August 3, 2015

Featured biz mama: Lindsey Meyers of Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 10:00 am
Featured biz mama: Lindsey Meyers of Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space

Lindsey Meyers of Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space is a self-taught photographer and mixed-media artist, originally from the Northeast suburbs of Chicago. She has been living and working in Logan Square for over 12 years, and is an active member of her community. Lindsey has displayed her work at and spoken at prestigious institutions, such as the Chicago Academy for the Arts.

Lindsey opened Beauty & Brawn in March of 2012, and keeps herself very busy curating, teaching and running the gallery. She is the proud mother of two beautiful daughters, from whom she derives inspiration by simply being in their presence.

Lindsey Meyers of Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

Beauty & Brawn is an art gallery, event rental space, arts education space, event space, and community space like none other. We cater to clients looking for high quality art events and arts education opportunities, and are a child- and family-friendly venue. We are a 1,200 sq. ft. storefront space in Logan Square with lots of windows and natural light. I own, operate, curate, teach, manage and direct the daily operations of the gallery—I AM the my business, per se.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

I am a single mama and have two girls, ages 7 and 9-1/2.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I started the gallery after my ex-husband left my kids and I destitute and in the middle of a conversation. Crazy story and am happy to share! I was a stay-at-home mom and artist and leveraged my house and car and life to open the space—after writing my business plan in the middle of the night and finding minimal funding to open. I was also facing some serious health issues and worked tirelessly to heal myself from a very difficult and painful experience. I literally gutted the entire space with a tire iron and 2 x 4 and with my bare hands. Best thing I’ve ever done. I celebrated our three-year anniversary in March of 2015 which was very exciting. I LOVE what I do!

Describe a typical workday.

6:00 am wake up, drive kids to Lakeview to get to school by 7:55 am, meetings, teaching students, emails, phone calls, follow-ups, installs and/or de-installs, portfolio reviews, creating work of my own, cleaning the space, planning future events and collaborations, off-site teaching jobs or parties, lucky if I get to the gym, household chores, back to school to get kids daily at 3:00 pm, evening meetings or events in the space…it is endless. The list is quite long, but that is a snippet!

What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

You are your own worst critic—stop beating yourself up. You have the magic within you, so dream big and do good. You only have one shot in life to leave a legacy of awesome.

Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space

Chicago, IL 

July 31, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: write a LinkedIn recommendation

10-minute marketing: write a linkedin recommendationMarketing is a give and take, you always want to balance your “taking” (i.e. selling or promoting your organization) with some “giving.”

A great way to give is to leave recommendations on LinkedIn.

I like to leave LinkedIn recommendations for colleagues and vendors that I’ve worked with—and especially for clients who I love working with.

An unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation will most certainly make the person’s day—and you never know, it might just prompt them to reach out to you with a new project or collaboration.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Write a LinkedIn recommendation for a colleague (or two, depending on how fast you are)

Are you on LinkedIn? Connect with me here.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

July 24, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: share a useful Facebook update

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — lidia @ 10:00 am

10-Minute Marketing: share a useful Facebook updateFacebook seems to be a challenge for organizations or businesses who are using it nowadays. Organic reach is way down and “pay-to-play” is the new norm. What people do seem to be having luck with is sharing content that is of interest to their target audience.

In general, an 80/20 split is recommended in social media marketing: 80% content that is relevant and useful to your target audience and 20% promotional or sales content.

On the Lidia Varesco Design Facebook page, I share articles that my clients and prospects would find useful, such as an article relevant to nonprofits or tips for on getting more done in your workday (because nonprofit organizations can especially have a lot on their plates).

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Share something useful on Facebook.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

Lidia Varesco Design on Facebook Is your organization on Facebook? Like my page and let’s get connected. I love sharing news from nonprofits and education organizations.


July 22, 2015

6 tips for an engaging organization newsletter

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

6 tips for an engaging organization newsletter

One of my favorite ways to keep in touch is through my newsletter. Every time I send one, I inevitably hear back from a client or prospect that has been “reminded” of me.

Would you like to have this same effect with your organization’s newsletter? Read on for my tips for a more engaging newsletter.

