This birthday is a big one for me. I remember on my last birthday - sitting and thinking about what year no. 26 may have in store for me - what type of success I would have with my still-fairly-new-business, what lay down the road for our first full year of marriage, the personal growth that I knew was bound to happen as a result and a part of both.

Looking back now, I really couldn't have even imagined what year no. 26 would turned out to be. Twenty six year old Emily learned the ins and outs of owning a business, dealt with the challenges of balancing fifteen plates in the air at once, discovered a strength and that fueled a sincere passion. I pushed myself outside my comfort zone numerous times. I reached out and connected with people in a real and authentic way. I learned how strong, yet imperfectly flawed I really am. I discovered the foundation of my own personal artistic style. I failed. I fell. I loved wildly. I made things happen. I made amazing friends. I learned how not to shrink to fit in a mold. I learned that I don't. fit. the. mold. And I learned that THAT is okay. And THAT is a story in itself.

This weekend, my parents are visiting us in Tampa to celebrate two birthdays - my Moms and mine. (Yes, I was my mama's birthday present - born at 2am the day after her birthday). My dad loves to pack a ginormous toolbag for a weekend full of restoration and repairs. This weekend was no different. Sprinkled between birthday dinners and lunches and cakes was a full ELP studio overhaul. A full blog post dedicated to this coming soon - but, let me just say - it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. New hardwood floors, three coats of paint, antique furniture, plenty of inspiration from Pottery Barn/Anthropologie/Apartment Therapy/Design Sponge, multiple trips to multiple decor shops and a few craigslist purchases are all included. Its a clean, creative, classic space and it is VERY ELP. I cannot wait to get back to work in this new space.

Tonight, we're celebrating my birthday with red wine, gourmet cheeses, grapes, bruschetta and my absolute favorite Keebler fudge stick cookies for dessert :) My dad even brought honey graham crackers and peanut butter for our favorite past time together.

On New Years, I always list my tactical goals for the year. But my birthday is different. I have this vision of what 27 year-old Emily will look like this year - genuine, comfortable, passionate, fearless, approachable and real. Having spent the first day of my twenty-seventh year with family, love from friends, good wine, good food, exploring, creating and laughing - I hope the rest of my year is filled with more of the same.


My life, the past few weeks/months, has been about making things happen. But more than anything lately, it’s been about making it happen. And so, on Friday, at around 3pm, I finally made it happen. I launched a website that I, and a handful of very talented, special people, have poured heart and soul into. Emily Ley Paper's new home isn’t just about a new website for ELP. Ask my rock star designer, Kendra, and she'll tell you the site you see now is ELP 3.0. We changed the overall aesthetic numerous times before my brand really began to take shape. And that happened right about the time I decided to commit myself to being true to my core.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone struggling with branding, with refining their style, with discovering "what they're all about" :: be yourself. Be yourself in your products, in your market segmentation, in your messaging, in your color palette, in your social media interaction. Use your photo. Use your name. Own your personality and run with it. Don’t try and mold your brand around one certain idea or a certain image you have in mind (likely someone else's "image"). For me, I've always been this funny oxymoron of a person. Yes, I'm sweet and Southern, but I'm a fireball of a businesswoman/thinker. Yes, I'm petite and quiet at times, but I have a huge, loud Southern personality. On that same note, while I do laugh at just about everything and find perfection in the details, I truly love organic, simple, clean, color-less, fuss-less design. I love the lack of color more than a bold hue. I love the feel of 100% cotton letterpressed paper more than a whimsical, ornate design. I’ll take mine plain.

So in defining my brand, I initially struggled with the duality of my personality. Until I realized, really by trial and error, that all those different aspects, even the ones I tried to deny and/or push down sometimes made me Emily Ley. When Kendra and I finally put my final brand together, it came from a constant inspiration board that I was continually updating, refining and adding to. Burlap, rich paper, neutral colors, timeless design and Southern, down-home details began to emerge as the key ingredients to Emily Ley Paper (at the time… named something else). And so, my patient designer took those emerging concepts, tones and qualities and shaped them into something I am so proud of and so truly believe in.

