Renaissance Biz Case Study: Bringing Together Family, Natural Health and Photography + What Makes a Good Name?

Renaissance Biz Case Study: Bringing Together Family, Natural Health and Photography + What Makes a Good Name?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Renaissance Business

Most of the ‘mommy blogs’ out there are so hokey…” was the gist of her argument (I’m paraphrasing),

and the food and recipe blogs tend to be restrictive– a “one size fits all” approach where you impose a healthy lifestyle on yourself and your family. I’m more interested in experimenting as a family,” she added.

What about my photography? I just started getting back into it and I’m showcasing my work in a local cafe at the end of the year. Is there a way to work that in with the health/food theme?”

We had ourselves a challenge.

Meet Holli Margell

Holli’s a proud homemaker, mom of two, health and food lover, photographer, and curious lifelong learner/multipotentialite.

Would it be possible to combine all of Holli’s interests together under one overarching theme?

And what about communicating that theme in a clever way, so that it doesn’t look like every other mommy/foodie blog on the internet?

Coming Up with an Overarching Theme

Before our coaching session, Holli went through the Renaissance Business worksheets to her get all of her past and present interests out on paper. Then it was pattern-spotting time. In order to include all these different topics in her business, we needed to come up with an overarching theme.

The “Through the Lens” Approach

First we tried the “through the lens” approach. Could Holli (quite literally) use her identity as a photographer as the “lens” through which she saw the world? As in, a photographer’s take on the world? We played around with this idea for a bit, but ultimately nothing really grabbed us. Also photography seemed to be more of a side interest than an identity for Holli.

Combining Two Broad Interests

Next, we attempted to fuse together two of her subgroups by asking whether one of her interests could address the needs of those involved in another subgroup. Could moms use advice on natural food and recipes for their family? Sure. But how would this differ from the heaps of other sites out there?

What about injecting more of the family component into it? Like, experimenting with health and food as a family. This was a different spin from the typical websites that seem to advocate “tricking” your family into eating well. With this theme, the focus would be on “enhancing family bonds through experiments in the kitchen.”

We were getting closer. But this theme still didn’t incorporate her interest in photography or any other non-food related topic.

The “Common Thread” Approach

We took a closer look at all of Holli interests on her Master List. Was there something they all had in common? Was there a particular approach or driving force behind her choices?

All of Holli’s pursuits seem to be about redefining things through experimentation: redefining what it means to be a homemaker (think the “non-hokey mommy blog”), redefining what it means to be healthy (it’s not about tricking your family, but experimenting as a family) and redefining what it means to be a photographer (you don’t need formal training, you can start casually, on your own terms).

Holli’s interests were all related through experimentation, learning and trying things on her own terms. She enjoyed making things from scratch, not only in the kitchen, but in all areas of her life– a “made-from-scratch” household.

This “made-from-scratch” idea stuck, and it evolved into Holli’s overarching theme for her business, Scratch Treehouse.

Communicating Your Overarching Theme Through a Title, Tagline and Design

Like we discussed on Thursday, coming up with an overarching theme is only the fist step to conceiving a Renaissance Business. You also need a clever way of communicating that theme through a title, tagline and design.

What was the best way for Holli to express her theme so that it didn’t come across as boring or generic? “Made-from-Scratch” was the “unclothed” theme. It wouldn’t make a good title on its own.

What Makes a Good Title?

There are a lot of things to consider when coming up with a title. In Renaissance Business I get into some of the psychological tricks, like keeping the focus on your community and not on you by avoiding the use of “The”s.

For example, it’s Remarkablogger, not The Remarkablogger and Gutsy Geek, not The Gutsy Geek. This is a subtle difference, but by eliminating the “The,” you’re signaling to your people that this is a site for ALL remarkabloggers and ALL gutsy geeks. It’s not just about you.

Using Words that Make Images Pop into Your Head

Another thing that makes for a strong title is avoiding generic or highly conceptual terms. It’s always better to be concrete and use words that you can see, touch and feel.

If you can come up with a title that instantly makes an image pop into your head, that’s perfect. That image can then be used in your design too. Take Gorilla Coffee for example. There it is: the gorilla. You see it. It’s easy to remember. It sticks.

How We Came Up with “Scratch Treehouse”

To come up with a title for Holli’s “made-from-scratch” business, we began brainstorming with the term “scratch” by using the thesaurus and throwing around ideas. Then we played with words like family, childhood, parenting, food… We tried to think of images that could represent these things. That’s when Holli came up with “treehouse.”

“Treehouse” instantly makes an image pop in your head. It makes you feel nostalgic, childlike and playful. It also flows very nicely after “Scratch”– a fun pairing of words that roll off the tongue easily. We knew it was right as soon as Holli said it:

“Emilie suggested the word Scratch, and I came up with Treehouse. Putting the two together, it was like a lightbulb went on above my head!”

