2016 Wrap Up & 2017 Goals

Sugar & Gold | 2016 Wrap Up & 2017 Goals

The chaos that was 2016!

I know the saying goes: "The days are long but the years are short." But for me, "The days are short and the years are short," seems a little more accurate. The year 2016 was a total whirlwind, and so many exciting things happened that trying to sum them up now seems quite hazy. But I will also say that it for sure was the most stressful year so far... at times it was even 10x more stressful than the year planning and designing my own wedding... at times I questioned why I was even running a side business at all (usually around 3am when I was still finishing up a client project)... at times I was wishing that the days actually did feel long or that there were actually 36 hours in a day... or I had a clone maybe.

But with each challenging moment, I knew it was just a piece of working toward a bigger goal. I just had to push through. But still, I couldn't have kept working towards that end goal if I didn't have some pretty amazing moments between to relax and get reinspired. And with all that craziness, I didn't have nearly as many chances as I hoped to post on the blog and share some exciting moments in the process. So here's a little glimpse at what I've been up to the past year between the radio silences. 

Just a heads up: It's a long post... so many 2016 highlights! But be sure to check out the end where I give a little glimpse into what's to come in 2017 for Sugar & Gold!

Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Paper Floral Headband and Blush Chiffon Gown
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Paper Floral Headband and Blush Chiffon Gown
Sugar & Gold | Isla Holbox, Mexico | Coconuts
Sugar & Gold | Isla Holbox, Mexico | Papel Picado
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Mayan Ruins
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Coqui Coqui
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Coqui Coqui
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Coqui Coqui Gold Hammock
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Ocean Pineapple

Mexico: Tulum & Isla Holbox
The most relaxing and inspiring break this past year was in May when we traveled to our favorite spot in Mexico—Tulum—for our 4th time. So much has changed since we first traveled there in August of 2010, but getting to enjoy all of our favorite spots again was so amazing (including Coqui Coqui before it closed...wahhhhhhh).

We also hit Isla Holbox before heading to Tulum, and it definitely might be our new favorite destination with everything we love about Tulum, but an even stronger sense of local culture. Not only was it insanely inspiring to be surrounded by the beauty of the ocean and the details of Mexican culture, it was a time to completely reset my creative mind... I used my time relaxing under the palm trees and listening to the crashing waves to think of some really exciting projects. And because my husband knows I am a true Capricorn and I get antsy with idol hands, he even encouraged me to bring some supplies to create while I enjoyed our time just sitting on the beach. Some people read a book while relaxing on the beach... I made tissue paper flowers while sipping piña coladas. My heaven. And we even took advantage of the gorgeous ocean landscape with a little photoshoot... tissue paper flower headband and all.  

This trip truly reinvigorated my creativity and gave me a chance to think about what I wanted to focus on the rest of the year. In fact, after giving our minds some rest, the idea for our biggest goal came to us the day we landed back in Chicago. It was so necessary to take a break from the chaos of our day jobs and side business, both of which are consistently creative, to breathe and let new creative ideas come through. 

Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Gold Foil & Acrylic Faceted Wedding Invitation
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Faceted Napkin Ring with Glittering Geode Center
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Faceted Napkin Ring with Glittering Geode Center
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Gold Foil and Acrylic Escort Card with Faceted Jade Card Stand
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks

Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot
When I first met the super talented Katherine Brown of Clover Events at the beginning of 2016, we quickly got to work collaborating on a wedding inspiration shoot with amazing photographer Belen Aquino for Gerber Scarpelli Weddings, as well as several other super talented vendors. We decided to pull inspiration from geodes and crystals, which I leveraged to create faceted and glittering details balance by an overall soft palette. One of my favorite details that I created was geode napkin rings that looked like a cross-section of a heavy faceted rock that revealed an interior crevice of glittering crystals. And designing and creating an acrylic and gold foil invitation and escort cards with faceted features was such a fun way to pull the crystal theme throughout the paper goods as well. 

