in just one sentence? If you can’t, work on it until you can. Then, use that one sentence over and over and over until people recognize your brand whenever they hear or read it.

 4. Consider the true value of your products.

Why should your customers choose your business? It’s all about the value and benefits you offer them. Consider why you choose Sephora over department store beauty counters or why you choose Uber over other taxi companies. {If those don’t apply to you, pick ones that do.}

5. Make sure you know and use your unique brand trifecta.

What you do best, what makes you truly unique and your highest values combined creates a brand that can’t be copied. {If this is confusing, I’ll be explaining it soon in my upcoming CreativeLive course. RSVP here to watch it live for FREE.}

6. Define success for yourself.

We tend to get suffocated by the details that don’t really matter to us. Define success for your business yourself. Don’t let others tell you what you have to reach to succeed. Then, you know what you truly want to be working towards and that helps to create something unique.

7. Start with passion.

Recently, Malcolm Gladwell said that passion is the single most important factor to a person’s success. I agree. Passion is what helps you complete projects instead of stopping halfway through. It’s what helps you put all of your energy into creating something you know people will love. It’s helps you pull all-nighters without drinking ten cups of dark roast coffee. And, it gets you through the toughest of times when you think you’ll never make it.

8. Know why your customers should choose you.

If you’re a solopreneur or a small business, you’ve not only got to know why your customers should choose your business, but also why they should choose YOU. What makes you the right person for your type of business?

9. Use what you know to be true.

What are your beliefs? What truly motivates you? Use this stuff! These are the details that make you different.

10. Pull the pieces of your personality into one business.

Instead of trying to focus on one thing or one passion, pull the many pieces of you into your business and watch the magic unfold. When I allowed myself to move beyond the square box of ‘business consultant,’ things changed in a ‘moving from vanilla to peanut butter brittle’ kinda way.

11. Get to know your customers.

The BEST brands know their customers better than the competition. Do the work to get to know your target market and you’ll stand out from the crowd pretty darn quickly. {Hint: I know that YOU know this one, but are you really doing the work?}

12. Use what you know about your customers.

Use this knowledge in every aspect of your business: blog posts, social media updates, product design, packaging, sales copy, bonuses, etc. When you do this, your customers will trust you and they’ll believe that you’re the person to help them.

13. Focus on your customers—not your numbers.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs making is focusing on growing their numbers (Facebook likes, email subscribers, blog readers) instead of focusing on the people that have already given them their attention. When you treat your customers better than they deserve, they do most of the marketing for you. Now, doesn’t that sound like the stuff dreams were made of?

14. Develop a customer service plan.

We’re all used to mediocre customer service. And, we only tell others when we receive amazing or horrible customer service experiences (I’m looking at you Bank of America). You want to land in the ‘amazing’ category, right? Then, you’ve got to have a customer service plan.

15. Understand your customer’s experience.

You want to create an experience for your customer that starts from the second she finds you to the moment she receives and uses your product (or engages in your services). Do you know what it’s like to be one of your customers? If not, go step by step through your own process. The details matter. Think Disney!

16. Use your copy to deal with the main objections your customers have to buying your products or services.

That’s a fancy way of saying dealing with potential customers that say things like ‘I don’t know if I can afford that’ or ‘I don’t know if I really need this right now.’ Do you deal with the main objections that cause your customers to pause from buying in your content and sales copy? If not, you’re losing out on sales every single day. {Insert sad emoticon here.}

17. Use branding stories.

We learn and speak in stories. Does your brand have some great stories behind it? Do you share them with your customers? Give your customers stories to tell so they can spread the word about your business for you in way that captivates others.

18. Help your customer become who she wants to be.

Our buying choices say something about us. They represent us. What does it say about your customers when they buy your products or services? Think Apple, ModCloth and Method.

19. Make your about page unique.

On many websites, the about page is the most highly trafficked page on the site. You want yours to grip your customers’ attention, let them know that you’re the right brand for them, and show them how you can help them. It’s not really all about you—potential customers are looking to see if you’re the right business for them.

20. Create a sense of belonging with your brand.

We all want to belong. It’s human nature. When someone buys from your brand does she feel like she belongs? When she finds out a friend also uses one your products, do they feel bonded, like it means something?

21. Embed your brand into your customers’ habits.

If your brand becomes a part of your customers’ habits, you’re golden. How can you do that? For example, I received a mug when I joined B-School and use it all the time when I drink tea. Marie Forleo embedded B-School into my habits with that mug.

If you want more in-depth information on any of these 21 ways to make your business stand out from the crowd, don’t forget to RSVP to my course, Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible.

I built my course from these exact concepts and will help you apply each of them to your business. You can watch it live for FREE.


Comments { 29 }

Your Invitation to Join My Blog Tour (and a contest!)

Join the Blog Tour with April Bowles-Olin

I’ve got a way for us to help each other.

A couple days ago, I got this crazy idea for a way to spread the word about my upcoming CreativeLive course: a blog tour.

Now, that’s NOT the out-of-the-box part. A blog tour isn’t a new idea. Last time I taught at CreativeLive, I hosted a blog tour with some of my best online friends and it was a lot of fun and super successful.

But, I wanted to shake it up and find a way to involve YOU this time around.

Not only did I want to involve you, but I wanted to do it in a way that would help you and your business. If you decide to take part (and I hope you do!), I will be compiling a list of all the posts and links to the posts and publishing them on Blacksburg Belle. I’ll also be spotlighting lots of the posts on social media. And, the CreativeLive team is really excited about this and they’re going to be sharing your posts on social media. They have 119,000+ Twitter followers. Score for getting your blog in front of so many people!

And, I’ll be choosing FIVE of the bloggers who participate to win anytime access to both of my upcoming courses: Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep and Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible. That means you’d get access to the courses AND all of the bonuses for free. (And, the bonuses that you can only get with purchase are pretty darn great if I do say so myself. And, I do say so. Humbly, of course.)

Talk about win-win, right?!

This is your official invitation to participate. Here’s how:

1. Pick one of the following topics to blog about: a) What you’d love to learn from my upcoming course, Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep b) The biggest questions you have when it comes to selling digital or information products c) Your best-selling digital product and why you think it’s the most successful (if you already sell digital or information products) d) Why you want to learn how to create and sell digital products e) The biggest issues you’ve had with trying to sell digital products

2. Pick a day between October 20th and October 29th to publish your post on your blog.

3. Include this little blurb about my upcoming CreativeLive course (make sure you include the link) at the beginning or end of your post: “Are you ready to make your creative work more lucrative, stable, and sustainable in the long-term? Join April Bowles-Olin for an introduction to digital products and how they can enhance your creative business. This course will show you how to produce and position viable products for generating multiple revenue streams and passive income. RSVP right here to watch it live and get access to the workbook for FREE. This post is part of the Create Digital Products blog tour.

