My Creative Business Journey: A Manifesto

NEW YEAR

For the last month or so, I have had big plans of what I would write in my New Years post. It was going to be a series, and I would be organized and have a lot of projects I would unveil and so on. But as it goes, life got in the way. And here I am, typing my final New Years post at 9:40 pm on New Years day. I’ve always done things a little whacky though, so this isn’t too far off.

I started my blog in 2012 and they say it takes two years for to run a successful business. When I started the blog, I never thought of it in the business mind. It was a fun way to share my adventures in becoming a new mom and a stay-at-home one, at that. Now that I have come to the realization that this could very well be a successful creative business, and it was this blog that sparked my idea of an online art collective, and it was through this blog that I found so many DIY projects that ultimately led to my other creative business, Sweet Mariposa, that I now run with one of my closest friends.

So, this is what I have planned for my creative business(es) this year:

  • Blog: While I do not see my blog as a “business” right now, it is where I plan to go. I have seriously given it some thought, and I know I could use this to do a lot more. Share more small businesses and stories of beautiful mamas who started their own businesses from a very small corner of their homes. Share more inspiration of how live a simple and healthy life. I am planning on getting some awesome sponsors this year, and promise to never accept profit or partnership with a company or person I don’t believe in.
  • Baby Burrito Collective: I really love where this is going. This year is all about getting more people involved, and promoting more. We just added a directory so now artists can list all of their services. Helping promote the work of my members gives me ideas of how I can promote my own work. I just love the idea of a collective – all working together to help each other achieve the same end result.
  • Sweet Mariposa: Finish all of my projects and list them. Get our Facebook going and pick a craft fair. Finally, I want to find a retail spot where we can set up shop. I’ll be moving soon so where I want to set up a space by where my friend lives, and one by where I will live. We’ll see where it goes from there.

With all that in mind, my creative business manifesto is to hustle. To take all promoting opportunities I can and to make things happen. I have all the tools I need – a supportive family, the flexibility in my schedule, and the motivation. Now I just need to put it all into motion and see where it will take me! Since nothing really came into fruition until 2013, I’m going to give me until 2015, and then I may have to move on – depending on where I am.

While I know every situation is different, and some businesses take longer than others to thrive, it’s not just about me. It’s about our family and everything I’m doing is to help support all of us. So, if it’s not working out, then it will have to be placed on hold until I am at a place where I can give it a go, again.

Have you set goals for your creative business this year? What’s your manifesto? Share in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google + with the hashtag #creativebusinessjourney. Find more creative business inspiration on my Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Cody from Lu & Ed

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Meet Cody, a work-at-home mama in her mid-twenties from Kansas City, MO, who runs an eco-friendly monster toy line called Lu & Ed. Before starting her own business, Cody was the head of marketing in a retail store, and before that, she was in line to become a store manager at a local restaurant. Not looking back, Cody says that making mon-stors “is the best job I have ever had!”

She came up with the idea of Mon-stors when she moved from South Carolina to Missouri with her son and lived in the basement of her fiance’s mom’s house. With little room to move around, Cody thought of a storage solution where her son could literally feed toys to a stuffed monster.

Once I posted photos online, I got dozens of requests and soon after, dropped my day job to pursue it full time!

Cody is not only a mama to her son, she is also a mama to seven rescue pets and has another job recording sales for an author. Being a mom has made her more motivated because she has more flexibility as an independent business owner than she would in the workforce, and she is setting a good example for her son to pursue his dreams.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“My son loves what I do and I love that it enables me to stay home with him, that I can be here for him all the time. I am so thankful for everyone who supports my indie business and allows me this opportunity.”

Although it’s hard for Cody to pinpoint her favorite thing about running her own business, she did say that the scariest thing is straightening out her taxes and licenses.

“You always want to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s and it can be scary filing taxes for your first time or applying for a new license when you relocate. There are so many great resources out there now for handmade businesses to help them get their affairs in order, and for that I am thankful!”

