Let me rephrase that… I LOVE making stuff. Making anything that does not yet exist drives me. I lose sleep thinking about ways to make my ideas and inventions come to life. I know that’s my passion, and talent. It has taken a long time to fully understand and accept that about myself, but it’s one thing I absolutely know about myself. No question, it’s one of my God-given purposes in life. I could build prototypes all day and all night, and I would completely lose track of time.
Which brings me to the topic of self-awareness. Being a business owner and entrepreneur, I have worn many many hats. It is necessary and valuable to serve every role in your company, to a point. You learn what you are really good at, and what you should delegate to someone who is more capable and skilled at other tasks. You have to let go of some responsibilities, and surround yourself with people who are better at those jobs than you. Letting go is really, really hard. Choose people who are better than you at those things, and also passionate about what they do well.
I know what drives me and what energizes me and what makes my soul happy. I will use that to keep moving forward, and never stop the hustle.
After recovering from the painful experience with my first invention, the Speedy Bump (see blog post https://bizbuilderbabe.com/2017/06/12/heres-a-funny-story/) I could not stay away from the invention biz. I actually DID come up with more ideas! Lots were either already invented, or way too difficult for me to build, or just plain silly. But, I had an idea to fulfill a need I desperately needed, I knew there wasn’t anything like it on the market, and also knew that I could totally make it on my own.
I had been struggling with the issue of figuring out a convenient way to have my cell phone on me all day long. I hate carrying purses, and phones get lost in the bottom anyway. Often I don’t have pockets… I spend a lot of my life sporting yoga or fitness pants. I need to have my phone with me and easily accessible in stores, in meetings, in the doctors office, etc. I just wanted something super simple, discreet and hands-free. Also, I thought it would be super great if I could use the phone while it was still in the carrier.
I went to work with lots of fabric ideas, several patterns, many closure options and my beloved sewing machine. I created several prototypes and asked close friends to give them a try, and provide honest feedback. It took many variations and a whole bunch of trips to fabric stores, but I eventually came up with a terrific solution that met all of my needs! I named it the Eye-Pocket. It had one solid material side, and one sheer side. The sheer side allowed for total operation of the phone while still in the carrier. Inside was a small pocket for which to carry credit cards, ID, cash, a car key, the essentials. The long, adjustable strap allowed for over-the-shoulder, cross-body, or wristlet carrying.
Next was the task of securing a contract sewing factory to make a bunch and start selling. I decided to look locally first, so I could be nearby to supervise the operation, support local business, and have the option of contracting a small initial order.
I was very fortunate to find a great company near me in Philadelphia, PA. The owner was very willing to work with me and accept a small order of only 300 pieces to begin. The agreement was that I would supply all materials and have them delivered to the factory, they would create the pattern, cut all pieces and do the sewing. I chose several different fabric materials in a variety of colors, in order test the market & see what would sell well, and what would not be very popular.
I also created my logo and had small metal charms engraved with the logo to be sewn onto the Eye-Pockets for cute branding. I handled all branding and marketing; creating my website, filming videos to post on YouTube, promotional print materials, etc. I was a one-woman-operation.
I pounded the pavement knocking on doors of local boutiques and shops presenting my product and hoping for some sales. I did find several store owners in the area willing to buy my merchandise and sell in their stores. I also set up my own online store to sell directly, in addition to offering my product on sites such as Amazon & Open Sky.
This is a loooong story short, and there is way more to my Eye-Pocket journey. Stay tuned to hear more about where Eye-Pocket has been, where it is today, and how anyone can see their idea come to life.
Two years ago I stumbled upon the most effective, challenging, exciting way to really push my creativity. I was reading the wonderful book, “The Crossroads of Should and Must,” by Elle Luna. Her book talks about finding your true calling and passion, and designing your life to live that path to your highest potential. I was very inspired by the book and after reading did some research on the author.
