Feature Friday: Avodah Studio

“Every client is different and every business is different and it’s so important for them to feel like they matter… because they do!”

Marie Hickerson is a passionate woman with strong faith and a warm smile that lights the room. She started her business after feeling a strong pull to start her own web design company after earning degrees in graphic design and falling in love with creating visual appeal and helping businesses grow their presence. A lover of the outdoors and a frequent flyer of the local favorite, Live Oak Coffeehouse, Hickerson often enjoys spending time working in the community and making genuine connections — an important key to running her successful business.

Marie shared with me recently that her entrepreneurial journey really began after she held a position in healthcare as a forms designer. She knew she loved design work, but didn’t have the self-confidence to pursue her own business in that area until encouragement came from her husband and several other supporters, who validated her great talent and eye for design. In this week’s feature, Marie shares more with us about her journey to business, how she gained confidence, and how she strives to provide a personal touch in serving each one of her clients.

What products or services do you provide? 

Marie: Website Design and Development, SEO (search engine optimization), Website Managed Hosting, as well as digital marketing with a focus on Facebook and Google Ads. 

What motivated you to start a business in Web design?

Marie: “Ever since I started taking classes to earn my bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, I had this pull to one day own my own business. I think the more experienced I gained the more confidence I had in myself and my ability to go on my own. That and along with my strong faith and belief that God would be by my side every step of the way.”

Did you have a mentor or someone who encouraged you to start your own business?

Marie: “First I have to say I am very fortunate to be surrounded by so many positive people in my life who are very supportive and encouraged me on my adventure to start my own business. My all-time number one support system is my amazing husband. He is always behind me 100% and continues to encourage me every step of the way. Then, my sister-in-law who started her own business before me, River Valley Laser Engraving, encouraged me and was such an inspiration as another woman who had faith to take a chance and start her own business. And last but not least, is this super awesome guy, Daniel [Terhune], that I worked with and who now, among many other things, manages at one of my favorite coffeehouses (Live Oak). He was and still is an amazing mentor.”

How have you positively impacted your community with your services? 

Marie: “Well, that is a very humbling question because I strive to do more in the community and am seeking new ways to help and be more involved. I love to help other businesses in the community with their online presence and truly get a lot of joy when I receive positive feedback from clients saying how much they appreciate all I have done for their business.”

What is your favorite part about what you do? 

Marie: “Honestly, my favorite part about running my business, besides getting to work from home or my favorite coffeehouse, is the time I get to take with my clients. I am not on anyone else’s clock so I can slow down and get to know my clients and what they need for their business. Every client is different and every business is different and it’s so important for them to feel like they matter…because they do! #doingbusinessmyway”

What is a recent challenge you have encountered and how did you overcome it? 

Marie: “I think there have been several challenges I have had to overcome. So I will focus on my most recent one, which is feeling a lack of connection at times. While it is awesome to work from my home office and not have to drive on snowy roads to get to work, I also do not have the comradery you get with coworkers when working for a business. That is one of the reasons you can find me working from Live Oak Coffeehouse somedays. It’s good to get out and join the community.”

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Marie: Three simple words….”You Are Enough.”

What encouragement would you offer to a woman who is pursuing a dream of hers?

Marie: “Don’t get in the way of yourself. I think sometimes we can be our own worst critic… worrying and stressing that we can not accomplish our goals and dreams. Follow the advice you would give to another woman in your situation and know that you are enough.”

Do you have a favorite inspirational or motivational quote that speaks to you?

Marie: “I have a love for inspirational quotes…so I have many favorites. But this particular quote is my favorite from a business aspect…”

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs


Avodah Studio is based in Midland, Michigan, and was established in September 2016. You can find Avodah on Facebook and Instagram @avodahstudio and on the web at https://avodah.studio. To contact Marie for business inquiries, you can reach her via phone at 989-486-8394.

Thank you Marie, for sharing your story and expertise with us! We are so grateful to have you and your talent in our community!

The Attitude of Gratitude

grat·i·tude

/ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/

noun

  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Does anyone else feel SO ready for winter to be over with? I know I am, and if we’re being honest, I have been done with winter since mid-January. Once the “magic” of the holidays fade and the twinkling lights come down and the daily grind returns, the joy fades and the grey sets in, both outdoors and in mood.

I have worked diligently to become more positive and improve my health and my mindset over the last 2 years and I am so proud of what I have accomplished. However, since I am being honest today, I can share that I struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), on top of a history of depression and anxiety. Even while life is good, SAD can sneak in and make you feel otherwise. It can rob you of joy and make even the smallest issues seem like a mountain to climb.

