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

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

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

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

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

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

What made you want to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything on your business goals bucket list?

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

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

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

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

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

Any advice for other business owning moms?

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

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

A: Always put your family first.
 

Connect with Hannah + April:

On Etsy

On Instagram

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: 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: Janalyn Barmes of Jay Artistry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

 

Janalyn’s advice for other business owning moms:

Don’t set unrealistic deadlines for yourself:

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

 

Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed:

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

 

Don’t be afraid to say no:

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

 

Support your fellow entrepreneur:

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

 

Connect with Janalyn:

On Instagram

On Etsy

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Keisha Reaves of Push Thru

Keisha and her son.

Keisha and her son.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Keisha:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook



Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany







 

Mother Run: 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: Anne Harrigan of Treehouse Restored

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

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

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

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

Anne's daughter modeling the Sassy Shirt!

Anne's daughter modeling the Sassy Shirt!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Anne

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Naya Weber of Lactivist in Louboutins

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    Mixing fashion and lactation may not seem like they go hand in hand, but to Naya Weber the two are intricately connected.  Her blog, Lactivist in Louboutins, is a wonderful blend of breastfeeding, motherhood, and style.  She originally began writing it as a way to hold herself accountable after giving birth.  As she says, “I didn’t want to end up on an episode of ‘What Not to Wear’ because I did not put any focus on me.”  This is a sentiment that I’m positive a lot of new moms can identify with, myself included (I was still wearing my maternity leggings when I got pregnant the second time, yikes!).  “As I got deeper into motherhood, I realized how important breastfeeding was to me,” she says.  “I worked hard to establish a relationship with my older son and loved to learn about it.  My blog focus changed very organically into documenting my journey as a working and pumping mom.”  She also credits the start of her blog and personal breastfeeding journey with helping her find her passion and, she says, “it helped me figure out what I want to be when I grow up!”

    Her road to Lactivist in Louboutins and the discovery of her passion began back in 2011.  After working in sales for several years and becoming burned out, she says she worked as a “configuration and data manager for an engineering company, which paid the bills but definitely wasn’t my dream job.  I began pursuing a career in lactation while working for the engineering company, by obtaining a lactation educator and counselor certification.  I also got really involved in breastfeeding advocacy and was unofficially an apprentice for an established lactation practice near Fort Worth, TX. I finally started working in the breastfeeding field when I began to work for Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth.  It’s a non-profit human milk bank and my job was to talk about breast milk all day.  Around the same time, I started teaching breastfeeding  classes part-time at a hospital entity in the Fort Worth area.  I was able to pursue becoming a lactation consultant full time about two years ago.  Prior to that, I was working towards it on a very part time basis, primarily nights and weekends since I had a day job.  In all, it took me five years to complete all of the requirements to sit for the IBCLC exam.”  Despite the fact that it wasn’t her main focus during much of that time, which made it take a bit longer, she never let that get in the way of her dream.

    A big part of her journey began back with the birth of her first son.  Looking back, she recalls that “he was a late preterm baby, born 3.5 weeks early.  He would tire out at the breast without transferring much milk, but my husband and I didn’t realize it.  We ended up having to supplement him and I was pumping after every feed for several weeks.  We persevered and breastfed for almost two years, despite me going back to work when he was 12 weeks old.”  With the knowledge and experiences she had gained from her firstborns breastfeeding story, she was ready to start again when her second son was born 3.5 years later.  As it turns out, he would have a difficult time as well.  She says “he was born with severe lip and tongue ties.  He was gaining weight beautifully, but I was in a world of pain.  We made it through our difficult period and breastfed for 2.5 years--much longer than I had intended!”  She credits her personal experience with helping her to “empathize with the families I support.  I’ve been worried about breast milk supply, weight gain, had cracked nipples, pumped at work, and more.  I can relate to the frustration they may be feeling.  My goal is to empower them to make the best decision possible for their family.”

    As her own story shows, breastfeeding is not easy for everyone.  If it were there would be no need for lactation consultants.  Many of us, myself included, have a desperate need for these services when beginning our breastfeeding journeys.  As Naya says, “I believe lactation is very natural--nearly all of our bodies were designed to do it after childbirth (and some without childbirth).  It’s breastfeeding that requires support.  Many moms fear that they will be judged for seeking help, but it’s okay to ask for help.  For something that’s touted as natural, it doesn’t come naturally to some women.”  For those of us that it did not come naturally to, having relatable consultants who have been there, experienced that, can make all the difference in the world.  As someone who had a very negative experience using lactation consultants, seeing how caring and relatable women like Naya are restores my hope should I ever need to seek help again.

    When Naya first began blogging, planning definitely wasn’t on the agenda.  She recalls that “I definitely dove right in and worked on things as they came about.  It still serves as my creative outlet.  I don’t have a huge audience, but many of my readers have been with me for years.  Because I use it as a way to be creative, I tend to be very selective with collaborations I do.  Despite writing in this space for six years, I still work things out as I go.”  It wasn’t all easy though, she says that “something I struggled with initially was finding my voice and writing style.  I tend to very wordy, but I really had to edit down some of my posts.  I am happy to say I don’t have that problem any more.”  While she dove right into the blogosphere, she still says that “it was a bit scary starting my blog.  Mostly it was my friends that were reading it at the start, but I was nervous about my employer and family members finding it.”  During the past six years since Lactivist in Louboutins began, she has self-taught herself many skills, including basic HTML code, social media promotion, graphic design, and marketing.  While most was self-taught, she did take a few classes in social media and marketing along the way.  If you, dear reader, are worried about not currently possessing the skills needed to accomplish what you wish to do, please take inspiration from the fact that it can all be learned on your own, it just may take a little time!

