I moved from Phoenix to Brooklyn while I was pregnant with my son, Owen. At the time, I was working from home as a recruiter, and while the position was great through my pregnancy, I had a creative itch that needed to be scratched. I wanted the creative liberty and freedom of a blog, yet I had no idea where to start. At the same time, I grabbed coffee with Amy Frances, an acquaintance that had also moved to Brooklyn. Here, I shared the idea of this new project and she instantly offered her help with photography as she wanted to build her own portfolio. Just like that, Household Mag was born. It has grown to be a site that encompasses everything from recipes to my personal life and all that is left in between. I even opened a little online shop that holds curated items, which are both inexpensive and made locally. I really want to support my community as it has come to support me!
Keeping my blog and social media real and relatable, I share the highs and lows of being a working mama, including my cathartic moments and meltdowns. Perfection doesn’t exist, so why act like it does! A lot of us juggle motherhood, work, our passion projects, marriage, and taking care of ourselves…if we have time, that is. It’s become an integral part of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world, no matter how much I may be cracking under pressure and on edge. This passion project has also turned into a source of income, which we need in order to survive in this concrete jungle. As most of you know, living in New York costs a pretty penny and, to be totally honest, we need every last dollar we make to make it happen. So with that being said, here are my tips for how to work at home with a 10 month old.
- Start your day with a long checklist. When I wake up I feel like my mind is bouncing all over the place. It’s so helpful for me if I just get all the to dos out of my brain and down on paper or organized into a list on my phone.
- Be very selective about the work you take on. There isn’t enough time in my schedule to take on projects I’m not wholeheartedly invested in. I’ve always been a bit of a “Yes Man”, and since becoming a mother I’ve learned the importance of kindly saying “No”.
- Work around your little one’s sleep schedule. Plan to get up early, stay up late, and work during nap times.
- Meal prep for the week over the weekend. This is something I need to be more consistent with and whenever I do it it’s life altering for the week. I find that if I plan ahead, I actually eat healthier rather than settling for whatever feels easiest to throw together in the moment.
- I try to do one small thing just for me weekly. A few things that are my go to’s for me time: yoga, a pedicure, running out for a cup of coffee alone, taking a nap (when Owen is also napping), or grabbing a drink with a friend.
- Get out and about with other mamas and kiddos. You’d be surprised how wonderful some adult conversation can be in the mix of taking care of Owen and working from home can be!
- Mommy Switch. Once a week take your friends kids so they can get work done, and then find a day where they can do the same for you. I recently started doing this with a mama friend of mine and it’s been so helpful for us both!
- Be prepared that not everything will go according to your schedule or plan. Forgive yourself, laugh at yourself, and be easy on yourself. Find time to pause and realize how much you’re actually doing (even when it feels like you’re scrambling). I like to think about the things I’ll remember in 5 or 10 years from now to gain a little perspective – and you better believe that it won’t be that the laundry wasn’t put away, or that I didn’t exercise enough, or that my hair wasn’t always perfect. If I look back and see that I was creating something beautiful I was passionate about while simultaneously connecting with my family I know I will be happy with how my time was spent.
- If you’re having to work when your kids are around and awake I find it super helpful to jump in and out of work – 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off. It’s really important to me to stay present and active with Owen, and it’s also essential that I get work done. A balance of the two is what’s best for us.
- Utilize apps. There are a few apps that make running my business and freelance work so much easier.
- Website Management – Squarespace Blog & Squarespace Commerce
- Communication – Slack
- Notes/Organization – Evernote
- Calendar – Google Cal
- Time Management – Harvest
- Instagram Scheduling – Planoly
Photos by Amy Frances
All items can be bought on Household Mag’s new shop.
Juliette Baxter was a magazine editor and writer for over 15 years. For many of those years, she loathed the onslaught of bloggers stepping on her well-heeled turf and then, just a few months ago, she became a blogger too. Lo and behold, blogging freed up her creative spirit and gifted her with more control over what she wanted to say and when she want to say it. You can read more about her writerly awakening here.
While I’m busy throwing myself into the online frenzy, I’ve kept some good ol’ print habits that I will never shake. At a time when over 50,000 blogs are launched a day (yup, I said every day), I think these habits will help me—and you—stand out. I may not be an SEO expert or a Google Analytics whiz, however what I do know is how to weave stories and words into must-reads. Below you will find my 3 rules for writing a successful blog:
Rule No. 1 Don’t always make it about you
I know Oprah is on every one of her magazine covers, but once you flip past her monthly portrait, there’s a community of voices and experts teaching us how to live our best lives. Why not try adding more voices, profiles and experts to your own blog? Seek like-minded bloggers to guest post so you can help boost each other’s website clicks, profile social influencers who will be seriously engaging click bait and feature fitting experts whose social media savvy you can piggyback.
Having said all that, I do believe there are those that can let themselves shine at all times: Any serious expert in their field or industry, an amazing storyteller who toils words that deeply tug at the heart or consistently light up the brain and while I hate to admit it, pretty much any gawd damn celeb, whether they’re a high-profile bachelorette or an Oscar-winning baccalaureate.
Rule No. 2 Never cut and paste
In the print world, this would be called lazy or even plagiarism depending on the situation. So when you see a news clip, stat or fact that has your blood boiling, your heart thumping or your mind reeling, first check that the story is consistent and true across various dependable channels because you really don’t want to sound off on something that isn’t real. Then think about how it makes you feel and how it applies to your life. Next express these thoughts cursing through your veins right through to your keyboard being sure to reference the story that fired you up in the first place. If there’s someone else who feels the same as you do and an expert that can add more facts and context, interview both of them and add their thoughts. And voila—you have a well-informed post to show-off.
