Mother Run: Kayla Lucia of The Happiest Homestead on Earth

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    From a whirlwind, long-distance love story to a middle of the woods burgeoning homestead-- that’s the story of Kayla and The Happiest Homestead on Earth.  So how did a city dweller from Ohio end up in rural, central Michigan on two and a half acres of land (complete with lots of chickens)? “My husband is a private person, so we'll call him Mr. Happiest Homestead,” begins Kayla. “Mr. Happiest Homestead became interested in mycology in his late teens which led to an interest in soil and permaculture, which led to an interest in gardening and growing his own food, and after finding himself in a rabbit hole of research, a lightbulb went off. Homesteading! Homesteading became a dream he shared with his mother, a talented cook, gardener, and fisherwoman.  His mother sadly passed in the summer of 2015. She left him a small sum of money and with that he seized the opportunity to pursue homesteading. He settled on building a life in Michigan, a state which he had never visited, based on several factors including population, the environment, proximity to water sources, etc. He saw the perfect house in the middle of the woods on Zillow and began the home buying process. Yeah, he was hung up on by several realtors and told it was a bad idea, but he persisted and put in a low cash offer which was accepted. Mr. Happiest Homestead packed up the essentials and left Nebraska, arriving at his new home around Thanksgiving. The first winter was tough for him, and honestly, depressing.  After spending a few months in solitude at the house he was ready to explore Michigan and the surrounding states. Tired of being lonely he posted on Reddit asking for an adventure buddy. At the time I was living in Columbus, Ohio with my parents and feeling a little lost about where I wanted to go next. I had left my management position at Walt Disney World the year prior but was still trying to keep my foot in the door by selling Disney vacations and balancing a full-time retail position. I was interested in living tiny, gardening, and possibly going off grid someday. I didn't want to commit to any particular state and had the desire to travel. I saw his post on Reddit and responded, thinking almost nothing of it and expecting, at the most, a pen pal. I told him to look me up if he was ever in Columbus. We started talking on the phone every day and quickly became good friends, bonding over our shared interests. We had our first date in mid-March 2016 at Tim Horton's and were engaged in the summer. I moved in later in the summer and without missing a beat we continued working towards our shared dream of self-sufficiency and a self-sustaining property.  So fast, but looking back I wouldn't have it any other way.”

    It’s been almost three years since Kayla picked up and moved to Michigan and their homestead continues to grow.  “Over that time we’ve taken small steps towards homesteading but this year is the first we’ve taken leaps!,” shares Kayla.  “I’ve always been independent and desired more flexibility than what a standard 9-5 offers,” she continues. “Our ultimate goal for the property is to be self-sustaining in all ways possible including growing and preparing all of our food, independently building and repairing our home and external structures, and generating a revenue from products created and services provided by the homestead.  Turning our homestead into a revenue-generating business is just a natural progress of self-sustainability for us.”

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    In addition to taking care of their land, Kayla and Mr. Happiest Homestead also welcomed a baby into their family recently.  “My son’s name is Oliver,” Kayla says.  “He is a sweet, five-month-old baby boy who is fascinated by the great outdoors.  He’s an easy smiler and loves to be silly!  We can’t wait to see him grow up on the homestead, our little wild child.”  Though he is just a baby now, as he grows he will become a more active part in their self-sufficiency journey.  “This homestead is a family venture,” says Kayla.  “I want him to enjoy being a kid in the country, or ‘in the bushes,’ as my grandmother would say, but as he grows older we’ll bestow more responsibilities on him such as feeding the chickens, tending the garden, cooking, etc.  I so hope he enjoys the simple life out here but will encourage and support his interests.”

    The birth of her son was an integral part of her starting The Happiest Homestead on Earth and building her online presence and community.  “I have worked since I was fourteen years old,” she explains.  “It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Oliver that I needed to take a step back and stop working a traditional job which was a very difficult transition for me.  Let’s just say my nesting was a little intense as I turned that into my 9-5!  Now I am trying to balance being a stay-at-home mom with starting a homestead and business.  As we move forward and my son ages I hope to balance homesteading with mothering by including him in the daily activities.”  

    Something that bonds a lot of stay-at-home and work-at-home mothers in this digital age is the isolation that comes along with being home by yourself, with young children.  “A struggle I’ve had to overcome was feeling lonely,” Kayla says.  “Oliver is so young that I don’t want to drag him out into the cold Michigan weather, plus the road conditions are pretty awful, so I don’t leave the house with him during the week unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I solved that by reaching out to fellow homesteaders on Instagram and networking and making friends.  I miss my out-of-state family and the conveniences of suburban life sometimes but the trade off of working towards a self-sufficient life is worth it.”

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    Two of the projects Kayla has started with The Happiest Homestead are all about based around the idea of cooking at home--100 Recipes in 2019 and #wannaberecipes.  The 100 Recipes project was started because “I realized I was relying on a lot of frozen meals and processed foods to feed my family which wasn’t aligned with our goals of self-sufficiency,” Kayla explains.  “I set my mind on experimenting with cooking, but I need specific goals to work towards so 100 Recipes was born. I challenged myself to try 100 recipes in 2019 to diversify our meals and improve my cooking and baking skills.  I’ve attempted 17 so far and I already feel more accomplished and comfortable in the kitchen. Watch out, Pioneer Woman, here I come!”

    Her second recipe based challenge (which recently inspired me to get back into baking my own bread!) is a joint effort between her and another Instagrammer, Michelle from Little Miss Wannabe Homesteader.  “Michelle and I are aiming to awaken the traditional spirit of home cooking,” Kayla explains. “We are inviting others to join in the fun each Tuesday by posting their favorite recipes and using the hashtag #wannaberecipes.  We’re firm believers that a good recipe will bring joy to those you love, so why not spread the love? It’s a blast so far and I’m loving the participation!”

    Kayla and Mr. Happiest Homestead are in the beginning stages of turning their vision into a business.  One of the things that has really been of value as they start is “talking to fellow homesteaders who have been in our shoes,” says Kayla.  “Being hyper-organized, yet flexible, and understanding things will probably NOT go to plan. As long as we make progress and keep moving forward we will be happy.”  Even though they are in the beginning, they have big plans for their land and have no trouble seeing the possibility of what The Happiest Homestead on Earth could be.  “Because we’re at the beginning stages things can only get more exciting from here,” Kayla explains. “Our first step is to grow more than enough food for ourselves and focus on testing a variety of products.  Producing and selling our own goods at local farmer’s markets here in Michigan would be a great step two.” Looking towards more long term goals, she says that “one possibility we’re exploring is to build and run an off-grid tiny house on our property for short-term rental.  Once we’re further along we’d love to invite others to stay with us and enjoy the property and maybe even teach them a thing or two about homesteading...or have them teach us! A more concrete goal is to build a commercial kitchen to open up possibilities beyond the Cottage Food Law here in Michigan.  We’d like to have the capability to package and ship goods from our property. We’ll get there someday.”

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    While she is here to share their homesteading journey, leading others to that life isn’t exactly on her purposeful to-do list.  “It may come as a surprise I don’t necessarily hope to inspire others to homestead,” Kayla shares. “If what I, and so many others, do piques your interest, that’s great.  I’m glad we have something in common and can learn from each other. I hope that my journey inspires others to leap Toss aside the fear and self-doubt and just GO FOR IT, whatever it is you want to do.”  If homesteading or becoming more self-sufficient is on your list of things to do, however, Kayla does have a bit of advice for you: “Start small and get your toes wet! Plant a container garden with your favorite veggies or cook some tasty recipes from scratch.  We have two and a half acres of land and still started with a container garden. Just take it slow and do your research. As you become more comfortable with the hobbies you enjoy I’m sure you’ll naturally start to explore other activities that go hand in hand with homesteading.  Utilize social media channels like Instagram and Reddit to network with homesteaders and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

    Sharing our stories in this vast online world can be so empowering.  To share what we are doing, celebrate each others wins, and help each other through shared struggles is what this community is all about.  But when you are part of any community, something that can be hard to do is not enter a game of comparison. We all have different situations and different goals.  We all have different definitions of success and different strengths. “Success to me, in my world, means that you are content and happy with your progress,” shares Kayla.  “We haven’t met our goals yet but I feel successful because we’re always moving forward.”

“Find your passion, do your research, build your community of support, and go for it.  Your kid is gonna think you’re a badass someday for pursuing your dream.”

Connect with Kayla:

On the web

On Instagram

Thanks so much for reading!

Yours in business + motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Margie K.P. Fudge

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    Have you ever heard someone say that their grand idea came to them in a dream?  That’s exactly what happened to Margie K.P. Fudge.  Before the pregnancy dream that helped her find her way to becoming a self published children’s book author (her book, Being Nice is Magical, came out in May 2018), Margie was “a college dropout just working full time, mostly in retail, and trying to be a person.”  “I wrote an immense amount of poetry and I’d give a reading here or there when the courage stuck me,” she remembers.  “I’d work on pieces of novels or screenplays, but I never finished them.  I’d get too tired or busy--or, admittedly, when I was younger, I’d just stop and go hang out with friends or something.  I was just kind of going through life completely confused and living very day-to-day.”  

    To Margie, being a mother and being a business owner are intricately connected.  “The idea of being an entrepreneur was always in the back of my mind for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I’ve always had this drive to build something of my own that I could eventually leave as a legacy, but I never knew how to go about it or figured I didn’t have what it took to do it. Once I became pregnant with my son, however, the idea of being a business owner moved at lightning speed from the back of my mind to the forefront. There wasn’t an option anymore. Once I delivered him, I had to go back to work full-time at only 6 weeks postpartum. It destroyed me. I was battling postpartum depression, my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night yet, so I’d come to work on a half hour of sleep, perform really badly at my job as a result, and they were constantly threatening to fire me. I’d cry all of the time because each day, I was missing out on precious time with my firstborn child to make money for a company that was constantly reminding me that I was replaceable. Quitting to stay home with him wasn’t an option, either. Finally, I reached my breaking point and decided to not only write the book, but grow it so largely that the book, as well as my name as an author, has its own brand. I want many more children, and I was (and still am) determined to never, ever be in that position again, so this was truly a do-or-die situation. I only get one life. I’m not going to limit what I want to do in this life because I have to go to work for someone else when there are ways around it.”

    Her son, Titus Love, is two and a half but her journey to publishing began when she was only five week pregnant.  “I had a super vibrant pregnant lady dream (yessss, you know the kind that I’m talking about!) about writing a children’s book about a little boy who does nice things out of the goodness of his heart and eventually turned into a wizard,” she explains.  “Even his name, Claude, came to me in the dream.  When I woke up the next morning, it was go time.  Literally.”  Though the idea may have come to her in her sleep, she still had a long road ahead of her to bring that dream into reality.  “While the dream I had was the thing that lit the fire in me and gave me most of the ideas, it didn’t give me all of the details,” Margie says.  “I decided to specifically make this book diverse because as the mother of a Black child, I realized that diverse books are dire.  While children’s books are getting much better with diversity in the past few years, they have a long way to go, and I wanted to be a part of that.  I wanted my son and others just like him to be able to open a book and think, ‘Hey, This kid looks like me!’ and find happiness there.  With my partner being a Black father, I have witnessed first hand a lot of the discredit and disrespect he’s gotten--even just the looks he gets when he’s out with our son.  It’s hurtful.  I could really go on an entire social rant here, but I’ll leave it at this: fathers in general, and Black fathers especially, deserve a lot more credit, love, and recognition than they’re currently getting.”

    In addition to creating a diverse character, her book is also aimed at kids on the autism spectrum.  “The context of the text doesn’t change at all--just the presentation of the text,” Margie explains.  “I’ve learned so much about autism in children during my time spent pursuing a clinical psych degree, and the reality of it is: many children on the spectrum can understand the same exact things that any other child can--they just need different tools sometimes.  I had learned about the visual literacy technique that I used in Being Nice is Magical in school, and after researching it much more extensively, decided to apply to my book.  It was honestly fun deciding which text styles and new colors to use for the emphatic words.”

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    Bringing her book to life was a long undertaking.  “Initially, I spent weeks researching the entire process,” she shares.  “As most entrepreneurs can probably attest to, you can read all of the articles you want about how business goes, but until you truly dive in with full faith in what you’re doing, you can’t truly know how it’s going to go.  The one thing I will say, though, is that the more you get into the field, the more people you surround yourself with who are doing similar things, before you know it, you’re kind of just taking all the necessary steps without having to research it just from being around it so much.”  After she spent time researching and learning, the real work began.  “Well, first, I had to sit down and write the manuscript, that was the best part,” Margie begins. “I had written a lot of adult-reading-level novels and short stories before, so the first draft read like that. I didn’t intend for it to. It just came out that way out of mindless habit. It was actually hilarious because I gave it to my partner, Titus, to read and he was like, ‘isn’t this supposed to be a children’s book?’ and I was like ‘Oh. Yeah. Whoops!’ So, I had to go back and rewrite it in the way a seven year old would be able to understand. I had to employ our niece who was 6 at the time by asking her ‘what would you say in this situation?’ and things like that.  Then came the reading, re-reading 800 times, and editing. I knew what I was writing was good stuff, but re-reading it is like hearing yourself speak on a recording. I’d cringe in that odd fear and self-loathing every time just because I could hear myself speak through my manuscript--if that makes sense. It helped to hand it off to everyone I knew and have them give me feedback, though. Most of the feedback was very useful and nice and that helped me get over that silly feeling. Had I not passed the manuscript around,  I don’t know that I’d have ever got over that. After I knew the manuscript was totally solid, I found an illustrator. Titus had recommended an artist that he knew already from being a part of the art and music scene in Detroit--Sade Robinson. She had previously had her art on display at the Baltimore Gallery, so needless to say, she was legit and on top of that, I loved her work.  Ironically enough, a few weeks later, I was at a dinner event in Detroit for the musician Jaye Prime where Sade was seated across from us at the table. I introduced myself, told her about my manuscript and asked her if she would illustrate the book. She was immediately about it. A few days later, she drew up a contract and she was ready to go.  I told her what I needed the illustrations showing, what needed to correspond with each page, etc. I gave her descriptions of what I needed, but she had a lot of complete reign on creativity, and trusting her judgement on it took the book further than I ever dreamed of. After lots of questions and patience on both ends, in a little less than a year, we had a complete and illustrated book. After that, the hard part truly began, and I, in no way, was prepared for it. Self-publishing has lots of very particular sizing guidelines (that I was previously unaware of) and Titus and I stayed up many, many nights trying to get the page sizes right. Getting the website up and running was equally as tedious of a process. Initial investment costs were expensive. Many days, it felt like it wasn’t going to work out. Marketing was difficult with no printed book produced yet, it was hard making ends meet with bills and now book expenses. I cried a lot. I began grinding my teeth at night. My diet suffered because I’d literally come home late from my day job, get my son to bed, and because I didn’t want to waste any time (or simply out of exhaustion and stress), I’d just eat frozen pizza or eat Taco Bell for the fifth time in a week. I was breaking out a lot more. I was angry a lot just as a result of anxiety. That part was dreadful. But within a month and a half, we got it worked out, and a lot actually came together in it’s own time.  Finally, the book was ready for printing and distribution. But I’ll tell you--that was the longest month and a half of my entire life to date. You know that face that all the new moms have in the photo when they’re holding their new baby right after delivering? After everything was said and done, it all felt like that face. Exhausted, proud, in love, terrified, and certain somehow, all rolled into one.”

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    If you think writing and self publishing a book sounds daunting, imagine doing it while also trying to spend quality time with your family, going to school, and working a full time job.  “I’m in the stage where the balance is very small and very scheduled,” Margie says. “It’s a wild understatement to say that it’s incredibly difficult to juggle still having a day job, finishing up my degree, being a mother, and being a person, too. In the morning, a lot of times I have to be at work before my son even wakes up. Some days, I do get to wake him up and get him breakfast and so on, but with that comes the vehement ‘NO GO TO WORK, MAMA!’ protest. Any mom can relate when I say that part hurts me more than him. We have a lot of ‘I know mommy is working a lot, but mommy is working so hard right now so she can be home with you all the time very very soon’ discussions. I facetime with him, a lot of photos are sent back and forth, and when I come home in the evening, it’s just quality time with him and his dad before it’s his bedtime. If I get home really late, like 8 or 9 o clock, if my son isn’t already asleep, sometimes I keep him up a little later just to see him for a bit. I try to make every moment with him so special. Once he’s in bed, though, the work on all things book related begins and I repeat that same process all week long. I have to schedule entire days off of everything to keep sane, and it’s usually Sundays. Some Sundays we just lounge around and play all day, and others, we visit museums or the park or some other fun place--but no matter what, I always keep my time with my son as qualitative as possible. It’s never easy, but it’s getting easier. I’m beginning to see the fruits of my labor ripen.  My biggest struggle? Patience. I can see that everything is growing in the right direction, but it’s hard to keep pushing through until it gets as large as I know it will be. People tell me that all of the waiting I’ve had to do for various things is supposed to teach me lessons in patience, but if I’m being honest--all it does is stress me out.”
    Though Being Nice is Magical was born from a dream, Margie was a writer long before.  “I’ve been writing since I’ve been eight years old,” she shares.  “I even used to participate in all of the Young Authors events in grade school.  My first ‘book’ was called Bug Mud.  I illustrated it myself--it’s just these pieces of paper stapled together with Crayola marker pictures and my wobbly handwriting as the text.  It’s silly.  It was about bugs who were stuck in the mud.  My mother had books on tops of books on top of BOOKS of poetry that would write and keep for herself and I probably internalized that somewhere.  It sounds cliche, but I speak the truth when I say that writing has always been something that I’ve done just the same as tying shoes or washing my hands.”  Before she delved into children’s books, she covered quite a few other genres.  “When I began writing seriously, I started off creating transgressional fiction pieces,” she says.  “I loved the idea of the main character finding new and crazy ways to try and change the cards they were dealt.  Being insurgent is something that always engaged me, and to find an entire genre of literature that catered to that had me flying over the moon.  I wrote a few unfinished novels and even some screenplays in that genre.  Eventually, that evolved into a lot of horror writing.  A lot of people have asked ‘how do you even think of horror pieces to write? Like, are you okay in the head?’  The answer is absolutely and even more so for writing horror.  I’ve suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember, and writing about scary things that I know are fake and controlled by me, the writer, is a way of coping in a symbolic way.  It keeps me grounded during the days that are extra anxious.  My favorite piece?  Probably the one that was published in Vine Leaves Literary Journal.  It was a vignette about a demon escaping someone’s body in a very detailed, bloody fashion and then ended with the demon finally escaping, left to be walking the earth.  It was so significant because I was battling postpartum depression at the time, and that’s how I envisioned it as I healed.  It was painful, mentally gory work.  It petrified me almost all of the time--but after really going through the ringer with it, it finally left me and I have been restored more than I ever knew I could be.”

