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.”
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.”
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:
Thank you so much for reading!
Yours in business and motherhood,