Rule No. 3 Think like a magazine art director
A good magazine page has more than body text to keep a reader interested. You’ll often see a display quote, a sidebar and thoughtfully selected images with informative photo captions. Use these same tricks to break up your running grey matter on any given blog post. Begin with a strong image (or images) and caption it with a witty sound bite or a dependable fact. After the first few sentences, add a stand-out quote or sentence from your post in a display text. Got a lot to say? Break up your thoughts into a bulleted list and if it makes sense, add a slideshow, gallery or a video to bring your thoughts even more alive.
Amanda Blakley is a travel writer and now entrepreneur with her new baby garment line, Petits Genoux, where she married the old-fashion styles of our ancestors with a modern-day twist and we are so in love. Read below as she shares her advice on how to throw a bash for you brand on a budget and some adorable photos of her own event.
Looking to amp up your brand exposure in a fun and interactive way? Why not create an authentic experience that brings your company to life in a live setting? We spend so much time and energy these days building our online communities, but what about our off-line community? Not just our “followers”, “friends” or “fans” passively observing our businesses from afar. Instagram is great for brand building and reaching new consumers, but sometimes old school human engagement, not the digital kind, is where it’s at! Let’s forget about reach, readership and interactions for a minute. Let’s try and reconnect with the people, places and things whom we ultimately create our products and services for.
We recently threw a simple (but chic) park playdate for our local friends and customers in Toronto. It gave us the opportunity to showcase our brand in an informal setting, get real-time feedback and put faces to the names of some of our best clients, accounts and future customers.
Here is a little tip-sheet on how you can do the same:
- Define your objective. do you want to sell product, introduce a new collection, spread the word about an exciting new service offering? No matter what it is, you need to determine the best way to showcase or communicate it, in a setting where your guests/customers will be most receptive to the message.
- What’s your hook? I think it’s fair to say that many of us get invited to a lot of events. We’re busy, time-starved and quite frankly, slightly jaded, so in order to get a guest to RSVP and actually turn up at an event, it needs to have a hook or purpose more meaningful than just a rack of clothes for sale and some canapés on offer. Brainstorm an idea, theme or concept that adds substance and creativity to your event, in the spirit of your brand. Feature a local performer, a children’s choir, face painting, beat boxing, type-rope-walking – anything to elevate your event beyond just another shopping night or trunk show.
- Distill your brand to a couple sentences then work backwards to define what type of setting and activity would resonate most with your audience and potential customers. In the case of Petits Genoux, our main target audience is new and expecting mom’s. Where do they hang out on a gorgeous summer morning? The park. So we set out to jazz up their predictable daily outing and attempted to make it accessible, fun, entertaining and whimsical, all before getting their littles home for nap time. Siblings were invited to play in our teepee village, sip lemonade and eat popsicles, while babes-in-arms could easily be toted around while their moms perused our wares.
- Timing, as you know, is everything, and the same is true of when (and where) to host your gathering. Some lifestyle brands or products might have more success throwing an evening event. Or perhaps you might consider a chic breakfast or coffee break for those customers working a more traditional 9-5. The key is to find a time slot and activity that makes sense while also creating an element of anticipation for your guests.
- Get inspired. Pinterest is full of entertaining ideas, pick one and make it your own with little custom details that speak to your brand. Can you screen a must-see experimental film on the side of a building and sample your brand of popcorn while guests chill out on lawn chairs? Host an intimate dinner with a local chef pairing each course with your core brand values? The key is to create a concept that will help to harness the unique aspects of your brand or business that make it special while propelling your company or brand into the spotlight.
Tourist | Entrepreneur | Adventurer
Ashley Gartland is a mama after our own hearts. She recently started her Life Coach business, specifically focusing on moms who want to dedicate their lives to their kids, but also be a kick ass woman following her career goals. To learn more about what she does, click here.
I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty for being a working mom. I have felt guilty when I missed an activity because I’m working with a client. I have felt guilty when I’m traveling for work and my daughters cry through our nightly Facetime dates. I have felt guilty for not giving more of my time and attention to my kids because my work demands those limited resources too. And I have felt guilty for choosing to work. I have felt like a bad mom for admitting that I needed to be more than a mom to feel fulfilled in my daily life.
But that was before I realized that the guilt wasn’t serving me or doing my kids or coaching business any good either. So I decided to let go of the guilt by focusing on the three big reasons I shouldn’t feel guilty for working instead.
I now know that I will always have a choice: I can feel guilty for being a high-achieving woman who wants to be more than just a mom or I can set the guilt aside and focus on all the good things that come from my working instead.
You have a choice too. So if you’re struggling to let go of the guilt, I encourage you to consider these three reasons you shouldn’t feel guilty for working, and then make sure you re-read them often because we all know mom-guilt is nothing if not persistent.
Working is good for your kids.
When I first started working as a coach for moms to help them find a better balance between family, business and self-care, I was concerned how my family would handle the demands of me returning to work. (Ironic, right?) And I felt especially guilty about taking time away from my daughters, who were just 4 and 1 at the time.
But then my oldest daughter asked me a question that changed everything. She said “Mom, it must be a lot of work to take care of our family and be a coach. Why do you want to do both jobs?”
Since she was only 4, I gave her the simple answer: I loved being a mom and I loved being a coach. But when she’s older and more mature I’ll tell her that I choose to work because I want her and her sister to see me defining myself outside of motherhood. I work because I want to show them what life looks like when you go after your dreams.