In my research I discovered an amazing exercise in creativity called The 100 Day Project. (https://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/elle-luna-100-day-project). It was a social media version of a grad school project conceived by Michael Bierut, a talented designer, writer, and teacher. For years, he led graduate graphic design students at the Yale School of Art in a workshop that he called “The 100 Day Project.” The premise for Michael Bierut’s class was simple: each student chose one action to repeat every day for 100 days.
It was a project that had just begun, ironically, that entailed committing to 100 days of any creative exercise of your choice. It was a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. You were instructed to follow these steps to participate:
100 days of making:
Sign up for #The100DayProject newsletter for important announcements prior to and throughout the project.
Choose your action – It could be anything, from cooking a new recipe, taking a photo of animals, to creating a painting… anything you enjoy to do, that you can do EVERY DAY for 100 days, and post something visually.
Select a unique hashtag for your project so all your instances of 100 can be viewed in one place. Include the hashtag with each of your posts (i.e. #100Daysof____ ).
Announce your project on Instagram. Download an image and post it on Instagram, along with your project’s unique hashtag, to announce your project.
I was all in, I knew I wanted to participate but wasn’t sure what that subject matter would be for me. I didn’t want to choose something easy, like logo design, or anything graphic design related. So I challenged myself to think about a creative project unrelated to my career, that I REALLY loved. I had gone to graduate school for interior design, but never pursued that career because I was really successful in the graphic design world, and wasn’t brave enough to make a change. While in grad school for interior design I worked on a project to build a miniature version of a chair designed by an accomplished interior designer. I LOVED that project. I was so fun. I loved the entire process; researching designers, choosing the chair, and then building the chair! There is it was… I was going to design AND build a miniature chair every day for 100 days! I knew it was a lofty goal, but I knew i had it in me, and was excited to get going.
I was so inspired every day with a new idea, it was remarkable. I was inspired by all things around me. It might be a pattern I loved on a fabric, it might be a concept, such as graffiti, or a holiday. It was never an issue finding the concept. Once I found the concept, I just had to make the chair happen. Some days were better than others. Some days I had more time, some days I jut needed to get the chair done. That was OK. As long as I was accomplishing the task to which I had committed. I didn’t miss a day. Here is one aspect that was super crucial. I made the commitment to myself, but I also made myself accountable to every person following me on Instagram. After a few chairs, I was really gaining followers, and getting too much positive feedback. I could not let anyone down.I was almost shocked at how easy it was to design & produce a unique chair every day. It’s amazing where your creativity and imagination will take you when you challenge yourself to dig deeper. In college a design professor once said to me “Your first idea is never going to be your best idea.” At the time that was hard to accept. When starting a creative endeavor it’s exciting in the beginning and the ideas flow quickly. I usually can’t wait to get started and get my visions on paper, or on the computer, or built. But, what I have truly learned is that if you keep pushing yourself, you will almost certainly get better with each idea. If you make a commitment to not settle for your first, or second, or third plan, you might be surprised where your mind will take you.
Not only will this exercise drive your creativity, it will also instill greater consistency and discipline. Steady, unfailing commitment to work consistently on your business, or your art, or your fitness routine, is required to make progress and succeed in the long run. Great things don’t happen over night, it takes time, hustle and committal to achieve greatness.
Pick something you love and enjoy
Decide to commit to giving it attention every day for 100 days. It can be any sort of art, but it doesn’t have to be. If you love cooking, try a new recipe every day and take a photo of the completed dish. Or if you enjoy yoga, take a picture every day of you doing a different yoga pose. It really can be anything, just think of a way to document your activity and, ideally, post on your choice of social media.
It’s a little intimidating at first, but make the decision, dive in, and enjoy the process. I guarantee you will be amazed with your own creativity and feel a huge sense of accomplishment after the 100 days. You might even love the exercise so much you continue after those 100 days. I did and was sad when I stopped, I really missed my chairs every day! But I enjoy looking back at them all and being reminded how much I love using my blessing of creativity.
Check out this book that inspired my 100 Day Project:
OK, everyone says follow your passion and the money will come, everything will be great, etc, etc, etc. It SEEMS like it should be really easy to say what you passion is, right? But, in reality, it’s not at all easy. I feel so much pressure to identify what my God-given passion is. Yikes, what if I pick the wrong thing? Do I have to pick just one? Can it change as I get older?
