How One Mom Dug Her Way into a New Business. Advice on Becoming an Urban Farmer.

Name: Jenny Quiner

Business: Dogpatch Urban Gardens

Location: Des Moines, IA

After six years as a high school science teacher, Jenny Quiner decided to take another path: urban farming. The mom of three boys turned a quarter acre lot in Des Moines into a farm where she grows vegetables and microgreens. She sells her crop via a FarmStand, CSA, and partnership with local businesses. And she's serious about seeing her business succeed! She pushes back against critics who question the profitability of urban farming: "I’m very purposeful with what I grow, I use my land to its full capacity, I keep good numbers, and our FarmStand is something new and unique to our area."


The Business Details

Image:  Made in DSM

Tell me about your mompreneur business. What do you do?

I own Dogpatch Urban Gardens (DUG).  DUG is an urban farm located in Des Moines, Iowa. I grow annual vegetable crops and microgreens using organic methods on roughly ¼ an acre of land. I sell my products through a modified CSA (called a Salad Subscription), at my FarmStand, at a local farmer’s market, to Des Moines restaurants, and through the Iowa Food Coop. Along with growing crops, I also run an on-site FarmStand which sells locally grown goods/products from myself and other small scale producers from around Iowa.

 

Is your business full-time or part-time? 

That really depends on where I’m at in the farming season. 

During the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) I like to devote 3 days/week to farming. Typically I have Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday set as my farm days because that is when my boys are either at school or daycare. Along with working in the field, I also sell at a farmers market on Tuesday evenings and run the FarmStand which is open on the weekends from 9-1. During the summer I need more time in the field, so I like to work there almost every day in the heart of the season. I still have my typical M/T/Th at the farm, but I also get out there on the off days at sunrise and sneak in a few hours of work before my boys wake up. Winters are my “off season” so I’m not working in the field, but I still have lots of farm tasks to complete (data crunching, taxes, crop planning, etc) but the time demands slow down.

My first season was a whirlwind and I felt like I was being pulled multiple directions in both my work and home life. This season, I’m really focusing on incorporating systems that make my work more efficient. I have better methods for collecting farm data, my planting plan for the season is already created, I’m hiring employees, and I’m using new tools that will make farm tasks easier.

 

Are you a solo mompreneur or do you employ a team? Tell me about the business structure.

I run most of the business on my own. My husband, Eric, plays an integral role when it comes to helping build infrastructure for the farm, but he doesn’t help with any of the crops. This season I will have some employees helping to run the FarmStand and also some part-time employees helping me out in the field. I also have volunteers that periodically help out with various farm tasks.

 

What was the impetus for opening DUG? Tell me about the on ramp process for you? How long did it take for you to feel like you were finally “up and running?”

I’m in my second growing season. I’m a very driven person, and I’m focused on making this business as successful as possible. It’s not uncommon for people to hear what I’m doing and be skeptical about how I can make any money. One thing I’ve noticed (which I don’t love) is people like to ask me, “is your business profitable?” It tends to rub me the wrong way, because that is not a common thing you ask other professionals (how many times as you asked your banker or teacher friend how profitable they are?) and I don’t understand why they feel like it’s okay to ask me that. I recognize, and realize, people don’t understand how growing vegetables on such as small amount of land can make money, but trust me, there are ways to do it. I’m very purposeful with what I grow, I use my land to its full capacity, I keep good numbers, and our FarmStand is something new and unique to our area.

 

What in your background prepared you for running Dogpatch Urban Gardens? 

I was a high school science teacher for six years before switching careers and taking on the farm. My specific content area was biology, but I also taught environmental science. I do not have a background/educational focus on farming, but my background in health and science does compliment growing food.

When I decided to start this farm adventure I devoted lots of time to education and learning all I can. I took an online course from an urban farmer in Canada named Curtis Stone. I joined a great farming group here in Iowa called Practical Farmers of Iowa. This group allowed me to network and connect with many local farmers (which has been incredibly impactful). I attended conferences, I toured farms, and got to know other people in the farming community. I joined agricultural groups and really focused on diving into the community.
 

What’s the vision for your business? Where have you been and how does your vision guide where you’re going? 

Our farm slogan is, “Cultivating Community.”  My vision is to educate our community on sustainable agriculture while enhancing our community and bringing people together. I also want to make a positive impact on our environment. I do this by growing with organic methods, limiting my use of fossil fuels (I do not use a tractor), and educating citizens on the importance of eating local food.

Jenny's  Dogpatch Urban Gardens  website

Jenny's Dogpatch Urban Gardens website

 

How do you approach financial management now that you’re an entrepreneur? Do you use specific tools or resources? Do you hire help at tax time? 

I will admit that last season I was not the best with the financial aspects of running the farm. I got overwhelmed with the production side of the farm that I let the numbers/financial management slip. Luckily, my husband is very business-oriented and helped to take the reigns on the finances last season. He met with a CPA and set up our Quickbooks account to help with our number tracking. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely very helpful to have him help out with the finances.

This past winter, I really dove into the financials and spent quite a bit of time discovering Quickbooks. I now use it for invoicing, tracking Cost of Goods Sold, reconciling my bank account, and more. Every Sunday I take some time to enter my financials into Quickbooks so that it never gets away from me.  
 

I also use the Square app to track my sales. Anytime I sell product (whether at the FarmStand, farmers market, to restaurants, to a food coop, etc.) I always enter that data into the Square app. I enjoy the app and it allows me to look back and see what products were money makers. It helped me to plan my crop data for this season. For example, this season I will be growing less radish and more carrots based on the financials.


We use a CPA for our taxes. My husband has multiple businesses (he sells real estate, flips houses, and runs a music festival), so he has multiple LLCs. Our taxes can be sort of complex, so we find it worth its weight in gold to let a professional do the work for us!

 

So, how’s your business doing? Are you happy with it’s progress? 

Last year was my first growing season, and I will fully admit, I had a lot to learn. That said, I’m very happy with how the season went. I am so happy with how the community has supported and accepted us. Starting a farm within a neighborhood is not common here in Des Moines so I had some hesitations about how people would receive this business. I have been overwhelmed with the support and happiness this farm brought to our community. Periodically, people will see me working in the field and just stop by to tell me how much they love this farm and how impressed they are. That fills my heart with joy! I have regular customers who shop at the FarmStand and our customer base is expanding. Our CSA subscriptions sold out within two weeks and the buzz for this farm is growing. 

I am happy with our progress, but of course, I want to continue to see this business grow financially.


The Mom Details

Taking a quick break from the farm to enjoy lunch with the birthday boy! • • • • • #oliverharle #happybirthday #dogpatchurbangardens

A post shared by Dogpatch Urban Gardens (@dogpatch_urban_gardens) on

Tell me about your mom life. 

I became a mom when I was 28 years old. I’m a proud mama of three boys, Oliver (6), Walter (4), and Lewis (2).  My boys keep my life busy, messy, and full of joy!

 

How does being a mom impact your business vision?

Being a mom has a profound impact on my vision. I want my kids to appreciate the earth and respect where there food comes from. I love the fact they get to grow up with a better understanding of where their food comes from.  

 

How has your work habits changed after you had kids? 

My kids are all in the young, and in a mommy dependent age, so I have found I need to make my work habits as efficient as possible. When I get time to work I don’t have any time to waste. I make lists throughout the day/week as a way to keep me focused and on task.

 

Tell me about your childcare arrangements? How do you balance work and mom life? Who helps you out? 

We are blessed to have an amazing woman that has been in our lives, watching our boys, for almost five years. Stacie is our in-home daycare provider and she is more than someone who watches my boys: she is a friend and loving caregiver for our family. She takes care of the kids during the week while I’m working and will also periodically babysit them when Eric and I need a night out.We also have all grandparents in town which is amazing!  Plus, I use my connections as a former high school teacher to line up babysitters in the evenings.


Bringing it all Together

What are some financial lessons learned that you’d offer up to other mompreneurs?

Keep good data!  It doesn’t matter what system you use, but you need to make sure you are tracking your expenses and income in a meaningful way. In order to be a successful business person you must make money, and tracking your financial data can/will help you make important business decisions.


Also, don’t be afraid to get help. Hiring a professional may seem expensive, but their input can be totally worth it.

 

If you could go back and talk to yourself the month before you became pregnant with your first child, what would you tell yourself about how “things” would turn out? 

I would just let myself know that life is about to get as crazy as you can imagine. Realize your personal time will be limited, so cherish it when you can. When you’re with your kids, working your job, and spending time with your husband make a point to be present in that moment and enjoy where you are in your life.

 

When people ask you, “how do you do it all?” what do you say? 

I’m lucky to have a great support network here. Both sets of grandparents live within ten minutes of us and they are very present in our kids lives. Having them around is so great and they truly help to lessen the load of our hectic lives. My husband sells real estate so his schedule can be crazy as he needs to be as accommodating to his clients as he can.  Just knowing we have a great support system helps to relieve the stress my husband and I both have as business people.

 

How do you recharge and keep your personal energy up when you’re running a business and raising a little one?

It is tough to find time to recharge. I have to make a conscious effort to get alone time. I really enjoy yoga and have found that to be the best boost for me both mentally and physically.

 

What advice would you give to fellow mompreneurs or moms who are thinking about jumping into entrepreneurial territory? 

I’m by no means great at this yet, but one thing that stands out to me is to find a way to devote time specifically to your business and then find ways to devote time specifically to your family. If you are trying to work while watching/entertaining kids it just doesn’t seem to go well. Find ways to be present with your kids and not be worried about the business.  

One thing I want to be better at is waking up early and getting computer things done before my kids wake up. I find that when I try to work when my kids are around I end up getting frustrated and mad at them when really they haven’t done anything wrong. I’m working to be more present with my kids and not allow my work to get in-between family time.


Takeaways

Jennt RECOMMENDS

  • The Market Gardener by Jean Martin Fortier  
  • Seeing your iPhone as a top business tool: "I post business photos on Instagram and take crop pictures to make note of their growth/progression during a specific time of the season."
  • The Square app to track sales

Constructing a Life She Loves and Helping Others Do the Same

Steffani LeFevour of My Happi LIfe

Steffani LeFevour of My Happi LIfe

Name: Steffani LeFevour

Business: My Happi Life

Location: Oak Park, IL

Steffani is an open soul. She talks candidly on her website and Facebook page about her formerly unhealthy lifestyle and the work she put into constructing a life she now loves. Through her website and social media platforms, Steffani offers counsel on living a happier life and she works primarily as a happiness coach. 

My Happi Life (Steffani's second business!) started in 2012 after the birth of her first son. Her business is in a prime place these days and she's ready to take it to greater heights in the years to come. 


The Business Details

Let’s just jump right in: tell me about your mompreneur story. You run My Happi Life, right? 

I started My Happi Life five years ago when I finally quit my full-time job and decided to pursue my passion. I had heard the call for many years before that. This is my second business. Ten years ago I started an event business called Positive Focus Productions to produce inspiring events in Chicago with transformational leaders from around the world that would positively and powerfully enhance peoples lives. I did that for six years (while working my full-time "real" job), then decided I was ready to really do what I love. I now help busy moms shift their mindset so they can find more lasting happiness. I do one-on-one coaching, group coaching, programs, courses and retreats.  

 

You run your business full-time or part-time? 

It’s both! I work when I want, where I want, and only do what I love.  

 

Are you a solo mompreneur or do you employ a team? Tell me about the business structure.

I was for a long time, but now I have a great team. I have a virtual assistant (with the right VA anything is possible!) and a project manager. I also use a Facebook ads team and a personal assistant. I’ve gotten really great at outsourcing!

 

What was the impetus for starting your photography business? Tell me about the on-ramp process for you? How long did it take for you to feel like you were finally “up and running?” How long now have you been running this business?

It took a year to get the website built and actually launch. It took about three years for me to feel like it was successful.  


What in your background prepared you for this business?

I was a theater major in college and I think that really helped me present myself well. And it helps me with videos, public speaking, and coaching in general. I also have plenty of fun certifications and am a trained facilitator in a few coaching modalities.  

 

What’s the vision for your business? Where have you been and how does your vision guide where you’re going? 

My vision is to create Happi Mom Squads all over the world. And to have a #1 podcast for happi moms with a really engaged community. And host luxury retreats around the world.  

 

So, how’s your business doing? Are you happy with it’s success/progress/state? 

Yes and ready for it to exponentially expand.  