And, most importantly, I’ll tell her that I do both jobs because I dream of a future for my daughters where mothers are celebrated, not judged, for being ambitious, creative women. So if my girls decide to become mothers someday, they won’t feel like they have to choose between being a great mom and a bold woman. Because if I’ve lead by example in my own life, they will know with 100 percent certainty that they can be both.
Working is good for your community.
I used to be so wrapped up in my mom guilt that I forgot that the impact of my work stretched far beyond my immediate family. And it absolutely did.
Because here’s the honest truth: there are people out there who need what you have to offer. There are people in your community and people waiting to hear your ideas and receive your services. There are people whose lives you could change through your work. There are people you haven’t even met yet who are waiting to experience your unique gifts – and it would be a disservice to let guilt stop you from sharing them.
So the next time you feel guilty for working, I encourage you to think about how your work impacts people on the grander scale. Because I guarantee there are people waiting for you and they won’t ever get the chance to experience all you have to offer if you let guilt run the show.
Working is good for your soul.
When I first admitted I wanted to be more than a mom, I felt a lot of shame that motherhood wasn’t the end all, be all for me – especially because I knew how much I had to be grateful for. And yet, I also knew that there was more to me than the part of me that held the title of mom.
I was also a woman who found my work endlessly fulfilling. My work gave me an intellectual outlet and helped me feel creatively stimulated and accomplished. It let me tap into the things that light me up, the things that make me feel like I have a purpose beyond raising great kids. It let me use my talents and increased my sense of self worth.
So I’ve since come to realize that there’s no shame in moving past the guilt so I can fuel my soul with work that I love. Because working makes me feel like the very best version of me and it brings me joy that overflows into other areas of my life too.
The mom guilt? It’s real and it’s persistent. But if you can focus on the things that working brings to your life, instead of all that guilt, good things will come your way. Your kids will benefit, your community will benefit and you will benefit too.
BONUS: Ashley made this little workbook and it’s really helped us mamas out! Download it here.
Here at heymama we know all about the importance of networking and relationships, after all, relationships and building connections is what heymama is all about. So, whether you’re a member of our stellar mamapreneur group, or a regular reader of our blog, or if you’re just passing through, we decided to break down the ever important “introduction email.” We promise that these four tips will be ever so helpful when it comes to introducing and responding to an email introduction.
Confirm with Your Sources
An email introduction is a great way to get your foot in the door and can be the gateway to future business partnerships, job opportunities, or even playdates for your little, however, surprising a contact out of the blue is a big no no. Don’t offer up someone else’s services without getting the OK from THEM first. Not sure what to say? Try this:
Lauren, I have a friend looking to start her own #GIVEBACK brand but she’s super overwhelmed with all the information out there. I immediately thought of you as a great resource for her, is it okay to pass along your contact info?
Follow up with the Introducer
If you’re the one being introduced don’t take your introducer for granted. Shoot a thank you email, text, phone call or even a pretty handwritten note to let them know how thankful you are for the introduction!
Avoid Reply All
A lot of times you will be cc’d on an introduction that someone is making for you. That means the REPLY ALL button includes the introducer as well. It is best to make sure you remove the introducer from the conversation once the introduction has been made. With this said, feel free to move them to the bcc for the first correspondence so that you can thank them for the initial introduction, go for something like this…
Chris – thanks for the introduction!
Alexandra, It’s great to e-meet you, I was hoping you’d be available to chat sometime this week regarding emerging fashion labels. Let me know if you are available and what time works best for you.
(Chris is the introducer)
Be Polite but Get to the Point
Have the okay to reach out to a contact? Responding to an email introduction? Make sure to be polite and professional without wasting anyone’s time, so get to the point. Here are some examples to help you mamas out:
If you’re reaching out: Miranda, I hope this finds you well. I received your contact info from Emily and wanted to reach out to see if you’d be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee to discuss your experience working at a fashion publication. Let me know what works best for you time wise! Thanks, Andie
Responding to an Introduction: Liz, thank you for reaching out. As Darcy may have mentioned, I am looking to launch an e-commerce site and was hoping to pick your brain on the subject. Please let me know when you’d be available for a quick phone call or cup of coffee. Looking forward to following up with you! Best, Jane
Heather Monahan is one of those badass women who does it all. She’s a mentor, motivational speaker and mother. Her goal is to empower women and help them be the best that they can be. From feeling your best, to looking your best, to doing your best, Heather is here to encourage you to be the most fulfilled woman you can be.
After 17 years working in the media business and hiring talent, I have come to realize that many women haven’t been taught simple hiring tips that can make all the difference in an interview.
To help demystify the interview and hiring process, I’ve compiled my top tips to help you get hired.
Be Social Media Savvy
In order to get hired you need to set yourself apart from the pool of potential candidates. One way you can do that is to spend time finding out all that you can about your target company, employees and most importantly, the hiring manager by accessing Linkedin and Google. I promise you this: very few people take the time to complete this step— and this step is a game changer!
Sharing feedback like this during the interview makes the interview more about the interviewer and shows that you have a genuine interest in them. This is the key to success in dealing with people—especially when you’re trying to get them to like you!
You can never—and I repeat, NEVER!—send a resume with a cover letter to a hiring manager and expect a response.
Managers are receiving hundreds, or possibly thousands, of candidates via email every day. When it’s you who is in charge of hiring, it’s a daunting and tedious task to have to review the dredge of standard resumes that overload your inbox. In my experience, there are always a few people that stand out and get my attention.
