November 5, 2012

Biz Mama: Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink Design

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

Biz Mama Crystal Reynolds, her workspace, and her family

Biz Mama columnMy first featured Biz Mama is graphic designer and mama of two Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink Design in Calgary, Canada.

Crystal and I met “virtually” at the 2011 HOW Design Conference when she was seeking participants for a collaborative post-conference project. I loved her approach of making connections and we have kept in touch ever since.

Speaking of connections, Crystal has a blog called Creatives’ Cupboard in which she connects with other creatives in-person and online. She recently celebrated the 1st anniversary of Creatives’ Lunch, her local gathering for Calgary creative professionals.

Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink Design

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

I am currently running a print design solo design firm with goals of focusing on the niche market of publication design. As a solo firm my roles and responsibilities pretty much cover the full spectrum including from bookkeeping, client relations, sales, production, creative direction, art direction and business development. Oh don’t forget office cleaning and management. Yes, I am living the life.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

I have two girls ages 8 and 6.5. My first was conceived with purpose. I wasn’t happy with my job at the time and felt that I wanted instead to work for myself instead of for someone else’s bottom line. That way I would benefit from my efforts instead of a corporation.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I had been running a freelance business on the side of my salary jobs for about 5 years before we had kids. Once my year maternity leave was up I made the decision to focus on freelancing and not return to my position as manager of membership services at a high end fitness club.

Having children gave me perspective that one of the challenges of my position worrying about whether guests had towels for example, was not worth the stress. The driving factor to go it on my own was having the authority over my day. Flexibility required when one has children and the opportunities to be available for those moments that count.

How did your business life change after having children?

Since I was working part-time freelance in design before kids, after kids it was still part-time. As I found head space free from motherhood demands the business was my escape. Design was where I found my happy place when parenting made me insane.

As kids grew I needed space for my creative work. For me I couldn’t do that with kids around so found part time care for them. One of the key things I learned was to communicate my working office hours so earn I could be reached by my clients they could have my full attention and focus without kid distractions, as well this has helped to organize and balance my day and the variety of roles I have (designer, mother, wife and friend).

Now that my children are in school full time I have a much more regular work schedule, being house bound I have craved more interaction so started connecting with other creative professionals by hosting a creatives’s lunch where we simply meet up at a restaurant, buy our own lunch and let the conversation flow.

On the work front, seeing a change in my client needs I applied for an in house position at a creative studio and landed a part time freelance gig. It is the best of both worlds. Some regular work as well as an opportunity to work collaboratively. It has been an amazing experience to learn from others as well as flex my design skills on projects I haven’t landed myself.

So as far as how children have impacted my business you could say I have more focus and drive to be efficient and focused. I am a lover of print and I keep in my office a saying my printer has shared, “in the end, it is only ink on paper, you won’t be fretting about these projects when you are on your death bed.” Perhaps a little morbid, but it helps to give me perspective when clients or project deadlines are intense.

 Describe a typical workday.

Wake up an hour or more before the family. Coffee… Breakfast if a good day. Get kids and husband lunches made, their breakfast as well then drag kidlets out of bed, fed, dressed and out the door. Watch them get on the bus from my office window.

Depending on the day I am either out the door to freelance at a studio while kids in school or they don’t need me and I have the day to focus on my clients and the variety of projects I have on the go. (Creatives’ Cupboard, role as president for U of C Kinesiology Alumni Chapter, partnership in cookbook creation and design). Around all of this I still have the business to manage, tidy the house, I cook all the meals and work to have a social life with friends and colleagues.

Then…. The kids get home around 3:30pm and I step away from the computer to focus on them while they cry about being hungry, homework is hard and just overall sisters at each other’s throats… And it isn’t even supper yet. So if I was out freelancing during the day, my evening is filled with catching up on my client work and maybe catching a TV show to chill out then on a good day be in an appropriate mood to be social with my husband. Lately I have been making the effort to get to bed at a decent hour.

I would like to make one comment here about my day. I mentioned my husband a little but the fact is he is half of how I survive in a day. We divide up our responsibilities for the house evenly and I never hear him complain. If anything he complains about, is the limited time I have for us as a couple which as most married peeps know, a marriage is in constant flux and always needs work and TLC when you can.