This year, my SAD has been in full-swing and it has taken a toll on me mentally and emotionally. I know that I am not alone in this, as many of my clients pursuing better health are feeling challenged emotionally and mentally lately too. It has been a dark time, even though I really do have so much to be grateful for. There is so much joy in each day, even in the smallest ways, but it can be hard to see when SAD or depression sinks in.

When we don’t see the sun, it feels dim and dark. In reality, the sun is always shining, it’s just hidden by the clouds. It’s the same way with finding joy. There is some in each and every day, but we can’t always see it when it’s hidden behind the negative things that are weighing us down. I’m learning that I personally have to CHOOSE JOY. I have to seek it out and practice daily gratitude, on purpose, in order to keep the “sun shining” in my own world. Beautiful things happen when we allow the other parts of life to be acknowledged and shine through.

Speaking in my own experience from this past weekend, I had to confront some disappointment and CHOOSE JOY. I absolutely loved spending time connecting at our Fill Up Your Cup monthly social event, but felt like it went by so quickly and was over before I knew it! Instead of focusing on the amazing connections made, I focused on the disappointment of going back to everyday life instead… and friends, I felt really low. It felt like I had just gotten started and then the fun was over! I work from home, so I spend a lot of time by myself, and that is SO hard for me some days. SO, after this event was done, I found myself already missing the joyful “high” that comes from community, connection, laughter, and great conversation. I felt deflated.

Despite that low, my husband supported me and encouraged me through it all. Thank goodness for having a strong and positive support person! Sunday night, I told myself that I needed to focus on all of the greatthings that happened during the weekend. When chose to do that, there was a shift – it was a shift in my heart and mindset. I realized (yet again) that I have so much to be grateful for.

I chose to look at it this way… There is an amazing group of women who have trusted in my dream of community and they have joined me and lifted me up through their gratitude. How awesome is that?! The more I focused on that, I started finding joy in thinking of their kind words and their expressions of appreciation for creating a place for them to gather and connect. That is an incredible feeling and I often wonder why I overlook moments like that! So, it is my goal for this year, to keep CHOOSING joy and practicing an “attitude of gratitude” each day.

My goal in sharing all of this is really just to help you know that if this sounds like you, you are NOT alone. The more we share our stories, the more we help others realize that they too, are not alone. Even if it isn’t about depression, but something else going on in your life, know that someone else has been there too. We are more alike than we are different and more connected than we often realize.

You are seen. You are heard. You are loved. It doesn’t matter what darkness is closing in or how it may seem, you are not alone. The sun is always shining, but know that sometimes other things may be clouding our vision and our hearts, so we are unable to see it at the time. I encourage you to CHOOSE joy – seek it out and practice gratitude on purpose. Start each day with a grateful heart and practice this daily until it turns into a habit. It’s amazing how much more the sun shines when we give it a chance to peek through the clouds.

Feature Friday: Sweet Beets Floral

Sam Schlicker, Owner of Sweet Beets Floral

“There’s something about taking a step – you don’t have to be ready to run, it’s okay if you don’t know the step after that… it’s one step. I really view my life and business as taking one step at a time.”

Sam Schlicker is a fun, outgoing and driven small business owner in Michigan’s beloved Great Lakes Bay region. She recently opened Sweet Beets Floral in January 2019 and is taking off to new heights due to her amazing talent and experience in creating unique and thoughtful floral designs. Also the wife of a farmer, Sam teams up with her husband, Josh, to create a life they love and live out their dreams, both on the farm and in the flower studio.

I had the privilege of meeting Sam at our January social premier for Fill Up Your Cup and it’s clear that she has a passion for helping others celebrate life’s big moments by creating memorable details. Kind and authentic in nature, Sam makes it easy to spark conversation and highly values her clients’ dreams and visions. Sam shares with us a little of the background and heart behind what got her started in the floral design business, some valuable lessons learned and great advice she has been given along the way.

Q: What services does Sweet Beets Floral offer?

Sam: “Sweet Beets Floral is a wedding and event floral design business that commits to providing heartfelt floral designs inspired by nature for your life’s biggest celebrations. Using real flowers, I design bridal bouquets, bridesmaid bouquets, centerpieces, boutonnieres, corsages, arbors, and so much more. I use nature as an inspiration and expand my clients color palettes to create romantic floral designs. I also flower for baby showers and bridal showers!”

Q: What motivated you to start a floral design business?