And there we had it.

You’ll notice that Holli’s tagline, “declaring independence through fearless homemaking,” and the simplicity and playfulness of her design, also help communicate her theme.

Holli’s Renaissance Business Going Forward

Holli only launched Scratch Treehouse at the beginning of September! I’m really impressed by how great it’s looking already (proving once more that you don’t need a fancy design for your website. It just needs to communicate your theme and personality).

In the future, I can see her selling guides or recipe books to teach others how to create their own “made-from-scratch” households. She could sell her photographs, get more photography gigs through the site or even start consulting people about nutrition/parenting if she wanted.

But the best thing about Scratch Treehouse is that it’s a platform where Holli can explore all of her interests in a way that doesn’t feel disjointed. Just listen to her describe the breadth of topics she discusses:

“Creating new recipes is an ongoing passion of mine. Scratch Treehouse is where I share those, and any other things I’ve created from scratch, from costumes for my kids to a solar dehydrator. I also share what I’m learning in my own life, beyond stuff made by my own two hands, like the lessons my children provide through their curious, innocent perspectives. To keep with my overarching theme, I blog about things related to making things from scratch, food and learning.”

Your Turn

Do you have any tips for turning a conceptual theme into a title? What do you think makes for a good title?


If you’d like to learn more about turning all of your interests into one business, check out Renaissance Business.


  1. Tim Webster says:

    I sincerely stink at creating titles based on content or a concept. I’ll admit that. Headlines are included in this non-proficiency of mine.

    However, I will say that I take note of good titles that make me click on the link or grab my attention in some way. Paying attention to what makes me want to click has definitely improved my title-writing but I’ve still got a long way to go!

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, that’s definitely a good idea. Practice is huge when it comes to generating titles too. If you can work in a routine where you just get as many ideas as possible out on paper for a few minutes a day, it’ll start to get easier. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. It’s like you’re doing reps at the gym or something– preparing your mind to receive those sparks of inspiration.

  2. Cotton Candy says:

    I find it hard to step back enough to see a common thread when looking at a list of interests. I managed to figure out subgroups though! & I’m really loving these case studies. :)

    Avoiding the use of “The” & using words that bring an image to mind are great title tips. I hadn’t really thought about the effects of “The” but I would try to avoid using it anyway just because it would make the url longer!

    • Emilie says:

      I think the key to finding common threads is not looking for similarities, but looking for motivations. Why do you pursue a particular interest? What do you get out of it? Is it that you enjoy exploring? creating? teaching? When you lose interest and feel like it’s time to move on, why? You obviously got what you came for, but what is that? These sorts of questions might help. :)

      • Jenn Staz says:

        Those questions are super helpful. I was going through trying to think of similarities for my new site, and kept coming to a dead end. While I’ve already registered the domain for my new site, I think I may need to reconsider its name or cloak it in a really effective way.

  3. Hi Emilie,
    I wandered over here from Michael Martine’s link over on Google +. I just recently started following him/checking out how he does things. Just wanted to pop in to say I love both the process you used here as well as how you shaped the final idea. Cool!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey thanks, Cheryl!

      Yeah, Michael’s awesome. We’ve got a lot in common too. He published an article a long time ago about how bloggers should strive to be the “Renaissance Person 2.0.” Needless to say, that got my attention. :)

      Thanks for swinging by. So nice to meet another multipotentialite.

  4. Holli says:

    Hey All,

    I gotta say that having just an hour of Emilie’s time was huge for me. We found the name that fit during the session and my theme fell into place as I worked through the work sheets.

    It took me a while to get it all up and running (deciding to ask for help was the first step for me). But, then once I got started, it got easier.

    Best wishes to everyone!

    p.s. No, Emilie didn’t pay me to comment;)

    • Emilie says:

      Haha shhh… Don’t give them any ideas. :P

      Yeah, it was a pleasure working with you too Holli. Thanks for letting me dissect our process on the blog. I know the community found it really helpful.

      Congrats on your launch! I can’t wait to see where you go with Scratch Treehouse.

  5. Nice work! When I first rebranded to Word Chef, I chose a URL without the “the” in front, and used a hyphen ( was already taken). I ended up switching to because the hyphen thing wasn’t really working for me (spelling out your URL or email address with the hyphen is awkward). My legal business name is Word Chef — and my logo reflects that as well. Sometimes you have to choose the best option available. I do agree with you though – creating a community is where it’s at. And whenever and wherever you can do that, you need to do it.

  6. Loved Holli’s journey – how inspiring. It can be very difficult coming up with the right names or titles – I’m struggling with that very thing right now!

  7. Maria Mar says:

    Congratulations to both. That was brilliant! It can be a huge challenge to bring it all together when you have so many talents, interests and passions. I love the story. Thanks for sharing.

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