What’s one detail you’d like to change about your business?

I'd like my platform or community list to be larger. 


How do you approach financial management as an entrepreneur? Do you use specific tools or resources? Do you hire help at tax time? 

Hired help. (Back to that great outsourcer thing.)

 

We’ve all seen the memes: real life vs. Pinterest life. What’s one “Pinterest idea” or false impression others have about your work/life/business experience?

That we shower every day.


The Mom Details

Tell me about your mom life.

I became a mom at 38 when I had my son Jack and I had my daughter Zoe at 40. I never imagined being a mom because I thought it would be too hard. I was right. And I love it more than I ever imagined possible.  


How does being a mom impact your business vision?

It impacts everything about my business because my coaching totally transformed and now my main focus is on coaching moms. I always wanted to coach, and now it’s all about how we can be the best moms we can be.  

 

How has your work habits changed after you had kids, as your kids grow, or both? 

I’m forever fine-tuning it to make it more ideal for me and them.


Tell me about your childcare arrangements? How do you balance work and mom life? Who helps you out? 

My mom picks them up from school one day a week. And we have lots of on-hand date night sitters. Otherwise, I work when my kids are at school and in bed.  

 


Brining it All Together

Headshots Dk Blue Side 001 copy.jpg


If you could go back and talk to yourself the month before you became pregnant with your twins, what would you tell yourself about how “things” would turn out? 

I’d say everything will be ok. Just be you. You’ve got this.

 

When people ask you, “how do you do it all?” what do you say? 

With a lot of help.


What are some financial lessons learned that you’d offer up to other mompreneurs?

Don’t invest in a lot of programs. Invest in the right coach and team.

 

How do you recharge and keep your personal energy up when you’re running a business and raising little ones?

I have an awesome morning routine that fuels me. I take time for myself. I eat clean healthy food, I exercise daily, and I focus on my happiness.  


What do you know now as a mompreneur that you wish you’d known "way back when"?

I wish I knew the right people to help me expand my business sooner.  

 

What advice would you give to fellow mompreneurs or moms who are thinking about jumping into entrepreneurial territory? 

Focus on what you love and do that 90% of the time. Find people to do the rest for you.


Takeaways

Steffani Recommends

Follow/Contact Steffani 

Double the Fun: a Husband and Wife Team Running a Business and Raising Twins

Christy Tyler with her husband, James, and sons

Christy Tyler with her husband, James, and sons

Name: Christy Tyler

Business: Christy Tyler Photography

Location: Chicago, IL

Christy is a mompreneur that gets what it takes to run a small, mom-led business. Christy Tyler Photography has been her full-time venture since 2011. Year after year she thrives through the rise and fall of new business, photography, and wedding trends. And she runs the business with her best friend and husband, James. Their business style is known for being personal and intimate. And their photographs have a natural and slightly dreamy feel. 

In 2016, Christy and James welcomed twin sons, Micah and Gabe, to their family. She openly wrote about her and James' infertility struggles and, since the birth of her sons, she writes extensively about her motherhood journey on her blog


The Business Details

Let’s just jump right in: tell me about your mompreneur business. You run Christy Tyler Photography. What does that look like for you? 

Running the business looks like a lot of behind the scenes work! A lot of emailing current and prospective clients, culling sessions, editing, prepping packages to be mailed… Plus, the not as exciting stuff like tracking mileage, categorizing spending, and monthly budgets. That's all on top of shooting beautiful weddings and sessions with awesome couples, of course! 

 

You run your business full-time, correct? 

Yes. Our business is our sole family income and has been our full-time job officially since September of 2011. 

 

I know you work with your husband, do you also employ others? Tell me about working with your husband (that’s unique!) and your business structure.

We don’t employ anyone else currently (unless you count our nannies who watch the boys when we shoot weddings!).

Working with James is a constant balancing act of being business partners, spouses, and parents. It feels as if there here is never a quiet moment to just sit and relax anymore and we are doing our best to figure out how that plays out in our personal lives and business. In general, I do a majority of the business behind-the-scenes stuff, while James handles (and has for years now) a majority of our life stuff, such as grocery shopping, laundry, and other errands. Plus, he culls our weddings. James also now watches our boys for the middle part of our days so I can work from the start of morning nap until the afternoon nap (with a few breaks for time with the boys in there). And then we shoot weddings together! 

 

What was the impetus for starting your photography business? Tell me about the on-ramp process for you? How long did it take for you to feel like you were finally “up and running?” How long now have you been running this business?

After finishing photography school in 2007, I shot my first wedding on my own in 2008. I wasn’t intending to be a wedding photographer, but it fell into my lap and the next two years I booked 10 more weddings from referrals from that first wedding, without advertising or trying to grow that part of my business at the time. (At this same time I was working as a paralegal at a law firm to pay the bills.)

In 2010, I realized I loved shooting weddings so much that I wanted to make it my full-time career and spent that year focusing on making big steps to grow the business. Also in 2010, James came on board with me as a second shooter. The following year, I quit my day job and took our business full time! So I’ve been shooting weddings for almost nine years and we’ve been full-time as a husband and wife team for six years this coming fall. 


What in your background prepared you for this business?

I have a degree in Inter Arts & Technology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and a commercial photography degree from Harrington College of Design. However, I feel like those experiences taught me how to be an artist and a photographer, but not how to run a business. Thankfully, we did have some business courses at Harrington. Plus, I have always been good at math and love spreadsheets. So I applied those skills to getting the business going with systems and a workflow. 

 

What’s the vision for your business? Where have you been and how does your vision guide where you’re going? 

Gosh, our vision for our business has always been for it to serve our clients well. We want to make them feel really good about themselves and truly enjoy the process of working with us as we preserve their memories. We want to run a business that helps us build a life—not one that is our life. We want to serve others well, as well as love each other and our family well. Hopefully, we can inspire others to do the same. 

 

So, how’s your business doing? Are you happy with it’s success/progress/state? 

Honestly, I’m sitting in a point of fear at the moment (which James will tell you I do annually, haha) - so it probably isn’t anything worth noting. But I am always worried about bookings no matter what. I am always (mostly) convinced this is going to crumble underneath us and I’m especially worried lately about how relatable we are to our current and prospective clients now that we have kids. I’d like to book more weddings for this year still, (it’s oddly quiet year for no obvious reason. And I’m trying to trust we’ll keep booking and it’ll be okay!), but am also happy it allows us more time with our boys at the same time. As long as we can make it work, we are okay. 


What’s one detail you’d like to change about your business?

I wish I knew more where it was going. Obviously I can’t see the future, but I feel in this really odd/scary state of flux and I’m not sure what to do with it! 


How do you approach financial management as an entrepreneur? Do you use specific tools or resources? Do you hire help at tax time? 

I use Mint.com to track all of our expenses and go in and categorize them at the end of each month so at the end of the year I can just export the categories and send them to our accountant. Each month I have a “monthly money maintenance day” where I do all of that: lay out our budget for the month and see where we are at for spending/income for the year. This allows me to figure out how much we need to book to get through the end of the year and create goals for how to do so. 

 

Where do you work from most of the time?

We have a home office. 

 

We’ve all seen the memes: real life vs. Pinterest life. What’s one “Pinterest idea” or false impression others have about your work/life/business experience?

Maybe that it is easy? Or that I have it all together? In reality I constantly worry about the strength of our business and whether it will be able to continue to provide for our family. I don’t talk about it probably as much as I should because I don’t want it to deter client. Though, I’m realizing that is really silly! 


The Mom Details

Christy Tyler with her sons

Christy Tyler with her sons

You had your sons after being in business for awhile. How did you prepare your business for that huge life change? (Especially since your husband is your business partner.)

I wrote a big blog post about this actually! Basically, we worked our butts off for those early years to save money and get to a place where we felt secure enough to start a family. We bought a house and got a little more “settled.” We also got our pricing to the point where we could still pay our bills but not have to be working 24/7 like we did in the past, because we knew we’d need more of a balance and time for our family life now. We also built strong relationships with clients, who cheered us on along in this big transition, which I think is important! 


How does being a mom impact your business vision?

I think being a mom has made me realize my priorities and helped me to find a better balance. Before, our business was my baby! It was all I seemed to focus on and spend time on. Admittedly, that drove James crazy and he often felt like I needed to scale back and remember we were husband and wife first. Being a mom has kind of forced me to do that and has also really been good for us I think. Being a mom also has forced me to work smarter, not harder/longer, and has given me new inspiration in our work and documenting the beautiful relationships we photograph! 

 

How has your work habits changed after you had kids, as your kids grow, or both? 

Our day-to-day lives have been in constant flux since the boys were born. We worked when we could and honestly didn’t have any time together on a regular basis until we hit off-season. We started to have an actual schedule when they were around 6 months, but we were in such a busy season with work that it just meant I worked once they went to bed (around 6:30pm) until I was literally falling asleep at the computer around midnight or 1 a.m. Now that the boys eat solid food and James is able to jump in more (it was hard to pass on duties when a lot of it was just me breastfeeding them early on), I can work more during the day when he watches them. That means we can actually get an hour or two for just the two of us at night if we don’t have to work late. 


Tell me about your childcare arrangements? How do you balance work and mom life? Who helps you out? 

We have a nanny for wedding days and certain projects/shoots. Otherwise, James and I tag team with the boys depending on who needs to do what each day. 

 


Brining it All Together

Chrity's husband, James, and their sons

Chrity's husband, James, and their sons


If you could go back and talk to yourself the month before you became pregnant with your twins, what would you tell yourself about how “things” would turn out? 

Everything will be okay, one way or another. You may never sleep, but you will more than manage! ;) 

We went into this with no expectations, which I think was best. I didn’t think it’d be perfect or that it would be easy. Our goal was to take it one day at a time and I think that was good. 

 

When people ask you, “how do you do it all?” what do you say? 

James [my husband]! I don’t do it all! There are two of us! People say that all the time, but our lives look very different than someone who runs the business by themselves and stays home with the kids by themselves. Thankfully there are two of us so we divide and conquer! 


What are some financial lessons learned that you’d offer up to other mompreneurs?

Knowledge is power and knowing where you stand each month is vital to projecting income and, if necessary, figuring out how to book additional work and what to focus on. 

 

How do you recharge and keep your personal energy up when you’re running a business and raising little ones?

I work out in our basement! Getting at least a couple quick work outs in during naps helps me so much to have more energy and stay focused! 


What do you know now as a mompreneur that you wish you’d known "way back when"?

I wish I had realized how much I could get done in so little time before! I would have had much more time to work on other things or time to myself if I had realized how productive I could be in a short amount of time when it was my only option.

 

What advice would you give to fellow mompreneurs or moms who are thinking about jumping into entrepreneurial territory? 

Have a team! Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and show yourself grace. It is a learning process every day. You need to be open to adjustments and change because babies love to throw you curveballs.


Takeaways

Christy RECOMMENDS

FOLLOW/CONTACT Christy

Thriving in a Direct Sales Empire (and What to Look for in Direct Sales Opportunities)

Brooke Banks Richardson with her children

Brooke Banks Richardson with her children

Name: Brooke Banks Richardson

Business: Nerium direct sales, Regional Marketing Director at Nerium

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Brooke Banks Richardson is a brand partner with Nerium International, a skincare and wellness direct sales company. This opportunity meant she started her own Nerium business and leveraged her network to create sales and a sales team. 

Direct sales representatives flood Facebook (and other social channels) every day, but it seems that they fade as quickly as they pop up. Brooke, though, has thrived as a brand partner with Nerium and has keen insight on identifying opportunities that are right for you and your family. 

Brooke started her Nerium business in 2014 when she had an infant and was pregnant with her second child. After a scare on the road during her 100 mile daily commute she took a year-long leave from her teaching job, but her family quickly felt the financial strain of that decision. She began looking for job opportunities that would not require her to find childcare (something she could work into the margins of her life). In August 2014 she became a Nerium Brand Partner after attending a party with her sister. 

Of her rise with Nerium, Brooke says, "Within my first two days, I made enough money to buy formula for the entire month. In three weeks, I paid off my starter kit. A couple months later, the mom of two babies (who literally thought we would be clipping coupons until our fingers were bleeding) became a Lexus Earner with Nerium. It was one of the most incredible feelings of accomplishment in my life."

Brooke never returned to teaching and today she is a Regional Marketing Director with Nerium International. 


The Business Details

Hi there! You’re a consultant for Nerium, is that correct? What does that entail? 

