Thursday, October 1, 2015

Business + Motherhood: Maggie Whitley

It's week four of the the Business + Motherhood series. We hope to encourage and inspire other business mamas giving a glimpse inside our work days and spaces.
Ya'll meet Maggie. She's mama to Max and Natalie; she loves to create, encourage, and inspire. Maggie was actually one of the first friends I made in the handmade community in 2009. We have emailed, texted and chatted over the phone for the past 6, almost 7 years! She has been an amazing supporter of my business over the years, and I'm so grateful for her.
1. How long have you been running your business?  It's been seven years now that I first found Etsy and decided I wanted to come a handmade maker, selling sewn products and joining a community of makers. My first shop is called Gussy Sews and features ruffled zipped pouches and bags for women. Each product is filled with colorful and personality. My second shop is called Caroline-made, and is the big sister to Gussy Sews. While the products inside Caroline-made still featuring color, they are a little more modern and sophisticated in design.
Earlier this month I co-authored an ebook with Elise Blaha Cripe, and it's called Building a Business: how to dream, plan, make, sell and share your online shop. Since quitting my day job in May 2010, I've had such a passion for encouraging women to pursue the gifts they were born with, not just for themselves to enjoy, but so they can encourage their community to do the same. I've mentored many women over the years on the topics of blogging and business, and compiling all that I've learned about handmade into an ebook has been an amazing accomplishment. I'm very proud of this ebook.
2. What does a typical work day look like for you? My life today looks very different from seven years ago. My husband and I are currently living in Los Angeles with our two small children and dog. We live in a cozy apartment, and we are truly just so grateful to be pursuing our passions each day. Since becoming a mama in March 2013, I've given myself a lot of grace to change the way I run my businesses. As our family as grown I've tried all sorts of things: selling product and blogging full-time, offering a handmade subscription service where members receive a monthly product in the mail (The Gussy Club). I've also started a new business (Caroline-made), have stopped selling completely, and have pursued new opportunities, like my ebook.
All of that to say, a typical work day changes based on the season our family is in. I love being home with our children full-time, so that is my main focus. From there I make sure I'm able to pursuing creative hobbies and projects for myself, because doing these things keeps the "Maggie" in me alive and inspired. Aside from being a maker and a mama, I'm a wife and a friend. And to do any one of these roles well I need to be taking care of myself first.
Nap time is an easy way to sneak in some creative time, but if doing something to restore Maggie is what's best, then I'll either read or take a nap (or both!). Depending on the ages of my kids, I'm able to do a little work or hobby pursuing while they play independently for 20 minutes. I've learned over the years that often times 20 minutes is all it takes for me to really get inspired about a project. Often times the 20 minutes of time goes so well that I'm able to do another 10 or 20, which really adds up quickly. Think about all of the time we spend wishing and thinking we could "just start"? Instead of letting yourself go there, just start! Just do it! Try! Set a goal and see how far you can get at accomplishing it! :)
All of these things are easier for me because I'm not working on selling a handmade product. My time can be flexible, and it is. I can be slow with making. If I were in pursuit of working for consistent profit then I would need to re-evaluate my time. Maybe you are in that exact situation? Let me encourage you: the time is there if you need it to be badly enough. We need to choose HOW we spend our time, but in most cases I would say "anything is possible". Two things are needed to support that, though: one, knowing how much time you are spending doing unnecessary/unhelpful tasks; and two, deciding what tasks are most important, all while remembering the simple motto, "I can't do it all." Inspiration is all around you, don't you ever forget.
3. What goals do you have for your business? Is this a hobby that you enjoy that earns income OR do you have big dreams and want to see this business grow? My goal is to maintain balance with the gifts I've been given: my handmade businesses and opportunities, and my children. Any work I do must create an income/profit, otherwise it's just a hobby. Hobbies are important, too, but it's good to remember they are for personal enjoyment (and nothing else). When Elise and I co-authored our ebook, we spent nearly two years writing and preparing for the launch. This isn't to say every day of the last two years was spent on it, but as our families grew, we were flexible with our timeline. In the end, however, the word we put into our ebook is for-profit. Investing in something knowing it'll bear fruit later is a really rewarding experience. Sort of like parenting ;)
The dreams I have for my businesses are most likely things we'll be able to pursue once we are no longer living in Los Angeles. So stay tuned!
4. What's one of your struggles with balancing business and motherhood? This is such a great question. Here is my honest answer: knowing what my purpose is. So much of what we do day after day as parents is rewarded to us in the future. We teach our kids how to crawl, but it takes time for them to do it on their own. We teach them how to read by sitting with them for a couple of years, practicing every day. We give them endless love and encouragement, even when it seems they aren't listening.
The same goes for my business, but on a different level. I know I have been given gifts to use as work, but my heart is in mothering our children first. I've taken a step back from what work looked like for me pre-kids, but where does that leave me now? Working fulfills me, and it's like a companion to mothering. Doing both is where I find my joy, but how do I balance them individually?
I find a lot of comfort knowing it's OK to make a change. Sharing how I feel with my family so they can support me has been super helpful, but staying in community with other handmade entrepreneurs has given me a lot of "big picture" peace.
5. What is your response to "How does she do it?" I laugh a little and say, "I make mistakes, too." Sometimes I forget, or am late, or get overly-excited, or feel too tired. I'm not perfect, but I wasn't created to be perfect. I was created to share my gifts, to never stop trying, to be in community, to love well, and to be honest. 
My goal is to be transparent about all of this, often. Really, I'm just like you: a work in progress :)
6. Do you have any tips for other business mamas or mamas who are considering opening a shop? I sure do! If it's on your heart, and won't leave you, you need to pursue WHY. I do believe there are ways to do all the things that are most important, but the trick is knowing WHICH things are most important -- because they can't all be. Elise and I poured our hearts and experiences into Building a Business. We cover over 30 different topics, you can see the full table of contents here. Before you open a shop, it's important to know why you are starting. What is your purpose? What are your goals? What kind of an income do you want to make? What service are you offering? Find yourself a mentor who will encourage you, listen to you, and be the voice of reason when you need it. Then, just start!
You can get to know Maggie a little more over at and be sure to connect with her on Instagram @maggiewhitley and facebook.