Oh, Olivia. She’s divine. Olivia is an illustrator and founded the wedding stationery company Vigilante Paper, which I love because it’s custom…ish. She’s not a formally trained illustrator — she actually went to grad school for city design and spent ten years at urban planning and architecture firms but her favorite aspect of work was always cartography – making beautiful maps for clients. In other words, the “art” part of urban planning was the most sexy part of it.
Once she got married, her husband encouraged her to do what she loves, which was to draw. Since she’d been doing wedding invitations for friends as gifts, it seemed natural to sell what she knows how to make. People seem to respond to Vigilante Paper’s hand-drawn feel: it’s so easy to find invitations made with cool fonts — or even letterpressed type — but it’s hard to find invitations with the tactile feeling of hand-illustrations.
She also runs Vigilante Living, a lifestyle blog that is absolutely awesome. Olivia may identify as an illustrator but she’s got serious storytelling chops. She says things like “Get your Irish up” instead of “find your motivation, get angry if you need to, and then go perform” and follows it up with a great story about her mom and some sideline parent coaching during high school track meets. Her turns of phrases make reading whatever interesting thing she’s thinking about even better.
Olivia acknowledges she could not have started her business without supportive childcare. When her eldest daughter turned two, she hired a nanny four days a week. In six months, Vigilante Paper was launched. Now that there are two tots and two sites, she has a sitter three days a week. Four days was too much time away from them and she found that with efficient time management, she could get just as much done in three days and get more fun kid-time every week.
Structurally, the two weekdays she’s not working, she’s doing everything domestic and kid-oriented – groceries, playdates etc. On the three days she’s in studio, there is a strict Olivia rule: no bill paying, letter writing, or playdates. She says things are easier if she compartmentalizes. The only exception? She allows herself to get her hair done on the days she has a sitter. In her words: “If I let that go completely, I begin to resemble a cavewoman.”
Here’s what Olivia had to say about being a SpitfireMom.
How does being a mom influence your work?
They say all successful entrepreneurs have failures under their belt. Well, my first business, Baron von Freckle, a kid-oriented paper goods brand was a total and complete flop. I designed all the illustrated products, but did not know how production would work. None of the products could be made profitably. But I LOVE drawing for children. I draw with my kids all the time. My style is very wobbly and naive like a kid’s. Perhaps it’s because I am not formally trained. But I love that about my style — it’s childlike not serious. And, I am just blown away with child’s observations of things. Their open minds. If I can keep drawing like a child I will feel I have succeeded.
I like to think of myself as the Meg White (drummer-half of the rock band The White Stripes) of illustration — big on passion, more naive and primitive in my style. My computer/my e-commerce platform is the Jack White to my Meg: very technically sound and able to handle anything. I am certain that e-commerce is what makes my company thrive. If I had to invest in numerous employees and a brick and mortar retail studio, I’m not sure the business would be doing so well.
I, do, sometimes feel that my friends who do not work are better connected in the mom community. There are just more opportunities for playdates and getting advice from other moms. I do that two days a week and those days are precious to me. Other mothers are my main source of good ideas in how to organize my home, get the scoop on activities and books and answer questions about naps. I would be so lost without my smart mother-pals from whom I am *always* learning.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?
My bridal clients do not ever deal with me except via email. My design colleagues all have children too, so it’s not gauche to be nursing on the conference call or running into time crunches before the sitter has to leave for the day.
We know a SpitfireMom like Olivia has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:
Dress like an architect. Black clothes, (dress + tights, pants and sweater, whatever) accompanied with cool shoes (usually red) and cool glasses. That is my uniform. Feeling good about myself as a woman includes me not schlepping around in my sweats all day long. Having a uniform, I can spend more time playing with my kids, or making a homemade breakfast before work.
My other dirty little secret is ordering groceries online — you can’t always get the best produce, but you save time going to the grocery store and your kids are spared the bubonic plague or whatever virus is waiting for them on those nasty shopping carts.
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?
I have not figured out having a regular date night. My husband & I used to go to comedy shows all the time in San Francisco. We have only been once since we had children! But we miss our kids so we tend to want to play with them in our free time.
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Olivia says:
Children enrich everyone’s lives. You will fall in love with your child harder than you ever have before. Enjoy it and don’t try to be perfect. Good is good enough. They will be proud of you later on for folowing your dreams.
Olivia, we’re both beyond excited to have you in the SpitfireMom Society. You’re enriched both our lives and made us laugh our rumps off. Cheers to you, lady!
Heidi & Julie
Know a fabulous, creative mompreneur? We want to hear about her (or YOU)!