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Before we found out about Urban Crusing, we were pulled into the world of Olya on her Instagram feed @livingnotes.  It’s easy to see why. Her bright, family filled photos of San Francisco life make you want to hit the museum on the weekends.  With 5 kids and a 6th one on the way, we needed to know how this mama built her brand and voice, stays true to who she is and raises her kids enriched with art and culture around them. Read on mamas.

Can you tell us more about your blog Urban Crusing and the inspiration to start it?

As a professional dancer, I saw first hand the impact that arts can have on children and family life, and Urban Crusing was born to connect arts to every-day life and enrich it. At Urban Crusing, we believe that connection through arts comes not only through museums, concerts and exhibits (although we constantly seek out new and promising artists of all genres and places where their works are showcased), but arts can be easily become a part of parenting life through simple things like interesting activities and even uniquely designed baby related items, like… chairs (for example Stokke’s Tripp Trap art from many awards had a well deserved place on the exhibit in MoMa – did you know that?), Bugaboo seeks out artists to collaborate on designs for the stroller fabric, making it be quite literally a usable art, and so on.  But a unique design is not the only thing we are looking for when searching for “new and interesting” baby products: high quality standards and a meaningful mission behind the company’s profile and other big factors too.  Among the over-saturated baby product market, we feel that it is important to highlight those that would make a difference not only in customer’s lives, but also have an impact on the surrounding world – we live in it after all.   Did you know, for example, that Joolz – a European stroller company, apart from designing and cool looking customizable strollers, will also plant a tree for every stroller purchased, and you can track that tree’s growth through their site. These are the companies that we feel everyone needs to know about.

We feel that it is important to highlight those that would make a difference not only in customer’s lives, but also have an impact on the surrounding world.

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Your blog is geared toward the modern family, how do you think the modern mama of today is different than even 10 years ago?

Modern parents are busier today then ever before, in my opinion. Smartphones and technology gave us ability to utilize every minute of our working days, but they added a much heavier load to those days as well. And unlike even 10 years ago, modern mama is always on the go and is always doing something: just look around at how many moms-entrepreneurs there are!

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Like me, you come from a Russian heritage; can you tell us how that impacts your work and work ethic?

I am Ukrainian by birth, but grew up during the USSR era 🙂 If anything, the give it 110% on the job is something that had been build into my genes, probably. I cannot do things “almost perfect”: it’s all in or none at all. I think the big love for arts is the direct influence from the culture as well – music, arts and life intervene so closely in that part of the world.

Why do you think your blog and Instagram following has reached the numbers it has? We recognize it’s hard to answer this humbly, but what do you feel really draws people to your life?

That IS a very difficult question. First of all, I never expected that IG would be what it is today when I opened my profile 4 years ago. But I love the community that grew on @livingnotes pages. It has become my little “creative outlet”, while being my personal little journal, that at one point became a connection to many like-minded women and even men. I found some wonderful friends through IG. I do sincerely consider every reader a friend, and try to answer everyone’s question when I see one. For the Urban Crusing, I hoped to share that which had a significant effect on our lives personally. With a goal to help, enrich , and make lives more interesting for those parents that are just starting the journey, and just like us 12 years ago, are not quite sure of “what-where-hows”. I am thrilled that many found it helpful – that’s what we are here for.

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We’d love to hear from you how you work with brands and any tips or advice for other bloggers to maintain their authenticity and voice.

It is easy to lose your authenticity when working with brands – everyone wants to be noted and many have their own demands. I firmly believe that defining your vision and sticking to it is the most important criteria. The next one is the conscious ability to say “no” to offers. It’s not easy sometimes – especially when compensation is involved, but I promise that there is no money in the world that is worth of one’s integrity and reputation. We decline probably 99% of the offers that come in, no matter the “bate”, if they don’t fit in the criteria we set. Not easy, especially at the start, but worth it.

It is easy to lose your authenticity when working with brands…We decline probably 99% of the offers that come in, no matter the “bate”, if they don’t fit in the criteria we set. Not easy, especially at the start, but worth it.

We cannot believe you have 5 children!! While managing your blog and brand, and being a creative director. We know the word balance is a bit overused but seriously, how do you find the time?

I am not alone – my husband and I are a team, and that is what we found to be best in our situation. For us it also means notorious scheduling to the minute – 5 minutes can make a huge difference – and ability to see beyond the crazy busy-ness that often comes in clusters when everything is due and you need to be at 5 places at the same time. Somedays ( like yesterday ) that means that we don’t really even truly SEE each other as a price for being able to accomplish all the work and give the attention and love that every child needs : he gets up before sunrise to get a good headstand on his work day, and then we hand “the crew” over with their own set of schedules a few times between each other throughout the day, and one of us will take over for the night so that the other is able to complete the agenda necessary. and then we both hit the pillows exhausted somewhere around midnight and spend a few minutes talking about nothing else but what makes us happy. It is also important to have the ability to see beyond today and this moment (probably something that we learned from being parents of several children): your difficult moments WILL pass, and there will always be light at the end of any tunnel. An extremely busy workweek will end in a fantastic weekend if you really give 100% on the job. Looking ahead towards the horizon is the best “balance” we found that works for us.

…Then we both hit the pillows exhausted somewhere around midnight and spend a few minutes talking about nothing else but what makes us happy.

Who’s your inspiration right now? People, books, what’s been getting your creativity flowing?

Everything and anything, depending on what we do at the moment. But cliche as it may sound, children and parenthood are probably the biggest inspirations for me up to date. I refused to succumb to the stereotype of a “mother with rollers in her head, cooking porridge by the stove, with martyr-like expression and kids hanging all over her” (Katya would probably know that cultural stereotype only too well). In my mind , a modern mother can have it all: children, beauty, success and interesting life. And that is what gives me the drive to dig, find and create the tools to make that be a reality for every woman.

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In my mind , a modern mother can have it all: children, beauty, success and interesting life. And that is what gives me the drive to dig, find and create the tools to make that be a reality for every woman.

 

To learn more about Olya Hill, check her out on Instagram, her blog Urban Crusing and her heymama profile here.

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