Nerium International product line

Nerium International product line

Yes. I am what we call a Nerium Brand Partner. I love this company and this business because we are all about sharing and making people better. I simply hand product to someone, ask them to try it for five to seven days, give me their feedback, and follow up! 

 

Is your entrepreneurial role full-time or part-time? 

What is wonderful about working with Nerium is that I can work full time around my family’s life. This is the perfect job for me because I set my own hours. I work it into the gaps of life. I schedule time to be an entrepreneur and I schedule time to be a mom. I do consider myself a full-time mom however, because let's face it, it’s a 24/7 job. 

 

Are you a solo mompreneur or do you employ a team? Tell me about the business structure.

I have an incredible team of men and women who come from all sorts of backgrounds, around the country and internationally. This business model is great because it’s not all about who you know, but it’s who your friends know. The relationships I have created here are pretty special. 

 

What in your background prepared you for this business? 

I worked in banking and managed a business and then I went into teaching. To be honest, though, I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing when I started with Nerium. I realized I was very coachable. 

Brooke with her husband, Josh, on a Nerium retreat in Mexico (October 2017)

Brooke with her husband, Josh, on a Nerium retreat in Mexico (October 2017)

What’s the vision for your business? Where have you been and how does your vision guide where you’re going? 

I got started to simply make a couple hundred dollars a month to help our family get by. Now it has become so much more.

I have a passion to help other potential brand partners see what Nerium International can provide to them. This model helps entrepreneurial people not only financially, but it also gives them confidence in themselves. The model guides people and gives them the same servant leadership I was given. 

 

Where do you work from most of the time?

The beauty about my business is, I can work from anywhere! As long as I have my phone or computer to share information with, I can do Nerium. Starbucks is my second home. I enjoy leaving my house and working where I can enjoy some fresh coffee.   

 

So, how’s your business doing? Are you happy with it’s success/progress/state? 

Business is great! This year we entered into the health and wellness space, and I was traveling to grow an international team in 2017. I couldn’t ask for a more exciting time! I am so excited for what Nerium has in store next year.

 

We’ve all seen the memes: real life vs. Pinterest life. What’s one “Pinterest idea” or false impression others have about your work/life/business experience?

I have had people tell me, “I can’t travel like you travel.” They see the glamorous Nerium trips I post on Facebook. This is just a small part of what I do within my business. I love traveling! I have teammates all over the country (along with a supportive husband who is willing to play Mr. Mom for a few days) and it allows me the freedom to travel and explore new places.

My full-time job, though, is being a mom and a wife. I don’t think people see what's really happening: there are a lot of diaper changes and stepping on toys in my house.


The Mom Details

Tell me about your mom life.

Brooke's son and daughter are 15 months apart

Brooke's son and daughter are 15 months apart

I was blessed with a son in January 2013 and six months later, found out I was pregnant with our second child. My daughter was born in April 2014. My life felt like it was spiraling out of control with babies! But, I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world. My kids are my everything. They are best friends and I love watching them love each other (in between all the fighting). 

 

How does being a mom impacted your business vision?

We all want what is best for our children. I love and care about my teammates in a very motherly way. I want them to be successful. I want to help them stand back up when they fall. I care about their future here and as a mom we always want what's best for our kids, I feel the same way about my teammates. 

 

How have your work habits changed as your kids grow? 

When the kids were babies, they took naps! I was a tired mom so I would nap with them. At the time, my business only required 20-30 minutes of my day. Now they’re older, refuse naps, and I have to schedule quiet work time. The work time, though, is much more productive now and I get to have fun with them when I’m not working. 

 

When people ask you, “how do you do it all?” what do you say? 

I don’t! I schedule my time and I have balance. 

 

Tell me about your childcare arrangements? How do you balance work and mom life? Who helps you out? 

I feel blessed that I am able to send the kids to preschool. It is wonderful! They love it and I love the break and time to focus on my business. I also have a childhood friend who allows me to drop the kids off when I need to.  Her son and my son are best friends! 


Bringing it All Together

Brooke Banks Richardson and family

Brooke Banks Richardson and family

If you could go back and talk to yourself the month before you became pregnant with your first child, what would you tell yourself about how “things” would turn out? 

I would say to myself, “Put your phone down, live in the moment, love hard, stay consistent, focus on what is important, and dream bigger dreams!

 

What are some financial lessons learned that you’d offer up to other mompreneurs?

Just like any other entrepreneur your business will have its ups and downs. It’s not all about how much money you make. It’s about enjoying the journey. Being consistent, persistent, having faith in what you are doing, and helping others along the way is much more valuable than any paycheck you will receive. 

 

How do you recharge and keep your personal energy up when you’re running a business and raising little ones?

I find that prayer, personal development and pampering allows me to have a clear mind. It makes me a better, happier mom. If I want to give my kids the best version of me, I have to create the best version of me.

 

What do you know now as a mompreneur that you wish you’d known "way back when"?

Life is hard. Success is hard. Choose your hard. 

 

Brooke (right) on a recent Europe trip with Nerium

Brooke (right) on a recent Europe trip with Nerium

What advice would you give to fellow mompreneurs thinking about direct sales opportunities? 

Don’t jump into something because it’s the newest fad. [In direct sales opportunities] know what the products are. Who the target market is. What type of people do they attract? What are the companies values and do they align with your own? Do your research. Learn the compensation plan and compare it with others. If a company requires you to spend more than your water bill each month, stay away! You are doing this business to make money. Not break even or lose money.


Takeaways

Brooke RECOMMENDS

FOLLOW/CONTACT Brooke

 

Joining Forces: How Two Mompreneurs Built a Business

The Statement Communications team, Image:  Little Bitty Productions

The Statement Communications team, Image: Little Bitty Productions

Names: Lis Martin and Jen Depakakibo

Business: Statement Communications

Location: Oak Park, IL

Lis Martin and Jen Depakakibo are co-founders of Statement Communications in Oak Park, IL. The pair founded the communications firm after years of agency work, believing they could provide a more "nimble and collaborative" relationship for clients. 

After freelancing for several years following the births of their children, Lis and Jen joined forces to create Statement. By combining their talents, they believe they are able to offer a greater range of services to clients.


The Business Details

Tell me about Statement Communications. What do you do? 

Lis (Owner of Statement + Content Strategist): I’m a writer by trade, so I manage the content side of our creative execution. That includes producing content myself and directing our contractors’ work. I also work with Jen on overall marketing strategy and planning for our clients, ensuring the content and graphics mesh well, client services and new business development. As owner, I run the day-to-day operations of the business, which includes contractor management, legal and accounting (although my husband is the main point person for this!). 

Jen (Co-founder of Statement + Creative Director): I help our clients shape their branding in visually compelling ways, work on new business development, overall management of the business along with Lis. 

 

Do you employ a team? Tell me about the business structure.

From a day-to-day perspective, Jen and Lis are equal partners—we make decisions together about client management, new business development, pricing and the overall direction of the company. We also have a profit-sharing structure that we participate in equally. Lis’ husband runs our finances, including invoicing and vendor payments. We also have a team of contractors (writing, design, animation, etc.) that we pull in on a freelance basis for additional help.  

 

What in your background(s) prepared you for this business? 

Lis: Writing has been in my blood my whole life, but our work at Statement requires skills beyond what I ever imagined (negotiating, analytics, HR management, etc.) Education-wise, I have a journalism degree and worked as a reporter for several years before transitioning into marketing. That experience helped me learn many of the skills I still use today, from interviewing to using proof points to make your messaging compelling. Working at an agency for several years helped me learn the basics of that environment, including client and project management, collaboration with designers and other creative staff, and drafting proposals. It was a leap of faith to create our own agency and I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I constantly learn through experience on the job and use those lessons to make the business better.   

Jen: I created the proper building blocks over time. From the start of my career in the design field, working at agencies and in-house environments, I consider myself grateful to have worn many hats…not only was I doing creative execution, I was project managing, meeting with clients, helping draft and estimate proposals. This has helped tremendously in bringing the right skills in order to thrive as a solopreneur and now in an agency partnership. 

 

What’s the vision for your business? Where have you been and how does your vision guide where you’re going? 

Day 1 at the new office space! 🙌🏼🙏🏼💃🏽💃🏽

A post shared by Jen & Lis (@statementcommunications) on

Our goal for Statement is to offer our clients creative marketing services that rival what they’d receive at a big agency, but with a hands-on, consultative approach. We both bring years of expertise working with brands of all sizes, but we take the time to truly understand our clients’ businesses and counsel them through how marketing can help them reach their goals. It’s not unusual to spend an hour on the phone with a prospect reviewing their website and batting around ideas for improvement, or to deliver more logos and taglines than we scoped out in a proposal because we had an additional vision for where the brand could go. We want to continue to grow our client base, service offerings and team, but that growth is constrained by our ability to find people who can maintain our level of quality. We’re maniacal about that and not willing to compromise for the sake of growth. 

 

So, how’s your business doing? 

Business continues to grow more quickly than we had imagined. We had always assumed that developing new business would be the biggest challenge, but that’s not the case. The biggest challenge has been putting a structure in place to support that growth, including establishing a team of contractors who can handle some of the junior-to-mid-level creative work. It’s a work in progress, but we’re both thrilled and proud of the success we’ve had so far.  

 

What’s one detail you’d like to change about your business? 

Getting a solid structure in place that can help ease the multiple duties we handle. Right now, we both jump in to do whatever’s needed, which is not always the most efficient. 

 

We’ve all seen the memes: real life vs. Pinterest life. What’s one “Pinterest idea” or false impression others have about your work/life/business experience?

Lis: Sometimes I think people hear, “Oh, two moms who started a marketing business. How cute.” As if you couldn’t possibly working as as hard or be as successful as someone who’s climbing the corporate ladder. Since forming the business, I’ve worked harder than I ever have before, and had greater success, too.

 

What are some financial lessons learned that you’d offer up to other mompreneurs?

Know your value, stand up for it. People that are worth your time will see it.


The Mom Details

Tell me about your mom life. 

Lis: My daughters are 5 and 3.5 (they’re 18 months apart). Having two so close in age was really tough at first, but now they are best friends and playmates. 

Jen: I have two young boys, ages 5 and 3. They make sure that I never have a boring day! 

 

Did you have children when you started Statement?

Lis: I was full-time at an agency before I had my older daughter. After Lucy was born, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to that lifestyle, and ultimately chose to stay home with her and take on a minimal amount of freelance. My workload grew gradually as Lucy got older and I had my second daughter. One of those freelance opportunities evolved into the beginning of Statement. 

Jen: After 14 years in-house at various agencies, I branched off on my own in 2012, after the birth of my first son. I continued to work remotely for the agency I was at, while at the same time, picking up several more steady clients. Not long after my second son was born in 2015, the partnership with Lis and Statement happened. 

 

How does being a mom impact your vision for Statement?

Lis: Balance is hard; I think that’s true for any working mom and even more so for mom business owners. Compartmentalization helps. When I’m working, I try to block out everything else. When I’m with my kids, I put the phone down and get on my hands and knees to play dolls or do a puzzle together. Even if it’s just for half an hour, having my complete focus goes a long way for them. I also try to take the long view and remember that I’m working toward a bigger goal of building a successful business that will sustain my family and others. I want to show my daughters that moms can accomplish anything. This is tough sometimes, but my husband is a great support. He often tells me, “The kids won’t remember that you didn’t give them a bath, but when they’re older, they’ll see that you were able to build something really special.”

Jen: Finding balance is an ongoing challenge. I think accepting a bit of compromise on both sides is the only way the career/family relationship can work. I’ve learned to brush aside the guilt if the TV babysits my kids because I need to attend to a deadline off hours. Along the same lines, I try to completely shut down work when the necessary tasks are complete, so I can focus my full attention on the kids and family life.

 

How has your work habits changed after you had kids, as your kids grow, or both? 

Lis: Efficiency is key now that my kids are in the picture. Every time of the day has a purpose, whether that’s finishing a case study or reading “Fancy Nancy.” During the week, I generally work from the time the sitter arrives at 8 a.m. until dinner at 6 p.m.  Dinner time until kids’ bedtime is family-focused, and then I catch up on work or household stuff after 8 p.m. The workweeks are exhausting, so I try to minimize work on the weekends whenever possible. My family has started forced relaxation by going away for short weekend trips once every couple of months—no household chores or social commitments staring you in the face. Having that time to recharge as a family helps to rejuvenate me for the week ahead. 