Sam: “Here’s a cliff notes version: My hearts desire to become a floral designer changed my entire life. I wholeheartedly believe I was placed on this earth to be a floral designer and run a business. I feel called to do it – and sharing my story along the way is a piece of my purpose here.”

Q: Who has been an important mentor or influence in starting your business?

Sam: “Oh my! There are a lot of people in my life who have been cheering me on from the very beginning of this journey! My husband Josh has been a big part of that. It’s important to believe in yourself, but to have someone remind you when things get tough that you can do anything is a game changer!”

Q: How have you positively impacted your community since opening Sweet Beets?

Sam: “A big piece of my heart and mission behind Sweet Beets Floral is to inspire and encourage others to build a life they love. Following your dreams is such a joy in life, and I hope sharing bits of my dreams has motivated others to do the same.”

Q: What is your favorite thing about the floral design business?

Sam: “Client meetings! There is nothing better than chatting with a bride about her wedding flowers! It really is a fun conversation and I am truly just as excited as my clients for their wedding day. I work hard to ensure their vision comes true for one of their life’s biggest celebrations! And of course – making their bridal bouquet knowing they’re going to carry it down the aisle to their best friend is an added bonus!”

Q: What is a challenge you’ve faced in running your business and how did you handle it?

Sam: “I believe in being honest, and honestly – hearing that a bride went with another floral vendor was tough in the beginning. Sometimes it’s hard to close a sale, and other times my heart knew it just wasn’t a good fit. When I changed my mindset to think “each client I have, is meant to be my client” is when my 2019 and 2020 lineup turned into more than I could’ve ever hoped for!”

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Sam: “I attended a workshop last year, and I’ll never forget the host saying “When it feels right, just take a step.” There’s something about taking a step – you don’t have to be ready to run, it’s okay if you don’t know the step after that… it’s one step. I really view my life and business as taking one step at a time.”

Q: What encouragement can you offer to another woman who’s pursuing a dream in business or another passion?

Sam: “Be true to who you are! I think too many of us often hide our light and our talents because of fear. When you step out and show up as you are you will notice a tremendous difference!! And definitely simplify your goals – starting a business is NO JOKE so break down your goals into simple tasks. It will help you overcome any fears and you’ll find you have more momentum! Oh, and don’t be scared to ask questions or reach out to people you can learn from!”

Q: What is your favorite inspirational or motivational quote?

Sam: “No one is you and that is your power” – Unknown.

“It’s really important to remind ourselves that we all are created differently and have a grand variety of talents and skill sets that make us each unique.”


If you are interested in connecting with Sam, you can find her on Facebook and Instagram by searching @sweetbeetsfloral. If you’d simply like to chat, or find yourself interested in starting a small business, or would like to collaborate in any way, please reach out via email: sweetbeetsfloral@gmail.com.

Thank you Sam, for sharing your heart and inspiring all of us to pursue more of our talents and passions. We cannot wait to see the amazing things you’ll continue to do in your business and in the surrounding communities.

What’s Stopping You?

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve shared the story recently of how I decided to build this community for women in the Great Lakes Bay region. It was an important moment that changed my life. It all started on my couch and came from my personal need for connection and friendship with other women. I had no idea ‘how’ I would do it, and I’m still not sure I have it allfigured out. I do know that I am following my heart and my calling, so I made a plan, and I’m doing it! It has been a wonderful ride so far! Maybe you have a similar dream or another idea that is really tugging at your heart. May I ask, what is stopping you from acting on your dream?

Starting this adventure is one of the first things in my adult life that I am SURE I am supposed to be doing… besides marrying my husband of course. He was definitely a sure thing. I know you probably know that feeling too, though. That feeling or the voice inside our head we all hear when we get ready to start something new. You know, the voice inside that says “I don’t know about this, are you sure?” Yes – THAT one. I can’t tell you how many times I have had that voice creep in and stop me from moving forward with a dream or idea that I’ve had. Sometimes, that voice is called ‘conscience,’ and it protects us. Sometimes that voice is called ‘doubt’ or ‘fear’ and it paralyzes us.

When you think of your dreams and goals, do you think that they are attainable? Why? Why not? Have you realized that most of the time, it isn’t that you can’t accomplish those dreams or goals, it is usually the ‘HOW’ that trips you up? We don’t knowhowwe can do it, so we let the doubt kick in and the fear control us… and then we give up. That negative voice is speaking too loudly again, so we move on and we pass up that dream for something else – something easier. Maybe we even use the excuse that it “wasn’t the right time” or “it wasn’t meant to be.” Don’t tell me you haven’t spoken those words to yourself. We ALL have. I am guilty as charged, too.