    As she comes out of 2018 with her first self published children’s book put out into the world, her future is bright.  While Being Nice is Magical focused on niceness, she has plans to expand it into a series.  “The second book is focusing on the magic of being patient,” Margie says.  “After that, we’ll focus on being honest, having empathy, displaying manners, having integrity...the list goes on and on!”  Putting out more books isn’t the only thing on her list of goals for the upcoming year.  “Aside from getting another book or two and some merch out, I definitely want to be part of more author events and book expos,” she says.  “I love interacting with my magical little readers and their parents and hearing all of their feedback.  I love getting the chance to answer questions, or even ask my readers questions about what they enjoyed about the book, what they would like to see next.  Overall, though, the end goal for 2019 is to be able to be completely full time with being an author and not have to have a day job anymore.  And mark me on this--it’s going to happen.”

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    As she reaches towards that end goal of writing full time, there have been, and will be more, hard days.  So what keeps her going?  “It’s a combination of a lot of things,” she explains.  “I try to listen to a lot of ultra-inspiring music. It’s been a lot of super motivational hip hop and cozy nostalgia music from the 90s that I grew up with. My partner, Titus, is also a huge driving force. He just listens, understands, and helps in any way that he can. He’s the most supportive person I’ve ever met. He works on all of the graphics you see on margiekpfudge.com or the flyers, and that man is tireless. He’s constantly pushing me to be my best self--the person he sees in his eyes.  Even after all of these years together, it still feels like a new light to be seen in. It makes me feel giddy.  He also cooks mean vegan food that soothes the tortured soul. He’s such a great dad, too, so when I’m working a lot, I know that our son is still being nurtured the way he needs to be when he’s with his dad. Finally, as the cornerstone of everything is my son. He wakes up asking to read mama’s book. He tells me he’s ‘going to the store to get mama’s book.’  My book is only in one store for now, but his little exclamations are enough to bring me to happy tears. He’s counting on me too much now to let him down, so quitting or giving up is never an option no matter how stressed I may get.
In all honesty, when it gets really bad,  I just try to remember these good moments. I vent a lot. I allow myself to experience the anger that arises sometimes at the time and money constraints. I allow myself to feel all of the emotions. I do the ol’ drive-n-cry sometimes. It’s always best to acknowledge our emotions.”  Though her little family is amazingly supportive, she also has dealt with those who aren’t so encouraging.  “I run into this a lot,” she says.  “Far more often than I could have ever imagined and from a lot of people I never thought I’d hear it from.  It’s going to sound silly, but I’ve never been hurt by it.  Only confused.  In any regard, it only gives me fuel.  For each person that doubts me, I turn up the push on what I’m doing by 200.  I thrive off of proving people wrong.”  Keeping those who doubt her to the back of her mind and focusing on those that show support is the key to not getting weighed down by negativity.  “My overall mood has been that of gratitude,” she shares.  “I never imagined my career as an author to be taking off the way that it is, and to each and every one of you reading this--I thank you for taking the time to do so.  I thank every single person who has bought a copy of the book, attended one of my book events, enabled me to be a part of a book event, or even just gave my posts on social media a like or share.  That is so invaluable to me, and this dream of mine that I’m literally giving my ALL to exhibit wouldn’t even be possible were it not for folks like you.”

    So what advice does she have for other mothers looking to start something of their own?  “Acknowledge that it will be time, money, and sanity being poured into it,” Margie says.  “It will get hard. You’ll have days that you’d rather just give up because it may feel easier-but you must continue on. Take solace in knowing that there are others in your exact situation. It’s normal to lose sleep. It’s normal to lose friends. People get resentful sometimes--try to lift them up if you can, and don’t take their bitterness personal. It’s normal to lose faith in ourselves sometimes, but keep it at a minimum. Allow yourself to feel and express your feelings, but do so tactfully, quietly, and in sophistication. Emotional self expression can be done in these ways. When you run a business, even that one crazy tweet while you’re in your feelings can ruin your entire market. Do your best to think forward as much as possible and at all times.  Above all, the outcome will outweigh all of this. Believe in it and it will be so.”

What does success mean to you?

“Success is certainly a multi-faceted concept and probably has different meanings for everyone, but to me, personally: I’ll know that I’ve become successful when I can continue to have children without worrying about going back to work for someone else and it doesn’t cause any financial strain. I don’t care about making millions or living lavishly--I just want to create enough successful books to be able to live comfortably. By that, I mean, I want to make enough for my children’s future, our retirement, getting a new house built, and enough to be able to go out and celebrate with a nice dinner when the hard work pays off. I want to generate enough income from my books and publishing house that I won’t ever have to worry about bills or groceries ever again.”

What’s on your business bucket list?

"-Acquiring my own book-printing machine
-Owning an actual building for my own publishing house
-Create 20+ books
-The New York Times Bestseller List.
-Also, having a drink with author Bunmi Laditan.”


Connect with Margie:

On the web

On Instagram

On Amazon

 

Mother Run: Zoe Powell of The Mama Book

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    Sometimes our businesses don’t start out as businesses. They can be a slow burn born out of a need you wish to fill in your own life. They take on a life of their own and become something you never really imagined. Such is the story of Zoe Powell and The Mama Book.

    The Mama Book, a special journal created to help mothers take time for themselves, was officially started just over a year ago. Zoe’s first round of preorders became available in July 2017, but the roots of The Mama Book run a little further back.  “I have a degree in English Literature,” she begins, “which wasn’t so straightforward since my husband and I had our first daughter in the middle of my degree!  I took a leave of absence for a year and continued where I had left off.  A few weeks before the end of my degree our son was born, and that summer after graduation we moved down the county to Oxfordshire, so my husband could start his new job in London.”  Unbeknownst to her, that move would set her on the path that would eventually lead her to creating The Mama Book. 

     “I vividly remember when I created the journal, going to find a blank notebook and filling it with page titles and prompts,” Zoe says.  “It was something I really needed myself, after years of not giving myself enough breathing room to process motherhood and all its highs and lows.  I really felt like my mind was becoming crowded and it was harder and harder to keep track of all the things, never mind contemplate the nature of motherhood.  Initially I just felt compelled to make a physical space for myself to be able to write down all the things in my mind but I quickly realized that this was what I had needed to allow myself all along.  Some breathing room, some intentional reflection and planning time, somewhere to focus on the joys and acknowledge challenges too.”

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    Creating that space for herself was the first step to getting where she is today.  “I started slowly, because I knew from past experience that I am an ideas person, love new ideas but I needed to wait for all the puzzle pieces to fit together,” she explains.  “I took it slow and steady, using my own handwritten version of the journal for a year before I started digitizing it, getting opinions from other mamas, and researching printing options. I had a clear idea of the kind of stock I wanted the cover to be made from and that was one of the hardest things, since I also wanted to try to keep it local and within the U.K.,avoiding outsourcing to other countries.  I took part in the 100 day business goal challenge by The Business Bakery which helped me stay focused as I headed towards preorders and learned from articles and podcasts along the way, too.” That slow and steady mindset allowed her to really take her time and steer clear of the stress we often put ourselves under to get things done quicker. Her progress was “mostly done in odd evenings or nap times when my little ones were sleeping,” she says.  “I tried to take away the pressure to rush for a certain date or anything, and instead focused on getting it tested by mamas from different backgrounds, different aged children and some who worked outside the home, inside, etc. Once I had the print file ready and I was happy that I had taken all the research into account, I was finally able to get a proof copy and start using the real life version!”

    Her mission behind The Mama Book resonates with a lot of women.  “So often in mothering we are reacting to situations, problems, or dealing with the myriad of everyday things that need to be done, feeding, playing, cleaning, tidying, feeding, washing,” Zoe says.  “We can get lost in the smaller things and forget the bigger picture--to remember that it matters, it counts. We can also forget to see the joys in those mundane things, and forget to intentionally make time to do things that go above those quotidian occurrences.  Writing it down is much more concrete and affects us in a different way than ideas we keep in our heads. I love having a written record of so many parts of each season to look back on.”

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    Her seasons have changed a lot over the years as she got her degree, started a business, and grew her family.  She does all that she does while caring for her three kids.  “We have a little girl, Phoebe, who is our oldest, a little boy, Simeon, and our youngest is Amelia,” she shares.  “They each have different personalities but you can see that they are related!  When The Mama Book website went live they were 5, 3, and 18 months but I had been using the journal in some form for about a year before that--when they were all underfoot and before my oldest had started at school.”  

    As anyone balancing motherhood with business knows, there are always challenges and problems to solve.  “The hardest thing at the moment is mentally switching between the two,” she says.  “On the whole I try to get things done when they are asleep or at nursery on my one day of childcare, but with the joys of smartphones it can be easy to find yourself stuck looking at something which could actually wait.  I tend to lean towards spending time with them and the blog post or email I’m wanting to get to being pushed to the bottom of the pile--so content isn’t always as regular as I’d like but they will only ever be this young once!”  One of the things that helps her is removing the temptation to do those other things.  “I do try to keep apps off my phone,” Zoe says.  “I deleted my email from it which has been so freeing and regularly log out of social media so that I’m not tempted to check in.  Batching helps me a lot when I have enough time or brainpower to be able to do a lot of similar tasks at the same time.  I do try to explain to them what I’m doing and include them though--Phoebe was gleeful when she watched the video I made explaining The Mama Book, and I have a precious memory of Simeon helping me to package up preorders.”  

    Another obstacle that she has overcome in her quest of balancing a family and a business is the dreaded and relatable imposter syndrome.  “Honestly, I’m probably the one who doesn’t see it as a real job since imposter syndrome can be so hard,” she shares.  “I’m the worst at fumbling over my words when people ask what I do, or if I work!  My friends and family have all been supportive of The Mama Book, but I could be better at asking for what I need!”  As so many of us can attest, those feelings can present themselves even outside of running a small business.  “Feeling like I can’t do everything perfectly is something I find challenging in all areas of life,” Zoe says.  “I’ve had to realize I can’t be a perfect mother, and housewife, and personal assistant, and writer, and business owner 100% of the time.  Different things and people need more and less attention at different times so now I’m trying to aim for balance overall than perfect balance of each thing each day.  We have to give ourselves grace and do the right things with those around us in mind.”

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    The Mama Book has evolved so much since Zoe first began.  “It has been so fun to see the community grow and to send journals to all kinds of places,” she says.  “We have started interviews on the blog to get to know some mamas better and to learn from each other which I love.  With maternal mental health awareness week we started #mamatakesfive to encourage mothers to take five minutes each day for some breathing room and I’m hoping that will continue to grow.  We are starting to venture into being stocked in real life shops and so I’m excited to see what will happen over the next year or so. One of my favourite things is getting to donate a portion from each journal sale to PANDAs and support mothers with mental illnesses that way, too.”

    Despite her business being young she has done so much already for mothers with her work.  We all deserve that time to do something that we enjoy--whether that is journaling, being part of a community, or even starting a business.  Zoe leaves us with a bit of advice that everyone, regardless of what season you’re in, can take to heart-- “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, you are human and you need to rest and breathe as much as anyone else.  These are the good old days--look up and see them!”


Connect with Zoe:

On the web

On Instagram

Mother Run: Alexis Edwards of Birth 360

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    Alexis Edwards wasn’t always a birth worker.  “I worked full time as a social worker before transitioning home for a few years after having children,” she recounts.  “I still worked from home part-time for an adoption agency writing home studies and conducting post-placement home visits, while also keeping humans alive and shit was bananas. Shout out to all those work from home moms doing the impossible! In November 2016 I became certified as a birth and postpartum doula and then officially put my kids in school part-time to grow my private practice.”         

    She first discovered the new path she wanted to take during that time home with her kids. “I had a lot of time to think about my career and the populations I wanted to serve,” she explains.  “I also had a lot of time to realize that staying home wasn’t the best fit for me. I struggled emotionally and lacked support. I felt very isolated during my daughters first year and started my blog as a way to get everything I was feeling out of my brain.  Ironically, my blog connected me with other mothers and made me feel less alone. It made me realize the importance of community, especially during new parenthood, and it was then I started researching doula trainings. I knew I wanted to support new parents in the perinatal period and use my social work skills to serve the mental health needs that are often ignored during this huge transition in life.”  A big part of her decision to go into this new line of work stemmed directly from her own doula use. “I had a doula for both of my births and very much valued their support along the way,” she says. “I also suffered from severe postpartum anxiety after my sons birth and coming out the other side of that inspired me to support other women in normalizing and validating the struggles new parents can face that aren’t often talked about.”  Within her own practice she works to support every mother she comes across and knows that every birth and situation looks different.  “I support all types of birth and have supported women in a range of experiences, from a home birth to holding their hand in the OR,” she says. “My goal is not to try and sway my client into one type of birthing environment vs. another. Each woman is unique and will have unique needs and I will always support their decision to birth with and where they feel safe and supported. I encourage all of my clients, no matter their birth preferences to seek out a comprehensive childbirth education course. One that covers all the variations of normal when it comes to birth and that provides knowledge and information on all types of intervention and the risks/benefits involved so they can feel empowered in making an informed choice. The thing I’ve realized the longer I’ve worked with women in this stage of life, is that a satisfying birth experience has less to do with where or how the baby was born, and more to do with how the experience made her FEEL. And the thing that consistently determines whether a woman has positive emotions connected to her birth is significantly related to how she was treated by those surrounding her.”

    Her social work background has led her to create quite a unique, and much needed, business.  With a goal to bridge the gap between birth and mental health, her work serves to help many women who may otherwise fall through the cracks.  Her ability to connect more extensively with birthing people prenatally helps build a deeper relationship than one may typically have with a doctor or other healthcare provider.  “This allows for rapport and trust to build early on and I’m planting seeds about postpartum the whole time, reminding them that should they need additional mental health support postpartum, I am trained to do so,” Alexis explains. “It’s so much easier to reach out for support when you already know who to reach out to. As a doula, I’m also seeing my clients sooner than a medical provider in the postpartum period. Most women don’t see their provider until 6 weeks postpartum which is light years in new parent land. Doulas typically do a postpartum home visit around 1-2 weeks postpartum and are also checking in via phone/text during those early weeks so it allows me the opportunity to observe clients in the midst of the newborn haze when it’s more likely for issues to surface. Doulas are also trained to provide options and encourage informed choice. This means that I’m not just discussing medication as an option, but also offering referrals to support groups, lactation support, psychiatrists, etc. and especially those trained in perinatal issues. I don’t want to paint medical providers in a bad light.  Many are providing proper referrals in the same way, but not all have that knowledge and the best they know to do is prescribe a standard medication which may not always be the best fit depending on the patient and their unique needs.”

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    In addition to offering birth and postpartum doula services, Alexis also uses her education and experiences to advocate for trauma survivors in birth through her program Carry on Warriors.  “I am a trauma survivor myself and experienced traumatic birth with both of my children,” she shares. “I also primarily worked with trauma survivors as a counselor before having children, but despite all that, I didn’t really consider the impact my history would have on my own births and postpartum.  That’s the thing about trauma, even if you feel ok cognitively, the body still stores those trauma memories and they can come flooding to the surface during the perinatal period. So much of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is this raw, primal, physical, and emotional journey and our body can interpret those sensations as unsafe and women might find themselves being triggered by the normal parts of birth or new parenthood.  I think this is one of those things that isn’t often talked about so I’m passionate about creating conversation around this issue, especially considering 1 in 3 women are survivors.” In addition to the Carry on Warriors program, she also offers a group called Growing Together which focuses on partners becoming parents. “There is so much emphasis prenatally on making a birth plan, decorating the nursery, or what to pack in your hospital bag, but no one is talking about the shit show you are about to navigate when you get sent home alone with a tiny human that is basically a digestive system,” says Alexis.  “Growing Together was created with the goal of educating both partners on the various postpartum issues they may face and equipping them with tools and support on how to better handle conflict and meet each others needs during this rocky time as a couple.”

    One of the things within her work that she is passionate about is changing the statistics of maternal mortality.  “There are many wonderfully compassionate and evidence-based OBGYN’s that also provide women centered care, but the truth of the matter is our healthcare system is significantly flawed,” she explains.  “There is an overall issue with unnecessary interventions that absolutely contribute to birth trauma which increases your likelihood of experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. The U.S. also has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, and black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.  Even more, as many as 1 in 5 women experience a mood disorder postpartum and that increases to 1 in 3 for women of color so it’s hard not to consider the correlation between what is happening in birth and what women are experiencing after the fact.” She even attended the March for Moms in Washington D.C. earlier this year to lobby for maternal health.  “That means I had to run around capitol hill in a pencil skirt and kitten heels to yell at Senators to stop letting mothers die in the U.S.,” she says. “No, that’s an exaggeration, lol. But that is essentially what I did. The first day was an actual March for Moms to build awareness around maternal health issues such as postpartum mood disorders and maternal mortality and survivors and family members that have lost loved ones were able to speak and share their stories.  I think that portion of the trip was meant to motivate and inspire us to speak from the heart when meeting with legislators. Our goal in the legislative meetings was to encourage their support and sponsorship of three specific bills related to maternal health. One was a bill that requires medical providers to screen for postpartum depression, another would strengthen maternal mortality review committees in order to collect more accurate data on why mothers are dying, and the last was to create paid family and medical leave, all causes I’m extremely passionate about as each could improve outcomes for mothers.”