4. Let me know that you’re participating by leaving a comment below, including the day (between the 20th and 29th) that you’re planning to publish.

5. If you want, you can include the image below in your post! (But, it’s not a requirement. Just thought it would make it even easier for some of you to join the blog tour. If you want to use it, just right click on it and then download.)

6. Come back here when you hit publish and share your link in the comments, so that I can include it in my compilation post on November 5th. I’ll also be sharing this list with the CreativeLive team so they can share the posts.

Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep

One of my goals for 2014 was to build more community aspects into Blacksburg Belle. I want each of you to feel included and supported. I hated cliques in high school and the feeling that you aren’t cool enough or good enough–that you don’t belong. That’s another reason I choose to host this type of blog tour. You are cool enough and good enough. You do belong.

If you have any questions, ask below and I’ll answer as soon as I can. And remember, if you’re going to participate, let me know below what date you plan on publishing your post.

I can’t wait to read what you write. I’ll be making additions and last minute changes to my course based on what you want to learn and the questions you have when it comes to creating and selling digital products if I’m not already covering it.

I believe that adding digital and information products to your business plan can make a huge difference to your success. You’re able to sell to more target markets, make more money without working longer hours and price your handmade products higher. Building a business based on digital products equals freedom!

And, I want to help as many creatives as possible with my course. That’s why I’m working so hard to promote this course–the more creatives that watch it live, the more people I can help for free. So, thank you so very much for helping me spread the word by joining this blog tour.

To wrap-up, if you participate in this blog tour, you’ll: 

1. Get your blog post included in a post on Blacksburg Belle, including a link back to your blog which is always helpful with SEO when people search on Google for what you do.

2. Have the chance for social media shout-outs from me and CreativeLive.

3. Be entered to win anytime access for both of my upcoming CreativeLive courses.

4. Help other creatives improve their businesses and make more money. Good karma, my friend!

UPDATE: CreativeLive is going to kick off the blog tour with a introduction blog post on the the CreativeLive blog! Yay! So, make sure that you pick a date for your post (and use the link to your blog–in the website slot–when leaving your comment) so that I can include you on the list that I give to CreativeLive. That means another link back to your blog and even more sharing/promotion love! (I’ve sent the list to CreativeLive for them to publish on Monday. If you’re adding your name after 10/17 at 6:30pmEST–basically if you’re reading this–you won’t be included on that list. However, you can still participate and I’ll include you on MY list that I’m publishing on November 5th.)

Second Update: Use the hashtag #bellelive when talking about this blog tour or sharing your post on social media. That way we can all find each other on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Comments { 230 }

Smoothie Experiment Wrap-Up and Next Month’s Health Challenge Announced!

Smoothie Experiment Wrap-Up

In the next few days, I’m wrapping up my smoothie experiment.

(You can check out why I started this health experiment right here if you need a little refresher.)

I know people always say this, but where the heck did September go? I know where my September went…working on my upcoming CreativeLive courses.

I’m surprised and excited by how my health changed over the course of four weeks.

Every week, I noticed a boost of energy.

This might not seem like much, but I’ve gone from being able to work two to three hours most days to being able to work eight hours or more most days.

That’s HUGE. And, not only can I work more, but I’m having an easier time concentrating and my motivation level has skyrocketed.

I can’t say that this boost of energy is all due to drinking smoothies every day for the first two weeks and then every other day for last two weeks, but that’s the big change that I made so I’m assuming that it’s partly responsible.

Because this smoothie experiment has paid off, I’m going to continue to drink smoothies at least three times a week moving forward.

The superfoods that have seemed to have the most positive impact (I tracked how I felt after each smoothie) are: maca powder, camu powder, flax powder, and maqui powder. So, I’ll be using those the most in my smoothies.

I know this might sound a tad weird but I’m happier.

To begin with, I’m no Debbie Downer and I’m a pretty happy person, but I have to admit that my health issues have taken quite a toll on my overall mood this past year.

Over the past month, I’ve felt much more like myself: getting excited over little things (charity book sales and fall weather), feeling happy just because, and enjoying my work more than ever. (Seriously, I couldn’t be happier every morning when I wake up, knowing that I get to work on my upcoming CreativeLive classes.)

For the past couple years, I’ve thought, “Why me?”

What am I being punished for? Why do I wake up every morning and feel as if I have a horrible case of the flu? Why can’t I get healthy or at least find a doctor who is up to the challenge of helping me?

Until I got sick, I used to think I was lucky. I had a really great life, and then everything came crumbling down.

My life revolved around doctors’ visits. Every morning, I’d wake up and how I felt would determine what I could do that day. Would I actually have enough energy to go to the farmer’s market? Would I be able to get out of bed? Would I be able to walk my dogs? How long would it take me to put on a bit of makeup?

But as I sit here typing this, I feel lucky again.

Lucky that I have a loving, incredibly funny husband who continues to have hope that we’re gonna figure this all out. Lucky that I get to spend my days at home working with my three lab mixes at my feet. Lucky that I get to do work that motivates and inspires me. Lucky that I finally feel energized again. Lucky that I have the opportunity to take my health into my own hands and make some serious changes.

Okay, this post is turning into a mush fest and that’s totally not what I meant to do.

Before I start crying, I’m going to announce the big health change I’m pursuing in October.

For the past six months, I’ve been struggling to exercise and working out used to be a big part of my life.

I used to do 10-15 minutes of yoga when I woke up, walk my dogs for an hour midmorning, and walk them again with my husband in the evenings. And, I used to fit in about an hour of weights and abs each week on top of that daily regimen.

Exercise used to be my happy pill.

I know that some people dread working out, but I always looked forward to it. I would download a really good book to listen to while walking my dogs. I’d pump music while doing arm and leg weights. I’d feel ready to conquer my day after a little yoga.

My health has practically taken this away from me. In all honesty, I’ve let it.

It’s hard to talk myself into changing into workout clothes and getting motivated to exercise when I know that I’ve only got a few good hours each day. How could I waste part of that time on physical exertion when I could be working or writing or blogging?

Now that I’ve got more energy, I want to get back into the rhythm of moving my body every single day.

I’m a realist. I know that I won’t be able to exercise as much as I used to and I know that some days I might only be able to do ten minutes of yoga. That’s okay.

I’m going to make this as easy as possible, breaking up my exercise into bite-sized increments: five-minute dance breaks, ten-minute yoga videos, fifteen-minute walks, five minutes of arm weights, etc.

I’m going to try to do at least five minutes of something three times a day when I’m taking work breaks. That’s totally doable, right?