  1. Write for your target audience: The first thing to consider when writing a newsletter is: what do your members or supporters want to hear about? What are their questions, pain points or interests?
  2. Keep it short: The days of long newsletters are gone. There’s more inbox clutter nowadays, so you have to keep your message short and to the point.
  3. Create a simple and flexible email template: I highly recommend using one of the online email newsletter services (I personally use and love MailChimp). This allows you to create a template that can be easily adapted for each issue.
  4. Develop a basic editorial calendar: Having a schedule for your newsletter not only helps you stay on-track, but your readers will begin to expect to hear from you (out of sight really does become out of mind!) It can be a simple as an Excel file with monthly send dates and newsletter topics. Hint: make things ever easier and plan topics a few months in advance. See an example editorial calendar.
  5. Keep a file of topic ideas: One of the biggest blogging complaints I hear is: I have nothing to write about. Once you’ve considered your target audience (see #1), the ideas should start to come easier. Now, create a file where you can store all these great ideas (I use the application Evernote).
  6. Send it consistently: Readers tend to engage more with a newsletter that is familiar to them rather than one that is infrequent. I send mine monthly, however depending on your organization (say, if you host weekly events) you may need a more frequent schedule.

So there you have it… you’re on your way to a more engaging newsletter.

Have you put any of these tips in practice? Let me know, I would love to know how it works out for you!

July 20, 2015

Featured biz mama: Jenny Duranski of Noktivo

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 10:00 am

Featured biz mama: Jenny Duranski of Noktivo

Jenny Duranski is the founder and owner of green spa and beauty boutique, Noktivo, located in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. She began her career in the beauty industry when she was 19 and shortly after fell *well dove head first actually* down the rabbit hole that is green beauty, when allergies and sensitivities arose from the products she was working with. It is from this journey that Noktivo was born, a mission to provide Chicago a truly natural beauty experience, offering spa services and products that are not only clean, but effective.

Jenny Duranski of Noktivo

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

Since I am still a relatively young company, I split my time between working IN my business and ON my business. I am still the lead nail technician, not only because I love what I do, but to save on costs so I can reinvest that expense into growing. The other half of the time I am hitting the ground (or the computer) hustling up business however I can. It’s definitely strategic, but as a new brand in a saturated marketplace, it’s a lot of work to build your community from scratch.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

I have a 9 month old daughter, Marlena.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I got pregnant with my daughter only 6 weeks after opening Noktivo’s doors. Surprise! While we knew we wanted to have kids, I planned to start my business before we had children because I knew the extra challenges that would come balancing a business and a family.

How did your business life change after having children?

It has done a complete 180. I am in the thick of it though, or so I’ve been told “the trenches” with a newborn. I used to be able to work in, on and dance circles around my business 24/7. That is just not possible at all anymore. My mother comes one day a week to watch my daughter and I swear it’s the only day I breathe.

Describe a typical workday.

What is that? Just kidding. :) If I’m not on the schedule to take clients, my typical workday includes taking care of my daughter while I send/ return emails, phone calls and text messages to book appointments or events. When she naps is when I focus my creative energy with no distraction on designing and scheduling our email blasts, social media posts, research, analyzing business data, writing blog posts and reading industry news. Not all of that gets done in the 90 minutes she naps per day, but bites of each do, so by the end of the week the ‘projects’ are complete. On days I take clients, I don’t have to split focus and change gears so quickly. I get to focus 100% on the experience of Noktivo; pampering my clients, making them feel good, building relationships and talking to them about green beauty. I love both aspects of being an owner and nail technician for exactly this reason. One side fills my brain, the other fills my heart.

What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

Of course I am partial because it’s my industry, but self-care really is so important. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, carving out even 10 minutes a day for just yourself has many wellness benefits. It’s a juggling act to be a mom in business. Taking a little time to relax, unwind and clear our thoughts, keeps us healthy to do it all over again tomorrow.


Chicago, IL

July 15, 2015

4 tips for being less productive

Filed under: Health & Wellness,Time Management — lidia @ 4:46 pm

4 tips for being less productive

I follow many small business blogs and they frequently share tips for productivity. But lately I’ve been thinking of ditching the spreadsheets, time maps and to-do lists, and trying to be less productive.

I recently read a great article by Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune about the “misspent summers” of our youth and how kids are overscheduled nowadays. I say adults are overscheduled too. We try to pack productivity into every minute of the day (the pressure’s especially on if you’re a working parent).

