Mother Run: Erin Giordano of December Dame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't underestimate mothers.

Don't underestimate mothers.

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

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

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

 

Connect with Erin:

On Instagram

On Etsy

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business + motherhood,

Brittany


 

Mother Run: Janalyn Barmes of Jay Artistry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

 

Janalyn’s advice for other business owning moms:

Don’t set unrealistic deadlines for yourself:

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

 

Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed:

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

 

Don’t be afraid to say no:

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

 

Support your fellow entrepreneur:

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

 

Connect with Janalyn:

On Instagram

On Etsy

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Jay Bloodsworth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Connect with Jay:

On Instagram

On Patreon

On Facebook

 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Meredith Stack of Red Fox Letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Connect with Meredith:

On Instagram

On Etsy

On Facebook


Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

 

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Mother Run: Erica Nicole Campbell from Aiming for August

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    When Erica Nicole Campbell started her blog, Aiming for August, in March 2016, she had no idea what it would turn into in such a short period of time.  What started as a hobby and an “outlet and a place for mothers to go if they were feeling lonely regarding all things motherhood,” has morphed into a wonderful community of mothers and an unintended business venture.  “I’m a total researcher/planner,” says Erica, but “it didn’t start as a business venture.  Once I realized I could make this brand into MY brand and business, things changed completely.  I started researching heavily how to create quality content.  In the beginning, the hardest part was definitely balancing the time devoted to growing my blog and being completely present with my family.  So much of blogging is social media or having your face buried in a screen.  I knew that I didn’t want that to be the image that my babies had of me so I pushed myself to make sure I wasn’t doing that.  I also became pregnant a couple months after starting the blog, so I wasn’t as motivated to do anything but sleep.”

    When Aiming for August first launched, Erica’s daughter E was 7 months old.  Their family recently welcomed a new baby boy, J, earlier this year.  Respecting her children’s privacy is very important to Erica.  “I don’t use their names because I’ve decided to wait until they’re old enough to want to be included on my blog.  As they’ve gotten older and I’ve grown more into myself as a woman/mother, I’ve stopped including them in as many blog posts and pictures,” she says.  In addition to motherhood leading to her venture into blogging, it also made her realize “how confident I was about helping other mothers and women.  This is when I also decided to pursue a career in Lactation Consulting.”

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    Lactation Consulting isn’t Erica’s first foray into helping mothers.  Prior to starting Aiming for August, she worked part time as a mother/baby/postpartum RN.   She explains that she is “currently balancing being a stay-at-home mom and managing my blog.  I recently took my board exam to become a lactation consultant and am just waiting for results.”  I hope all of you reading can join me in sending great thoughts her way as she awaits her test results!

    While starting something new is always a learning process, making a switch to blogging has “been fun,” says Erica.  “I love having a blog and my own corner of the internet!  I’m a millennial so I guess I’ve always been keen to adapting to technology.  I wouldn’t say that I’m tech savvy, but I definitely ‘get it.’  Since starting my blog, I actually know a lot more about coding and the ins and outs of social media algorithms.”  On her blog Erica covers so many topics--from pregnancy, the postpartum period, breastfeeding, and more.  Her favorite topic though is breastfeeding.  “I easily love to talk about breastfeeding!,” she says.  “I really like to share tips and tricks on how to be a more confident parent, whether that be through my struggles and triumphs or through sharing fun things that I’m doing with my family.”

    Recently, Erica has turned her platform to another topic--raising awareness on issues plaguing her community.  She recently teamed up with Huggies and the National Diaper Bank Network to bring awareness to the fact that 1 in 3 families have trouble providing the amount of diapers needed for their children.  “I’ve always strayed away from being blatantly outspoken about my views on certain issues,” says Erica, but “as time changes, I’ve realized that if I have a platform, I need to use it to help the common good and promote positivity.  I hope to address more gender related issues, political awareness, etc.  With so many allegations of harassment towards women in Hollywood, I hope to address that and how we can raise children to be better and more aware of how to change it.”

    Another parenting topic that is important to Erica is raising her children to be feminists.  “I can’t say that I’ve always had a female-strong mindset,” she says.  “I was raised in more a female submissive culture so that was always something that seemed like a norm to me until I became more confident in my role as a girlfriend.  I honestly can thank my husband for being such a strong feminist (ironic, right?).  I basically plan to raise my children to believe that women can truly do anything men can do and vice versa.  There are no assignments for gender.  It’s hard to remember because it’s not how my generation was raised but I try to be mindful of these things as my children grow older.  For instance there is no such thing as a boy color or girl color, there are no boy toys or girl toys.  Girls can be whatever they want to be and boys can too!”