If you want to do this with me (it’s always better with buddies, right?), I’m starting on October 1st. Use the hashtag #31DaysofMoving when sharing your progress on social media. I’ll be checking Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for your updates.

Each week or every other week (depending on how much there is to share), I’ll blog about how it’s going, so make sure you check back in. And, I’ll be sharing photos of this journey on Instagram a few times a week—follow me there so you don’t miss a thing.

Let’s do this!

If you’re going to give this a go and want some doable, short workouts, here are some of my favorites:

Free Videos:

Flexibility and Range of Motion with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 9 minutes)

Routine for Stress Relief with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 5 minutes)

Building Balance with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 9 minutes)

Ultimate Stretch with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 10 minutes)

Natalie Portman’s Workout (Ballet and Strength Training – 11 minutes)

Ballet Beautiful Long Lean Arms with Mary Helen Bowers (Ballet Strength Training – 11 minutes)

At Home Cardio Workout with PopSugar (Cardio – 10 minutes)

Become Beyoncé With This Sexy Dance Workout with PopSugar (Cardio Dance – 10 minutes)

Bombay Jam Bollywood Dance Workout with PopSugar (Cardio – 11 minutes)

Dance REFIT Revolution to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off (Cardio – 4 minutes)

I also really like the 10-minute Barre3 workouts. I have a monthly membership with them and I highly recommend it for those of you who want doable strength training and yoga routines.

Comments { 22 }

Behind the Scenes of My Business: Blog Tag (And, you’re invited to play!)

Behind the Scenes of My Business: Blog Tag

Don’t you love when creatives pull back the velvet curtains to show you sneak peeks of what it really takes to run their businesses?

I have to admit that it’s one of my favorite things.

And, that’s what this month’s tag is all about.

If you missed the tag experiment that I started last month, you can check out all the details here. Basically, I’m coming up with a topic, asking questions, answering those questions and then tagging others to answer them on their blogs.

When I announced it last month, I said that I would continue it the next month if the first was successful. More people than I could’ve imagined participated so I’m deeming it successful.

So, here we go with round two and it’s all about spilling the jellybeans about your business—letting your readers see what happens behind the scenes.

THIS BLOG TAG TOPIC: Behind the Scenes of My Business

Here are the questions and my answers for this topic:

Question 1: What’s your two to three sentence bio? (You know, what the heck do you do?)

April Bowles-Olin is a writer, creative business consultant, marketing strategist, and photography dabbler.  She wants to live in a world where artists and makers adore their blogs, write with confidence and know how to get their unique work in front of people who love it—and scramble for their credit cards because they just ‘have to have it.’

Question 2: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Teaching in all forms—through blogging, online courses and speaking to live audiences.

Question 3: What’s your least favorite part of your job?

Technical stuff like website coding. Yuck! That’s why I hire it out.

Question 4: What are the top three tools you use the most in your work?

Macbook Pro, Dell 27-inch monitor, and Nikon D90

Question 5: What business goal would you love to reach before the end of the year?

Have 15,000+ live viewers for my next CreativeLive courses. RSVP right here to watch live for FREE and help me reach my goal.

Question 6: Who are three creatives that inspire you?

Mayi Carles, Bonnie Christine, and Austin Kleon

Question 7: What do you listen to (if anything) while you work?

Music (some favorites: Train, Florence + The Machine, and Third Eye Blind) and podcasts (some favorites: The Unmistakable Creative and Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield)

Question 8: Morning person or night owl?

Night owl.

Question 9: How many employees do you have and what are the main things they do for you?

None. I hire out when needed like with web design, videography, and accounting.

Question 10: What’s your favorite social media platform?

Instagram—love seeing bits of peoples’ lives and businesses through visuals.

Question 11: What’s your least favorite social media platform?

LinkedIn. I haven’t checked that site in over a year. I’ve been considering just deleting my profile.

Question 12: What works best when it comes to marketing your business?

Building my email list.

Question 13: What’s one thing about your business that your blog readers probably don’t know?

I make the least amount of money from one-on-one consulting even though I charge $495 per consulting client and the most amount of money from online courses.

Question 14: If your business were a fashion accessory, what would it be?

This camera bag in caramel—chic, well made, and traditional seeming on the outside with lots of flair on the inside.

Question 15: What’s your top tip for someone who wants to do something similar to you for a career?

Spend time every day (just ten or fifteen minutes works) building genuine connections.

I’m tagging these 6 people to answer these questions in a blog post (via video or text) on their blogs:

  1. Rebecca Nash because she was the very first person to participate last month and I’d love to see how she answers these questions.
  2. Sarah Shotts because she’s a League of Supers rockstar. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not in the cool crowd. Just kidding. (Kinda)
  3. Amanda Creek because I’m really enjoying the connection we’re making via the comments on Blacksburg Belle.
  4. Michael Nelson because we connected through my course on CreativeLive and I think she’s awesome.
  5. Richelle Shadoan because she attended my last CreativeLive course and has been making changes to her business and blog ever since.
  6. YOU! Tag, you’re it.

Here’s how you play:

  1. Copy and paste the questions below and then answer them and publish as a blog post. Or, record a video answering these questions and upload it to your blog post.
  1. At the bottom of your post, tag anywhere from 2-10 bloggers you want to see answer these questions. (I also suggest hitting up your tagged people via social media just to let them know you tagged them to do this tag challenge.)
  1. Use the title: Behind the Scenes of My Business Blog Tag. Once you’ve hit publish, leave a comment below with the link to your post.
  1. Use the hashtag #MyBizBlogTag when sharing on social media so we can all find your awesome posts!

As you can see from my answers, your answers can be super short.

If you want an intro to include at the beginning or end of your post, here’s one:

This blog post is a part of the ‘Behind the Scenes of My Business’ Blog Tag started by April of Blacksburg Belle. She began this blog tag experiment to build community among creatives, help us bloggers to connect more and get to know each other better. This month’s topic is all about sharing the behind the scenes stuff of our businesses. If you’d like to participate or want more info, check out this post right here.

(Disclaimer: It’s totally cool to NOT participate if I tagged you and you either: don’t want to do it or don’t have the time. You won’t totally crush my feelings.)

Easily copy and paste the questions below OR read when you film your video:

Question 1: What’s your two to three sentence bio? (You know, what the heck do you do?)

Question 2: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Question 3: What’s your least favorite part of your job?

Question 4: What are the top three tools you use the most in your work?

Question 5: What business goal would you love to reach before the end of the year?

Question 6: Who are three creatives that inspire you?

Question 7: What do you listen to (if anything) while you work?

Question 8: Morning person or night owl?

Question 9: How many employees do you have and what are the main things they do for you?

Question 10: What’s your favorite social media platform?

Question 11: What’s your least favorite social media platform?

Question 12: What works best when it comes to marketing your business?

