Yo Momma Monday: Stefanie Lin

yo momma monday

Meet Stefanie Lin, 30, from Sloughton WI, who has started her own Virtual Assistant business, called Crafty Helper. She keeps creative businesses in order with all of the services she offers online. This way, you can get an Assistant when you need one, and don’t need to worry about keeping one on the books during your slower seasons.

Before she started Crafty Helper, Stefanie worked a lot of Customer Service jobs and most recently, was running a small business for an owner who lived across the country. She got the idea to start her own business after working the indie craft fair circuit for several years and noticed that so many of her crafty friends were too busy keeping up with the business aspect that they didn’t have time for the creative side anymore.

“So many weren’t at a place to hire an employee on their payroll but needed some help and bonus would love to work with someone who “got it” (i.e: the handmade movement/community).  I saw a need that I could fill.”

While Stefanie has her personal blog called Artsy Momma, she also started a blog for Crafty Helper when the site went live. That blog is more business-driven, where she throws in her past experiences and shares her opinion on various small business related topics.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“If I help someone or give them motivation, my work is done. The bonus is that they keep me in mind when they are at a point that they need a set of capable hands to help them move their business forward and take that next step!”

A mother to four, her day is spent balancing work and family life. Her mornings are dedicated to getting her two oldest kids off to school and checking e-mails. Then she run errands with her little ones and does most of her work while they are napping. She also runs an antique booth with her best friend so she will stop in with her baby to check on that and then checks in with her clients at her weekly Skype meetings. She fits in some family time, then it’s back to work again once the kids are all in bed.

Her workspace is a desk in the family room, and she shares it with her kids for their homework and educational games. She does have a studio for her sewing and painting in the basement, but it usually ends up in the living room.

“I cant help it I love to be in the middle of the action!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Since Stefanie’s husband works nights and sleeps during the day, she handles most of the parenting until the weekends, when they screw up his work schedule and he spends time with the family. They like going out to their favorite local restaurants, enjoying a good movie and doing projects together at home, although her husband isn’t a huge fan of the resulting mess.

“I always tell people though you pick what you are passionate about and what you make time for.  I love what I do so I work hard and I do all that I can with the time I have.  As for folding laundry, well that can wait 😀  (Maybe that will be my kids memory of their childhood, clean clothes in hampers, eek!)”

While it can be hard to manage everything, Stefanie refers to her husband as her biggest cheerleader as he always helps her with designing an art booth, cutting down frames for her paintings and watching the kids when she has craft fairs.

“This new adventure though gives me more time to be in the crafty world but get to keep my weekends free to spend with my family as a whole, and for that I am thankful!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As a small business owner and creative herself, Stefanie knows how time-consuming yet necessary all of the business aspects are, and that is why she believes that virtual assistants are so important to small/handmade business owners.

“So much now for businesses is done online and there are only so many hours in the day to do all the things to “stay relevant” and still be able to make the product you are selling…  A virtual assistant can do so much of the online work for an artist so that the artist can still have their name/brand out there but keep working on what they are passionate about, what they started out the business to begin with to make amazing/awesome/beautiful products”

Like so many business mamas, Stefanie’s favorite part about running her own business is the flexibility and the fact that she is always there for her kids. Since her business is still in the baby pages, she was a little scared about getting her first clients. Just a month in, she is already getting good feedback and referrals.

Since most of her clients are also mamas, they understand that weekends are dedicated to family time, and then Mondays she’s back on the grind. Even with this flexibility, she admits that she has become attached to her mobile devices (really though, who hasn’t) and that she forces herself to put the phone down and be completely present.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“When my kids look back on their childhood, I don’t want my phone to be the thing they remember, I want my smile and the projects we do together to be the first memories and the phone/computer just a minimal part of it!”

After all, it was a quilt hunt when she was pregnant with her first daughter that got her involved with craft shows in the first place. She wanted to make her baby a quilt, but hadn’t sewn a day in her life before then, so her husband bought her a sewing machine for Valentine’s Day. As it turns out, she was not so hot on quilting and finally decided to hire someone to make the dream quilt. In the meantime, she grew quite fond of sewing.

“I started with totes applied for my first show (didn’t sell a thing!) learned from it, got my first consignment store and hit the ground running! It wasn’t a straight path from sewing I started collecting vintage fabric which lead to vintage patterns. I wanted to paint my own faces which started out first very whimsical but have come full circle and I paint a bit more realistic but still with my own twist of using lots of texture and glazes to create paintings that have an old vintage vibe to them.”

She got involved with the Oh My Handmade! community after she followed the blog for a while and looked to it as an amazing resource for crafty businesses and a trusted voice on the online world. She finally decided to join the community and found “an amazing group of creatives I get to hang out with/ bounce ideas off of/ learn from/cheer on.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Stefanie’s favorite thing about what she does is creating connections and working with happy and positive people. She loves being able to help them and cheer them on, and sharing knowledge about her past experiences while learning to work with new sites and applications.

