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