The standouts are the candidates that find someone in my circle who knows me. They have done their homework to see who we have in common, and they’ve applied pressure to ask someone for an intro.
Know Your Unique Value Proposition.
In order to differentiate yourself from the other candidates that made it to the face-to-face interview round, you need to be able to articulate simply and specifically what it is that makes you unique, valuable and the obvious hire for this position.
If you don’t already know what your UVP is, you need to determine it.
Once you have them listed, compare them to what the company is looking for. It is imperative that you find a way to align your talents with their needs in order to illustrate the fit.
If you don’t know how to find your unique value proposition—and many of us struggle with this—I suggest you do what I did: Reach out to others that you work with (co-workers, employees, people you trust that know you well) and ask them to give you two specific things that make you unique.
I’m often shocked by what I perceive as a lack of preparation on a candidate’s behalf. For instance, showing up to an interview without multiple resume copies comes off as being ill prepared; you never know how many managers are going to join the meeting!
Also, it’s amazing how many candidates don’t bring examples of their work or references to share on site. Remember, the minute you sit down to be interviewed, you need to be in selling mode.
Interviews are about selling yourself: Your skills, your experience, your personality. Be able to answer basic interview questions. Research possible questions online, write them down and answer each one. Practice them out loud. It’s painful, but it will increase your ability to retain the information ten fold!
You’re in charge of your interview performance. Always use personal experiences and stories from your career/school to illustrate examples of prior behavior and success. Take the time to do this well, and to let your personality come through, and you will blow the manager away.
Practice in front of a mirror, record yourself speaking into your smartphone, or have a friend quiz you on your questions. Do whatever it takes to feel comfortable and confident for your interview.
You will never get the information you need in order to close this deal if you don’t ask direct questions. I have seen many women get nervous in this phase, even when they are the most qualified for the job!
I suggest looking at other experiences in your life where you felt nervous but were able to overcome the nerves. I keep a short list of accomplishments top-of-mind and readily available for me to pull from. Sometimes, it’s as simple as remembering that I completed a workout on the treadmill at a speed I thought I couldn’t possibly achieve.
It also can be a different kind of win, like remembering how scared I was that my son would suffer as a result of my getting divorced. Now, seeing him thriving and realizing I made the right decision gives me confidence in the face of other challenges.
Whatever adversity you have overcome, use it now to power you forward through the nerves you may be feeling. Only you can make this happen.
Some good direct questions to ask are, “How do I compare to your other candidates? What skill set is specifically imperative to have with this position for you to be happy? What happened to the person that previously had this job? What would I be able to expect from you as a boss?”
Go For the Close.
No one will get a job if they don’t go for the close. Repeat after me: “I will not leave the office of the hiring manager without saying this: ’What else do you need to know about me in order to offer me this job? Are you the only person that will be making this decision and if so, will you be offering me the position?’”
You can frame this question many different ways, but the bottom line is you need to ask for the offer. If it makes you uncomfortable to think about doing this, consider the alternative:
You will not get the job unless you ask for it.
Just as you did with your other prep tips, practice asking for the offer until it becomes second nature. Once you remove the fear, there is room for excitement at the prospect of getting the job!
For all of those budding entrepreneurs looking to spread the word about your endeavors, we tapped our friend Jackie Thomson at Leapfrog to share a few tips on pitching your brand and here are a few easy do’s and don’ts to remember…
If you’re pitching to someone, you ALWAYS have to have a story to tell. DO always start with the elevator pitch and don’t forget to include the following; why are you different, what makes your brand newsworthy and how can you offer a unique point of view? When you can say this succinctly, you are ready to share your story. Before you tackle the next step, DO be sure that your photography is top notch and, if you have a product, be sure you have it photographed on a white background. Get a head shot, have your bio ready, and make sure you’re proud of your Instagram “quilt” and website.
Now, there is an actual art to pitching, and practice does make perfect. DO your homework! Before you ever hit ’send,’ make sure you are pitching to the right media outlet and to the right person there. Spend some time reading the publication, scroll through it’s social media accounts, catch up on digital content. When you find stories similar to the ones that you’re aiming to see published, take note of the editor and find other pieces penned by that person. What’s their voice, what are their interests, what type of content do they produce? Keep in mind the timing of long and short lead media and what stories the editors are working on. If it’s July, the magazines are researching brands to include in holiday gift guides – DO think ahead.
There’s no denying that “mummy blogs” are a dime a dozen, but what makes the select few a success? Have you ever considered to turn your blog into a business? While most mamas start blogging as a visual diary or creative outlet between mashing banana and googling poo color, many hold onto that little pipe dream that it could turn into something more lucrative. We begin to fantasize about working from home- laptop in one hand, baby wipe in the other- running an empire without getting out of our PJs. The ultimate work-life balance, right?!
Well, that was me two and a half years ago. I set out to combine my background in writing and marketing with my love of fashion, style and photography. At the time I couldn’t find many resources that spoke to the type of mum I was- I loved and embraced motherhood, but also placed importance on my sense of self and style. I knew there were so many new-gen mamas out there who felt the same- and that was how NOT SO MUMSY was born.
