Etsy Craft Party 2014

Last year, I attended my first Etsy Craft Party at Hello XOXO. Although I didn’t really get a chance to do any crafting (getting there late means the tables are full), but I did have a lot of fun eating the food, goofing off in the photo booth and meeting a whole lot of people from Sacramento.

So, when I got the chance to organize one this year, I jumped at it! So, this year I’m organizing my first Etsy Craft Party at Sew Katie Jean in Lincoln, CA. If you live in the area and want to attend, it’s on June 6 from 6-9 pm and you can click on the Eventbrite link to RSVP to the party. If we get 25 RSVPs by May 9, we get Etsy credit to get supplies for the party!

logoThis year’s theme is Recapture: Bringing new meaning to your photographs and I’m already thinking of all the ways we can add artistic touches to our photos – embroidery, paint, decoupage, photo transfers and more. I’m also going to load up on old frames that we can paint to our liking.

I’m already piling up the inspiration on Pinterest, like this oldie but goodie tutorial from A Beautiful Mess: How to transfer a photo to fabric and other creative ways to use photographs.

Photo from A Beautiful Mess

Photo from A Beautiful Mess

So as if it’s not apparent enough…I simply cannot wait for this party!

Are you hosting an Etsy Craft Party? Do you want to, or do you want to know where to find one? Check out Etsy for more info. Share the link to your party/blog in the comments so we can inspire each other and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest to get more details and updates on the party!

Things Worth Celebrating

ThingsWorthCelebrating_700pxWhen I signed up for the Things Worth Celebrating Community Blog Tour with Petit Cadeau, I was racking my brain for things that would be worth celebrating on my blog. I ultimately decided that the little things we celebrate every day (like when Cecilia naps for longer than 30 minutes, or she eats all of her baby food) just wouldn’t make the cut, so therefore – I didn’t really have a lot to write about.

Then, we rented Dallas Buyers Club last night – it’s about a cowboy who found out he had HIV and eventually exploited the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and Doctors. It’s crazy to imagine that this was a true story, and I knew how much I was into it, because for once – I didn’t fall asleep in the middle of it, even if it was way past my bedtime. It got me thinking, there is something worth celebrating and it happens every day – life!

IMG_1667

I’m in the middle of so many things that haven’t come to fruition yet, but I hadn’t yet realized how wonderful it is to be involved in so much. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to stress about school, to worry about if my businesses will thrive or not, and how unbelievably happy I was that the only thing I have to worry about with my daughter is if she will sleep good for me and eat her food.

I don’t have to worry about living with something that is slowly killing me or anyone in my family. I don’t have to worry about medications, or where my next meal will come from. All the things I have to worry about are good things. They mean progress, and they mean that we’re doing alright.

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The other night, I was banging my head on the table and eating as many Samoas (I will never refer to them as Carmel Delites) as I could possibly shove in my mouth because of my project for school. I was making a DIY photo box for school and I suddenly realized how useful this will be to me, and instead of fighting it so much – I should embrace the lesson and take all from it that I can. I should celebrate the fact that I’m in school, learning about a field I hope to work in for a long time.

Another school assignment I did that I loved

Another school assignment I did that I loved

And as stressful as house hunting can be, I’m happy and grateful to have a home to hunt. We should be embracing the hunt, not fighting it. This will be the home that we will raise our family in, where we will make memories that will last forever and a place that we can make – and call – our own.

And finally, even though my businesses are not thriving right now, I should be grateful to have the opportunity to start a business from home. I should be celebrating the fact that I have a supportive boyfriend and family who make it possible for me to do this. I should be more fearless with my business choices, and I should make the most of it. Take this time to focus on making a prosperous life for me and family. I should definitely celebrate that I am working with one of my best friends. Not a whole lot of people can say that.

