2018, in review - Kathleen Celmins

2018, in review

Brent and I met in April 2013. We got married in September 2014. At the end of both of those years, we said, “wow, what a year,” and honestly?

We’ve been doing some version of that every year since.

This year is no exception. Next year isn’t looking very boring either (looking at you, kid in mah belly!).

But if this personal blog exists for no other reason than to allow me to mark the passage of time in these types of reviews, it’ll be a good digital scrapbook.

So, here’s the list:

  • January: after spending ten days in Arizona, we decided to make the big decision to move our lives and our family closer to Brent’s side of the family (and sadly, away from mine, reminding ourselves yet again that every decision is a tradeoff). We also started talking about the possibility of kid #2.
  • February: we bought a house in Chandler, sight unseen, knowing we’d move to Arizona as soon as we could get our house sold in Portland. It was at this point that I gave notice to my partners at the podcast, and we arranged a buyout so I could start from scratch in every possible way once I arrived in Arizona.
  • March: we got our house ready to be put on the market, then my grandma died after living a very full life at the age of 89. She was the best. Had a sunny disposition, even though her life was uncomfortable and hard, especially at the end. As we were boarding the plane home from her funeral, we got a call from our realtor. Full-price offer. 30-day close. This was happening.
  • April: Packed up our house and left Portland. Sold my car. Gave away the entire contents of our pantry. Hired movers. Flew Clara down so she didn’t have to participate in the long drive with Stanley. Stopped by Crater Lake, which was majestic and beautiful. Met up with friends in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Saw the house for the first time (it’s a great house!).
  • May: After a lot more back-and-forth than we expected, we were able to move in with all our belongings. I went to a small conference arranged by two of my entrepreneur friends in upstate New York which would drastically influence the trajectory of my marketing company, KathleenCelmins.com, which I incorporated on May 4.
  • June: “How are you adjusting to the heat?” asked someone in Brent’s family on a day where the temperature was somewhere above 112. I replied, “HOW DO YOU POSSIBLY ADJUST TO THIS?” and that person chuckled. The answer, of course, was not well. I was not adjusting well. We flew to Nebraska, which was a speedy trip! Flights from the northwest to Nebraska take an entire day, but there’s a direct flight from a small airport in the Phoenix area to Grand Island, where my family lives. It took two hours. I couldn’t stop talking about it. Evidently, I still can’t.
  • July: Caitlin came to visit right around the 4th. We melted. I slept a lot, because I was now visibly pregnant with kid #2, and Caitlin got to hear the phrase, “it’s a dry heat” more than a few times. I joined the Chamber of Commerce in Chandler, and was starting to figure out what I wanted to offer (because marketing is a fairly broad term, it turns out). Clara and I met Caitlin in Nashville later in the month, and traveled to Crossville to visit Nana. I got a mentor through SCORE, which, now that I’m writing about it in December, was one of the pivotal decisions of my year. I have two mentors who are both 70 years old, and they are absolutely invested in my success. They give me leads, support, good ideas, and are really fun to talk to.
  • August: August was a real low point for me. The business was doing fine (not as busy as I’d wanted, but fine), but it was hot — so hot, like, how do people live here oh my goodness it is so hot — and I had no friends. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t related to Brent. I focused on networking in my spare time, which is never where I’m going to find a “bestie” since everyone goes to networking events with a different goal in mind. Brent asked what the difference was between August in Phoenix and February in Portland, and my answer was, “Ashley, and Amy.” Which was to say, he was right — it’s a similar level of misery weather-wise, but because I’m new here, and pregnant, and building a business from scratch, the thing I miss most is sending a text then being with a close friend within an hour. I’m not sorry to do all three things — make a baby, start a business, start over in a new location — at once, because I know that when I’m on the other side of things, I’ll see that it was better NOT to spread out these big decisions, but to lump them all into one event, but being in the middle of that was hard, and although I’m writing this post at the end of the year, it’s still raw, and I’m not quite on the other side, but I am getting there.
  • September: Ashley came to visit! She brought her youngest son, and came on a weekend where Brent was going to be gone anyway. It was so nice to have her. We didn’t do much, but she didn’t really come to see the sites. She can come back for that. We swam, we ate, we entertained the toddlers, and then they went home. It was over 100 the whole time they were here, and the day after they left, the weather started getting better, which was such a relief since I was starting to get bigger, and fast.
  • October: Hosted “fake Christmas” since I would be too pregnant to travel around the holidays. My aunt came with her husband to visit his daughter and her family, so they all came over for dinner. My dad and sister and brother-in-law came too. It was the best. We had so much fun. The AC broke, which meant that it was 85 in the house, but no one complained (to me) and we ate outside after my brother-in-law hung Christmas lights out there that lasted through dinner, but fell down the very next day. It was one of the highlights of my year, for sure.
  • November: Turned 37, then spent the better part of a week answering the question, “What does it look like to be a single mom?” while Brent was out of town playing board games. I had all kinds of plans, then both Clara and I got sick. I didn’t want to get anyone else sick, so it was just the two of us, snuggling on the couch, sleeping a lot, for a couple days. When Brent came home, I said, “I don’t mean to sound romantic, but we have to be together forever.” Single parents, my hat goes off to you. We also got life insurance this month, because yes, if one of us dies, it’ll suck, but at least we won’t have to worry about money.
  • December: Sent out the 12th edition of “Kathleen’s homemade Christmas,” which was well-received. Hosted Christmas Eve, which, in all honesty, was everything I wanted it to be. We made a casual meal of fried chicken + sides, had as much family and friends over as were available, then overwhelmed Clara with the present process. She’s 2.5, so this is her first year of knowing what Christmas is (although her perception is likely warped since we’ve had decorations up since mid-October, which won’t happen again!).

