Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy life

I don’t know about you, but my interwebs are a buzzin’ with inspirational quotes, healthy recipes mixed with Valentines Day recipes, fitness challenges and organizational tips. So it’s no surprise that this post is going to be a little of all of that, minus the Valentines Day recipes and tips on organizing.

Photo from Erin Motz Yoga

Photo from Erin Motz Yoga

The 10-day ab challenge from Erin Motz Yoga is already in full swing, but the awesome thing about her challenges is that you can join in at any time. The videos remain on YouTube and while you won’t get the daily e-mails sent to your inbox, you will still get to check in daily, or as much as you wish. I always love doing her practices because they are lighthearted and fun, and chances are she will virtually toast you with champagne when the challenge is over.

Photo from Greatist

Photo from Greatist

You know all those detox cleanses that everyone posts the day after New Years? Well, this ain’t it. Over at Greatist, Sophia Breene has compiled a list of 49 satisfying yet detoxifying meals, and even better – categorizes them by meal type. Of course, you can eat these at any meal (for instance, I’m a huge fan of breakfast for dinner when nobody else is home), but the categories make it easy. There’s 8 breakfast options, 10 lunch options, 9 dinner options, 8 snack options and plenty of sides and drink options. You could easily use one recipe per day for 2 weeks (minus the weekends) and eat something new every day. My tip? Pick the recipes you want and make a grocery list of everything. Then do all your shopping in one trip and make a meal plan.

Photo from Greatist

Photo from Greatist

And I know I have talked about this before, but if you haven’t checked out Greatist’s Renew Year challenge, you definitely should. Each day, they post a new task and then you snap a photo and post it with the hashtag #healthyishappy. And don’t worry, not all of them are centered around exercise. One task was to write five things you’re grateful for, and another was to meditate for 10 minutes. It’s all about focusing on your health – mental and physical.

Are there any interesting challenges you’re participating in this year? Share them in the comments and on all the social media channels with the hashtag #newyearchallenge. You can connect with me by clicking on any of the social media buttons at the top of my blog.

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!

Meet the Maker: Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

As part of my creative business journey, I have included another series on my blog. It’s called Meet the Maker and it’s where I share awesome stories from some of my favorite makers. This is to help inspire and motivate, but to also help promote the handmade community. I believe that if we all come together to support and promote each other, amazing things can happen.

And just by happenstance, the very first maker in my Meet the Maker series is the lovely Amanda Wright from Wit & Whistle. Not only does she have the best name in the world, she also prints on anything from pillowcases, hand towels, greeting cards, journals and more.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Amanda, 29, graduated from the North Carolina State College of Design in 2006. There, she learned a valuable lesson: don’t give up if something doesn’t turn out right the first time.

Every project goes through many drafts before completion. Design is a process with many steps, and not all of those steps are nice to look at!

Ain’t that the truth.

After graduation, she got a job at a design firm and while she loved where she worked, she wasn’t allowed very much creative freedom. While she had a few clients that were more open-minded, others weren’t as cooperative, which is something she admits she didn’t learn about in design school.

They’ll slap a big ugly logo onto your beautiful design and ask you to rearrange your masterpiece until it’s unrecognizable. Each time that happened it was a painful stab to my creative spirit.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

She started designing cards in her free time, under the name Spawn Studio. To her surprise, her card sales took off, and her husband Daniel encouraged her to quit the design firm and work on her greeting card business from home. It took a few months of him pushing her, but she finally made the leap in 2009.

While she’s not a fan of all the math involved with running your own business, she does appreciate the flexible hours.

I relish the freedom to work on what I want to, when I want to. After all, the creative urge doesn’t always strike between the hours of 9 and 5!

With more time to create when and what she wants, she keeps a running list of ideas in her head. Then when she is in a creative mood, she will pick from the list.

I do most designing in my sketchbook. Then, I scan my drawings into the computer and add color digitally. I started out printing, folding, and cutting all my products myself, but now I work with a local printer to produce most of my goods. That way I have more time to create!

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Making her own schedule allows her a few creative brain farts from time to time.

Sometimes there will be a multiple week stretch in which I wonder if there’s even a speck of creativity left in my body. Usually the cure is to step away and do something else for a while. I might repaint a room of the house, bake something, snap some photos, or come up with a DIY project for my blog. When I get back to designing, my brain fart has usually dissipated.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Brain fart or not, Amanda is motivated by her desire to constantly improve. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she is never completely satisfied with her work, which drives her to keep practicing.

It’s cliche, but I want to be the best I can possibly be. I want to make the most of this amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams.

A Regina Spektor fan, Amanda will sometimes listen to music while she is designing, but her studio time is usually spent listening to podcasts, like Relic Radio‘s rebroadcast of science fiction radio shows from the mid 1900s.

They’re cheesy in an endearing way. They always make predictions about the distant future (1997), and they’re always way off. (We are supposed to be living on Mars with robot slaves by now.)

Amanda would describe her work as “pretty with an unexpected touch of crassness,” and sometimes, the crass can be a little too unexpected, like she learned with her biggest card flop – a Mother’s Day card for new moms.

The front said something like “POP, CRACK, GROAN, SNAP, RIIIPPPP…” and the inside said “It’s a good thing you have nice birthing hips.”

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Always wanting to improve, Amanda is taking a crash course in Calligraphy with Molly Jacques on Skillshare. She is also working on spiral notebooks, her 2013 holiday line, notepad designs and even her Valentine’s Day cards. With all this going on, she admits she has a hard time relaxing.

Even when I’m watching TV I have my sketchbook in hand. My husband and I try to go on a big trip every year or so—preferably to someplace where I can get a new stamp in my passport. It’s nice to force myself out of my comfort zone and experience something totally new.

Amanda says that being a small business owner has taught her not to over-think it. She didn’t follow the normal process of writing up a business plan and getting everything figured out before setting up shop. She slowly started putting her work out there, and it has continued growing.

Maybe that’s not the smartest business advice, but it has worked pretty well for me. If I had tried to figure everything out in the beginning, I would’ve been overwhelmed and given up!

As if sharing her story was not enough, Amanda is also offering a 15% off your purchase at her store. Just click on the coupon below! If you want to learn more about her, you can connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

If you have an idea for a good Meet the Maker profile, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #meethtemaker or simply tag me in your post! And you can find more inspiration for my Meet the Makers series and creative business journey on Pinterest!