Mother Run: Margie K.P. Fudge

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    Have you ever heard someone say that their grand idea came to them in a dream?  That’s exactly what happened to Margie K.P. Fudge.  Before the pregnancy dream that helped her find her way to becoming a self published children’s book author (her book, Being Nice is Magical, came out in May 2018), Margie was “a college dropout just working full time, mostly in retail, and trying to be a person.”  “I wrote an immense amount of poetry and I’d give a reading here or there when the courage stuck me,” she remembers.  “I’d work on pieces of novels or screenplays, but I never finished them.  I’d get too tired or busy--or, admittedly, when I was younger, I’d just stop and go hang out with friends or something.  I was just kind of going through life completely confused and living very day-to-day.”  

    To Margie, being a mother and being a business owner are intricately connected.  “The idea of being an entrepreneur was always in the back of my mind for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I’ve always had this drive to build something of my own that I could eventually leave as a legacy, but I never knew how to go about it or figured I didn’t have what it took to do it. Once I became pregnant with my son, however, the idea of being a business owner moved at lightning speed from the back of my mind to the forefront. There wasn’t an option anymore. Once I delivered him, I had to go back to work full-time at only 6 weeks postpartum. It destroyed me. I was battling postpartum depression, my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night yet, so I’d come to work on a half hour of sleep, perform really badly at my job as a result, and they were constantly threatening to fire me. I’d cry all of the time because each day, I was missing out on precious time with my firstborn child to make money for a company that was constantly reminding me that I was replaceable. Quitting to stay home with him wasn’t an option, either. Finally, I reached my breaking point and decided to not only write the book, but grow it so largely that the book, as well as my name as an author, has its own brand. I want many more children, and I was (and still am) determined to never, ever be in that position again, so this was truly a do-or-die situation. I only get one life. I’m not going to limit what I want to do in this life because I have to go to work for someone else when there are ways around it.”

    Her son, Titus Love, is two and a half but her journey to publishing began when she was only five week pregnant.  “I had a super vibrant pregnant lady dream (yessss, you know the kind that I’m talking about!) about writing a children’s book about a little boy who does nice things out of the goodness of his heart and eventually turned into a wizard,” she explains.  “Even his name, Claude, came to me in the dream.  When I woke up the next morning, it was go time.  Literally.”  Though the idea may have come to her in her sleep, she still had a long road ahead of her to bring that dream into reality.  “While the dream I had was the thing that lit the fire in me and gave me most of the ideas, it didn’t give me all of the details,” Margie says.  “I decided to specifically make this book diverse because as the mother of a Black child, I realized that diverse books are dire.  While children’s books are getting much better with diversity in the past few years, they have a long way to go, and I wanted to be a part of that.  I wanted my son and others just like him to be able to open a book and think, ‘Hey, This kid looks like me!’ and find happiness there.  With my partner being a Black father, I have witnessed first hand a lot of the discredit and disrespect he’s gotten--even just the looks he gets when he’s out with our son.  It’s hurtful.  I could really go on an entire social rant here, but I’ll leave it at this: fathers in general, and Black fathers especially, deserve a lot more credit, love, and recognition than they’re currently getting.”

    In addition to creating a diverse character, her book is also aimed at kids on the autism spectrum.  “The context of the text doesn’t change at all--just the presentation of the text,” Margie explains.  “I’ve learned so much about autism in children during my time spent pursuing a clinical psych degree, and the reality of it is: many children on the spectrum can understand the same exact things that any other child can--they just need different tools sometimes.  I had learned about the visual literacy technique that I used in Being Nice is Magical in school, and after researching it much more extensively, decided to apply to my book.  It was honestly fun deciding which text styles and new colors to use for the emphatic words.”