IMG_0768So, today I’m celebrating the good worries and the good stresses. Because they mean forward movement. I’m not saying that I will never get stressed out again. We all do. It’s a part of life. But instead of being stuck in that negative place, it’s always good to think about what worries and stresses you, and see the good in it. Because, for the most part, there’s always good in it.

Respect Your Mother – A Fundraiser

Respect Your Mother

Quite some time ago, I happened upon Out of the Dark – a nonprofit in the UK where volunteers work with underprivileged kids to restore old furniture. The furniture is then sold online and the proceeds go back to the charity. Pretty awesome idea. I was so inspired by this, that I decided to bring it to Sacramento.

Luckily, I have volunteered for Vox – a local nonprofit art studio – on a fundraiser before, and I love the people behind it. I told Eric, one of the directors, about my idea and he loved it. We decided to get a fundraiser going to support the program, and there, Respect Your Mother was born.

Since Vox is near the closing of their brick and mortar and concentrating on working more in the community and supporting different local charities, this is the perfect time to reach out to another nonprofit. So we are working with another amazing local nonprofit Sol Collective, and the fundraiser will be held there.

The fundraiser will be held May 10, and we are even doing a couple things before the event:

  • Clothing Drive – We are working with California Clothing Recyclers to hold a clothing drive where people are encouraged to donate a large bag of clothing and/or linens at any of our participating locations. Those bags will be picked up by California Clothing Recyclers to be recycled, and the money earned will be donated back to our Charity.
  • Online Fundraiser – We are planning an online fundraiser for the week of May 4 – 10 and we are hoping to work with different eco-friendly online businesses to raise money for Out of the Dark, since they inspired this program. I haven’t worked out all of the details but I’m hoping to do something where people could purchase something and then enter a code for the proceeds to go to Out of the Dark.

At the fundraiser, we are hoping to have ten pieces of furniture that have all been painted by local artists and will be auctioned off. There will also be a raffle with goodies and gift cards from local businesses. We’re looking for ten eco-friendly vendors who want to purchase booth space for $25 to sell their goods and we’re hoping for an acoustic musician or two.

I’m still working on getting all of the information and graphics out, but I’m feeling really good about this event. I hope this program will succeed, because I would love to be able to work with kids on creating beautiful pieces from unwanted furniture. I think it’s so good to teach kids about working with their hands, taking pride in what they do and restoring something from start to finish.

If you would like to participate in this fundraiser, please let me know. There is lots you can do – whether you are in Sacramento, or across the globe. I will be posting more information weekly and you can contact me through e-mail or through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google +. I will also be posting some inspiration on Pinterest so check that out, too!

Creative Business Journey: Project 2014

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

I was moved by a quote that Susan Petersen from Freshly Picked shared yesterday.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

It’s from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and it expressed how I have been feeling lately to a tee. Every time I e-mail someone to see if they want to be featured in my series, there is a fear. My hands get sweaty and my heart races. What if that person hates the idea, or worse, hates my blog? What if they don’t want to bother with something so trivial and small? Luckily, most of the people I have asked have been nothing but wonderful, and if they do pass, they do so with care.

But none of that would have happened if fear consumed me. There wouldn’t be a Yo Momma Monday or a Meet the Maker series if I let the fear dictate me. And I would have never gotten to know the incredible people I have, or would have been able to share their stories.

I have been making a lot of changes – some natural, and some terrifying. In January, when I was thinking about what needed to happen, I knew that I needed to be fearless. To not become consumed by my fear or to doubt myself, but to embrace my fear as a call to action. Project 2014 was the perfect challenge for me, and I love having someone to check in on me to make sure I’m taking care of my business.

be fearless

Now that my blog redesign is pretty much good to go, I’m focusing my energy on how I want to see my blog in the future. I’m going to explore the world of sponsorships and partnerships and get more people involved in my blog – expand the community more. Because I know, deep down in my heart, that this blog can be everything I want it to be. It just takes some work, and more than that – it takes confidence.

