June 15, 2018

Creating a better world for my children—one design at a time

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 9:15 pm

Lidia Varesco Racoma on CWC

I spend a lot of time interviewing moms in business for my online community Biz Mama, but I rarely share my own story so I was thrilled when Creative Women’s Co. (a Chicago-based group that hosts intimate gatherings for creative women entrepreneurs) asked to interview me.

Read on to get a peek into my creative inspirations, what a typical day looks like, and why I do what I do.

01. Introduce yourself.

Hello! I’m Lidia Varesco Racoma of Lidia Varesco Design, a branding and marketing design studio in Chicago’s West Loop. I help education-focused organizations such as nonprofits, associations and entrepreneurs share their mission and make an impact. I also outfit kids in good design with my line of baby and kids apparel, typebaby and have an online community for moms in business called Biz Mama.

02. Summarize your life in a few sentences.

I’m a mom of two—kids and businesses (my kiddos are 2 and 6 years old) and my husband is also a creative (writer) so I am creatively-challenged and inspired in both my work and home life.

03.Tell us about your education background.

I graduated from the graphic design program at Columbia College Chicago and was lucky to have talented professors working in the field, as well as an amazing internship at a small design studio that turned into my first job. This helped pave my own career path.

04. How did you start your business?

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I always knew I wanted to have my own business. I had an amazing mentor at my graphic design internship-turned-first-job (thanks, Robin!) so after getting a few more years of experience, I took the plunge and started my design studio in 2000.

05. What inspired you as a creative woman?

I am inspired by what I see around me. I’m a very visual person, so I need to be constantly surrounded by images and words (technology has made this much easier and neater!) Now that I have kids, my children also inspire my creativity as well as my problem-solving skills.

06. What was your first job ever? Any funny or memorable story?

My first job was in middle school as a receptionist at our local church rectory. It was by far the quietest, least stressful job I’ve ever had. In high school and college I worked in retail, which provided many opportunities to hone my customer service skills.

07. If you can build a million dollar company, what would it be?

Basically, I want to help create a better world for my children. I want to help as many organizations as possible get their message out so they can focus on making a difference. I do this by offering nonprofits and other small- to mid-sized organizations the type of strategic design they would get from a large agency but in a more affordable, accessible and personal way. I also aspire to grow my Biz Mama online community and bring more awareness to the many amazing mom-owned businesses out there. We are all in this together!

08. Walk us through your day.

I start off my day with breakfast and getting the kids ready. After I drop off my son at school, I work in my studio until school pickup time. Evenings are generally family time, but I catch up on work or social media in the early morning or evenings. Weekends are generally work-free zones.

09. What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

The highlight of my career was having my design work featured in HOW Magazine (twice!) I’ve been reading HOW since I was in design school, so seeing my work on their pages is an honor and a thrill.

10. Share a quote/advice that you’d like to tell the 25-year-old you.

Don’t rush—you’ll get there. I still have a tendency to try to do too much too fast, so I would encourage my younger self to be patient and know you have plenty of time to achieve all your goals (not to mention, the new ones that will come along!)

This post originally appeared on the Creative Women’s co. blog

Learn more about Creative Women’s Co here.

If you are a mom in business, visit my Biz Mama page to submit an online interview.

April 4, 2018

Event Recap: SheSays Chicago International Women’s Day 2018

Filed under: Biz Mama — Tags: , , — lidia @ 1:48 pm

Photo by Anna Olsztynska

On Thursday, March 8, 2018—International Women’s Day—over 200 women and men gathered at Leo Burnett in Chicago for SheSays Chicago’s 4th annual International Women’s Day event. The panel was made up of women working in the nonprofit, startup and corporate sectors and the overall message was one of discussing how we can collectively press forward and progress gender parity; how we can motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

The event began with Melissa Healy (SVP Group Creative Director at ‎Leo Burnett) presenting a powerful new campaign called We Are Unstoppable. Developed here in Chicago, the campaign aims to eliminate sexual harassment in the advertising industry. (Learn more and add your name in solidarity here)

The panel was was moderated by Jessica Papilla, Data Analyst at Leo Burnett, and included the following local female business and nonprofit leaders:

The conversation was lively, genuine, and inspiring and revolved around lifting up and speaking up for fellow women, instead of competing with or bringing them down. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I just had a similar conversation as a guest on the Feminest podcast.