Now, as you build your own brand, bring together the images, words, phrases, concepts, theories, colors that represent you. You’ll find the many sides of your personality begin to take shape into something as strong and unique as you are.


Interestingly enough, I'd had on my heart for many weeks a desire to help others travel the branding journey that I did/am - to help them pull together and their personal brand and help them design their aesthetic around what they truly love in the form of an inspiration board, color pallete, dynamic logo in various forms, business cards, stationery and packaging, social media and web concepts. Two amazing people walked into my life at just that time. And I'm beginning to take on just a few design/branding clients to help them design their own personal brand - both figuratively and aesthetically. I cant tell you how quickly my heart beats when I think about being involved in this very important part of their journey with them. I've decided to limit myself to four design/branding clients at a time - so that I can devote enough time, energy and thoughtful guidance to each. If you're interested in talking with me about this full package or partial design/branding help, send me a note at

Introducing . . . EMILY LEY PAPER

I am beyond excited and unbelievably proud to introduce Emily Ley Paper.

A sincere extension of myself as a Southern gal with an affinity for clean, classic style, Emily Ley Paper is an online stationery boutique featuring letterpress paper goods with sweet, Southern charm. When I began this journey almost 15 months ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to contribute to one of the most important days in a girl's life: unprecedented quality and simple, fresh, feminine style - a timeless invitation that feels more like a gift than a note.

In some ways I feel like my journey has brought me right here, to this moment on February 19, 2010. But I know deep down in the quietest parts of my heart that this is something different - this is where Part II of my journey begins. I hope you enjoy my labor of love. This is just the beginning.

Visit the site here and become a fan on Facebook. Stay tuned for a new blog coming soon.

Happy Valentine's Day

Last night I worked until 6am. I made a huge decision about my wedding collection on Friday night and vowed not to sleep until I accomplished the change (details to come). It's crunch time to get this website launched and I want everything to be just right. I knew I was going to be a terrible, sleepy Valentine. But Bryan woke me up and told me to get dressed (I, of course, reached for the heels) and he said "no, no - put this on" (my favorite fuzzy green sweatshirt of course). He took me to Ella's - a great little spot close to us that we discovered with our friends Joey and McKay. I typically try to eat very healthy, but today - it was a waffle with Nutella and bananas and a Mimosa. Breakfast of champions.

I've been writing and thinking a lot lately about my arch of creativity, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and the "things" I love to surround myself with... this morning as we had a quiet little brunch to celebrate Valentine's day, I thought... "this is what its all about." I've told you how much I love to build -  a family, a home, a business, a brand - but how nice a feeling to know that something is already so whole, yet still growing so much. No building required. Bryan reminded me the other night after my emotional video post how much I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and don't realize it - by starting a business on my own, by moving 7 hours away from my family to be with him in South Florida, by challenging the status quo and reaching for something bigger by sharing my journey with others. He is right.

When my new blog launches, I'm planning a post about how we met, got engaged and became Mr. & Mrs. Ley. It's a great story. Let's just say, I had my eye on Mr. Ley long before we started dating. He's a charmer, what can I say.

So on this Valentines Day, I'm so thankful for the unending support and love from my sweet husband, who surprised me with peanut M&Ms (mmmm I know you want some, Jeff Holt) and a card with pop up hamsters.  Yea, that's Bryan. Right now, he's working on our letterpress. It fills my heart up so much to see him so excited about something I also love so much. Today I'm reminded that sometimes, that thing we search for so often - for inspiration, for support, for someone to push and challenge us - is right in front of our noses. So Happy Valentine's Day to my sweet family - whose support is so never ending; to my random and wholehearted husband who always makes me laugh and feel so loved, and to my friends who fill my heart and my days with so much joy.

3 Days in Hotlanta

My three days in Atlanta were SO much fun. I learned so very much about myself, got a chance to push myself outside my comfort zone and had the opportunity to meet some of the most genuine and inspiring people I've ever met. The people who were at MTH were so real, so authentic and so passionate. Listening to their stories inspired me to share even more of my own.

