faith-fueled business

My Favorite Non-Business Books that Have Impacted My Business

My Favorite Non-Business Books that Have Impacted My Business | Lemon and the Sea: I'm sharing some of my favorite books that have impacted what I do and why I do it in my business.

When I was in high school, I spent hours every week in the library. Most of the year, I had swim practice after school, but there was about an hour between when school let out and when I had to get to the locker room. So everyday, I would grab my book bag, and walk down to the public library, and read by myself for an hour before I had to jump into the pool.

If you've spent any time with me, you probably now that I love to read. I carry a book (or now my Kindle) with me everywhere I go in case I can find a few minutes to read a few pages of a good book. My favorite part of my job as a lifeguard was that I was able to read on rainy or cold days. And the thing I miss most about having a regular 9-to-5 job is the time I had to read during lunch or at the end of every day.

Now that I'm running Lemon and the Sea, I have less time to read (I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work), but it's still one of my favorite activities. Books inspire and refresh me more than anything else because I can get lost in someone else's world and learn about my own.

Why I don't Love Business Books

When I first started Lemon and the Sea, I would read every business book that someone recommended. And they taught me a lot. But over time, I realized that I was consuming so much information and filling my entire day with business - I had no time to relax and step away from the hustle. So I decided to intentionally stop reading business books except on very rare occasions and then only a little at a time.

Because reading is so impactful for me, I'm better when I read for escape and pleasure instead of education. Sure, business books have there place, but when you're always thinking about your business the way I am, it's nice to get away from it every evening.

What I've learned from my intentional step away from business books is that my business is impacted just as much by non-business books - the stories, lessons, and characters all have something to teach me.

Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite non-business books that have impacted my life and business, as well as what I learned from each.

The Magnolia Story

by Chip and Joanna Gaines

If you haven't read this book yet and you're a fan of Fixer Upper, I highly recommend it. I love watching Chip and Joanna interact on their show because they're so real (plus I love the open floor plans and white kitchens), but it's easy to think that they have it all together all the time. This book gets into their story and how God has lead them to where they are now.

I was reminded of so many lessons I've learned in my own business and encouraged to know that I'm not alone in the sometimes messy, sometimes scary, always a blessing journey of being an entrepreneur.

Find it here.

Hissy Fit

by Mary Kay Andrews

This book is why I decided to pursue architecture and spend my time "abroad" in Charleston instead of traveling to Italy or Spain. It's also where my love of refinishing furniture and interior design was solidified. These are some of the lessons the book taught me:

  • do something you  love, even if it doesn't make sense
  • find people you can depend on
  • historical architecture and antiques are awesome!

Find it here.

Just Listen

by Sarah Dessen

This was one of my favorites in high school and I've shared it with my sister a few times as well. Sarah Dessen really knows who to write stories that relate to what every teenager is experiencing and capture some amazing life lessons.

This book didn't have as much of a direct impact on my business, but it did teach me the importance of getting to know someone's story before jumping to conclusions. As I work with clients in all different industries, I love hearing their stories and how they got to where they are now, because each is unique.

Find it here.

Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

Yes, I'm aware that this book is a little controversial now, but I still enjoy it. My mom gave me this book to read sometime in middle or high school and I've read it at least 5 times since (I had to buy her a new copy because I read the one she had so many times it fell apart).

What I love about Gone with the Wind isn't so much the circumstances as the characters. Scarlett's story has taught me a lot over time (and I've gone from really disliking her to admiring her and back a few times).

  • You can do hard things when you have to care for the people around you
  • There is value in the place and family you came from
  • Taking care of yourself isn't always going to look the way people want it to, and that's okay
  • Don't be afraid to pursue the things you're good at

Find it here.


by Catherine Marshall

I recently read this book again after years of seeing it sitting on the shelf and it spoke to me in so many ways. Christy's story isn't something I can directly relate to (I'm not teaching children in the food in the midst of illness and feuds), but it served to remind me that while God's plans don't always make sense, but they are worth following and that God will provide in amazing ways if we simply ask.

Find it here.

Of course, every book and every story has something to teach us, so this doesn't nearly cover all of my favorite books. These are a few others that I return to over and over:

Tell me: what are your favorite books that have impacted your business?

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

How Lemon and the Sea Got It's Name

How Lemon and the Sea Got It's Name | Lemon and the Sea: The story behind the name Lemon and the Sea

Almost every time I mention the name of my business - Lemon and the Sea - the other person asks me what it means. This happened when I had my first freelance client start writing checks (yes, they still do that) to the business instead of to me, when I registered my LLC, when I opened my business bank account (and found out that the only other company with the name Lemon in the state of Virginia made cookies), and all the time at coffee chats and networking events.