Photography Gerber Scarpelli Weddings |  Planning Clover Events | Event Design & Stationery Sugar & Gold | Table Settings Gather Vintage Tablescapes | Dresses Alyssa Kristin Bridal | Cocktails Valcohol |  Cake Design Alliance Bakery | Lighting Chicago Lighting Design | Makeup Kate Johnson Artistry | Venue W Hotel City Center

Sugar & Gold | Event Design | Gold Brushed Stationery & Art Deco Table Numbers
Sugar & Gold | Event Design | Gold Brushed Stationery & Art Deco Table Numbers
Sugar & Gold | Event Design | Gold Brushed Stationery & Art Deco Table Numbers

Collaborating with Clover Events
Quickly following the inspiration shoot collaboration with Katherine of Clover Events, I was lucky to get to assist her on the day  of some insanely gorgeous weddings that she planned to perfection! Not only has she been so amazing this past year by showing me the ins and outs of the wedding industry, but she's also introduced me to some wonderful brides. And for one wedding in particular, I was thrilled to create lovely gold brushed details including menus, escort cards, and signage in addition to constructing art deco table numbers for wonderful bride, Julia, and her wedding this past April. And even more exciting was to see the details I created and many others from that special wedding captured by Emilia Jane Photography featured on The Black Tie Bride this past December! 

Sugar & Gold | Los Angeles
Sugar & Gold | Los Angeles | The Pink Motel
Sugar & Gold | founder Emily Vaca | Los Angeles | The Pink Motel
Sugar & Gold | Los Angeles | The Pink Motel

On Set in LA
I got to go on production in LA to shoot TV spots twice this past year! And I got to work with some amazingly talented directors (they were all female too, which was SUPER inspiring!!)—definitely one of the biggest perks of my day job in advertising. And this last trip in June was full of summer fun (although it's always summer in LA compared to Chicago). Plus, these were by far, some of my favorite locations to shoot at in LA—including a real vintage diner and motel that was turned into a full-time set. That pink wall!

Photo by  Stephen Vallera
Photo by  Stephen Vallera
Sugar & Gold | Napa Valley | Secluded Cottage
Sugar & Gold | Becoming a Godmother

Celebrations with Friends
This year also included some inspiring and hilarious and heartfelt moments with some of our closest friends while traveling to some familiar and completely new places.

I got to head to Nashville for the first time ever to celebrate the very special milestone birthday of my college roomie and soulmate, Chrissy!! She lives in Ohio... so to celebrate, we met up in Nashville for a few way-too-short days to spend some much needed time together in some really inspiring local spots. We even found the famous pink wall... I love this joyful photo of her with her disco drink tumbler! I knew I'd love it from what I've heard about Nashville, but it really is one of my favorite cities now, and I'm so happy I got to experience it for the first time with her! 

I've been to California more times than I can count (and still think we'll call it home someday far away in the future) but Napa was one area I had never gotten to experience yet. We were so fortunate that one of our closest friends had a chance to invite us to stay at his friend's picture-book beautiful secluded cottage in the middle of Napa. The best wine we've ever had with the best company ever made for a perfect Napa experience. After our time in Napa, we snuck over to San Fransisco for a night and explored the city and the gorgeous Sausalito area... can't wait to go back!

And I also got to spend some super important time back home in St. Louis to visit my bestie of over 20 years and meet the new love of my life, her adorable baby Max! I always get so sad when I have to head back to Chicago because I will never get to spend as much time with both of them as I want. But one of these trips was beyond special because I received one of the biggest honors in my life... becoming Max's Godmother! He is the most perfect Godson ever, and I love him more than I could ever imagine. Now if I could just keep him from growing up too fast between my trips home!

Sugar & Gold | Gold Drip Ombre Cake | Papel Picado Cake Topper
Sugar & Gold | Anniversary | Wedding Photo by Sean Cook Weddings
Sugar & Gold | Anniversary | Wedding Photo by Sean Cook Weddings

This year we also celebrated a few exciting milestones! We celebrated our first full year in our casa, The Vacasa! We spent a lot of our summer fixing up our private roof deck, building custom walls and refinishing the decking to make it our own little piece of Tulum, Mexico. It was inspired by our trip there this year. We have a lot more work to do in the Vacasa to tackle this coming year, but overall couldn't be happier in our first home together!

On October 10th, we celebrated both our 2nd anniversary of marriage and 8th anniversary of our first kiss. It is insane to think about how fast those anniversaries have crept up on us, but such an amazing feeling to also feel like your still at the start of your life with someone. Even after 8 years together and having been through so many experiences together as a couple, it feels like we have the most amazing life together ahead of us. And for that I couldn't be more grateful! 

wedding photos by Sean Cook Weddings

Sugar & Gold | Gold Foil Wishbone Friendsgiving Invite
Sugar & Gold | DIY Faux Marble Breakfast Tray
Sugar & Gold | Bridesmaids Accordion Booklet
Sugar & Gold | Holiday Mantle with Snowy Garland

Most Popular & Featured Social Posts
I started the Sugar & Gold company in 2012 and the blog in 2014, but I didn't launch a social presence until a few days into the start of 2016. So Sugar & Gold made it's first appearance on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook just barely over a year ago... but, wow, what a year's it's been. The most exciting part of engaging with social has been getting to see how you all are interacting with our posts and projects, and I've actually had a huge response of people looking either purchase or DIY our projects (which has lead to a new focus for the company... as well as a new goal for 2017... more below). 