Let’s step back.
Let’s think a bit more logically and look at things from a different perspective.
Some questions to ask:
What do I really enjoy doing in my free time?
What are my hobbies?
Are there any topics or subjects about which people often ask me for advice?
What are the things I can do where time just flies by and I get caught up in what I’m doing?
If others where to describe my strengths & talents, what would they say?
If money were not an issue, what career would I choose?
How can I best serve others?
What are some of the things I like most about myself?
What are some things I would regret not accomplishing if I never tried?
What drives me to succeed?
Don’t try so hard to make it happen and figure out all of the next steps. Think about some activities that might get your brain on another path, which then might lead you to your answers. Definitely read as much as possible. There are tons of wonderful, inspiring books out there to help you do some soul-searching, inspire you, and offer more possibilities you may not have considered. Be on the lookout for classes that might interest you on subjects you would like to know more. Or, maybe even teach a class on a topic you do know lots about and would like to share your knowledge. Start writing in a journal. It can be a diary style of writing, or more of a gratitude journal, anything that gets your thoughts and feelings on paper. Listen to pod casts. There are pod casts available on pretty much any topic; it’s actually pretty remarkable! Pod casts are great because you can listen to them in the car, while exercising, while cleaning the house, whenever. Accomplish two tasks at once!
I also find that taking a little road trip or larger vacation puts things in perspective for me. Getting away from the everyday chores and obligations is so important to clear our heads. Just changing your scenery and routine can help to clarify what you truly like to do and how you want to spend your time. Not to mention, traveling somewhere, either new or familiar, exposes us to new experiences, people, cultures and lifestyles. After any kind of get-away I always feel a greater energy to pursue my dreams and passions.
Lastly, trust yourself, and your gut. Your gut NEVER leads you astray. Be honest with yourself and enjoy the process. Oh, and be fearless. What have you got to lose? There are no wrong answers to the passion questions. There may be roadblocks, or setbacks, or changes in course. That’s OK, and useful. Learn from those and believe with all that you have that there are reasons for the challenges, because nothing awesome comes easy. It will be so worth it.
When I had my first child I felt I had to continue working as an art director for a university. It was a great gig, loved the job, great benefits, salary, security, safety. Then I had my second child 17 months later and knew I wanted to be at home with my kids. It was a very scary thought to leave my job. We were used to a 2-income family, could we get by??? The reality was, I knew it was more important for me to be at home with my kids, no matter what that would mean. My husband & I decided to take the leap and have me leave my job. As an art director/graphic designer, I did know that had the potential to build a business from home.. but knew I had a bunch of steps to take to make it a reality.
I had to just take it one step at a time, getting super organized, prioritizing my time and consistently moving forward every day.
You have to be your own cheerleader. Being a mom first does not offer raises, promotions, airfare miles… any of the stuff rewarded to full time career moms. Our reward is our amazing children, who are happy, healthy, connected to us, balanced, successful, contributors to the world. I am by no means implying that as a work outside the home mom these achievements are not possible. I am just saying that these are OUR rewards.
Time Management… you have to be disciplined. MAKE the time you need to succeed. Know your windows, know when you function best. Some of us work best in the morning, some of us are night owls. Carve out the time you need and make it a priority.
Get Help… it’s ok to get a babysitter to help you make time to work. You also will need to surround yourself with people who are great at the things you are not skilled. Do what you do well, hire people who can help you. You might need someone to design your logo and website, or handle your social media. Think about the areas you can handle well, and get some help with the other stuff.
The Up Side:
You are designing your life. You can be there to put the kids on the bus, and be there when they get home – if that’s our choice. You can be there for the school stuff during the day. You are choosing when to be with your family. You create your own hours for what works best for you and your family.
YOU are in control of your destiny. You are working for your future and building the life you want to lead.
You are (hopefully) building a long-term career in a business or industry that you enjoy and for which you feel passion.