Question 13: What’s one thing about your business that your blog readers probably don’t know?

Question 14: If your business were a fashion accessory, what would it be?

Question 15: What’s your top tip for someone who wants to do something similar to you for a career?

Comments { 59 }

Do This Today to Grow Your Business Faster than Anything Else

Do This to Grow Your Business Much Faster

I’m not sure if I’ve told you this before, but a lot of my big wins, the things that I’m the most proud of, have been successful because I’ve had the help and support of other people.

It hasn’t been me at home by myself behind my computer that’s made my business a success.

If I didn’t work so hard behind my computer, I wouldn’t be where I am today…but, I wouldn’t be here nearly as quickly without the relationships that I’ve built.

Did you know that I spoke at the Etsy Success Symposium in my first year of business because I built an email and social media relationship with the person who organized it?

I was introduced to my executive producer at CreativeLive (ultimately the person who gave me a shot to teach there), Elizabeth, by Tara Gentile who I met in person at the Etsy Success Symposium.

I met Marie Forleo in person at her event, RHH Live, and she then asked me to share my story for a case study on her Live Your Dream site. She also invited me to be an affiliate for B-School last year when it was by invite only.

Thousands of viewers watched my CreativeLive course because so many of you tweeted, shared it on Facebook, shouted it out on Instagram. And, I organized a blog tour with some of my favorite people who I met online to help me spread the word.

I met my business partner (and one of my best friends) in person for the first time at a conference. She’s one of the reasons that I said yes to teaching at CreativeLive. She believed in me and told me that I could do it.

My content producer at CreativeLive, Bryan, introduced me to Bonnie from Going Home to Roost (who has an amazing course on CL) and I just wrapped an interview with her to use for my upcoming course, Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep. We’re now officially friends. Who wouldn’t become fast friends with a girl who named her dog Toaster? I mean, really.

I reaaaaaaally like the ladies who were in my live audience for my last CreativeLive course. We got to eat lunch together and take tequila shots at the after party and got to know each other. I’m rooting for every single one of them and I truly want them to reach their blogging goals. Each of these women holds a special place in my heart and I hope we continue to connect. Many of them have been instrumental in helping me spread the word about my upcoming CL courses via Twitter and Facebook. THANK YOU!

Not only have other people been instrumental in my success, but relationships influence practically every business decision I make.

Mayi and I hired our web designer, Emily, for Connecting the Gaps because she was my friend first. We became friends because she asked me to chat on Skype on a day that I wasn’t busy, and we connected. We stayed in touch via social media and email and when it was time to choose a web designer, it was a no brainer.

When I gave my input on who would be awesome in the front row for my CreativeLive course, I knew Sage Grayson and Jennifer Kennedy needed to be there, because I knew that they would add so much to the course from reading their comments on my posts week after week after week.

When I’m launching a new product and I want a handful of people to test it out first, I turn to Blacksburg Belle readers who have bought from me before, who comment regularly, and who connect with me on social media.

When someone emails me to help them promote their next big thing, I’m one-hundred and fifty million times more likely to say yes if I know them—whether that be through that person leaving thoughtful comments on my blog posts every week or connecting with them regularly on social media or having met them in person or on Skype.

No matter what, connections and relationships matter.

If you’re looking for a way to get ahead, to increase your sales at a much faster rate and to make more of difference with your business, you should focus some of your time on establishing and nurturing relationships. Start today and you’ll see big rewards within months.

If you’re an introvert, I know this might seem like the worst thing ever. But, it’s not.

I can say this because, I’m an introvert. I understand the discomfort of saying hi to a stranger. Big crowds tend to terrify me and it’s really hard for me to walk up to someone I don’t know and introduce myself. I have to pump myself up to do it and sometimes I still chicken out. When I go to a conference, I have to spend a week afterwards decompressing.

But, it’s worth it. I promise you that it’s worth it.

If you spend a small amount of time each day, like 15 minutes, strengthening your connections, you’ll reap huge rewards.

Tweet someone who inspires you, send a handwritten card to a blogger who you adore, shoot an email to someone you’d like to get to know better, or leave a thoughtful comment on blog post.

I also suggest that you also do one big thing every quarter/season (or every month if you’re brave enough) to build relationships.

Those small things really do add up, but the big things like attending a conference or course in person, asking someone who you’ve never chatted with to talk on Skype, or meeting someone for coffee, can help you form connections that do things for your business that you could never even imagine.

I never imagined that meeting Mayi in person would inspire us to build a business together.

I couldn’t have known that meeting Tara Gentile at a conference would help me connect with someone that would give me the chance to literally change my business years later.

I didn’t know that chatting with Emily on Skype would lead to her building a website for me two years down the road.

It infuses a bit of magic into the relationship to take things offline and meet in person. It takes your relationship to a new level. And, you never know what might happen.

With that said, the application to be in the live studio audience for my upcoming CreativeLive courses on how to create digital products that sell and how to make your creative business uniquely irresistible is open and I would love to meet you in person.

It’s completely free to attend which is amazing. You get to hang out with me and other creatives who have similar goals and values for three days in San Francisco while learning how to improve your business. By being on camera, you also get huge amounts of exposure for your business.

It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience and this is your invitation.

“One thing that I was not expecting from attending April’s workshop, yet came as a wonderful surprise, was an increase in the number of sign-ups on my email list. I was floored (and completely grateful) by all the new readers to my blog. I’m still receiving emails from people all over the world who say they saw me on CreativeLive. In fact, I recently ran into a woman at a networking event who saw me during the broadcast (we’ll be grabbing a cup of coffee together real soon). The connections and networking has extended far beyond those three days.” –Jennifer, Create Amazing Online Courses

“Attending your CreativeLive course led to ‘meeting’ and forming relationships with the group of women who started the New Bloggers Group. And the THAT let to CTG, so basically it changed my whole life. I feel like I am part of a safe and very supportive community.” –Richelle, The Red Scorpio

Even if you don’t live in the San Francisco area, it’s beyond worth it to travel.

“It’s definitely worth it to travel to attend the CreativeLive workshop in person. You deserve to take a break from the mundane responsibilities of everyday life and treat yourself to a workshop that will change your business forever.” –Sage, Sage Grayson

“I do not live in SF but it has totally been worth it to me to travel from San Diego to be in the studio. And San Francisco is an awesome town.” –Richelle, The Red Scorpio

Want a chance at being in the studio to learn how to create digital products that sell while you sleep and how to make your creative business more uniquely irresistible? Simply click right here to fill out the application.

And, before you give me excuses on why you can’t afford it or why you can’t make it, let me share a little story with you.

Within a couple months of starting Blacksburg Belle, Marie Forleo opened up a contest to win a ticket to her upcoming conference. The ticket cost about $1500 and I had just started a new business. I was up to my elbows in student loans and scraping by to pay my bills every month.

