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The SpitfireMom Society Introduces: Melissa Salvatore of A Little Photo Studio

By August 25, 2014

mel In my work with Forth, a community building adventure for Chicago’s creative women, I’m part of a constant exploration for rad women and rad spaces to gather them in. Enter Melissa Salvatore. I first saw one of her gorgeous spaces at an event and I was smitten. Then I met Melissa. Double smitten. Then, she graciously opened her doors to us for a salon and brought her thoughtful, wise, talented, fun, savvy, lovely presence as a participant. Can you tell I think she’s great? She’s also a triple entrepreneur, a mom, and our not surprisingly our newest SpitfireMom.

Like I said, Melissa is many things. Business-wise, she’s a photographer and a business owner and co-owner as well. She co-owns Heritage Bicycles (a divine custom bike and coffee shop) and Heritage Littles (think milk & cookie bar with wee custom bikes!) with her husband Michael Salvatore – he runs the show for all things business with these. Melissa has her hands, opinions and creativity involved in many aspects of both companies and her own business baby is owning and photographing for A Little Photo Studio, which they smartly co-branded in the Heritage family. The photography studio shares a physical space with Heritage Littles. (If you want a gorgeous peek at Heritage Littles, check out this feature from Forth with photos by fellow SpitfireMom Kelly Allison or see Littles’ recent naming to Chicago Magazine’s Best of list.)

Melissa & Michael’s adorable tot Bennett, who is now 3 (and a Cinco de Mayo baby to boot!) goes two days a week at Chalk Preschool -which is two buildings down the street from the studio. Melissa reports getting to see his little class walk by twice a day with a shy little wave from him.

As a fellow family who’ve worked out a less-than-traditional model, I always love seeing how other families are making it work. The Salvatore schedule looks like this: Daddy and Bennett day on Mondays while Melissa works. Tuesday/Wednesday he is at Preschool and we both work. Thursday/Friday he is with Melissa while Dad works and then Saturday they have childcare and both work. Sunday? You guessed it: family day! Sounds hectic, but Melissa describes it as pretty seamless and very doable since the longest commute is a 3-min walk down the street.

How does being a mom influence your work?

I would say scatter-brained is the best way to put it. I feel like I am always thinking of a million things at once. Some days I give myself a pat on the back for managing it all so gracefully. Other days I am in the bathroom crying because I am doing too much! I’m not sure it has really changed the “work me,” other than I can’t be as crazy of a workaholic as I used to be.

Well, I can, but the work day has to be broken up with kid time, which I am totally ok with. So, pre-kid, I would go into my then photo studio before 8:30am and not leave until 10pm on most nights. I would accommodate families in any way possible. Now, I am in at 9am and out by 5pm no matter what. Then I am back on my computer working after he goes to bed, usually from 8pm until midnight.

On the days that I am home with him, I am mom while he is awake and then enter work mode on emails and business matters while he naps.

I have had to learn to multi-task in a very different way than I was used to pre-mommy-hood. It has taken a few years, but I am learning and I luckily have surrounded myself around other crazy women who are also entering mommy-hood and running their own biz, so we have had a chance to swap ideas and stories.


Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?

Well, since I am in the world of photographing kids, I do talk about other people’s kids, my kid and everything of the sort. It is great that I can relate to my clients and families with my own stories. I remember before I had a kid that parents always thought I must have kids because I was so good with theirs! And then I always had to say “No, not yet!” So it is great to have stories to swap.

We know a SpitfireMom like Melissa has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:

I would say living where we work. We live above our shop Heritage and both businesses are within a block of each other and Bennett’s preschool is on the same block. We don’t spend time commuting or much time in the car at all. Not sure that is much of a trick as much of a life decision to keep us sane.

What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?

How to relax. Really, I have a hard time with this. Because if I sit down to do anything for myself I get anxiety that there is something else to be done for the family or work. It is very hard for me to turn work off because I love my clients, I love working with photographs and I care about the success of my business.  I was like this when I was working for someone else’s business, so I ultimately knew that I would be the same or worse for my own. Vacation is really the only way that I have been able to escape and truly relax.

I also haven’t figured out how to get a regular workout or yoga schedule into my life and I really really want that back. On the days I am with my son and could go the gym, I feel guilty going to drop him off at the gym daycare to work out when it is our day together.


And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Melissa says:

Your business can build on your life experience. Your company may just grow along with your family. Don’t be worried if it isn’t what you want it to be when you are pregnant or have a newborn. We didn’t think about Heritage Littles until after Bennett was born. As a mom, your work will just change and accommodate the new balance in your life. Of course, there won’t be those days pre-baby that you spent at work day after day until 9 or 10pm (at least I used to) but now I think of my days in parts. I have work-mode, mom-mode and then usually back to work-mode (unless I force myself to watch some well-deserved TV or go out to dinner with the hubby). 

There’s something so refreshing and right-on about people whose business successes and culture make sense when you meet them, because they are equally wonderful. Melissa, you are one of ’em. Friends, if you are in Chicago or coming to Chicago, don’t miss a chance to visit both Heritage General and Heritage Littles. You will absolutely, positively not be disappointed. Milk & cookies and a sweet balance bike are major offerings, but if you are really lucky, you just might get a dash of Melissa herself to brighten your day (or photograph your tots if you are really smart!).


Julie & Heidi

Know a fabulous, creative mompreneur? We want to hear about her (or YOU)!

Email :
A Little Photo Studio / Heritage Littles / Heritage General Store
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