I don't have a big story or grand meaning behind the name - no grandmother that it's named after or childhood business that I played make believe too - so usually I give a generic answer.

"It just came to me."

"I like the way the two words don't seem to make sense, but still fit together so well."

And those things aren't untrue, they just aren't the whole story.

My First Business Name

In 2013, after I graduated from Clemson and was still hoping to find an architecture internship, I decided to create my own portfolio website and name it [SAM]designs. I even still have the html files saved on my external hard drive. Sam is my nickname and my initials, so I thought it was the perfect name that would allow me to share all kinds of design - from my architecture work to the side projects I was doing since I graduated,

I was all set to launch that website, but when I went to buy the domain (my very first), [SAM]designs and all it's variations were taken. I knew enough then to know that I couldn't have the same name as someone else, so I made a simple website on Wix, launched it, and kept working as a administrative assistant.

How Lemon and the Sea Really Got It's Name

Then in 2014, because I was always reading blogs and doing DIY projects for our apartment, I decided to start a blog (my second - the first had one post about my review of Romeo and Juliet). I loved the idea of creating a little extra income by sharing my projects online and hoped that I could share our journey through unemployment (I clearly had no idea how making money from blogging worked).

As I was laying in bed thinking about all the projects I could share, the name Lemon and the Sea popped into my head. I honestly have no idea why those words or that timing, but as I kept thinking about creating that blog, I couldn't get the name out of my head.

God had given me this name and I knew that I had to use it. I started with a logo - I sketched out the lemon and wave design, chose colors I loved, and kept playing with it until I loved it. It was the most difficult thing I had ever designed in Adobe Illustrator up to that point, but I created a logo I loved and that fit me.

From DIY Blog to Business

Once I had a logo design, I decided to jump in with both feet and actually purchase a domain and start posting through Wordpress. My first blog post was about some how I had painted candle holders as Christmas gifts.

At the time, I didn't have much to post because I was living in Pennsylvania working and searching for a job so that I could join my husband in Richmond. 

Eventually, after six months of living apart, I decided that it was time to join Jay even though I didn't have a job yet. Instead, I started freelancing for the company I had just left and starting researching how to make money online. In a small apartment with no room for a workshop, I knew I couldn't keep up a DIY blog, but I started sharing all kinds of posts - recipes, design, home decor.

Over time, I learned - from webinars, reading other blogs, and trying things out - how I could turn my little blog into a real business by offering graphic design services. In the summer of 2015 (right before I left for a week long vacation with my family), I got my first inquiry from someone who was interested in a logo design.

That one didn't work out, but I was hooked. I knew that I could turn my skills and passion for helping other people build businesses that supported them into something that could support my family and that I would be excited to spend time on every day.

And the rest, as they say, is history

Just kidding. Running my own business is a constant experiment. I'm learning how to market my services, how I can best serve the people I want to work with, and refining my skills in design and administration.

But the name Lemon and the Sea has kept my going through it all because I know that God gave me the name for a reason  and that He's still at work in my business and my life. That's why I haven't considered changing the name or giving up when things get tough - I know Lemon and the Sea has great things to accomplish.

How did you name your business?

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

5 Ways to Give Back in Your Business

5 Ways to Give Back in Your Business | Lemon and the Sea

As the holiday season is in full swing, many people are thinking of ways that they can give back. If you're like me, you want to do more than simply drop your change into the red bucket outside the store - you want to make a difference year-round through your business.

Not sure where to start? Here are some ways that you can give back:

Donate to a Cause

One easy way to give back is to donate to a cause that means something to you. You can do this as a percentage of your income or as a set amount each month. All you have to do is find an organization that supports the cause you're passionate about and find out how you can donate to it.


Not every opportunity to give back will involve your specific skills - and that's okay. Volunteering in your community is always a great way to give back, even if you only have a few hours a month.

Use Your Leverage to Fundraise

If you have a dedicated social media following or email list, share with them about the causes and organizations you're passionate about. People want to know what matters to you and your leverage may just make others aware of an issue they want to donate to as well.

Offer a Scholarship

If you feel like you can't give money, but you want to help people who would like to hire you, offer a scholarship. This can be a few spots in your course or program or it can be a service you give to them.

Donate Your Skills

You have a unique set of skills that lots of organizations can use. Find out how you can put your knowledge and expertise to work for something you're passionate about.

do it the right way

Before donating your time or money to any cause or organization, make sure you're doing it the right way.

  • Know that you have something to give, even if it doesn't seem like much.
  • Always research the organization before donating - you want to know that your money will go where they say it does and not into someone's pocket.
  • Do what brings you joy. Give because you want to, not because it looks good or because someone else does.
  • If you're worried about giving too much, set boundaries. This is especially helpful if you're taking on projects pro bono. You can set a certain number of hours that you'll donate or give a detailed list of what you can provide.
  • Find your own way. Just because most people donate a percentage of their income or set aside a certain number of hours per month to volunteer, doesn't mean you have to do the same. Find a way that works for your life and business.

