I Created A Digital Brain System For A Small Business

Hello! My name is Leah Davis. Welcome to my landing page for my business digital brain project. I saw a need in The Quilted Windmill for a digital brain and jumped at the chance to create a system for it. Want to learn about what I created? You’ve come to the right place.

What I Chose To Make And Why

I work for a small quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. At this small business, everything is institutional knowledge. The owner knows everything and teaches new employees. This puts additional weight on her to remember information, systems, and answer questions.

I work with inventory in the system. If I have a specific way that I want the inventory to be added, fellow employees have to memorize it. This business needs something that will hold procedures, answers to questions, and other systems that are currently on paper. 

This month, I’ll be building this system using Notion. I chose Notion because of its template options and ease of use. It can hold different pages, sub-pages, and easily searchable information all in one place. 

My Weekly Progress Updates

Week 1 – Project Preparation

This week, I prepared for my project. I created a project management system and planned every step of my project. How and when I would complete tasks.

Week 2 – Creating A Digital Brain

This week, I created the most complicated page in my digital brain project. I set up what I call an “Employee Base”. This page includes sub-pages for different aspects of the business. Adding new inventory, Guide to the Checkout counter, etc. Each sub-page has toggle-down lists containing procedures, information, and troubleshooting. 

Week 3 – Adding System Pages

This week, I added other pages to my digital brain system. I created an event sign-up spreadsheet, a product request table, and an employee hours page. 

Week 4 – Documentation

This week, I focused on documentation. I created an SOP for the project and this landing page.

The Results

After this month-long project, what do I have?

I created the skeleton for a business’s digital brain. I’ve made the foundation of a system for The Quilted Windmill. It was made specifically for their own business. The tools are there for this system to grow with the business. I built a page for procedures, troubleshooting, and information about various elements for product requests, BOM, and employee hours. I created a SOP to go along with the digital brain.

Other documentation

  • I made a video on my project management system on Trello. I wanted to learn how to use Trello. I’ve learned how to use Notion, but I wanted to expand my exposure to common project management systems. 

What I Learned

Photo by Windows on Unsplash
  • How to project manage: I know how to plan my week and small projects. This project stretched me to plan every step down to the day it should be completed. It gave me confidence that I could complete my project in the given. 
  • How to pitch my project: In order to pitch a project, you have to know the basics of the project. You can’t bog people down with details and your thought process behind every single one. I learned how to sell my project by doing this for the answer for The Quilted Windmill. I had to tell her what it was, why it’d be helpful, and what she’d have to do all in a limited amount of time. I had to be clear and concise. 
  • How to figure out how to fix a problem: While working for The Quilted Windmill, I noticed inconveniences and issues. They had systems that could be improved and they had to memorize everything. This project taught me how to look at those problems and figure out the best way to solve them. I thought a digital brain would be the most efficient way to solve all these problems while being easy to manage.
  • How to layout steps and info in a professional way: I created an SOP for this project. SOP’s have to be clear, specific, and thorough. In the project, it requires being thorough with the procedures and information. 
  • How to balance work and life: It was really easy to let a project like this take over my days. It was easy not to work on my project at all when I had other things going on. I spent every week experimenting with the balance. 

What I Would Have Done Differently

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash
  • I would have looked at more programs. I chose Notion because of its ease of use, straight-forward style, features, and I’m familiar with the program. I wanted to be able to clearly and easily explain how to use this system. That being said, I wish I would’ve looked into other programs. I knew Notion would be good for this business, but maybe another system would’ve been better. I wish I would’ve dug into other software. 
  • I would’ve asked more questions. I knew what I needed to make for this project. I had a solid plan and I executed that plan. I thought of the other pages as systems they could use. I wish I would’ve asked what they thought should be on the other pages. Are digital employee hours better than paper? I think so, but it might be more work for The Quilted Windmill. A system I hadn’t thought about could be better on the digital brain. In order to know, I need to ask questions. I can do that now, but I wish I would’ve asked more questions at the beginning of the project.
  • I would’ve gone into more detail on the digital brain page. I wanted to brainstorm and add more sub-pages about various elements of the business. I have a solid foundation, but I wish I dug deeper into it. 