Jen: I actually thank my kids for boosting my efficiency with work. Because my time is compartmentalized into sections throughout the day, I really try to set time solely for work and time solely for kids and family.


When people ask you, “how do you do it all?” what do you say? 

Lis: I’m not sure anyone really “does it all.” There’s a lot I don’t do—I don’t clean my house. I don’t throw Pinterest-worthy birthday parties for my kids. I don’t exercise that much these days. I think what’s important is determining what absolutely has to be done by you, and either outsourcing the other stuff or letting it fall by the wayside. For me, those essentials are spending quality time with my family and running a successful business (with time with friends and self-care squeezed in where I can). 

Jen: You can do it all if you just change what your definition of balance is. Sometimes the scale is tipped heavier in one direction vs. another, but overall it all balances out.   

 

Tell me about your childcare arrangements? How do you balance work and mom life? Who helps you out? 

Lis: My daughters are with a full-time nanny. My husband is a trader and works early hours, so he often handles getting dinner on the table.  We both pitch in to do whatever we can, whether it’s watching the kids while the other works, emptying the dishwasher, etc. Somehow it all gets done (sometimes miraculously!). 

Jen: My 5 year old is in school full-time. My 3 year old is in a morning school program, then spends a portion of the day with nannies. Without this help, I could never do what I love to do. Also, my husband helps out a lot. He is very supportive of my passions, building the business and is always there to help out in whatever way he can.


Bringing it All Together

The Statement Communications team, Image:  Little Bitty Productions

The Statement Communications team, Image: Little Bitty Productions

If you could go back and talk to yourself the month before you became pregnant with your first child, what would you tell yourself about how “things” would turn out? 

Lis: I would say to stay open to the possibilities. When my daughter was born, I decided I didn’t want to go back to work full-time. Freelancing was a nice way to stay involved, and my workload grew organically. I never had a concrete plan for when or if I would go back full-time, and I certainly didn’t expect to be running a business five years later. All the decisions I’ve made about balancing work and family have been based on what felt right at the time (and taking the occasional leap of faith). 

Jen:I would say that you think you might want one thing, but realize you don’t when you’re in it. When I was pregnant, I told myself and everyone around me I wanted to take a work break after the birth and spend a few years with my son raising him as a stay at home mom. Many influences around me said, “If you can afford to stay at home and survive off one income, why wouldn’t you take that time to enjoy your kids?” “They grow so fast, you need to savor these early years!” After he was born, I suffered from pretty bad postpartum baby blues and I think a good part of that stemmed from me missing the creative buzz I get from working and staying current in the ever evolving design world. So jumping back into work came much more quickly than I originally anticipated and that was a good thing for my overall well-being.

 

What do you know now as a mompreneur that you wish you’d known way back when?

Lis: That everyone is learning as they go along. Becoming a mom and becoming a business owner both require a leap of faith. You don’t have to have it all figured out beforehand; you’re going to make mistakes. That’s OK, you still have value to offer. Just go for it. 

Jen: Talking with other like-minded, similar work/life balance women really helps keep you grounded and motivated. Maintain those relationships and make time to connect with people—chat over coffee, go out for dinner or drinks.

 

How do you recharge and keep your personal energy up when you’re running a business and raising little ones?

Lis: My family tries to protect weekends as family time whenever possible, and to get away for the weekend when we can so we don’t spend the whole weekend in household drudgery. I fit in self-care whenever I can, whether it’s a run at the Y or a dinner out with girlfriends. Those things don’t happen as often as they used to, but recognizing that they’re important, too, and giving yourself permission to take those breaks is important.  

Jen: I try to savor the small things. A break for a latte, re-centering with a 5 minute meditation, exercise and spending time with good friends. My husband and I love to travel…for us, it’s a form of re-charging (although with kids we’ve come to find that’s not always the case, haha) but we prioritize it to make sure we squeeze in those little getaways and always at least one big trip a year … somewhere we’ve never been to before. 

 

What advice would you give to fellow mompreneurs or moms who are thinking about jumping into entrepreneurial territory? 

Lis: I believe in you, and so do other mompreneurs. There is no group out there more excited and motivated to support their community than mompreneurs. Also, being a mom is a great training ground for running a business—you learn time management, negotiation skills, etc. 

Jen: Do it! The world needs more mompreneurs. Help others by connecting others. 


Takeaways

Lis + Jen Recommend:

Follow/Contact Statement Communications:

 

How One Mompreneur Started Her Own Therapy Practice

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Name: Lindsay Gayle

Business: City Circle Counseling

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Lindsay Gayle chartered her professional course conscious of the family she was building. During her three year journey to conceive her first child, Lindsay recognized her agency-based therapy position would not allow her to both work and provide primary care to her future children. This realization set her on slow and steady transition to her opening a private practice. 

Today, Lindsay is the owner and primary therapist at City Circle Counseling, based in Indianapolis. She provides therapy to children ages three through 12 and incorporates a lot of play in her sessions. 


The Business Details

Let’s just jump right in: You’re a counselor, right? What does that entail?

Currently, I have my own independent practice.  I specialize with kids ages 3 to 12. I see kids in my practice for all kinds of reasons, ranging from anxiety to behavior concerns to trauma-related incidents. I use a lot of play therapy, sometimes very directive and sometimes not.  It just depends on the child and the concern. I am still adjusting to having my own practice and learning a lot about managing my own business, including billing insurance.

 

Is the counseling business full-time or part-time? 

I work very part-time right now. I only see up to 12 clients per week. Although I also handle the business side of billing, documentation, calls and emails in addition to my clients.

 

What was the impetus for opening your own practice? Tell me about the on ramp process for you? How long did it take for you to feel like you were finally “up and running?” How long now have you been running this practice?  

I transitioned slowly to private practice because my previous job at an agency was very overwhelming. That transition was about 10 months long. I knew for awhile that I couldn’t have done the agency job once I had my own children. I always knew I wanted to be my kids' primary caregiver and that wouldn’t have been an option at the agency. 

 

What in your background prepared you for running your own counseling practice? 

Honestly, the main things that helped me to be able to run my own practice are skills I have acquired (aside from my degree and licensure). I think my communication skills, organization, and resourcefulness have all helped immensely. I have used my communication skills to ensure clarity and understanding with clients/their parents, colleagues, and in written form with paperwork and online material. I have to stay at least somewhat organized so I do not get too behind or in over my head with the administrative side of my business. Lastly, I have had to be very resourceful to track down information to help run my business more smoothly, and to deal with insurance issues.

In addition, I think running your own business requires a lot of self awareness. For example, I try to take advantage of days I am feeling motivated so that I can feel less guilty on days I don’t.

I also met regularly with others who “doing it on their own.”  That exposure was a huge catalyst for me believing I could do it myself, too.

 

What’s the vision for your business? Where have you been and how does your vision guide where you’re going? 

As my time allows, I hope to see a few more clients weekly.  My long term goals are to get certified as a supervisor in both play therapy and Theraplay.  This would allow me to take on supervisees and possibly even do some teaching and professional workshops.  Additionally, I hope to offer more services available to parents, such as workshops or groups.  Eventually, I have thought about doing some teaching at the college level while continuing to see clients.

 

Tell me about a few tools/resources you use to manage your business and mom life? What have you found to be really helpful?

Lindsay's  Circle City Counseling  website

Lindsay's Circle City Counseling website

I have long had an agenda to write things down. I tried briefly to do an “app” for this, but for me there is something about the writing that helps me conceptualize and organize better.  I write down any scheduled items in my agenda and then have a to-do list paper clipped on the week. Since becoming a mom, I brake down the lists into personal, professional, and shopping needs. More recently, I have begun pulling from those lists on a daily to weekly basis and making another list for the immediate needs.  

For my business, I have an electronic record-keeping system I use. I also mark emails as unread until I have followed up.  It’s a hodge podge organization system, but it usually works for me.

 

How do you approach financial management now that you’re an entrepreneur? Do you use specific tools or resources? Do you hire help at tax time? 

I am absolutely still learning! I try to track and keep receipts of any business-related expense. I put it all into a spreadsheet. I pay myself weekly from my business account and try to do a set amount that works throughout the year (even with lulls in client scheduling at times). Last year, we hired an accountant and this year, I took over preparing all the information for the accountant. This helped me understand some of the ins and outs of taxes.

 

So, how’s your business doing? Are you happy with it’s success/progress/state? 

Overall, my business is doing very well!  My schedule is usually full and I often have to waitlist or refer clients out, so that is a good problem to have!  I am pushing myself to get more on top of the administrative/billing piece, and I am slowly working on this. I am very happy where business is at for the most part, though. I hope to expand on it eventually with some professional goals.

 

What’s one detail you’d like to change about your business? 

This is a tricky question for me.  One of the major perks of being self-employed is that I get to decide. So if I want to change something, I can! 

I do wish I could keep seeing kids long-term and not have to worry about my schedule. Right now, it works for me to see kiddos in the evenings and on Saturday mornings, but eventually that will not really work with my family life. Somehow I will have to figure something else out down the road.


The Mom Details

Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.
— Unknown

Tell me about your mom life. 

Obviously, I love kids which is why I do the job that I do!  Becoming a mom was a lifelong dream. It took my husband and me three years and several interventions to get pregnant with our son. I do feel like that journey inspired me to cherish mom life that much more.

I will admit that the first six months were pretty rough for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is such a huge adjustment becoming a mom! Intellectually, I knew it would be,  of course, but the reality is much more mind blowing. I am still figuring out who I am as a mom along with all my roles I was before.

 

You started your practice before having your son, is that right? How did you prepare your business for the changes that would come surrounding your son’s birth and early life?

I started my practice in February of 2016 and had my son July of 2016.  Of course, I had not planned it that way, but sometimes that is how things go!  I prepared clients beginning a couple months out that I would take six weeks of maternity leave.  More would have been nice, but when you are self-employed, there is no money when you are not working!  Plus, I could not have a long gap in services for the children I work with. I provided everyone with letters detailing my time away and while I would still try to be available by phone and email, I offered other therapists' contact info if they should need anything. I scheduled and contacted people closer to my return and kind of eased back in as clients started returning and new clients started coming in.

 

How does being a mom impact your business vision?

Lindsay with her husband and son

Lindsay with her husband and son

I always consider my schedule with regard to my vision to see how it can fit.  Once my son (and hopefully one more child) are in school full-time, I will want and need more work during the day. Being a mom has forced me to sit back and consider things more, and allow for things to evolve as well.  

 

How has your work habits changed after you had your son, as your son grows, or both? 

I really struggled early on to keep up with everything. I think the constant lack of sleep (plus, some health issues that were likely at least partly due to the lack of sleep) affected my ability to think clearly. Fortunately, my mother and mother-in-law were able to help watch my son so I could get some work done.  As he has grown, he got on a much better sleep schedule. That has helped immensely with me getting consistently better sleep and to get things done during his naps. 

 

Tell me about your childcare arrangements? How do you balance work and mom life? Who helps you out? 

We are very fortunate to have our moms come help regularly. They both live two hours away, so I do think they enjoy coming to see their grandson, but it is a huge blessing. We have one other person regularly watch our son a couple hours a week so I can begin seeing clients before my husband gets home. .

As far as balancing work and mom life, every day is different.  I try to make a point to get some work done during naps, try to keep the house clean for the most part, and try to spend quality time with my son.  It is always a juggle and some days are better than others!


Bringing it all Together

What are some financial lessons learned that you’d offer up to other mompreneurs?

I would tell other moms to know your worth and the value of your service.  Make sure you put things in writing and are clear with your pricing.

 

If you could go back and talk to yourself the month before you became pregnant with your son, what would you tell yourself about how “things” would turn out? 

I would reassure myself that everything will be okay and to trust in my faith and the journey.  I would remind myself to try to be present in the moment, but always take time to step back and look at the big picture.

 

What do you know now as a mompreneur that you wish you’d known "way back when"?

I wish I had known to be patient and give it time to work out. I stayed focused and knew what I wanted, worked towards it, but sometimes I wondered if it would ever happen. It takes time to really develop a business and that is a good thing, because then you figure out how to make it work.

 

When people ask you, “how do you do it all?” what do you say? 

I have actually not been asked that particular question!  I have had people ask me how things are going or make references to my work.  I am the only one of my friends who is both the primary caregiver to my child and also still working.  I think my friends have a hard time understanding this perspective honestly.  My husband opened up a brewery with a business partner last year (and is still working his full-time job), so most people reference how am I doing with that juggle in mind. I let people know that I really don’t see my husband much, but it won’t be that way forever.