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    Bringing her book to life was a long undertaking.  “Initially, I spent weeks researching the entire process,” she shares.  “As most entrepreneurs can probably attest to, you can read all of the articles you want about how business goes, but until you truly dive in with full faith in what you’re doing, you can’t truly know how it’s going to go.  The one thing I will say, though, is that the more you get into the field, the more people you surround yourself with who are doing similar things, before you know it, you’re kind of just taking all the necessary steps without having to research it just from being around it so much.”  After she spent time researching and learning, the real work began.  “Well, first, I had to sit down and write the manuscript, that was the best part,” Margie begins. “I had written a lot of adult-reading-level novels and short stories before, so the first draft read like that. I didn’t intend for it to. It just came out that way out of mindless habit. It was actually hilarious because I gave it to my partner, Titus, to read and he was like, ‘isn’t this supposed to be a children’s book?’ and I was like ‘Oh. Yeah. Whoops!’ So, I had to go back and rewrite it in the way a seven year old would be able to understand. I had to employ our niece who was 6 at the time by asking her ‘what would you say in this situation?’ and things like that.  Then came the reading, re-reading 800 times, and editing. I knew what I was writing was good stuff, but re-reading it is like hearing yourself speak on a recording. I’d cringe in that odd fear and self-loathing every time just because I could hear myself speak through my manuscript--if that makes sense. It helped to hand it off to everyone I knew and have them give me feedback, though. Most of the feedback was very useful and nice and that helped me get over that silly feeling. Had I not passed the manuscript around,  I don’t know that I’d have ever got over that. After I knew the manuscript was totally solid, I found an illustrator. Titus had recommended an artist that he knew already from being a part of the art and music scene in Detroit--Sade Robinson. She had previously had her art on display at the Baltimore Gallery, so needless to say, she was legit and on top of that, I loved her work.  Ironically enough, a few weeks later, I was at a dinner event in Detroit for the musician Jaye Prime where Sade was seated across from us at the table. I introduced myself, told her about my manuscript and asked her if she would illustrate the book. She was immediately about it. A few days later, she drew up a contract and she was ready to go.  I told her what I needed the illustrations showing, what needed to correspond with each page, etc. I gave her descriptions of what I needed, but she had a lot of complete reign on creativity, and trusting her judgement on it took the book further than I ever dreamed of. After lots of questions and patience on both ends, in a little less than a year, we had a complete and illustrated book. After that, the hard part truly began, and I, in no way, was prepared for it. Self-publishing has lots of very particular sizing guidelines (that I was previously unaware of) and Titus and I stayed up many, many nights trying to get the page sizes right. Getting the website up and running was equally as tedious of a process. Initial investment costs were expensive. Many days, it felt like it wasn’t going to work out. Marketing was difficult with no printed book produced yet, it was hard making ends meet with bills and now book expenses. I cried a lot. I began grinding my teeth at night. My diet suffered because I’d literally come home late from my day job, get my son to bed, and because I didn’t want to waste any time (or simply out of exhaustion and stress), I’d just eat frozen pizza or eat Taco Bell for the fifth time in a week. I was breaking out a lot more. I was angry a lot just as a result of anxiety. That part was dreadful. But within a month and a half, we got it worked out, and a lot actually came together in it’s own time.  Finally, the book was ready for printing and distribution. But I’ll tell you--that was the longest month and a half of my entire life to date. You know that face that all the new moms have in the photo when they’re holding their new baby right after delivering? After everything was said and done, it all felt like that face. Exhausted, proud, in love, terrified, and certain somehow, all rolled into one.”