Since then I have worked with some of the biggest brands in Australia, been invited to travel the world by resorts and airlines, featured on television, in and on the cover of national magazines and in the last six months I have learnt more than I did working full time as Marketing Manager at a television network. I’m not sharing this because I’m an egotistical wank – it’s very un-Australian to celebrate your own success 😉 I’m sharing because even though these are of course “pinch myself” moments, I always had the belief that I was doing what I was meant to. I knew my blog would be a success. Not so much the monetary or “recognition” side of it- that definitely wasn’t the focus or driving factor, I mean building a community of like minded mamas. That’s how I define my success- because that’s what I set out to achieve. The other stuff is just a by-product. As long as I’m connecting, evolving, starting conversations, inspiring and being inspired, I am doing what I set out to do. I posted the following quote on my personal Instagram just as I launched NOT SO MUMSY and it still holds so much truth for me.
“When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.”
I am often asked for advice from those thinking about starting a blog or wanting to take their blog to the next level. So I thought I would share my path and what I have learnt in retrospect. There are thousands of mummy blogs out there, so what makes a select few gain traction?
1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN | Launching a blog takes months of preparation. Yes there are logos, layouts and content, but most importantly you need a clear vision of what you are setting out to achieve. What do you want your blog to say? Who do you want to say it to? Find your passion and stick to it. Don’t worry about what is “trending” – odds are by the time you are up and running the trend will have passed. Don’t start a blog because you want to work from home or think it’s an easy way to make money- it will take months, possibly years of hard work before that happens. And there is no guarantee that it will. Start a blog for the love of what you are doing, if you are happy to continue and never make money then you are on the right path. You’ll be working from 10pm after the kids are in bed and the washing is done, so it needs to be something you love. The reader will only connect with authenticity. So research, find your niche, your tone of voice and point of difference.
2. GET SOCIAL | Blogging is about connecting and there is no better way to start a conversation than social media. Instagram in particular is an essential tool for bloggers, and in many cases is a blog in itself. Get involved in conversations- like, comment, network with brands, mums and other bloggers. This goes the same for your blog. Grow your account organically by being interactive. Tag in bigger accounts, engage in #followfriday or shout outs- but don’t over do it, and keep it authentic. The best tip for someone starting out on Instagram is COLLABORATE. I grew my account organically simply by collaborating with brands with a bigger Instagram presence. Product for pictures is a win/win, but make sure you are strategic, not greedy! I see so many accounts doing loop giveaway after giveaway and it looks desperate. Yes the followers might grow, but they are rarely engaged and genuinely interested in what you are doing. That number at the top means nothing without the engagement, and with the new algorithm changes only 20% of your followers will actually see your post, so you need to make it engaging. Snapchat is another way to connect with your audience. I’m obsessed with snap and like it more than Instagram now.
Lastly, don’t compete with others- celebrate them for doing a good job. Build each other up.
Remember girls compete, women empower.
3. BE ORIGINAL | Find your own style and your voice. Just as I launched NOT SO MUMSY two other Australian mummy blogs launched around the same time. Both had similar elements to NOT SO MUMSY- just by sheer coincidence. I managed to shuffle things around a bit at the last minute- I took less of an emphasis on my mama crush profiles and launched with a stronger emphasis on mama and mini shoots – which, at the time, were very original for an Australian blog. After the boom of the mama and minis (which is fantastic) I expanded my content to be more lifestyle based. I can’t stress how important it is to be authentic and stay true to yourself. It’s easy to get influenced by what others are doing. Sure get inspiration, but stay in your lane. People can see through copy-cats. If you see people trying to be like you, take it as a compliment and try a new direction. Always stay one step ahead.
4. SELL YOURSELF | Once you have been established for a while and have gathered momentum and a following, put together a media kit showcasing your best work. Outline who you are, who your audience is, feature any reviews, collaborations, anecdotes and examples of what makes you stand out from the crowd. This showreel is an invaluable tool to send to brands and agents for awareness and/or potential collaborations. Remember it’s not just about having a lot of followers, you need to be a marketable brand and/or have a unique style to have the quality brands want you to represent them. You need to understand branding, work to briefs and deadlines and the client needs to see results to build a longer term relationship.
5. FIND AN AGENT- Once you have built your brand and have a dedicated following, you will become lucrative for brand collaborations and will probably be approached by an agent. “Influencer agents” are the fastest growing profession- they are popping up everywhere, so do your research and be selective. A good agent will take you to the next level, a bad one will probably do more damage than good. My first agent was all about the quick sale sponsored posts. They didn’t ask if I wanted to work with the client and made no effort to get to know me or my blog. I was getting work, but felt my integrity was compromised. My current management is amazing and I’m so happy to be with them. The benefits of representation is that they know your worth, they know the industry rates, they already have relationships with PR agencies and bigger brands and negotiate on your behalf, freeing you up to get back to creating content.
Having said this, it’s important to use your common sense. If you are approached by a small home based brand, they are not going to have budget so don’t send them to your agent. If you are happy to accepted gifted product for social posts to help out, do that. Most kids brands you see on Instagram don’t have budget. It’s nice to help out when you can, although it can get a little overwhelming. I made that mistake early on because I couldn’t say no and ended up getting completely stressed out. Now I only accept gifted product if I absolutely love it and need it or have the time to help out a smaller brand.
Another or additional way to monetise is to through an affiliate web tool like Commission Factory or Reward Style. This is great for income supplementation, but unless you have a massive following, like over 100k Instagram and 50k monthly blog views, you won’t make as much money as campaigns and sponsored posts booked through your agent.
6. DON’T SELL OUT | Authenticity is the key to your success. Only work with brands you like and use- no matter how much money or free product they offer you. I have turned down many big paying gigs because I would simply not use or wear the product. When I feel like it’s getting a little to “business” I always come back to my intentions for starting NOT SO MUMSY and take breaks from the sponsored posts.
