{Quit Your Day Job, featuring Sarah Jane Studios}

Hello, hello! Today’s post is super special and is a continuation of my {Quit Your Day Job} series from earlier this year. Today’s feature highlights the sweet shop & blog of Sarah Jane Studios. I know you will enjoy it. One of my favorite quotes, “Inspiration is all around you,” — wishing you baskets of inspiration as you peek into Sarah’s life. xoxo



Bio:

Hi! I’m thrilled to be over here on Gussy. I’m a huge supporter of starting a business doing what you love to do best. I started my ETSY shop during the Christmas Season of 2007 in an effort to support my husband through Graduate School. I had a strong vision of using my illustrations in the children’s industry, but wasn’t exactly sure how. So I started out selling my art prints and stationery on ETSY, and have gradually expanded to illustrating children’s books with Harper Collins Children’s books, and designing fabric for Michael Miller Fabrics and also designing Embroidery patterns!

My ETSY shop is currently in the top 10 sellers of Art on ETSY…

…and my fabric CHILDREN AT PLAY is due to hit shops this month! It’s been an amazing 3 year journey, and I’m so happy to share it!

The interview:

1. What were some ways you prepared to become an handmade biz owner {your day-to-day schedule, financially, emotionally, etc.}?
Before I started my business, I spent a lot of time doing research. I had two infants, and didn’t have much energy to do much more than surf the web, looking for information on how to start doing what I dreamed of. I was creating art, but not even in the form that I am now. I was painting originals, and I learned that I just couldn’t do that with 2 infants and a small apartment. So I contacted other artists, looked into ETSY and got familiar with my options as a stay at home mom.

ETSY was still very new at the time, and there were very few artists doing what I do now. I was able to communicate with many of them, learned a bit of what I needed to do to get started, and went from there.

Another thing I did, was be part of Startup Princess: A community of women who can get information and support for starting their own business. By attending a couple seminars, I felt confident that I had what it took to start.

When I stared my business, I was the perfect mix of smart and naive. I knew what I needed to get started, but not much after that. Kinda like being in a marriage actually: A good marriage (I believe) involves a lot of “learning on the job” and that kind of learning can only be done once you dive in. So, as much as I studied a bit about what it was going to take to get started, I also knew that I wasn’t ever really going to find out what it was going to take until I just got my feet wet!

Emotionally, starting Sarah Jane Studios was like jumping off the high dive. I’d seen other people do it before, and I knew that even if I belly flopped, I’d survive and would be up that ladder trying again.

2. Share with us a positive “ah-hah” moment from this process.
Because I started with my husband’s support, and my over-drive enthusiasm, I learned really quickly that any business can take of every spare space in your brain. I was so gung-ho, and my husband was so supportive, but I soon realized that if I didn’t shut things down and disconnect from my creative pursuits, those ideas could easily take over. I am a very passionate person, like most creative people, and if I get going on somehting, it’s hard for me to stop. Also, un-plugging and taking breaks is really hard to do when you are driven to pay the bills, and get a real business going. But take walks, date your husband, go out to a movie, and pace yourself. Especially if you have a family, having clear expectations of when you are working and when you are not working is a very healthy part of your work.

3. What was the time frame from when you decided you were going to quit to when you actually put in your notice/took some serious steps toward becoming self-employed?
My husband was in Graduate school. We were living off very little. My husband thankfully had a job that paid the mortgage and groceries, but we had no means to pay off our student loans. I started looking for work that I could do from home, and then even started looking into selling health products with a MLM company. I had previously had my own vocal studio, and I had previously taught voice lessons at BYU, but because I had 2 infants, I just couldn’t keep a regular work schedule. I needed something flexible.

One night while we were talking about our options, and my fear of making cold calls to strangers, I felt a very strong feeling that I need to start my art again. I had put it aside while I graduated from college and supported my husband’s undergraduate degree by teaching voice. But I felt very strongly, that now was the time to begin my art business. And being a very religious and spiritual person, I knew that feeling was from God. I was so happy to have that confidence from Him, and since then I’ve never looked back. I’ve always known that I would make a career out of my art, or that it would be a huge part of my professional life. But this was such a HUGE leap, I needed that extra confidence from my Heavenly Father. That impression is honestly what sealed the deal for me.

4. What was your first day like as a handmade biz owner? Describe your feelings, were you really excited? did it seem soooo weird to be home/self-employed? Share this moment with us.
The actual first few days/weeks of my business were rather comical (In hindsight! Not then!) I thought because I had such strong, spiritual impressions to start this business with my art, that it was all just going to be easy-peasy. Wrong! This business has been one of the greatest learning curves in my life!