 

How do you recharge and keep your personal energy up when you’re running a business and raising a little one?

I always make sure to set aside time for myself to shower and get ready. I know some moms don’t bother with this and I certainly don’t put on make up to hang around the house. However, I do feel better when I am showered with my hair blow dried. 

I have scheduled two days a week to go to the gym and hope to expand that soon. I also make a point to get seven to eight hours of sleep, when possible. This did not happen during my son's early months, but it usually does now. With running a business and raising a child, there is always something more I could be doing, but sometimes I need to take care of me to be as effective and efficient as I am capable of being.

 

What advice would you give to fellow mompreneurs or moms who are thinking about jumping into entrepreneurial territory? 

I would say to really consider what you want in regards to professional and personal goals.  This means everything from time away from kids, to what you are interested in doing, to what is realistic for your in your current situation.


Takeaways

Photo by  Dingzeyu Li  on  Unsplash

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

LINDSAY RECOMMENDS

FOLLOW/CONTACT LINDSAY

How to Grow a Family and a Business (And Keep Your Sanity)

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Name: Alyssa Hubner

Business: Candid Clicker Photography

Location: LaPorte, IN

Alyssa Hubner is owner and lead photographer of Candid Clicker Photography. She serves Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area. Alyssa was one of the first business owners to participate in our Stories of Mompreneurs project and she talked with us throughout 2016 and 2017.


The Business Details

Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls.  The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity.  And you’re keeping all of them in the air.  But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  The other four balls— family, health, friends, integrity— are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.  And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the  beginnings of balance in your life.
— James Patterson

Tell us about your mompreneur business: Candid Clicker Photography. We know you’re a photographer, but tell us more. 

As you said it, I'm a full-time photographer! I love all aspects of photography, but what I really love is photographing people and their emotions. In all that I photograph (engagements and proposals, weddings, newborns, families, pets, events, etc.) my main goal is to capture the candid moments, which is why I named my business Candid Clicker. I also get the posed moments, but I love capturing the moment just after the first kiss, a mom snuggling on her newborn between takes, grandparents playing with their grandkids, and more. That's what makes my job the best in my eyes. I get to capture these moments that you want to remember, and make it something that you can keep and pass down to future generations. I love having a job that I love to do!

 

Are you a solo mompreneur or do you employ a team (or do you hire out help on occasion)? Tell me about the business structure.

I'm pretty much solo. I do work with a second shooter for weddings, but I do all of the rest of the photography, editing, email correspondence, social media marketing, etc.

Editing is a huge part of my business. I have to cull through the images to decide which ones to keep and which ones go, and then I lighting, color correct, correct blemishes, whiten teeth, etc. on the keepers. This is a huge job, but at least I can do this at my computer at home while Grayson sleeps and plays with his toys!

 

What was the impetus for starting this business? Tell me about the on-ramp process for you? How long did it take for you to feel like you were finally “up and running” with Candid Clicker? How long now have you been running this Candid Clicker Photography?

Image: Candid Clicker Photography

Image: Candid Clicker Photography

I went to school and studied graphic design and visual communications. I had to take photography courses, but they weren't geared towards doing what I do. By the time that I graduated, I was burnt out on the graphic design road. I had shadowed and interviewed some professional graphic designers in Chicago. They started work in the early morning, got off late in the evening, and then still had “homework” to finish up their projects. I have always wanted a family and that didn't sound like the family lifestyle that I pictured.

I bought a camera towards the end of my college career so I could do some photography simply because I loved it. Soon after that, an acquaintance asked me to photograph her beach wedding. It was the ideal first wedding to shoot: laid back vibe, absolutely gorgeous bride, gorgeous day, perfect sunset lighting, and so much fun! I was sold! I was so nervous that I'd miss a moment that you could've created a flip book from all of the photos that I took, but I didn't miss anything and everything went great! I started looking into it, and decided I was going to start a photography business.

Having the graphic design background helped because I was able to make my logo and do my website and everything else that I needed to get started. I loved the idea of the business, and that I'd be able to be a SAHM with my little ones while doing what I loved! I made my logo, and got started asking around to friends and family members to start building a portfolio. First, shooting for dirt cheap, and then once I built up a small portfolio that I thought was pretty good, I raised my pricing. It took me at least a year until I raised my pricing the first time. I've raised my pricing and restructured many times, but I didn't really feel like I was where I wanted to be with my business until about two years ago. Now looking back at the images from when I first started, I'm glad I didn't charge a lot! I've improved and learned so much in the last six years!

 

What’s the vision for your business? Where have you been and how does your vision guide where you’re going? 

I love what I'm doing and I'd like to continue doing it! I'm working on a new website, improving my branding, and expanding my client list. I think doing all of this will improve what potential clients see and, hopefully, be more enticing to them than what I'm currently putting out there!

 

So, how’s your business doing? Are you happy with it’s success/progress/state? 

Business is good! I'm excited with what this year will bring, and excited to bring on new clients along the way. 

 

How do you approach financial management as an entrepreneur? Do you use specific tools or resources? Do you hire help at tax time? 

HoneyBook takes care of my books, which is awesome. I do all of my taxes, but will probably start working with an accountant some time soon to make sure I'm doing everything correctly and not missing out on stuff.

 

We’ve all seen the memes: real life vs. Pinterest life. What’s one “Pinterest idea” or false impression others have about your work/life/business experience?

Some people think all we (photographers) do is show up and take pictures. They don't realize the countless hours that we spend culling and editing. These are the people that can't fathom how it could possibly take six to eight weeks to finish up their wedding gallery. 

 

The Mom Details

Tell us about mom life.

I'm a 30 year-old mama. I actually gave birth to my son, Grayson, on my 29th birthday, so we share a birthday and I never really aged in my head. Forever 28 sounds good to me! Ha! 

 

How long were you in business for before you had your son? 

I had been running my business for five years, almost exactly, before I had Grayson.


How does being a mom impact your business vision?

I now feel more connected to other moms, especially those that are expecting for their first time! I also think I'll be able to network and meet more potential clients as Grayson gets older. I know as he gets older things will be harder for me as a work from home mom. I may have to look into daycare a few times a week, or maybe have my mom come over and entertain him here and there so I can get work done.

 

How have your work habits changed after you had your son, or how have they changed as he grows? 

I'm now not just working to take care of myself, I'm working to take care of him. This makes me even more conscious about growing my business and continually bringing in work and income. I recently got engaged, so I'll be saving up for a wedding, and I'm sure after the wedding we'll start thinking about baby number two! As far as my habits go I've been getting up earlier and trying to get through my emails before Grayson wakes up. I've also had to do a little more work in the evenings and on weekends.

 

When people ask you, “how do you do it all?” what do you say? 

I just say that I do what I have to do to run my business and take care of my baby. Family and friends are number one in my book, but keeping my business going is a close second. I never want to neglect either, and I do my best to keep both going smoothly.

 

Tell me about your childcare arrangements? How do you balance work and mom life? Who helps you out? 

My mom is a life saver! She lives only about 15-20 minutes away and comes over to help out whenever I need her. My future mother-in-law is such a help as well and also visits often to help—despite living over two hour away!

 

Bringing it All Together

Image: Candid Clicker Photography

Image: Candid Clicker Photography

Tell me about a few tools/resources you use to manage your business and mom life? What have you found to be really helpful?

Keeping a list is the only way that I can keep my life in order. I actually use Notes on my phone, linked with my iMac so I can see what I need to get done wherever I am. I use HoneyBook to take payments, sign contracts, and correspond with clients. I highly recommend HoneyBook to anyone running any kind of event-based business. It's amazing and pretty affordable!

 

If you could go back and talk to yourself the month before you became pregnant with your son, what would you tell yourself about how “things” would turn out? 

I'd tell myself that things may be crazy, but to enjoy every moment because it goes by so fast! Everyone told me that it goes by so quick while I was pregnant, but I ignored them and actually got pretty annoyed with them telling me that. Now, I totally get it. 

 

What advice would you give to fellow mompreneurs or moms who are thinking about jumping into entrepreneurial territory? 

Make sure you do your research, create a legitimate business, and charge what you need to so that you make a profit.  

And don't undercut other business owners! I see a lot of moms starting up businesses (which is great!) but they do these side gigs and undercut other moms along the way. I get that everyone has to start somewhere, but there's no way that you can make enough money to support a family doing photo shoots for $40 a pop. We all need to support each other and build each other’s business up.

 

How do you recharge and keep your personal energy up when you’re running a business and raising a little one?

I make sure I make time for family and friends. I try to have at least a few weekend dates that I don't book each month, so I can enjoy some me time. I also will go grab lunch with my mom, or ask a friend to join me while grocery shopping during the week just so I can have a little break and have some adult face time.

 

Takeaways 

Image: Candid Clicker Photography

Image: Candid Clicker Photography

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The Best Mirrorless Cameras for Your Small Business

Photo by  Jessica Furtney  on  Unsplash

Explore Mirrorless Camera Options That Will Serve Your Business Well

If you've read our pros + cons list for each camera type and decided to dip your toes in the mirrorless camera waters, then this is the place for you! I'm outlining my top picks for a mirrorless camera body and lens below.  I make every attempt to avoid too much technical jargon, but if you have technical questions, ask away in the comments below!

Before we begin, note about mirrorless pricing: in general, mirrorless cameras cost more than DSLRs because the technology is newer. Engineers/designers fit in a lot of power to a much smaller space. Lower priced mirrorless cameras tend to have fewer physical features like a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) and fewer dials and knobs, such as an ISO dial. Budget cameras also have less high grade build materials and don't typically offer weather sealing. In addition to have a greater range of physical features, higher end mirrorless cameras often have deeper capabilities (such as maximum ISO and frames per second). Although still lighter than DSLRs, high end mirrorless cameras tend to be bigger and heavier than less pricey options (because they had to pack all those features in somewhere). Keep your portability preferences in mind as you buy.

Finally, the big names in mirrorless cameras roll out new models or new versions of a model every 6 to 18 months. Often, the additions in the new model will be imperceptible to most shooters. I recommend consider older models if you're looking to save money.

Without further ado, our mirrorless camera recommendations for your small business ...

My Top Pick

My go-to camera and top recommendation is the Sony a6000. This camera has an APS-C sensor and a shoots up to 11 fps (it's fast!). It's also super lightweight. The body is just over half a pound. Plus, it has a built-in EVF, a pop-up flash, and a hot shoe. It only has 1080p video, though. If you're looking to do more with video for your business I recommend the newer models: the Sony a6300 or the Sony a6500, both of which offer 4k video. 

I've used the Sony a6000 extensively for almost three years. It takes fantastic product images and portraits. I've also used it for personal vacations. It's incredibly versatile.  My go-to lens for this camera is the Sony 35mm f/1.8. With the a6000 crop sensor, it offers a field of view around 52mm. It's a fantastic all-around focal length and not too heavy on the front of the camera. It also has a hardy metallic build quality to it. 

The Smaller Choice

If minimizing size is a top priority, check out the Nikon 1 J5. This mirrorless lineup gets a bad rap because it has a 1" sensor (which means it is smaller than many other mirrorless cameras), but I loved my Nikon and I still consider it the most enjoyable camera I've ever owned. I'd call it zippy. It's lighter than any other mirrorless cameras, it's crazy fast, and it has Nikon's solid technology and image quality. I took thousands of images with my Nikon 1, and I was thrilled with the camera's output. Plus, the camera has a touch screen and menu setup that makes life easy. 

The camera with the kit lens is just under $500 and is a solid set-up. I recommend adding the Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8 lens. This lens is sharp and offers you a field of view around 46mm which is versatile for most small business photography. 

The Pro Option

If you need (or just really want) the go-to full frame professionals are trading in their DSLRs for, then check out the Sony Alpha a7II (or the Sony a7S II if you need 4k video). I owned the predecessor to these babies (the Sony a7) and I can confirm that it's as good as the hype. It has everything you get from high flying DSLRs, but in a far smaller package. The sensors used in Sony mirrorless cameras are the industry standard (and used hush hush by many other companies) because they're spectacular. Purchasing a full frame Sony mirrorless puts you at the the forefront of camera technology. 