Problems I Had And How I Solved Them

Ease Of Management:

  • When I came up with the idea of a digital brain, I ran into a lot of questions. One of the questions was: How am I going to make this easy to manage? I wanted to make the owner’s and employee’s lives easier instead of harder. I didn’t want to create another thing they had to manage. My desire with this project was to make management easier. How I overcame this predicament was by structuring the digital brain to be always growing. I created a system that can be added to overtime and adjusted according to how the business changes. This is why a system like Notion was perfect. It can be organized and added to easier than a document. It is easy to find a section and add more. When information is added to this digital brain, it can be searched and easily found.

Ease Of Use:

  • This leads to my next goal. I needed to make this system easy to use. Employees who don’t excel in understanding technology need to be able to use this digital brain. This is one of the main reasons I chose Notion. The way it is built is easy to understand. 
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

What To Include:

  • Another problem I ran into was what I should include in the system. What does this business need in a digital brain? What would they actually use? I don’t want to spend time building a page they aren’t going to use. I figured out a couple of systems they had in place. I noticed they had a Longarming schedule on paper. The owner noted how they really liked the paper system they had. I took note of that and didn’t add it to the digital brain. I had to take a good look at how the business ran to find out what they would use. 

How To Add Information I Don’t Know:

  •  My business knowledge of steps and information is limited. In The Quilted Windmill, I only cover running their inventory system. I’ve never closed the store, made a kit, or ordered fabric. I don’t have all the information I need to make a solid foundation for this digital brain. I created a skeleton to jump off of and I’m working with a fellow employee to build on the system. 

Closing Thoughts

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

This project has been a huge challenge for me. I created a digital brain for an actual company. I pitched it to them and they are going to use it! I’ve been working with a fellow employee to implement the system and fill out the digital brain with information. This has been my passion project this month. I knew that this was a way I could make teaching new employees easier. I was driven by a desire to help the owner of the business. My confidence in planning a project and achieving my goals has dramatically improved. I have hands-on experience solving a problem for a business. I can’t wait to tackle more and continue to solve problems with real solutions!

Week 4 – Documentation

This post is part of my month-long project. Check out my first week update here, my second week here, and my third week here! The project I am building is a digital brain for a quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. I am creating a digital space where they can store information, procedures, and systems. My goal for this project is to:

  • Help the owner to manage her business and customers
  • Help current and new employees get information and maintain consistency

This month I am going to be:

  • Gathering and organizing information
  • Creating an easy to manage system
  • Managing a large project
  • Building a system that can be added to overtime
  • Documenting my work 

What Have I Done This Week?

This week I focused on my documentation. I created a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for my project and a landing page

My outline for the SOP consists of a:

  • Project intro
  • How to this digital brain is a solution to the company’s problems
  • How to use the system and all its pages
  • General Notion functions

I also created a landing page for this month-long project. It consists of every weekly update and an in-depth overview of my project. Click the link at the bottom of this page if you’d like to see that.

What Did I Do Well?

  • I organized each task clearly. I laid out outlines of tasks and what I needed to write. This helped me to avoid writer’s block.
  • I was detailed with my SOP and covered everything an employee would need to know to run the system. 
  • I did well on staying motivated. I pushed to make creativity strike and be able to write with energy.

What Could Be Improved?

One of my main goals in the project was to be ahead of schedule. I wanted to finish this project with a clear understanding of what worked for me and what didn’t. I accomplished this. I never truly felt ahead but I learned what doesn’t work. For example, I tend to bog myself down and not take breaks. I’ve worked to implement breaks into my everyday and it’s greatly improved my workflow. I hope to implement what I have learned throughout the course of this project in the future. 

Now what?

Would you like to see my project overview and closing thoughts?

Check out my landing page here!