    Her foray into birth work was slow and built around her family and the season of life they were in at the time.  “I started my doula training journey in early 2016 when my youngest was almost 2,” she says. “Our first year and a half with her was a hot fucking mess.  She slept zero. She only wanted boob. And I felt immense guilt that I wasn’t giving my older kiddo the attention he deserved. Looking back, I know I would have failed at starting my practice during that stage which is probably why I didn’t even consider it until we started to come out the other side of that sleep deprived, over touched torture.  I definitely took it slow in the beginning as I was still home with them full time, but just did what I could when I could squeeze it in and gave myself grace along the way, knowing I would eventually reach a place where we could transition them into more childcare. And that’s exactly what happened. They are now almost 4 and 6 and my oldest will start kindergarten this Fall and we will transition our daughter to a full time preschool.  It’s crazy to think I’ve come that far in the journey.”

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    The on-call nature of birth work provides an additional challenge to running a business with kids.  You never know exactly when a call is going to come in and you have to drop what you’re doing or sneak out in the middle of the night.  “Not gonna lie, on-call is fucking tough,” says Alexis. “I suffer from anxiety so I have to be mindful of those feelings creeping in and engage in the right self-care so I can stay well rested and not feel on edge waiting for the call.  But I also limit the number of birth clients I take on each month to make that process more manageable. Many full time doulas might take 5-6 clients a month, but I only take 1-2 which also allows me to manage the other services I offer and still ‘balance’ that family life.”  As working mothers that balance ebbs and flows as we move through different periods of life. “It definitely has gotten easier as they have gotten older,” she says. “They are more independent and really enjoy school and time with their friends vs. those earlier years where separation anxiety and thirst for nipple was real life.”

    Though on-call work as a mother is hard, Alexis says the biggest challenge she has had to overcome is “definitely affordable, quality childcare.”  “It was hard initially to start a business without childcare,” she continues. “I needed to make money to pay for it, but I also needed childcare to serve clients.  It was rough there initially and there were a few months I wanted to quit from the anxiety, but I just kept pushing through and eventually it all worked out and now that is less of a stressor.  I do still have it in the back of mind though since my income isn’t consistent. If I have a slow month, it can get stressful, but I’ve been working harder at adding in those unexpected periods to my budget to give us a cushion for when that does happen.  That’s been a big part of my journey that I’ve learned as I go. Managing money is uncomfortable AF, and I think many business owners struggle with how to manage a budget and make financially sound business decisions. I recently invested in a bookkeeper to keep my life right and that has been tremendously helpful.”

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    So often as small business owners we face criticism or doubt from others about our ability to not only run a business, but to run one with children.  Alexis has the perfect answer for those would dare to question her choices. “Fuck that noise,” she says. “It pisses me off how often I am asked ‘how do you do it all?’ when my husband is just being a dad and having a career no questions asked.  I constantly have to remind myself that women are given this ridiculous narrative that we can’t have it all so I know that’s where the question stems from. But the truth of the matter is I don’t have it all. I’m not perfect and I have good days and bad days, and no matter what I do or how I do it, one thing will suffer while I give energy to another.  And I just give that some grace and keep going. I know I have something to offer this world, and if someone wants to doubt that then they ain’t my people. This is another space where my village comes in. I surround myself with other female entrepreneurs and feel inspired and supported by how much they kick ass and take names on the daily.” That village is also what helps her get through challenging times.  “I’ve learned over the years to ask for help and seek connection when I need it. Our culture doesn’t do the best job encouraging a village. We are one of the only cultures that doesn’t raise families as a community and I do believe that contributes to the poor outcomes our country is navigating in regards to maternal health. So I try really hard to practice what I preach to my clients and ask for support when I feel myself getting overwhelmed.”

What’s on her business bucket list?

“Write a book!!!”

Her favorite creative and business resources:

“You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. The Courage to Become by Catia Holm. Also the Hey, Girl podcast. And Brene Brown. All the Brene Brown.”

Her advice for other biz owning moms?

“Keep doing you boo. When doubt or comparison starts to creep in, kick that shit in the face and keep doing that goodness you know you were meant to do. Also, wine.”

Connect with Alexis:

On the web

On Instagram

Top Knot Squad Podcast

 

Thank you so much for reading.

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Erin Giordano of December Dame

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     If you want to see the profound effects that women (and mothers) supporting and encouraging each other can have, look no further than Erin Giordano.  Erin had thoughts of starting of her own business but hadn’t yet taken the plunge until one day she saw another mother maker hosting a collaboration contest.  The contest, run by Nicole Sloan of Drawings by Nicole, was looking for submissions for new designs that she would help turn into enamel pins. “My husband and I had talked a LOT about me starting a business from home making the enamel pins,” Erin shares.  “But I am quite pessimistic, I kept telling myself it was just wishful thinking. So when Nicole posted about her collaboration contest, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. And if I won an opportunity to work with her, it would give me a little more insight into what it would take for me to start on my own.  I was really encouraged by the support I received and I told myself it was now or never!”

The design that won Erin the collaboration contest with Drawings by Nicole

The design that won Erin the collaboration contest with Drawings by Nicole

    Not only did Erin go on to win that collaboration In January 2018, it also proved to be the tipping point that officially led her to entrepreneurship.  One of the things that had been holding her back was not having the right tools, but that first pin with Nicole changed all that. “I didn’t have the necessary equipment needed to start designing,” Erin explains.  “For those who don’t remember or didn’t see, my design idea that I sent to Nicole was a pen/colored pencil drawing that I scanned using my mom’s computer and emailed to her. With the money I made from the sales of our pin collaboration, I was able to buy a used iPad Pro.”  The other hold up she had, that I’m sure most all of us can relate to at some point, is that pesky little feeling of self doubt. “I really had to talk myself out of a negative mindset,” she says. “I tell myself ‘it’ll never work’ too often. This was one of those times that I had to push through my self-doubt.”  The fact that it was joint effort to put her first design into the world gave her a bit of pause, but afterwards she decided to keep it going and start her own shop. “I was thinking ‘what if the only reason I did ok with sales is because of being associated with a bigger shop? What if the only reason they turned out so well is because I had a second person working with me on it?,’” she says.  “But I dove in anyways. And so far it’s working out pretty ok!”

    Prior to having children of her own, Erin got her Associates Degree in Child Development and worked as a preschool teacher for two years.  “From there, I decided to try out the medical field,” she says. “I was a pharmacy technician for seven years, which is funny because I am quite ‘crunchy.’  I worked in a pharmacy full-time until I was 38 weeks pregnant with our first baby, my son Jones, and then we decided that being a stay at home mom was the best choice for our family.”

    As we all know, starting a business from home with our kids is never easy (though perhaps her background as a preschool teacher gives her an edge!).  Not only is Erin running her business with two children, she is doing it as a mom of two under two. “My son, Jones, is 20 months old and my daughter, Pearl, is 7 months,” she says.  “They definitely keep me on my toes but I love being a mom so much. Being a mama is just as wonderful (and exhausting!) as they said it would be.”

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    While working with any age of children is hard, working with two babies comes with unique challenges since they can’t do anything alone.  “The biggest struggle is that both of my kids are so young and need their mom SO often for SO many different reasons,” Erin explains. “My son, being an inquisitive toddler, wants to play with the pins and play with the printer and play with my packing supplies and unravel the tape dispenser.  My daughter pretty much wants to nurse and be held 24/7, like most 7 month olds do. So yeah, still trying to find the best way to balance! With designing and talking to manufacturers and packing orders, right now I’m just trying to get as much done while my husband is home, while also spending enough time with him, and when the babies are asleep.”  Another challenge with very young kids, she says, is that “toddlers and babies don’t understand that you just need a few minutes to get some work done. And I’m trying to find the most efficient way to pack orders. Most of the time, I pack them with Pearl in the carrier on my back and when my husband is home to play with Jones.”

    One of the greatest things about social media is the connections you can make with people you may have otherwise never known existed.  This is one of Erin’s favorite parts of starting her business. “With pins being so popular right now, I’ve found and gotten to talk to so many artists over the last couple months!,” she says.  “Everyone is so nice and so encouraging. And it’s been awesome connecting with so many other moms running businesses.”

    She may have just started her business but Erin has big plans for its future.  “My goal is to really just see how far I can take this and take it to its limit, whatever that means,” she says.  “My goal three months ago was to maybe do shirts one day, and now I’ve almost sold out of two designs. So now my current goal is to have a few shirt designs in rotation by the end of the year, while still adding new pins to my shop!”

Don't underestimate mothers.

Don't underestimate mothers.

    As many of us know, sometimes a general lack of support can come from those around us who don’t share our vision but we can sometimes also be our own worst enemy.  “So far, I haven’t had to deal with much negativity besides my own,” Erin shares. “But sometimes I’ll talk to people about what I’m doing and they seem to see this as more of a hobby, rather than a business.  I’m pouring my heart into this, along with a lot of my free time. Which as other moms know, I don’t have much of. I am determined to make this work and to prove to people, and especially myself, that I CAN be successful.”

    So what is Erin’s advice for other mothers looking to join the entrepreneurial ranks?  “I feel like I’m still trying to figure all this out,” she says. “Surround yourself with people who cheer you on, find other moms who you can reach out to for encouragement and advice.  And definitely don’t get discouraged on the bad days.”

    “The encouragement I’ve gotten and the friends I’ve made is what helps me to keep going and keep putting myself out there,” says Erin.  Never be afraid to reach out to someone and tell them you love what they’re doing— a little support can go a long way!

 

Connect with Erin:

On Instagram

On Etsy

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business + motherhood,

Brittany


 

Mother Run: Hannah McFaull + April Hobbs of ...And Out Come The Boobs

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    Have you ever felt like you’ve lost part, or all, of your identity after becoming a mother?  Your priorities have shifted and you no longer have time for those things that made you YOU. You’re tired, wishing you could feel like you did before, feeling guilty for wishing you felt differently, and on top of everything else--your regular clothes don’t fit because you just had a baby.  Well, Hannah McFaull and April Hobbs knew that feeling and they decided to do something about it.

    Hannah and April, whose husbands have been friends since high school, met four years ago when April’s husband took a job with Hannah’s and relocated from the UK.  The two became fast friends. They talked about their future business for 18 months before finally taking the plunge in September 2017 and began preparing for their launch.  Their company, ...And Out Come The Boobs, went live right around Thanksgiving of that same year and took off. This is their story.

What all did you do before going into business for yourself?

H: I had my daughter in March 2016, and before that was the Co-Director of a radical women’s rights nonprofit, specializing in communication and finances. I’d always worked in non-profits in the human rights field, both in the UK and the US. I didn’t earn enough to cover the cost of my childcare, so becoming a full-time parent was a no-brainer.

A- Prior to this I was a bartender for 10 years, most recently at Forbidden Island in Alameda - and I have been sewing for 13 years before that, both for recreation and for a specialty western riding apparel company.

What made you want to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?

H: I’ve always been surrounded by strong women who have made things happen and being punks, the concept of DIY (Doing It Yourself) has always been central to the way I’ve tried to live my life. My husband started his own company in 2004, and is now one of the world’s biggest vinyl record manufacturers. His passion for his work, his drive and ambition inspires me every day.

...And Out Come The Boobs started as a conversation between friends - me complaining about the nursing clothes on the market, and April telling me that she would be happy to alter some of my clothes to turn them into nursing clothes. And we figured if I was feeling this way, then there must be others who were also unhappy. Turns out we were right!

A- I’ve always wanted to have my own company, sewing, punk and upcycling are right up my alley - and because I felt breastfeeding in public was such a pain in the ass, mostly because I am shy, I wanted to make clothes that I would feel comfortable nursing in. Something I felt cool wearing, but also could comfortably breastfeed in public in.

When you first went into business, did you dive right in and work things out as you went or were you more a researcher and planner?  What parts of running a business did you both struggle with at the beginning?

H: I think we are still at the beginning! We’re definitely working it all out as we go along - refining our business model and our approach to our work. We come across things all the time that we know we need to develop, and have to spend time thinking and talking things through. One thing I think we are good at is learning from our mistakes and giving ourselves a break when we mess up! We know that there’s no handbook for this and we’re trying to be kind to ourselves, and allow ourselves to grow as we gain more knowledge.

I’m definitely a planner and organizer, I’m never happier than when I’ve got a to-do list to work from. It definitely helps me keep all the plates spinning as a parent, as a partner and as a business owner.

A- Luckily I partnered up with Hannah who likes to plan! On the manufacturing side, customizing the shirts requires cutting into the design of the shirts and consideration of how to preserve the integrity of the T-shirt design, while still providing a totally comfortable nursing shirt. Each shirt takes some time to figure out which of our nursing designs fits best.

When we were starting out we made some prototypes and got them out to nursing parents to give us feedback on placement of the zippers, how long they should be etc. We are refining our process constantly through the reviews and feedback we get from our customers.

Your idea is so great, I know I personally didn’t buy nursing specific clothing because I just didn’t like what was available so I made what I already had work.  What personally led you to decide to begin making your products?

H: I hated the nursing clothing I had (I hated the maternity clothing too, but that’s an interview for another day!). It either made me feel like I was swamped by material, or that my boobs were always on show. I also struggled with breastfeeding at first, put on a load of weight, and felt like I was losing grip on who I was before I got pregnant. I have this really vivid memory of crying while trying to nurse my daughter, and looking at this enormous box of band t-shirts that I’d lovingly collected over years of going to shows, and wishing that I could just throw one of them one, fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans and leave the house with my bright pink hair spiked. I couldn’t do any of those things! I happened to mention to April how unhappy I was, and she offered to alter some of my clothes for me.

A- I just wanted to wear my clothes and I couldn’t!

Feeling like you’ve lost your identity after having a baby is a very common issue among women.  Something as simple as having clothing options available that make you feel like yourself can go a long way in helping women feel better.  How does it feel knowing that your product can really help new mothers in this way?

H: It’s honestly the driving force behind why we’re doing this. Becoming a parent is one of the most transformative things you can experience in life, and I personally wasn’t expecting to miss my pre-baby self as much as I did. For me, the expression of self through choices of clothing, hair color etc is such an important part of who I am and all got put on hold when I got pregnant - nothing fit, couldn’t bleach my hair, couldn’t get any new tattoos. So after the birth of my daughter I needed to claw that back as quickly as I could to prevent me feeling like I was drifting even further from myself.

A-  This is exactly why we do this. Breastfeeding is hard and when we’re on the go, we want to be able to feed our babies comfortably anywhere we are and feel like ourselves while we are doing it.

How do you balance your work with motherhood?  What struggles have you overcome while trying to find a balance between the two?

H: one of the reasons I love working with April, and with other parents, is that our kids come first. Always. No ifs, ands or buts. So if one of the kids is sick, or teething, or just being a nightmare, we totally get it and there’s no judgment or need for explanation. We took 3 weeks off in February this year so I could give birth to my son and April could move house, and we could have lost momentum, or found other distractions, but we really missed each other and came back to AOCTB more fired up with bigger plans than ever before!

A: You know that saying, ‘you sleep when they sleep’? Well, I sew when she sleeps. When my kids are around, I focus all my attention on them, it makes it so that sewing comes second, it's hard trying to find a balance between my children, work and sleep.

You ladies are the first Mother Run Interview team! How does working with a partner compare balance/scheduling/working wise compared to if you worked alone?  Do you think you face different obstacles working with two schedules or do you think it makes it easier to not have to do everything single handedly?

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H: I don’t think we could do this single handedly - I personally can’t operate a sewing machine, so our division of responsibilities completely plays to our individual strengths and skills. I think this is what makes our partnership work so well, is that we understand what our roles are. I love working with April - not only do I get to hang out with my friend but she has such great ideas and is such a positive person. We definitely keep each other going, keep each other motivated. I think it took us a while to get into our groove and find the best way to work together (and we’re still making it better all the time!), but as long as we are open and honest with each other about what we need, or what we have going on, then we can only hope to make our relationship stronger!

A- Working with a partner that does the stuff I don’t like to do (like computers and the facebook) is the best. She keeps the orders going/moving while I can just worry about  production.

Tell me a little about your kids, how old were they when you began your business journey?

H: My daughter Rosie is 2 and my son Joe is 10 weeks old. I tend to wear Joe in a carrier when I work but Rosie wants to help with everything, so she has a babysitter who comes to play a few times a week so I can get things done. We have a pack and play at the AOCTB workspace, an endless supply of goldfish crackers and have hosted a few toddler dance parties while we get orders finished off!

A: My youngest is 14 months old and she was 9 months old when we started our journey. My oldest is 21 and my son is 18. My oldest daughter has a 2 1\2 year old who is amazing! Grandma’s little rebel. My son is a bass player and a singer for a punk band in San Diego. They are my everything and driving force….(no one believes I’m a Grandma, but it’s true).

As small business owners, it can often be hard to see ourselves as entrepreneurs or to receive support in what we are doing.  Have you dealt with people doubting your ability to run a business or telling you it’s not a “real” job? If so, how do you handle it?

H: I think because our business is so new, we haven’t really seen ourselves as business owners yet, or had to describe ourselves that way very often. We did our first event a few weeks ago, and I think the more of those we do, the more real it will feel. We’ve definitely had conversations where people have had questions about our plans and have walked away impressed when we’ve answered all their questions and ‘proved’ that we know what we’re doing.

A: I have dealt with a little doubting, but that pushes me more. That’s just the way I’m wired. I really never thought about entrepreneurship, I just really wanted to improve our selection of nursing clothes.

Anything on your business goals bucket list?

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H: The name ...And Out Come The Boobs comes from the Rancid album ...And Out Come The Wolves, and the album art work is what our logo is a parody of. I’d love to get a photo of Lars from Rancid wearing one of our shirts! Aside from that I’d like to get a handle on Pinterest - I know it’s a hugely underused way of getting information out there and its on my to-do list for 2018.

A: Absolutely what Hannah said. My goal was to to go international and we’ve done that, so I guess I have to dream bigger. I would love to be able to have an employee or two. Hiring other moms is the best - no one manages their time more efficiently than a working mom!

Any favorite business or creative resources you love?  Favorite inspiring books, films, podcasts, blogs, speakers?

H: I find business inspiration in loads of small-business owning parents that we’ve connected with on Instagram - their honesty, passion and dedication takes my breath away and I strive to be as genuine about their challenges and achievements as they are.

A: The thing that inspires me are all the personal stories I’ve heard of women who were shamed and criticized while trying to breastfeed in public. I felt that with my older children and my youngest at times. I get inspired to normalize breastfeeding through their struggles as well as mine.

Any advice for other business owning moms?