I entered anyway, because I knew this was a huge opportunity. I won one of the ten tickets she gave away, but I still had to pay for travel and the hotel.

I told my husband how important this was to me—how it could make a huge impact on my business—and he got on board.

I sold a bunch of my books on Amazon to get enough money to pay for gas and food. I picked up extra freelance writing gigs to pay for the hotel and I saved every penny possible.

We found a hotel in New Jersey that was only fifteen minutes away from the conference in NYC by public transportation and it was less than half of what we would’ve paid if we stayed in a hotel in the city.

We drove because it was a lot cheaper than flying and we only stayed in the hotel Friday and Saturday even though the conference didn’t end until Sunday at 7pm and we lived in Blacksburg, Virginia—an eight-hour drive.

My husband picked me up after the conference ended on Sunday and he drove us home. We didn’t pull into the driveway until 4am and we were exhausted.

I was also exhilarated. I took the things I learned at the conference and applied it to my business and a few months later, I sold out the very first group coaching program that I offered.

I made connections at that conference that were invaluable to me. It was worth all the work and sacrifice that it took me to get there to attend for those three days.

Did I forget to mention that the conference landed right on my husband’s birthday and it was also a few days before our first anniversary?

My husband sacrificed for me, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to do anything else special to celebrate his birthday or our anniversary cause we were using all of our extra money for me to attend this conference. I’m eternally grateful to him for this.

The reason I’m telling you this is because that conference jump-started my business. It gave me the know-how and confidence and energy to make things happen and I could’ve just said, “I can’t afford it” and not attended.

Whether it’s my course or a conference you’d really like to attend or a person you’d really like to meet, don’t let the money excuse hold you back if it’s something that you know will change your life. Instead, do your best to figure it out. You can’t always make it happen, but if you don’t try, it definitely won’t happen.

If you’re up for it, click here to fill out the application form to join me live in the studio for my upcoming CreativeLive courses.

And, if you’re not already convinced that you should apply to be in the live audience, here are some other quotes from the ladies who attended my last CreativeLive course in person:

“Being in the front row is completely different than watching a workshop from home. You’re right in the middle of the action, and it feels like April’s talking just to you. When I’m at home, I get distracted by my business work, laundry, or my puppy, but being in the live audience gave me permission to forget about everything else and absorb the material without distractions. The best part was getting a big hug from April herself!

The deciding factor was being able to meet April in person. It’s one thing to follow someone online for a while (I’ve been stalking April for years!), but nothing compared to getting immediate feedback from April on my specific business challenges. And the workshop was free! Where else can you get elite-level business coaching in person for no charge?” –Sage, Sage Grayson

“The biggest difference between watching a course online, and being in the front row is my attention.  Watching a course online, I am at home reminded of 293 other things that I need to do, then I begin trying to multitask.  Then, inevitably, I don’t really learn too much.  Being in the front row allowed me to devote my time and attention to one subject, ultimately learning it more thoroughly and better.  Another big plus is all the yummy food CreativeLive provides and the wonderful people!” –Kimberly, K. Sienk Photography

“I loved being able to not only interact with April, but also the other women in the audience. Months later, I’m still internet buddies with them. It was absolutely a fabulous experience.

Also, being in the audience gives you the chance to ask questions that are specific to you and your experiences. I mean seriously, three entire days where you can ask all of the questions you want! Yup, it’s totally worth it.” –Jennifer, Create Amazing Online Courses

If you honestly can’t be in the live audience for my upcoming CreativeLive courses, I’ve got other ways that you can form valuable connections:

  1. Watch it live and interact in the chat. Take advantage of the chat option. I’ve heard so many stories from viewers who watched my last course that have made invaluable connections with other viewers via the chat.
  1. Closer to the course dates, I’m going to create a private Facebook group. The connections that people have made in the Facebook group that got put together for my last course is amazing. I would’ve never imagined that so many people would find new friends, help each other, give each other feedback, find accountability partners and more through that Facebook group.
  1. Use the hashtag #bellelive to let others know you’re watching, answer questions, ask me questions that I’ll answer after the course and connect with others using that hashtag. Start conversations! You never know what might happen.

RSVP for Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep right here and RSVP for Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible right here to be reminded of the courses as they approach, to get the workbooks for free, and to get access to the private Facebook group when it’s up and ready.

I’ll talk more about this stuff as the courses approach, so don’t worry, you don’t have to remember it all. And, there won’t be a quiz. Ha!

In the meantime, do one thing today to connect with another creative. Maybe even start or end your days with this exercise. If you do, by the time the course starts, you’ll see why it’s so important.

Leave a comment below letting us know the one thing you did to strengthen or start a relationship with another entrepreneur today. (And, by leaving a comment, you’re definitely strengthening your relationship with me because I so appreciate and look forward to them.)

Comments { 76 }

Smoothie Experiment: Week 2


This week has been full of health highs and lows.

During the first half of the week, I had a lot more energy than normal. During the last half, I felt like I’d been run over by an 18-wheeler. Fun, right?

On Tuesday, I had to take this devil medication, Prednisone, due to an onslaught of throat and stomach ulcers. The day I take it, I always feel like I’m superwoman–that I can conquer the world. But, the days following, my body feels wrecked. I hate taking it but it’s the only thing we know of that gets rid of my ulcers when I have a breakout of them. I’m still recovering from that big dose of steroids.

Here’s the day-by-day run down:

Day 6 (September 6th):

Because I was feeling nauseous, I stuck with my favorite combination of banana and frozen blueberries. Other ingredients: coconut milk, coconut ice (which is just frozen coconut water) and the superfood, maqui powder. It was creamy and delicious and it gave me energy for the rest of the day.

Day 7:

I had the Creamy Carrot recipe from Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris with the superfood, hemp seeds. I was incredibly surprised by how much I enjoyed this smoothie. I had a ton of energy and didn’t have to take as much pain medicine as usual. Things seemed to be looking up.

Day 8:

I came up with my own recipe of frozen cherries, banana, coconut ice, organic raspberry lemonade and the superfood, camu powder and called it Cherry Lemonade. I loved this recipe more than any other I had tried to date. Unfortunately, my ulcers were getting worse and worse.

Day 9:

I loved Monday’s recipe so much that I decided to have it again, but I left out the coconut ice this time. I like it both ways: with and without coconut ice. I had lots of energy, because I took Prednisone which always gives me a huge boost of energy in the short term.

Day 10:

I made up my own recipe again and it tasted like a strawberry milkshake. The ingredients were frozen strawberries, banana, coconut milk, coconut ice, and superfoods, maca powder and flax powder. It was creamy and sweet and oh-so-yummy. I’m definitely going to have this one again.