Read my entire event recap on the SheSays Chicago blog.

October 25, 2017

Recap: Women Supporting Women Conference 2017

Filed under: Biz Mama,Small Business — lidia @ 9:00 am

Last week, I attended the Women Supporting Women Conference in Chicago presented by WeWillWomen.org (formerly Mom+Baby), an event that aims to advance women in both professional and political interests.

The event offered 2 tracks of speakers on topics such as marketing, networking, public speaking and community and political involvement.

I was happy to see so many familiar faces from my local moms in business groups—as well as to meet new people who are running businesses large and small, and making political changes both locally and nationally.

Keynote speaker and Illinois Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza spoke about how she streamlined the Illinois driver’s license renewal process—as well as her trick for getting her 4-year old to practice his Spanish homework.

Another speaker, Becky Carroll of C-Strategies LLC has been active politically for two decades and is one of the co-founders of the recent #StandWithAleppo movement.

And Mom+Baby founder Alexandra Eidenberg, is an active local advocate for women’s rights, and is a candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives 17th District seat.

All in all, it was a day of catching up with old friends, making new friends, and feeling hopeful about the future—as well as my children’s future. Seeing all of the moms in business making changes big and small was inspiring. And as Susan Mendoza so poignantly said: “Anything is possible!” (both in politics and parenting)

Learn how you can become involved with WeWill. 

September 14, 2016

Branding, babies & burnout: my 15-year entrepreneurial journey

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

Lidia Varesco Racoma on the Eric Olson Show

I was recently a guest on The Eric Olson Show, a podcast featuring startup and established entrepreneurs.

Eric and I spoke about my 15-year entrepreneurial journey, including topics such as creating and using a mission statement, tips for overwhelmed working parents and my fun antidote to burnout. Plus hear my top branding tip that you can implement right now.

Listen to Episode 43 of The Eric Olson Show on iTunes.

Read the show notes.



August 17, 2015

Featured biz mama: Mo Zhou of Daycare Discover

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

Featured biz mama: Mo Zhou of Daycare Discover

Daycare Discover helps busy parents find suitable daycare for their family through concierge service and technology development. With concierge service, Daycare Discover specialists tour the daycare, interview the references and collect information tailored to individual family needs. They are working to sign up Chicago corporations provide our concierge services as employee benefit.

Daycare Discover also developed a free mobile web app “Daycare Tour Buddy” for first-time parents to tour day care more effectively when they choose to research day care on their own. Using Daycare Tour Buddy, parents can easily access all the important questions on their mobile device during the tour and easily collect answers for later review and compare daycare at decision time.

Based on Daycare Discover’s recent survey study, 90% of the child care research are done by moms. Daycare Discover’s mission is to take this burden off moms’ shoulder, so they can thrive in their career and spend precious time saved with their family.

Mo Zhou of Daycare Discover

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

I am the founder and CEO of Daycare Discover. As a CEO of brand new startup, I wear many different hats. On some day I can be crafting corporate strategy in the morning and doing front end developing in the afternoon to crafting financial projection into the midnight.

What are the ages of your children?

I have a two-year old boy Aero.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I founded Daycare Discover because I have personally faced the frustration of trying to find a suitable day care. My work was affected during the time because I was trying to play phone tag and carrying on Q&A with daycare during business hours, the only hours daycare is in operation. I took time off work to tour day care only to find disappointments. I believe with all the modern technology available today, the search process shouldn’t be this hard. Daycare Discover’s mission to empower working moms with easy day care search so they can find quality affordable daycare while not affecting their work and life.

How did your business life change after having children?

I started the business after having children. It is very different compared to my consulting career where I have set hours on client site. I love the flexibility of entrepreneur life. Mostly, I love that I am passionate about what I do. Daycare Discover is my other baby.

Describe a typical workday.

I drop off Aero at his daycare around 7:30 am. From 8 am to 9 am, I check my email and reply to emails. At 9am, I will usually head out to tours or corporate client meetings scheduled for the day. I would tour daycare centers for my clients. After returning from the tour, I would entered the information into the database. I pick up Aero from the daycare center at 5 pm and start our night routine. After he goes to bed at 7 pm, I would get back to either web development, marketing tasks, or other company related tasks.

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

Prioritize. There are always million things to do and million ideas to implement. It is very important to prioritize to make every move count.

Daycare Discover
Chicago, IL

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 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 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

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

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