My son had summer break from daycare recently and while it was a bit hectic coordinating family work schedules, I thoroughly enjoyed a few unscheduled—and unproductive—days with him. It not only let me rest my work brain, but opened me up to new ideas.

For myself, switching out of work mode is hard—I need something to force me out of my routine. Since I was feeling too immersed in work lately, my son’s summer break—and the opportunity to unschedule myself—came at the perfect time.

4 tips for being less productive:

  1. Take a day off in the middle of the week (if you have kids, hit the playground with them!)
  2. Meet a friend for a leisurely coffee
  3. Take an afternoon yoga class
  4. Read a magazine or book (instead of a small business article)

So, how about you? Can you use some free, unscheduled time to let your creativity flow?

July 13, 2015

Featured biz mama: Megan Coleman of Megan Coleman Design

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 10:00 am

Featured biz mama: Megan Coleman

Megan Coleman of Megan Coleman Design creates beautiful, easy-to-use websites for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has been providing friendly, reliable service to satisfied clients for more than ten years.

Megan and I met over 10 years ago in a local networking group. We have collaborated on projects, though now we find that most of our “business meetings” include our little ones.

Megan Coleman of Megan Coleman Design

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

I run my own business designing and building custom websites (mainly in WordPress). Being a one-person shop, I am the project manager, designer, developer, marketing manager, and financial person at my business.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

My son is 14 months.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I started my business seven years before having children. Quitting my job and taking the leap to start my business was difficult, but the stakes were lower when I didn’t have anyone depending on me financially.

How did your business life change after having children?

I only work part-time now, so I am able to spend most of the week with my son and a few hours on work. Working a few hours a week is difficult because I have so much less time to get things done, my time is less flexible than it used to be, and I can’t take on as many projects as I used to. I also can’t work at home anymore, so I typically work at a local coffee shop, library, or co-working space.

Describe a typical workday.

Spend the morning with my son. The nanny arrives after lunch and I head to a nearby coffee shop for a few hours of focused work time! Typically this includes: designing/building websites, checking email, making calls, occasionally meeting clients. Come back home for dinner and bedtime routine. Once the kid is in bed, have dinner with my husband and an hour or two of personal time.

What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

No matter how well your baby is sleeping, don’t schedule calls during nap time. Unless you can afford to reschedule them last minute!

Megan Coleman Design

Chicago, IL

July 7, 2015

35% off Chronicle Books + free shipping? Yes, please!

Filed under: Uncategorized — lidia @ 12:35 pm


LOVE this time of year: Chronicle Books’ Semi-Annual Sale! Get 35% Off PLUS Free Shipping. Click this link and use code: FRIENDS

Happy Shopping!

Note: this is an affiliate link for Chronicle Books because I love them.

June 29, 2015

Biz Mama “Then and Now:” Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 10:00 am

Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink

Crystal was my first featured biz mama back in 2012. Let’s see what she’s up to now…

Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink in Calgary, Canada is a graphic designer and mama of two. She also manages Creatives’ Cupboard—a resource and voice for creatives working solo or within corporations— which includes publications and in-person events.

Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink

What’s new with you/your business?

Hmmmm where does one start? Since I first connected with Lidia, I was a half year into my passion project of “Creatives’ Cupboard”. I loved connecting with fellow creatives and sharing their stories. That eventually evolved into establishing a solid new website for the endeavor. Part of my growth or simply “moving forward” was due to connecting with the Designers Roundtable accountability group and from there making a connection with a creative business coach, RaShelle Roberts. Because of them I have found sanity and support. I have managed to publish my own first run of the publication using my myNote concept—combing the joys of content and publication with that of notes pages to make the book more valuable to the user.

I had dreams of hosting my own creative camp and started that by hosting Ilise Benun,, for a marketing workshop here in my own hometown. I learned a lot about the work involved so it was a good taster as far as my own dreams of hosting a full on event. Because of my connection with Ilise, she connected me with the new sheriff in town at F+W media and we collaborated to bring my idea of the myNote event book to the full conference. So in June 2015, the myNote was released to my peers at an event that really got the ball rolling for me professionally. Pretty cool I say.