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

Sleep. The fact is you can kill yourself to try and catch up, but the fact is your job is NEVER done. So get your 7-9 hours of sleep at night (for those who don’t have young babies) or at least make sure to balance your day with anything that will re-energize you.

And NEVER feel like you need to explain or defend this sanity time. If you are waiting for someone to tell you to take a break… You will be waiting a LONG time.

Thank you, Crystal!

Crystal Ink Design

Calgary, AB Canada &
Twitter: crystalinkdesig
Facebook: CrystalInkDesign


October 9, 2012

How do you tell your story? Insights from great storytellers @chicagoideas #CIW

Filed under: Branding,Marketing & Promotion — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 4:45 pm

This week is Chicago Ideas Week and I was anxiously awaiting today’s session on storytellers, presented by Leo Burnett.

Rushing downtown after a last-minute pediatrician visit, I settled in for an hour-and-half of storytelling inspiration (and a much-needed break).

Speaker highlights:

Obsession—an essential part of storytelling

Author Rebecca Skloot talked about how obsession is an essential part of storytelling. I totally agree, in fact the concept of “creative obsession” drives a lot of popular blogs (including my own type-obsessed blog). She also gave an inspired account of how a professor’s lecture sparked the idea for her award-winning book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. “You never know what one sentence will do to affect someone’s life.” (paraphrasing)

Telling a brand’s story

Susan Credle, Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett spoke about storytelling through advertising and marketing. She discussed approaching brands and products as characters in a story. She also elaborated on how storytelling has evolved in advertising: brands are starting stories and people are taking those stories and expanding on them. She showed a wonderful example, the Leo Burnett-produced Secret Mean Stinks campaign (a must-see for parents of girls especially).

Becoming a part of your story

A.J. Jacobs gave an entertaining talk on observing and participating in storytelling. In his case, this means a year of living according to the Bible and reading the entire encyclopedia. “You change your behavior and your mind follows.”

Telling your own story

I was delighted to return to my office and stumble upon this article in my inbox: Want Your Message To Stick? Tell A Story. It tied in nicely with today’s storytelling session and offered  tips for telling your story, such as figuring out your idea (or “character”) and setting the mood. Read the rest here.

One of my recent goals has been to focus more on my (and my business’) story.

What about you…how do you tell your story?


October 3, 2012

Book review: Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs by Jill Salzman @foundingmom

Filed under: Biz Mama,Book review,Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 1:15 pm

Though I’m an experienced small business owner (12 years) I’m still a newbie mom (14 months), so I’m always eager to gain insight from more experienced biz mamas.

Jill Salzman is one of those mamas. She’s an entrepreneur with several businesses under her belt, founder of the fantastic mom entrepreneur group Founding Moms, and recently wrote the book, Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs. Whew!

What’s great about the book

The book details typical small business topics such as taxes and trademarks, however she also discusses things that biz mamas find challenging, such as finding “me time” and getting dinner on the table (prepping meals in advance has become a lifesaver for me!)

The book is a fast read, a must for busy moms. It’s organized into a series of tips, which you can easily go back to and reference.

Most of all, I appreciate the positive (and humorous) tone of the book. Being a business owner and a mom isn’t always easy, but a sense of humor and positive attitude can make life so much easier.

Who should read this book?

Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs is a useful (and entertaining) guidebook for both new and seasoned biz mamas.

August 13, 2012

So, what am I reading?

Filed under: Mompreneur,Small Business — Tags: , , — lidia @ 5:39 pm

a few of my current selections…

Apparently, this past Friday (August 9th) was National Book Lover’s Day. I am truly a book lover. I always have several books going, on my nightstand, coffee table, office desk.

So, what am I reading?

Right now, I’m inspired by “mamas gettin’ it done.” Being a relatively new mompreneur (my son just turned 1-year old), I love to read about biz mamas who have experience and advice to share.

I’m also reading about starting a product line as I work on my new line of typographic baby goods.