Week 3 – Adding System Pages

Week three of my month-long project. Check out my first week update here and my second week here! The project I am building is a digital brain for a quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. I am creating a digital space where they can store information, procedures, and systems. My goal for this project is to:

  • Help the owner to manage her business and customers
  • Help current and new employees get information and maintain consistency

This month I am going to be:

  • Gathering and organizing information
  • Creating an easy to manage system
  • Managing a large project
  • Building a system that can be added to overtime
  • Documenting my work 

What Have I Done This Week?

This week I worked on the other pages of my project. I created an: 

  • Product Requests Page
  • Block Of The Month Spreadsheet Page
  • Employee Hours page

First, I built a Product Requests page. The Quilted Windmill gets new products in all the time. They get customers who want a specific product to be held for them when it comes in and specific product requests. 

I made a table with the information necessary to store these requests. The Quilted Windmill currently has these requests in a folder. This information on a digital brain would be easier to manage and use. An employee can:

  • Quickly type in the information for a customer
  • Lookup a keyword or name when a product comes in. This will make finding a product request easier and faster.

The next page I created is the Employee Hours page. The current system is pieces of paper that the employees write their hours down on. I created a table where the employees can easily type in their hours and the owner can mark what is paid or not. The hours can be kept or discarded after they are paid. These pages are flexible and easy to adjust to whatever the owner needs. 

The final page I build is the Block Of The Month (BOM) page. The BOM is an event where a customer signs up to receive a block of a quilt every month for a year. At the end of the year, the quilt is completed. The current system is on paper and is not easy to adjust. I created this page so that the customer information can be easily stored and maintained. This also allows for sections to be added or removed. 

What Did I Do Well?

  • I focused on making the system easy to use. I did this by making the tables clear in their uses. Notion makes the columns easy to change and sort. 
  • I thought of and executed the different pages. I chose systems that would operate better in a digital brain and applied them to this project. 
  • I organized my thoughts for these systems and laid out my plan.

What Could Be Improved?

The time management battle continues to wage. I miscalculated my productivity. Next week, I’m going to use the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro method is focusing for twenty-five minutes and then taking a five minute break. I am going to do this to help me stay on top of my focus time and not split it up into small sections. I am also going to do the most intimidating task first. 

What I’ll Be Doing Next Week 

Next week I’ll be focusing on:

  • Putting the finishing touches on my project
  • Documenting my progress
  • Posting my progress to my advisors
  • Updating and finishing the SOP
  • Updating and finishing my landing page
  • Week 4 update post!

Check out my full project here!

Week 2 – Creating A Digital Brain

This is the second week I am working on this month-long project. If you are new, check out my first week update here! The project I am building is a second brain for a quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. I am creating a digital space where they can store information, procedures, and systems. My goal for this project is to:

  • Help the owner to manage her business and customers
  • Help current and new employees get information and maintain consistency

This month I am going to be:

  • Gathering and organizing information
  • Creating an easy to manage system
  • Managing a large project
  • Building a system that can be added to overtime
  • Documenting my work 

What Have I Done This Week?

This week I focused on the main page of my project. 

The Steps/Info Board’s purpose is for:

  • Step by step procedures on various tasks
  • Answers to the common employee or customer questions
  • Tips on how to solve situations that might arise
  • Information an employee might need including other employee contact info

I brainstormed on what aspects of the business I could add as sub-pages. I listed all the categories and began to add information that I knew. I understand this business’s system and know how to add inventory so I created a step-by-step list for how to add inventory. 

The beauty of this project is that I don’t have to know everything. It can be added to overtime. New questions, procedures, and information can be added, and grow with the company. 

Along with this sub-page, I added Toggle to the other sub-pages with questions that could come up and procedures that could be listed. 

I made a walkthrough video explaining how I managed this project.

What Did I Do Well?

  • I was sure to be specific with the categories I thought to add. 
  • I pushed to cover various bases to demonstrate what this digital brain can do for the owner. 
  • I was specific with the due dates in my project management system. 
  • I kept on top of my time management with my Trello project management. 

What Could Be Improved?

I had a lot of other things going on this past week. It took more of my work time than I anticipated. Next week, I am going to give track practice, meals, and events more time in my schedule. I’ve underestimated how long those tasks take to complete. If I block more time for those, I can accurately plan my work week. 