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    If you think writing and self publishing a book sounds daunting, imagine doing it while also trying to spend quality time with your family, going to school, and working a full time job.  “I’m in the stage where the balance is very small and very scheduled,” Margie says. “It’s a wild understatement to say that it’s incredibly difficult to juggle still having a day job, finishing up my degree, being a mother, and being a person, too. In the morning, a lot of times I have to be at work before my son even wakes up. Some days, I do get to wake him up and get him breakfast and so on, but with that comes the vehement ‘NO GO TO WORK, MAMA!’ protest. Any mom can relate when I say that part hurts me more than him. We have a lot of ‘I know mommy is working a lot, but mommy is working so hard right now so she can be home with you all the time very very soon’ discussions. I facetime with him, a lot of photos are sent back and forth, and when I come home in the evening, it’s just quality time with him and his dad before it’s his bedtime. If I get home really late, like 8 or 9 o clock, if my son isn’t already asleep, sometimes I keep him up a little later just to see him for a bit. I try to make every moment with him so special. Once he’s in bed, though, the work on all things book related begins and I repeat that same process all week long. I have to schedule entire days off of everything to keep sane, and it’s usually Sundays. Some Sundays we just lounge around and play all day, and others, we visit museums or the park or some other fun place--but no matter what, I always keep my time with my son as qualitative as possible. It’s never easy, but it’s getting easier. I’m beginning to see the fruits of my labor ripen.  My biggest struggle? Patience. I can see that everything is growing in the right direction, but it’s hard to keep pushing through until it gets as large as I know it will be. People tell me that all of the waiting I’ve had to do for various things is supposed to teach me lessons in patience, but if I’m being honest--all it does is stress me out.”
    Though Being Nice is Magical was born from a dream, Margie was a writer long before.  “I’ve been writing since I’ve been eight years old,” she shares.  “I even used to participate in all of the Young Authors events in grade school.  My first ‘book’ was called Bug Mud.  I illustrated it myself--it’s just these pieces of paper stapled together with Crayola marker pictures and my wobbly handwriting as the text.  It’s silly.  It was about bugs who were stuck in the mud.  My mother had books on tops of books on top of BOOKS of poetry that would write and keep for herself and I probably internalized that somewhere.  It sounds cliche, but I speak the truth when I say that writing has always been something that I’ve done just the same as tying shoes or washing my hands.”  Before she delved into children’s books, she covered quite a few other genres.  “When I began writing seriously, I started off creating transgressional fiction pieces,” she says.  “I loved the idea of the main character finding new and crazy ways to try and change the cards they were dealt.  Being insurgent is something that always engaged me, and to find an entire genre of literature that catered to that had me flying over the moon.  I wrote a few unfinished novels and even some screenplays in that genre.  Eventually, that evolved into a lot of horror writing.  A lot of people have asked ‘how do you even think of horror pieces to write? Like, are you okay in the head?’  The answer is absolutely and even more so for writing horror.  I’ve suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember, and writing about scary things that I know are fake and controlled by me, the writer, is a way of coping in a symbolic way.  It keeps me grounded during the days that are extra anxious.  My favorite piece?  Probably the one that was published in Vine Leaves Literary Journal.  It was a vignette about a demon escaping someone’s body in a very detailed, bloody fashion and then ended with the demon finally escaping, left to be walking the earth.  It was so significant because I was battling postpartum depression at the time, and that’s how I envisioned it as I healed.  It was painful, mentally gory work.  It petrified me almost all of the time--but after really going through the ringer with it, it finally left me and I have been restored more than I ever knew I could be.”

    As she comes out of 2018 with her first self published children’s book put out into the world, her future is bright.  While Being Nice is Magical focused on niceness, she has plans to expand it into a series.  “The second book is focusing on the magic of being patient,” Margie says.  “After that, we’ll focus on being honest, having empathy, displaying manners, having integrity...the list goes on and on!”  Putting out more books isn’t the only thing on her list of goals for the upcoming year.  “Aside from getting another book or two and some merch out, I definitely want to be part of more author events and book expos,” she says.  “I love interacting with my magical little readers and their parents and hearing all of their feedback.  I love getting the chance to answer questions, or even ask my readers questions about what they enjoyed about the book, what they would like to see next.  Overall, though, the end goal for 2019 is to be able to be completely full time with being an author and not have to have a day job anymore.  And mark me on this--it’s going to happen.”

