Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far? Was art always your calling?
I grew up in a creative environment, but I never thought art would be my calling. To be honest, I haven’t taken an art class since I was in middle school. I can’t exactly put my finger on where my technique comes from, I can only say that it’s fueled by what I feel I need to teach my own children.
When I have an important message, the design just kind of creates itself. It wasn’t until I became a mother that my art in its current form appeared. Before that, I owned a coffee shop in Mexico, which is where my entrepreneurial spirit and interest in global education came out. And that’s where I met my husband and started my family.
Could you ever see yourself having a ‘normal’ 9-5 job? Why/why not?
No, not anymore. I went from college graduate to business owner to stay at home mom to business owner once again. There were times that the challenges of being absolutely responsible would feel overwhelming, but in the end, the experience I’ve had raising my children and working from home outweigh the doubts and fears. It’s kind of what propelled me forward.
My husband is an entrepreneur too, and we’re both able to see our boys off to school and here when they come home. At this point in our lives, being available for our kids is what it’s all about.
When did you start focusing on making art for children, and why?
I started when my second child was born. My husband is Italian, I’m American, and we were living in Mexico, and I felt there was a real need for multi-cultural/multi-lingual art for children. So I started creating alphabet and number posters and selling them on Etsy. That’s where by hobby turned into a business.
Other parents expressed their need to help foster global and environmental education to their children, so my art kind of became a way to express that. Parents today really understand the importance of teaching their children compassion for the earth and all who inhabit it. Teaching through art is a great way to start.
How did you get involved in making art for philanthropic purposes?
I actually started with the giving before I began the art. When I lived in Mexico, we used my coffee shop as a place for local artists to sell their art. We lived in an area that didn’t offer anything like that at the time. When we saw that giving artisans exposure worked, we started hosting fundraisers.
That’s when it really clicked for me- I realized that using art to help the greater good was an easy, natural fit.
Do you believe that a person needs to have a certain set of characteristics – or a certain way of looking at the world – to become a successful creative entrepreneur?
I don’t think there’s a specific skill set to be an entrepreneur, but adaptability is certainly something that I’ve seen makes the difference. It’s important to be light and agile when starting up.
I’ve seen lots of people have great ideas, but start out investing too much money. I know this sounds crazy, but starting CID in a rough economy actually helped me. I had to do everything on my own with no financial help. It taught me the ins and outs of every part of my business. Those lessons are what helped me make it. Now, I’m grateful every time I get to pass off my accounting or inventory or customer service to someone else. It lets me focus on what I’m good at.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
Time? I never have enough time. I’m constantly coming up with ideas, too many sometimes. That’s probably my biggest weakness. My challenge is sticking with one idea and following through to the finish before I start something else up. I’m currently running 2 online shops, Children Inspire Design and more recently, Fresh Words Market.
The second line just launched 6 months ago and I’m already planning my next project, a brick and mortar children’s art studio/indie boutique. A place that fosters creativity in children through art AND a place to support mom indie artists.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful indie business?
Plant little seeds – everyday. I’m not a very patient person and it took me a while to really understand the benefit of fostering all relationships and opportunities, no matter how small they seem. It’s the small blogs, the small retailers, the individual customers who can carry your brand the farthest.
I learned the hard way in the beginning; spent too much money on marketing that yielded no results and paid sales reps who didn’t perform. Individuals who appreciate indie businesses are very powerful advocates, especially mothers. Let their voices help you spread the word and soon enough you’ll see how powerful word of mouth can be.
And second (I know you said 1, but this is IMPORTANT), know exactly who you are – and who you aren’t. Know what you stand for. What you believe in. When you understand those things, you can communicate clearly. You’ll stand out or the crowd and make your mark.