I’m dreaming of my next vacation (did I mention I have a 1-year old?) and living vicariously through Sibella Court and the gorgeous way she decorates her life with her travel momentos.

And now that Little One—along with his appetite—is growing fast, I’m reading about making baby food. Or should I say, toddler food. (Lately, that’s all I have time to cook!)

My reading list

You might notice that some of my books are checked out from the library. Since space is currently at a premium in my home (read: it’s filled with baby gear) I had to slow down my book buying habit!

What’s on your current reading list?

October 7, 2011

Preparing your business for baby

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 7:12 am

Like many moms-to-be who are running a small business, as the Big Day got closer I started to wonder what to do about maternity leave. With no employer providing time off and work coverage, the thought of it was overwhelming.

Read my latest post on the Creative Freelancer Blog to see how I successfully prepared for my Little One’s recent arrival.

Share your comments: how did you prepare your small business for baby?

• • •

See all of my small business posts on the Creative Freelancer Blog here.

January 6, 2011

Let’s get together (and this time, I mean it!)

Filed under: Small Business,Time Management — Tags: , — lidia @ 9:46 am

Are you like many small business owners, promising to “get together” with business connections but never making it happen?

Read my latest post on the Creative Freelancer Blog for tips for managing this problem.

• • •

See all of my small business posts on the Creative Freelancer Blog here.

November 24, 2010

Shop local this Saturday! #SmallBizSat

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

A recent Duct Tape Marketing blog post made me aware of Small Business Saturday taking place this Saturday. (how did I not know about this?)

Small Business Saturday was created by AMEX OPEN and small business advocacy groups trying to encourage people to shop local (rather than at big chain stores) on Saturday, November 27th. Shopping local benefits both the overall economy, as well as your local community. Plus, it’s fun to get out and meet your neighbors.

Here in Chicago, the organization Local First Chicago (I’m a member) is spreading the word about the importance of buying local this holiday season with Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink & Buy Local. In my Chicago neighborhood alone, there are a number of clothing, gift and pet boutiques with lots of holiday goodies. Gift certificates from neighborhood restaurants are also a great way to shop local.

So why not take the opportunity on Saturday to skip the mall and take a stroll around your neighborhood. Many local shops and boutiques are hosting special holiday shopping events and parties, so keep an eye out in your local community.

Shop small business – shop local!

October 26, 2010

Chicago Resources for small businesses

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 9:26 am

I attended the City of Chicago’s One Hour Mentor Program yesterday, featuring a panel of entrepreneurs and representatives from city organizations discussing starting and growing a small business.

In addition to emphasizing the importance of having (and following) a strong business plan, they spoke about obtaining financing for start-ups and established businesses. All three organizations offer small business loan/microloan programs, as well as small business counseling, workshops and seminars (many free of charge). Several of the organizations also have business plan competitions. Visit the websites for more information.

Chicago small business resources

July 21, 2009

Change of office scenery, part 2

Filed under: Networking — Tags: , , — lidia @ 3:04 pm

You have a home office. You’ve made the effort to work outside of your office at least one day a week. Still feeling disconnected? Miss the creative interaction of co-workers? Getting out there and meeting fellow business owners can help.

Where to start? Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to link up with like-minded biz folks. Most Chambers host regular networking events as well as business workshops. Another useful group for small businesses in Chicago (of which I’m a member) is Local First Chicago—a network of locally owned, independent businesses and community organizations.

There are also various “leads” groups around town, which offer a business the opportunity to be the only member in their industry represented. For specific business or networking groups,  you can search And of course, we recommend Neighborhood Networking, a monthly networking event (which we co-host) that travels to different neighborhoods around Chicago.

A great suggestion mentioned in the comments of a Biznik artcile I posted was coworking, a collaborative work environment. See the article for resources for finding coworking spaces.

March 23, 2009

Illinois Small Business Economic Recovery Forum: Mar. 24

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 6:03 pm

Wondering how the economic stimulus will affect your small business? Attend the Illinois Small Business Economic Recovery Forum: Bringing Economic Recovery to Small Businesses in Illinois held tomorrow, March 24th at Navy Pier. Visit SCORE Chicago for more info on the event and the economic stimulus.

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