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    As she reaches towards that end goal of writing full time, there have been, and will be more, hard days.  So what keeps her going?  “It’s a combination of a lot of things,” she explains.  “I try to listen to a lot of ultra-inspiring music. It’s been a lot of super motivational hip hop and cozy nostalgia music from the 90s that I grew up with. My partner, Titus, is also a huge driving force. He just listens, understands, and helps in any way that he can. He’s the most supportive person I’ve ever met. He works on all of the graphics you see on margiekpfudge.com or the flyers, and that man is tireless. He’s constantly pushing me to be my best self--the person he sees in his eyes.  Even after all of these years together, it still feels like a new light to be seen in. It makes me feel giddy.  He also cooks mean vegan food that soothes the tortured soul. He’s such a great dad, too, so when I’m working a lot, I know that our son is still being nurtured the way he needs to be when he’s with his dad. Finally, as the cornerstone of everything is my son. He wakes up asking to read mama’s book. He tells me he’s ‘going to the store to get mama’s book.’  My book is only in one store for now, but his little exclamations are enough to bring me to happy tears. He’s counting on me too much now to let him down, so quitting or giving up is never an option no matter how stressed I may get.
In all honesty, when it gets really bad,  I just try to remember these good moments. I vent a lot. I allow myself to experience the anger that arises sometimes at the time and money constraints. I allow myself to feel all of the emotions. I do the ol’ drive-n-cry sometimes. It’s always best to acknowledge our emotions.”  Though her little family is amazingly supportive, she also has dealt with those who aren’t so encouraging.  “I run into this a lot,” she says.  “Far more often than I could have ever imagined and from a lot of people I never thought I’d hear it from.  It’s going to sound silly, but I’ve never been hurt by it.  Only confused.  In any regard, it only gives me fuel.  For each person that doubts me, I turn up the push on what I’m doing by 200.  I thrive off of proving people wrong.”  Keeping those who doubt her to the back of her mind and focusing on those that show support is the key to not getting weighed down by negativity.  “My overall mood has been that of gratitude,” she shares.  “I never imagined my career as an author to be taking off the way that it is, and to each and every one of you reading this--I thank you for taking the time to do so.  I thank every single person who has bought a copy of the book, attended one of my book events, enabled me to be a part of a book event, or even just gave my posts on social media a like or share.  That is so invaluable to me, and this dream of mine that I’m literally giving my ALL to exhibit wouldn’t even be possible were it not for folks like you.”

    So what advice does she have for other mothers looking to start something of their own?  “Acknowledge that it will be time, money, and sanity being poured into it,” Margie says.  “It will get hard. You’ll have days that you’d rather just give up because it may feel easier-but you must continue on. Take solace in knowing that there are others in your exact situation. It’s normal to lose sleep. It’s normal to lose friends. People get resentful sometimes--try to lift them up if you can, and don’t take their bitterness personal. It’s normal to lose faith in ourselves sometimes, but keep it at a minimum. Allow yourself to feel and express your feelings, but do so tactfully, quietly, and in sophistication. Emotional self expression can be done in these ways. When you run a business, even that one crazy tweet while you’re in your feelings can ruin your entire market. Do your best to think forward as much as possible and at all times.  Above all, the outcome will outweigh all of this. Believe in it and it will be so.”

What does success mean to you?

“Success is certainly a multi-faceted concept and probably has different meanings for everyone, but to me, personally: I’ll know that I’ve become successful when I can continue to have children without worrying about going back to work for someone else and it doesn’t cause any financial strain. I don’t care about making millions or living lavishly--I just want to create enough successful books to be able to live comfortably. By that, I mean, I want to make enough for my children’s future, our retirement, getting a new house built, and enough to be able to go out and celebrate with a nice dinner when the hard work pays off. I want to generate enough income from my books and publishing house that I won’t ever have to worry about bills or groceries ever again.”

What’s on your business bucket list?

"-Acquiring my own book-printing machine
-Owning an actual building for my own publishing house
-Create 20+ books
-The New York Times Bestseller List.
-Also, having a drink with author Bunmi Laditan.”


Connect with Margie:

On the web

On Instagram

On Amazon

 

Mother Run: Alexis Edwards of Birth 360

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    Alexis Edwards wasn’t always a birth worker.  “I worked full time as a social worker before transitioning home for a few years after having children,” she recounts.  “I still worked from home part-time for an adoption agency writing home studies and conducting post-placement home visits, while also keeping humans alive and shit was bananas. Shout out to all those work from home moms doing the impossible! In November 2016 I became certified as a birth and postpartum doula and then officially put my kids in school part-time to grow my private practice.”         