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    When it comes to the work/life balance, Erica says “like every mother, I do what I have to do.  I don’t know if I’m balancing anything well, honestly.  At the end of the day, some of my to-do list gets done, my kids get fed and loved, and I don’t feel awful so I say that’s a win!”  Like so many of us, she says “the biggest struggle is thinking that I HAVE to do everything.  It has taken a few years of motherhood for me to realize what’s truly important, what’s not, and that I literally cannot do EVERYTHING (and that’s okay).”

    Her work towards this balance has changed a lot since the starting of Aiming for August and her start towards becoming a Lactation Consultant.  As mentioned, her family welcomed a new baby earlier this year and now she manages her work with two kids under two.  One of the main differences now, says Erica, is that “I don’t get as much sleep as I was prior to having my sweet boy.  I believe in holding babies as much as possible so during some naps, I just hold him.  It’s not productive whatsoever but it is sweet.  He and his sister take one long nap at the same time and this when I get those one-on-one guilt free cuddles so I take advantage of it.”  In order to fit in work, Erica says “I usually have to stay up later than I’d like or wake up extremely early.  Because my husband is off on the weekends, I’ve been getting some self-care/alone time to go to local coffee shops and work.”

    As someone who is also about to have two under two, I was very interested in Erica’s thoughts on the transition into mothering with the new baby.  “It’s hard in the beginning but gets so much better,” she says.  “I personally feel like this transition hasn’t been as hard as I expected it to be.  Because they’re so close to the same age, they do a lot of the same things.  Fortunately my daughter was potty trained before he was born so we don’t have to worry about double diapers.  I also feel like because you never get a break, your body is used to the hustle.  Once the hustle subsides, it subsides for good.  You no longer have to worry about the diapers, potty training, sleep training, etc.  You’re doing it all at once and the load is heavy but it’ll be over before you know it.”

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    When it comes to business, expect to see even greater things from Erica in the future.  “With my blog, I hope to attend more events-- like big events in big fabulous, cities,” she says.  “I would love to host my own events as well.  In the blogging community, there are some bloggers that are pretty big name and I’d love to meet them as well.”  In regards to her journey to become a Lactation Consultant, she says “I hope to be my own boss and own my own business.  I want to host classes in inner cities for a reasonable price to educate them about the benefits and ease of breastfeeding.”

    If you’re looking for some final, inspiring advice from Erica, look no further.  “I just want to say to all the mamas out there who feel like they’re drowning and unable to balance work and family, you’re a badass--don’t stress,” she says.  “Hug your kids tight and get on your grind when they sleep.  If you’re too tired, then you go to sleep too.  At the end of the day, make sure that you and your kids are happy and it’ll all fall into place.  We put too many expectations on ourselves and it’s overrated and unnecessary.  Focus on you.  Focus on your self care.  Focus on your family.  Your dreams will fall into place.”

 

Want some more inspiration? Check out Erica’s current inspirational resources:

Current read: “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero

Favorite podcasts:  Yes, Girl!, The Purposeful Home Podcast, Sooo Many White Guys, 2 Dope Queens, Nourishing Women Podcast, and This Pod is Your Pod

 

Connect with Erica:

At her website

On Instagram

On Facebook


 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: Jessica Chester of Yard Cards by Jess

Jessica, her husband, and their three children.

Jessica, her husband, and their three children.

    When Jessica Chester launched Yard Cards by Jess in September of 2016 she had a mere 6 hours a week to dedicate to it.  While such a small amount may seem daunting to some, Jessica took what she had and learned to make every hour count.  Her oldest was in 5th grade at the time and she also had two young children in preschool.  

    If you are like me, you may not have heard of, or seen, yard cards before.  Earlier this year, I stumbled upon Jessica’s Instagram page and since she is actually located in my city, I have actually had the pleasure of happening upon one of her displays when out dog walking a few months back!  Jessica was first exposed to yard cards through her family, “Yard cards seem to have originated in the Southern U.S.,” she says, “I mean one of the mottos is ‘Bigger is better!  I grew up in Kentucky and most of my family is there and my dad’s cousin owns a yard card business.  That was my first exposure to the concept.  I thought they were so fun!  What an original, over-the-top way to share with everyone what you’re celebrating in your life.  And what a fun surprise to receive!”

Some of the many different kinds of sign Jessica can do!

Some of the many different kinds of sign Jessica can do!

