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, Marketing-Mentor.com, 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
www.crystalink.ca and www.creativescupboard.com
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

June 19, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: write an email newsletter

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , — lidia @ 10:30 am

10-Minute marketing: werite an email newsletterI often hear people tell me they dread writing and sending a email newsletter. I, on the other hand, love them. Why? It’s an easy way to stay in touch with clients (I always hear from someone or receive a new project after sending a newsletter).

Also, I have the process down to a system: short lead-in article that links to a blog post, a few callouts about recent newsworthy items.

It wasn’t always this easy for me. I used to spend hours preparing (or agonizing over) a newsletter. Now I can knock one of these out in a half-hour!

Having a clear strategy for what I was trying to accomplish, paired with a simple editorial calendar made all the difference. With that in mind, before you start writing your next newsletter, review your marketing strategy (who are you trying to reach and why) and you’ll find writing so much easier.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Write an email newsletter.

Need help creating an editorial calendar? Download my simple template here (Excel file).


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

June 17, 2015

Negotiating with clients…and toddlers

Filed under: Small Business — lidia @ 3:57 pm

One of the aspects of small business that many people don’t like is negotiating money. However, I’ve gotten a new perspective on negotiating—and it’s all thanks to my toddler.

When you’re a mom of a toddler, you find yourself constantly negotiating. In the Target toy aisle: “If you put that toy down and jump in the cart, we’ll go get a pretzel.” In the grocery checkout line: “If you stop crying, we’ll watch the LEGO Movie when we get home.” I used to think this was bribery, however I realized it’s just negotiating: “If you do (or not do) this, than we can do this (which is obviously much better!)

The same can be applied in client negotiations. Cost tends to be where most negotiations take place. Taking it from the above perspective, what can you do (or not do) to come to an agreement? In the case of a design project, I may suggest reducing the amount of initial research or number of concepts that are presented to reduce the cost.

In both motherhood and business, negotiation all boils down to this: coming to an agreement where both parties are happy and can enjoy the rest of their shopping trip…err, day.

May 26, 2015

Share your story: looking for Biz Mamas to feature!

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

Call for Biz Mama contributors

I’m kicking my monthly Featured Biz Mama column back into gear and need your help.

Are you a mom rockin’ a small business, creative side project or entrepreneurial venture? I want to feature you right here on Biz Mama!

I post Biz Mama interviews twice a month on Mondays. Fill out this Google doc to reserve your spot. And please share with your mom friends.

I’m constantly inspired and encouraged by the Biz Mamas that I interview… I look forward to reading your stories!

Read past featured Biz Mama stories here.

May 18, 2015

HOW Design Live conference recap: tips from biz mamas

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

How has motherghod changed your work life?

I was thrilled to meet so many fellow biz mamas (and mamas-to-be) at the recent HOW Design Live conference in Chicago. I’m always inspired when I talk to fellow working moms—especially those in creative business—so I wanted to share tips from the mamas I met (as well as friends from past HOW conferences).

What is one way motherhood has changed your business/work life?

I don’t waste time anymore. I have a new perspective on what really matters and how to best utilize my time and energy.

Crystal Reynolds, Creative Dreamer at Crystal Ink
Calgary, AB CANADA


Motherhood has lead me to bring more focus and efficiency to my work day. The time between 8:30 and 4 slips by too fast so I try to make every minute count. I do my best to minimize (or eliminate) distractions that pull me off course; texting, Facebook and other fun but time robbing activities. I want to be truly present when my family is home and not worried about checking emails.

Nadine Noble, Idea Nest
Walkerton, Ontario, Canada


I launched UPPERCASE magazine the year before I had a child. It was an experiment and a financial risk, but I knew that was the only time I’d have that freedom and unlimited bucket of time required to get it started. In the years since my son was born, I’ve been the sole earner in the family so that my husband can take care of our son while I’m working. This responsibility drives me to ensure that the business has a solid future to support not only our living, but that it keeps me inspired creatively. UPPERCASE is a huge part of our lives, so I strive to make sure that we’re all enthusiastic about it. Happiness in work and at home are all wrapped together.

Janine Vangool, publisher/editor/designer of UPPERCASE magazine
Calgary, Alberta, Canada


Being my own boss, diva picking my clients, allows me to have a flexible schedule to be a great mom and a great business person to my clients because I love what I do!

Jenny Poff, President/Creative Director of Presque Isle Designs
Erie, PA USA


I’m a type-A workaholic sort, and before the kiddo came along I would work all the time: early mornings, late nights, straight through meals, on vacation. Now there are hard stops in my day. He gets uninterrupted time each morning for breakfast and the walk to school. I rearrange my schedule to coach his little league team and be there for him in the evenings, with no work distractions. And while that sometimes means that I have to work the early mornings or late nights, he doesn’t see it. He gets my undivided attention when it’s his time.

Alisa Bonsignore, Writer & Strategist at Clarifying Complex Ideas
Pleasanton, California USA


My time has become more valuable, so it’s easier to turn down projects I’m not interested in.