How Lemon and the Sea Gives Back

So you may be wondering how I give back through Lemon and the Sea - I know I'm always interested in what others are doing and what causes pull at their hearts.

Giving consistently hasn't always been a part of my business model, but I'm making it a point to give more in 2017. Here are a few ways I've given back in the past:

  • I've donated my design skills to non-profits to help them promote events and raise funds.
  • I've given extra income to causes that I'm passionate about.
  • I've volunteered my skills and my time for organizations I believe in, including Creative Marketplace RVA.

Moving forward, I'm taking what I've loved about each of these and creating a plan to do more with the time and money that I have to give.

  • 5% of my income from client projects will go to Hope for Justice, an organization that works to end human trafficking by rescuing victims and helping them build new lives.
  • I'm going to take on one pro bono project per quarter for a non-profit. Right now, that project is for RhythmXpress, a group a dancers who will be performing in the Special Olympics in 2017.
  • I'll also continue volunteering at events around the community and in my church, giving my skills and my time to serve in the way  that is needed most.

How do you give back?

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

My Biggest Business Mistakes & Why I Don't Regret Them

My Biggest Business Mistakes (and why I don't regret them) | Lemon and the Sea

When starting something new, we all make mistakes. In fact, I believe that one of the best ways to learn something is to try, mess up, and try again. This holds true in relationships - I've learned never to tell my husband "we need to talk" unless I want him to freak out - hobbies - always check to make sure you have the ingredients before cooking - and in business.

But I also believe that regretting mistakes isn't worthy of your time. Instead, you have to learn from them, improve, and move on, something I've had to do many times in my business.

So what are some of my biggest business mistakes?

1. Buying a course before I knew what I wanted to do.

Why It Was a Mistake: I had no idea what I wanted to do and I was desperate to find a way to make money online the easiest way possible.

When I first started Lemon and the Sea, I thought that I wanted to create a DIY blog and make money through ads and sponsors. So I bought a course to teach me exactly how to do that. Now, the course itself isn't to blame for being a mistake - I shouldn't have invested in it until I knew that I wanted to do that long term.

It wasn't until a few months later that I discovered that I was actually passionate about helping other creatives build brands and websites that would help them create a business that they loved (and that I didn't have enough DIY ideas to make a blog work). And now I can better invest in courses and programs that benefit me because I know my goals and my business.

Why I Don't Regret It: Even though I spent money on this course and didn't end up using it in the long-term, it was my first introduction into running an online business. I was able to get behind the scenes of someone else's journey and learn that their business plan wasn't for me.

2. Offering A La Carte services to everyone.

Why It Was a Mistake: I thought that by working with anyone who was willing to pay me would help me build my business, but it just made it harder for me to find what I do best.

My first client - who I am forever grateful for - was also the first time I compromised on my packages and it's been difficult to get back to sticking to how I work best. She came to me for branding, but we ended up only working on a logo design because of her budget. While that was fine at the time, it set me up to believe that I wouldn't be able to sell larger packages because people couldn't afford them.

That meant that every time I quoted a project, I would second guess every detail and talk myself into charging less even though I knew my services were valuable.

Why I Don't Regret It: By taking on A La Carte projects, I was able to work with a variety of clients and learn who I worked best with and how I could best serve them.

3. Setting up a 50% deposit, 50% at completion payment plan.

Why It Was a Mistake: I wasn't able to bring in a steady income and my clients weren't held responsible for delays.

For designers, it's standard to require 50% of a project quote for a deposit and then invoice for the remainder before delivering final files to a client. That's what I had seen from everyone at the time I started Lemon and the Sea and it was what I set up as well.

But I found out pretty quickly that invoicing that way makes it really difficult for me to have a steady income because my payments are tied to delivering on a project, not on the time I put in. Basically, by charging only 50% up front and then doing all the work before getting paid again, I run the risk of doing 90% of the work and then having a client refuse to pay.

Charging this way also means that when a project is delayed because a client isn't able to meet their deadlines, I lose out on money I expected to have.

Why I Don't Regret It: I've learned a better way that benefits both me and my clients and I've made that a part of my packages so I can have a consistent income and my clients get the most for their money.

4. Listening to everyone online for advice.

Why It Was a Mistake: I lost my voice in all the noise and forgot that I have a unique point of view.

When I first started working from home, I had no idea what it meant to run an online business, so I filled up on advice from everyone. I watched every webinar, read every blog post, and followed all the advice I could find.