My absolute favorite full frame lens for the Sony Sony Alpha a7II camera is the Sony 55mm f/1.8.  The colors are rich, the focus is sharp, and the bokeh will blow you away. I also truly enjoy the Sony 28mm f/2.0. It has a more moderate price tag and is a great walk around lens. 


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The Best DSLR Cameras for Your Small Business

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Find the right DSLR body and lens to jumpstart your visual story

If you've read our pros + cons list for each camera type and decided a DSLR is right for you, then let's jump in and check out your best options. We'll outline below a recommended camera body and lens for each price point. As a reminder, DSLRs offer you many brand options, many price points, and room to upgrade or add to your gear.

Before I lay out options, let's talk about budget versus high end gear. Budget gear does not automatically equal lower image quality. Most often, gear is priced lower because it has fewer physical features (exposed dials and knobs), slightly lower capabilities (maximum ISO or shutter speed), and a less hardy build quality (plastic parts vs. metal parts). A fully booked wedding photographer needs extra dials, extra capabilities, and extremely durable parts throughout the camera in order to accommodate every shooting scenario he/she will face. If you're shooting product photography for your Etsy shop, though, you don't need the spend the extra cash. 

One final note: I make every attempt to avoid too much technical jargon, but if you have technical questions, ask away in the comments below!

The Budget Option

Budget DSLRs are a fantastic option for most photographers—particularly if you're just beginning to explore photography for your business. Entry-level or budget DSLRs will have APS-C sensors or crop sensors. You can google "sensor size" to get visuals, but the basic point is that these cameras have a bit lower light capabilities than full frame DSLRs. This makes a difference if you're doing outdoor night photography or are photographing inside dimly lit homes or venues. Otherwise, you won't notice a huge impact. 

Nikon and Canon are the powerhouse companies in the DSLR space. We recommend selecting a camera within one of those two lines. Once you commit to a brand, lenses and bodies are mostly interchangeable within that brand. You can upgrade to a higher end body, for example, and still use your existing lenses. Here's how you choose between Canon and Nikon: which one feels right in your hands? I highly recommend testing out both. 

Our personal budget DSLR preference is the Nikon D3400. This camera has a max ISO of 25,600 (which is really high), it weighs under a pound a less than its predecessor, and you get the benefits of Nikon's speed. We've always loved the way Nikon images look. Another great budget option is the Canon Rebel T6i, with capabilities very similar to the Nikon. 

Both the Nikon D3400 and the Canon Rebel T6i include the kit lens. This is a basic lens that will cover a midrange of focal lengths. They're okay lenses, but they're not great. If you buy a camera second hand, I recommend buying the body only (without any kit lens) and then looking for one the "Nifty 50" in your brand. The Nifty 50 is so name because it is an excellent focal length for a variety of photograph from landscape to portraits. You can also purchase them at a reasonable price and they are much faster and let in more light the the kit lens. 

Check out the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 reviews and sample images to get a better sense for them. 

The Mid-Range Option

After your budget cameras, the prices of DSLRs jump fast. There are plenty of cameras with slightly more features than your budget camera in the $700-1000 price range. We recommend skipping these. If your entry-level DSLR isn't doing the job, it's time to think about a full frame camera to get the extra light capabilities. 

We owned and loved the Nikon D610 and recommend it whole-heartedly. This camera isn't too big (for a DSLR) and it just feels right in your hands. It has easy-to-access and customize dials and buttons, but it's not an overwhelming amount. And the images are buttery. If you don't know what that means, you will. Google "Nikon D610 images" and see for yourself. 

As far as mid-range lenses go, we recommend the Nikon 28mm f/1.8. This will give you a much wider field of view than your Nifty 50 and it will allow you to shoot in tighter spaces. 

The Luxury Option

If you're ready to go all-in and purchase a high end DSLR, look no further than the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. The 5D Mark line is the line pros lust after and live with day in and day out. It's a beautiful beast. (Note: the Mark IV predecessors like the Mark II and Mark III are also very very good.) An entire generation of high end professional photographers carry this camera in their work bags and wouldn't trust anything else. It's truly something spectacular. 

An out of this world body needs an out of this world lens and we recommend the Canon 85mm f/1.2 to knock the world's socks off. This will give you bokehlicious portraits all day long. Seriously, you'll want to swim in these portraits. 


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How to Find the Right Camera for Your Blog or Business

Photo by  Caryle Barton  on  Unsplash

Photo by Caryle Barton on Unsplash

Explore the pros + cons for each camera type

As you get your marketing legs underneath you, you're inevitably thinking about how you can best take photos for your blog or business. Blogs and businesses take photos for a variety of reasons: product photography, styled shoots, lifestyle images, etc. Before you dive into which camera to buy, you need to figure out which type of camera to buy. Here, we dive into the pros + cons of each category.

DSLR Cameras

If you're thinking about stepping up your photography game, you'll likely consider a DSLR first. DSLRs are those bigger, professional-looking cameras you likely saw your wedding or family photographer carrying around his/her neck. DSLRs became standard in the photography community in the early 2000s as digital photography grew and film photography declined. Following are reasons for and against a DSLR camera for your blogging needs.

Pros:

  • Lots of brands to choose from
  • Affordable camera options within each brand
  • Tons of well-priced lenses to choose from
  • Second-hand cameras are easily available
  • Huge knowledge base of tutorials to help you learn your camera
  • Fantastic image quality (IQ) (even in entry-level cameras!)

Cons:

  • Heavy and bulky compared to other options
  • More conspicuous; less opportunity for discreet photography
  • Often (but, not always) louder shutter sound
  • Too many features/options for some individuals
  • Other than high end options bodies and lenses, DSLRs depreciate in value quickly

The bottom line: DSLRs offer you many options, many price points, and room to grow. But if you're going to be taking this camera around town or on trips with you, consider lighter options. 

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are sort of the new kid on the block. First popping up around 2008, they didn't seem to gain steam until 2011. These days, mirrorless cameras are all the rage as more and more professional photographers trade in their bulky DSLRs for something a little sexier. Here are some reasons a mirrorless camera may or may not be right for your business photography:

Pros:

  • Lighter than DSLRs with similar features and capabilities
  • You can find very small body/lens combinations that pack a big punch
  • Cutting edge technology
  • Camera companies are investing more heavily in mirrorless lineups
  • Mirrorless camera currently retain their value longer than other types of cameras

Cons:

  • Mirrorless bodies/lenses are more expensive than comparable DSLR options
  • Fewer mirrorless bodies to choose from
  • Fewer lenses to choose from within each brand
  • Local camera repair shops cannot repair most mirrorless issues (you must mail your camera in to a brand-approved location for repairs)

The bottom line: mirrorless camera lineups have fewer options and cost more than DSLRs, but they're rapidly growing in popularity and they have excellent resale value. If having a small form factor or the latest technology is up your alley, this is the category to consider.

 

Point & Shoot Cameras

When most people think of point & shoot cameras they think of the camera their parents use (and often with not very good results). And that's fair—the vast majority point & shoot consumers are individuals looking to document personal or family events. It's a mistake, though, to think that's all there is to the point & shoot market. In the era of smartphone cameras, camera companies want to give consumers a reason to buy their products. Many companies invested heavily in packing serious photography capabilities into a small camera body. 

Pros: 

  • The best combination of small form and photography capability
  • Easy to travel with; great for discreet photography 
  • You can store point & shoots in your purse or briefcase so you always have it with you 
  • The image quality (IQ) of many point & shoot cameras is far superior to that of your smartphone camera

Cons:

  • Fixed lenses; you can't change the lens to accommodate different creative or environmental needs
  • Feature-packed point & shoot cameras are pricey
  • Very few point & shoots have a view finder
  • The IQ of many point & shoot cameras (except for the most high end cameras) is less than the IQ of mirrorless cameras or DSLRs

The bottom line: If you don't need a camera with interchangeable lenses, and the ability to travel with your camera is a top priority, there are some great options to consider in the point & shoot category. 

Smartphone Cameras

When I start talking with small businesses about improving their photography, my first question is: do you have a relatively new smartphone? For many individuals, this is all you need to get started. A tiny percentage of photo quality has to do with the camera and a large percentage has to do with the photographer. If you follow a few basic rules, learn how to find and shoot in good light, and do some light editing, you'll find you can build a base of fantastic brand-worth photos with your smartphone camera.

Pros:

  • Low cost solution; you may want to invest in smartphone lenses or small studio lighting, but you don't have to shell out tons of cash 
  • You can shoot, edit, and upload everything from your smartphone and/or tablet which saves you time and the cost of computer software
  • Smartphone cameras have fantastic IQ these days; many allow shooting options like as creating panoramas or bokeh 

Cons:

  • If you need to to print large copies of your photos (larger than an 8x10) you'll want a camera with higher resolution
  • Smartphone cameras do not shoot RAW photo files so you have a smaller editing range
  • Not great in low light situations (such as concerts, dimly lit restaurants, etc.)

 

The bottom line: I always recommend learning some photography basics with your smartphone and then upgrading once you've clearly identified your technical and creative needs. Many small businesses find they never need more than their smartphone to create stellar visuals for their brand. 


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How to Connect Your Squarespace Site to Your Social Media Accounts

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Pull all of your marketing efforts together

Squarespace allows you to quickly and easily connect your website to your social media accounts. At the time of this writing, there are more than three dozen social media sites/apps built in to Squarespace. Displaying icon-based links to your social media pages is standard practice these days and it helps your customers learn more about you in the way they prefer. Some customers prefer the visual introduction of Instagram, while others like to explore the news layout of Twitter. If you're running social media pages/accounts, be sure to add them to your Squarespace website. 

A few notes up front:

  • You should only promote social media accounts where you are actively posting content and engaging with the community. 
  • Don't add social media pages just because other websites have them. It's better to have one social media account that you leverage really well than five that are all on autopilot and lag in content quality. 
  • Be aware that the more you draw attention to your social media pages the more likely you are to divert your audience away from your website and onto your social sites (this could be good or bad depending on your goals). 

To connect your Squarespace site to your social media accounts go to Settings > Website > Connected Accounts. Here, you can select Connect Account and you'll have many built-in social properties available to choose from. 

 
 

As you're connecting to these accounts, be aware of a few things:

As you connect each account you can select whether to "show" that social icon. This means the icon will automatically be visible on some templates. It also means that if you select the social links block somewhere on your site that this link will be included. You may want to have some social media accounts connected, so you can push new content to them, but not prominent on your site. In these case you need to deselect the Show Social Icon option when you connect the account. 

Many accounts will ask you to format the content you push. Squarespace uses a shorthand:

  • %t = post title
  • %u = post URL
  • %a = post author

You can format your push to be something like "Read %t at %u by %a!" and then it will show up on your social media page as "Read 10 Ways to Grow and Urban Garden byatyourblog.com/urbangarden by Susie Smith!" 

To hasten the process, log in on your computer to the social media account you're connecting to Squarespace before going to the Settings in Squarespace. 

When you connect Facebook to Squarespace be sure to 1) replace the Profile URL with your business page URL (your personal page is the default), and 2) select your business page as the push target

Finally, you should know that you can customize the look and feel of your social media icons in the Squarespace Style Editor. You can also decide if you have share buttons available on your blog posts (and which share buttons are available) by going to Settings > Website > Marketing > Share Buttons. Similarly, you can allow your audience to easily hover over images and share via Pinterest by going to Settings > Website > Marketing > Pin It Buttons. 

Happy Sharing!

How to Build Your Information Architecture

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Organize your thoughts and name your website pages

If you're in the beginning stages of building or rebuilding your website, you know you need to identify which pages you'll have on your site. The pages you have on your site, and how they relate to each other, is your information architecture (IA). It's the skeletal structure of your site. 

Let's run through a few IA definitions:

  • Primary navigation: these are the set of links most visible on your site, typically located near the top of your webpage. These links will be the most heavily trafficked pages in your site, and should help tell your story. 
  • Secondary + tertiary navigation: these are a set of links that are less visible than your primary links. They are often sought-after pages, but pages that may distract from your central story or may route audiences away from the actions you hope they'll take. 
  • Family pages: in web design and development, we talk about pages in terms of family relationships. A parent page has one or more pages beneath it. For example, if you click on Women's Clothing you may have options such as Women's Shirts, Women's Pants, Women's Shoes underneath it. In this example, Women's Clothing is the parent page. The pages below it (Women's Shirts, Women's Pants, Women's Shoes) are the child pages. Women's Shirts and Women's Pants are sibling pages because they are on the same level. 
  • Call-to-action (CTA): a CTA lives within a page or set of pages and it clearly asks your audience to do something (Learn More, Sign Up, Join Us, Contact Us, etc.). CTAs are most often present in the form of a button, image banner, or distinct link. 