Naya, her husband, and their two boys.

Naya, her husband, and their two boys.

    While researching and planning may not have been part of her blogging experience, starting down the IBCLC path was a different story.  “I had to be much more calculated,” she says.  “In the beginning, trying to juggle schoolwork with my full time job, motherhood, and trying to be a good partner to my husband was difficult.  My time is a very precious commodity and I really had to let things go when I was in the thick of schooling and obtaining clinical hours.  I still struggle a bit with managing all the different things I do, but it has gotten a lot better.”  

    Naya’s two boys are currently 7 and 3.5 years old.  Juggling everything she has to do has gotten a little easier as they’ve aged, as she says “they’re now not as dependent on me and can play together well.  Most of the time they entertain each other with minimal interaction from me.  It gives me a chance to finish up meeting notes, respond to emails, or have a few minutes of quiet before starting the next task on my neverending to-do list.”  This hasn’t always been the case, however, at first “balancing work, schooling, and motherhood was hard.  I cried A LOT about feeling like I was giving everything in my life (including my kids) a solid 10%, despite wanting to put more effort into everything, especially time with my kids.”  “Now that schooling is done,” she says, “I’m finding it a little easier.  On my days off from work, I try to spend a lot of time with my kids and focus on being present for them.  For me that means putting my phone down and keeping my laptop closed.  I try really hard to make memories with my sons--not just the big monumental trips to Disney World memories, but the smaller ones as well.  I love to have dance parties with them in our living room, we crank up the music and rock out.  We also have a movie night on a Friday or Saturday where the kids stay up really late and we watch something together.”  The biggest struggle she’s overcome, though, is “telling that mom guilt voice in the back of my head to shut up.  While it does poke out every now and again, I tell myself that my sons love me and they know that I am crazy about them.”  Her sons have also been involved in her various business journeys.  She says that “whether I was working on the blog, teaching breastfeeding classes, or working part time seeing moms, they’ve been with me every step of the way.  I do this for them.”

    While just helping mother’s one on one is impressive enough, Naya also has quite an impressive resume of opportunities she has got to be a part of since she started.  She has spoken at MommyCon 2016, speaks to local groups of postnatal mothers, spoke on the topic of Sex and the Breastfeeding Mother, and so much more.  “Someone recently introduced me to a group of lactation consultants and called me influential,” she says, “I haven’t ever really thought of myself that way...if my words have helped even one person, I am grateful to write them.”   “I can honestly say that I had no idea it would lead to all of this,” she says, “not a clue.  I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have been given and still get a thrill when someone says they’ve read my blog or heard of me.  I’ve gotten ‘recognized’ a few times and I’m not going to lie, it felt kind of weird but good.  I’m really just an awkward mom hoping I don’t make a fool out of myself.”  

    Though she has already gotten to do some amazing things a result of Lactivist in Louboutins and through lactation consulting, she has many goals to still achieve.  “I would love to do more in the fields of maternal mental health and postpartum support,” says Naya.  “That may mean obtaining a postpartum doula certification, but I haven’t even started exploring the possibilities.  On the other end of the spectrum, I would love to learn more about styling and offer services to women, focusing on postpartum women dressing a body that feels strange to them... I would also love to speak at more conferences or group sessions and share my knowledge.”  

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    With all the things that her work has led to, the two things that have brought her the most joy, she says, is that “I’ve met some incredible women through the blogging community who have become close friends and co-conspirators of sorts.  We try to get together every few months, but it’s hard due to jobs, kids, and life.  I am not sure I would’ve met them otherwise, but I’m glad they’re a part of my life.”  The second thing that she loves is “‘graduating’ moms and babies from seeing a lactation consultant.  It doesn’t happen often, but after several visits, I get to tell a mom and baby that they don’t have to come back because breastfeeding finally going well.  Sometimes there are tears, but there are always smiles and hugs.”  

    Although her work is incredibly rewarding, like so many mothers, sometimes there are days that are harder than others.  When this happens, what keeps Naya motivated may sound familiar.  “As cliched as it sounds,” she says, “my kids keep me motivated.  They see their mom working hard, being happy with her career choice, and working outside of the home while raising children.  I also feel like the universe throws something incredibly positive my way on those days when I want to throw in the towel.  A recent example: a few days before I took my IBCLC exam, I had hit a wall.  I couldn’t study anymore, I didn’t want to do this anymore, I was done.  My ridiculously supportive husband took the day off and we went to a restaurant for brunch since the kids were in school.  I saw a mom nursing in public and I went over to give her a ‘Thanks for nursing in public’ card.  I gave it to her and told her she was doing a great job.  She put her hand on my arm and told me it was her first time to nurse her three week old baby in public and she was very nervous, but I made her feel more confident.  I was over the moon and couldn’t believe my luck.  Even when I get off track, something happens to remind me of why I started this journey to begin with.”

    If you’ve been inspired by Naya’s story, then here is one last bit of inspiring advice from her: “Do it.  Follow your passion, make your dream a reality.  If you wait for the right time to start, you may be waiting forever.”

 

More of Naya’s favorite resources:

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

 ivorymix.com (stock photos)

Livingfornaptime.com (blogging help for working moms)

 

Documentaries:

The Milky Way Movie (on breastfeeding)

Embrace (on body image)

Miss Representation (on how mainstream media exploits women)

 

Connect with Naya:

On the web

On Facebook

On Instagram


 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

 

Brittany