What I’ll Be Doing Next Week 

Next week I’ll be focusing on:

  • Creating pages for current processes that are kept on paper
  • Customizing the templates to fit the process
  • Documenting my progress
  • Posting my progress
  • Updating the SOP for the system I’m building
  • Updating my landing page
  • Week 3 update post!

Check out my full project here!

Week 1 – Project Planning

This month, I am going to be tackling an Operations project for a quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. This is my week one update of this month-long project. 

In this small business, like most small businesses, everything is institutional knowledge. The owner and employees have all the procedures and systems in their brains. New employees have to be trained to do the same. When an employee leaves, they take information with them. 

This is a difficult truth when a new system is added. Consistency is lost because employees have to rely on themselves to remember. They also have systems on paper that would be easier to manage online. They need somewhere to keep information, systems, and procedures. A place to keep things consistent no matter the employee’s knowledge. That’s what I am going to build. 

This month I am going to be:

  • Gathering and organizing information
  • Creating an easy to manage system
  • Managing a large project
  • Building a system that can be added to overtime
  • Documenting my work 

What Have I Done This Week?

This week I laid out my plan for my project. I planned what I needed to do each week of this month. I chose Trello as my project management system. I’ll be doing a walkthrough video on that next week. 

I talked to the owner of the quilt shop. I wanted to see if this management system is something that would really solve problems and add value to the business. She agreed that it would be beneficial. I created a landing page for this project and started documenting my progress!

What Did I Do Well?

I was very thorough with the steps I need to complete each week. Using Trello, I added checklists within the tasks to clearly pave the way for this project. I talked to the owner of The Quilted Windmill. I stated what problems I wanted to solve and what system I wanted to use to solve them. It was beneficial to see what elements I thought were needed and which ones weren’t. I can now make adjustments accordingly. 

What Could Be Improved?

The due dates on my project management are vague. This next week, I am going to be more specific with when I want tasks completed. 

What I’ll Be Doing Next Week 

Next week I’ll be focusing on:

  • Brainstorming any new sub-pages
  • Adding steps and answers to those sub-pages
  • Documenting my progress
  • Making a Trello project management walkthrough video
  • Posting my progress
  • Updating the SOP for the system I’m building
  • Updating my landing page
  • Week 2 update post!

Want to see my full project? Check out my landing page here!

I Built An Operations System For A Quilt Shop

I chose to build this project for a local quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. I work for this small business and know how to use their system. I’ve noticed that they don’t have a central location for a lot of their information. They have systems in place that work. From an Operations standpoint, I want to figure out how they could improve their systems. It would be helpful to have somewhere to reference and manage systems. If I figure out a system for keeping inventory consistent, it could be helpful to have somewhere a fellow employee could reference when they add in new inventory.

I wanted to find a program that would work best for this project. I chose Notion because of all of its templates, easy searching, and customization. The Quilted Windmill has a lot of moving parts, so I think that Notion would be the best place to manage them. In this SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), I go over why this would be helpful to the company, how the employees could use it, and general Notion functions. In completing this project, I learned how to: 

  1. Create a realistically sustainable process
  2. Use an Operations mindset when it comes to improving current systems

You can check out my condensed walkthrough video if you’d like!

How to use The Quilted Windmill’s Notion System

For: The Quilted Windmill Employees

Created: February 2021

How this is a solution: Information is all over the place and not all the employees know how to do things. What if the owner is gone and they can’t ask her how to refund or calculate prices? This could be the solution to that and much more.

  • Answers to employee questions stored all in one location
  • Keep up with systems that are put in place and they aren’t forgotten
  • The owner could leave more because the employees have everything they need. 
  • Easy to manage and update

How to use the system…

To find the answer to your question:

  1. Search the sub-page that would have the answer to your question. 
  2. You could also go to Quick Find and search for a keyword to find the answer quickly. 
  3. This page could have step-by-step procedures, common questions, ways to solve problems, and other helpful employee information.

To ask a question: There is or can be a sub-page where employees can add a question that isn’t already in the system. The owner or someone who knows the answer can add the answer and place it under the correct category in the system for organization purposes.

