As someone who deeply values reflection, it’s always such a powerful exercise that gets my Enneagram 3 self all up in my feels. (Not to mention, it’s the best way to hold yourself accountable and see how your goals + priorities have (or haven’t) changed over the years.
By all means, this year came with its fair share of challenges, but I genuinely couldn’t feel more supported by this online creative community, by our clients, by our industry partners, by our team, or by our peers.
Honestly, it’s the people and the relationships that make running a business so worthwhile for me.
Truthfully, this year feels like a whirlwind – beyond what I’ve felt before. Not only did we create our second course (Vine to Voice) and live launch it multiple times, we reworked our first course (The Copy House) and opened it up for the second cohort of members, dropped other new digital products in the CU Shop, started a podcast with my husband while taking off for a cross-country road trip, served our highest number of clients to date as a micro-agency, completely refreshed our branding and website, hosted a fall course + shop sale, and so much more in between.
Before I give you the inside scoop – by the numbers – I’ll start off with a few challenges.
Aside from all of that and plenty more behind-the-scenes, there were so many highlights, it legitimately took me forever to compile this recap. #notcomplaining
Shall we skip to the good part?
Through zero paid advertising or paid promotion – just a lot of investments in people, branding, and the tools & systems that make it all go ’round – we saw ~54% top-line growth year to year.
I honestly dislike sharing any sort of revenue figure because it seems to be such a hot (or taboo) topic in our industry. It’s so hard to know what anyone’s revenue numbers legitimately mean without seeing a hard P&L and Balance Sheet. (And does it really matter what anyone else’s numbers are anyway?)
But numbers do tell a story of their own without all the words I’d rather use to describe them. So I’m working on claiming and owning the collectively earned growth of the company regardless – and I look forward to it well-surpassing these benchmarks in 2022.
Including lots of launch-related emails and 12 editions of our Weekend Wine & Words newsletter. I love sending out this monthly email (and am also glad that we chose to switch it to monthly – instead of weekly – at the beginning of 2021. It allowed us to be completely consistent with it, even if it was being sent out a little less frequently.
I was wondering why I felt so spent come December. When I saw the number of 1:1 clients hit 46 on our Projects Tracker, I couldn’t believe it – or I guess I could – hence being wiped.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the micro-agency style business model we pivoted into early in the year. Which means, I got to work alongside a handful of talented team writers like Kelsey, Sara, Laura, Lauren, Caitlin, and Rachel. All of which I have so much love and appreciation for.
It’s an honor to look back on our 2021 roster of clients and see the talented, ambitious, and creative founders who trusted CU with their words.
On top of all the client projects, I did my fair share of domestic travel, although 83% of it took place during June & July.
I traveled to:
San Diego, CA
+ Our Roadtrip Stops
I still laugh in reflection of Connor and I’s road trip because I have no idea how it ended up being a tour de Midwest, when all we really wanted was to do the PNW and PCH. Oh right…we didn’t have much of a plan before setting out.
It basically ended up being a bunch of cities and hotel hopping, when we somehow thought we were going to be doing a lot more scenic things. I don’t regret it for a second and the whole thing was quite the experience. (Read also: I eventually just about ran out of airtime on my HotSpot. I didn’t even know that was possible, but I guess that’s what you get when you attempt to work for hours on end from the car? It certainly makes the time go by fast, but I don’t exactly recommend it.)
Including ones for:
Including those for:
I won’t lie to you – even as a copywriter, live launching is exhausting. It can take a lot out of you because there are so many moving parts and the energy you put into it really can affect the outcome. But it’s also incredibly fun to have something you’re so excited about sharing with your audience – and that you’ve been working so hard on for months. And strategically, it almost always makes the most sense.
I’m really looking forward to expanding the CU Edu arm of the business this year as we introduce a brand new educational offering and continue to invite new members into our existing ones. Lots to come as early as Q1 2022!
The first of which was with Arielle Levey and well-loved former CU team member, Kelsey, in San Diego. The goal of this one was predominantly to get images for promoting our course Vine to Voice. I absolutely loved shooting with them both and couldn’t have been happier with the final gallery. Arielle is just such a talented photographer and an awesome person to be around. It was so fun being amongst Arielle’s first clients to shoot in her new studio The Glow Loft and then also in/around one of my favorite boutique hotels.
It was through that shoot I realized how much I loved the deeper, slightly moodier, earthier, but still bright and editorial feel that ended up taking over the full brand (and not just Vine to Voice) later in the year.
The second was for our brand refresh…and just to re-up on content in general. I definitely feel like we end up needing new image assets every 6 months, if not every quarter.
This time we worked with a local photographer + filmmaker, Danielle Blevins of Pieces of 8 Collaborative, and headed up to Northern Virginia to shoot at a super cool Airbnb and nearby winery – RdV Vineyards. She was amazing in helping with location scouting and even gaining us access to RdV, which was closed to the public when we shot. We were able to get tons of content that took on a really laid-back, lifestyle feel with lots of grain and depth. We’d planned for the shoot to be an overnighter and so we all spent the night together eating Thai food, sipping Bread & Butter Cab, and snacking on a late-night cheese board.
This year also brought with it the addition of CU’s first official employee (besides myself of course haha). Hannah Malone joined the team in September as our Director of Operations & Hospitality. It’s been amazing being able to meet up on a weekly basis in an office setting to collaborate, be productive, grab lunch together, and really knock out a bunch of tasks.
Her role will continue to grow and expand in 2022, and I for one am so looking forward to that.
We also expect additional team growth and have really pared down to less team writers at the time being to focus on bandwidth management, offer restructuring, and quality over quantity. I’m super optimistic about all of that and feel like we’ll be able to truly find our groove together.
Our team also extends to other contractual (and seriously valued) partners like designers, an attorney, a bookkeeper + CPA, a CFO/CSO, and more – you know, all the essential experts.
My husband Connor and I started the Wine Stains podcast, somewhat on accident and totally on a whim. We only made it 5 episodes in until life + work got in the way, but I’m proud of us for putting ourselves out there and doing something different. Despite his endless sound checks (you did make it sound awesome CP!), we had a blast doing it together and who knows, maybe season 2 will appear in 2022.
Or maybe not? Because after naming it that, we proceeded to have no less than 7 epic wine spills…
Undoubtedly, the year is coming to a close on a high note and after a bit of a break over the holidays, my heart is SO full, and I’m eager to bring you the best, most helpful, and tremendously impactful CU yet.