Monday 2 October 2017

Boss Women: Jenny

Happy Monday and welcome October! After a period of mourning for another summer gone too quickly, I'm now ready to embrace autumn with all its leaf-crunching, candle-burning, soup-cooking and scarf-wearing glory. I hope you are too!?
One of the best things about the colder months is that it gives you more time to spend on indoor projects. Fall and winter are the best months for creating, crafting, writing, drawing ... which brings me to this week's boss woman.

I 'met' Jenny several years ago through blogging. She used to run a lifestyle blog, and I was immediately drawn to her wonderful writing voice. Jenny is an avid reader, and wise beyond her years, and her writing reflects that. I always felt better after having read one of her posts, more prepared for what life may throw at me. She has a way of making sense of the world that I deeply admire. You will know what I mean once you start reading her interview!

How Jenny came up with the idea for her business Carrot Top Paper Shop is just wonderful - she is literally (pun intended!) doing something she was meant to do.
I let her tell you her story:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
A: My husband and I moved from Washington D.C. back to my home state of Oklahoma when I was eight weeks pregnant with our daughter (who is now two-and-a-half!). I knew I wanted to stay home with her, but I also knew I wanted to do something creative, that would hopefully allow me to contribute financially to our family. At the time, that felt like too much to hope for!
When preparing Violet’s nursery, I couldn’t get this idea out of my head to create a banner for her room with all my favorite literary heroines on it. I’ve always been a big reader, and my favorite book as a girl was Anne of Green Gables. When I found out we were having a girl, being able to share Anne with her was one of the things I was most excited about!

But I couldn’t find a heroine banner online, or anything close to what I wanted, so I made my own. It wasn’t long after that I realized I couldn’t be the only mom out there looking to inspire her young daughter with the role models she grew up with. Once I had the idea to start selling my literary heroine banners, it soon became something I knew I wouldn’t be able to shake, and I started selling my work on Etsy when my daughter was seven months old.

Q: Was it always your dream to have your own business?
A: Strangely, no. Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to do something creative when I grew up, but my creative interests didn’t feel cohesive to me: I loved to read, so I “ran” a library out of my bedroom for my friends and family (I had a mini card catalog system), I loved to write and draw, so I wrote a magazine that I mailed out to my friends (I think at my peak, I had twelve subscribers), I loved Anne Shirley, and wrote a play based on the book, and coerced my sisters and friend to act in it with me (let’s just say I was much better at set design than acting).
A business owner, specifically, was never something I really considered. But looking back, I realize that’s because for me, the passion has to come first. Once I had a cohesive, creative idea involving something I loved, being a business owner was just something that came with the job. And now, I love it!

Q: What does a typical day look like?
A: The first two years of a child’s life are a roller coaster ride, to say the least. I’ve learned to be flexible in my goals and not set strict expectations for myself. Otherwise, I would just be constantly setting myself up for frustration.
But structure can still be flexible. Each night, I look at that week’s to-do list and decide what will be manageable the next day. I decide what can be done when Violet is awake, and what would be best to do while she is asleep. I find it is crucial for my productivity to know exactly what I will be doing first thing in the morning, ahead of time.

A typical day for me means waking up around 6:30, working out (briefly), and drinking coffee while tackling whatever I planned for my early morning hours. Violet wakes up around 8:00, and I’m all hers for the next couple of hours. We have breakfast and play for a little while before I do some work in the same vicinity (household chores, or answer emails while she plays). During her afternoon nap is when I pack orders and do as much of the behind-the-scenes work as I can.

Right now, my husband works from home most days, which is hugely helpful. We let Violet “help” us in whatever small ways we can (unloading the dishwasher even when it takes twice as long, or throwing away the trimmings from my heroine bookmarks. Don’t judge – she loves taking things to the trash can!). She definitely thinks the three of us are a team!
I rarely get through my entire to-do list for the day, but I love my flexible schedule, even if it does mean longer hours most days of the week. There’s something to be said for simply being content with doing your best for the day. I end each night with a good book, which is a must for me when it comes to recharging!