When you're ready to decide on your IA I recommend the following steps:

Start with a free writing exercise. Either on a piece of notebook paper or in a Google Doc, write pieces of information you need to have on your site. Don't feel as if you have to organize this information just yet. If you think of something that needs to be on your website somewhere, write it down. Most websites will have dozens, if not more than 100, pieces of information.

Once you have all of the major pieces of information listed, begin to group that information. If you did this exercise in a Google Doc you can quickly cut and paste statements around on the page. There's no limit to the number of groups you can have. 

Once you're happy with your groups, review the information within each group and label it

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When you finishing labeling groups take a look your labels and decide which items are the first pieces of information you want your audience to know about you and/or the primary actions you want your audience to take. Be critical here. Audiences have a short attention span. This is your beset chance to get a website visitor to know what the need to know so they'll take the action you want them to take. When you decide on the few items that you want your audience to know first, put these aside. This set will become your primary navigation. 

Identify a few of the items you thought might be in your primary navigation, but that didn't make the cut after serious consideration. These are groups of information that are important, but don't lead customers to the desired action. One such group of information is often the About or Mission & History set. This information is great information and it is typically a highly-trafficked page for small businesses (people like to know more about who they're working with), but it very rarely needs to be in your primary navigation. You may also identify a few pages that need to be prominent for legal reasons, such as your privacy policies. Once you have this set, this group will become your secondary navigation. Some companies have many less-than-primary groups of information. In some of those cases, both a secondary and a tertiary set of navigation is necessary.

Once you decide on your primary and secondary navigation, nest remaining labels underneath these items. You may nest only one level deep (creating child links for your primary and secondary navigation) or you may have several layers of navigation (creating grandchild or great-grandchild links). Nest and organize these labels in the way the makes the most sense.

Now you have primary navigation, secondary navigation, and groups of information underneath your primary and secondary navigation. Congrats! We're not done yet, though ...

Do you have labels remaining? This often happens when your primary or secondary labels aren't broad or general enough. Look through these labels again and see if you can re-label anything to accommodate the outstanding information groups. If not, does it make sense to add remaining labels to secondary or tertiary navigation? Finally, do you need a FAQ page? Some clients have multiple small bits of information that they need to convey to audiences, but don't make sense as a single page or group of pages. In this instance, they often find FAQ pages help them collect information for clients. 

Now that every single label or group of information lives somewhere, let's look back at those labels again. More than likely your page with information about you, your company, or your blog is named About. This works for a lot of websites because it's standard and audiences know what to expect when they click on it. For some brands, though, it makes sense to infuse more personality into the label. For example, you could call it Our Story. Instead of calling your contact for Contact Us you could label the navigation item as Get Started or Let's Chat. Your blog could become Thoughts, Recommendations, How-tos, etc. You don't need to assign every item in your navigation with something custom. As I said, audiences come to expect certain standard links. However, choosing different words or phrases for a few key areas is an excellent way to stand out and give more information about who you are. 

My final thoughts on building your IA:

  • Not every piece of the IA equals a separate page on your website. You might have Services in your primary navigation and Content Migration, Content Strategy, and Content Creation underneath that. You could create three separate child pages for each type of service. Or, you could have a single page with three headers (one for each service). Be purposeful with pages you create. You should create a separate page when you have a lot of content around one item or when you want to separate the audience from other information so they focus solely on that one thing. 
  • Fewer links is better in your primary navigation. Most sites should have between 2-5 links in the primary navigation. Each primary navigation link should serve your primary message and should include a call-to-action, directing audiences to a next step. 
  • Secondary and tertiary navigation typically lives in your site footer. Audiences know to scroll down for additional links or information. For some websites (a traditional blog layout for example), a secondary set of links in a sidebar may makes sense. 

 

 

 

9 Statistics Every Kick Ass Mompreneur Needs to Know

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Female entrepreneurs, particularly mothers, are one of the most significant influences in our market today

I sometimes think about my pre-mom professional self. And I think she would be shocked by how much more productive she becomes once she becomes a mom. After my son was born I became more focused, more purposeful, and more intentional in all of my professional endeavors. I don't have time to mess around, I've got a little guy that needs me.

As I grow in my career as mama entrepreneur, I am continually fascinated by others traveling this same, but rare, path. In fact, so fascinated that I'm working on a book about it! Stories of Mompreneurs will explore how someone jumps on the entrepreneurial ship after having a child and how they steer the ship afterwards. 

As I worked through some portions for the book this weekend, I found myself in need of a bit more inspiration, so I found some statistics and words of wisdom to keep me going. 

Some female entrepreneurship statistics:

  1. Women own 36% of all businesses, according to the 2012 U.S. Census ‒ a jump of 30% over 2007. (Forbes)
  2. “The only bright spot in recent years with respect to privately-held company job growth has been among women-owned firms,” according to the [2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report].  (Fortune)
  3. Women entrepreneurs in the United States rank their happiness at nearly three times that of women who are not entrepreneurs or established business owners. (Inc.)
  4. 500 women-owned businesses are started every day in the US. (Tech.Co)
  5. Women were nearly five times more likely to mention family reasons for becoming self-employed than men. A fifth of females chose to work as self-employed to help combine ‘family commitments/wanted to work at home’ and employment in a flexible manner.  (Office for National Statistics, UK)
  6. “At every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows.” (Harvard Business Review)
  7. Recent data has shown that women-led technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35 percent higher return on investment.  (Tech Crunch)
  8. Women entrepreneurs start their businesses as a second or third profession. Many of them have experienced a considerable amount of dissatisfaction with their previous careers and in working for others. Often times, these innate desires to be their own boss are the driving forces that motivated them to pursue entrepreneurship. (Go 4 Funding)
  9. When defining innovation as “offering products that are new to some or all customers” in some regions — including the U.S. and developed Europe — women entrepreneurs have higher levels of innovation than their male counterparts. (Harvard Business Review)
     

Some words to mull over:

  • Option A is not available. So let’s kick the sh** out of option B." - Sheryl Sandberg
  • We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes -- understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” - Arrianna Huffington
  • My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” - Oprah Winfrey
  • “I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t.” - Dee Dee Myers
  • I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading.” - Amy Poehler

Want more inspiration? 

Check out these reads:


**This post contains affiliate links. Thank you in advance for helping Shorewood Studio continue to tell our story.**

Change Your Squarespace Template Fonts

Why the shape of your letters shapes your message

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When I started in web design I started as a a project manager—focused on getting stuff done—and I didn't focus much mental energy on the design details. Naively, I thought design included colors and images, and that words were words (a separate category). Over time I came to see the ways in which the shape, style, and quality of the letters on the screen had a magnificent impact on how I felt about the design. Sometimes, the letters were the primary design element. 

I now know that letters—your typography—add flavor to your message. They subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) influence how audiences perceive the words you form. They tell your audience about your brand's personality: how open you are, how formal you are, how masculine/feminine you are, how fun you are, etc. It's important to choose fonts for your brand that match your storyline. 

Check out the way these font pairings (header, subheader, and body copy) from Canva have a huge influence on how you feel about the message: 

Select Your Brand Fonts

If you still need to select brand fonts, I recommend the following resources:

Once you have your brand fonts selected (or if you've had them for awhile), it's time to edit your Squarespace site to match your brand. Squarespace has a large list of built-in fonts available to you. If your fonts are not built-in to Squarespace you can search for a Google font OR connect a Typekit account to Squarespace and the sky's the limit!

Change Your Fonts in Squarespace

In Squarespace you should first start by changing the body copy and header font. Squarespace has three levels of headers. To change your basic fonts in Squarespace, do the following:

  1. Go to a page in your site that has body copy and all three types of headers. (If you don't have a page like this yet, create a sample or test page.)
  2. Once that page is open, go to your Squarespace menu and select Design > Style Editor. 
  3. Change your fonts one by one. Not only should you change the font, but also pay attention to the additional font customizations (font size, font weight, letter spacing, line heigh, text transform, etc.). These small adjustments make a big difference. Play around with them on a heavy text page or your test page to see what looks best for your brand.

Once you have you body copy and headers changed, you should flow font changes to small design items throughout the site, including:

  • Navigation
  • Footer
  • Buttons
  • Banner
  • Metadata
  • Captions

Consult the Squarespace help guide specific to your template for a full list of text elements available for editing.

Remember, if you don't have an element on your site yet, such as a small button, the Squarespace Style Editor won't offer you the option to customize it. If you add a small button down the line, it'll appear in the default font and colors for your template. You'll need to go back into the Style Editor to change its design.  

Once you've selected and implemented your brand fonts on Squarespace you should not make big changes often. Your audience comes to know you, in part, via your typography and you don't want to give them whiplash by changing it up too often. But if you notice small tweaks that will improve legibility or user experience (such as line height or font weight), by all means make them!

Other Font resources and guides I recommend:

Do you already have a headache thinking about all this? I create Squarespace websites for clients—fast. And, as a Squarespace Circle member, I offer all my clients 20% off of their first year's subscription. Get started on your project now. 

Still feeling energized to DIY Squarespace? Great! Check out my other related Squarespace posts. 

 

**This post contains affiliate links. Thank you in advance for helping Shorewood Studio continue to tell our story.**

 

Change Your Squarespace Template Colors

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A few tweaks give you a custom look

With Squarespace, the sky's the limit in terms of design customizations. I've seen a few highly creative Squarespace sites that look almost nothing like the Squarespace template they started as. To get something far out of the box, you'll like need to work with a Squarespace designer to help you push the envelope. But, the beauty of Squarespace is that you can get a custom look without hiring a designer. You just need to make a few tweaks so that your template matches your style or brand. 

Start by adding a logo, adjusting site colors, and changing site fonts. In this post, we'll talk about adjusting your Squarespace site colors.

Your brand colors

Image via Design Seeds

Image via Design Seeds

First things first, do you have brand colors? Your colors tell a story about you before you ever say a word. There are a lot of color theories out there. Here are a few great reads on brand color and storytelling:

If you don't have brand colors yet, I recommend going through the color theories first. Then exploring some inspiration.  Here are few great inspirational sources:

Once you find colors you like, you need their hex code. A hex code us a six-digit number used in HTML and CSS to signify color. It's how you will tell Squarespace which color to assign to each element. If you find a color you like, but you can't find its hex code do this: 

  1. Use the digital color meter on your Mac or download a color picker app
  2. Use an online converter to convert RBG (red, blue, green levels) to hex. You can use this converter anytime you see RGB information for a color, but no hex. 

Once you have your colors, store this information in your brand kit/guide/storyboard. You will use these colors in hundreds of ways online and you need to be consistent. 

Match Squarespace Colors to Your Brand

Screenshot via Squarespace Support

Screenshot via Squarespace Support

You may edit colors in Squarespace by going to Design and then Style Editor. You can change the vast majority of elements in each template within Style Editor. For information on specific elements you can edit you need to consult your template guide (for example, the Skye Style Editor tweaks). 

Some tips for getting started with Squarespace color customizations:

  • Start by opening the page on your site with the most content. Then go to Design and Style Editor. As you make changes within Style Editor you'll see those changes reflected on the open page. The more content you have on a page, the more you can understand the impact of each change.
  • Start small. Set your background color and body text colors first. These will have the largest impact on your site.
  • You should have one color and one color only that indicates a link. This color should then not be used for other elements in the site. You can, however, use it on buttons if you choose since those are styled versions of a link.
  • Use bold colors sparing. You want your site to have personality, but you don't want to look like a Jackson Pollock print (usually). Think of your bold colors more as sprinkles throughout your site. 

And some tactical tips for changing your Squarespace colors:

  • Squarespace accepts the following color formats (although, I recommend hex codes for brand consistency): hex, RBG, HSL, and HTML.
  • You may open up an existing color and find it in RGB or HSL. That's okay! Just delete the color so the field is completely empty and enter your hex code. 
  • When you enter hex codes, always preface the six digits with the pound sign #. 
  • You want to use a slightly transparent version of one of your colors, Squarespace offers you a slider within each Style Editor element to set the opacity. 
  • You and undo and redo any changes you make up at the top of Style Editor.
  • Save, save, save. For the love of god, save your changes!