Day 11:

I couldn’t believe this, but I got so wrapped up in Michelle Ward’s CreativeLive course, Create Your Dream Career (even though I already know what I wanna do when I grow up–I’m doing it!) that I completely forgot to make a smoothie. The first day of her class didn’t end until 7pm EST and then I had dinner with my husband. After we finished eating, I said to him, “OH MY GOD…I forgot to make a smoothie today. I was watching Michelle’s course all day.” Whoops!

Day 12:

Today was the type of day I created this experiment for: I’m feeling sluggish and nauseous and I barely ate. Around 5pm, I knew I needed to consume some more nutrient-packed calories so I made myself a frozen berry (blackberries, raspberries and strawberries), coconut milk and maqui powder smoothie. I gave me the energy to write up this post!

See ya next week with another update and like always, if you want daily updates, follow me on Instagram.

Comments { 9 }

Where Do Unique Ideas Come From? (And, how to stumble upon them more often.)

Where do unique ideas come from? (And, how to stumble upon them more often.) Post on Blacksburg Belle

Ninety-five percent of the time when I work with creatives one-on-one, one of the main things they want help with is making their businesses more unique or figuring out how to market and promote their unique qualities.

They want to set themselves apart from the competition. They want to become the alternative—not just another option. They want to be the BEST. They want to be a leader in their niche. They want their customers to not only love them, but to become obsessed with their businesses.

Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to be THE BUSINESS in their niche—the one that customers gush over and can’t get enough of?

In order to become that business, you have to start with unique ideas—novel, personality-driven products and services, exceptional blog posts, one-of-a-kind sales pages that grab your customer’s attention and pull her to buy right that very second, Instagram pictures that encompass your brand, outstanding Facebook posts that sing with your voice, etc.

It takes a lot of thought and planning to pull it off.

You might think that as a small business, you have no chance—that it’s incredibly difficult, painstaking even. You might want to give up after months of crickets and only trickles of sales.

But, if you’re pulled to do creative work, you shouldn’t give up. You were made to do this.

Many creatives have pulled it off. They’ve built unique, successful businesses that are the alternative.

Want examples cause I’ve got plenty?

Jessica Swift, Leah Duncan, Michelle Ward, Mayi Carles, Alma Loveland, Katie Daisy, Elsie and Emma, Brittni Mehlhoff, Lisa Lehmann, Anna Bond, Juliette Crane, Bonnie Christine, Ashley Goldberg, Lisa Congdon, Emily Ley

I could go and on, but I think you get it.

And, just because there are so many successful creatives already out there, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for you, too. I promise you that there is, because there is only one of you. (I know that’s totally cliché and corny, but it’s also very true, especially if you believe the power in that statement.)

I want to teach you how to build this type of brand.

The type of business that stands out among the crowd of thousands. Ready to learn? If so, RSVP for my CreativeLive course right here. If you RSVP, you’ll get FREE access to the course while it’s live and access to the workbook accompanying the course (and believe me when I say that you want that workbook).

In the meantime (since I’m not teaching until November 12th), I have homework for you.

Your homework is to start coming up with as many unique ideas as possible. Ideas for new taglines, blog posts, products, product descriptions and sales pages, videos, marketing campaigns, packaging for your products, business card designs etc. Make a list of every little detail in your business and start brainstorming more ideas for those details.

Once you start, the original ideas will flow more regularly—while you’re typing up a blog post, folding laundry, washing dishes, showering, working out. You’ll be flooded with idea after idea and won’t that be awesome?

Now, you might be thinking, “That sounds great, April…but how in the heck am I supposed to just start coming up with unique ideas for my business?”

Don’t worry, my friend, I’ve got your answer.

“Nothing is original. The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.” –Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist 

The majority of our “original” ideas are created from our experiences, the books we’ve read, the movies we’ve watched, the chats we’ve had with friends, the blogs we follow, the Instagram accounts we stalk (don’t pretend like you don’t do it), the places we’ve been.

What makes you, well, you…that’s the stuff that you get your one-of-a-kind ideas from, so they aren’t really original.

And, that’s OKAY. Seriously.

Where do unique ideas come from? (And, how to stumble upon them more often.) Post on Blacksburg Belle

We all do it. We take bits from here and dabs from there and pieces from that and we pull together something brilliant.

That’s how we come up with unique ideas for our businesses.

For example, I came up with this experiment (which I think is a smashing success) by watching booktube videos.

I realized that I should include the concept of flow and how that can make your blog so much more exciting, fun and enjoyable to read in this course from listening to a podcast on The Unmistakable Creative.

I decided to create workbooks for Blacksburg Belle (the first one will be coming soon!) from strolling through the cutest gift shop ever and stumbling upon adorable notebook after adorable notebook.

All of these ideas came from other experiences—other sources.

What makes this okay?

I never copy anyone else’s work as is. Ever. And, I often look to other niches for ideas. I take a concept that sparks a new idea for my own business and I twist it and change it, infusing it with my personality and brand. When I’m finished with it, it looks very different. The original source was just the first flash of the idea.

I always give credit where credit it due. When I introduced the blog tag idea, I included that I got the idea from watching booktube ‘tag’ videos. I didn’t pretend that I came up with the concept all by myself.

Also, when you takes bits from several different places, it will create something new–something that doesn’t resemble the original sources.

This is what all creatives do—whether they realize it or not.

“Our minds are also capable of taking random bits of input and forging brilliant connections that are not apparent on the surface. This is essentially how the creative process works—it’s the connection of multiple preexisting patterns into new solutions.” –Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative 

A jewelry artist creates a new line based on inspiration she got from her recent trip to India. An illustrator gets an idea for a set of clip art from reading a beautiful description of a flower garden in a novel and then taking a walk where she spots flowers she’s never seen before. A writer crafts a short story that mimics experiences from her childhood.

To come up with “unique” ideas on a regular basis, you need to fill up your creative tank consistently.

My challenge to you is simple. From now until my course on November 12th, I challenge you to spend 15 minutes a day filling up your creative tank: reading books, magazines and blog posts, watching movies, going to new places, listening to music, studying other artists’ work, etc.

Also, at least once a week, push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Read a book you wouldn’t normally read. Watch a movie outside of your normal genre. Go somewhere that you’ve never been. Read a magazine that you’ve never read before. Ask another creative to chat on Skype. Study a business that has no relation to your own. Read blog posts outside of your niche.

“You need to regularly seek experiences that will enlighten you, help you see the world in new ways, and open you to new ways of thinking.” –Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative 

If you do these two things, you’ll be exploding at the seams with new ideas that are unique to your niche—things that your customers and audience will be happily surprised by.

You’ll also be prepared to use my one-day course to turn your brand into something that is uniquely irresistible.