    What a fun surprise, indeed!  Jessica’s Instagram feed is full of smiling customer photos of both children and adults enjoying the surprise of a fun yard card.  While the concept of helping people celebrate was not the first thing that drew Jessica to the business, her main thoughts originally were on the perks it brought her and her family.  “Low overhead costs, self employment, flexibility,” these were the first things she thought of when looking for what work she would be able to do while still having time to raise her children.  She was in for a surprise herself, however, and says “the absolute joy it brings me has honestly been very surprising!  I did not realize how much it would impact me and my daily life to be part of people’s happy moments on a regular basis.  Not only that, but I derive SO MUCH purpose and motivation and contentment from owning my own business.  It validates me in a way that was missing before.”

    Speaking of before, prior to starting her business, Jessica spent most of her career managing apartments.  “When I became pregnant with our 3rd child, my husband and I agreed that I would stay home with our children.  I was a domestic engineer for four years prior to launching Yard Cards by Jess.”  Like many of us, being a stay at home mom was not all Jess wanted to do.  “While I’m so grateful that I was able to stay home with our two youngest, being a stay at home mom didn’t fill me with the sense of purpose that I know so many moms derive from that role,” she says.  “I knew I did not want to go back to work full-time when they were all in school as I wanted to be available to participate in all of their school activities, devote time to volunteering at their schools, and not have to worry about calling in to work if one of them is sick.  Self-employment meets that requirement, as well as my desire to have more control of my work.  I have a strong personality and this lets me do things my way, for better or for worse!”

Celebrating a birthday and making a little girls day!

Celebrating a birthday and making a little girls day!

    Unlike those of us who wing it, Jessica did a lot of research and planning before launching her business.  “I’d first been exposed to the business of yard cards several years before taking the plunge but I wanted my launch and business to be perfect from the start,” however, she says “that is so unrealistic!  I had to overcome a lot of fear and perfectionism and finally just go for it or I’d have been waiting FOREVER for things to be perfect.  I struggled with wanting to sink a lot of money into this venture from the beginning so that I could have a great website and wow people with my inventory and give the appearance of someone that knows what they’re doing.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), we weren’t in the position to throw money at this business without first seeing how it took off and begin to make money back before reinvesting.  If I had to do it over again I would have realized that entrepreneurs start somewhere and I didn’t have to begin at the top.”

    Jessica recently celebrated her company’s one year anniversary and she is still trying to figure out a balance between work and family.  “Next year,” she says, “all of my kids will be in school full-time and I’m trying not to rush this last little bit of time with one kid still home with me.  I’m anxious to devote more time to growing my business but also have to remind myself to cherish this season of life.  I struggle with getting into a work groove and being totally in the zone and then needing to pick someone up from school or get a snack for my youngest.  I try to reign in the frustration and remind myself that they’re still my top priority.  The reason I’m doing this business is to benefit our whole family!”  

    Even in the span of a year her business, and herself, has changed and evolved.  While she says that she is “still fine tuning procedures and communication and basically all aspects of the business...I’ve learned some hard lessons too and hope to use them to grow and learn.”  She has also “changed due to the confidence and purpose this has given me.  Many people have commented on the change in me the last year and I love that other can see what this means to me.”  When she first started she only had 6 hours during the week to dedicate to work, this year she has 15.  She says that while “it is getting easier to make time for my business” there are also other responsibilities popping up as her kids advance a year in school.  Their time is filled with “sports and activities and homework help.”  While things like that do take up more time for a mother driving to and from activities and attending events, “every year they also get better at entertaining themselves and needing less from me on a minute-by-minute basis.”   

Jessica out working with her kids!

Jessica out working with her kids!

    Her kids also get a kick out of accompanying and assisting their mom.  Jessica says that “they think it’s the best!  I’ve loved to hear that they brag at school about my business or they tell me how proud of me they are.  I’m so glad they’re getting to see me work hard and enjoy what I do!  They LOVE helping me do cards when I let them.  My oldest is in middle school so I’ve definitely put him to work to earn his allowance!  The little likes to help me pick up the cards and usually tackles the small balloons and stars.  It’s a great opportunity for them to work for me in the future and to give them some ownership of what I consider to be a family business.”

  

Jessica’s advice for other Mother Runners:

  1. We’re all doing the best we’re capable of.  If you’re rocking entrepreneurship, you’re already winning for taking the leap!

  2. Our motherhood journey is full of seasons.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy them all but I’m working on it!  If this one is rough, grit your teeth and try to enjoy the ride and know there is an end in sight.  My mom always tell me the days are long and the years are short.  So true!  

  3. Find a tribe if you can!  Online is great too.  This is such a challenging role and support from those who understand can be invaluable!

 

Connect with Jessica

On Facebook at facebook.com/yardcardsbyjess

On Instagram instagram.comyardcardsbyjess