As usual, Squarespace has excellent support for your color changing tasks:

BONUS TIP! Many of the Squarespace templates (such as Bedford) do not offer the option to change the line element color. You can do this by going to Design and then Custom CSS and adding simple code. You can find suggestions for simple CSS code in the Squarespace Answers forum. 


Do you already have a headache thinking about all this? I create Squarespace websites for clients—fast. And, as a Squarespace Circle member, I offer all my clients 20% off of their first year's subscription. Get started on your project now. 

Still feeling energized to DIY Squarespace? Great! Check out my other related Squarespace posts. 

 

Cover image via Unsplash

Customize Your Squarespace Logo and Favicon

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Be sure your brand stands out

With Squarespace, the sky's the limit in terms of design customizations. I've seen a few highly creative Squarespace sites that look almost nothing like the Squarespace template they started as. To get something far out of the box, you'll like need to work with a Squarespace designer to help you push the envelope. But, the beauty of Squarespace is that you can get a custom look without hiring a designer. You just need to make a few tweaks so that your template matches your style or brand. 

Start by adding a logo, adjusting site colors, and changing site fonts. In this post, we'll talk about adding a logo.

Add a Logo  

Image via Squarespace Support

Image via Squarespace Support

By default, Squarespace uses the name of your site and puts a text-based logo up in the logo spot (which varies by template, but is usually in the upper left-hand corner of the upper middle of the site). You can edit this text and font to get it looking exactly like you want. Or, you can replace the text-based site name with a graphic logo. 

If you don't have a graphic logo, and you're not ready to embark on that process, it's fine to use a text-based logo. Be sure, though, to give it pizazz. A few tips for a text-based site title:

  • Ensure the title font, size, and letter spacing makes the title easy to read.
  • You site title should be unique from all other text on the site. It should be clear that it's important, distinct text.
  • Give your title plenty of breathing room. You can adjust the spacing around your site title in the Design's Style Editor section. 

If you don't have a graphic logo, but you're ready to get one, awesome! Here are a few great ways to go about creating or commissioning a website/business logo:

  • Find a logo design via Etsy. You can see hundreds (if not more) design portfolios here and a wide range of styles and prices. Look for designers with a large portfolio of other logos that appeal to you and someone within budget. 
  • Create a logo using Squarespace's logo creator. This tool keeps things really simple, but gives you the option to add striking iconography and a tagline. 
  • Check on Canva. One of my personal favorite resources, Canva allows you to create a ton of design elements without needing Photoshop. The resource is mostly free, but I recommend upgrading to Canva for Work if you enjoy the tool so you can leverage their Brand Kit.

 If you have a graphic logo and you're happy with it, fantastic! Upload it to Squarespace! A few reminders:

  • Upload a high resolution version of your logo. Otherwise your image becomes pixelated on zoom or larger screens.
  • Upload a .png file of your logo with a transparent background. This ensures that your logo looks sleek on any design template or website background color.
  • Consider adding or creating a social sharing logo. Imagery has a huge impact on the success of social media posts.

Don't forget a favicon!

A favicon is the teeny tiny image that appears on the left-hand side of your browser tab. They also appear by the sites listed in your bookmarks. By default, Squarespace gives you a gray square in that spot. But, you can (and should) upload a custom favicon. A favicon allows your site visitors to quickly and easily find your site among many open tabs. Additionally, it's another opportunity to brand your site. A favicon should not be the same thing as your logo (although it may be similar).

Some favicon tips:

  • Keep it simple! This is a very small spot so fine details and color variations aren't visible. 
  • Use a shape, icon, or strong font to represent your brand.
  • Size it appropriately. It cannot be more than 100KB on Squarespace. 
  • Upload it as a .png or .ico file. (Note: some versions of the Internet Explorer browser disregard .png favicons). 

Don't have a favicon? This is a great opportunity to try out Canva! Or, again, there are fantastic designs on Etsy that would love to help you out. 

Squarespace Help

One of the best things about Squarespace (I swear they're not paying me to say this—it's just true!) is their knowledge base resources. They have thousands of articles, videos, and chat boards devoted to a myriad of topics. 

Here are a few Squarespace help guides to assist you with your website titles, logo, and favicon:

 

Do you already have a headache thinking about all this? I create Squarespace websites for clients—fast. And, as a Squarespace Circle member, I offer all my clients 20%  off of their first year's subscription. Get started on your project now. 

Still feeling energized to DIY Squarespace? Great! Check out my other related Squarespace posts. 

 

Getting Started with Squarespace

Image via Unsplash

Seriously, it's this easy. 

Ready to have a professional looking website? Today? Good. Let's get started.

01. Get a domain/URL

Already have a domain? Fantastic. Skip this step.

Need to find and buy your URL? Squarespace has you covered with domain search and purchase

Search for the URL or domain you're considering. Squarespace will let you know if it's available (the cost per year) and will suggest alternatives as well. 

I have suggestions for choosing your URL elsewhere on the blog. They include keep the URL short, go with the .com ending, and research similar URLs (and purchase them if possible). 

The domains/URLs available via Squarespace will be the same as those available with other companies. If for some reason you want to purchase a URL outside of Squarespace (maybe you haven't decided on the platform yet), I recommend Google Domains

Squarespace has fantastic resources on domains:

 

02. Choose a template

This is your design base. It's sort of like choosing what type of cake you want—vanilla, chocolate, or funfetti—before choosing your frosting and other toppings. 

Some things to know and look at,

  • You're not committed to this template forever. You can change at any time (for free).
  • Choose the template that looks most similar to the look and feel you want for your site. 
  • Take advantage of Squarespace's filtering categories to narrow your choices (it can be overwhelming otherwise!).
  • Look at the template on a mobile device. (Squarespace offers a mobile preview, but I recommend interacting with the template on your personal device as well.)
  • Review the "customers using this template" section (scroll down on the template's detail page to find it). This gives you ideas on how you can customize the template to your needs/brand.
  • How much and what you can customize varies by template. If you have specific questions or details you need to know, check out the in-depth template guides by Squarespace before you select one. 

If you're really not sure which template to start with, I recommend starting with Bedford. Just look at all the example sites—this is a versatile template! It can be used by a photographer and insurance agency. It's an incredibly flexible base. 

 

03. Get your basic content in place

We'll dig into more substantial customizations in another post, but here let's just get the basics done. 

Your Squarespace editing menu is in the left-hand column of your website. This is not visible to the public, but only to you when you're signed in to Squarespace. If you toggle over the upper left-hand corner of your website you'll see the arrow option indicating you can open or close your menu. 

Get your website name and description in the right places.

Go to Design > Logo & Title

Make sure the website or business title is correct in this space. Add a tagline, if applicable. If you have a logo already you can upload it here. Squarespace can help you create a logo if you don't have one yet. But, you don't need a logo in Squarespace. If you don't have one, the title of your website will display in text (which you can customize).

Go to Settings > Website > Basic Information

Give your website or business a short one to two sentence description. Select the appropriate website type from the drop down. Hit Save in the upper left-hand corner of the menu and then go backwards using the menu's back arrow. 

Choose the name and type of pages you will have in your website. 

Each Squarespace template loads with demo pages in place. You can delete these by clicking on the trash can to the left of each page name. Or you can use that demo page as a starting point for your site by clicking on the gear icon to the right and selecting Create. Change the Navigation Title to the name of the page you are creating. 

You can add new pages by clicking the + button in the upper right-hand corner of your Pages menu. Give your page a name within the Page Title field. Squarespace offers you a number of starter layouts to make page building a little easier. Select a layout that works best for your page.

You can drag and drop a page to reorder it within the menu.

Change the text and photos within each page. 

 
 

Once you have the correct pages for your site in the correct order. Click on each page one-by-one. Your Pages menu will still be on the left-hand side. The right-hand side will be sample content from the demo page or sample content from the starter layout you selected. Or, this page will be entirely blank if you chose a new page and blank layout. 

Hover on the page and a black menu bar will appear that says Page Content. Select Edit. Now you can click within the text and change it. The text options (bold, italic, left-aligned, etc.) look similar to most word editing programs. Change all visible text on the page to what you want it to say for your website. Click Save in the black menu bar near the top.

Change all photos to your photos by hovering over the photo and selecting Edit. Click Save.

If you have at the very top of your demo page it may be a Banner image. Hover on the page and select Banner to remove or change this image.

Here are some fantastic help guides from Squarespace on editing within pages:

 

04. Go live with your website

Obviously, we can get really into the weeds before we go live. We could do a lot more customizing your site, but this is just a bare bones starting guide. So, if you've got your URL, your template, and your content in place, then it's time to go live!

Go to Settings > Website > Domains

Make sure that the Primary domain is the URL you purchased for this website or business. Squarespace also has a built-in URL that is often something like "your-site.squarespace.com." This is your behind-the-scenes URL, but you want to make sure the "yoursite.com" is marked as Primary. 

Go to Settings > General > Billing & Account > Billing > Upgrade 

Up until now you've been working on your new Squarespace site for free. You have up to 30 days before you have to give them any credit card information. When you're ready to go live, though, you need to select a subscription plan for your website. Almost all of my clients start on the Personal Websites plan (even businesses). That basic plan limits you to 20 total pages and has a higher transaction fee for shops, but it's nearly identical to the Business Website plan. There are two additional plans for eCommerce sites—if you're selling a lot of products read the details carefully, but I usually advise going with the less expensive plan first.

Select the plan you need right now and you can upgrade at any time (if you need more pages or start selling enough products). 

Once you complete your transaction, your site is live!

Here are some Squarespace resources on billing and primary domains:


Do you already have a headache thinking about all this? I create Squarespace websites for clients—fast. And, as a Squarespace Circle member, I offer all my clients 20% their first year's subscription. Get started on your project now. 

Still feeling energized to DIY Squarespace? Great! Check out my other related Squarespace posts. 

 
 

The Pros and Cons of Squarespace

And why I run my business off of Squarespace

Perhaps the top question I receive from new business owners is: what should I use to build my website? Most individuals have heard of Wordpress. There are also options like Squaresapce, Wix, and Weebly. But what's the best solution for your website?

In my opinion, 95% of my clients should choose Squarespace. And the rest should go with a Wordpress site. Wordpress is a fantastic tool, but it's a platform that requires a high-level of technical knowledge to maintain and a decent set of design skills to customize. In my experience, it's expensive to hire designers and developers for Wordpress (especially for recurring maintenance). Most individuals and business owners want to focus all of their attention on their business and not on learning Wordpress, so although Wordpress may initially appear more affordable, the cost climbs quickly. That being said, some individuals and businesses need the particulars of this tool; I recommend individuals that needs a portal or password-protected community, those that utilize a complex and changing set of categories and tags, and those that want to run a multi-site network consider Wordpress. Everyone else, I steer toward Squarespace.

Squarespace is an all-in-one solution. Instead of just being the content management tool or platform, like Wordpress, it also provides the design/template, the technical maintenance and updates, the plug-ins, etc. Moreover, Squarespace now offers logo creation and domain purchasing/hosting. Everything you need to start and run a website. 

I switched to Squarespace (from Wordpress) several years ago when I was looking for the best way to display my photography portfolio. My Wordpress site was responsive (it flexed up and down based on screen size so it looked great on any device), but the gallery plug-in I had at the time was not. I found myself frustrated searching for the right combination of tools at the right price. It was then I realized that many photographers I admired were Squarespace clients. I switched shortly thereafter and I haven't looked back. 


After several years on the platform, here's my pros and cons list for Squarespace:

Squarespace Pros: 

  • Provided responsive designs/templates
  • Technical support and maintenance included
  • Security monitoring and upgrades included
  • Highly customizable
  • Down time is rare
  • Fantastic help/support community
  • Continually rolling out new features
  • Unlimited space (fantastic for image-heavy sites!)
  • eCommerce options
  • Built-in SEO and analytics tools
  • Discount codes frequently available

Squarespace Cons:

  • No third party tools/apps allowed (except for HTML code blocks)
  • Annual subscription prices increased in recent years
  • Blogging tags/categories organization less robust than Wordpress
  • No media library 
  • Each site is a separate subscription (no discounts for multisites)

Do you already have a headache thinking about all this? I create Squarespace websites for clients—fast. And, as a Squarespace Circle member, I offer all my clients 20% their first year's subscription. Get started on your project now. 

Still feeling energized to DIY Squarespace? Great! Check out my other related Squarespace posts.