Sponsored posts should compliment your blog, not become your blog.
Never forget who helped you on the way up. There are a few small businesses that helped with my growth in the beginning and I would never charge them now.
7. HAVE A LAUGH | Don’t take yourself too seriously and STAY HUMBLE. “Having lots of followers on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly.” Even though this is not so true anymore as many are making a pretty little packet, remember you aren’t saving the world. Although when you get big enough it’s nice to use your platform to make a difference.;)
It was a little over a year ago that I decided to leave my job as an accountant. I liked my job and felt fulfilled, but leaving my baby every morning was really hard for me. I had been making jewelry previously… just tinkering with little things here and there, nothing major. Clay had just received a promotion at his job so we decided to have me quit and start making jewelry while being home with Ezra. But I had so many ideas, so many OTHER hobbies that I wanted to delve into… writing, weaving, pottery, I wanted to design surfboards for Clay’s little surf company, I wanted to design handbags! I was all over the place. Little did I know that a small business was about to blossom…
So over the past year, this idea of a jewelry Etsy shop blossomed into a full blown website incorporating everything I love: jewelry design, leather bags, poster prints and photography, home decor, we even have a stand-up paddle board designed by yours truly. After making so many contacts with some amazing creators in the social media space over the past year, it just made sense to work with these people who already had incredible talent in place. Visit our “Meet The Creators” page to get to know our designers!
There were definitely setbacks along the way — last October I didn’t even know if it was going to happen. I was feeling so frustrated and things just seemed to be dragging on. But we pushed through, and in January 2016 things really began to move and the brand behind Sugarhouse Supply started to form.
I wanted to share a few tips and tricks we learned along the way and although you will still make mistakes, I hope that this will save you a couple!
1. Strong branding is everything
Pick a name that means something to you. This way you will be less likely to want to change it later on. Keep it simple and memorable. But as I am sure you know, branding isn’t just about a great name. It’s a look, feel and image of your brand. If you keep consistency with your logo, colors and even the font you use across every package, mailer, Instagram ad, blog post, etc., you will create a greater brand presence. People will begin recognizing your brand quicker if it is consistent.
2. You Need to Have Patience & Be Flexible
We began thinking up Sugarhouse Supply Co. in early April of 2015. I, being very naive and a little too optimistic, thought we could have EVERYTHING done by Christmas. But, being the brand we are, with several different products, mostly being curated by us individually or by other small makers, it just wasn’t feasible. The following SPRING wasn’t even feasible! I started getting a bit discouraged. We set our launch date for June 2016… more than a year after we had started thinking of our business! If you set a deadline or “launch day” that is actually doable, creating a schedule and plan, you will be so much less stressed and will be more likely to achieve your goal. Also, don’t forget to add in some “cushion.” Things always take more time and cost more money than you think they will. Create a spending start-up budget and stick with it! But don’t budget to your max limit. Plan on spending less than your max because there will always be things you don’t think about and things that cost more than you originally planned.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Use your resources. If you know someone who is a photographer, branding expert, social media influencer, website designer etc. don’t hesitate to ask questions! Most will be happy to help and would love to support your business. I had SO MUCH help from talented friends and family with this business. It would not be what it is without their help. Never feel ashamed to ask questions.
I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign years ago when a company I worked for asked me to create flyers and brochures for their marketing team. It has come in so handy over the years, especially now! I have used Adobe InDesign to create our insert cards, logo, packaging tape, designing parts of our website etc. I have found Adobe InDesign worked best for me, but I have heard Illustrator is also a great one for simple designing. Highly recommend teaching yourself how to use this program or one similar if you have a small business!It doesn’t matter the size of your business, keeping things in order on a spreadsheet will save you a lot of headache. This is where my accounting background comes in handy, I don’t know what I would do without my spreadsheets. But, you don’t have to be an accountant to organize and stay on top of things. Keep track of your inventory, pricing, vendors, materials… etc. There is a place for EVERYTHING on a spreadsheet. If you do not have Microsoft Office, Google Sheets is also a great resource.
With this said, photography on your social media and the way you display your photos is extremely important. Creating well lit (think natural sunlight), clear and professional looking photographs will bring attention to your products and will most definitely give you a greater chance of selling. Having a plain white or black background will make your product “pop”. If you do not have a great place in your home to take photos, you can buy a paper backdrop roll with crossbar supports and shoot next to a window. But honestly, for our first small product photos, I folded a piece of white poster board and placed it near natural sunlight…worked like a charm. All our jewelry photography was shot that way and then I just overexposed the photos to get a bright white background finish. Once you grow and have a little more money to spend, you can rent studios space and pay a photographer for your product photos.
From past experience working with small brands and talking with several people with small businesses, I would recommend starting your Instagram promotion by collaborating with Instagram influencers with 15k-30k followers. Many of these users will accept product as trade for promotion or do not charge too much.
There are so many website platforms to choose from these days, it is so overwhelming. In our search, we couldn’t find ONE platform that did everything we wanted. So we made some choices and compromised. See what is important to you and do your research! Before we realized how important choosing the right platform was, we built our ENTIRE site and put in countless hours of work only to find it wasn’t compatible with a very important payment option that we felt was 100% necessary. That was a deal breaker in our book, so we decided to switch everything to another platform, re-doing our whole site. It was such a headache! If we would have done the research and looked at all the options, we wouldn’t have wasted so many hours.
