Tell us about yourself.
I'm an illustrator, designer and postgraduate student; and I'm married, with a 16-month-old daughter. In the little spaces of life between those things, I like wasting time in libraries and parks, sketching on trains, ‘experimental’ cooking (borderline poisoning), and, in theory, I’m a big fan of plays and poetry readings, but in practice I can’t even remember the last time I went! I guess that’s become a casualty of a busy life.
Tell us about your shop. What do you sell?
I sell illustrated and customized cards, prints and decor items. At the moment, my little specialty is my illustrated ‘letter’ bookends, which can be customized with any design, but I am also working on a larger range of pop-up cards, wrapping paper, and nursery rhyme-themed bookends.
I’ve been drawing for most of my life, including in some of my earliest memories, so I can’t really imagine not doing it. I do it because I can’t not do it. But I only began making products to sell last year. Initially they were intended purely as presents for family members, but I had a few follow-up requests from other people, and it grew from there.
What goals do you have for your shop? Is is a hobby, major source of income, or somewhere in between?
I think it’s somewhere in between. A self-financing hobby, and sometimes a supplemental income, depending on how productive I’ve been! It’s still very much in its infancy, so at the moment I am working on streamlining my production so that I can spend less time fulfilling orders and more time developing new designs. My goal is to build up a much larger range of products, and realize more of the ideas floating around in my head. As my daughter gets older, I hope to invest much more time and energy into the print illustration side, but for now, streamlining and growing my product range is the goal.
How do you balance your business with your family?
With difficulty sometimes! Since I'm studying too, I need to make a lot of decisions about what to prioritize and when. My daughter sometimes likes to watch me draw, but otherwise, I don't work when she's awake. I don't think I’d be a very good mother if I took that attention away from her. But I'm lucky that she has quite reliable nap times at the moment - I try to have everything constantly ready to go, so that I can grab any spare moment to do a bit more. After my husband gets home from work, we have some family time, and then if I have not been very productive during the day I do an hour or two of work later in the evening, after my daughter's bedtime. My husband often looks after her on Saturdays, so I can get a good chunk done, and then Sunday is family time. It’s a bit fraught at times, but I like that ‘fast-paced’ feeling of fitting a lot in.
I have a shelf! I would absolutely love a studio, but at the moment my materials migrate around the house with me. I do have individual boxes for supplies, work-in-progress projects, and finished pieces, which keeps my head somewhat organised, but no permanent workspace.
What has been the most difficult aspect of being a Mommy with a Small Business?
Not having 28 hours in the day. I used to need long stretches of time to ‘warm up’ and get myself in the right head-space to work, but I've had to accept that I will now not often get those uninterrupted chunks of time. I need to be ready to snatch five minutes here and there. I'm constantly amazed at how much you can actually get done in 5 minutes if you don't procrastinate. I was the queen of procrastination, so its been a tough lesson to learn. I think the other difficulty is trying to avoid burn-out and giving yourself a chance to recharge. You can’t always be on standby without getting drained, so I have to occasionally draw a line and say ‘no more today.’ That’s hard to do when there are five different projects vying for attention, but sometimes it’s the most productive thing, in the long run, that you can do.
What has been the most rewarding?
Being paid for my artwork is a very validating feeling, and it’s especially nice to be paid for something I enjoy doing. I like knowing that I am doing something else alongside being a mother and a wife. I want to be a good example for my daughter, and that includes being someone with my own identity, ambitions and interests. And, although I don't get a lot of relaxation time, I enjoy the feeling of being busy. Most of the time, anyway.
Do you have any tips for other moms with a small/home business?
Learn how to make the most of small chunks of time! I try to keep several small goals in mind - finish shading a figure, paint a base coat on a bookend, make notes on one chapter, etc - so that when I have a free moment, I don't waste time deciding what to do next, and I don't get overwhelmed by the entirety of what needs doing. I just focus on those little goals, and eventually they have added up to the big goals without me even noticing.
If you would like to see more of her designs, you can find Amanda at the following websites:
Etsy Shop: www.etsy.com/shop/AmandaMoussa