As for Sweet Mariposa, I need to get to work on creating new stuff! I have made a plan in the past to do all of my creating on Saturdays, but as with anything else, you can’t plan when you create. And you certainly can’t plan it on a day that is usually reserved for family time. I need to go through all of my stuff, and see what I want to build on.

There’s also an insane amount of fear that comes with showing your art to the world. Because once someone makes one negative comment about it, you immediately want to take it down and protect it from the cruel world. But, depending on the comment, there is a lot you could learn from it.

Is there a flaw in your work, or is it just that person’s opinion? Do you hear the same comment from different people? Maybe the message you’re trying to convey isn’t clear, and you need to change some things up. Or maybe…you just need to accept the fact that not everybody will love your work like you do, and move on.

How do you handle your fear? Is there anything you have been wanting to pursue but haven’t out of fear? If you want to share, please feel free to do so in the comments and on my Facebook, Twitter and Google +. When you share, you give others the chance to support you, and possibly even learn from you. You can find more of my creative business inspiration on my Pinterest.

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

Sacramento residents breathed a little easier yesterday. After 52 days of dry weather, we finally got our first day of rain! And from what I hear, there are more rainy days on their way. So, what this means to my admittedly self-absorbed self is that I can finally put my garden in! I did finish a coffee can planter for my rosemary, and I will be sharing the tutorial soon. I’m hoping to expand my garden and while I will replant vegetables in the back, I want a few herb planters for the front yard that will be easily transportable when we move.

We have plenty of things to use as planters around here, but I’m not 100 percent sure I have permission to take them with us. So, I have gathered quite the collection of awesome DIY planter tutorials. Turns out, you can pretty much make a planter out of…anything.

Photo from Little House Blog

Photo from Little House Blog

I must admit – this will take some work. Lindsay from Little House Blog actually bought and mixed the concrete and made this by hand. That sounds pretty intense, so I would probably give in to my laziness and just find some concrete blocks lying around. But in the hopes that I am actually productive enough to actually make a concrete planter by hand, this is for sure on the list.

Photo from Heavens to Betsy

Photo from Heavens to Betsy

Before meeting Sam, I did not frequent the swap meets. Swap meets are more for car guys, but it turns out that they may or may not have a couple booths of collectibles, in case the car guy also happens to collect antiques, or they bring someone who does. It’s where that I discovered a love I have for old oil cans. My collection is small with only three, but I was thinking of turning them into planters and candle holders. This tutorial from Heavens to Betsy is the perfect inspiration!

Photo from The Paper Mama

Photo from The Paper Mama

I have an old three-tiered basket that is super rusty and the chain no longer works. In the event that I will not be able to restore it the way I want, this will be a great back-up plan. I would love to attach this to a fence, if we end up having one. You can read the full tutorial from Chelsey (The Paper Mama) on Better Homes and Garden’s blog.

And, of course. The windowsill planter.

Photo from Design*Sponge

Photo from Design*Sponge

One thing is for sure. You can find old wooden boxes anywhere. Thrift stores, flea markets, swap meets, your house. The issue I have is that I get old wooden boxes like this to hold all my pens. Then I decide I want my pens in a little pack I can bring everywhere with me. As a writer, I have to have my pens with me. Even in this digital age, I still get a kick from writing things down when I think of them. So, the boxes end up sitting in my closet until they have a purpose. And now, they have one! This would be good for your windowsill, and will actually be a cute gift for your favorite people, too. Check out the full tutorial on Design*Sponge.

Do you have any DIY planters to share? Did you complete one of these projects and want to share what you did? Then do it here! Just post the link in the comments and share on your social media so we can all check it out! Use the hashtags #staythrifty or #makestuff so I can easily look up your posts!

Creative Business Journey: Project 2014

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

I have a lot riding on February. I have thought about where I want my creative business to go, and everything I have lined up is for next month. So, February is all about being fearless. I have been waiting for a lot of these changes, and they are finally coming to fruition. I need to put my fears aside and go headfirst into everything I want to do.