    She first discovered the new path she wanted to take during that time home with her kids. “I had a lot of time to think about my career and the populations I wanted to serve,” she explains.  “I also had a lot of time to realize that staying home wasn’t the best fit for me. I struggled emotionally and lacked support. I felt very isolated during my daughters first year and started my blog as a way to get everything I was feeling out of my brain.  Ironically, my blog connected me with other mothers and made me feel less alone. It made me realize the importance of community, especially during new parenthood, and it was then I started researching doula trainings. I knew I wanted to support new parents in the perinatal period and use my social work skills to serve the mental health needs that are often ignored during this huge transition in life.”  A big part of her decision to go into this new line of work stemmed directly from her own doula use. “I had a doula for both of my births and very much valued their support along the way,” she says. “I also suffered from severe postpartum anxiety after my sons birth and coming out the other side of that inspired me to support other women in normalizing and validating the struggles new parents can face that aren’t often talked about.”  Within her own practice she works to support every mother she comes across and knows that every birth and situation looks different.  “I support all types of birth and have supported women in a range of experiences, from a home birth to holding their hand in the OR,” she says. “My goal is not to try and sway my client into one type of birthing environment vs. another. Each woman is unique and will have unique needs and I will always support their decision to birth with and where they feel safe and supported. I encourage all of my clients, no matter their birth preferences to seek out a comprehensive childbirth education course. One that covers all the variations of normal when it comes to birth and that provides knowledge and information on all types of intervention and the risks/benefits involved so they can feel empowered in making an informed choice. The thing I’ve realized the longer I’ve worked with women in this stage of life, is that a satisfying birth experience has less to do with where or how the baby was born, and more to do with how the experience made her FEEL. And the thing that consistently determines whether a woman has positive emotions connected to her birth is significantly related to how she was treated by those surrounding her.”

    Her social work background has led her to create quite a unique, and much needed, business.  With a goal to bridge the gap between birth and mental health, her work serves to help many women who may otherwise fall through the cracks.  Her ability to connect more extensively with birthing people prenatally helps build a deeper relationship than one may typically have with a doctor or other healthcare provider.  “This allows for rapport and trust to build early on and I’m planting seeds about postpartum the whole time, reminding them that should they need additional mental health support postpartum, I am trained to do so,” Alexis explains. “It’s so much easier to reach out for support when you already know who to reach out to. As a doula, I’m also seeing my clients sooner than a medical provider in the postpartum period. Most women don’t see their provider until 6 weeks postpartum which is light years in new parent land. Doulas typically do a postpartum home visit around 1-2 weeks postpartum and are also checking in via phone/text during those early weeks so it allows me the opportunity to observe clients in the midst of the newborn haze when it’s more likely for issues to surface. Doulas are also trained to provide options and encourage informed choice. This means that I’m not just discussing medication as an option, but also offering referrals to support groups, lactation support, psychiatrists, etc. and especially those trained in perinatal issues. I don’t want to paint medical providers in a bad light.  Many are providing proper referrals in the same way, but not all have that knowledge and the best they know to do is prescribe a standard medication which may not always be the best fit depending on the patient and their unique needs.”

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    In addition to offering birth and postpartum doula services, Alexis also uses her education and experiences to advocate for trauma survivors in birth through her program Carry on Warriors.  “I am a trauma survivor myself and experienced traumatic birth with both of my children,” she shares. “I also primarily worked with trauma survivors as a counselor before having children, but despite all that, I didn’t really consider the impact my history would have on my own births and postpartum.  That’s the thing about trauma, even if you feel ok cognitively, the body still stores those trauma memories and they can come flooding to the surface during the perinatal period. So much of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is this raw, primal, physical, and emotional journey and our body can interpret those sensations as unsafe and women might find themselves being triggered by the normal parts of birth or new parenthood.  I think this is one of those things that isn’t often talked about so I’m passionate about creating conversation around this issue, especially considering 1 in 3 women are survivors.” In addition to the Carry on Warriors program, she also offers a group called Growing Together which focuses on partners becoming parents. “There is so much emphasis prenatally on making a birth plan, decorating the nursery, or what to pack in your hospital bag, but no one is talking about the shit show you are about to navigate when you get sent home alone with a tiny human that is basically a digestive system,” says Alexis.  “Growing Together was created with the goal of educating both partners on the various postpartum issues they may face and equipping them with tools and support on how to better handle conflict and meet each others needs during this rocky time as a couple.”