Q: How do you come up with your ideas/designs?
A: Inspiration comes from all different places, and often, when I least expect it. I write down half-baked ideas in between product lines, and create Pinterest boards to help me visualize a certain look I’m going for. Mostly though, my ideas evolve as I sit down to draw or paint. Rarely do I have the complete product in mind from the start. Although, actually, one of my favorite things in my upcoming collection came to me like a vision while I was washing my face one night. That never happens, and it was weird. But I’m not complaining! And, of course, most of my ideas are inspired by my favorite books, so I always have a book by my muse, L.M. Montgomery, on my nightstand.

Q: What is the best part? What is the worst?
A: The best part is the community that has formed over something I am so passionate about. I kind of can’t get over that there are so many wonderful people in the world who share this love of Lucy Maud Montgomery and her work, and just a love of reading in general. 
The worst part is that there are never enough hours in the day. Ever. Have I mentioned that?

Q: Did you take any business classes, or do you learn as you go along?
A: I read a quote from an entrepreneur recently that said something like, “Building a business is like jumping off a cliff and learning how to build a plane on the way down”. It can feel like that a
lot of times, but thankfully, I have an amazing business coach! I am technically learning as I go, but having a guide means I’m not winging it. Also, both of my parents have experience in owning their own businesses, so I think I grew up thinking it was possible for anyone. I’m grateful for the confidence they instilled in me that if you want something, you go out and make it happen.

Q: Do you do it alone, or do you have help?
A: Right now, I’m a one-woman show. But that doesn’t seem fair to say because my husband’s emotional support and willingness to run to the post office for me is not to be underestimated!

Q: Do you ever get self-doubts, or think you can't do it?
A: Yes and no. I have never had doubts that this is the job I am supposed to be doing. But do I have doubts that I am talented enough? Creative enough? That I can sustain what I have created? Yes, absolutely. You would think that if I believed I am supposed to do this job, I should also believe I am equipped for it. But somehow that one requires more faith.

Q: How do you balance being a mom/wife/and running your business?
A: I try to take one day at a time, and remember that I can’t see the future, as much as I like to imagine I can. You can do almost anything when you take it one day at a time! And as Anne Shirley says, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet”. I’m learning to be present in whatever I’m doing. I try not to think about work when I’m with my family, and I give myself permission to give 100% when it is time to work.

I’ve learned that creativity begets creativity, and sometimes it feels like I’ll never be able to do everything I want to do. But I also know that raising my daughter comes first, and I am perfectly okay with the fact that some of my ideas might take ten years to come to fruition.

Q: Any tips for others who want to start their own business?
A: If you don’t believe in your product, no one else is going to care either. Enthusiasm is contagious. Don’t underestimate your passion as an important part of your business plan.
But also, passion isn’t enough. Don’t guess. You don’t have to go to business school to run your own business, but you definitely need some sort of guide. Whether that is a business coach, online classes, or a stack of recommended books. Start with a plan, ask a lot of questions, and look for answers from people a few steps ahead of you. Also, read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber!

Q: How did you come up with the name?
A: In the book, Anne of Green Gables, an overly-confident schoolmate tries to get Anne’s attention by making fun of her greatest insecurity: her red hair. He calls her “carrots” in front of the whole school, which is an unforgivable act in her book. Anne holds a grudge for years before she finally finds it in her heart to forgive him, and they become friends (and, spoiler alert, a love interest!). My shop name is a cheeky homage to one thing every reader around the world loves about Anne: her greatest insecurity. 

Thank you Jenny!

Check out her gorgeous designs at her
↠ Etsy shop and
↠ Instagram

Join her Kindred Spirit Club (e-newsletter) and get a free print by signing up to her

Or how about joining her Instagram Book Club? You can get Jenny's book recommendations and enter her book giveaways!

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