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

Here is what I’m most excited for next month:

  • I’m finally getting a blog update! I’m making the switch to self-hosted, and since I learned my lesson from trying to DIY it last year, I’ve taken another route. I’m going through Amy Cluck-McAlister, who I met when she donated some beautiful and fun jewelry to the first fundraiser I helped organize for Vox. Her site, Amy is the Party, is not only about web design – she shares a whole bunch of crafts, party ideas and spreads some of her local love for Sacramento. So yeah, I love her.
  • After a lot of thinking, re-thinking and some more thinking…I have ultimately decided to start selling Pampered Chef. It’s not a complete DIY approach to running my own business, but it will sure help me get to where I need to be in order to grow my business. It also gives me an opportunity to practice cooking and baking as much as I can, and who doesn’t love them some Pampered Chef? I’ll share the link to my site when it’s up in case you are longing for some cookware.
  • Getting Sweet Mariposa on Facebook and promoting the heck out of our stuff! We have a lot of good stuff up there and I’m excited to share it. I’ve learned a lot about product photography and photo editing through this, and I love that all my projects urge me to learn new skills that have been on my mind for a while.
  • Organizing the fundraiser for Vox. We need to get down the specifics so we can start creating flyers, Press Releases and getting more people involved. This is going to be a whole lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

be fearless

I have joined the Project Accountability Club through Oh My Handmade! Goodness, which has totally motivated me to get serious about my goal planning. I have simplified some and have limited my commitments to a few important things that really get me going. Since we’re doing this week by week, I’m sharing what my goals are for next week:

  • Hone in on my design inspiration for my blog and make a dream board specific to my blog. I already have a lot of ideas on my Pinterest, now I just need to pin down exactly what I want (see what I did there?). I need to pick the exact font, colors and theme that I want. This is so exciting! I am beyond thrilled to see what Amy comes up with. I’ve looked at her past work, and I love it. I know this will be good.
  • Get all set up on Pampered Chef. Sign up, get my website set up and then start thinking of some recipes I want to use with all of my fancy cookware!
  • Create a Facebook page for Sweet Mariposa and load all of our photos on there. Connect the page with our Etsy shop for a seamless theme. All of the other social media will be done through my blog account.
  • Meet with Estella of Sol Collective and Eric from Vox. Set a date and time and choose a name. Get started on the sign-up sheet for everyone who wants to get involved.

Ok, that should be it! This is all so exciting…I can feel the productivity flying out of my fingertips right now! I know if I can get all of this done next week, I’ll be on a really good start. What are your creative business goals? What do you hope to achieve this week? Share in the comments and connect with me on social media. Let’s ride this sweet rockin’ rollercoaster we call creative businesses together!

Project 2014

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

One of the biggest reasons for me starting my blog is that I had a lot of ideas and projects running through my head and was tired of searching for the random notebook I wrote them down in. I also wanted to connect with other creative people who could inspire and move me to work on all of those projects I’ve been holding off on, and I wanted to find new ideas to build on and grow from.

When I went to write my post today, I needed some inspiration. While I had a lot I wanted to say, I didn’t really know how I wanted to say it. So I ventured over to Oh My! Handmade to see what the monthly discussion theme was. Each month, there is a new theme for bloggers and creatives alike to use as inspiration for their businesses. This month’s theme was Project 2014: Choose Your Own Adventures. This felt like the perfect time to share a project I have been working on!

A couple years ago, I found a nonprofit art studio named Vox through Twitter, and I started volunteering for them. With a few friends, I helped organize one fundraiser for them called Art Speaks. It was a huge success and because of all the community support, it was a lot bigger than I had ever imagined. Unfortunately, Vox has run into some funding problems and will probably have to close their brick and mortar studio.

