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!