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Devote yourself to your community around you & devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose & meaning." Mitch Albom Handlettered print by Emily Poe-Crawford of Em Dash Paper

 Image by the super-talented Emily of Em Dash Paper for our Community Art Print project

Dearest friends, this is the fifth July 1st that I’ve sat down to write for OMHG – a full 1460 days of community goodness requires some serious cupcakes and confetti. This year was a huge one so I’m going back in time to the day I wrote my very first post and collecting some of the moments that shaped my life since I first pressed publish into one neat nutshell. While this post is all about my biggest personal milestones, throughout July we’ll also be featuring some of the greatest hits in the archives and our fabulous contributors and members who make this community what it is while we gear up for something truly awesome. Read through to the end for a big announcement about what is coming next for our community and how you can be involved!

Ready to get in the time machine with me? 

July 1 2010: I buy OMHG, a blog for handmade children’s makers + retailers from Sara Tams on a gut feeling & send my first post out into the blogosphere. I’m 26-Ila is 5.5 and Sela is 15 months!

July-October 2010: I start blogging every night after the girls are asleep and I’ve finished client work. Everything is so low tech, contributors email their contributions to me and I schedule them on a paper editorial calendar-I am ridiculously happy learning WordPress and connecting with lovely creative people all over the world. I decide to start doing monthly themes for OMHG (smartest decision ever!).

October 2010: OMHG is named one of the top 5 handmade design blogs by Babble. I’m getting lots of advertising + brand inquiries and begin selling sidebar ads and sponsored posts to small businesses. My background in activism and design (I volunteered with Adbusters when they worked out of a house in West Vancouver!) makes me hesitant to work with big brands so I stay true to our handmade focus.

December 2010: Giveaways are a huge thing for blogs at this time and I start wondering about the ethics of them. I get this crazy idea to run a huge handmade giveaway with two gift baskets-one to be given to a reader and the other to a nominated project/charity. So many amazing people participate-I meet Marisa Edghill of Omiyage & Isa Maria Seminega who have both been so important to the growth of this community! I become interested in Twitter and write a monthly Twitter Ten post highlighting a few of the 800 followers I’ve connected with.

January 2011: I decide to focus on OMHG as a business & let go of making my own handmade products.  I write about my thoughts on the ethics of giveaway and my experience with our holiday gift baskets, I realize that the internet is more then a tool to connect – it is a door to creating community. I also learn that I can openly talk about ethics and people are really interested in having deeper conversations around what it means to create an ethical handmade life.

February 2011: Inspired by all the connections I am making on Twitter we have our first OMHG chat! 

March 2011: This is a huge defining month! I host our first Ethics theme + official #OMHG chat and everything changes, we are becoming a community unafraid to talk about the icky, sticky parts of creative living. I write a post on guidelines for giveaways that sparks a huge conversation in the comments and on social media then follow it up with my thoughts on Copycats + Copyright and how we can keep our handmade community safe. I also write about the ethics of discounts, the new economy and and paying more for more which sparks a collaboration between Zoe Rooney and I. So many posts on the internet are telling you to “find your voice” I’ve always known right where mine was but am confident in sharing it for the first time in years. I write:

“When everything can change in an instant isn’t it vital that we live each day striving to be the very best version of ourselves? I hope that in times of crisis when all is in chaos we can be guided by our decency, integrity and kindness- because it is ours and can never be taken away. Whether the earth shakes or nations clash we are defined by how we treat each other. Let’s make it a loving world, filled with compassion and respect.” from Living the Good Life

April 2011: Twitter and OMHG become best friends-I can credit 140 characters with changing my life, launching this business & making me a more joyful creative.