RSVP right here to watch the course live for FREE.

I would be incredibly appreciative if you’d help me spread the word, because I want to help as many creatives as possible turn their businesses from “Oh, that’s nice. I should remember to come back to this shop sometime” to “Wow. This is my new favorite shop! I want to buy everything, so I better get a second job.”

If you’re up for giving my course a shout out, here are a couple ‘click to tweets’ and a Facebook post:

Click to Tweet: Take your biz from “vanilla” to “uniquely irresistible” with @blacksburgbelle’s course. RSVP for FREE here: http://cr8.lv/aprilunique

Click to Tweet: Make your creative business uniquely irresistible with @blacksburgbelle’s @creativelive class. RSVP for FREE here: http://cr8.lv/aprilunique

Copy and Paste Facebook Post:

April from Blacksburg Belle is walking us through exactly how to take a creative business from “blah, way too vanilla” to “can’t get enough…here’s my credit card” in her CreativeLive course, Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible.

If you RSVP, you can watch the course live on November 12th from the comfort of your home in pajamas with a bucket of buttery popcorn and candy! And, you’ll get access to the accompanying workbook (which you definitely want to get your hands on) as soon as it’s available. All for FREE just by RSVPing right here: http://cr8.lv/aprilunique

Comments { 23 }

Smoothie Experiment: Week 1

This month I’ve challenged myself to drink a smoothie each day in order to see how it will impact my health.

Every smoothie is made from super healthy, organic ingredients and most include superfoods such as maqui powder, camu powder, acai powder, goji berries, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. And, I’m not adding any sugar, honey or other sweeteners to them.

Most of the smoothie recipes come from Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris and a few are recipes that I’ve come up with because I know that I’ll love the taste.

Before the month began, I ordered $125 worth of superfoods. And, I started drinking smoothies every other day for a week before the beginning of September to get my body used to the superfoods. I didn’t want to flood my body with stuff it wasn’t used to because that could make me sick and do the opposite of what I’m hoping to accomplish from this experiment.

Some days, I recorded some video and others I took pictures. If you want daily updates, follow me on Instagram!

Day 1 (September 1st):

I had the raspberry peach smoothie from Superfood Smoothies and according to the book, it’s supposed to help with heart health and bone strength. The superfood in this one was chia seeds. It was extra tart but after the first few sips, it was easier on my palate. Overall, I enjoyed it and I’ll definitely make it again. I started out this month really hopeful.

Day 2:

I had a lot more energy than I normally do. I have no idea whether the superfood smoothies were starting to help or what.

I made the peaches and cream smoothie from Superfood Smoothies and that one specifically helps with immunity and heart health. The superfoods in it were chia seeds and goji berries. I had to choke this one down, not because it tasted bad but because it looked like vomit. I’m a visual eater and when something looks disgusting, I have a very hard time eating it. I only got about half of it down before I had to stop.

Day 3:

Because I was feeling super nauseous, I made up my own smoothie. I knew that I’d like it and I didn’t want to make something that would just increase my nausea. Ingredients: frozen strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, banana, cashew milk, maqui powder. It was delicious!

Day 4:

I fell asleep in the afternoon after my call with Bryan (my content producer) from creativeLIVE. The detailed outline for my courses is done and locked! Oh yeah! I had planned on having a smoothie that afternoon as a snack but I didn’t get up, so I didn’t have one this day. Sad.

Day 5:

Again, I had a lot more energy than I normally do which is really exciting to me. One of the medications that I’m taking has made me anemic so my energy level has plummeted in the past month. Maybe these superfoods are increasing my energy? I hope so.

I made up my own recipe again: frozen blueberries, frozen banana, coconut milk, coconut ice (it’s just frozen coconut water) and camu powder. The frozen banana added some extra creaminess. It was yummy. I’ll definitely be making that one again.

See ya back here next week for another update!

Comments { 27 }

Celebrating the Anniversary of Blacksburg Belle: ‘Whipped Cream in the Face’ Game

You guys…it’s the four year anniversary of Blacksburg Belle! Yay!

First, I wanna say THANK YOU.

It’s because of you that I get to do work that I truly love. If you’re new or if you’ve been with me since the beginning (or somewhere in between), I appreciate you so very much. Every comment, email, tweet, like, share…they all mean everything to me. YOU have changed my life by being apart of my Blacksburg Belle world. Without you, this would still just be a dream.

To celebrate and have a little fun, I asked my husband if he’d play a game with me. He agreed.

It goes a little something like this: I came up with 10 questions related to Blacksburg Belle. I asked him each question and for every wrong answer, he got a plate of whipped soy cream in his face. Doesn’t that sound like the most awesome way to celebrate the anniversary of my business? I thought so. Watch below to see how he does:

Thanks for watching and continually supporting me. You’re the BEST.

If you want to make this anniversary extra special for me, I do have a favor to ask of you:

I’m teaching two new courses at creativeLIVE this November! They go together but they also work separately and I’m so crazy excited. I’m working on them day in and day out to make them the best they can possibly be. The titles are: Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep (November 10th and 11th) and Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible (November 12th).

I’d love for you to: 1) RSVP for the courses if you’re interested in joining me for FREE while it airs live. RSVP for Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep here and RSVP for Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible here. If you RSVP, you will get access to the workbooks for the courses for free as soon as they are complete. 2) Help me spread the word about my upcoming courses. Simply click on one of the tweets below to share on Twitter and/or share on Facebook. I would be soooooooo very grateful cause I’ve set a goal to have double the amount of live viewers this time around. I want to help as many creatives who need to earn more money as possible.

Click to Tweet: Get FREE access to @blacksburgbelle’s course Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep by RSVPing here: http://cr8.lv/aprilsellsleep

Click to Tweet: Get FREE access to @blacksburgbelle’s course Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible by RSVPing here: http://cr8.lv/aprilunique

P.S. If you’d like to be in the studio audience for my courses, fill out this submission form cause it’s FREE to be in the studio audience. Even if you don’t live in San Francisco (or the surrounding area), I can guarantee it’s worth the cost of the trip. You get a ton of individual attention and you get to meet others who have similar goals. You never know…you might just meet your next best friend and learn how to generate a lot more revenue for your business.

Comments { 62 }

What Affects My Business the Most and How I’m Changing It


Many of you know that I’m chronically ill. What I have, I’m not so sure. Neither are the fifty billion doctors I’ve seen all over the freaking country.

It started a little under five years ago, a week before my wedding, when I was hospitalized for a staph infection.

The doctors told my soon-to-be husband that “he should prepare himself” because I probably wouldn’t be leaving the hospital. They advised me to cancel my wedding.

I didn’t. Seven days later I walked down the aisle and married the love of my life.