There's much to be said for writing your story or telling it out loud - it's almost as if you dont truly "own" your story until you share it. I find that as I remain dedicated to my promise of authenticity I learn so much about myself - about what I'm made of and the heart that Emily Ley Paper is built upon. Just like my invitation suites or my design work - my personality is strong, simple and extremely genuine. I've got a post brewing in my head about owning your personal brand. It's going to be a good one.

But for now, a few photos of one of the best weekends I've had in 2010. MTH was amazing and spending time with Lara, Jeff and Sandi was truly awesome. I realized this weekend that I need more creative, passionate, genuine, deep thinking, open people in my life. Because I treasure those friendship so much. On Tuesday, before we left for the airport, Lara, Jeff and I spent some time with Whitney and Jesse from Our Labor of Love. Listening to Whitney and Jesse share their stories (not to mention point out one of the cutest little restaurants I've been to in a long time) was inspiring. They're so original and real. Not to mention crazy talented.

Thanks to everyone at MTH Atlanta for inspiring and moving me. It was a brilliant weekend and stirred up some pretty big things in me. ELP is growing in some interesting ways and there's only so much more to come. The next post on this blog = Introducing Emily Ley Paper.

My Journey

This weekend was incredible. I learned more than I ever thought possible. Above all else, I pushed myself. I felt the fear. I did it anyways. So here goes . . . you're going to need a blanket and a POT of coffee for this one. 16 minutes.

My Arch of Creativity

The idea of living within your arch of creativity... Jeff Holt mentioned this idea in Watercolor at MTH. And its been on my mind a bit since then. Really, its been on my mind mostly because my studio needs a huge overhaul, but tonight as I sit in Atlanta and listen to the sound of clicking MAC keys and good music and share insightful conversations with Lara, Jeff and Sandi. I'm reminded that the idea of living within your arch of creativity is about so much more than surrounding yourself with beautiful things. Its about taking a holistic approach to your shaping your environment - and really surrounding yourself with people and things that inspire, empower and challenge you.

I'm in Atlanta for Making Things Happen tomorrow. I'm so honored to be a guest and to be able to share my story. Even more, I'm so honored to be able to hear and witness the stories of others. Its not that being around people who are just like me is comforting. That actually has very little to do with my arch of creativity. Instead, for the next two days, I get to be around people who make me THINK - who are engaging and outside-the-box-thinkers - who are sincere to their core. That. Sincerity. Is so valuable. And something I treasure so much.

I mentioned today that I love my sweet husband so dearly because he will call me out. When I am being ridiculous he will tell me. When he disagrees with me, he will tell me. He is my biggest supporter and fan, but when I need a little push, he's there. I love that "realness". He is a Lover, an Encourager and a Pusher. I'm learning that it is so important to surround yourself with different types of people. Granted, not all people are going to bring the same things to the table - and they shouldn't. This is just the world according to Emily, but I think you need a few of all of these types to not only allow growth but MAKE you grow as well.

The Lover
The Lover is the person who is going to love whatever you do no matter what. Your clay pot may be tipping over on one side and with a giant crack in the other - but the Lover just loves it. "Its artwork," they say. "People pay big money for 'vintage' pieces like this." (Vintage, really?) The Lover is the person to turn to when you need a boost - always good for the soul when you need the positivity, but perhaps not the best when you need an honest opinion.

The Educator
The Educator is the person who makes everything make sense. The person that is constantly learning and continually teaching in a way that is non-threatening - that is thought provoking. Think - professors in college who taught, yet encouraged you to explore your own curiosities and develop your own theories - who, even though they may not agree with your stand, encouraged you to TAKE one.

The Encourager
The Encourager is the person who reminds you the sun will come up again. This person always sees the glass half full and reminds you of your strengths when your weaknesses are all you can spot. The Encourager is great for those times that you need to be reminded why it is you do what you do in the first place. I've had these days and its okay to need this person. Remember to be there for the Encourager when the Encourager needs it in return. Sometimes we all need to be reminded how strong we are.