May-June 2011: With all these conversations being sparked by posts that dig a bit deeper and getting shared around the internet so many new connections are made, with my focus on diversity we slowly become one of the more eclectic sites for creatives. We start having weekly #OMHG chats! Our contributors double, we are working more collaboratively on post content, and I bring more of my community development background here. In May I publish 60 Ways to Build Community & How to Really Love Motherhood  which remain the top #2 posts I am emailed about reaching everyone from small town pastors to inner city activists! Zoe & I start Worthsy-my first experience with collaborating on a crazy idea sparked on Twitter (it doesn’t work out but I learn so much about collaboration + make a new dear friend!).

July 2011: We celebrate a full year of OMHG goodness and I launch my first e-book Cultivate Your Creativity!

August 2011: I have to deal with my first business conflict-it sucks but I have the most incredible community to get feedback and share solutions with.

September 2011: This work has my heart and I’m in it for the long haul-this lets me make firm decisions about community over profit and defining my own success (hint: it includes you). OMHG starts becoming a gathering place for makers + creatives of all kinds.

November 2011: Ila is struggling in public school and I’m struggling with what kind of parent I am growing into-it’s a time of difficult questions and decisions. In the end I homeschool Ila, parent Sela full time & run OMHG daily!

December 2011: OMHG collaborates with Aeolida & others to host a huge entrepreneur giveaway with entries from amazing creatives all over the world & help 3 people take their business to a whole other level with community support!

January 2012: I combine my love of connecting resources with questions our community keeps asking & the Guide to Businessy Goodness is born! I make the mistake of investing 200 hours into the guide and only charging $2 for the guide because I want it to be accessible-I later change it to a pay what you want model & set the price at $15 when that is the price the majority feel it is worth. The Guide goes on to sell over 5000 copies and be mentioned in Mollie Makes & Uppercase Magazine. When I first started using the term “businessy goodness” Google came back with no results-now there are thousands of mentions online!

February 2012: Chris & I decide to leap into love with Lunenburg & start planning to sell our Halifax home.

March 2012: We host our second Ethics theme, I’m invited to speak at Spark Retreat in New Mexico, & decide to step into my own success (this definition changes!).

May 2012: I get my first passport & fly to New Mexico and meet the brilliant, brave & beautiful women at Spark Retreat. Meeting Jenelle, Dyana, Amy, Deanna, Tania, and all the other new friends taught me that the connections we make online are just as real offline, except there are hugs! Jenelle and Dyana become two of my dearest, most trusted sisters-I can’t imagine my life without them. I also start connecting with friends like Colleen and Darice who will help steer OMHG towards what it becomes.

June 2012: Etsy invites me to come to their HQ in Brooklyn for training and I get to meet two of my early online friends Joy & Zoe + the incomparable Amy Turn Sharp!

July 2012: It’s my second OMHG birthday & life is just awesome!

August-September 2012: We sell our house, put all our stuff in storage & move to a rental in Lunenburg – chasing a dream of having a creative community to raise our girls in and put down roots. I learn some important lessons about slowing down and savouring every sweet + salty second. 

October 2012: I start a huge branding project with Lela of Lucky Break Consulting while planning the OMHG rebrand + new community site with Aeolidia. I’m invited to speak at Altitude Summit in Salt Lake City and have never been so busy in all my life. OMHG starts hosting new ways to connect + support like our Community Critique posts.

December 2012: Chris & I get engaged! My mom emails 30 of my online friends to organize a celebration of letters + packages for my 30th birthday, it is the most beautiful experience of my entire life and also bittersweet since at the same time since my mom was struggling more and more with her mental health. My heart breaks open with the realization that online friends are also family. 

January 2013: I’m getting ready to go to Altitude Summit and am thinking a lot about comparing my insides to other people’s outsides & my philosophy of starting with one. Attending Alt, but mostly spending my time with friends like Arianne of Aeolidia taught me connection is the only thing that I truly value, everything else is just decor. I also learned that being truthful is the only thing I needed to exceed my own expectations and started imagining an event that celebrated community over consumption which would become our Maker’s Retreat.

