I met Sarah Schultz via Etsy, when I hired her to design custom stationary for a blogger who was super sweet to me. My blogger friend loved her gift, & it started a chain of emails between Sarah & I that led to us asking each other for mutual blog interviews (mine’s here)! As a creative entrepreneur that designs stationary, has her own spa line & has virtually opened a wedding boutique, she was meant for Grown-Up Gigs.
1. What did you want to be when you grew up? I always knew I wanted to work for myself doing something creative. My ideas of how that would play out have changed a lot over the years—they’re still changing, I think—but working for myself and creating has always been my goal. I say on The Sweet Unfolding site somewhere that starting my own business has long been my favorite dream, and it’s so true. In all the various stages of my past, whether in school or at any of my previous jobs (I used to work in advertising and as a writer for nonprofit organizations), working for myself was the dream I kept coming back to. Even though it’s been tough at times, I feel really fortunate that I have the opportunity to work on turning that dream into a reality.
2. As a creative entrepreneur that designs stationary, has a spa line & has virtually opened her wedding boutique, how the heck did you come to dip your pen in all of those pots? I think it’s because I have a short attention span! And I also just really love to design. If I see something that inspires me, whether it’s a cute little bottle or a pretty quilt or a pattern on a tea set, I almost immediately have an idea for a product, followed by ideas for the packaging, product name, etc. I always end up really wanting to see the idea come to life, so oftentimes I’ll just go with it and see what happens. My thought is I can’t lose anything by trying; even if something doesn’t work at least I’ll know I gave it a shot.
Also, all of the various ventures have grown from the wedding boutique I set out to start in 2007. Early on I made mini spa products for wedding favors and then got some requests for larger sizes so it grew from there. The stationery designs were done for fun, since I love designing, and many of those notecard designs have become the prototypes for my line of wedding invitations that I hope to launch in the next month.
3. With so many businesses to run – & having a day job – how do you “balance” your life? (I put balance in quotes because I’m starting to believe that it doesn’t exist) I’m hoping to figure that out someday! Honestly, I am not very good at the balancing act and on more than one occasion I’ve paid the price for over-committing myself. Most significantly was during the first part of this year, when I quietly shut down the businesses for a couple of months. I felt like I hadn’t slept in months, and I hadn’t spent any time with my husband or family. The economy was bad and business was bad and I felt like I had to pour everything I had into it to keep going. I finally just got exhausted and I was on the verge of being depressed.
It was a risky thing to step away for awhile but I needed to do it for my own health and for the health of The Sweet Unfolding. Like so many other small business owners, it’s just me doing everything and if I burn out the company will burn out, too. I want to keep that from happening! So I’m doing less of some of the things I started—limiting the spa lines, for example, to focus more on the stationery. And I’m making myself take time off regularly—without guilt! I try to regularly go for walks, spend time with my husband, and I have started reading and writing for fun again. It’s nice, and I always feel ready to get back down to business again after a few hours to myself.
4. The main thing I hear from clients that have many different interests is that they have to “pick one.” People just don’t tend to think that one can be successful as, say, a yoga teacher who performs improv with an Etsy shop selling homemade jewelry. How did you rise above the voice(s) that told you that you can’t capitalize on all these passions? And was the voice mostly coming from outside sources, or within yourself? I have always been a dreamer, I think, and I’ve always been able to see myself doing so many things. I’m also sort of stubborn in that I don’t like to be told I can’t do something unless there’s a really good reason not to (e.g., don’t run into the street, as there is a car coming). I don’t see why, if we have the passion and the energy to take things on, we should limit ourselves. I love possibility and anticipation and all the what-if-I-tried-this moments in life.
That said, when I first started The Sweet Unfolding, I wanted it to work so badly that I just tried everything I was interested in and waited to see what people liked. I had this vision of a wedding boutique that offered unique fair-trade/organic/handmade items, but I didn’t narrow my focus to one thing, such as just favors, or just accessories. I wanted to do it all, of course! So I wish now that I would have focused on one or two things to start with. It would have been a lot less expensive and a lot less stressful to start small and grow gradually.
Regardless, I’m having fun and that is what’s most important. I’m trying to look at all of it as a learning experience and give myself the grace to find my way. Some things are successful and some are less so. The Sweet Unfolding is a new company, and I’m new at this, too. It’s okay to make mistakes and figure it out as I go.
5. If you can have your present self give your old self – the pre-Sweet Unfolding self – advice, what would you say to her? I think about this all the time! Here are my top three, spoken directly to myself:
- Do not spend so much money on start-up. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE! You will thank yourself a thousand times over in the future.
- Plan for every situation you can think of. Think through every decision and every purchase. Get every detail of every contract in writing, even if you think you don’t need to. Listen to your gut—trust your instincts and don’t ignore them—but don’t worry about everything. Trust that things will always work out, regardless of what comes up.
- Don’t be afraid to dream of all the interesting, awesome things you can do. Don’t be afraid to believe in yourself. Don’t worry that you’ve failed if things don’t turn out just like you imagined, and don’t stop imagining. The path may take you to a different place than you’d planned and will probably be bumpier than you thought possible. But that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. Don’t lose your confidence and hold on to your vision. And remember to have fun and celebrate the fact that you’re living your dream!