It took two solid years of working on my mindset, spending time with the right people and transforming myself, inside and out, before I had enough confidence to build this community. It took tears, energy, resources, and ultimately, prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. It took being at my wits end wondering what I could personally do to connect with more women and create quality relationships and friendships. I also had to turn down that negative voice repeatedly and remind myself of what I am capable of. If it hadn’t been for the health community that supported me in becoming the best version of myself, I would not be writing this and ‘Fill Up Your Cup’ would not exist.

Some say that you become like the 5 people you spend the majority of your time with. I believe that to be true. I never felt called to help people on such an intimate level, in their health and personal lives, until my mentors did that for me. I didn’t know how to be as positive or believe in myself as much as I do now, until they believed in me first, and then I started achieving my goals, one at a time. So, I ask – who are you surrounding yourself with? Positive people who speak life and kindness into you, or negative people who bring drama and discontentment into your world?

Friends, be willing to examine your current reality and determine what your goals and dreams are. To quote Katherine Paterson, “A dream without a plan is just a wish.” If you want to see dreams come to fruition, create an actionplan. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dreams, and speak kindly to yourself. The things you say to yourself are what you will begin to believe are true if you say them enough. Make it positive! Shut down that negative voice when it tries to creep in. You are only one decision away from a different life. You just need to be willing to say yes, move past fear and get to work. It isn’t a one-day commitment that you will be making to reach big goals. Many days, weeks, months, and maybe even years will be spent working toward them, depending on the goal, but don’t let that stop you. I promise you, the time will pass anyway.

Feature Friday!

Q & A with Sarah Nelson, RYT – Yoga with Sarah Nelson

as shared with Jaime Krueger, Founder, Fill Up Your Cup

“For too long, I let my fear of failure and not being good enough hold me back from pursuing my dreams and living a more fulfilled life. I’ve learned that being brave and confident doesn’t mean having no fear or being perfect at something, it’s acknowledging that the fear is there or that you’re not perfect, and making the choice to do the thing anyway with your best effort.”

-Sarah Nelson, RYT

For the first edition of ‘Feature Friday’ in the Fill Up Your Cup community, Sarah Nelson shares with us her passion for Forrest Yoga and how it has shaped her business and her life. While she has only been in business since September 2016, she has been practicing yoga much longer. I had the pleasure of taking a class with Sarah recently and there is no mistaking she has found her calling, and I think you’ll find her just as inspiring as I do! Fun fact: she is the ONLY registered Forrest Yoga teacher in Michigan! Here’s a peek into Sarah’s world and the amazing gifts and talents she offers to our local communities…

Q: What services do you provide?

Sarah: “I am a certified Forrest Yoga and trauma-informed yoga teacher, and I provide yoga instruction in many forms: public studio classes, private 1-on-1 sessions, private group sessions, and on-site corporate classes.”

Q: What motivated you to start your business?

Sarah: “It’s no exaggeration to say that yoga completely changed my life. It helped me evolve from feeling lost, disconnected, and unhappy to feeling more alive and connected to myself (mind, body, and spirit!) with more clarity in my life purpose than I ever have before. I still learn and grow every single time I step on my mat. It’s so much more than the postures; it’s an ongoing journey toward becoming my best self that’s exciting and fun – and definitely hard work. I never really planned to become a yoga teacher, but once I recognized all the magic that was happening in my own life, I knew I had to go to teacher training so that I could not only uplevel my own internal work, but learn how to share this amazing practice with others. After 700+ hours (and counting) of teaching yoga, I know in my heart I’m on the right path.”

Q: Did you have a mentor or someone who encouraged you to start teaching?

Sarah: “I have had so many mentors and influences on this path. The yoga teacher that introduced me to Forrest Yoga in Pittsburgh, Leigh Ann Handel Cutright, who guided my practice through the early years of my personal evolution and encouraged me to take the leap to go to teacher training with Ana Forrest in 2016. Keri Kenney, owner of Alignment 8 Yoga & Cycle, was the first one to take a chance on me as a brand new teacher, and her abundant unconditional support, trust, and belief in my abilities has been incredibly valuable to me as I’ve further branched out on my own. Lastly, I have two wonderful sounding boards for business decisions and advice on difficult teaching situations: my friend and fellow yoga teacher Becca Cutright, and my husband Chris.”

Q: How have you positively impacted your community as a result of your teaching?