Over the last couple of years I have also created planner system for myself and produced for myself and used it as a self-promo item for my clients. This new planner system which I am calling myLife, Worksheets to Plan your Life, is under review and consideration for production and sales.

Outside of all of this, my clients have come and gone over the years but my focus on my love of publication design has managed to land me as the designer for a quarterly magazine, Canadian Scrapbooker. A great team of women from across Canada putting together a pretty kick ass publication. I would like to think that their increase in sales this past year was due to my part in it all.

What is one thing you learned in the past 3 years?

I have learned a tonne over the last 3 years and if anyone is keen to learn more I would love to hear from them or they can purchase the Creatives’ Cupboard Vol. 1 on my website – I do have some insights there for sure.

But for me to pick just one, hmmmm…

Your dreams translated into a vision can only be completed or even started if you realize that it just takes small steps to make big changes. Don’t focus so much on the end picture, just on the tasks it will take to get there…. Basically, dream big, then work your ass off.

What new tip can you share with fellow Biz Mamas?

My sage advice would be to strategize your day so the time you have to focus on work (without kids) is well used and then turn off the work brain and be in tune to your family for a few hours of connection.

Crystal Ink

Calgary, AB Canada and
Twitter: @crystalinkdesig and @CreateCupboard
Facebook: CrystalInkDesign and CreativesCupboard
Instagram: @perzylo

June 23, 2015

Featured biz mama: Nadine Noble of Idea Nest

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 4:56 pm

Featured Biz mama: Nadine Noble of Idea Nest

Nadine Noble of Idea Nest is a graphic designer who specializes in helping businesses and non-profits transform their information into pieces that are organized and engaging. She considers herself a left-brained designer; one that craves order and functionality in addition to aesthetics. Her passion lies in reports, ebooks and infographics. She lives in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada, enjoying small town life with her husband, son, Bug and Jug dogs (Boston Terrier + Pug, Jack Russell + Pug).

Nadine and I met at the recent HOW Design Conference in Chicago when she stopped by my Moms in Business breakfast roundtable discussion. She was also a contributor to my post HOW Conference recap: Tips from Biz Mamas.

Nadine Noble of Idea Nest

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

My primary role is as a graphic designer but being a solopreneur I am also client services, marketing, IT support and the bookkeeper.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

I have a busy 1 and a half year old son.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I started my business before becoming a mom. In my long term plan I had envisioned starting my own business after I had kids but my husband made a career change that relocated us into a rural area, far from the land of design shop/agencies. I had no desire spend hours a day commuting so it made sense to start my own business.

How did your business life change after having children?

Before my son arrived I rarely turned down projects, working evenings and weekends to fit everything in. Along came baby and suddenly time and energy were no longer in abundance. I couldn’t (sanely) operate the way I had before. It’s been an evolving process but I’ve gotten better at not overbooking myself and learning to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’, especially to projects that aren’t a great fit. I also try to squeeze as much out of my work day as possible by keeping super focused. If I find myself with a few minutes to spare, I go right to my to-do list and see what I can tackle quickly.

Describe a typical workday.

I usually get up at least 30 minutes ahead of my son in the mornings just to have a little time to myself. Brock gets dropped off at the sitter’s and I’m usually at my desk by 8:30. I aim to spend the first 30 min (at least a few times a week) working on my own business and marketing. I’m at my mental peak in the morning so I schedule the tasks that require more thought or that I tend to procrastinate on. I always stop for lunch and take my dogs for a walk. It’s so important to take that mental break (plus my dogs will drive me crazy in the afternoon if they miss their walk). I continue working until 4 and then go to pick up my son. It’s not uncommon for me to do some administrative work after he goes to bed at 7:30, but I’m trying to keep that to just a few nights a week.

What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

Make an effort to take a little time for yourself that isn’t work, errands or chores. While “alone time” is nice, it’s not synonymous with “me time” and it took awhile for me to catch on to that. Earlier this year I saw myself turning into a pessimistic person and knew I had to make a change. I realized that I wasn’t taking time to do things for myself. Now I aim for at least an hour a day that’s just for me – even if it means that I have to get up a little earlier to enjoy it. It’s paying off for everyone.

Idea Nest

Walkerton, Ontario

Older Posts »