You will never regret choosing to stay at home and make that work for your family. Your kids grow up too quickly… enjoy every second, and plan for the future.
Does anyone really need a formal living room?? That is always the room that gets neglected, gathers dust, and NEVER gets enjoyed. We decided to redesign our formal living room into a pool/entertainment/bar/game room. I could not be happier with the results! Best decision ever.
I know I wanted to base the color palette around a magnificent Jamie Wyeth print that I adore (Draft Age).
Here’s what I decided to do:
• Get a beautiful slate pool table
• Convert wood burning fire place to gas. It would be too close to the pool table to use for wood burning so gas was a great option.
• Painted walls & woodwork
• Had recessed lighting installed and purchased floor lighting
• New comfy furniture including an awesome kidney-shape couch, bistro table and stools
• Added small “bar” to keep wine, glassware, etc.
• Incorporated a vintage arcade game
Those are the main things I did. We now use the room all the time, both for family time and entertaining. Here are some photos of the complete room.
Once people find out that I have gotten a few inventions and businesses off the ground lots of them approach me saying, “I’ve had this idea for a long time, it might not be great, but I think it might be, but I have no idea what to do with it.” I love it. It’s my opportunity to serve someone else and use the mountain of knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated along the way to help someone else follow their dream. There have been so many twists and turns in m career, I have to believe the reason is to equip me with tools, ideas and skills to make the path a little smoother, and less painful, for others who have a desire to create the next big idea, or open their dream business.
Being an entrepreneur you have to be your own cheerleader, as well. We will have friends and family for encouragement and the occasional pep talk. But, you have to consistently have the drive, conviction and grit to keep going on a daily basis, especially on the days when you start to have self-doubt – which will happen – a lot. I also hope that I can be that champion for my clients when the going gets tough, and they start to lose steam.
The best part of my job is sharing the logo that captures my clients’ vision, or getting their website up and them seeing for the first time their dream in reality. Or whatever it is that encourages my client to keep going, get excited and know they are on the right path.
Go for it… because if you don’t someone else will. Make that idea, or invention, or business yours. What have you got to lose?
Next, get one of these…
Super Easy Step #1 ~ Start by putting your ideas into an invention or business journal. No one has to see it, it’s for you to get your initial thoughts, plans, sketches, contacts, etc. down on paper and start to make this whole thing real. It will evolve and become a huge resource for you. It will also document your work and ideas along the way, which will prove to be priceless. I still look back at my journals from projects past for reference. It’s easy, and you will know you have started!
After getting a few furniture projects under my tool belt, a client approached me to design and build a coffee table for her using a fantastic old barn door that she had bought from a salvage yard. It was truly a beautiful, historic, perfectly weathered door. I couldn’t wait to get started. Yep, I was a teeny bit nervous… she had trusted me with her special door and I wasn’t totally sure how I was going to make this happen. Fueled by her faith in my creativity and skills, and my desire to transform this piece of history into a functional, unique furnishing, I dove in.
The door itself would be the top, which just needed to be scrubbed and cleaned of years of dirt and debris. I did have to cut it down to a reasonable size, because it was pretty huge. I then sealed it with a matte varnish, to be sure any potential lead paint and rust on the hardware was safely contained under the varnish and wouldn’t chip off. Now I just had to come up with the base and four short pedestal legs to put them together. I was able to find some pretty, unfinished, chunky, hardwood turned legs. For the base I just purchased a large piece of unfinished 3/4” oak plywood. The tricky part was distressing the legs and base to appropriately match the top. It took some trial-and-error, a bunch of glue, paint and sand paper, but it finally came together.
During the process I decided to make a simple, overview instructional video to post on YouTube and for my design website. It’s far from polished, and doesn’t go into super detail, but you can get the gist of how I made it all come together. Please forgive the distracting background – wow, our garage needs a good clean out!
Here are a few of the materials that I used in the process, as well.
The big point I want to drive home is, don’t be afraid to dive in to these sorts of projects. You get better with every one, you learn a lot, and you get more confidant in tackling your future awesome DIY adventures! So go for it!!