To follow a procedure: You can add steps to different processes. For example…

  1. How to add inventory
  2. How to check someone out
  3. How to sign someone up for BOM (Block Of The Month)
  4. How things are organized in the store

Some other examples of what Notion could keep track of for this company: 

  • Longarming Schedule
  • BOM spreadsheet
  • Employee hours
  • Product requests
  • Order management

General Notion functions

How to add a page: On the left-hand side of Notion, there is a toolbar. Click Add a page to add a new page. From there, you can select a template, view and customize the page.

How to add a sub-page: If on a new page, you can select List under Database. If not, add a dash(/) and select Page. If you scroll down, there are several other options. Including To-do lists, Headings, Bulleted lists, Numbered lists, Toggle lists, Database options, Media options, and so much more. 

How to select a template: There are two options. 

  1. You can select Templates on the empty page. 
  2. In the left-hand toolbar, you can select Templates. There are many to choose from in that window but you can click Browse more templates if you want to see more options. 

How to select a different view for a page: There are some templates like Weekly Agenda and Quick Note that don’t allow for a different view. This would most commonly be used in the Database List template. In the top left above the sub-pages, you’ll see a List view or Add a view. If you select that, you can click a different view or add a view. Changing the view can help you see the information you want to see from the list. 

How to search: If you are searching for a specific sub-page on the page, you can click Search in the top right above the list next to the blue New button. There, you can search for a page. If you are searching for a keyword, select Quick Find at the top of the toolbar. Type in the keyword and anything in Notion with that keyword will show up in the results. 

When you make a new sub-page: 

  1. Add a title
  2. Add an icon if you want
  3. Select the date the page was created
  4. Select the Tag(s) or type in a new tag
  5. Add a new property if there is another variable for sorting involved. This example also keeps track of who created what pages. That is why the property is Person

How I Made A FAQ Page For A Local Bakery

Bricktown Bakery is a local bakery that has been really popular since it opened. Their customers are loyal and involved. Where I believe they have an opportunity is in the management of online Customer Service. They get many repeat questions on social media and through calls. I’ve looked at their social media and have spoken with the owners; It’s stressful for them to manage. I think that an FAQ page would help them to minimize the number of frequently asked questions they get on social media and over the phone. If they received fewer questions, it would ease stress for the owners. If you want a condensed walkthrough of the page, you can watch this video I put together.

They use Wix for their website so I signed up for a free account. Bricktown’s colors consist of black and white. It’s a pretty basic site so I follow their general style. Here’s their website if you’d like to check it out. I matched their style and started to build the contents of the FAQ page. My priorities were:

  1. For questions to be easy for customers to find
  2. For new answers to be easy for the business to add
  3. For the page to fit in well with the style of the business

I settled on creating buttons that trigger lightboxes with the answer to a specific question. This system would make it easy to add new questions and would be easy for a customer to navigate. 

Here is how I added my button. I clicked Add and chose the button style I liked.

I changed the color of the button, text, and font to match the style of the page.

Once the button was designed the way I wanted it, I had to make a lightbox for it to trigger. 

I clicked Add and chose Interactions. I picked the style of lightbox that would look best and chose it. I changed the colors and font to go with the style of the page. 

I selected No to the lightbox settings so that the lightbox wouldn’t show up automatically on the page. I only wanted the button to trigger the lightbox.

I clicked the button, chose Change Text & Icon. This window popped up and I clicked Where does the button link to? 

I selected Lightbox and chose the lightbox I had just created specifically with the answer to this question. For the business to add a new question, all they would have to do is duplicate a lightbox and change the text.

They would then duplicate a button and change the text on it. They would change the trigger lightbox to be the new one they just created. 

In creating this project, I learned how to navigate Wix and create something that really can benefit a company. I think that this would be a valuable addition to this bakery when it comes to answering their customers get their questions. It would also help the owners have more time to run their business. . The owners of this little bakery know that they could improve their online customer service. They just haven’t had time to find a good way to manage it, so I hope the creation of this FAQ page will save them time and their customers’ confusion.