H: Be real about your achievements and your goals. We all want to make enough money to put our kids through college, but not all of us are going to do that with our Etsy stores. Decide what your motivation is for running your business and remind yourself of it regularly.

And have a ‘get up and dance’ song, that makes you get off your ass and get things done. Motherhood and tiredness go hand in hand, so if you have a song that makes you wiggle, gives you energy and makes you smile, keep it on heavy rotation on your playlists...

A: Always put your family first.
 

Connect with Hannah + April:

On Etsy

On Instagram

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: Tabi Falcone of Annabelle Beet Designs

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    Tabi Falcone of Annabelle Beet Designs is a woman who wears many hats.  From her day job as a technical apparel designer, to her creative small business, to being a biological and foster mother--her days and her heart are full.  

    By day her occupation as a technical apparel designer keeps her busy.  “The easiest way to describe my occupation is that I write the blueprints for clothes,” she explains.  “I work directly with the creative design team and turn their vision into specifications (the measurements of the garments, construction, etc) and then work with the vendors to turn it into an actual garment that can be sold in stores.  The biggest thing (and what makes this a very specialized field) is I am in charge of the fit of the garment.  If you buy a pair of pants that fit really well, you have a technical designer to thank!  My education is in Fashion Design, and I sewed professionally for years at a bridal shop as well as freelance corsetry.  This past month I was also promoted to senior technical design so I have responsibility over a large popular brand and have three people reporting to me--no pressure or anything!”

    Her degree even led to the beginning of her new small business, which she started in November 2017.  “I have a background in painting through my college education and I’ve been consistently painting with my kids for years,” she says.  “I started experimenting with watercolors about a year and a half ago and have absolutely fallen in love with them. I started off with the food pun paintings as an extension of a separate business I briefly stepped into with a partner.  This business (reusable bags) was short lived and I learned that for my creative side I work best on my own for the core part of my business. After a small break I was feeling that ‘small biz’ tug again and decided to just put aside my fears and jump in to selling the part of that previous business that did the best - my paintings.”  Her decision to start selling her paintings is likely relatable to many handmade artists—“Honestly I made more paintings of food puns than my husband wanted hung in our house!,” she says. “He told me to either start selling or stop making, and stopping making was definitely not an option. I knew I would have limited time/energy as a full time working ‘mom of many’ and wouldn’t be able to do enough craft shows to satisfy me, so I decided to list my shop on Etsy.”

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    The third element of Tabi’s story is her family.  “My kids were (and still are) 5 and 7 when I started my small business,” she says.  “To them the only thing that has really changed is that every once in a while I pop out of the house for the day to sell at a craft show.  We have always been an artistic family and paint a lot together, and I do a lot of my business painting after hours as well. My kids are still young so they have a 7:30 and 8:00 bedtime which gives me two hours free every night before it’s time for me to go to bed.  Liam is 7 (and a half he reminds me) and is a cyclone of energy. The only time he stops moving is when he’s reading; we have read-a-thons every night before bed as our cuddle time. Going to the library is one of his favorite rewards and he will sit and read easily for 2 hours straight.  When he’s not reading he’s building forts or literally running around in circles. Maxwell is 5, and is a precocious little one with a surprising vocabulary. Some of his favorite words are ‘consequence’ and ‘difficult,’ which always surprises newcomers to the house.”

    In addition to her two biological children, Tabi and her husband are also foster parents.   “It’s an extremely detailed, invasive and long process,” says Tabi. “We were required to take a long class (30 hours) to learn trauma based parenting, invasive questions (including about our sex life - no lie), our friends/family were interviewed, our home was studied 4 times, we needed a fire inspection, medical reports on all members of the family living in the home, comprehensive background checks, income information, details on how much money we spend monthly on our bills, CPR certification and honestly probably more that I’m not remembering.  Between my work schedule (I travel internationally twice a year and to NYC in between), the two birth children we already have, and my husbands school schedule it took us a total of 10 months to receive our license.” That long process to become foster parents was well worth it. “The actual day to day of fostering is the most rewarding and heartbreaking thing we have done as parents,” she says. “We’ve said goodbye to children we parented for over 5 months knowing that we may never see them again, and we are preparing to say goodbye to a baby we have had for almost half of her life.  We’ve seen our children grow in empathy and we have celebrated and grieved with them. At the end of the day, it is something that has become ingrained in the fabric of our family, as much as it can suck sometimes.”

    With everything Tabi and her family has going on, finding time to devote to her growing business has been a bit of a struggle. “Finding time for everything that I need to do, and accepting that I can’t do everything that I want to do has been the biggest challenge,” she says. “I use a day planner and that has helped me a LOT, when I can remember to keep up with it. It has a page a day so I can break it down to realistic time slots of what I can actually get done in a day.”

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    That limited time hasn’t stopped her from getting her art out into the world and accomplishing her business goals (which is fitting as she says one of her favorite pieces is “purple to yellow ombre with the saying ‘slay your own dragons’ on it!”). She already has a couple craft shows under her belt and even though her fair days didn’t get off to a great start she didn’t let that get to her for long. “That [first] show actually did not go well and I left very discouraged,” she recalls. “It was a smaller show which had not been done before and it ended up POURING all day. I made about $10 more than what I paid for the slot and was questioning my dedication afterwards. I just did my second show, though, which was a larger show with beautiful weather and I ended up making four times my vendor fee and had an AMAZING response from the community. There will be some collaborations coming out of connections I made and I’m feeling really positive about the direction my shop is going in.”

    One of her goals for the year was to have her art in two local shops. It’s only June and she is already well on her way to surpassing that. She recently got her first wholesale order from a local business owner and has her art displayed in a local gallery.  “The gallery came about organically when my husband and I were on a date night at our local gallery hop,” she explains. “I talked to the woman working at the gallery for our local DADA (Downtown Arts District Association) and mentioned I was interested in joining. I showed her some pictures of my work and it turned out they had some spots opening up!  Within three weeks I was setting up my space there! With the shop I had been following them since they opened this year and based on their IG I felt my art would be a really good fit. They happened to be around the corner from a space I was attending a ‘Creatives and Cupcakes’ event at so I swung by to say hi and introduce myself. We set up a meeting and I frantically threw together a wholesale linesheet the day before to try to look professional. It apparently worked because the owner loved it and put in an order on the spot!  It’s so amazing to know that my work’s in an actual store. Somehow it makes it so much more real than selling on Etsy. I feel like it took me to a different level and it actually inspired me to create my own website! I took a quick break while I was travelling internationally for my day job, but now that I’m back I’m going to start reaching out to more retailers and try to expand my reach.” In addition that those goals that she is already smashing, her business future has one more major one in it. “My full blown bucket list is to open a gallery/studio space that is part art gallery/shop and part adult/children’s art studio,” she says. “Similar to the ‘wine and paint’ studios but with splatter painting and REALLY messy types of art like that.”

    A lot of small business owners have a hard time finding support from those around them who may not understand what goes into starting and running your own business.  Tabi is one of the lucky people to not have this problem. “This part is awesome,” she says. “I surround myself with really supportive people. My husband is absolutely my biggest supporter--he built my displays and helps me find time to focus on my art; as well as puts up me turning our dining room into my studio.  I have a very tight knit group of friends, many of whom are makers as well and have side hustles; we all build each other up constantly.”

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    With all that she has going on, Tabi isn’t slowing down and has some sage advice for other mothers looking to do the same.  “DON’T GIVE UP,” she stresses. “Seriously, do not give up on yourself. Change the plan, change the path, change the process, but never change the goal.  You absolutely can do it, even if it’s not in the way you originally envisioned. Find your tribe and lean on them. I could not be doing what I’m doing without having my friends and family to build me back up and be my sounding board when things aren’t doing what I want them to do.”

Connect with Tabi:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook

On Etsy

Thank you so much for reading along!

 

Yours in business + motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: Jaclyn Shaw of Jaclyn Shaw Photography

Jaclyn, her husband Chad, and their three kids.

Jaclyn, her husband Chad, and their three kids.

    Jaclyn Shaw’s love of photography began during her teenage years.  “My dad first introduced me to photography when I was 15,” she remembers.  “He had a Minolta camera that he showed me how to use and it was always a welcomed excuse to hang out with him.  In high school I began taking photography classes and really loved it. I HATED taking pictures of people. Those were the assignments that I literally begged my teacher to let me do something else.  I was too nervous and introverted and wasn’t comfortable with that type of interaction with people. It’s still a struggle that I deal with, but I force the interactions and as soon as I’m doing what I do best, all the anxiety melts away.”

    While her photography passion had its beginnings as a kid, it wasn’t until much later that she knew she wanted to make a career out of it.  “I picked my camera back up after a very long hiatus, when my kids were little,” she explains. “I had forgotten how much fun it was and I began posting the images I took.  I had a close friend ask me to take photos of his brother’s wedding and it took me three weeks to decide that I would do it. I was a nervous wreck the whole time, but every time I lifted my camera, I would instantly relax and learn to have fun.  That’s when I knew I needed to start putting more energy into it to see how far I could take it.” At the time, she was the mother of an eight year old girl named Sophia, a four year old boy named Sampson, and was pregnant with her third child, who would be a boy named Sullivan.  She wasted no time diving into her new venture. “I actually went into business blindly and as things popped up, learned along the way,” she recalls. “It was not an ideal, or probably smart way to go about things, but it worked well enough. I had a huge struggle in marketing appropriately and figuring out what made sense to charge my clients for what I had to offer.  The more I worked, the better I felt about my product and the more confidence I gained in charging what I thought was, not only appropriate, but necessary in order to be able to contribute to my family.”

    Prior to taking that plunge into entrepreneurship, Jaclyn worked in residential and commercial property management, as well as being a real estate agent.  “I made great money, but it was immensely stressful, time consuming, and was not filling a personal void that I felt,” she explains. “It got to the point where I had a really hard time ‘finding my happy’ and I knew that this was affecting my family.”  Making a career change into your own business is always a risk, but she knew it was the right move to make. “Photography was something that I knew that I enjoyed immensely,” says Jaclyn. “I’ve never once felt the need to complain about what I was doing.  It was never a ‘chore’ to shoot or sit at the computer for hours editing. It was fun--each and every time, and I felt a creative release that I didn’t know I needed to fulfil. I was lucky enough to have a husband that was willing to both financially and emotionally support me.  We knew it was a risk to relinquish the salary that I was making, and that running your own business takes time to take off, but personal happiness and fulfillment have always been things that my husband and I have seen as top priorities, so we took the risk.”

    That risk paid off and since beginning she has honed her craft in so many types of photo sessions.  One of the fun and challenging things about photography is using different skills for different types of photos.  “They are all SO different, and bring different things,” she explains. “Newborns require a little finesse, lots of props and very careful hands and poses.  They aren’t the type of session you just show up to and hope the best for. They require such small, specific details in order to run smoothly. Families are always great fun because you never know what you’re going to get.  You can drive to the session all while thinking of what poses you may want to try and realize as soon as you get there that what you wanted to do won’t fit that family. I feel like I have to think more quickly and really be on my toes, and I have to be immensely flexible, especially when dealing with multiple kids.  My mind usually races during these sessions and sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place, but if there are little ones, I usually AM all over the place. Family sessions require lots of running, lots of time on the ground and lots of fart noises.  Senior pictures are ridiculously fun, each and every time.  These are kids that have grown up in front of a camera, whether it be a friends or their own, and they know how to pose!  They are up for any and all of my crazy ideas, so it’s great creatively. There are usually lots of laughs and great conversations at these.  Weddings are special on a whole other level. It’s a long day watching months and months of a bride and grooms vision come to fruition. Being present for each and every moment, and having the opportunity to capture those moments for all of time is the greatest of compliments, especially as a photographer.  I have the unique opportunity to sit back and watch an entire day unfold. I get to see the bride and her dad standing in the corner laughing and crying and sharing a special moment alone. I get to see flower girls twirl in a mirror and feel like princesses and I get to see friends and family spend an entire afternoon celebrating the coming together of two insanely in-love people.  There is also a special friendship that ensues with photographing weddings. I come to the point where all of my clients feel like family or friends, but I spend so much time with the bride and groom that it just feels a little different.” She recently expanded her offerings into a new type of session. “Boudoir photography has always been on my bucket list, and I’ve recently started dabbling in it, and I am SO glad that I did,” Jaclyn says.  “It has been rewarding both creatively and on a level with my clients that I just don’t get in any other way. It’s a very personal experience and takes a lot of courage, and it requires conversations that you never typically have. Having the opportunity to show women, of all sizes, how incredibly beautiful they are in ways that they don’t ever see themselves fills my heart each and every time. It has become a very special route for me to be able to offer my clients.”

    It’s now been seven years since Jaclyn went into business for herself and her business has changed so much.  “It’s evolved in so many ways, from the time that I put into it, to the product that I give,” she says. “I used to struggle to get my clients 20-25 images that were worthy of them even looking at, and now I have a hard time narrowing them down to 60-70 images.  I’ve taught myself how to edit the way that I want my images to turn out. I’ve taught myself how to design my own website - twice. I learned how to put together the proper marketing and contracts that I feel fit who I represent and I’ve changed my logo and ‘look’ about half a dozen times.  I’ve also learned a great deal with how to ‘read’ people and help them relax in order to get the images that I know they want to get. I still struggle with this a lot - some people are tough nails to crack, but I’ve learned to not take it personally. I’ve found a pretty good rhythm with how I run my shoots, and it seems to work most of the time. It’s always evolving, and being in the business that I am, it probably always should.”

From a recent newborn session.

From a recent newborn session.

    It’s not only her business that has evolved in that time, her kids have also grown up, changing the balance of family and work throughout the years.  “This has always been a struggle,” says Jaclyn. “It’s hard and there is guilt that comes along with always sitting at the computer, or texting a client or editing while your kids want to play or need your attention, or the laundry needs done.  Currently, my youngest is in preschool from 8am - 11am and some days I am able to squeeze in work during that time, or for a quick hour or so during nap time, but I primarily edit and do almost everything else from the hours of 8 pm- midnight, on a nightly basis - especially during the busy season.  We moved my computer from the basement and into the living room so I could at least be in the same vicinity of my husband while I edit on those nights. It doesn’t feel like there is quite as much of a marriage strain since we have done that. I can turn around and engage in conversations with him and we get the opportunity to catch up.  Typically, when the kids go to bed, that is the time most couples have to spend time together. That’s not always the case from the months of June through November, but Chad is understanding and I try to arrange some of those nights so we can go on mini-dates or hang out and play dominoes or sit on the couch with a glass of wine and just talk. It another one of those very important things to try and balance.”

    That balance has gotten a bit easier over the years as her children have grown older and starting this fall it will be even easier.  “At this point the kids pretty much get it and don’t seem to care as much,” she explains. “My youngest is not very forgiving about me working when he needs attention, and I make sure that I release myself from work as much as possible once the oldest kids get home from school so that I can be attentive to them.  Sophia usually has an afterschool activity that I need to be at, or run her to. Sampson needs my attention with math homework most nights, and Sullivan just wants someone to take the time to watch him play Legos. I make sure to be there for the kids for all of these things. Sometimes is means longer nights, and I’m ok with that.  Next year, my youngest will be in all-day Kindergarten, so I am looking forward to having the day to do my work, and hopefully have my evenings back for my family.”

    Her many years of photography had led to some great lessons.  Her work requires building a relationship between herself and her clients that didn’t always come easily.  “I was terrible at building relationships with my clients at first - or at least I felt that I was terrible at it,” she says.  “It’s always amazing to me how many photographers I’ve met that all feel that they are insanely introverted, yet they choose this profession.  I guess I’m a high-functioning introvert, but like with anything, you get better at it with practice. You learn how to read people and find where their comfort level is and the relationship builds from that.  Or, in some cases, you blabber nonsense and make a fool of yourself and when the session has ended, pray that your clients went home with smiles on their faces and that they at least had fun. Kindness and smiles always go a long way. As with any creative venture, pursuing a photography business is all about practice.  I’ll say it a million times over. Practice your craft. Practice talking to complete strangers, and practice making mistakes, but that is where you learn the most. And take classes or watch videos or read things that are pertinent. The more you learn, the more your comfort level and confidence grows, and it will come through in every facet of your business.”            

    Having started, and now successfully run, her business for seven years while mothering, she also is filled with plenty of advice for moms hoping to do the same.  “If you love it, stick with it. Make it grow. Take risks. Don’t give up. Ever,” she says. “There were a million times when I knew I wasn’t as good as the next photographer, but I read something one time that I never stop thinking about: ‘You can’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.’  Everyone has to START somewhere, some people just started sooner than others. You’ll make it if you want it hard enough.” In addition to constantly learning and not giving up, there is one more thing she says is important to success. “For those who are looking to pursue the photography business, or any business for that matter, it’s all about passion.  If it fuels you in ways that nothing else can, don’t ever stop until you get to where you want to be. There are a lot of photographers out there and it’s a pretty saturated market, but those who don’t truly have the passion to do it won’t last. Some photographers will seem to have it all together, and some will have very specific strengths. Find the look and feel that fits you best and go with it.  Make it your own and you’ll succeed.”

 

Connect with Jaclyn:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Karen Liebner of Finding Your Momtra

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    Karen Liebner always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.  “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was five years old,” she remembers.  “I always played school at home and loved being at school during the day. I’ve taught in Philly, Hawaii, pre-school to graduate school.  I love engaging people in learning and figuring out what their learning style is.” Her calling to teach has recently led her down a new and exciting path toward entrepreneurship.  “I love teaching but every time I’ve started a new teaching position, after the initial excitement, I’d suddenly start to feel in my gut that it just wasn’t right,” she explains. “I kept pursuing degrees and certifications trying to find my niche.  I spent 10 years bouncing around in education. As a side note, I’ve always been into mindfulness, meditation, the law of attraction, etc. Once I became a mom I started to rely on my intuition and inner voice more than ever. When I went back to work when my son was eight weeks old I was miserable but I also really didn’t feel as though I wanted to be a stay at home mom (also, we couldn’t financially handle that).  After some soul searching, I just kept hearing the word ‘teach’ in my heart and couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to teach. In the months following my son’s birth, several of my friends were giving birth. I found myself being someone that they reached out to for support often. Suddenly, I realized that ‘teach’ meant I should be teaching (I use that term somewhat loosely here) moms about caring for themselves and showing up as their best selves for their families.”