Pinterest is like Target for me... you go to check out one thing and get lost in the aisle and walking out with a cart full of goodies. So I was so jazzed to see some Sugar & Gold pins making their way around Pinterest, including these top 3 repins! 

I couldn't believe that the Friendsgiving invitation I created for last year's celebration hit over 3.6K repins & likes this year! The DIY faux marble tray hit 2K! And the Bridesmaid accordion booklet hit over 800, but lead to almost 1000 downloads of the template on the blog! 

This year Sugar & Gold also got some exciting features on some of my favorite blogs! We were so honored that Domino featured and linked to our DIY faux marble tray in two of their DIY roundups here and here! And our snowy mantle Instagram post was included in the "30 of Our Favorite Reader Photos from #TheEverygirlHoliday" feature on The Everygirl blog here. And a repost on Darling's instagram feed here

Sugar & Gold | founder Emily Vaca | Looking Ahead at 2017


With all of the excitement that the past year has brought in the blink of an eye, I can't help but look forward for what's to come in the next year... and based on what's already planned ahead, it's going to be even more amazing (aka more chaotic)!

I started 2016 with some pretty big goals in mind, and while I was surprised that some of them came to life pretty quickly in the start of the year; I was even more surprised that some amazing opportunities came about that I has no idea were coming and they really pushed me to question my goal for Sugar & Gold.

I had started the company primarily as a design and wedding invitation company that evolved into wedding decor and home DIYs over the years. So deciding how that would continue to evolve this year into something more focused and also profitable in the long term was key this past year. And now the work we put towards that goal in 2016 should really start to pay off and be something we can launch publicly in 2017!


Goal #1: Rebranding Sugar & Gold
I can't reveal too much quite yet, but in the next few months a big change will come to Sugar & Gold... including a rebrand! Being a designer with a speciality in branding, this is such a huge task to do for myself. Knowing how many possibilities there are can make it hard to land on just one. But I have finally been able to make some decisions and start building them out. So in the next few months, a new brand look will be revealed! And I can't wait to share it!

Goal #2: Website Relaunch
Along with the new brand look, we will be relaunching the site with more features and organization. Currently, the blog is the main focus on the site, but building out more of the portfolio section as well as a more robust category section will be a definite feature. If there's anything you'd love to see, let me know for sure!

Goal #3: Launching Our 1st Product Line!
This had been a big goal of 2016 as well, but some opportunities came up that I totally wasn't expecting, and what that product line would be actually shifted quite a bit! And we're so excited about it! I have actually been working over 6 months to define the product line and work with manufacturers to make it a reality; so if all goes as planned, the first of our products will definitely launch this year! As soon as we have updates to share, you'll be the first to know!

Goal #4: Finish Building out My Studio Space
One of our favorite features of the home we bought was that there was 3 bedrooms, one to be dedicated for my studio. And while all of my supplies have their own organized space now, we haven't had the time or budget to focus on making it a super efficient working space with a large surface area yet. So projects still end up on our kitchen island at times. But that is our next room to tackle and I can't wait to share progress photos!

Goal #5: Weekend Dinners In
For a more personal goal, my husband and I are going to focus on spending more time cooking at home together. In Chicago, there's so many amazing restaurants that it's so hard to not be tempted to go out for dinner just us or with our good friends on Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday too! So in effort to watch our budgets and our diets, we're really going to focus on going out just one weekend night, either just us or with friends, and cooking together the others. And I'm really looking forward to exploring some new recipes!


A Little Blog Break...
So while I am excited to announce that changes are coming soon, I also have to say that I will need to be totally focused on finalizing those changes and new developments over the next few months. I have a lot of plans for new content, but need all of my available time right now to focus on the specific goals above, most specifically the product line and launch! Therefore, the blog may go silent until then... but I'm still be popping in on Instagram, especially to let you know when to check back here for the big announcements—the first being the new look of Sugar & Gold! 

So until then! 

Emily Vaca1 Comment