    One of the things within her work that she is passionate about is changing the statistics of maternal mortality.  “There are many wonderfully compassionate and evidence-based OBGYN’s that also provide women centered care, but the truth of the matter is our healthcare system is significantly flawed,” she explains.  “There is an overall issue with unnecessary interventions that absolutely contribute to birth trauma which increases your likelihood of experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. The U.S. also has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, and black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.  Even more, as many as 1 in 5 women experience a mood disorder postpartum and that increases to 1 in 3 for women of color so it’s hard not to consider the correlation between what is happening in birth and what women are experiencing after the fact.” She even attended the March for Moms in Washington D.C. earlier this year to lobby for maternal health.  “That means I had to run around capitol hill in a pencil skirt and kitten heels to yell at Senators to stop letting mothers die in the U.S.,” she says. “No, that’s an exaggeration, lol. But that is essentially what I did. The first day was an actual March for Moms to build awareness around maternal health issues such as postpartum mood disorders and maternal mortality and survivors and family members that have lost loved ones were able to speak and share their stories.  I think that portion of the trip was meant to motivate and inspire us to speak from the heart when meeting with legislators. Our goal in the legislative meetings was to encourage their support and sponsorship of three specific bills related to maternal health. One was a bill that requires medical providers to screen for postpartum depression, another would strengthen maternal mortality review committees in order to collect more accurate data on why mothers are dying, and the last was to create paid family and medical leave, all causes I’m extremely passionate about as each could improve outcomes for mothers.”

    Her foray into birth work was slow and built around her family and the season of life they were in at the time.  “I started my doula training journey in early 2016 when my youngest was almost 2,” she says. “Our first year and a half with her was a hot fucking mess.  She slept zero. She only wanted boob. And I felt immense guilt that I wasn’t giving my older kiddo the attention he deserved. Looking back, I know I would have failed at starting my practice during that stage which is probably why I didn’t even consider it until we started to come out the other side of that sleep deprived, over touched torture.  I definitely took it slow in the beginning as I was still home with them full time, but just did what I could when I could squeeze it in and gave myself grace along the way, knowing I would eventually reach a place where we could transition them into more childcare. And that’s exactly what happened. They are now almost 4 and 6 and my oldest will start kindergarten this Fall and we will transition our daughter to a full time preschool.  It’s crazy to think I’ve come that far in the journey.”

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    The on-call nature of birth work provides an additional challenge to running a business with kids.  You never know exactly when a call is going to come in and you have to drop what you’re doing or sneak out in the middle of the night.  “Not gonna lie, on-call is fucking tough,” says Alexis. “I suffer from anxiety so I have to be mindful of those feelings creeping in and engage in the right self-care so I can stay well rested and not feel on edge waiting for the call.  But I also limit the number of birth clients I take on each month to make that process more manageable. Many full time doulas might take 5-6 clients a month, but I only take 1-2 which also allows me to manage the other services I offer and still ‘balance’ that family life.”  As working mothers that balance ebbs and flows as we move through different periods of life. “It definitely has gotten easier as they have gotten older,” she says. “They are more independent and really enjoy school and time with their friends vs. those earlier years where separation anxiety and thirst for nipple was real life.”

    Though on-call work as a mother is hard, Alexis says the biggest challenge she has had to overcome is “definitely affordable, quality childcare.”  “It was hard initially to start a business without childcare,” she continues. “I needed to make money to pay for it, but I also needed childcare to serve clients.  It was rough there initially and there were a few months I wanted to quit from the anxiety, but I just kept pushing through and eventually it all worked out and now that is less of a stressor.  I do still have it in the back of mind though since my income isn’t consistent. If I have a slow month, it can get stressful, but I’ve been working harder at adding in those unexpected periods to my budget to give us a cushion for when that does happen.  That’s been a big part of my journey that I’ve learned as I go. Managing money is uncomfortable AF, and I think many business owners struggle with how to manage a budget and make financially sound business decisions. I recently invested in a bookkeeper to keep my life right and that has been tremendously helpful.”