    That message of ‘teach’ morphed into her new venture, Finding Your Momtra.  “This realization just hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” she says. “I was having a serious internal struggle-- trying to justify wanting more satisfaction in my career, wanting more freedom in my day to spend with my son, but also knowing that financially (and mentally) I needed to work.  I always felt called to teach but then I’d have a visceral reaction to having to report to a school every day and adhere to the bureaucracy that is education today. It just didn’t feel right. Suddenly, I had a major ah-ha moment, all of my experiences started linking together in my mind. I truly saw this picture coming together of people and classes and experiences and I realized that I never could’ve done this prior to becoming a mom so really it had all been building up to this.”

    The idea of Finding Your Momtra is that every person's Momtra is different.  Karen’s goal is to help mothers really see themselves, which can look different to each of us.  She describes what it means to her by saying “I’m still finding myself as a mom and I think that that is an evolution that continues through every season of motherhood.  You don’t just ‘arrive’ at the destination because you gave birth. Your baby changes, you change, the world changes and you adapt. Our mindset has so much, if not everything, to do with how we respond to this constant evolution.  I wanted to create a place where I could share my growth and provide support and resources to inspire other moms to share their stories and grow with me.”

    Finding Your Momtra began as a website and blog.  It was an entirely new type of work for Karen who just dove into learning everything she needed to bring it to life.  “All of it was very new to me since I have zero technology background or marketing expertise,” she says. “But my head was bursting with thoughts that I had to put out there before I even got my website to look as presentable as I’d like (that’s still a work in progress).  I’m researching and planning as I go. I’ve made some mistakes like signing up for services too quickly and then realizing it’s not the right one for me/my business. Thank god for free trials! For example, I started with one email service and quickly realized it was too complicated for me.  I thought that ‘complicated’ meant I’d be able to tinker around with every single detail until it looked professional. But instead it came through that I had no idea what I was doing. Since I’m still at the ‘beginning’ my struggle has been deciding what to focus on. Do I work on making my site more presentable today or do I build content?  I just sat down and wrote a plan for for the entire month of April [note: this interview was completed in March] and today I’m creating most of that content so when the day comes I can click submit, serve my audience, and have some free time to play around with website formatting, etc.”

    She soon realized that a website was not all she was meant to do and began work on a podcast in addition to the Finding Your Momtra blog.  “A podcast was definitely not the plan,” she explains. “I definitely thought I’d hide behind a keyboard and send out my words after carefully crafting and reading and rereading them.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love to talk and I do consider myself a good storyteller. I was working on building my site and was listening to other podcasts about launching a business and it just dawned on me that I’d be much more natural at sharing my thoughts that way instead.  I have to say, if you listen to Episode 1 I probably sound a little stiff, but I’m getting more comfortable with each recording!” Starting a podcast with no tech background was another challenge she overcame to bring her vision to life. “I, again, had absolutely no idea what I was/am doing,” she says.  “RSS feeds? Royalty free intro music? A foreign language. But I’m learning and I’m finding it really fun to learn as I go. I’ve made mistakes, signed up for services I probably didn’t need, etc, but those are the normal growing pains of diving into something completely new.”

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    Starting a new business and mixing that with motherhood always comes with a few challenges.  “My biggest challenge has been fear at this point,” Karen shares. “I’m finishing the year as a school administrator and then setting out as a business owner to see what happens.  I’m a very driven person and one of the things that got me through my doctoral program was thinking of how I could tell my future children that I persevered through that challenge.  So I should say that part of the inspiration for taking this leap is my son. But also my fear that it will put us in a difficult spot financially is also tough. Thankfully, I have the support of my husband and we have other options if I need to take on other work.  I guess the answer to how I overcome this challenge is sort of metacognitive--I’m sharing my thoughts on meditation and mindfulness with other moms while at the exact same time incorporating this practice into my own journey of parenthood in order to overcome my own hangups.  My podcast and blog have always been about this full circle.”

    Another challenge she has encountered since the birth of her son in May 2017, has been “asking for and admitting I need help,” she says.  “I had a strange compulsion to make sure that my husband’s life stayed as pre-baby normal as possible. I thought that he’d think I was superwoman and could just do all of this without my mascara running.  And a few months into that charade I realized that that was insane and none of us were benefiting from it. Also, he chose to be a parent too so I feel like he also put some thought into how his life would change.  Once I started asking for help and being unapologetic about needing time for me, it was tangible how different I felt and how much more manageable and enjoyable life became.”

    We all have things that help us get through those tough and challenging times--both in the case of motherhood and running a business.  “Staying sane on challenging days is the point of my entire business, you know?,” says Karen. “Recognizing that is and will almost always be challenging in some way but also remembering that I have power over how this all feels for me is very liberating.  I can change my vibration in an instant if I decide to. My current ‘momtra’ in launching my business, blog, and podcast is to remind myself ‘to be of service.’ One of our big concerns in starting a family was that this world seems to be losing its collective mind.  BUT when you dive into this community of mindful parenting, etc. you realize, thank god, that there is a huge movement and shift going on of this new generation of parents who seem to be also raising their children to just be good people. We wanted to be a part of this movement in our home but then it dawned on me what a bigger impact we could make on the world if moms had a place where they felt supported in doing the same.  This helps me remember that all the work I’m putting in is in service to a much bigger picture, it reminds me that it is totally worth it.”

    One thing a lot of entrepreneurs have in common when they get started is that they often deal with doubt from those around them.  Those who don’t share their vision may not be able to see the value in what is being done and may inadvertently, and sometimes even purposefully, make comments that are unsupportive.  “This is something I think about constantly,” reveals Karen. “Not only is this not a ‘real job,’ I also don’t have a ‘real product’ in some people’s eyes. I’m pretty guarded with who in my family knows I’m doing this at this point.  The thing I remind myself is that they are not my target audience and so I don’t really need their approval. I actually got in a little bit of an argument with my dad about what exactly I’m doing and I ended it by saying, ‘You’re not my target audience, so I don’t need you to understand it.’  That’s been a sufficient answer for now. Thankfully, I have a ton of support both from people I know (especially fellow moms) as well as the virtual community that I’ve grown into.”

    Having a year of motherhood and a few months of business under her belt, she leaves us with a bit of advice.  “You are you and that is your power,” she shares. “One of the biggest things that held me back from initially hitting ‘publish’ on my first blog was that I felt like my message was overdone, like there were too many others wanting to do the same thing.  But I’ve learned that there’s room for all of us. We don’t all have the same vibe, or exactly the same message, and we definitely don’t have the same goals. Some moms are going to resonate with me and click ‘subscribe,’ others won’t find me interesting or appealing and that’s perfectly fine.  I can’t be that for everyone nor would I want to be. My hope is that we can all find support and leaders who fire us up and get us vibrating on a higher level. That’s what it’s all about in the end.”

 

Connect with Karen:

On Instagram

On the web

Finding Your Momtra Podcast on iTunes

 

Thanks so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Lindsey Maxwell of Blissful Transition

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      When Lindsey Maxwell, PCD (DONA) and LCCE, was an undergrad student, she took a class that set the course for her passion and business.  That class was called “Birth in a Family Context.”  “It was eye-opening and one of the most informative, interesting classes I have ever taken,” she says.  “It changed the way I viewed birth.  As a twenty year old, I honestly had no idea women were choosing to have their babies at home and that, at the time, it was illegal for certified professional midwives to practice in the state of Indiana.  Once the semester ended, I began volunteering at Bloomington Area Birth Services (BABS).  I owe everything to this nonprofit and the wonderful women who ran it.  During my time at BABS, I helped with childbirth education classes, attended breastfeeding support groups, learned about babywearing, and connected with many wonderful families and professionals.”

     Lindsey’s business has evolved a bit from her beginning as a birth doula eight years ago.  “Before going into business, I studied up on the perinatal period and attended birth and postpartum doula training workshops through DONA International,” she explains.  “At the time, I didn’t have kids, and although I personally didn’t know much about parenting I loved working with children and always felt bonded with the families I nannied for.  Once I attended my trainings I volunteered my time with a handful of clients to get a feel for the work and gain hands-on experience.  I joined a local doula group so I could collaborate with other professionals, make connections, share feedback, and process my experience as a birth worker.”  She got that entrepreneur bug during her training process.  “I remember coming home from my postpartum doula workshop feeling very determined to set up a business plan,” she says.  “That’s when I came up with the name ‘Blissful Transition.’  I wanted families to feel at ease welcoming a new baby into their family with the least amount of stressors as possible.  I have a very Type A personality and found that, eventually, birth work no longer fit into my life.  After four years of being a birth doula, I decided to focus on the postpartum world.  It was just too challenging for me to be on-call.  I was constantly stressed about missing important events, time with family, and working long hours.  Still, I liked assisting families in preparing for birth, and I’ve since added prenatal consultations so that I still feel involved in that realm.” 

     Postpartum support can be a lifeline to new mothers.  “Studies show that postpartum doula support helps reduce postpartum mood disorders and improves breastfeeding success,” Lindsey explains.  “It makes sense.  I understand hiring postpartum help can be costly but it’s so worth it.  If someone told me they couldn’t afford a postpartum doula, I would encourage them to gather resources and plan prenatally to make for a smoother transition after baby is born.  Taking a childbirth class, creating a meal train, finding reliable childcare, and joining a new moms’ group are just a few recommendations!”

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     After making the switch from birth to postpartum doula, she soon realized that postpartum support covered a large range of ways to help new mothers and families.  “It wasn’t until after having a baby of my own in 2015 that I added professional cleaning and organizing services to my resume,” she explains.  “When working with families in the postpartum period, I found myself helping out with housework, running errands, prepping meals, etc.  I was taking care of the practical day-to-day things so that mom and partner could focus on taking care of themselves and their new baby.  Of course I enjoy chatting with mom and holding her adorable baby (if that’s what she needs!), but most of the time it’s about loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, and helping folks maintain a sense of normalcy after a life-changing experience.”  The realization of how this type of service could benefit families as they adjusted to their new family dynamic came from one particular instance in her own home.  “I remember coming home from a day full of appointments with my newborn and my sister-in-law, Amy, had come by and cleaned while we were gone,” she says.  “Is there anything better than coming home to a clean house?!  It was such a simple gesture but the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.  I could spend time with my family instead of worrying about a list of household tasks that needed to be completed in my sleep-deprived state (with a newborn to boot!).  Adding cleaning and organizing services to my businesses just made sense--in a way, I was already doing it.  Sometimes my clients would say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to ask you to do that!’ but if that’s what helped their day run more smoothly, I was happy to.  Postpartum support looks different for every family and that’s okay.  I’m here to help you find what works best for you!”

     Lindsey got her business start before having kids so she was already well established in her work before needing to find her new balance with parenting.  “I stayed at home with my son, Bodhi, for his first year, which was lovely,” she says.  “It was around his first birthday that I decided I wanted to to get back to working with clients on a part-time basis.  We were still living in Bloomington and had a lot of support from family, which allowed lots of flexibility with my work schedule.  I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.  Taking on part-time hours created a way for me to get out of the house and do what I love without feeling burnt out in the work I do.  It felt like a great balance.”  Bodhi is now three and Lindsey’s balance changed again 11 months ago as her family welcomed their second child, a daughter named Frances.  “Staying home with two kids is a lot of work, and honestly, I’m still trying to find that balance,” she explains.  “Some days I feel like I have it all together.  Others are tough, messy, and stressful.  Frances refuses to take a bottle (we exclusively breastfeed) or a pacifier and is dealing with some serious separation anxiety these last few months.  Sometimes it feels like I never get a break!  I’ve found that it’s important I separate myself from the kids every once in a while--a trip to the nail salon, a night out with my husband, staying up to binge watch Netflix, or simply grabbing a coffee can make a difference.  Working for a few hours a week helps me recharge, too.  I feel like I can’t be a good mom if I’m not taking care of myself.”

     Eight years in and this mama still has some major business goals she’d like to accomplish.  “I love learning and enjoy attending webinars and trainings,” she says.  “I know it sounds super nerdy but I miss being in school.  I often think about going back to get my Masters in counseling or social work.  I could host support groups for moms with an education background like that.  I also love cooking--adding meal preparation and delivery to my list of services would be pretty awesome.  I’ve been to a few Mother Blessing ceremonies and I think they are just the coolest thing--I would enjoy coordinating get togethers like these.  I’m a big fan of encouraging women and coming together as a community to show them how much we care.  Moms don’t get acknowledged enough for all their hard work!  Baby showers are great for baby essentials but Mother Blessings are where it’s at!”

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     Like all of us, she also has some stress points as a business owning mom.  “Feeling inadequate is probably my biggest stressor,” she says.  “If I’m solely focused on work, I feel like I’m not spending enough time with my family.  And then when I am at home with my kids, I sometimes feel like I should be working more.  I’m trying hard to be present and feel content with where I’m at, knowing I’m giving my best each day.”  Another tough part of her job right now is the recent relocation her family made.  “The hardest part for me, right now, is that we’re fairly new to the Fort Wayne area--we just moved here in October [2017],” she explains.  “I’m still learning about the city, meeting new people, etc.  I’ve actually connected with another mama who trades childcare with me and it’s working out for the both of us.  I watch her kids while she teaches yoga and she watches mine while I’m meeting with clients but only for a few hours each week.”

     That particular struggle is the foundation of her best advice for other moms in business.  “Creating a support network is HUGE and can make all the difference in work and parenting,” she says.  “I obviously stress this with my clients but it’s important for me as a business owner, too.  When we moved to Fort Wayne, I kind of had to start all over again.  Making those connections and laying the foundation for your business in a new area can seem daunting.  But, little by little, I am connecting the dots and look forward to working more in the near future!”

 

Connect with Lindsey:

On the web

On Facebook

On Instagram

 

Thank you so much for reading! 

Yours in business and motherhood, 

Brittany 

Mother Run: Janalyn Barmes of Jay Artistry

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    If ever there were someone suited to go into business for themselves, it’s Janalyn Barmes of Jay Artistry.  “I’ve thought about starting my own business since I decided to be a business major,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to work for myself, but just wasn’t sure exactly how or what I wanted to do to make that happen.”  Having been in college or working since graduating High School in 2010, she finally figured it out. “When my daughter was born in 2013 and son was born in 2016, I knew I wanted to make a change to be able to stay at home with them more,” she explains.  Though her business officially began in November 2016, she says that she “had been already creating art for people whenever asked for about two years before I decided to finally make it official. I am a business major and have always wanted to run my own business, plus I have always loved all things artsy.  It has been great being able to utilize my business knowledge and my love for art in the same job that lets me be home with my kids.”

    Having a business background, she was able to dive right into her entrepreneurial venture.  “I researched a little,” she says, “but I’m more of a ‘figure it out as I go’ kind of person.”  “My business isn’t super big and I only do it part-time right now because of school, so that made it easier to dive in,” she goes on to explain.  “I definitely struggled with the pricing portion of my business for a while. It is hard to charge enough to cover costs and still make a decent profit but also not charge too much that no one can afford it.  Seeing what comparable art sells for from other artists has helped a lot in determining a fair price to set for both myself and my customers.”

    So how did she come to the decision that she wanted to start her business specifically in calligraphy?  “I have always had a thing for handwriting,” Janalyn says. “Even as a kid I remember changing the way I would write certain letters to create my own ‘handwriting.’  My normal handwriting is oddly unique (and hard for some people to even read!), but I love the way it looks. Some people have complained about it and some have told me they loved it.  For my art, I have a select few ‘fonts’ that I’ve made up along the way that I use and I’m to the point that I don’t really even have to think about what I’m drawing anymore, I just do it.  It’s usually super relaxing and I love that handwriting is so versatile. Like, I can create something for anyone. Everyone has a favorite quote, song, or book. Making art that reflects what someone already loves is super fun and gives me the ability to reach an extremely large customer base.”  In addition to an ongoing love for handwriting and lettering, she shares that one of her main goals for Jay Artistry is “to create art that inspires people to figure out what they want out of life and then go get it. I believe it is extremely important to have goals and to try to accomplish what you feel you are created to do.  When you see a meaningful phrase or quote that speaks to you everyday, it inspires you to keep going or try a little harder. Positive affirmations are one of the many tools we can use to reach our goals. I love to create encouraging art that helps people reach their goals by reminding them of why they wanted to reach them to begin with.”

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    Balancing mothering, a growing business, and a master’s degree is no easy feat.  “It has been a struggle some weeks to get everything done on time,” she says. “All of my schooling is online through Indiana Wesleyan University.  So, it has been a huge blessing to be able to work on what I have due each week whenever I have free time. My husband has been a saint throughout this whole process and I really couldn’t have done it without him.  Also, utilizing my son’s naptime has been a great resource for both art and school. It’s amazing what just one extra hour of work a day will do.” She is set to graduate with her MBA in June 2018. On top of everything she does, her family also just moved across the country from Indiana to Florida and she already has plans for what to do post graduation in her new city.  “There are so many opportunities to set up my art at festivals and in locally owned shops down there,” she explains. “I plan on expanding the products in my Etsy shop, setting up at the art and craft festivals, and also learning more about stained glass. I recently acquired all the equipment needed to get started in stained glass but haven’t had much time to dedicate to it.  I have a few product ideas that I can’t wait to get started on that combine my inspirational calligraphy with stained glass. But I’m new to the glass world so I have a lot to learn. The plan is to basically hit the ground running as soon as I am done with school and embrace every artistic opportunity that I can find.”

    On the motherhood side of things, Janalyn is the mother of two--Aria and Daxden.  Aria is four and Janalyn shares that “she is the sweetest soul I’ve ever met. She is beautiful inside and out and is always found wearing a costume of some sort.  Her imagination is crazy awesome and she loves to have me paint her face. She is also extremely artistic for being only four years old and creates things for me all the time.  Everyone calls her my mini-me, which I take as a huge compliment because she is just so darn pretty! She was almost three when I launched Jay Artistry.” Her son, Daxton, is almost two and is “a typical rambunctious little boy with a huge heart.  He is the biggest momma’s boy and I absolutely love every minute of it. He is so funny and rotten and cute! I never knew how amazing having a baby boy could be until I had him! He was only about six months old when I started Jay Artistry.”