The first day was filled with stuffing envelopes and cellophane sleeves on my bedroom floor, emails, responding to customers with questions I had no idea how to answer, and printing out art prints in the dozens from a printer that was actually broken. It was a mess! I honestly thought I would start off small, and go from there. But instead, I had 50 sales my first weekend, and though I paid off all my business expenses my first week, I wasn’t prepared for that kind of volume. So, it was filled with lots of trips to the store, figuring out where to purchase supplies in bulk, and learning the ropes as I went. It was actually pretty funny. On top of that, my babies had the stomach flu, and my husband was out of town and my brand new printer broke. So, it was the typical mayhem you’d expect from someone who though maybe they’d sell one or two prints to see how it felt to have a business, to people asking for wholesale orders the first day. I had a lot to learn!

But, like I said: you can only learn by doing it. And man, I did it! I learned a lot, and am still learning. It’s an exciting ride!

5. Do you write out a “schedule” for each day? How do you divide and organize your time?
Because I have 3 children who aren’t even in full time school, my schedule is very flexible. Normally, I work at night after the kids go to bed. But when there are pressing deadlines, my husband will watch the kids for part of the day on Saturday or after he comes home from work. Every day is different, which can be very challenging. Being an artist, I really value big chunks of time to just work…but that doesn’t happen very much! When I know I need those big chunks, my husband is very good to take over. When I created my last fabric line, we used money from our business account to have my husband take the kids out to a local hotel for 2 days. They swam in the pool, played in the elevators, went to the zoo, etc. I stayed at home in studio with uninterrupted time and designed fabric. So, really, depending on the work that needs to be done, we adjust. Frankly, a lot of it is done between 10pm and 1am. That’s the truth!

6. What is a current challenge are you facing, and how to you plan to overcome it?
Being a creative person and a business person takes up two totally different parts of my brain. Add being a mother of young children into the mix, and my brain is full! I don’t have a lot of time in my day, so the biggest challenge I have is learning how to focus better, and schedule my time better. Because I run a household and a business, I’m learning how to do the things that take the least amount of brain power (bills, laundry, cleaning) as fast as possible. Because I’m a creative person, my mind is usually full of creative, wonderful things ALL the time! And being a mother of children who inspire me every day, it’s hard for me (and I’ll be perfectly honest here!) to focus on a simple task and complete it. But, I am not creative when my house is out of order, so it’s a catch 22. The challenge as a mother as well as a creative, is to live creatively everyday, but also to get the mindless mundane tasks done faster so I have more time to be creative! Kitchen timers have become my friend.

7. What are three tips you can to pass along to someone that’s ready to make the leap? :]
I’m a list person, so here you go:

    * Do what you do best, and let others do the rest. In the beginning, you really need to do it all. And frankly, I still mostly do it all. But I’ve learned to delegate the things that I don’t need to do: Shipping, book keeping, etc. Slowly start to take the things off your plate that take time from you doing what you do best: CREATE!
    * Know your finances, and set goals for what you need/want to make out of your business. When you start, it’s vital that you set goals. You want to earn $10,000 this year? Set it! And you’ll be amazed at how setting a specific amount leads you to creative opportunities that meet those goals.
    * If you are a mother, let your children be part of your creative work… let them work beside you and learn from you. Try as hard as you can to let your children see you be creative, and encourage them to do the same.
    * And one more: Be aware of trends and what other people are interested in purchasing, but then go to work and do what comes to you. It’s important to be aware of the market, trends and the niche that your business falls into. But only be aware enough to know it, and when you work, let it come from you, and only you, and you’ll be successful!

Connect with Sarah ~
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
ETSY
Website (coming in July!!)



Leave a comment below and share with us:
What is your favorite way to find inspiration,
or what tips can you share that help you to have a super productive work day?



Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I LOVE this shop. I actually won a gift-card on Soulemama.com to this shop, and everyone has commented on the beautiful art-work I now have in my home. I have plans of buying more in the future, as I love the style. I’m so excited to read this whole post more fully (when I can devote some more time to it–naptime!).

    Sarah M

    [Reply]

  2. 2

    says

    What a wonderful post! It is so nice and encouraging to hear from successful Etsy artist who not only runs a business, but also runs a family! Thank so much for your insight!

    [Reply]

  3. 3

    says

    Great interview and great advice for someone who wants to start a business but is afraid to jump off the high-dive. On a side note, I recognize one of those pillows from Pinterest. :)

    [Reply]

  4. 7

    says

    Great interview, so inspiring! I’m a huge fan of Michael Miller Fabrics, and have used lots of their fabrics in my own products…It is so nice to put a face to the person behind the designs and to see that they are real, too!

    Thanks Gussy and Sarah!

    ~Melissa

    [Reply]

  5. 14

    says

    I LOVE your shop!! Great interview too:) I know the challenges of turning the work off. My mind in always in creative mode as well. Raising a family while doing my business can be hard and a source of me feeeling guilty by not spending enough time with the kids. I really enjoy reading how others cope with raising kids and having a business:)

    [Reply]

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