“I am all about growing and learning, I like to stay busy so getting to learn new things makes me pretty happy!”

Her advice for new creative business owners is simple: just start doing it.

“I am all about information but if all you do is collect information and don’t take the first baby steps to where you want to go you will get overwhelmed and just sit there with tons of information, and what good is that?  Fake it till you make it baby!  And don’t let the gremlins in your head tell you aren’t worthy of your crafty dreams you are, you can do it.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As for the future of her own business, Stefanie hopes to start a YouTube channel, keep a consistent blogging schedule, look for some good advertising spaces and continue to help artists make their own creative business dreams come true. Her plan for the antique booth is to continue the antique hunt and hopefully expand her booth into two.

“I also would love to help artist/handmade businesses break out of the mentality that they have to do it all for a long time before they are successful, hiring someone may hit the pocketbook initially but having that free time to really build your business is worth its weight in gold (and your sanity)”

For now, Stefanie’s heart is happy being able to cheer on other small businesses and make achieving their creative business dreams just that much easier. She hopes others will get the same fulfillment from their work, regardless of which avenue they choose.

“We all have our special gifts and we love and are passionate about other things.  It is finding that passion that you want to do all the time and can make a living doing.  I am not wanting to become a millionaire that is never my intention I want to have a healthy happy life work balance and make sure my family is taken care of but for me that means living in our cozy home driving a not so new vehicle and one day having chickens in the backyard.  Everyone’s dream is different and that is absolutely OK that is what makes being a human being so freaking amazing!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

To find out more about Stefanie Lin and Crafty Helper, you can check out her website here and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you have an idea for Yo Momma Monday, let me know by posting in the comments or using the hashtag #yomommamonday in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instgram. Visit my Pinterest to find more awesome mama inspiration!

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

The best part about writing my Fridays are for Favorites series is the freedom to write about anything that I want, really. I know I already have that freedom since it’s my own blog and I create all the content, but I have set specific topics for each day, to help keep me on track. Monday, I write about moms. Tuesdays, health. Wednesdays, business-related. Thursday, thriftiness. Friday, favorite stuff. That can seriously be anything. I have found that I mostly write about new Etsy stores that I find and love.

With all the talk that has been going on about Etsy’s new policies, I thought this would be a great time to voice my own opinion. Although I am a seller on Etsy, I use it more to find other makers and to purchase handmade items. A little while back, I noticed that there were a few sellers who appeared to have mass-produced items in their shop, marked as “handmade.” Not cool, man. Not cool. There was no way of knowing for sure since only one owner was listed on the “about” page, but they all looked exactly the same and they were also sold at a price that was so low, it would not make sense if it was made by hand. It wouldn’t even cover the supplies.

So, I do agree with Etsy pushing its sellers to be more transparent. Being a blogger, I do a lot of research into each shop I look at, and I will tell you right now that I will be more willing to purchase from a shop that has one employee versus 100 employees. Each case is different, of course. But that is my overall feeling. So with this in mind…

I have found two completely awesome ways to get involved with the handmade community, and I am so excited to talk about them! I’m not ditching Etsy, I’m finding people who I want to purchase from and then visiting their Etsy shop, if that makes sense.

Image belongs to Oh My Handmade Goodness

Image belongs to Oh My Handmade Goodness

Oh My! Handmade Goodness – This site started at as a multi-author blog and evolved into a gathering space for creative entrepreneurs. Jessika, who runs the site now, offers community and marketplace memberships, advertising opportunities and community matchmaking. If you are not into any of that, you can also find tutorials, prints and printables there, too. I just signed up for the community membership last night and I already love it. It’s on a sliding scale of $7-20 per month, depending on what you can afford. My budget isn’t so hot right now, but I knew this would help get me to where I need to be with my blog and business right now. As a member, I have access to countless forum discussions where I can seek opinions, advice and collaboration. I could not ask for anything better.

Now, while I was in said forum at Oh My! Handmade Goodness, I found out about IAMTHELAB.

Image belongs to IAMTHELAB

Image belongs to IAMTHELAB

IAMTHELAB was created with one mission in mind – to promote the handmade community. He offers a wealth of information in helping you form what he calls “the handmade trifecta,” your blog, shop and social media. I have the blogging part sort of down, but I am always looking for help with my shop and social media. So this was the perfect place for me. He shares examples of the handmade trifecta, and will explain how the person is dong it. And who is the first person I find on there? Amanda Wright from Wit & Whistle, whose story I am sharing next week! See, I knew this would be a perfect fit. I also found a Handmade Directory where bloggers and makers can hang out and hopefully work together. And not in that overwhelming, pushing way that I have seen so many times before.

I hope this has helped you get in touch with some new faces and resources. If you know of any other awesome places to find creative businesses like this, please let us know. You can post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #creativentrepreneurs. And if you are looking for more inspiration, you can always visit my Pinterest!