2018 in work

Throughout all of this, I refined my message, audience, and services for Dabble Media. I can feel the difference in my confidence level between May and December, and I no longer ask rhetorically, “Do people even need marketing?” because I know the answer (“yes,” which is good, because I’m building a marketing agency!).

We serve two audiences: internet entrepreneurs with digital products and brick-and-mortar businesses who aren’t leveraging the internet as much as they could.

The best decision I made regarding Dabble was hiring my first contract employee before knowing how I’d pay her. I knew that the fastest way to make money would be to charge a low hourly rate and freelance my face off, but I also knew that wasn’t a sustainable way for me to grow (not even in the short term, because what do I do when I have to take a bit of time off to have a baby?), so I hired Emma Bates early.

She’s awesome. We meet every Monday to talk about what needs to get done, and I’m always impressed with the quality of work she produces. She’s an asset and if you’re building your business alone, my #1 piece of advice is to stop doing that and work with someone who can help you. Because it’s much more than paying someone so you don’t have to do work you don’t want to do. It’s a mindset shift that says, “okay, this is how much work we can handle between the two of us, and if we start to scale beyond what we can handle, it’s simply a matter of finding another person who can grow with us” instead of trading hours for money.

I wrote a recap of my first six months over on my company’s blog.

Year-end gross revenue was just over $40,000, and while part of me hesitates to share that number, there’s a bigger part of me that wants to shout it from the rooftops.

My first invoice cleared mid-May, so this is eight months of earnings. This is huge for me, since I was building from nothing and have been refining my offerings along the way.

What do we offer? Glad you asked! 🙂

Entrepreneurs who work in the digital space and create courses, online memberships, ebooks, consultations, etc. hire us to build them marketing campaigns. Sales funnels, if you’re wondering about the jargon. We focus on copy that converts, then build pretty designs around those. We make sales pages, create slide decks for webinars, connect landing pages to emails, write emails that are designed specifically to convert, and we do it all fast.

We also help offline businesses get online — we make simple websites that are optimized for conversion. We gave Uno’s Car Wash a new look, plus added a coupon as an incentive for signing up for their mailing list. It worked so well that six people signed up for the mailing list in the first ten minutes of it being live (while Emma was still testing it!).

We’re also selling our toolkit — the series of templates and step-by-step processes that make our business run smoothly — to other people in the online space who don’t want to hire us to create their sales funnels but also don’t want to start from scratch. We haven’t focused as much on this as we could, simply because when we get a new client, they become our primary focus until we’re finished, but I’m excited to focus on it in 2019 and beyond.

The best things I’ve found in 2018

Here’s a handful of things that I’m happy to have found (either serendipitously or through hours of research) this year:

Favorite new food combo: coffee + peanut butter

Cold brew + peanut butter powder, specifically. I’m not a fan of diet food (ask anyone who knows me!), but I found the very best use of powdered peanut butter, and that’s mixing it with cold brew. The best coffee shop in my area calls it a “shaker” and their version is cold brew, almond milk, agave syrup, and peanut powder.

The version I make at home is a smoothie:

Cold brew


2-3 dates

Peanut powder

Yogurt, if I have it


It sounds like a weird combo, but even typing it out makes me want it again and again and again. Oh, hey, cold brew in December. Maybe I am starting to adjust to the desert!

Favorite new shoe line: Suavs

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Went to rake our leaves today… Look what we found!!

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I love these shoes so much that I bought a pair for Caitlin, then bought a pair for Brent! They’re SUPER comfortable, even when you go on long walks, they’re breathable, they’re machine washable, and they’re cute. I have a pair of slip ons, but would like to get a pair with laces once I can easily tie my own shoes again.

Favorite new skin care: Taui

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ab·surd·i·ty the quality or state of being ridiculous or wildly unreasonable. It is absurd that brands put unnecessary and potentially dangerous ingredients into products that we as consumers use on our body’s largest organ. Taui challenges absurdity. #tauibalm #egyptianbalm #rawbeeswaxskincare #organicoliveoil #propolis #honey #organicskincare #cleanbeauty #multitaskingbalm #nontoxicbeauty #nontoxicskincare #noadditives #oilbased #greenbeautyproducts #madeinportland #nofillers #portlander #welovebees #organicbalm #madebyhandportland #greenbeautyrevolution #locallymadeskincare #madeby4hands #oliveoilskincare #forthewholefamily #mindfulskincare #organicliving #allnatural #organiclifestyle #absurdity

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For the first time in my 12 years of “Kathleen’s homemade Christmas,” I added something I didn’t make myself. That’s how good this skin balm is. It’s dry here, and when it’s cold, the dryness becomes more evident, and Taui seems to work miracles. It’s beeswax and olive oil, and it’s made by one of my close friends and her dad in Portland, Oregon. Her name is also Emma, so if you know of someone named Emma, I’ll probably like her too. 🙂 It’s not only super high-quality, it’s an ethical company in an industry where ethics, since not mandated by law, aren’t really the focus. I love it so much.

I’m sure there are other favorites I’m missing, but those three stand out among the “things” I’ve discovered this year.

That’s it! Goals will come in another post.

How was your year?

Case study:

How we earned $100,000 in a year on a digital product

Get the three things that made the most difference when we marketed a digital course and it earned $100,000 in just 12 months.

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