Like many women, my journey to a clean lifestyle began in my quest to get pregnant five years ago. When my naturopath told me that environmental toxins were lurking everywhere, I dug a little deeper, and I was horrified at what I found in my seemingly innocuous medicine cabinet. I learned that there are scores of hormone-disrupting, cancer-causing ingredients in most of the personal care and beauty products we use every day. Because I was willing to do anything to increase my chances of having a baby, and a healthy one, I became determined to find safer alternatives that met my unapologetic-product-snob standards. Incidentally, my blog, Bare Beauty, was born that year, and my daughter, Annabel, was born the following year. I am certainly not saying that if you don’t switch out every single thing in your bathroom, medicine cabinet, and makeup bag this instant, you will drop dead tomorrow, but there are a few really important products to swap out if you’re looking to achieve optimum health. I promise that it is less painful than you imagine (except for deodorant, that one is a stinker, sometimes literally).
Lotion: As most of us know by now, our skin is our largest organ. Anything we put on is going to soak in and enter the bloodstream in just minutes. Of all the personal care products to consider when making the switch to clean and green, body lotion is the most important. Conventional body lotions contain ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, glycerin, synthetic fragrances, parabens, dimethicone (a relative of silicone) and propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is one of the main ingredients in anti-freeze. When looking for a body lotion, look for aloe, shea butter, coconut, olive, or jojoba oil. It should be first or second on the list of ingredients.
Acure Organics makes my favorite clean body lotion, hands down. It sinks right into skin and moisturizes for a full 24 hours, and it’s less than $10. Zoe Organics makes the best thick, moisturizing cream around, and it is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. It’s great for both mama and baby. Also, both of these brands are now conveniently sold at Target.
Shampoo: I know you don’t want to trade in your Kerastase and Pureology, but your scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of your body, so any toxic ingredient in your current shampoo is going straight into your bloodstream and major organs. The surfactants (foaming cleansing agents) used in conventional shampoos are usually sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. These ingredients can cause rashes, but worse, when they are ethoxylated, (a process that “softens” the chemical) 1,4-dioxane is produced, and it won’t be on the label, because it is a byproduct. You may say, but my shampoo is sulfate-free! Unfortunately, it probably isn’t free of parabens, synthetic fragrance, phthalates, DMDM hydantoin, lauramide DEA, cocamide DEA and MEA. Buckle up: phthalates (which are in virtually all synthetic fragrances) and parabens mess with thyroid, estrogen, and pretty much all hormone levels. DMDM hydantoin releases small amounts of formaldehyde when it comes into contact with your skin. Lauramide DEA and Cocamide DEA and MEA react with other chemicals in your shampoo to create carcinogens. It’s a total bummer, isn’t it? Luckily, there are some amazing options out there for both mama and baby.
Rahua (pronounced Rah-Wah) is makes the most luxurious nontoxic haircare products. I use their shampoo and conditioner when I need a guaranteed good hair day. Many natural shampoos leave a bit to be desired in the lathering department, but not this one; your hair will feel super-clean, but not stripped. Acure Organics Yummy Baby 4-in-1 makes a great foaming shampoo, body wash, bubble bath and hand wash for kiddos. My daughter loves it for the fun bubbles, and I love that it doesn’t contain even one sketchy ingredient.
Toothpaste: We have been taught that brushing our teeth is essential to good personal hygiene, so we do it twice a day without even thinking about it. Something else we’ve forgotten to think about is just what is in our toothpaste: sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, and synthetic colors, flavors and fragrances. SLS is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. Moreover, it is a harsh surfactant – it wreaks havoc on your mucus membranes. Ever feel like the inside of your mouth is peeling after you brush? SLS is to blame. Triclosan was once used only in ER’s and OR’s, and for good reason; it kills almost every germ in its path. Now this germ-killer is used in everything, even lipstick, deodorant, and toothpaste. Experts have determined that triclosan is a hormone-disruptor and that the overuse of it can lead to super-bugs. Another hotly debated ingredient in conventional toothpaste is fluoride. The Environmental Working Group published a very helpful article that sums it up here. Basically, Fluoride is necessary to prevent tooth decay, but there is such thing as too much, especially for pregnant women and children. And, do we really need synthetic fragrances, flavors and colors in our toothpaste when mother nature does it best with real peppermint and spearmint?
I love Davids’s Natural Toothpaste. It fights plaque, whitens and freshens breath, and it’s completely nontoxic and sustainable. Trust me, you’ll never look back. Jack N’ Jill Kids makes brushing fun with their yummy organic flavors, and they make adorable biodegradable toothbrushes, too.
Sunscreen: Just like when you are shopping for a body lotion, you should avoid sunscreens that contain parabens, phthalates (both endocrine disruptors), petrolatum (a nonrenewable resource) and propylene glycol (generally toxic to human organs). Most importantly, with all the clean, nontoxic, affordable options out there, there is absolutely no reason to use a sunscreen with Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is probably the most popular chemical blocker (it absorbs the sun’s rays before they can damage the skin) currently used in conventional sunscreen. It penetrates the skin very easily, and it can be found in the urine of nearly every American, mothers’ breast milk and umbilical cord blood. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor; it mimics estrogen, has been found to alter sperm count in animals and can interfere with normal fetal and childhood development. Similar chemical blockers that carry similar hazards are Octinoxate, Homosalate, Avobenzone and Octocrylene. That said, look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These are “physical blockers”; they literally block the sun’s rays from damaging the skin and are not only very safe, but they’re also soothing (zinc oxide is in most diaper rash cream).