Abundance makes me feel rich and able to share what I have while affluence makes me feel small and competitive. The moments of connection I felt with the beautiful people gathered at the event made me feel abundant. Wearing the gifts that were sent to me with love from this community made me feel rich beyond measure. Looking around at all the displays of wealth and status made me feel like there was something wrong with me for being upset by it instead of excited. It seemed like there was so much invested in dressing up the outside of the event that the real value of bringing so many creative people together was lost. Imagine if all that collective wealth had been focused on creating an event that fed back into the local community? Boutique hotels! Food sourced locally! Parties themed around connecting people with the resources they need! Collaborative art projects! Keynotes that reflect the diversity of our online space! Projects to collaborate on and send out into the world! Scheduled casual time where we meet and play! So much of the best kind of goodness was missed while we were being dazzled.” from Exceeding Expectations: My Alt Summit Experience

February 2013: I launch a 10 day community financing campaign to support the new OMHG site & it is a huge success! We get the keys to our little pink house on the top of the hill in Lunenburg & launch the rebranded OMHG while working away on the Marketplace + member community. #OMHG has been meeting weekly for 3 years.

March 2013: It’s our 3rd ethics theme! 

April 2013: We launch the Oh My! Marketplace & the Guide to Businessy Goodness grows up into a full directory of curated services + supplies for creative entrepreneurs.

May 1 2013: The doors open to our new Oh My! members community & we start moving in-this is the beginning of truly becoming a community that supports each other through the ups and downs of daily life as a creative. We hit the ground running- planning collaborative projects + products and launching each others great ideas like the Lumberjack Attack!

June-August 2013: We host our first Camp OMHG theme & spend a summer exploring together, it’s my 3rd OMHG birthday! I consult with Playful Learning and create a world tour blogging adventure bringing together global playful parents while helping Lucky Break create a massive buyer’s packet service. At the same time I’m dealing with some really heavy stuff with my mom and having a hard time balancing everything, it feels like a storm is coming after years of smooth sailing.

September 2013:  After a hard summer I ask for help from our community, pull out of all my speaking engagements & officially announce that I’m not available for travel. I batten down the hatches and get ready for the storm while finding so much comfort in community and stories like this.

October-December 2013: OMHG is quieter, the forums are still full of goodness, we launch our community letterpress project started back in May + are working quietly on Maker Mail, things slow down as I wait + watch. I read this poem over and over again…

“This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.”

― John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

January 2014: It’s the coldest winter in decades and I finally get the call I’ve been waiting for-my mom is in the ICU fighting for her life. I race to the hospital to be with her, having no other family I can really turn to I lean on my OMHG community hard. I learn about the power of friendship and how to be weak, strength is easy in comparison. Every day is a fight to not let doubt scrape clean my heart, to remember that the bitter weather will pass and the pastures of promise will bloom again.

February-March 2014: It’s our 4th ethics theme! My mom makes it out of the hospital but is homeless-I start Houseraiser to advocate for her and learn some powerfully hard lessons about the difference between starting a cheerful creative movement and social action. While at my least confident and most exhausted I announce OMHG’s biggest adventure yet-a collaboratively led 2014 Maker’s Retreat, have a 5 page article featured in Uppercase Magazine, and am interviewed by Michelle Ward.

April 2014: After months of trying to get support and housing for my mom we manage to find her a temporary place to recover. I back off of advocacy and Houseraiser to give us both space and time to heal + decide if I can continue leading OMHG and bring us back from our slow down. I post my crazy ideas for turning our community into a cooperative and working together as a leadership team in the forums and no one tells me I’m tooo crazy so I make it official.

May 2014: Our forums turn 1 year old! We have a wildly awesome Annual General Party that renews my enthusiasm, love and passion for all things #OMHGforever, our survey of the creative community gives so much insight into how we can improve and how much work needs to be done to recover from a year of lying low to the wall. Brilliant leaders step up to help build a cooperative board and truly make OMHG a group effort. My mama is doing really well and I’m beyond proud of her working so hard to regain her mental health. I’m invited to join a gathering of social entrepreneurs at Hollyhock in July and say yes.