The Pusher
The Pusher is the person who pushes you to take that next step - to be bigger than you are in that moment. The Pusher sees your strengths but knows you have more left to give. This person sees that you've won a local competition and encourages you to enter a national competition next. The Pusher sees the potential you have and thinks outside the box. By doing so, they inspire you to grow in ways you may not have thought you could.

The Challenger
The Challenger is the person who pushes as hard as they can - sometimes this is consciously and sometimes not. This person may be your friend or colleague or it may be your direct competition. Regardless, this person challenges you directly. They are big and they challenge you to step up and be bigger. This person is great to have around when you need a kick in the pants. This person will fire you up so much that you HAVE to move forward.

Each of these people are important - and each have their special place in your life at the right time. You’ll have people who fall in between these definitions as well - those may even be the best. Overall, it is so important to surround yourself with an arch of creativity - not just with the art on your walls and the color of your paint, but with the people you allow close to you. These are the people who will influence your heart and in the long run - your brand.

I text messaged my husband when I was at dinner with Lara, Jeff and Sandi. I said "I feel so comfortable here” and he said "because you're around people who are like you and inspire you." So true. I grow so much when I surround myself with people who encourage growth within me – who push me to be bigger than I think I can be – who inspire me to think outside my typical realm of thinking – who challenge me to bring my A game every time.

Today I am making a promise to myself to expand my environment/my arch of creativity - beyond just the music I listen to while I work or the color of the walls of my studio - to the people I surround myself with as well - and not just those within my own inner circle, but those I admire and learn from - even at a distance - as well.

Becoming a Blogger

I've really loved writing my "tips" posts here and here- with step by step tips to "making things happen" and costs associated with each step. When I was first starting ELP, I had to demystify a lot of the mumbo jumbo I found on the internet myself. And even when I figured out HOW to make something happen - I had to figure out how much that process was going to COST me. When my new blog launches (shortly after my website launch next week) I'll unveil a couple of features you'll find here. I've really wanted my voice to come out organically on this blog so I've blogged a little of any and everything. I'm finding my most natural voice comes when I do just that - whatever is happening with me, with ELP, with life in general. But I definitely feel a real pull towards sharing my business journey, my experiences as a business owner (in a relatable "I've been there and I AM THERE" type of way).

So as I've been preparing for my website launch and working on the functionality I'd like my new blog to have, I thought I'd share a few tips on how to stake your claim in the blog world. Granted, this is something I'm right in the middle of - but a few tips nonetheless.

And the best part about this process? It can be FREE if you'd like it! Want to guess how much I spent on THIS blog? $0. (the soon-to-benew blog - not so free - but again, its all your choice!)

Step 1 :: Open a Blog account ($0)
Blogger and WordPress are the two biggest blogging platforms out there. Both offer free accounts, but WordPress has many more capabilities than Blogger. WordPress also offers a Premium Account that includes ad-free blogs, more storage and VideoPress for those really cool video bloggers out there.

Step 2 :: Point your domain to your blog ($0 - 10)
Cost here depends on whether or not you own the domain where you'd like your blog to be found. If you don't own the domain you'd like - purchase it at GoDaddy and point it to your blog. See here for Blogger instructions and here for WordPress. You either need a direct domain "" or a subdomain like "" - steer away from "" and "" - Thanks Lara & Jeff for pointing this one out!

Step 3a :: Make your blog PRETTY ($0+)
Mk, this can be free or costly. But in the beginning, find a good DIY blog design that you're comfortable with (even something simple... like all white, here). Check out Ellie at Rainy Day Templates ($), Ross at FloSites ($$) and my own designers, Kendra & Amanda at HiDesign ($$) for professionally designed blogs.

Step 3b :: Remove that Ugly Blogger NavBar ($0)
If you're using Blogger, get rid of that ugly Blogger bar at the top. Here's how.

Step 4 :: Make sure the right info is easily accessible ($0)
Make sure your (real) name, photo, email address, Twitter link and website (if you have one) are easily accessible on your blog.