Suntegrity makes my favorite natural sunscreens. It contains a whopping 20% non-nano zinc oxide, which not only protects from both UVA and UBV rays, but also soothes skin. The finish is sheer and the formula is very moisturizing, but not greasy, and it has a light, natural citrus scent. Erbaviva Baby Sunscreen contains soothing ingredients like calendula, aloe and chamomile in addition to natural zinc oxide for protection that is water-resistant up to 8- minutes.
Deodorant: Conventional deodorant contains antiperspirant. We have all appreciated this feature over the years, but have we ever wondered what it is that prevents us from sweating (a necessary bodily function for cooling and detoxification)? Antiperspirant is made of aluminum salts. On the label these are listed as aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum hydroxybromide, and aluminum zirconium. Aluminum salts seal sweat glands and kill stinky bacteria. If they weren’t so dangerous, they would be a godsend. Aluminum is a heavy metal; we don’t want this stuff floating around in our system. Aluminum is also a known neurotoxin. There is even an ongoing debate on some scientists’ findings that aluminum is linked to the rise in breast cancer. (A few studies have found it in human breast tissue.) Conventional deodorants with antiperspirant also contain synthetic fragrance (read: phthalates), parabens, and triclosan (all known endocrine disruptors). Many contain dimethicone, talc, and propylene glycol. Swapping out your antiperspirant stick for natural deodorant usually requires some trial and error, as everyone’s body chemistry is different. You will have to try a few alternatives before you find the one that is right for you, but once you do, you won’t look back.
I have tried dozens of clean deodorants, and these three are my favorite. Soapwalla Deodorant Cream works incredibly well – it keeps me totally stink-free for 24 hours. For those with more sensitive skin, Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Deodorant Cream is a dream come true (many baking soda-based natural deodorants cause a rash for 5% of the population, me included). If you just can’t quit the stick, Ursa Major Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant is amazing and smells great. While none of these are antiperspirants, they do absorb moisture and keep me smelling fresh. Bonus: these are all unisex options.
See, that wasn’t so hard… Going clean is easier than you think; just switch out your old standbys one at a time when you run out, and in a year, you’ll probably be 90% converted. And, I promise you won’t look like a crunchy hippie (unless that’s your thing). There are so many gorgeous, high-end natural beauty products out there now, that I don’t even miss my old Nars cosmetics. For more of my favorite alternatives, visit my Essentials page, or if you’re looking for a retailer who only carries Bare Beauty-Approved goods, I’ll show you Where to Shop.
As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was curl up next to my mama and read together. When we connected with Holly, speech-language pathologist and co-founder of The Story Box, we knew she was the perfect person to shine a light on how to get kids to love reading. As busy mamas we were excited about her monthly subscription service that delivers high-quality children’s books, leting us have extra time to snuggle up to our little one and read a good story. Read Holly’s go-to five-step approach below and let us know how it goes!
How do I help my child learn to love reading?
Well, that’s an excellent question and one that I am frequently asked! First, let me say that reading has endless benefits for your child, even very young children. In fact, I say it is never too early to start reading to your child. Research has consistently demonstrated multiple positive outcomes like improved communication skills, preparedness for school, and social-emotional health. Here’s how to help your child get reading early:
- Model it.
Children are great imitators, so modeling the desired behavior is a practical and effective strategy. Read often in front of your child. By doing this, you are showing your child that you enjoy reading enough to do it on a regular basis. Also, model the use of reading and writing to accomplish tasks. For example, show your child that you are reading a recipe to gain information about how to cook their favorite food, and show your child that you use writing to make a grocery list. These strategies will help your child understand that print is meaningful and useful, and she/he will soon begin to imitate you!
- Read together every day.
From a young age, children begin to learn from their daily routines and even anticipate activities that occur regularly. Take advantage of this and build reading into your child’s everyday routine. Find a cozy place to read, make sure books are easily accessible, and select a consistent time of the day. Reading with your child can become as regular and as automatic as brushing their teeth!
- Have a good variety of books in your child’s reach.
To maintain your child’s interest in reading, you will need to supply a good variety of books. Offer books that are simple and short, books that are longer with more complex stories, books with detailed illustrations, books with simple illustrations, books that rhyme, and books that don’t rhyme. (To learn more about some of the qualities I look for in books, visit www.jointhestorybox.com/whatsinside.) Messy mom tip: try board books if you are concerned about your child destroying the books.
- Balance leading and following while reading.
Find a balance between Being the Leader and Following the Leader when reading with your child. When Being the Leader, you may go through the book page by page, in the correct order, and read most of the actual text. When leading, you are modeling book routine, exposing your child to story structure, and modeling lots of great language. When Following the Leader, allow your child to lead the interaction and decide what will be discussed. You may allow him to choose the book he wants to read and even allow him to look at the pages in the order that he prefers. Allow him to initiate the interaction. Wait for him to point to a picture that he is interested in, and you can respond by saying something about the picture. A more verbal child may say something about a picture, and you can model good language by repeating what was said and adding a little something extra to it. Both Leading and Following can help your child develop communication and early literacy skills.
- Use children’s books to inspire your child’s play and art.
Use your child’s favorite books to inspire your play activities and crafts. This is a popular and effective strategy that has been used by teachers and speech-language pathologists for decades. Using books to inspire play and art gives your child even more opportunities to have fun with books. It also allows you to discuss the story elements and use the vocabulary from the story multiple times. This redundancy increases the likelihood that your child will retain the information and vocabulary he learned from the book.
Those are my top 5 tips for helping your child fall in love with reading! To start getting new, high-quality books for your child each month and more tips like the ones above, join The Story Box today. We love helping parents and little ones enjoy reading together!