Megan Coleman, Megan Coleman Design
Chicago, IL USA


I find my creativity was boosted after having a child. Since I now have to find creative solutions for typical toddler problems (sleeping, eating, tantrums, etc.) it also encourages me to be more creative in my work life.

Lidia Varesco, Art Director & Designer at Lidia Varesco Design
Chicago, IL USA


I think we all can agree that it’s not easy to juggle work and family. But our passion for creativity, newfound resourcefulness, and support from friends and family gets us through. I hope these comments inspire and encourage you as you juggle motherhood and creative business.

Several of the moms above are past Featured Biz Mamas, so make sure to check out those interviews too.

Are you a fellow HOW Live biz mama and want to share your biz mama tip?

Email me and I will add you to the post!

May 15, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: create a marketing system

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

10-minute marketing: create a marketing systemA great way to save time in your marketing is to create systems for tasks that you perform regularly. This will assure you get them done as quickly as possible without missing steps (which is easy to do when you are multitasking).

A few examples of my own marketing systems are:

  • After a press mention (see graphic below)
  • When a design job is finished

typebaby after press tasks

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Create a marketing system.

TIP: Create a document on your desktop or store it in Evernote or cloud storage for easy reference.

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

May 12, 2015

HOW Design Live conference recap: finding honesty, passion & kindred spirits in small business

Filed under: Creativity,Marketing & Promotion,Small Business — lidia @ 2:17 pm

HOW Design celebrates 25 years; Janine Vangool speaks; Moms in Business Breakfast Roundtable; a beautiful sunny Chicago day

Last week was a whirlwind as I attended the HOW Design Live conference in Chicago, while juggling a sudden overload of work and a 3-year old’s schedule. HOW Design Live brings together print and interactive designers, as well as writers and other creatives for a week of speakers, workshops and networking.

I noticed several themes throughout this year’s HOW Design Live:

  1. Talking honestly about money: I attended several sessions which spoke honestly about money, sharing their billings, rates and/or project fees. Armin Vit of Under Consideration LLC even went so far as to detail “How to Spend $400,000 of Your $530,000 Billings” (the actual name of his session). It was refreshing to hear people talk honestly about money with their peers and encourage us to do the same.
  2. Rise above disappointments: It was also refreshing to hear design leaders such as Paula Scher of Pentagram talking about getting her ideas shot down. So, it really does happen to all of us! But it’s how you bounce back that makes all the difference. (Case in point: Pentagram’s redesign of Microsoft Windows 8, which had some bumps early on)
  3. Passion projects can pay off big: Artist Jeff Greenspan and Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister & Walsh both spoke about personal projects which started off just for fun, but ended up garnering much unexpected press and success. See Jeff’s many personal projects here (Hipster Traps is my fave) and Jessica’s project, 40 Days of Dating here.
  4. You can find kindred spirits without even looking: I was looking forward to reconnecting with fellow moms in business that I knew—but I also unexpectedly met lots of new ones. What started out as small talk led to, “oh, you’re a mom too?” and a lively conversation about work or potty training. It was also exciting to meet some of my working mom heroes who were speakers: Bryony Gomez-Palacio of Under Consideration and Janine Vangool of UPPERCASE assured us that we can be moms and still follow our creative passions. Lastly, I had a great opportunity to swap stories with the “Moms in Business Breakfast Roundtable” I hosted (which included moms, a dad, and even a pet dad!)

Stay tuned for my upcoming post featuring insight from the fellow biz mamas I met at HOW Live

Want to be featured? Please email me ASAP!

May 8, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: research a conference to attend

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 4:14 pm

1`0-minute marketing: research a conference to attendI just got back to my studio after spending the week attending the HOW Design Conference in Chicago. I’m feeling a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to learn small business skills, network with like-minded people, get creative inspiration—and even brush up on my public speaking skills (I introduced a speaker’s session and hosted a breakfast roundtable).

I try to attend the HOW Design Conference whenever it’s in Chicago, as I never fail to return to my studio with a notebook filled with ideas, job leads, and lots of new friends.

There are two types of conference to attend: 1) one with like-minded individuals in your industry (as I did), or 2) one that your prospects will be attending. I believe both are valuable and should be included in your marketing budget.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Research a conference to attend.

Need help preparing for your conference? Read my post How to Design Your Perfect Conference Experience.

And stay tuned for “what I learned” post about the HOW Design experience next week…

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

May 4, 2015

Have you read a children’s book lately?

Filed under: Mompreneur — lidia @ 1:00 pm

Children's Book WeekChildren’s Book Week starts today! Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country and is a wonderful way to encourage children to read. See their website and your local library for Children’s Book Week events and activities.

As a mom of a toddler and budding children’s book author/illustrator, I’m planning a little Children’s Book Week activity. Every day from May 4-10, I will share the book we are reading on my @lsvdesign Instagram page. Follow along and join in the fun by sharing the books you are reading too!


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