A little piece of Art Speaks

A little piece of Art Speaks

Luckily, creative people are always open to new ideas, and when we’re lucky, those ideas can turn into solutions. Before I found out about their funding issues, I brought up an idea of restoring furniture with children at their studio. It was something I would hope to get my daughter involved in when she was old enough. Since they will be closing the studio soon, we have decided to turn it into more of a mobile community studio, where can work with other organizations and involve more of a community.

To kick things off, we have come up with a fundraiser to help raise money for our new project, and to raise money for another nonprofit who is doing the same thing – Out of the Dark in the UK. While the fundraiser will be in-person, we are hoping to add an online component as well.

Photo from Out of the Dark

Photo from Out of the Dark

The most important goals at the moment are:

  • We need a name for the fundraiser – something that implies renewal and restoration. That is our theme for the project and the fundraiser as a whole.
  • A location for the fundraiser – Since Vox is closing down soon, we don’t want to count on the studio as a venue. There are a few choices in Sacramento, and we want to work with an organization/company that we can continue to work with in the future.
  • A date – We need enough time to send info to local publications and get everyone involved.

There is a lot of work to get done, and I’m actually pretty excited about getting to everything. This is going to be such an amazing experience, for many reasons. I have wanted to get into community organization and promotion, so this will help me decide if that’s truly what I want.

It will also allow me to practice my graphic design more, and to use my writing skills to help get my ideas across. It will also be the first time that Kandyce and I will have a booth for Sweet Mariposa, so we will need to get everything together for that.

This will be a huge moment, not only for Vox, but also for my creative business. It will help guide me to what I really want to do, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

What projects are you working on? Do you want to get involved in my project? Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest, and you can e-mail me!

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!

Yo Momma Monday: Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Meet Gretchen Fleener, 34, from Mound, Minnesota. She is an Industrial Designer, Web Designer and face painter. She runs her own business, Junk Mail Gems, where she sells fun items that she makes out of junk mail. She is also an awesome momma to her two sons, who are three and five. Gretchen took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about how she manages everything, and what she wants her sons to learn from her business.

Gretchen got into junk mail art when she was making magnets from junk mail to preserve patterns that she liked in a functional way. She heard over and over again that she could sell her magnets, but it wasn’t until her sister urged her to start selling online. And that is where Junk Mail Gems was born, six years ago.

“She and I came up with the Junk Mail Gems name because the magnets looked like little gems.  I had a lot of fun designing the logo, then website, and coming up with more things to make out of junk mail to fill my store!”

Although  it may not be for everyone, Gretchen says that being the boss is the best part of running her own business. She loves that she can work when it fits in her life, rather than having to wait for work to be over to enjoy life. A life-long multitasker, she can be found packing items during a commercial break.

As for most small business owners, finances are a worry of hers. Fortunately, she has an incredibly supportive husband whose stable job covers the important bills, allowing her to work from home. He fits her business schedule into his and will come home early to watch the boys if she needs to go to a face painting job or a client meeting.

“He never talks down about my businesses or makes me feel less important because I don’t work 9-5 in an office anymore.”

Before she had her sons, doing anything creative or artistic gave her the most fulfillment. Now, she gets the most fulfillment from using her artistic skills (and revenue earned through them) on her boys.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“My kids blow my mind with the things they create already at age 3 and 5 and it’s so cool to see that part of me in them.”

As you might imagine, her boys love crafting with her, and her five-year-old has even caught the bug for turning junk into something he can use and play with! To help cultivate her boys’ creativity, Gretchen labeled a Rubbermaid bin “the project box” and throws odds and ends that the boys can use for their crafts. She also keeps all the kid-friendly crafting supplies at their level so they can create on their own.

“I love coming up with projects to do with them, but my favorite thing is to let them loose and see what they come up with on their own. One of my 5 year old’s most used Christmas gifts is his collection of brightly colored masking tape rolls that my sister gave him.  He is constantly rescuing things form our recycle bin and turning them into things…rocket ships, monster trucks, and houses for his stuffed dogs!”

