True pioneers are people with the courage, resilience and grit to follow their dreams into new territory. To 'stake a claim' a hundred years ago meant pioneers registered a land claim by marking new territory with stakes. Times have changed....
Our journey speaks to a deep desire for living a meaningful life, unbound from conventional rules, guided by our need to express who we really are – traits we both share. We call it a Trailblazer Life because the ideas and offerings we put out into the world have been shaped by our life experiences and our creativity.
This is how our business partnership began…
It was in 1999 that Erin graduated from high school with a Baccalaureate in Art and Design, a fulfillment of over a decade of experimenting with colour, design and various mediums. Jan was then concluding ten years of project contract work as a self-employed Career and Life Skills Coach in the career development field where she had been honing her writing, program development and facilitation skills.
Both of us creators – but we each expressed it in our own different way.
We felt overwhelmed, embarrassed, in disbelief at the amount of stock we still had, and pretty much like complete failures.
Two things we knew for sure – 1) We had a uniquely collaborative way of working together and 2) We both shared the feeling that in working together we had the drive and skills to do something BIG – even though we didn’t yet know what ‘it’ was.
So, with a basement full of boxes – we had to re-direct our efforts and creative energy. The cards would have to wait.
We shifted our focus to hand-painted logo designs, brand development and marketing collateral for women entrepreneurs. It didn’t bring in tons of money but we managed to stay afloat. We also began designing custom journal and notebook covers for businesses to use as promotional items. We especially enjoyed this since we kept a daily record of our business activities in various notebooks from the time we launched our business in 2000, and we truly believed in the power of pen-to-paper. A Trailblazer tracks her journey!
At the time our customers came to us mainly through word-of-mouth and from networking events we attended. It wasn’t a streamlined marketing strategy and it definitely needed improvement. In spite of this we felt creative, experienced some success, and were motivated to go further together in business. It was about this time that Erin went back to school for marketing.
We had many different income streams going. We responded to requests to facilitate art-based journaling workshops for youth, mainly teenage girls, as we contracted our services to a non-profit organization. During this phase we also developed journal kits and marketed them to the spa industry for a period of time.
In a way, it felt like throwing mud at a wall to see what would stick. We didn’t consciously realize we were shaping ourselves, honing our focus, and deepening our skills and knowledge base.
And by the way, we also began painting houses to keep the bills paid. We added in murals and decorative effects, but for the most part it wasn’t inspiring. It was hard work, but we were willing to do it in order to grow the kind of business we both believed we could have. We were driven to discover our best lives and stake a claim to it!
Over time we started to feel frustrated and our confidence began to dwindle. We couldn’t see any real progress towards our goals. We still believed we could be the co-owners of a successful creative-based business that utilized both our skills fully… and somehow make an impact in the world.
By now it was the Fall of 2010 and we were feeling lost, unfocused, fearful and desperate to have a clear direction and a product or service offering that made sense and felt like a fit.
Eleven years into our business, seasoned by experience, and no longer willing to carry on without a definite focus – we felt we needed to take a stand. So we did!
We went to a Starbucks in a local Chapters store to have a discussion about what we could do. It wasn’t a very uplifting conversation because we just didn’t know what the answer was. What we decided was to put all our efforts into one more shot at figuring out a clear business direction. It had to be something that excited both of us.
Deep within we still believed we had a chance to make it in the business world and do something impactful. Driven by a purpose we both shared – we owed it to ourselves to continue onward to discover something remarkable.
As we were leaving the Chapters store that afternoon we browsed through the magazine section. We came across a brand new magazine we had never seen before – ‘Where Women Create’. We could barely contain our excitement as we thumbed through it. Here was proof that other women were running and succeeding at creative-based businesses in the areas and environments that reflected their own unique styles and creative tastes and offerings.
It felt like a ray of hope shining down on us.
We were freaking elated!!
What we did next would become the beginning of a path that would lead us to our deepest desires…
That damn magazine had inspired us and we weren’t going to waste the infusion of energy we were feeling. Within a few days we bought a blank sketchbook. Our plan was to take a complete inventory of ourselves. We needed to see on paper, the full extent of who we were. This meant capturing and listing, both visually and with words, our skills, knowledge areas, interests, lifestyle preferences and what we most valued.
We were on fire! As we added page after page to our book, we could feel ourselves coming back to life. We were validating ourselves – to ourselves. No outside opinions were needed. We knew and acknowledged that we had developed some very unique skills and a distinct view of the kind of world we wanted to surround ourselves with.
Every time we opened our book we felt our original feelings of inspiration and excitement because we were seeing a part of us on those pages.
Our ‘book’ kind of looked like a scrapbook. It contained reflective writing like journaling. It gave a sense of intention like a vision board. And it contained research, ideas and brainstorming, that we later found was like the centuries old practise of the commonplace book. It truly was a combination and evolution of these other pen-to-paper activities. Who knew that a blank page could be so full of potential?
When we started this book we also stopped our former practise of daily business note taking because whatever ‘this’ was, it seemed to be taking on a life of its own that was moving us forward in actionable, real ways.
It was now a few months into 2011 and we were getting focused, developing a vision of where we wanted to move with our business and our future. We had a pretty clear view of what we brought to the table. We also began noticing that there was a pattern of activity that was repeating itself within the pages of our book. The pages appeared to be answering questions that we were unconsciously asking ourselves. We were so versed in asking our former clients these power questions, we didn’t recognize that we were using them with ourselves. This was fascinating to us and we knew that there was something here that was developing us, our business and our mindsets in ways that we had never experienced before. It was then that we decided to call our book a ‘Createbook’ because it was creating us in a new way. This process was POWERFUL, and we knew we had to share and teach it to other women so that they too could experience this kind of clarity, focus and results in their own lives.
In 2011 The Createbook Process™ was born. Our intention in starting our ‘Createbook’ was to discover a new business focus where we could utilize our greatest skills, as well as to develop a brand that reflected and expressed our unique style and way of seeing the world. This was where we could stake our claim!! Damn it felt good!
It would take a few years to fully bring the Createbook Process forward for others to use to discover and grow themselves forward. Many plot changes happened in our lives which in hindsight strengthened us and gave us more clarity about who we are and what we stand for and value most. Through The Createbook Process™ we have grown ourselves into fuller, more confident and competent versions of ourselves.
Our business, Prairie Girl Outpost, stands on a solid business foundation. Our Trailblazer Life brand encompasses what we most care about – helping other women stake their claim and become pioneers in their own life story. The Createbook Process™ continues to be our idea and self development tool and it guides us forward in fulfilling our greatest vision of what we and our business are becoming.
On our journey to the present we have learned our own value and worth as women. We have created something that can literally change lives as it has changed ours.
We are witnessing the power of our signature offering, The Createbook Process™ and how it is inspiring women to take bold, deliberate actions as they build their own Trailblazer Life. We revel in the growing movement of women who are crafting their ideas and themselves into their biggest visions. Supporting each other as they move forward, they are becoming a gathering of like-minded Trailblazing women who want to see each other succeed.
Never underestimate the power of a woman with a great idea, aligned with her authentic skills, and the belief that she can create the unseen.
If a determined woman can shake things up around her – what can YOU make of your life?
We invite you to learn more about The Createbook Process™ and experience a truly powerful way to bring ideas and your natural talents to life. Createbooking will inspire you and take you on a step-by-step journey of discovery as you craft your own remarkable life.
Curious how Createbooking can help you?
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