Sarah: “I’ve guided countless people in my classes to learn how to not only breathe and move mindfully, but to become wiser, kinder, stronger, more connected and intuitive versions of themselves. My goal is to make my classes welcoming and accessible for everyone regardless of experience, age, gender, race, size, ability, injury, or personal history so that everyone feels seen and cared for during their practice, whether it’s one person or twenty. Outside of my regular classes, I’ve also had the opportunity to give back to the wider community in a few different ways. I have linked my passion for animal welfare to my work by launching annual Cats on Yoga Mats events in Midland. Last summer, I also had the chance to volunteer to teach a couple of outdoor yoga classes for the inaugural Out-land-ish festival. I am also in the process of initiating a future volunteer project working directly with a local organization with the goal of bringing yoga to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity or means to access it.”

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching?

Sarah: “We have a pledge we each take as Forrest Yoga teachers: to do our part in “mending the hoop of the people”, and that’s what it’s all about for me. It makes me feel proud to do what I do when I observe my students growing stronger and more confident, making breakthroughs, learning how to heal themselves – physically and otherwise – and feeling more at home in their own bodies and minds. When my students share the impact that their yoga practice has made in their lives, I feel in alignment with that pledge as well as my life purpose.”

Q: What is a challenge you’ve encountered in your business and how did you overcome it?

Sarah: “It has certainly been a challenge to be the only person in Michigan who teaches the style of yoga that I do, not only because it means I’m a one-woman force but also because it means I don’t have other Forrest teachers here to turn to for my own practice. I do a lot of independent work and self-study, and fielding plenty of questions like “Is your class held in the woods? Isn’t it too cold?” (spoiler alert: nope! Forrest Yoga has nothing to do with trees!), and getting people past their uncertainty of trying something new and unfamiliar. It takes a lot of bravery to get out of your comfort zone, and for a lot of people taking the first step in rolling out that yoga mat is huge! To overcome that potential for fear, I try to get the word out every chance I get on what Forrest Yoga is all about, and I strive to make my classes a safe and empowering space for people to explore that unknown territory – whether it’s just a new style of yoga for them or their first time ever practicing – and see for themselves if my class is the right fit for them.”

Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in business or in life?

Sarah: “To stop making decisions based on fear and to make lots of mistakes! For too long, I let my fear of failure and not being good enough hold me back from pursuing my dreams and living a more fulfilled life. I’ve learned that being brave and confident doesn’t mean having no fear or being perfect at something, it’s acknowledging that the fear is there or that you’re not perfect, and making the choice to do the thing anyway with your best effort. Being willing to make lots of mistakes is essential in business and in life, because it’s not failure, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. No mud, no lotus – or as my teacher Ana says: “take your s#*% and turn it into fertilizer!” 🙂

Q: What encouragement would you offer a woman who is pursuing a dream of hers?

Sarah: “Don’t wait until the “right” time or until you feel like what you want to offer is completely “perfect”. That voice inside that says what you know/have/do/are isn’t enough is a liar; you ARE enough, just as you are. Take one step towards your goal, even if it scares you, and then take another and another. You’ll inevitably make plenty of mistakes, and that’s ok! You’ll learn, grow, and become even better in the process. Make NOW the time that you make yourself and your dreams a priority, and let your beautiful unique light shine bright! When you make room in your life and heart for what you truly desire for yourself, and do the work to create and nurture it, the universe will respond in its own time with abundance.”

Q: What is your favorite inspirational or motivational quote?

Sarah: “Learning to ask the question – ‘What part of this can I do?’ – changed my life that day and every day I remember to ask.” – Ana Forrest, from her book, Fierce Medicine. This is a potent tool for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by the voice that says “I can’t”, both on the yoga mat and in your life.

Q: Where can we find more information about your classes and locations?

Sarah: Anyone who is interested in connecting with me on social media can find me on Facebook and Instagram as @sarahnelsonyoga. My full class schedule, descriptions, and booking details can be found at tinyurl.com/sarahnelsonyoga

Thank you Sarah, for being an amazing light and inspiration for the community!

Welcome!

Thanks for stopping by! I’m so glad you decided to visit!

Here on the site, you’ll get a glimpse into my heart and the local ‘Fill Up Your Cup’ community. I’ll be sharing through blog posts, local event updates, lifestyle features, healthy living articles, and inspiring weekly features of women who are changing the world, one day at a time. I firmly believe we are better together and that we can fill up our cups and be renewed and uplifted, one connection and conversation at a time.

I hope you’ll follow along and maybe even join us in person, if you’re here in the heart of the Great Lakes Bay region. Feel free to come and fill up your cup!

-Jaime