Not only do her boys love crafting with her, they also love going to yard sales and thrift stores, too! Gretchen says that she talks to them about not wasting things or money, which has also taught them to be patient when they find brand new toys in a store, as they will probably end up at a yard sale or thrift store in a matter of time.

Much like her children, Gretchen loved going to yard sales as a kid and quickly became a big collector. Her collection is now limited to what she can use to decorate her house, and what her family can actually use. I feel your pain, girl. Her vintage finds came in handy last year when she redesigned her kitchen and decorated it with her scores from the 50’s. After facing the normal collector problem of acquiring more than she could use, she set up an Etsy shop.

“This gives me the thrill of the hunt, without the worry of collecting too much.  I love to imagine people looking through my site and getting as excited about finding the perfect thing for their kitchen as I do for mine!”

Gretchen says that she finds inspiration from everywhere – like an oil slick on the street or an old brick building. She also finds inspiration from surrounding herself by other creative people.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“I take TONS of photos and am always collecting inspiration for art, graphic, design or craft projects!”

As an Industrial Designer, Gretchen likes to stay current and is always looking into current and future trends. However, when it comes to her personal style, her love for the ’50s does not stop at kitchen utensils. She also leads a life that is deemed old-fashioned by many people today.

“..Staying home with my kids, canning stuff from my garden, baking cookies, making things by hand and cooking a family dinner each night!”

While Gretchen has always considered herself a motivated person, she says that she is now motivated by different things – like getting her work done early so she can spend more time with her family.

“I know that if I get overtired or overworked, I won’t be as good of a parent or spouse, and my family come first.  So in a way, getting in a little “me” time or letting the laundry sit there one more day  can be better for the family and everyone’s mood!  “

Gretchen credits her ability to get everything done to multitasking and creating lists, just like she used to make fun of her mom for doing years ago. Along with that, she stays super organized, and will rework how shes does something if she feels she’s not doing it efficiently enough – often finding a tool or an app that will help.

“But the one thing I don’t compromise on is sleep.  I just can’t function well on any less than 8 hours a night, and when I get enough sleep, being super productive comes much easier during the day!”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Although Gretchen says that she doesn’t really feel like her work is “work,” she does like to get outside and go fishing, biking and gardening. Living on a lake doesn’t hurt, either. She also likes to paint and work on something creative that is related to her businesses. One craft that she would like to practice more is knitting.

“I’ve done a little, but I love to crochet and really like how much faster it goes!  I’d love to learn how to make my own soaps or candles.  And I’d really love to learn Henna.  It seems right up my alley and would be a great addition to my face painting offerings!”

Gretchen also runs as a series of “Momtreprenuer” Interviews on her blog, as she says that she is always encouraged by hearing how other moms run their businesses and homes.

“So, I thought others might enjoy them too!  It’s also one small way that I can help support fellow moms by spreading the word about their businesses.”

She hopes that her Junk Mail Gems business gives people a new way to look at “junk.” She shares tutorials on her site for various recycling projects, so that people can get new ideas for their own projects.

“I hope to inspire them to find a way to do what they love and maybe even make a little money doing it!  I am always so happy to hear from people who were inspired to try a project I’ve shared too.”

Since Gretchen’s sons will be in school full-time pretty soon, she plans on adding more jobs to her line of work (as if she doesn’t have enough already) like freelance retail fixture design and body painting. She also wants to expand the merchandise section of her online face painting store and seek out more retailers for Junk Mail Gems.

“Right now I have no desire to go back to the corporate gig, but have a huge list of things I’d like to do to grow all of my businesses”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

If you are feeling inspired by Gretchen like I am, you can connect with her through Junk Mail Gems and ID Mommy and can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. If you know someone who would be a good fit for Yo Momma Monday (your beautiful self included), post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find more Yo Momma Monday inspiration on my Pinterest!