June 2014: Our member teams and interim board of directors start meeting in the forums and planning our cooperative, lots of great suggestions + ideas start getting traction and I connect with Communifire, a powerful social intranet platform about working together to give our community the technical foundation it needs to grow. Maker Mail is our first entirely community led project with my taking a back seat-it is a sold out success!

July 1 2014: It’s my 4th OMHG birthday! I’m 31, Ila is almost 10, Sela is 5 and starting school in September-my nearly ten years of juggling entrepreneurship with full time parenting is over at the end of this summer.

The future: This month I head to one of my favourite places on earth-Cortes Island, BC for a ten day trip to attend the Hollyhock Summer Gathering and make connections for our community while taking some time for myself in my happy place after one of the most challenging years yet. The big reason I am going is to work on our October Maker’s Retreat, the first OMHG collaborative event that I’ve been talking about since March! We are gathering up to 80 creative leaders and makers for a week of peer led community, collaboration & creativity – this is the biggest adventure our community has taken me on yet and I sure hope you are registered and will be joining us to craft this event together.

I saved the very best news for last, today I’m announcing our partnership with Communifire!

We’ll be working with them to take the awesomeness of our member community to the next level this year. With our own way-better-than-Facebook groups and activity streams, private + group chats, file sharing, member profiles and so many other amazing (and stable) features we’ll be better able to support makers & creative entrepreneurs and grow our community. Over the next couple of months our forums will be moving into our new digs and with the tech side of our collaboration covered we’ll be seriously buckling down to build the first online cooperative for creatives!

To celebrate 4 years of goodness I’m offering a special birthday bundle to new members for a rapid-fire introduction to our community.  Become an annual member of the Oh My! community or Oh My! Marketplace before the end of July and receive:

Current members check the forums for a special thank you code + offer!

 BECOME AN OMHG MEMBER | JOIN OUR MARKETPLACE

Thank you, thank you, thank you to every single one of you who has helped build OMHG and filled my life with awesome-whether you’ve been here from the beginning, popped in and out, or just found us. Your wonderful submissions, encouraging messages, endless creativity, and willingness to collaborate has meant more than you can possibly know. This post misses lots of important moments and friends, it would be book length otherwise, but know each of you has made an impression on me and helped shape this community. From ridiculous highs to some pretty dark lows the last four years have been an unforgettable trip that has filled my life with friends and opportunities while teaching me so very much. I love you all and the best is yet to come!

Next week I’ll post some of the important lessons learned from these 1400+ days of OMHG but for now I’d love you to share your Oh My! stories-have you made a great friend, learned something about yourself, found an amazing opportunity, or grown your business because of our community? Let’s have an old school party in the comments, as always I’ll bring the cupcakes!  

Jessika Hepburn

about the author

Jessika Hepburn has written 528 posts on Oh My! Handmade Goodness. A cheerful activist and community matchmaker I delight in using my connection superpowers to bring makers and entrepreneurs together in ways that lift us all up. I believe in cooperation over competition, relentless good cheer as an act of rebellion, and the power of using our hands to craft a brilliant future. OMHG is part social enterprise, part grand experiment, and all goodness-so pull up a chair or pitch in a hand to join in creating our supportive community!
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  • http://stitchingrules.com/ Debra Verrall

    Jessika that is an amazing story and you have achieved amazing things over this time!!
    I remember hearing about OMHG a few years ago but only joined the community a few months ago and have loved every minute.
    Looking forward to the new adventures to come!!

  • janelleha

    I feel like I’ve stepped into something very special. Thank you for sharing your functional whirlwind Jessika.