But I was so filled up with noise that I forgot that I had something unique to bring to the table - a mission and a way of doing business that no one else had. I felt like an impostor because I wasn't doing as well as other people and I didn't have the experience everyone else did. And I truly believed that in order to succeed online, I had to create a business that looked like one that I was watching.

Why I Don't Regret It: I learned a lot from all those blogs and webinars and I've also found that my own way is the best one for me.

5. Thinking that investing would be a silver bullet.

Why It Was a Mistake: I assumed that by investing in programs and people, my business would take off without me having to do the work.

After that first course, I was hesitant to invest again, but eventually I did. I was selective in who I hired and what I consumed, but I also believed that simply by putting my money into something, I would see an immediate return.

Of course, that didn't happen. No program or person can make your business grow except you - and that takes time.

Why I Don't Regret It: I enjoyed every investment I made and created some great connections, all while learning that I had to put in the work and rely on God's provision and timing to see growth in my business.

A few things I'm glad I did early

Now that you know the mistakes I made, I thought I'd share some of the smart decisions I made early in my business that have set me up for success.

  • Setting up my LLC and getting a business bank account
  • Keeping detailed records of purchases and income
  • Engaging in Facebook groups and Twitter chats to build relationships
  • Finding a group of local creatives that I can connect with

No matter what mistakes you've made, you can always adjust and change for the future. And hopefully you've made enough good decisions so that you're set up for success even when something doesn't go the way you expected.

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

How to Build a Faith-Fueled Business

How to Build a Faith-Fueled Business | Lemon and the Sea

I have to admit, I haven't always had a business fueled by faith. Instead, I was filling up on newsletters, webinars, and to-do lists. I let comparison take over my dreams and I gave in to fear - fear that I wasn't good enough, that God didn't really have a plan for me, that no one needed my gifts.

I was afraid to let God have full control in my business because I wasn't sure if I would like where He led me - and following God's plan was totally against what everyone else was doing.

But after wrestling with God (something I still do today), I remembered His faithfulness and His promises. After all, this isn't my business, it's God and He's just given it to me to run for this season. I'm learning to trust His timing and provision, even when I'm freaking out because bills are due and I don't have clients coming in.

In the end, I want my business to do more than just make money - I want it to be used by God in big ways.

What is a faith-fueled business?

If you aren't familiar with the term "faith-fueled business" (there's only one other place online that talks about it that way), there can be some confusion.

  • It is not necessarily a business that sells products and services about faith. Sure, the Christian bookstore down the street may be faith-fueled, but your business can have nothing to do with Christianity and God and still be lead by God.
  • It is a business that is run according to Biblical principles, created to be of service to others, and led by God (because it's really His anyway).

I've  found that so many creative entrepreneurs are building faith-fueled business without even knowing it because they're simply making God and their faith a part of what they do and why they do it.

Integrating Faith and Business

When you first start a business, you may not think about making faith a part of your plan. If you're like me and you got caught up in all the hype about "all the things", don't worry. It's never to late to make faith a part of your business.

There are a few ways that you can integrate faith and business depending on your market, your industry, and your comfort level.

Behind the Scenes

  • Make prayer a part of your business plan and daily practice.
  • Tithe on what you make from your business.
  • Create business systems that are focused on your values.
  • Focus on building a genuine community that you can support.
  • Make great customer service a part of your business.
  • Treat everyone well - even those who will never pay you.
  • Don't complain or talk badly about people online or in public - it will always reflect badly on you.
  • Allow God to lead you in business decisions.
  • Prioritize the things God values most - relationships.

Up Front

  • Mention your faith on your website (your About Page is a good place to start).
  • Write blog posts about how God has impacted your business.
  • Create collaborations with other faith-fueled business owners.
  • Become a member of groups that support your beliefs.
  • Offer services that integrate faith.

Whether you're open about your faith or not (or if you go back and forth), start by making the Fruit of the Spirit the cornerstone of how you do business. Having love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are always going to have a positive impact on your business - especially when you're interacting with others.

Being Fueled by Faith is a Journey

Building a faith-fueled business isn't easy. You may get negative feedback from people who don't agree with you. You'll definitely feel like a fraud sometimes. You'll wonder if it's even worth it. You'll question what God's doing and where He's taking you.

But it's worth it.

When you surrender your business to God, He can and will use it in amazing ways that you get to be a part of. He can do so much more than you could ever imagine and He'll take you places you never expected. And He'll be there every step of the way.

So when you're feeling lost or defeated, remember that God has given you this business for a reason (and know that Satan fights harder the closer you are to where God wants you to be).

How are you making faith a part of your business?

Comment below or shoot me an email - I love hearing all about your journey and how God is using you.

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.