    Finding balance between motherhood, business, and school has changed a bit as her kids have gotten a little older.  “In some ways it’s easier and in some way it is harder,” explains Janalyn. “Aria loves to sit next to me and paint or draw with me.  I also get a lot accomplished when she is at preschool. However, Dax is at that age now where he only naps once a day and he gets into everything, so painting with him around is not an option.  That’s a big reason why I’ve been more focused on my digital art than anything else. There’s no mess and it’s easily accessible. He loves to sit with me and ‘help’ while I work. I have an old broken computer that I let him play with and hit the buttons while I do my homework, or I get crayons and paper out for him if I am drawing.”  That ability to have her kids working and creating art next to her is one of the biggest upsides to her business. “My favorite part of running my own business is the freedom that comes with it,” she says. “If I am sick, I don’t have to suffer at work for eight hours. If I feel like taking a break to play with my kids, I can do that. “It’s also been a great way to meet people, through friends of friends or even through IG.  Meeting new people, doing maker trades, and setting my own flexible schedule are some of my favorite perks.”

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    Working from home with your kids and making your own schedule doesn’t eliminate hard days, however.  What keeps Janalyn going on those challenging days? “Caffeine and essential oils,” she says. “Coffee just makes everything better.  I always keep my Stress Away oil close by and drink Thieves oil in my green tea nearly every afternoon. I have learned with time that if I am stressed, I don’t make art that I am satisfied with.  So, I have to take care of myself first in order to fuel my creativity. As a mom, full-time student, and business owner, it’s extremely important that I make myself a priority or I cannot balance everything and end up slacking in all aspects.  My husband is also extremely helpful with keeping me sane, lol. He will take the kids to the store or to his parents so I can catch up on everything with no distractions. It’s extremely helpful.”

    Having such a supportive family is key.  Not everyone who runs a small business feels supported or taken seriously by those around them, but that’s not a problem Janalyn has faced much.  “I have actually been blessed enough to be supported by a majority of my friends and family,” she says. “While there has been skepticism from some, most now realize I am serious about doing this as a career and have accepted it.  Honestly, I try to completely block out the unhelpful negativity that comes from others. I openly accept constructive criticism and advice, but I will not let someone else’s blatant negativity get in the way of my goals. I think it’s hard to transition to seeing yourself as an entrepreneur because that’s kind of a big scary word, lol.  It takes guts to start your own business, no matter how big or small.”

    

 

Janalyn’s advice for other business owning moms:

Don’t set unrealistic deadlines for yourself:

I always add an extra day or two when giving customers a time-frame on when their art will be completed.  Most of the time, they don’t mind waiting and they appreciate it if I have it done a little earlier than expected.  It’s better to have the time to create and not feel stressed, it makes for better art and a happier artist.

 

Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed:

Learning and growing is part of the process.  No one starts a business and is an expert at it on day one.  You just have to strive to make improvements everyday to eventually get to where you want to be.

 

Don’t be afraid to say no:

Sometimes, a customer request is just not worth the amount of work entailed or sacrifice you would have to make to complete it.  It’s okay to say no in a respectful way that you cannot complete something.

 

Support your fellow entrepreneur:

Just because you have similar art or a similar business idea as someone else does not make you competitors.  While there is competition in big business, it’s better at the smaller level to encourage one another and help each other along the way.  Everyone has a unique spin to their business, honor that and focus on lifting each other up. If you have the ability to shop at a locally owned business instead of a corporation, do it.  It might cost you a little more but we small business owners need to stick together!

 

Connect with Janalyn:

On Instagram

On Etsy

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Keisha Reaves of Push Thru

Keisha and her son.

Keisha and her son.

    Keisha Reaves has a passion for helping women through various stages of motherhood.  It all started with her private practice as a licensed professional counselor. “I’ve been in the mental health field for over ten years and I absolutely love it,” she says.  “It’s so rewarding making a difference in people’s lives and helping them reach their potential.” Maternal health wasn’t always her specialty, however. “I first started out working with children in the foster care system and I did that for six years,” she explains.  “Afterwards I worked with clients with developmental disabilities for a few years and truly enjoyed it. I later switched to working in a psychiatric hospital while also doing community counseling. Once I started working in private practice in 2015, I noticed that I received a lot of clients dealing with infertility, postpartum depression or just adjustment issues associated with motherhood, that’s when I found my passion and I knew that I felt compelled to do more work with this group of women.”

    Her background in maternal health counseling, combined with her own postpartum experience, led to the birth of Push Thru, a postpartum subscription box known as the after birth survival kit for moms.  “After having my son, I felt incredibly isolated and guilty and overwhelmed,” she shares. “Majority of the year 2017 I was completely selfless and basically threw myself to the wayside. I was so focused on my baby’s needs and everyone else that I didn’t bother to think of myself.  I had days where I questioned myself as a mother and I felt that I was losing myself in this new role. I then had several other women share similar thoughts and I wanted to create something to help them with this. I wanted to create something that focuses on the mother solely and also offer encouragement to her to let her know that she’s doing a wonderful job.”

    Keisha’s after birth survival kit for mothers is a much needed product.  A lot of times women don’t think about what the after birth experience will be like for themselves as people, instead focusing on how they will care for their new child. As Keisha explains it, “I think Push Thru offers preventative care in a cute little box.  The online platform on the website is where moms can chat with each other, offer support, and provide suggestions. I leave my card in each box that’s sent out with my email for mothers to contact me and I’m certified through Postpartum Support International. Each box offers support to help combat anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.  We are currently working on building a checklist for the website for mothers to use to identify their symptoms as well as creating a database of clinicians in the event a mother has postpartum depression, we can quickly refer them to someone qualified to treat them. I believe that the more we talk about postpartum depression and the difficulties that can occur after giving birth, the less shame there will be.  Women will feel more comfortable seeking out help. The more resources and tools we give women, the more they will feel supported and capable of being the best mother they can be.”

    The idea for Push Thru came to Keisha in the summer of 2017.  “Within a few months things just started rolling,” she says. “I had many thoughts of thinking that this is stupid or that there are tons, TONS, of subscription box services out there already, but I took the dive and just did it.  The research helped me know how to specifically make this service useful, different, and to set it apart from its competitors.” Subscription boxes are much different than a lot of other business models, as they require working with many other brands and keeping large amounts of inventory.  “The struggle at the beginning was start up costs,”: says Keisha. “It takes money to make money. Pinching coins here and there helped fund a graphic designer, develop the website, create the actual box, and purchase some of the items that went into the launch box. It was a risk because there was a possibility that no one would even buy the box and I could be left with all of this inventory.  In the end it was definitely successful, but certainly gaining funds can be hard in any start up.”

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    In addition to balancing her private practice with her new entrepreneurial journey with Push Thru, Keisha also has a 13 month old son.  “He was seven months when I started this process and he is the reason I do what I do,” she explains. “He’s incredibly patient with me and he’s taught me so much about myself.  He’s helped me grow as a woman, a mother, and a partner.”

Her transition from full time work to full time work plus a new business was “not bad at all,” she says.  “I’ve always been a person that enjoys projects and putting my creativity to work. I just have to be strategic with my time to make sure my job, family, kid, or myself isn’t neglected in the process.”  Balancing business and motherhood always comes with some struggles though, and for Keisha it’s no different. “I have a calendar and I try to stay organized,” she says. “I pick my little guy up from daycare at the same time every day and from that time until he goes down to bed I’m present.  It’s all about he and I. After he goes to bed is when I do emails, budgeting, phone calls, and everything else. So I try to get as much done as I can before I get him and after he goes to bed. The struggles that I have in trying balance are on weekends. Sometimes I try to get work in when he’s napping or for an hour or two in the mornings and I have some guilt around that.  I try to limit weekend work as much as possible.” By far Keisha’s biggest challenge though is “getting over mom guilt.” She says that “some weeknights I will have events to attend or meetings and although my husband is good about taking over at home, I have guilt about not being there as if I’m missing out on something or as if he’s going to forget me. It’s not a crazy thought, but I know the career and business I’m building and I’m doing my best to balance it all.”

    Her goals for helping women don’t stop with Push Thru.  “I would like to be able to travel around the world and learn more about different cultures and how those mothers handle the after birth experience,” she explains.  “I would like to learn what other cultures use in products or remedies for the after birth experience in order to share with everyone. I’d like to learn about other cultures’ customs and traditions in the after birth experience.  I find it fascinating. I would also like to fight for more maternity leave for working mothers. I would like to travel doing more work to bring awareness and support for postpartum depression.” Push Thru is only the beginning of her wonderful journey to helping as many mothers as she can.  

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    In addition to helping postpartum women, she also has amazing advice for the business owning mom.  “Don’t give up and buy into your own product,” she urges. “There will be days when you feel like this is a waste of time, no one’s going to be interested and you’ll want to just fall back into your comfort zone.  Don’t. Keep doing it. You won’t see results in the first month or the first year. There is no real overnight success. Everything great takes time to catch up. But keep at it. And buy into your own product meaning be passionate about it.  Don’t be critical or play it down, think of it just as amazing as it actually is. If you want people to be excited about it, YOU have to be excited about it. Excitement is contagious.” Another thing she suggests doing to help you in your business journey is to “create a support system.”  In her own journey starting Push Thru, she says that her “friends are truly the best and I save a lot of money by using them. My team of friends were a part of my focus group before I launched Push Thru. They witnessed the product first hand before I put it out there to the public, giving me feedback and constructive criticism.  They also listened to my pitches giving me feedback and reviewed my website from a customer perspective. They were able to seperate themselves as a friend and tell me their thoughts on products, marketing, pricing, and everything else. This helped save me money on outsourcing to a separate company for that. If I ever need to bounce an idea off of someone, my friends are my go to.  They’re mothers and consumers.”

    If you’re a soon to be mother, new mother, or looking for a special gift for a mom in your life, check out Push Thru.  Not only is it a a game changer for helping mothers care for themselves post-baby but Keisha also stocks her boxes with wonderful products from other mother owned businesses!  “Everyone in each of our Push Thru boxes are amazing,” she says. “Bee & Mae, Love Ground Candle Company, Olive and Elliot, Tailored Beauty, Butta Body, Abeadles Design, Hey Baby Atlanta, Jobbing with Jas, Bloom Voyage, I literally could go on.  What I love about each of these are that they are all owned by mothers and they’re literally killing it every single day.” Talk about a truly Mother Run community!

Connect with Keisha:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook



Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany







 

Mother Run: Natalie McKnight of Natalie McKnight Photography

Natalie and her two children.  Photo by Lucy Baber Photography.

Natalie and her two children.  Photo by Lucy Baber Photography.

    Natalie McKnight’s love of the arts began back in her childhood.  “I always loved art class in school and my parents even bought me sketchbooks, charcoal pencils, and acrylic paints as a kid,” she says.  “But it was when I went to Europe with my high school the summer before Junior year started that I began to fall in love with photography.  It was a dinky film camera that I had for the whole trip, but I took pictures of everything. I went through so much film. When I got home and developed the pictures, I was blown away by the sun setting over the Swiss Alps, the perfectly clear picture of the Eiffel Tower, and all of the sights in between.  I still have that Eiffel Tower picture in a frame. That’s when I began to recognize the power of a good photograph.”

    While the photography bug took hold of her in high school, it wasn’t until just last year that she began to consider it as a career.  “I had always been drawn to photography,” she says, “but once I had a baby, I really started snapping and sharing pictures a lot more.”  Her oldest, Luke was just about 3 and her youngest, Maggie, was about 9 months old when she finally decided to pursue photography officially and became an LLC.  “There was a stretch of time when I really didn’t feel like I was good enough,” she explains, “but over the summer of 2017 I realized that I was either going to take the plunge and try, or regret never having tried at all.  So, here I am.”

    She started her business on the side of her full time job as an account manager.  “I was largely happy with the company I worked for for a very long time,” she says.  “Then some things changed that affected morale on a large scale. I realized that if my satisfaction could change that quickly and remained so far out of my control, I was just going to remain unhappy.  So I started looking into starting my own company.” For the past seven months she has worked to grow her photography business on the weekends with the goal of eventually doing it full time.

    One of the advantages to still having her full time job is that it gave it her time to plan and research.  “I offered free photography sessions to build up my portfolio and also did a bunch of work around defining my target market and how I’d reach them,” she explains.  “I researched best practices for social media outreach and also joined a TON of private Facebook groups for photographers and entrepreneurs to learn more from others in the business.”  One of the best things she learned is “I actually make people sign contracts now!,” she says. “Even if I’ve known you since birth, I’m making you sign a dang contract! No hard feelings, that’s just business.”  

    While being a mother and starting your own business is usually not an easy feat, doing it with a full time job is an added challenge.  “I learned my limits VERY quickly,” explains Natalie. “I could not work a full time job, be a present parent, and do four photography sessions every single weekend.  I started spending every evening coming off my work laptop to go downstairs onto my photography laptop while the kids ran around and tried to crawl in my lap as I edited photos.  I started waiting until they were in bed to edit and sometimes even escaping to a coffee shop with free wifi if I could. Obviously without my husband stepping in to help I would have gone off the deep end, but with his support I’ve been making it work.”  

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    One of the biggest roadblocks we come across as entrepreneurial mothers is the dreaded ‘mom guilt.’  Natalie was no exception, she explains that one of her biggest challenges so far has been “feeling like I was being selfish by jumping into this venture.  I guess on some level it is, but the more your kids see you doing things you truly enjoy, the more they learn to see that that’s OKAY. You CAN do what you love.  You don’t have to be stuck in a job you hate for the rest of your life because ‘that’s just what people do.’ I want my kids to know that there are a million different paths to happiness and everyone’s definition of happiness is going to vary.  They need to live for themselves.” Wise words.

    On of the most important aspects of being a good photographer is the ability to connect with your subjects and capture those perfect moments.  Natalie already has that part down. “I’ve always had a knack for making people feel at ease, but I definitely learned over time that providing a tiny bit of structure to the session can really go a long way, especially with young children,” she says.  “I didn’t realize that you can ‘create’ candid moments by telling jokes, playing games, and asking your subjects to reminisce about memorable moments in their lives. Coming to each session with some ideas on what to say and do definitely helps people loosen up and forget there’s a lens in their face.”  Her advice to other budding photographers is to “start with your friends. You’re already comfortable around them, so if things get awkward, you’re more likely to laugh it off!”

    While she currently focuses on lifestyle and family sessions, she has big plans for her business.  “I would love to get into weddings eventually,” she says. “I’m dying to shoot ‘on location’ somewhere exotic or different!,” she adds.  “I see some photographers posting to groups like, ‘hey, I’ll be in Germany next month, who wants a session?’ and people swarm to get a slot with them!  I’d love that opportunity to merge travel with my passion.”

    As small business owners, it can often be hard to receive support for what we are doing from the people in our lives.  “There are definitely some people who seem to think it isn’t realistic for me to want to take this full time eventually, or that I haven’t fully thought out the risks associated with running my own business,” says Natalie.  “I stopped sharing information with those people. Interestingly enough, they also don’t ask how business is going, so it just never comes up. It’s a little hurtful, but also feels good to weed out the negativity. If you’re going to take a risk, you need to make sure to surround yourself with those who will lift you up and support you, and be ready to do whatever it takes to tune out those who try to bring you down.  It can be hard, but ultimately brings you closer to realizing your dreams. And you DESERVE your dreams!”


 

Connect with Natalie:

On the web

On Facebook  

On Instagram

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: Jay Bloodsworth

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    Straight out of high school, Jay Bloodsworth dove right into entrepreneurship.  While working on her acting degree, she opened CR Productions, a theater production company, at 19 years old. “I had gotten frustrated with seeing such a limited range of shows being presented, nothing I was interested in or felt passionate about,” she says.  “So I decided to do it myself! Produce the kind of shows that meant a lot to me, had the messages I wanted to convey. I got a lot of flack for it. Plenty of people trying to convince me that it would never work because we weren’t ‘already famous.’  Which didn’t make sense to me, because wasn’t that the point? To GET famous BY making art, instead of waiting for it to fall in your lap?”

    Being fresh out of high school, Jay didn’t do much planning before jumping into her business.  “At 19 I wasn’t the greatest at reigning in my excitement and was easily disappointed when things went wrong,” she explains.  “Nowadays I still fly by the seat of my pants a fair bit, but I’m much more resilient and love a good list (or twenty). Having a baby as well means learning to be ok with not achieving as much some days.  I’ve become much more realistic about my goals.”

    While she may not have done a lot of planning before entering the world of entrepreneurship, creating has always been a part of her life.  At age 12 she says she “even started a ‘business’ selling plasticine models to my friends.” She goes on to explain that “around about the same time, my school did an off brand version of My Fair Lady.  I hated it! Cried and begged and pleaded to be left out of it. I insisted on being behind the scenes (or camera), as I wanted to be a photographer at the time. It was compulsory. I didn’t enjoy it, mostly found it stressful.  But when I hit high school I made friends with a girl who was an incredible performer. Her comic timing was impeccable. Drama was compulsory for year 8’s and the teacher picked up on our little duo. My first time actually wanting to be on stage was for a rendition of Little Women.  I was Meg and my friend was Jo. From then on I had the bug! The rush of being backstage, the stress of forgetting absolutely everything right before you went on. The adrenaline and relief once you came off. I have yet to find a high like it.”

    CR Productions has produced plays, street theatre, and musicals.  So what exactly does producing entail? As Jay explains, “The Producer beings the money and gathers the key creatives to make the show happen.  The Director brings the action and scaffolding. The Writer brings the heart. The Actors bring the hard part! (Kidding!) And the Back Stage crew glues it all together and makes sure it doesn’t fall apart.  As I make smaller scale shows, I tend to do a little bit of everything.” Her favorite type of production? “Definitely the plays,” she says. “I love seeing actors nail moments we’ve worked hard on it rehearsal, especially high pressure scenes.  Creating a believable tension build when you’ve done it a million times is difficult. Seeing it come to life just fills me with validation and pride. I feel like I’m their stage Mum!”