  • http://www.print-therapy.com Melissa Wert

    <3 <3 <3 so much love for you friend. This "behind-the-scenes-it's-not-always-smiles-and-cupcakes" view is beautifully honest. Thank you for sharing!

  • http://pauseli.us/ Darice

    Four years into one blog post and you didn’t leave out any of the juicy details. You weren’t kidding when you said Twitter changed you; 140 characters ain’t got nothin’ on this! ;-)

    An inspiration as always, Jess. Thank you for creating a true gathering place for creative souls…it’s on honor to be a part of it. <3

  • Lisa Jacobs

    Dear Jessika, I’ve spent an hour here this morning!

    I love your timeline and all the growth + evolution it holds within. It’s published at a time when I’m feeling in awe of how quickly I’ve gone from acquaintanceship to a sense of kinship with you!

    You remind me of an interview I watched between Oprah and Maya Angelou when they were discussing Maya’s “Letter to My Daughter” (Maya never had her own biological daughter.) Oprah said (paraphrased): “That book was written to me, because I feel that I am your daughter. But, I came to find out that every other woman in your life feels the same way; that they each feel that they are your daughters, too.”

    That’s exactly what you do for friendship + community. I feel such a special friendship with you; I went from hardly knowing you to working with you every day. I know that I am loved + appreciated + supported here, and I feel that we are kindred spirits. In your community, I came to find that everyone feels as equally loved + adored.

    That, my dear friend, is the marking of a worthy leader. I feel such pride as I read over your tribulations and triumphs above. Congratulations on all your hard work, the evolution of your life + business, your focus on what really matters, and your growing community. It is well-deserved and deeply appreciated. xoxoxo

  • aftcra

    Loved this message and how thrilling it was to read your timeline. It’s so exciting to see your growth and much-deserved success. We are so excited for the Communifire transition and can’t wait to continue to support the OMHG community and team. Great work, Jess!

  • Marisa

    Happiest of OMHG birthdays to you! May this community continue to blossom and grow while supporting creatives of all kinds. Thank you for creating this space for us all! xo

  • April Heather Art

    Happy Birthday to OMHG!!! Dearest Jessika-so happy for you!! AND I’m so happy to be a part of this nourishing community of creatives. The safe haven you’ve envisioned & created is a true blessing! Big Hugs and here’s to 4 more outstanding goal-shattering years!!

  • http://www.totallydesignshop.com/ Anne

    Jessika, I’m in awe of the beautiful way you’re always able to share from your heart and feel beyond grateful to be a part of the OMHG community. I LOVED what you said about the connections we make online being just as real offline. I feel such genuine friendship from you and this community. I’ve only been a member a few months, but the time I’ve spent here with you has truly been life-changing. I’m a happier, better person with many new, true friends and a wonderful online home here at OMHG. Love and hugs to you and OMHG! Happy 4th birthday!

  • Rebecca Nash

    Wow, wow, WOW!
    I’m not sure what else to say. I was just introduced to OMHG recently by Ms. Kari Chapin and this is the first post I’ve had the pleasure of reading in this space. What a doozy!

    It’s amazing to hear about the experiences you’ve had and how OMHG has grown and changed over the years as well as where you’re going next. I’m doing some serious soul searching at the moment to figure out the trajectory of my own creative business with it’s two very different branches (wedding photography services and fine art photographs selling prints and creating exhibitions). For now I’ll be watching from the sidelines as I find my own path but I truly admire all you have accomplished and your goals for the future and hope to be part of the OMHG community soon and for many years to come!
    All the best!

  • http://shrimpsaladcircus.com Lindsay . Shrimp Salad Circus

    Congratulations on an amazing four years, Jessika!!!

  • http://aeolidia.com/ Arianne Foulks

    I am late to the party, but hooray! Thanks for all that you do, Jess, and I’ve consistently been honored to be by your side as you do it. Here’s to more businessmaking, familymaking, adventuremaking, moneymaking, and, of course, merrymaking in the future!

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