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Travel Inspiration for the Creative Entrepreneur: Asheville, North Carolina

Love Asheville, NC

Every destination has a story. Exploring new places, discovering their stories, and bringing the inspiration back to breathe new life into my design and painting is key to my work — especially so I can help other destinations uncover their brand. Welcome to Travel Inspiration!

In this Travel Inspiration edition, I explore Asheville, North Carolina. I had the privilege of heading south to Asheville in March for a business retreat with Christine Kane.

There’s no other way to say it: from the time you grab a taxi driven by an aspiring poet to the musicians serenading walkers on the street, the authentic spirit and artistic essence of Asheville is simply palpable. With the addition of the Blue Ridge Mountains setting a beautiful backdrop, Asheville has easily become one of my favorite places to visit as a graphic designer and painter.

What’s more: Asheville has owned its inspiring culture through its bold but warm brand and the experiences to be had there.

Experiences + brands that impress

In a place surrounded by so much beauty and truly fantastic people, it’s tough not to find inspiration at every turn. Here are four experiences — and brands — that truly left a mark on me:

Asheville’s Salt Cave

After two days of adrenaline-rushing, mind-racing, idea-flowing business coaching, my body and mind were craving a place of relaxation.

My fellow retreat attendee recommended the Asheville Salt Caves. For her, just one hour in the cave felt like four days of vacation at the ocean. For me, my short time spent there allowed me a relaxing experience and renewal in a deep meditative state. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a solo business owner, it’s that full-immersion work on your business is critical to moving forward, but self-care through release and renewal are just as important. It’s all about balance.

The Salt Cave experience has stuck with me even as we conquer the lion that spring came in as in the Finger Lakes. The people behind the Salt Cave know its benefits — the environment’s healing, restorative properties — and have communicated that through its whole brand, from design to packaging and through its services.

Herbiary

An herbal apothecary and natural remedy store (doesn’t that just sound amazing?), Herbiary simply does it right. Owned by a strong and powerful friend, Maia Toll, the store carries hundreds of medicinal herbs, essential oils, teas, tinctures, flower essences, and body care products.

Maia is honest and transparent when it comes to her practice. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers — but she is dedicated to learning and sharing as much as possible. Her humility and passion shine through her brand loud and clear, from her website to the packages she offers.

In case you’re wondering, I left with an essential oil called “Mental Clarity.” I keep it by my computer to turn to on days when I simply need a burst of energy.

The Black Bird restaurant

Art and music are unmistakably a huge part of Asheville culture, but its food deserves the same pedestal. Just one of the many memorable restaurants we ate at was The Black Bird.

The menu focuses on local: seasonal bests from local farmers and fresh catches from the coasts of the Carolinas. But not only was the food amazing, the ambiance — the environment created — was truly inspiring. Particularly notable for me was the wall sculpture of blackbirds soaring. Extending your brand to your interior design as a brick-and-mortar place of business is a dimension and opportunity not to be forgotten. It truly brings the experience full circle.

French Broad Chocolates

Guilty: I cannot go to Asheville without stopping at French Broad Chocolates. (Let’s just say chocolate is essential to release, renewal, and mental clarity, as well!)

You’ll notice something quick about French Broad Chocolates: there’s always a line out the door for its hot chocolate, cakes, brownies, and chocolate boxes to go. That’s for a good reason. Not only does the shop do chocolate and baking right, but it creates a true experience around its brand with its chocolate “lounge” and “bean-to-bar” factory. Its story emanates through the ambiance, packaging, and service.

Let travel inspire you

A destination encompasses so much. Its brand is determined by its people, its natural environment, its created experiences, and so much more. Every place has a story. Asheville owns its story as a place for creatives looking for inspiration, restoration, and a nurturing culture. For me, the inspiration found in Asheville will fuel my creativity as long as I can recall the memories made.

Where have you been lately that’s inspired you, in life or business? Share with me below!

Next up in Travel Inspiration: I’m headed to Santa Monica, California! It’s been nearly a year since my last trip to Santa Monica, but the inspiration has remained. I look forward to it being renewed, and sharing that story with you.

Solo Business Camaraderie: Upleveling With Others

Uplevel With Others

Being an entrepreneur running a solo business is an amazing feeling. Knowing you can build a business, consistently delight clients, and provide for your family really makes you appreciate your everyday work. I am forever grateful that I branched out on my own to start Harris Studios over 15 years ago.

That being said, sometimes the going gets tough — and you crave the camaraderie of coworkers or the accountability and mentorship of a coach as you grow in your business. For me, that point came two years ago, when I made a decision that would completely change the path of my business.

Joining a mastermind

Flashback to 2013. I’d been in business for over a decade, but was considering a major move: from rented office space to my home office. With this move came the need for more business structure, accountability and strategy.

At just the right moment, I revisited Christine Kane’s blog, a blog I had been reading for years after being drawn to her authenticity and mission: “a mentor to people who are changing the world.”

Color me inspired. I ended up taking two of her online classes, then committed to her Gold Mastermind program. That was two years ago.

Business growth that connects me to my purpose

In the time since I joined the mastermind, a lot has changed here at Harris Studios.

– I’ve moved to my home office (one of my best decisions yet!).

– I gained clarity on my goals for upleveling my graphic design business.

– I redesigned my website and restructured my design packages.

– I made room for travel and painting — two of my greatest passions.

All of this has led to me landing more of my ideal clients — a game changer when you’re running your own business. By clarifying my purpose — helping businesses uplevel their brands so they can better serve the world — and intertwining that with my passions — nature, travel, and art — I’ve positioned myself to only work on things that truly light me up.

I couldn’t have done all of this without taking the leap to surround myself with others. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to celebrate this fact while on a Gold Mastermind retreat in Asheville in March.

Surrounding yourself with those you can learn from

When I joined the Gold Mastermind, I gained even more than a solid business path and ideal client base. I have also been fortunate to become part of an inspiring group of heart-centered women from all over the world, striving to make their full potential a reality in their business. These women know that the best way to live is to build a business around doing what you love and serving others in the best way you know possible.

To be surrounded by people who understand your core and your purpose is an exceptional feeling — especially as an entrepreneur. Here are just a few of the ladies who serve as constant inspiration for me:

Kim Bushmore-Maki is the president and founder of Shakti in the Mountains — a community center for women offering classes, therapy, and retreats. I admire her depth, inner strength and courage. I know that Kim is just getting started in changing the world and I am so excited to see her continue to grow, and to grow alongside her.

Jen Rinehart Blumenthal provides spiritual tools + intuitive guidance for women. She’s currently helping me explore some super cool, deeper sides of myself: my intuition, chakras, and a deeper understanding of the metaphysical.

Michelle Knox is a fellow graphic designer and visual brand stylist at Lone Red Design. She and I are moving forward in a similar fashion with our businesses and she serves as such an inspiration to me. She’s got a big heart (and gives big hugs)! I love seeing her creativity just flow.

When you open yourself up to growth and surround yourself with the right people, the transformation you see in yourself can be absolutely amazing. Surrounding myself with these women has not only amplified my business beyond what I could have imagined, but it has deeply inspired me in my everyday life, as well.

Who serves as inspiration in your life? How can you surround yourself with support that helps you + your business grow?