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    In March 2017, Jay made a transition from not just being a stage mum, but being a mum to a newborn son as well.  With new motherhood came some changes to her personal life and work balance. “I was forced to stop running last minute to the train, that’s for sure!” she says.  “I feel like I’ve become more prepared for any eventuality, more confident, more resilient, and my time management is better. There’s a whole new level of patience and understanding that I’m really enjoying unpacking.”  Luckily for Jay, her work environment was one she could take her son into with her, though it took some adjustment. So far her balance has come “with great difficulty,” she says. “I usually try to muscle in as much time as I can while he sleeps.  A lot of the grunt work for shows is via internet so sometimes I can sneak in an email or two while he’s playing. I try not to do that too much though because I don’t want to miss anything. I found it very hard at first, to claim my right to take up space as a working mother.  I was very afraid of what other people would think. That someone would comment on my breastfeeding or wearing him or having my mum there looking after him instead of me being at home because he was so young. It played on me constantly. I was lucky to have that time where no one said anything, because I was able to convince myself I DID deserve to be there.  When I did my first show after he was born, he came to every rehearsal. That probably won’t change much as I move forward. If he sqwuarked, he sqwuarked, and I held him. If he needed milk, I fed him. If an actor has an issue with it, they’re probably not resilient enough to make it in the industry. Thankfully, everyone I’ve worked with so far has been wonderful and supportive.”

    Even with a supportive work environment, adjusting to motherhood while running a business always presents challenges of some kind.  For Jay, that has been overcoming the preconceived notions of others. She explains that her biggest challenge was “working through other people’s doubt and not holding myself to their expectations.  I know my limits and they are far past most peoples. For example, my son was born in a planned no-med home birth. We didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid they would rain on our parade. Everyone was very supportive when they found out but I’m glad we kept it close to the chest.  I’ve brought that same mentality into my business. Waiting a little longer before revealing and I make it more of a statement than a question of permission about bringing the baby with me. If they aren’t willing to make space for us (if I’m working outside my company) it probably isn’t the project for me.”  In addition, she also struggled a bit with with people’s opinions of her being a working mother. “My mother was mortified when I announced I was taking my 7 week old to auditions,” she says. “It’s taken a lot of open communication and being understanding that other people’s opinions often reflect more about them than you, even when they mean well.  I aim to educate people about the importance of making space for mothers in the Arts, especially when they’re breastfeeding. It’s not hard, but it’s a very male dominated industry and people fear the unknown. Most of the time they just aren’t sure of the right questions to ask to help so it’s easier to say no, or ‘we don’t have the resources to support you.’  I have my ‘Why Am I Doing This/No One Believes In Me, What’s The Point’ moments. The difference now is that they’ve happened enough for me to know they pass.”

    Now, five years after starting CR Productions, Jay is starting to make some changes and is giving a bigger focus to her own personal work instead of the company’s.  “CR has always represented my teenage need to prove myself,” she explains. “Having a brand seemed important at the time, especially when a lot of what I was hearing from people was that no one would want to see MY art.  People seemed to put more trust in a well fronted group than one person. I wanted to peel back the layers and show the people coming to our shows that there’s a real person behind the curtain. I feel an honesty and vulnerability there that will give my art a deeper impact.  Now I’m a mum and I have big shoes to fill. I want to build a legacy that my son can be proud of, free from fear of judgement. I want him to look at me and tell his friends ‘my mum works hard and gets what she wants.’”

   She recently started a Patreon as a way to connect with, and gain support from, her audience as she delves into her personal work.  For those unfamiliar, Patreon is a membership platform where an artists’ fans can support their creative work financially in exchange for early access to finished work, behind the scenes bonuses, frequent updates, bonus material, and more.  The idea stems from the centuries old practice of wealthy patrons sponsoring the work of creatives so that they could then enjoy the work that was made. WIthout this practice, the world would be devoid of a lot of amazing work. As she works towards her goal of growing her art to a livable wage to give her flexibility and freedom to spend time with her family, she also is knee deep in school.  “I have basically been a forever student,” says Jay. “I took some time off in 2015/2016 to work a day job and work on shows, so this Diploma of Specialist Makeup Services will be my first that I finish since my acting degree in 2013. I wanted to do SPFX right out of high school (instead of acting) but I couldn’t afford it. As much as I enjoy writing, academic writing drives me up the wall!”

    With so much going on between growing her new brand, being a student, and being a new mom, sometimes days are challenging.  So what keeps her sane when things get crazy? “It sounds very cliche,” she says, “but reminding myself that Jude won’t be tiny forever.  It helps me take a deep breath and enjoy the moments when he’s messing about or taking a long time to nurse, even though I’m dying for him to sleep so I can get things done.  That, and cooking. It feels productive and there’s food at the end.”

    With five years of business experience and a year of motherhood under her belt, Jay leaves us with some great advice for all moms.  “Don’t let anyone but you tell you what you’re capable of,” she says. “Listen to your gut and SLOW DOWN when you need to. I had a really bad case of mastitis recently.  Even though I struggled to do nothing while I got better, I know that in the long run it was the right choice for myself, my family, and my business.”

 

Connect with Jay:

On Instagram

On Patreon

On Facebook

 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Selena James of Winter & Rain

Selena, founder of Winter & Rain, and her two Lionesses.

Selena, founder of Winter & Rain, and her two Lionesses.

     Selena James knows that in order to love what you do, you have to get joy out of it.  As the creator of Winter & Rain (named after her daughters’ middle names which were inspired by their birth stories), she screen prints all her items by hand.  Building her handmade business was a process, however.  “I did have a basic knowledge from art school but that was 15 odd years ago and I really couldn’t remember,” she says. “I bought a kit from the internet. I began outsourcing when the orders were coming in thick and fast, as I was making so many errors that I was wasting time and money.  This created a different problem, all I was left to do now was pack the orders.  As the business was created as an outlet, I soon lost heart with it.”  She didn’t let that stop her for long.  “I found a local artist,” she explains, “and took a day course with her to help me create better quality products.  My biggest obstacle was and still is confidence in my ability.”

    Before the creation of Winter & Rain, which just turned one in October 2017, Selena worked in local government as a benefits assessor.  When her oldest daughter was little she trained as a Counselor, but “a breakdown in my marriage put that on the back burner,” she says.  “I decided to try and become my own boss so I launched a life coaching business for Mums, in an attempt to put my counselling qualifications to good use.  I was pregnant at the time and suffered crippling anxiety and quickly realized I was in no position to help others so it was really over before it began!”  Like a lot of us, she used her business as an outlet and way to try and deal with her anxiety.  “I decided to go back to putting more effort into being creative as a way of dealing with my anxiety.  I went to art college when I was younger so attempted to try screen printing again, that coupled with the saying I made up was the birth of Winter & Rain.”

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    If you aren’t familiar with Selena and her brand, the saying that launched her business was ‘Lioness not Princess.’  So how did she come up with her signature saying?  “I was really shocked to see, after having a daughter, how little girls are so encouraged to be inferior; to use baby voice and be coy and cute,” she explains.  “There is nothing wrong with any of these terms, however, I didn’t want my daughter to feel she needed to only ever be the cute princess.  I wanted her to know that she could, and should, speak up for herself when the situation arose.  I didn’t want her to feel that her only ‘defense,’ if you like, was to turn on the ‘charm.’  If she is unhappy with something or the way she has been made to feel, then she is entitled to say so with confidence and strength.”

    Her wonderful brand and saying is owed all to her daughters, who are five and one.  “I started the business when I was pregnant with my youngest,” she says.  “They are both very funny, very cheeky, and very strong.  They are just the most perfect children (I know, I would say that!).  The biggest gift they have given to me is I now strive to be the best example I can for them.  I no longer accept others negative behavior.  I answer life’s puzzles by thinking about how I would want them to be treated and how I would like to see future them deal with situations.  I need to work on my delivery but the end result is the main focus.”  She goes on to explain that Winter & Rain “would not exist without them.  I sincerely feel that I only became a woman after having children.  I began to open my eyes to the discrimination women face.  I think until that point, like many, I had unknowingly accepted it.  That was until I realized I didn’t want my daughters to put up with sexist and inappropriate sexual behaviour from men, as I had done my entire life.  They are Lionesses and if forced to, they will ROAR.”

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    So how does she balance her work with mothering her two young lionesses?  “I get very despondent when others in the same/similar field moan about this topic,” she says.  “It is a struggle, but it is a very fortunate one to have.  I don’t have childcare for my youngest currently so it’s a case of grabbing the time when I can.  I think the biggest struggle is feeling like you’re missing out on family time.  Having my own work space has made it easier for me to ‘go to’ work, which I am thankful for.”  As she still has her youngest with her full time, she says “I think I will be able to see the business as a ‘proper’ job when I have that extra time to make it grow.  That said, this time is so precious and I am very lucky for the time we have together.”

    With her business being a little over a year old, so far her biggest struggle has been herself, something with which so many of us can relate.  “Lack of confidence and self-belief have nearly ended my business on a weekly basis,” she explains.  “The vast majority of my business comes from Instagram which can feel a little like a popularity contest at times.  I am not a networker and only connect with people I sincerely feel a connection with.  I don’t want my social platforms to define me, as they really don’t matter at all.  I have been so bogged down with social media pressure before I was in danger of being more about business than motherhood, so I am actively changing that.”

    Running your own business isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, when things get tough, what keeps us sane and grounded is so important.  For Selena, that is “the luxury of being able to back off when it gets too much.”  Setting a schedule and sticking to it when you work alongside your young children can be almost impossible.  What does she do to combat this, you may be wondering?  “I wing it,” she explains, “as with almost everything I have ever done.  I go for it and hope for the best!”  This philosophy works for her now, over a year into her business, and it’s also how her business go started.  “I just went for it, no planning, no thought.  The hardest part was having the confidence to share what I had created.  The feedback was really positive and I was surprised at how supportive everyone was.”

    If you’ve ever felt like you don’t know how to tell people what you do, you’re not alone.  Selena relates, saying “I struggle to say what I do.  I basically just panic and talk about a hundred miles an hour and then conclude with ‘I’m a Mum really.’ When I finally find a title for myself then I shall say it loud and proud!” Loud and proud, like a Lioness!

 

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Advice she has for fellow biz owning moms: “Be original, people notice if you’ve just tweaked someone else’s work.  Personally it puts me off a brand instantly.  I was absolutely gutted when I was told that others were using my slogan (I feel I can say it’s mine now, it is Trademarked!).”

 

Selena’s favorite creative resources: “I am obsessed with beautiful zines and feminist magazines.  My favourites are Roundtable and Riposte--actually, featuring in either of those would be a business bucket list dream!  They are just a pleasure to look at and also to read.  They feature some of the most wonderful and inspiring women from all walks of life.  They are a wonderful representation of women in the 21st Century”

 

Connect with Selena

On Instagram

On the Web

 

 

Thank you so much for reading along!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany




 

Mother Run: Kaitlin Rice of The Oily Momster

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    A lot of mothers start their own businesses because they don’t want to leave their new baby with strangers and Kaitlin Rice from The Oily Momster was no different.  “My son was just born and I had SEVERE anxiety about going back to work and leaving him with a daycare and/or sitter,” she explains.  “It was crippling.  I had missed so much when my daughter was little from working or being in school all the time and I couldn’t handle going through that again.”  Her journey to her new work began out of personal experience of having already been using essential oils for awhile.  “I had been using the oils to keep us all well during that winter and knew there could be a potential income opportunity so I took that scary plunge into entrepreneurship so I could be available for my kids, never miss another dance or school performance of my daughter’s, first laugh or first words of my son,” she says.

    Before going into business for herself, she spent almost 8 years as a licensed Cosmetologist, using her income from that line of work to fund her Radiologic Technology School, a field she worked in for a year and a half before the birth of her son and her dive into entrepreneurship.  During that time, Kaitlin had endured a grueling work and school load for years, so when she first started with Young Living, she dove right in.  “I wanted to and needed to make it work for my family so I learned everything I could about the business model, compensation, and even how essential oils worked,” she says.  Despite having a new job that allowed her to be more present with her kids (her son was one month old and her daughter was seven at the time), she still “struggled with feeling like I had let people down,” she says.  “I worked damn hard to put myself through a really hard X-ray program.  I’m talking 40 hours a week for 2 years straight on top of working 20 hours doing hair and nails.  And then coming home to take care of my daughter.  I felt like people were going to think that I was throwing it all away for some MLM business.”

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    Regardless of what kind of business you are in, working from home comes with both advantages and disadvantages.  “I am still trying to find a good balance almost two years later,” Kaitlin says.  “Although I’m present physically, sometimes I’m not present mentally.  There’s no ‘leave your day at the door’ mentality to be had when you work from home.  Sometimes I get addicted to checking my emails or messages from my team.  There are days when I’ve allowed myself to say no to cleaning the house so I can say yes to my kids and my work.  There are many days I’ve said no to my job so I can say yes to my kids and my fiance.  I won’t always be perfect but I will always be around and that’s worth it.”  Now, two years into her journey, her kids are a bit older and the balance has gotten a little easier since the beginning.  “They are a little more independent in their play time so it’s easier to set aside certain times of day to focus on my work.  It really helps me focus and get more things done when I have only a set amount of time planned,” she explains.  

    In addition to not being able to leave your work at the door when you work at home, it’s also easy to feel mom guilt for spending time working while your kids are around and for taking time to yourself.  “The overwhelming mom guilt is a hard one to overcome but when I’m between wrangling my two year old and answering an important text, there has to be some ME time,” Kaitlin says.  “But that inevitably leads to mom guilt so I try my best to be present for my kids so that I can focus on me later and not feel guilty.”

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    If you use the internet, you’ve probably seen a lot about different uses and benefits of essential oils.  Initially, Kaitlin was drawn to using them “because I needed something to help keep my family well and sleeping with a new baby and a kid in school,” she explains.  “I didn’t realize essential oils were more than just something that smells good until I had attended a class on Facebook that taught me they were so much more.”  In addition to smelling good, they also can add health benefits to your life.  “Our doctors barely see us unless it’s time for a check up,” she says.  “We have just stayed really healthy and rid our house of all the indoor toxins that many people don’t even realize they’re exposing themselves to (i.e. makeup, detergent, fabric softeners, candles, cleaners, etc).”  

    If you’re like me and have seen and heard about oils but never actually used them or know specifics about what they do, Kaitlin says “Really simply put they’re plant extracts that can do some amazing things to support our bodies’ natural functions and help us stay well without toxins or side effects.  We use them in our house for everything from cleaning, to supporting restful sleep, to cooking, to boosting our immune systems and so much more.  There are hundreds of medical journals and studies on essential oils and are totally worth looking into!”

    Being able to work while also having the freedom to spend time with her family isn’t the only great part of Kaitlin’s work.  “I love the community I’ve joined,” she explains.  “I’ve made some of the best friends and met some of the best people and didn’t even realize that that would be a huge part of it all.  The support system has been beyond amazing.  We are always about uplifting, educating, and supporting each other.  Not many places of work can say that!”

     A lot of times, people in your life may not view your home based business in the same way you do and they will inadvertently say things that make us feel badly about what we do.  They may imply that what we do isn’t a “real” job because we don’t go to a place and collect a check the same way as they do.  Luckily, Kaitlin says “I haven’t been told that directly, thankfully, but there are times I feel like I may not receive the support I wish I did from people who are close to me.  Truthfully, it’s not worth dwelling on and definitely not worth stopping over.”

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    While not dwelling on people’s lack of support is great advice in itself, Kaitlin also has this to say to any mom wanting to start their own business or project:  “Make sure you have your ‘why’ written down somewhere that you can see it every single day.  Remind yourself why you are doing what you are.  Take the fear of failure and turn it into your own personal steamroller and crush anything that gets in your way.”

Kaitlin’s favorite business resources you should check out:  “I LOVE Lindsay Teague Moreno.  She has a book called ‘Getting Noticed’ and the ‘Boss Up’ podcast that are just fantastic.  I also love all the books written by Jon Acuff and highly recommend them to all entrepreneurs.

 

Connect with Kaitlin:

On Instagram

Her website


As always, thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Meredith Stack of Red Fox Letters

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    When her daughter Parker was just six weeks old, Meredith Stack went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a chalkboard sign and a paint pen.  She spent an hour making up a Haunted Mansion “Welcome Foolish Mortals” sign for their Halloween decorations and a great new hobby was born.  “After that,” she says, “I picked up a sketchbook and started doodling words out.  It was a good hobby to have with a family because I can work on it while my kids are around.  Plus, I thought it would be a fun way to record funny things that she would say while she grew up.  Once I started to get more into it, I started looking up other hand lettering and found some artists that I loved-- Amanda Arneill, ChalkFullofLove, etc.  Then after a year or so, I found out that Amanda Arneill hosted online courses, so I immediately signed up.  Now I was a part of a community.  It all just snowballed from there.  Not only do I love that it’s something I can do while the kids are around, and even with Parker now that she’s two (she gets out her own paper and crayons and ‘draws’ with me) but I love the community of friends that I have discovered.  A group of ladies that I’ve never met in person, and yet I talk with every day and feel real connections with.  It’s a real feeling of community over competition, which was something I didn’t know I desperately needed until I had it.”

    Starting a business wasn’t exactly the first step Meredith had in mind after discovering her love of lettering.  Her Instagram page started out mainly as a way for her to dip her toe in and get feedback from people she didn’t know.  She kept it separate from her personal account because she was nervous about her friends seeing her work.  “I was feeling pretty self-conscious about it all,” she explains.  “I didn’t even really tell anyone about my lettering IG-- I worked to gain my followers as organically as possible.  Luckily, my friends are extremely supportive and they all found the account and followed it anyway.  I began feeling a little more confidence coming in and some friends were already asking for custom work.  So with some heavy encouragement from my husband, I decided it was time to set up shop.  I debated if I wanted to purchase a domain and start an online store that way, but ultimately decided to join the large pool of letterers on Etsy first while I got my bearings for selling online.”