The crazy-pants antibiotics that made me vomit around the clock cured the staph infection. Yay!

I thought everything was fine. Fast forward to a year later and I was seriously ill. Like ‘want to claw my throat out’ and have to take painkillers every day kinda ill.

I saw a handful of doctors who all said the same thing: get your tonsils removed.

Done. The surgeon who removed my tonsils said that my symptoms (flu-like stuff, daily fevers, severe fatigue, throat ulcers) would most likely go away.

A couple days after getting my tonsils removed, I developed pneumonia. And, it lingered worse than your Aunt’s horrible perfume after she hugs you. For five months, I had to sleep sitting up or I wouldn’t be able to sleep cause I’d cough the entire time.

Everyone was shocked when my symptoms that were supposedly gonna disappear after I got my tonsils removed didn’t.

That started the doctor to doctor shuffle. Johns Hopkins, Wake Forest, UVA plus over fifteen local doctors. Ear, nose and throat specialists, oral dermatologists, rheumatologists, infectious disease specialists, immunology specialists and more.

Everyone wanted to do invasive testing (which I did) but no one wanted to try anything to actually treat my symptoms. Every doctor I went to basically said, “I’m stumped.”

Finally, I found a doctor who wanted to try things to alleviate my symptoms. I’m currently taking medicine that has made me anemic. Before that I tried other medications that made me violently sick to my stomach.

And, at my latest university visit, I was tested for leukemia and lymphoma because “you’ve been tested for every infectious disease and your symptoms almost always fall into one of two categories: infectious disease or cancer.”

I was told this four days before my thirty-second birthday this July.

For a week while the tests were being sent to the Mayo Clinic, my entire family was freaked out. My husband had nightmares of visiting my grave. My mom was in denial. My mother-in-law cried with me.

Cancer. No one had ever mentioned cancer seriously before. One of my doctors was concerned that I might have throat cancer but he did this horrible test where he shoved a scope/light down my nose into my throat to check for anything cancer-like and didn’t find anything. It hurt like a bitch.

Thankfully, the tests revealed that I didn’t have leukemia or lymphoma.

Phew! At that point, I thought I could handle anything. As long as it wasn’t one of those very scary diseases, I could do this.

But being sick for years has worn me down. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. And, I’m so sick of being sick.

Fevers, fatigue, constant nausea, throat and stomach ulcers, severe muscle and joint pain, and more super fun symptoms have taken over my life.

It’s so true that you don’t appreciate your health until you lose it. I would do practically anything for one week of feeling healthy cause that hasn’t happened in years. Can you imagine? I know some of you who are chronically ill can.

Anyways, I’ll get to the point of today’s post.

I’m done being carted from doctor to doctor. I’m done putting all of my hopes and wishes into my next doctor’s appointment.

I can’t tell you how many times my husband or I have said, “This doctor is going to be the one. He/she is going to know what this is and he’s going to have a plan on how to combat it.”

Then I usually leave the appointment sobbing because we traveled for hours to meet with a doctor who doesn’t have a clue what to do and paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for it.

In the past five years, I’ve accumulated more than $30,000 in medical bills. And, I have health insurance! That’s insane.

When I went to Wake Forest, I met with a specialist for about an hour and then received a medical bill for $1,968.25. What the what? You’re kidding right?

I don’t really care about the money. I mean, I do when I feel like you haven’t done anything to help me and then you charge me more than what I pay to live in my house each month. But, if a doctor actually helped me, I wouldn’t care. I’d pay whatever it took.

Being disappointed over and over and over and over sucks. It’s worse than spending thousands of dollars.

So, I’m taking my health into my own hands.

I’m not going to stop seeing my doctors or taking my medications just yet, but I’m also not going to keep relying on them to figure this crap out. I’ve seen the best of the best and they don’t know what to do besides fill me with painkillers.

When my husband and I traveled to UVA in July, we decided that if that doctor didn’t have any ideas, we needed to start taking action on our own. Meaning we needed to start experimenting with holistic, more natural methods.

Don’t get me wrong. I have tried other things besides medication. I’ve done acupuncture, meditation and seen a chiropractor for months. I got myofascial therapy for months. I eat almost all organic. I’ve completely cut gluten from my diet. But, there are lots of other things I could do: eat even better, do daily yoga, try reflexology, get weekly massages, try acupuncture with a different person, get serious about meditation, try tapping. I haven’t tried it all.

So, I’ve decided to try something semi-new or completely new each month over the next year and document it to see how it makes me feel. Monthly health experiments if you will.


Because I truly believe that food is medicine, the first thing I’m going to do is focus on nutrition and improving the nutrients I put into my body each day.

I ordered a bunch of books on nutrition but the one I’m focusing on this month is Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris.

I ordered acai berry powder, spirulina, camu berry powder, goji berries and such. And each day in September, I’m going to consume a smoothie from this cookbook, either replacing a meal or having it for a snack.

I only eat one or two meals a day most days because I’m nauseous all the time. It’s hard to eat when every mouthful of food feels like it’s gonna come back up. I’m hoping that by adding these smoothies to my daily food intake, I’ll get more nutrients and eat at least three times a day. That’s gotta help things a little bit, right?


I’m hopeful. We shall see.

I thought about keeping all of this to myself, because Blacksburg Belle is about helping creative entrepreneurs build successful businesses. But, when I announced that I was struggling with my health a while ago, I was inundated with emails and comments from others who are suffering from chronic illness or constant sluggishness or unhealthiness.

Your health FOR SURE impacts your business. I know it impacts mine. When I’m feeling better, I do better work and get more done.

If you want to follow along, I’m going to post updates weekly or twice monthly (depending on how much I have to share) via written posts and videos. I won’t be posting these on Wednesdays cause I want to stick to business-related stuff on Wednesdays after this post. I’m thinking Fridays.

I won’t be sending out emails about these posts, so if you want to know when these posts get published, make sure that you’re subscribed via Bloglovin or whatever blog reader you use.

Also, I’m going to update my Instagram account every day during the month of September with a photo of that day’s smoothie along with how much I like it and how it makes me feel. If you want daily updates, follow me on Instagram.

And, lastly, if you want to get healthier, I hope that you join me for some of these challenges. Maybe try healthy smoothies for breakfast for a week next month just to see how it makes you feel? Maybe it’ll increase your energy, make your skin glow, help you drop a pound or two, or just make you feel a tad bit better.

You can look for my next update and how I feel after my first five days of smoothies on Friday, September 5th. I hope to “see” you then, in the comments of course!

I’m planning as I go, so if you have done something that has vastly improved your health, let me know about it!

Has daily meditation changed your life or helped your pain management? Has acupuncture cured you? Has yoga given you more energy and increased your happiness? I might just make a monthly experiment out of it.

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