Step 5 :: Add important widgets ($0)
Widgets like the "Etsy Shop" widget, link lists, biography, etc are very important to making your blog as comprehensive as possible. Remember your blog is a brand in itself and should represent you. Also think of adding advertising (coming soon here!) options to your blog as you begin to grow your readership.

Step 6 :: Read Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuck ($10)
Do this. I could talk forever about this book. Oh wait, I did! Follow his exercises. Have an open mind - and be ready to work hard. Gary writes about monetizing social media and exploring your passion as your life's work. A game changer.

Step 7 :: Write down 50 blog topics ($0)
Sounds hard, right? Try it. Sit down with a piece of paper (that coffee and blanket from the last two posts - grab 'em) and write down 50 topics. Even if they're all over the place, write them down. Watch as your themes emerge.

Step 8 :: Write (or RECORD!) ($0)
Write and write often. Use good photos and images (not like this one. I cant think "images" right now... too many product images...!) Connect with other bloggers through Twitter and through THEIR blogs. Bring value as a resource to other people. Explore different types of blogging - through written posts and video blogs. Find what makes you most comfortable.

Step 9 :: Watch your blog grow ($0)
Use Google Analytics to watch your blog's growth. Potential advertisers will want to know the traffic coming to your site. Dont be too crazy about watching this constantly - but watch overall trends in growth and decline. You'll find the obvious - readership grows as you blog often and drops as you have lulls in your posts. Find a happy medium here depending on your topics and goals for your blog.

Step 10 :: Evolve and grow ($0)
Let your voice emerge and develop. You'll find blog topics come naturally and writing them becomes second nature. Be open minded to the shape your blog begins to take. I initially started my blog to share ONLY my thoughts on Southern Lifestyle and weddings I adored. Granted, that will be part of the blog - as they're a deep rooted part of me - but not all of it. Business ownership and the triumphs and tragedies that are found along that road are becoming my passion to write about.

On that note - and this is just "the world according to Emily" - but I'm finding it so important to keep that same open mind with your business. ELP is growing from an online stationery boutique to include custom design services, branding services and this little blog - as a business resource.

Never close a door and take a peak down every side road as you continue your journey.

The World According to Emily :: Finding Focus

Easier said than done. My entire life, I have been an overachieving, energetic, Type-A. I dream really big and I love to stay really busy – even when that means “burning the candle at both ends.” One of my New Year’s resolutions was to take better care of MYSELF. I put so much energy into my family, my home, my business – that sometimes I forget about me. I like to think that I can live on 4 hours of sleep, Starbucks and cheerios. (I love Cheerios). Lately my life has been riddled with challenges – both personally and professionally. The kinds of challenges that can steal your attention and rattle your focus if you let them.

Even writing this post, I can think of fourteen things I need to be doing right now. I’m reminded of our first exercise at Lara Casey’s Making Things Happen intensive in Watercolor. “Write down everything in your brain right now. Get it out and on paper…”

. . . I’ll be back . . .

I just wrote down 24 things off the top of my head that I should get done today. Oh my. But I do feel somewhat clearer having everything written down and out of my brain space. As the ELP site preparation reaches MAX craziness and prepares for the big reveal in 4 days, I’ve got to find a way to maintain focus, to rid myself of this exhaustion that is slowly creeping up, and to remind myself that there is so little I can actually control. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (Psalm 90:14).

The word satisfy is something I so often do not relate to. I am so rarely truly satisfied. Happy? Absolutely. Grateful? All the time. But satisfied/finished/content? Hardly ever. But this little verse tells us to be satisfied. And for me, I am learning to find contentment in the places I’m not so crazily seeking it – but where it already lives. In my faith. In my big, hilarious, loving family. In my friends who sit and listen to me ramble about my journey, bring me hot pink diamond socks and lasagna when I’m under the weather. And in my sweet, sweet, wholehearted husband whose love is so big, so satisfying and so complete.

Photo courtesy of Meg Baisden Photography.