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    So often as small business owners we face criticism or doubt from others about our ability to not only run a business, but to run one with children.  Alexis has the perfect answer for those would dare to question her choices. “Fuck that noise,” she says. “It pisses me off how often I am asked ‘how do you do it all?’ when my husband is just being a dad and having a career no questions asked.  I constantly have to remind myself that women are given this ridiculous narrative that we can’t have it all so I know that’s where the question stems from. But the truth of the matter is I don’t have it all. I’m not perfect and I have good days and bad days, and no matter what I do or how I do it, one thing will suffer while I give energy to another.  And I just give that some grace and keep going. I know I have something to offer this world, and if someone wants to doubt that then they ain’t my people. This is another space where my village comes in. I surround myself with other female entrepreneurs and feel inspired and supported by how much they kick ass and take names on the daily.” That village is also what helps her get through challenging times.  “I’ve learned over the years to ask for help and seek connection when I need it. Our culture doesn’t do the best job encouraging a village. We are one of the only cultures that doesn’t raise families as a community and I do believe that contributes to the poor outcomes our country is navigating in regards to maternal health. So I try really hard to practice what I preach to my clients and ask for support when I feel myself getting overwhelmed.”

What’s on her business bucket list?

“Write a book!!!”

Her favorite creative and business resources:

“You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. The Courage to Become by Catia Holm. Also the Hey, Girl podcast. And Brene Brown. All the Brene Brown.”

Her advice for other biz owning moms?

“Keep doing you boo. When doubt or comparison starts to creep in, kick that shit in the face and keep doing that goodness you know you were meant to do. Also, wine.”

Connect with Alexis:

On the web

On Instagram

Top Knot Squad Podcast

 

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: 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: 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

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

Mother Run: Emily Frigo of Wise + Wild

Emily and her four kids--ages 7, 3, 2, 1.

Emily and her four kids--ages 7, 3, 2, 1.

    Balancing a thriving, on call business while raising four kids (and homeschooling!) is no easy task, just ask Emily Frigo from Wise + Wild.  “Just last night, I had asked a tarot reader ‘how do I balance business and motherhood,’ she said I’m doing pretty good, ha, so that was reassuring.”  

    Wise + Wild is a doula and birth photography business owned and run by Emily.  She mixes her passion of supporting women through their birth while also using her amazing photography skills to capture beautiful moments that mothers can cherish forever.  The name Wise + Wild was chosen because Emily believes that “everything surrounding birth is a balance between being both wise and wild.  Wise represents using modern knowledge so that we can feel confident in making the choices and wild draws in our primal, instinctual parts of our minds, bodies, and souls so that we can feel deeply connected to ourselves.  Combining both instincts and science together tend to make families feel empowered and in control of their birth journey.”

    Before she wore the many hats that make up Wise + Wild, Emily worked as a barista and a full-time nanny before deciding to stay home and focus on mothering during her child’s second year of life.  The stay at home life was not all she had imagined and soon she found herself isolated, bored, and spiraling into depression.  “I don’t love anything more than being a mother,” she says, “but I had lost my identity.”  

    Finding your identity after embarking on motherhood can be a tough and long process.  

In her happy place, behind the camera!

In her happy place, behind the camera!

After being gifted a camera during her first child’s first year, she began offering photo sessions to other families, but the joy in the work never came.  “It wasn’t until I started supporting births as a doula and watched these phenomenal birth stories unfold, that I combined my passions and started offering birth photography...and that is where I found my ‘happy place.’”  

    Describing herself as being “naturally an over-thinker and an over-planner”  she obsessively discusses the pros and cons of all decisions she makes and embarking on an entrepreneurial journey was no different.  “Since the beginning, my biggest struggle has always been self-confidence.  I’m always fighting with Imposture Syndrome.”

    Emily has always been fascinated by birth.  “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been intuitively inspired by the childbearing year.  Even as a child, when I’d be near a pregnant woman, I’d experience these waves of energy that I couldn't explain.  But it wasn’t until I started witnessing birth trauma in communities I was involved in that my connection to birth turned into advocacy.”  The journey into birth work has been a “slow and steady one.”  While some people may be able to point out the exact moment they realized what they wanted to do, for Emily there has never been a single defining moment, “just small reminders to continue down this path.”  While she loves being a doula and helping other families, her favorite birth stories are those of her four children, saying that “each birth has changed me for the better, gifting me so much wisdom and compassion.” “I have carried ten sweet babies in my womb,” says Emily, “four of whom are living today.  Each child holds a special part in my heart, including the ones I’ve lost too early.  My living children are ages 7, 3, 2, and 1.  They really stretch me to be a better human, I always learning from them (especially about patience)!”

