Mother Run: Margie K.P. Fudge

photo 3.PNG

    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.”

51ztPagkgkL._SY384_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    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.”

photo 2.PNG

    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.”

kid.PNG

    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

image3.jpeg

    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.”

image2.jpeg

    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.”

image4.jpeg

    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.”

image1.jpeg

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

Capture.PNG

    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?

Capture2.PNG

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?

Capture3.PNG

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

IMG_9641.jpg

    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.”

image (1).png

    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.”

interview family photo 1.jpg

    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.”

image.png

    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

liebner-17.jpg

    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.”

IMG-9544 (1).PNG

    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: Janalyn Barmes of Jay Artistry

MichaelandI.jpg

    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.”

DaxArt.jpg

    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.”

Aria&I.JPG

    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.”

Push Thru.jpg

    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.  

IMG_7551.JPG

    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