Right now, she is a one-mama shop and works in the extra bedroom in the back of her house. Cody says that she is casually looking for an intern to help out with sewing during her busy times – before big events and during the holiday season – but in the meantime, her son has turned out to be quite the helper.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“On take your child to work day last year he worked in the studio with me all day and made two stuffed monsters, and had so much fun doing so! He also loves to make jewelry, sculpt, paint, make soap and draw. ♥”

She describes her workspace as “messy, colorful, fun, full of inspiring quotes, monsters and a huge over flowing closet of fabric.” Speaking of fabric, Cody uses all eco-friendly materials to make Mon-stors and assures that there is absolutely no waste going into landfills. She uses large cuts of fabric to make Mon-stors, then from that, she cuts use the remnants to make small Mon-stors, totes, stuffed monsters, gadget Mon-stors and other productsWhatever is left from that is used for stuffing or to make dog beds that she donates to animal shelters.

“They are all little steps that make a big impact in the environment.”

Cody has always been eco-aware but admits that she didn’t know the impact buying new fabric had on the environment until she took a part-time job at a fabric store to help cover the costs of some dental work she needed. After she witnessed all the waste firsthand, she decided that she could no longer support big-box fabric stores.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“Fabric arrives in a big, plastic wrapped box. The box and plastic wrap are thrown in the trash (not recycled), then each bolt is wrapped in plastic wrap, which is then throw away. All uneven edges are trimmed and just thrown away, as are tiny remnants & the cardboard sleeves the fabric is wrapped around.”

She started buying fabric at thrift stores and after a few months, people were offering her old fabric, sheets, clothing and blankets that they were no longer using. Wanting to do more, she searched for more eco-friendly ways to run her business. She started flipping food boxes inside out and once her family and friends heard she was doing this, they started giving her their old boxes.

“I haven’t had to buy or pick up a box from the post office in over two years! I also found Eco Enclose, a company that makes biodegradable tape from renewable resources, Fabric Recycles, a fabric and crafting notion thrift store where I can buy thread spools second hand at a fraction of the cost (and pollution of production) of new thread, and Moo‘s amazing recycled, biodegradable business cards!”

Cody has witnessed her eco-efforts sparking a revolution among artisans within her community. Business owners are realizing that being eco-friendly in your supplies and packaging actually results in major savings for your business, and more and more people are coming to her for advice on how to make their businesses more sustainable.

Cody's car after a thrifting haul

Cody’s car after a thrifting haul. Photo from Lu & Ed

“Several people I know have stopped purchasing boxes and bubble mailers and started recycling packaging or making their own mailers from reclaimed materials to reduce landfill waste and environmental pollution. I think that it is creating a bit of a ripple effect – as more people close to me make small changes, people close to them will as well, and so on. ♥ If we all make small changes they will have a huge impact on the Earth!”

She says that her eco-conscious efforts are also creating a ripple effect with her son. They pick up litter together all the time, often talk about sustainability and she takes him on all of her thrift store adventures. “My son is a total green-freak,” she says.

“He will grab a robe and say “Wow, this would be a great monster!” We buy all of our clothing, dishes, and home goods like lamps and decor from thrift stores, and my son is aware of the ecological impact factory produced goods creates on the world. My son has a hawk eye for organic products at the grocery store, too. Haha! I hope he will maintain his love for nature and making good choices through adulthood.”

Cody started Team Lu & Ed at the beginning of this year to collaborate with other artists and fulfill customer demands for products she doesn’t offer. It slowly grew into a charitable endeavor, with up to 50% from the sale of each product going to charity. Recently, she partnered with The Mollie Shop to sell super cute bows, and half of the profit will be donated to Drumm Farm Center for Children.

Cody's collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

Cody’s collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

“It has been a huge success and I have loved helping emerging artists become discovered through our collaborations, and I love bring art & toys together to create change in my local community!”

She says that her favorite thing about what she does is “how happy my products make children. It just makes my heart so happy to see photos of children lovingly playing with their monsters.” She is adding a few new lines to her shop and is working on a few new collaborations. Cody hopes that her green business will continue to inspire her community.

“I am hoping that my eco-mission will inspire other handmade business owners make more conscious decisions about where they source their supplies, and inspire consumers to make slower purchases, really thinking about the product, how it makes them feel and the impact it has on the Earth before buying. ♥”

You can find out more about Cody, Lu & Ed and her mission by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you would like to participate in Yo Momma Monday, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #yomommamonday. You can find more awesome mama inspiration on my Pinterest!

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!