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    If taking the plunge into running your own business seems stressful, try doing it with a two year old, a baby on the way, and a full time job like Meredith did!  “I definitely dove right in, but did research along the way,” she says.  “I read multiple blogs, reached out to people who were already successful for advice...but also rely on trial and error on the way.  I definitely feel that it’s a little slow at the start.  I receive a lot of custom requests outside of Etsy and those keep me busy.  I also started my shop while I was halfway through a pregnancy, which of course had me moving a little slower.  The biggest struggle that I currently have is really just getting my work in front of people.  There is so much talent out there for people to choose from, and I’m still trying to find the secret sauce to get it out to the right group of people.  It’s all a slow process.”   She thought about starting her shop for months before taking the plunge, saying “I talked about it and went back and forth daily for what felt like forever.  I’m still debating it somedays, ha!  It was really a confidence issue.  Art is such a subjective thing that even though I like my pieces, I wasn’t sure if anyone else would.  Once I realized that I wouldn’t know, or grow, without putting it all out there and taking in the good and the bad response, I was able to get up the gumption to go for it.”  One of the main things that motivated her to finally set up an official shop was her husband, who she describes as “my biggest supporter and cheerleader.”  She says “he told me everyday that I needed to start selling.  Every. Day.  He also sat with me while I put together all of my listings.  He is still the first person I go to to discuss new ideas that I have.”  

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    The best part about her craft of choice, is how easy it is to pick up and work on while her kids are around.  “I love being able to do my own work when I want to do it,” she says.  “I work a normal corporate desk job still as well, and sitting in a cubicle for 40 hours a week working on things that, at the end of the day, I don’t feel passionate about can often be draining.  I can come home, grab my iPad and get my creative juices flowing and work on what I want to work on-- a nice change of pace.”

    Finding her balance has been a process.  “It’s difficult right now because I still work my regular job while this is picking up,” she says.  “I come home about an hour or so before everyone else is home from work and daycare so I can use that time to sketch out ideas and then on the weekends before everyone wakes up.  I make it a point every day that I spend at least 30-60 minutes with Parker without any sort of device or distraction.  We’re on her level, in her world.  That helps.”  Like a lot of us, she couldn’t do it without a great support system in place at home.  “My husband is also a top notch father who absolutely loves to play with his kiddos,” she says.  “That also helps.  I really work to fit it in whenever I can, during my lunch break, after they go to bed at night, nap time...you can find me doing a lot of sketching and drafting.  I don’t think I have found my perfect system yet, and it’s been hard to sit and work on new projects while handling a newborn, but we are definitely finding a good routine for our family.”  

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    As working mothers, we are always in that process of finding the perfect routine because kids are constantly changing and growing and requiring new things.  Another new thing that makes us have to re-evaluate our routines is adding a new family member, which Meredith and her husband just did! “EVERYTHING changes with a new baby,” she explains.  “My new, current balance definitely involves a lot of cuddling Griffin.  I can’t put him down.  I’ve given myself permission to enjoy this time with my new buddy and will pick up the pace again soon.  It may make the process of growing my business slower, but I think it’s sooo worth it.”  This is advice I’m sure we all can use.  It is so important to realize that changes require us to switch up our plans, we need to remember this and constantly be adjusting to our current normal so as not to get frustrated if we are going through a crazier than usual period.  “My kids are probably the cutest things on this planet,” she goes on to explain.  “My daughter Parker is a little over two and my son Griffin is just now ten weeks old.  I always figured that I would have kids but I had no idea how much light and laughter they would bring to my day.  Parker was just a few weeks old, probably right around six weeks old actually, when I went and picked up that paint pen.”

         Since that first project when her first baby was six weeks old, to now, a little more than two years later, Meredith's biggest challenge has been the balancing of three separate things.  “By far the biggest struggle is balancing three full time jobs,” she says.  “Motherhood, lettering, and the desk job.  The long game plan is to basically take over the eCommerce world and then I can knock out one of those things to make my balance a little more even.  But I’ll have to study up more on the details of running a successful business and the ins and outs of that before it all happens.  I have a handle, and luckily my husband (I’m sure you’re starting to see a pattern of how amazing he is.  Super handsome, too.  I really hit the jackpot there) has a degree in business and finance, so he’s already a great ‘partner’ for me for the business side.”

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    So what does Meredith have her sights set on for this new year?  “I definitely want to build my Etsy shop and eventually have my own domain and site,” she says.  As well as “make this a full time job that I can rely on financially.  Those are my two long term goals.  Short term, I’d really like to have a booth set up sometime in the next six months and get that immediate feedback.  We have a lot of local art fairs in Louisville and I want to take advantage of that.”

    As for her advice for other moms who are just getting started, Meredith says “Just do it.”  Her business is very new and she knows that “the scariest part of anything new is just taking the initial leap.  But once you do it, it’s done.  It’s like getting a shot or ripping off a bandaid--the build up sucks.  The process sucks.  But once it’s done, it’s done.  And you feel good that you did it.  The same can be said for working out, paying someone a compliment, and getting out of bed.”  In addition, she says she wished she had “some super inspiring original quote.  Or a miracle solution that brings instant success.  I’ll leave it to Marty McFly (by way of George McFly) when he says, ‘If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.’ You’re already a total badass because you’re a mom.  That’s the hardest thing.  Anything else is a cakewalk comparatively.”


 

Connect with Meredith:

On Instagram

On Etsy

On Facebook


Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

 

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Mother Run: Anne Harrigan of Treehouse Restored

The business minded family (who are high school sweethearts!) and their almost 2 year old daughter.

The business minded family (who are high school sweethearts!) and their almost 2 year old daughter.

    After her daughter was born in 2016, Anne Harrigan joined the estimated 10-20% of new mothers who suffer from postpartum depression.  “I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” she explains, “I just thought I was broken.”  She turned to the one thing she knew, her religion.  “I love to spend time with Jesus,” she says.  “I always imagine myself in a treehouse in the middle of nowhere when we’re talking.  I don’t know why, but that’s what I envision.  Anyway, over the course of 9 months, I felt like that treehouse was slowly destroyed.  My peace was gone, and I couldn’t get out of this metaphorical hole.  I could feel myself drowning and couldn’t figure out how to make things better.  Once I finally realized what I was dealing with, I asked Jesus to free me from it and He did right in that very moment!  And as I continued to recover and regain my confidence in who I was, the Lord showed me a picture of my treehouse being rebuilt--even stronger and more peaceful than before!  So, I decided to name my shop Treehouse Restored to remind myself, and to share with anyone who asks, that Jesus can rebuild anyones ‘treehouse.’  Doesn’t matter if it was destroyed by yourself, someone else, or circumstances.”

    With such a strong foundation, Treehouse Restored was born.  After having an Etsy shop years ago that didn’t pan out, Anne reopened and rebranded her shop as it is today in early 2017.  “After being freed from depression, I realized that it was important to do something for myself every single day,” she says.  “I already had some basic sewing knowledge, but I wanted to get better.  I decided that I would try to make my daughter some clothes and I actually ended up REALLY liking it!  So I figured if I was going to make my daughter’s clothes, then other people might want to buy what I’m making!”  

Anne's daughter modeling the Sassy Shirt!

Anne's daughter modeling the Sassy Shirt!

    Before the creation of Treehouse Restored and the birth of her daughter, Anne worked as a sign language interpreter.  “I enjoyed being in that field,” she says.  “I specialized in Deaf-Blind Interpreting, some people refer to it as tactile interpreting.  My dream has always been to be a stay-at-home mom, though, so when I got pregnant, I knew I would be leaving my field and venturing into something new.  I just wasn’t sure what it was at the time!”  When it did finally come time for her to start her business, “I totally dove in without a clue of what I was doing,” she says.  She had some experience from running her own interpreter business, but says “I feel like retail is a completely different ballgame!”  Like most of us, she struggled a bit with some of the business aspects in the beginning, including pricing and advertising.  “I felt bad asking people to pay for my time and my skills, but I’ve really come to realize the value of my time and find confidence in my skills, so my shop is starting to reflect that.  I still struggle with advertising, since I don’t like paying to get my name out there, but it’s a work in progress!  I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds since I started, but I still feel like I have a long way to go!”

    As previously mentioned, Anne had some basic sewing knowledge to found her business on.  “My mom sewed a lot in my childhood,” she recalls, “but I definitely am self-taught in most things sewing related.  A lot of trial and error!  My business kind of developed out of me practicing my skills and then trying to sell what I felt like was quality work.”  One of the things she loves about homemade clothing is it’s distinctness.  “I just love making new and varied things,” she says.  “My shop has very limited supply of the products I make and I think that’s reflective of my desire for people to be able to say they have a truly unique item that I made.  The problem I have with a lot of ready to wear clothing is that there could be thousands of other people who bought that exact same article of clothing, so it’s not really that special.  Having a limited number of my products available allows your purchase to be truly unique and special!”

Warm and soft car seat ponchos offer a safe alternative to a winter coat!

Warm and soft car seat ponchos offer a safe alternative to a winter coat!

    If you think opening a business is a challenge in itself, try doing it with a one year old, which is exactly what Anne did!  Luckily, her daughter is “actually really chill,” says Anne.  “She entertains herself well and loves to play so it makes it easy to get in some sewing here and there.”  That’s not to say that it’s without its struggles, however.  “I find that the thing I struggle with the most is having to advocate for myself often to other people,” she explains.  “A lot of people think that I do this because it’s fun and therefore not super important.  But the fact is that I need this time to do things for myself.  It keeps my mind active and also gives me an outlet to do adult things without having to leave my child to do it.  It’s empowering to know what you need and then fight for that!  I find time to sew at nap time, early in the morning, and many times while my child is watching a movie!”  The other main struggle with balancing the two has been organization, something I’m sure a lot of us can relate with!  “I find that I tend to start off really well with my organizational skills, but then things get busy and that’s the first thing to go.  Honestly, I still struggle with it, so I can’t say I’ve overcome it, but I try to take time every few weeks to regroup.”

Anne modeling a shirt she made for herself for a special 10 year anniversary trip to Ireland!

Anne modeling a shirt she made for herself for a special 10 year anniversary trip to Ireland!

    In addition to balancing her shop with being a stay-at-home mother, Anne’s family also gets involved in Treehouse Restored.  “My husband owns a barbershop and has tremendous talent for business, so I ask him about pricing, advertising, and even ideas for the future,” she says.  “He’s super creative as well, so it helps to have his input!  My daughter helps by modeling just about everything I make.”  Their current business endeavors are even paving the way for a future dream of theirs, to own a coffee business that focuses on “partnering with growers, roasters and distributors, and helping people around the world become independent business owners and gain financial freedom!”  

    As small business owners, it can often be hard to see ourselves as entrepreneurs or to receive support in what we are doing.  Like so many of us, Anne has also dealt with people doubting her business and her success.  “I have learned over the years that I can’t force someone to learn something they don’t want to learn.  So, I have learned to be confident in the things that I do and seek value in who I am and not what I do,” she says.  “So when others try to tell me that sewing is “stupid” and that I’m crazy for thinking I could be successful as a mom with young children, I can confidently smile at them and say ‘ok,’ because I know that I’m doing things that a lot of other people are scared to do!  So if any mother runners out there are discouraged, remember that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!  It’s not!  And you chose to push forward when most people quit!  That already makes you amazing!  So don’t let others try to discourage you when they can’t see your vision!”  The people that do offer support instead of doubt are the ones that help her persevere through those particularly hard and challenging days.  “I have a lot of people who believe in me and want me to accomplish my dream!  Also, remembering that I am living my dream right now (being a mom) really helps put things into perspective.  I waited a long time to become a mom and I am thankful every. single. day. for that gift!”

    It’s also her dream, she says, “to inspire other mothers into fulfilling their dreams!  The dream doesn’t have to be business related, I just want women to know that they have value and an irreplaceable role in society and the community around them!  So if you are out there wondering if you are good enough, the answer is YES!!  Now go live your dream and find others who want to cheer you along in it!  You can do it!”

    If that didn’t seem like advice enough, Anne has this to leave us with: “Build a community around you that supports what you’re doing!  Get CONNECTED!  You can’t do this alone and there are plenty of people out there who want to help you fulfil your dream; whether that’s through purchasing your products, giving you encouragement, or promoting what you’re about!  You can do this!!  And let let others use their giftings to help you excel to the next level!”  

Connect with Anne

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Cyndee Mendoza of Zombie Girl Designs and Zomby Skull Succulents

The whole gang-- Cyndee, her husband, and their two daughters.

The whole gang-- Cyndee, her husband, and their two daughters.

    As Cyndee Mendoza can attest, sometimes the best things that happen to us are not planned for at all.  Her road into entrepreneurship started as a necessity.  She used to be a merchandising manager at Tilly’s, but  when she got married she “stopped working for a year to take of my new grandma along with my husband.”  She took the plunge into being her own boss because “I was kind of obligated,” she says.  “After that year off and grandma passing, my husband went back to work but didn’t accumulate enough time off when he injured his ankle while playing soccer.  He broke it and was off work for weeks.  With no income coming in I had to come up with a plan, fast!  So I made some bows and sold them to my friends.  That snowballed and soon after all their friends wanted bows.  I was able to keep us afloat until he healed.”

Zombie Skull Design bows with cute little handmade skulls.

Zombie Skull Design bows with cute little handmade skulls.

    She was able to do much more than just temporarily keep them afloat.  Her business that she started out of need, Zombie Girl Designs,  turned into a full fledged business that just turned ten years old in September 2017.  Her original work has even morphed into a second business, Zomby Skull Succulents, which is just over a year old.  Since she started her business rather abruptly, there was no time for in depth planning, she just had to dive right in and figure it out as she went.  “When issues arose like disputes or unhappy customers, I would fix it in ways I wanted them to be fixed as a consumer myself,” she says.  “A lot of times I didn’t put my business first.  I wanted the customer happy always.  I’d say that’s what I struggled with.  I didn’t always care how stressed I was, I wanted everyone happy.”  Her business acumen has only grown since then, as she now balances not only one job alongside motherhood, but two.

Even Cyndee's daughter is getting in on the bow action!

Even Cyndee's daughter is getting in on the bow action!

    She didn’t always need to find a balance between business and motherhood.  When she first started Zombie Girl Designs in 2007, there were no kids in the picture.  Her first daughter was born two years later in 2009 with the second following the next year.  When she branched out and added Zomby Skull Succulents into the mix, her daughters were 5 and 6 years old.  As I’m sure most of us can relate, finding a balance isn’t always easy.  As Cyndee says, “It’s hard!!! It takes daily push, drive, guts, strength, patience...the list can go on and on.  The struggle is keeping that balance.  There’s weeks I feel unstoppable and ready to conquer all on my daily plate.  There’s also days I struggle to get out of bed.  Finding balance to work and break is the struggle.  I can’t go, go, go all the time and I also can’t stop.”  

She even paints family portraits!

She even paints family portraits!

    Running multiple businesses provides additional challenges, especially in the form of time.  To help with the balance of her two endeavors, Cyndee makes weekly schedules for herself so she knows what needs done each day.  “On Sunday I plan out my week and give myself designated times for everything,” she says.  “Two hours for ZGD, two hours for ZSS, an hour to clean, 30 minutes to walk my dogs, etc.  But I do fall off schedule sometimes.  Balance LOL!  I love to play hookie with my girls some days and it also doesn’t help that my husband is spontaneous and loves change plans last minute.”  Since her daughters were born, the balance has gotten easier to maintain.  “When they were smaller I struggled a lot finding balance,” she says.  “I would either neglect my kids by working ALL DAY trying to catch up on backorders or I’d neglect my work by not paying any attention to it at all.  The older they got, the easier it got.  I found my balance.”  On particularly difficult days, her husband is what helps keep her sane.  “I do have my challenging days, a lot actually,” she says.  “But he’s always been there to take over my mom duties or force me to take a break to recharge.”

    In addition to her kids, husband, and work, Cyndee has another great passion: fitness.  Though it’s a huge part of her day to day life now, it hasn’t always been that way.  “I was always anti-working out,” she says.  “Before fitness I was 100 lbs.  I felt I didn’t have to do any sort of fitness because I was already thin.  But being thin doesn’t always mean healthy, so after about a year of my husband asking and asking, I gave in.  I’ve been on this journey for a little over three years.”  You can see the passion she has for it in her posts, I dare you to follow along and not be inspired!

Cyndee and her daughters.

Cyndee and her daughters.

    On top of all the amazing things Cyndee does with family, work, and working out, one more thing sticks out and is one of the biggest reasons I admire her.  As someone who grew up not getting a real opportunity to experiment with my appearance and make a lot of personal choices, it’s so nice to see that Cyndee and her husband give their girls autonomy to make their own decisions.  A look at her page will show you she has two super cool daughters who love their blue hair and shaved head that matches mom. How did they come to this parenting choice?  “I’d say it was both my husband’s and my childhood that helped with that approach,” she explains.  “He was free to dress and do what he wanted with his image and I was ridiculed by my stepmother.  I let them express themselves because I didn’t have that freedom and my husband did so he knows the positivity that’s behind it.”  This is something I hope to embody myself in my parenting as my son and to soon arrive daughter grow older.  

    Looking ahead, though she is ten years into her entrepreneurship journey and has accomplished a lot, Cyndee still has business goals to accomplish.  The one at the forefront now, she says, is that “I want my own space to work at.  Not a place to sell my stuff, not yet anyway.  But a place I can decorate and work in.  I currently work off my dining room table.”  

    She is currently kept inspired by Gary Vee, “He’s a raw motivational speaker,” she says.  “Everything he has to say hits home like no other.  I also like movies like ‘Erin Brockovich,’ ‘Joy,’ and ‘North Country’ with inspiring women that fought to make a difference.”  Now those are some things I think we all can be motivated by!

Cyndee and her amazing and supportive husband!

Cyndee and her amazing and supportive husband!

    “I’d like to give some encouraging words to all you mamas that want to raise babies and run a business,” she says.  “KEEP AT IT!  Treat your business like your babies.  It’s gotta thrive and make a difference in this world, too.  Raise it!  Don’t give up on those hard days.  Ride the wave and stay afloat.”  It’s also important to “BE PATIENT!,” she says.  “What I’ve learned over the years is that building a brand takes time.  Unless you luck out and it takes off.  But I truly believe that doesn’t help either.  Yeah, the money starts flowing in and that’s why we do what we do, right?  But, with time and practice you learn the ins and outs before the money comes.  You know what works and what doesn’t.  What people want and what they don’t.  You grow experience with time and THAT will bring you success.  Patience and NEVER GIVE UP!”  

 

Connect with Cyndee:

On the web
On Instagram @zombymama  @zombiegirldesigns

Find her fitness posts on Instagram under the tag #shewolftraining and find Zomby Skull Succulents under the same named tag #zombyskullsucculents

 

Thanks for reading and stay inspired!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany