How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have a daughter who is 16 and a step-daughter who is 2 years old.
What do you love about living in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor?
The true sense of community among the entrepreneurs and creatives in the area who support each other and want to see each other win.
What’s your favorite restaurant and/or place to shop in the area?
Gianna’s Italian Beef in Cedar Rapids and Revival in Iowa City
Tell us about your career.
Well I’ve jumped around a lot. My degree is in strength and conditioning but after a year out of college as a personal trainer that just wasn’t what I was looking for. So I went to work for Rockwell in sales for almost 8 years before jumping ship and going to work in commercial interior design in sales for another 6. It was then that my creative passions as a child ignited in the world of design and that itch has never stopped! Through my time there I started a side business and started making art and home accents for myself. In the two last years it has quickly taken off so much that I’ve moved production out of my home, have added staff, and are signed with hotel chains and major retailers who distribute and promote my work. At the moment I’m working for myself and can I tell you what a wonderful feeling it is to have the freedom to do what I love, be available for what seems like the first time for my family, and also not to wear a bra to work?? Ha!
Why did you decide to open your own business?
I needed something for myself. I had my daughter when I was a freshman in college so I had to grow up pretty fast. I learned very quickly that there is never enough time or money to do what I needed to do to provide. It was sort of out of a hustlers mindset when I first started upcycling and then fast forward to my own product line, brand, and making momentum in the design industry. It’s all pretty surreal but with no formal education, I always say if I can do it, literally anyone can!
What’s the best thing about your job?
Besides the bra comment?? Jokes aside, the thing I love about my job is being able to be the boss I always wanted (and I think most people need). This is not to pat myself on the back only to say that as women we are overlooked and we are often criticized for having emotions. I invite my employees to bring themselves, and that includes their emotions, into the workplace. To focus on taking care of themselves first before work. To collaborate together rather than compete. Together we draw out each others strengths and celebrate those accomplishments. There is nothing worse than feeling underappreciated and undervalued. For the first time I can make people feel great for who they are, not what a boss wants from them. To make them feel like they have something to offer and that they aren’t just another body count in a building. It makes them feel empowered and in turn gets their wheels turning in their own lives creatively and that is a beautiful thing.
How do you juggle work with mommyhood?
I admit I don’t do it very well and I don’t know that I ever will. I stopped fighting this need to feel like there was a balance and stopped lying to myself that if I was more “this” or “that” (ie organized, got up early, got a planner, budgeted better, etc) then I wouldn’t feel so rushed, stressed, and just out of control. The truth is…it’s hard being a woman, it’s hard being a mom, and it’s even harder being a working mom (with or without a side hustle). There is no work/life balance and there never will be. It’s the ability to pivot (sometimes every hour) when things change and not to sweat the small stuff and also not to beat yourself up when something doesn’t get done. I’ve learned to know what my boundaries are (ie when I’m hitting a wall, when I just don’t have it in me to work on something, or when it’s time to get away from emails) and I don’t fight it. I used to fight it and I was JUST.PLAIN.MISERABLE!! I don’t listen to podcasts or read blogs or books on how to be a better me, I just learned to embrace how God made me and the character traits (both bad and perhaps flawed) that makes me who I am today. By not putting myself in a box that someone else designed, I am free to be me and all that comes with that. It really gave myself permission to be me and it has worked wonders for my mental and emotional health. Sure there are days that I literally want to cry or rip my hair out (at least once a week) but that’s just life and I don’t ride the rollercoaster so much in my emotions. I’ll always have a never ending “to do” list and feel accomplished when even a few get done (even when 20 more got added to the list). I do what I can do for the day and leave the rest up to God and a new day to tackle it again tomorrow!!
How has your job changed during COVID-19?
Well, it’s been a rollercoaster for all of us, but I found myself for the first time ever being jobless and laid off because of Covid. It was at that moment that I thought “ok God, here we go” and I gave my art business a shot going in full-time. Let’s be honest, it was already a full-time job but I didn’t have the “time” to do it justice working for another employer and I was scared to go off on my own. I was pushed out of that “Safety Nest” and am living my best life. It was a blessing in disguise. You would have thought everyone would have halted on their spending but in fact my business more than doubled as the result. I’d like to think of all us ladies at home finally addressing those interior design needs – now we are staring at them everyday by not being able to go anywhere!
What’s your advice to moms in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?
Now is the time to step outside of your comfort zone. There is no zone anymore and we have all come to find out we are being pushed out of comfortability to face new circumstances and new roadblocks. If there was ever a time to try something you’ve always wanted to try, to take a class, pick up a hobby, plan that vacation you’ve always wanted…GO FOR IT. I’m almost 40 and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, and that’s OK! Don’t ever grow up and don’t ever stop dreaming. It’s never too late as a mom to find a little of “you” in this world among jobs, paying bills, kids, and all the chaos that comes with giving yourself to everyone else throughout the day but you. Be good to yourself because you kick a$$ EVERY DAY. If anyone is in your corner high-fiving you it’s me! Give yourself a break and give yourself a moment to find something for yourself. Your heart will thank you for it.