    Supporting women through being a doula and taking birth photos is not all that Emily has to offer.  She has an impressive list of qualifications from Birth Doula, Stillbirthday Doula, Birth Photographer, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Encapsulator, herbalist, and Reiki Master.  She recently made the step to begin the process of becoming a Midwife.  “I always knew I would grow into Midwifery,” she says, “But I wanted to take it slow, to allow the journey to unfold naturally.  One recent morning, as I sat under the rising sun, I intuitively knew that it was time to enroll in school. Midwifery is a long journey, I’m just taking it one day at a time right now.”

    When it comes down to the balance of mothering and business, a never ending struggle I’m sure we can almost all relate to, Emily says that “I’m really hard on myself...It’s not easy for me to turn ‘off’ work and that’s probably intensified because I’m always on-call and must be ready to attend a birth at all times.  I push myself to wake up before my kids do, to spend time with myself before the crazy begins. Sometimes I answer emails and other business stuff, but most of the time I simply drink coffee on my porch in quiet.  When they rise, I try to be fully devoted to them, this is when we focus on each other and our homeschooling.”  While she has struck a pretty amazing balance between work and family, she couldn’t do it alone and is thankful for her husband who takes over when he gets home and allows her to get some work time in.  

    In a society that often paints the intricacies of birth as sterile and even shameful, something to be hidden away and not discussed or shown, Emily’s family has taken a different approach.  Her four kids are “absolutely obsessed with birth and anatomy.  They find birth so magical and women so powerful.  They are always asking about birth stories, to look at pictures and videos, and to learn about bodies.  I hope this helps raise them into truly respectful adults, ones who look at women as powerful and equal humans instead of just property.”  It is parenting like this that will hopefully allow the next generation to be more accepting and open about the birthing process as a whole and maybe begin to move away from looking at birth as something clinical and medical and instead see it for the amazing, personal experience it can be.  

Wise + Wild, the perfect mix of intuition and science.

Wise + Wild, the perfect mix of intuition and science.

    Doulas do not just help with the birth itself, but can also be an amazing resource in the postpartum period.  Emily says, “birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder, so sometimes even the most intervention-less homebirth can be traumatic,” something I can agree with from personal experience.  “The postpartum period is just as important for long term health as birth. Research has shown that the more a woman is part of the decision-making process during birth, she will be happier about the outcome, no matter what happens.  It’s important that families feel like they are in control of their birth, which will help facilitate a more peaceful and bonded connection during their postpartum and beyond.”

    A common misconception is that doulas and homebirth go hand in hand, but in reality anyone can have and benefit from one.  Emily believes that “every woman, in every birth situation, deserves to have a doula present...Studies show that doulas help women have more positive birth outcomes.”  While she agrees that it’s “not easy to step out of the hospital model of care, we are a society so conditioned on birthing in the hospital, it’s easy to ignore that women have been birthing in the comfort of our homes since the beginning of our existence.  It’s important not to allow fear to get in your way.  Research confirms amongst low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies.  And while some interventions are necessary for the safety and health of the mother or baby, many are overused, are lacking scientific evidence of benefit, and even carry risks.  If you’re looking into birthing in your home, I recommend reaching out to your local homebirth community!”

    While our businesses may differ, our journey to balance to home and work are the same.  What’s Emily’s advice?  “Owning a business while mothering our children is not for the faintheart.  It takes balance, it takes patience, and it takes forgiveness.  But you’ve got this.  You can do this! And please, make time for self-care...don’t allow yourself to be neglected.”

 

Connect with Emily:

On the web at http://www.wisewildwell.com

On Instagram @wisewildwell

 

Additional reading provided by Emily:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jmwh.12172/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647727/

https://www.jpmph.org/journal/view.php?number=283




 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany