Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Art of Being You: Interview with Gilit Cooper of the Bannerie

Gilit Cooper is the boss at the Bannerie where she sells glitter letter banners for awesome people. She also blogs at Shoes Off Please about Parties, Decor, and DIY. 

Why did you first start the Bannerie? 

I've wanted to have my own business since I was little, but the Bannerie came about because people kept asking me about the banners I was making for our kids' parties. I opened 1 year ago, which seems crazy now!

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?

I grew up moving around but spent most of my childhood in Manhattan which I think really gave me a sense of independence and of knowing that there is so much I could do.

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively? 

Not quite yet. I love what I do and that I get to be creative every day, but I think I'm on my way to what I will ultimately do.

(image thebannerie)

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?

I spoke to a lot of people, did a lot of research online and with books, and listened to podcasts to prepare for opening my shop on Etsy and then once I did it was just learning on the job and making new connections.

How would you describe your process?

I work best first thing in the morning. I'm not naturally a morning person in that I'd rather sleep late if my kids magically decided to and I didn't have anything to do, but once I'm up I am ready to go! I get things started and then print out new orders, respond to e-mails, and go back to the actual work. I try not to do any one thing for too long or I get really antsy and I find that I'm much more productive that way.

What is your favorite medium?

I worked really hard to find media that I like, a sturdy card stock that has pretty color glitter that doesn't shed too much and my twine which is neutral but still has a little sparkle.

(image thebannerie)

Where do you find your inspiration?

It sounds cliche, but life. I try to listen to myself and be in touch with my experiences and how I respond to them because Bannerie customers respond to that more than anything.

What do you do for fun?

A good cup of coffee or meal with my husband or friends is the best! I try to read every weekend to take a break and to expand my mind and while I hate actual flying, I love traveling and seeing new things!

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?

Ha! Not nearly there! Though there were some moments during Alt Summit that felt so surreal, when someone would come up to me and say they had been wanting to meet me or when I would go up to someone to introduce myself and they knew who I was already. That was pretty rad.

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?

I'd like to think that my creative self is present in all aspects of my life, as a wife, mother, blogger, occasionally good cook, and someone who loves home decor.

(image thebannerie)

What is the most difficult part of Being You?

Too many ideas, not enough time!

What is the most rewarding part of your day?

At the end of the day, when I've set aside my work, I go to pick up my kids and they light up and run to me. That car ride back home with the cuties in the back and my work officially done for the day (though I never really stop) feels pretty amazing.

(image thebannerie)

What do you have in the works?

I don't like to talk about it before it's all set up, but I can say that the Bannerie is expanding and it's exciting :)

Who do you admire?

Too many people to list! I've found that in the past year and a half that list has included so many women who are entrepreneurs and leaders in different ways and sizes but that's clearly something I respect and look up to from Sheryl Sandberg to Lisa Congdon.

Thanks friend for the peek into the glittery world of The Bannerie!

Shop: The Bannerie
Instagram: @The Bannerie

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Art of Being You: Interview with McCall Humes of McCall of the Wild

McCall Humes works as a Pinterest influencer and social media consultant from her home in Nevada. She is an unwitting homeschooler and recovering craft addict who now runs the blog McCall of the Wild on which she shares stories about the adventures she squeezes into her life during naptimes and on weekends.

Her tag line on her blog reads, "When was the last time you did something for the first time? She is inspirational, bold, and is seriously living her life out loud!

Why did you first start blogging and how long have you been doing it? 

I’ve been blogging about my adventures for around a year.  I started McCall of the Wild to shake off both a sense of loneliness and a lack of creativity in my life.  I am a mom to two boys, a seven year old with special needs and a toddler. I love my kids more than anything in the world, but after several years feeling overwhelmed by being a stay-at-home mom, I started losing my sense of identity outside of that role. There were many lonely and emotional points before I started my blog when I felt a bit lost outside my own house. I had always been an outgoing person and being semi-confined with little adult interaction was a real challenge for me.  For a long time, I was the only mom in my limited social group and when I did get a chance to be around my peers, I felt like all I had to bring to the conversation was stories about was my children.

I decided to start taking some “me time” in the form of mini-adventures away from my kids. The idea of blogging about my experiences made these little outings feel productive. Having something tangible to show for it, lessened my self-inflicted “mommy guilt” for taking that time away.  I know now that my peace of mind is reason enough have a hobby, but having something tangible was instrumental in the transition to recognizing that. I kept the blog because I found that I really enjoy writing.  

My blog has helped me connect to what made me happy before kids and now that happiness more present in my parenting. Writing has been a therapeutic way for me to examine my own definition of who I am. It has also made me more aware of what examples I am setting for my kids. I now make conscious efforts to show them the importance of balance in life and how making one’s own happiness a priority can make you more enjoyable to be around. 

What do you do for fun?

I constantly seek out first time experiences! I write McCall of the Wild motivated by the question "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" It is about how I am living an adventurous and rewarding life through a series of first time experiences.  I share a First on each post.  Some posts are about small firsts, like getting my eyebrows threaded, some are bigger (learning to kick a field goal, a glass blowing class) and some are full of adventure (bobsledding, flight lessons).

Where do you find your inspiration?

My “Firsts to Try” come from a list I wrote when I started last year and has continued to grow with suggestions from readers and friends.

What is your favorite medium?

I love sharing my adventures through storytelling with a sense of humor. I openly embrace my own limitations and try to convey the fun I am having as I find myself in these often ridiculous situations. I want my readers to feel like I am telling them about my experiences the same way I would if I were chatting with a friend. I enjoy my informal posts the most and love when I can make people laugh along with me without having to try to be funny. I have also had the opportunity to share a few videos on my site. Those have been really fun as well. 

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?

I got married young and moved away from home. My husband and I spent over a decade working with blind and visually impaired kids. I had expected we’d stay on that path when it came time for us to start our own family. But when we had our first son, the financial struggles of the education field started to feel a lot more real.  It also became obvious that our son had some unique challenges that would prohibit him from being in a normal childcare situation while I worked. My husband decided to go back to school and change careers and I decided to stay home. We returned to Vegas where The Hubs taught during the day while going to law school at night. Out of necessity, I became a near equivalent to a single parent.  After four years of highs and lows, The Hubs graduated and re-joined the land of the living. That’s when I started realizing it was time for me to do the same and the idea for my blog was born. 

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?

I grew up here in Las Vegas, Nevada. We have moved away several times, but it just keeps sucking us back in. This time around we have been here for about six years, 
This city has been through a series of renovations in my lifetime. It sticks with what it knows works while trying to improve upon itself. Ever-changing while simultaneously remaining devoted the idea of “Classic Vegas.”  Certainly this is a mentality I share with my community. I constantly yearn for excitement and newness while holding fast to my roots. This city never runs out of new things to try, making it the perfect place for me to have a blog which revolves around exactly that. 

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?

Wow. Can I answer that with yes and no? I feel like I have found the realm in which I want to be creating. I love sharing these amazing experiences and evolving as a writer and photographer.  But I have a lot to learn. I hope to never stop evolving.  I believe that the art of finding yourself (whether as a creator, a writer, or just a person) is not an arc or an incline. It’s more of a rippling wave. Each move affects the next and what was once a high point, evens out to make way for the next rise or fall. The goal is to stay in motion.

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it? 

The first time I felt I made it the very first time someone I didn’t know told me they enjoyed my blog post. 
The second time was when I didn’t care if anyone else enjoyed my post because I had. 

What is the most difficult part of Being You?

My son has come a long way, but he still faces a lot of challenges. I want so badly for him to have an easy and carefree childhood, but it isn’t something I can just will into being.  My inability to just wipe all of that away for him is something that constantly weighs heavy on my heart. 

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?

Like I said before, I started creating this little world for myself to restore inner balance. I have definitely found that it does that for me. So, I try to make it a priority. But life is hectic and there are times when my own outlets just can’t take the forefront. When that happens I do my best to reassess and adjust. I do my adventures when I can and when something has to give, I let go of writing my story in order to live it. As my kids grow I hope I am more able to share these experiences with them and that melding the two parts of my life will add to that balance.

What is the most rewarding part of your day?

Bedtime snuggles. Hands down.

What do you have in the works? 

My husband recently took me on my first trip overseas and I am working on writing posts about that amazing adventure. Other than that, my plans are just to keep enjoying what life has to offer and sharing stories of all the fun new experiences I am having.  

Who do you admire? 

I know I spoke about my son here, but on my blog I rarely speak about him or the struggles that led me to do what I do.  I never write specifics or break down our day-to-day issues. There are, however, some great blogs written by other parents of special needs kids that do exactly that. I really admire those bloggers.
In every parent’s story, there are times of self-doubt. We are all just trying our best to do right by our kids and no one is perfect. For special needs families, choices about schooling and medical interventions can be terribly difficult to make and the wrong ones have the potential to lead to overwhelming consequences. The fact that there are people strong enough to share the details of their experience with such things leaves me in awe.  
These parents willingly share a huge, raw vulnerability with perfect strangers. They often take criticism about how they handled their biggest challenges from people who can never fully understand their experience. Their doing so helps bind our community and in times of real hardship, they have been the ones to make me feel less alone. I admire them and I am thankful to them.

I am so grateful to McCall and her willingness to share her story and encourage all of us to live our lives to the fullest. You can find her at:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Art of Being You: Interview with Rachel Formaro of Blu Pagoda

Rachel has worked in marketing and advertising longer than she’d like to admit to. She started out working with advertising agencies in Toronto, Canada and then founded her own agency. After going client-side for a number of years, she has recently returned to her entrepreneurial roots, opening a marketing and communications agency, Blu Pagoda LLC. In addition to running Blu Pagoda, she is also a creative writer. Her short stories, creative non-fiction essays, and poetry have been published by small journals, and she writes regular blog contributions on a variety of subjects, including books, cooking, and life as a newcomer to the Midwest. Rachel, her husband, Tom, and their daughter relocated from San Francisco, California to Des Moines, Iowa just a few years ago.

Q. Why did you first start Blue Pagoda? How long have you been writing?

Have been writing for as long as I can remember! Put together my first stories and “books” in my tweens. First started marketing/advertising when I was in my teens—designed a logo for a new financial company on a “take your kid to work day”! Have pretty much been doing writing, marketing and advertising ever since, both agency and client side. Recently returned to my entrepreneurial roots by starting Blu Pagoda LLC.

Q. Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?

All over the place! Born in the UK, moved to Canada when I was 3 years old, and then proceeded to move every 1-2 years on the east coast until my family finally settled on the outskirts of Toronto when I was in my teens. I think the frequent moves inspired me to reinvent all the time, not to mention making sure I became pretty adaptable to new situations.

Q. Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?

Yes, finally! I used to have a hard time saying I’m a writer, because I didn’t think I was good enough. Now I do say I’m a writer.

Q. What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?

A. Always keeping an open mind to what lay in front of me. I knew early on I had business sense, but didn’t necessarily want to purse a business education.  Instead I focused on what I loved—English, History and Archaeology. All three have served me surprisingly well!

Q. How would you describe your process?

A. Iterative. Write something. Give it some air. Edit. Give it some air. Final edit. Publish.

Q. What is your favorite medium? 

A. Used to be just the written word, but in the last couple of years, the combination of photographic imagery and letter arts.

Q. Where do you find your inspiration?

A. It starts from my “inner circle” and goes out—my husband and daughter, my family and friends, everything I read. And again, looking at art and photography. I love Unsplash, and use the images to trigger something I’ll write.
(image from Unsplash.com)

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. Boy has the answer to that question changed in the last few years! Now that I’m a mum, I love doing something fun with my daughter. She reminds me to have fun. We go to the zoo quite often, the science center, do crafts, etc. I love to express myself, and my love for family and friends, through cooking. Since moving to Iowa, I’ve actually had time to greatly improve my cooking skills.

(image from Unsplash.com)

Q. Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?

A. The confidence I felt in starting my new venture, and the support of all of my family and friends around me. Seeing my abilities and experience reflected in their words made all the difference.

Q. How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?

A. Setting my expectations appropriately. I may not have the chance to write creatively everyday. Sometimes it might be once a week. Also, a writing session may only be 30 minutes. I do my best to find the quiet in-between times—early in the morning before everyone has woken up—and do my best not to get frustrated with myself if I’m not writing as much as I’d like.

(image from Unsplash.com)

Q. What is the most difficult part of Being You?

A. I can get fragmented with wanting to take on too much. Focus, focus, focus!

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your day?

A. Doing great work for my clients and they love it. Publishing something I’m really pleased with.

(image from Unsplash.com)

Q. What do you have in the works?

A. Too much (see fragmented comment above!). A Valentine’s Day event for singles that I’m co-producing with a friend. A “litcrawl” this summer (I’m not saying any more than that!). And a new division of my business—a speaker’s bureau.

Q. Who do you admire?
A. My husband, and fellow writer, Tom Formaro. My parents Sally and Paul. My sisters Charlie and Liz. It sounds cliché to name your spouse and family, but I really mean it! Outside of that, Seth Godin, Bernadette Jiwa, Holly Lynn Payne.

Rachel, thank you so much for the peek into your process and inspiration. As a gift to you Rachel is offering Special offer: 10% off the first project for your readers - offer code EVASREADERS

You can find Rachel at 
Twitter: @rachelformaro
Instagram: @rachelformaro
Pinterest: @rachelformaro

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Art of Being Still

We live in a world that is so busy, and whirling, and all technology buzz can be consuming. This can be overwhelming to your soul and you don’t even notice until you are stressed out and fall into creative blocks.

Take time to be still. Doing nothing but daydreaming or doodling in quiet is nourishing. Paint, sing, take a walk, sit down. 

I personally am a true introvert (with extrovert tendencies). I like my occasional party atmosphere and meeting others, but when I feel drained it's usually because there is too much noise, both visually and auditorily. I recharge by doing things alone in quiet. I hardly turn on music or movies when I really need to concentrate, and this is when I typically get my best ideas. I like to wander by myself through antique stores and think about the people who used to own the things I love. I read. I doodle, I daydream and get lost.

Even if your not an introvert and thrive on the bustle of day to day, find a moment to pause and listen to the silence for a beat to what is in your own heart.

It's amazing what you can hear when you are quiet. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Collective {of us}

For the past 2 months I've been part of an amazing collaboration of fancy lady business owners brought together by the amazing Cyndie Spiegel. I've taken away so much from the calls, instagram love, and advice from these gals. It's really rare that you can connect with a group of like minded ladies who are serious business owners too.

These stellar ladies have become a great resource for me, not just for my trouble-shooting questions, but also for the "Hey, you'll never guess! Good-news moments" and the desperate pit of despair kind of days too. I know that having their support has encouraged me to make some serious pushes with my business dream goals for 2015, many of which are coming true already!

Follow The Collective (of us) on Instagram to see all of the great inspiring posts and highlights of the members so far.

Cyndie is our Magic Maker! The next round of The Collective is starting up in March. By signing up here to be in the know you'll receive a "Build it Like a Boss" Box to members who sign up the 1st week with all kinds of inspirational and otherwise fun boss like stuff. 
You can also follow all of these pretty ladies on Instagram too, because they're out to take over the world!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Art of Being You: Interview with Janssen Bradshaw of Everyday Reading

I met the lovely Janssen at Alt Summit Summer 2014, She blogs at Everyday Reading about modern motherhood with a practical spin. A former children’s librarian, she’s always maxing out her library cards and wondering if a book would be better accompanied by something chocolate (the answer is never no). She and her husband currently live in North Carolina with their two little girls and a third due in February. 

Why did you first start Everyday Reading / How long have you been blogging? 
I started Everyday Reading at my husband's urging. I was reading a lot of blogs (I had a desk job with a lot of down time) and he thought I'd love having one of my own. He was right! I started it at the end of 2006. 

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?
I grew up in Las Vegas which I don't think is a terribly creative place - more like the land of chain stores and restaurants, especially when I was a child. But my mom is a big sewer and does lots of DIY projects, so that definitely helped me grow up feeling like "I can do things myself." 

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?
It's funny because I don't think of myself as a creative person, particularly. My sisters are both much more of "makers" than I am. I don't feel like I have a strong creative drive; I just do things when I think I can do it better and less-expensively than paying someone else to do it. 

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?
After an undergrad degree in History and then a desk job for a year, I went to grad school and became an elementary school librarian. After my first daughter was born, I wanted to stay home with her (and I wasn't aching to keep my job as a librarian). I focused a little more on my blog over the next few years, but when my husband decided to go back to school for a full-time MBA, I really ramped up my writing and blogging so that I could provide for our family while he was out of the work force. It's sometimes fairly busy trying to keep all the balls in the air while I am the caretaker parent and also the breadwinner, but I'm also really proud of myself for making it happen. 

How would you describe your process?
A process makes it sound like things are much more controlled than they are around here. I do "work" in the afternoons while my girls nap and do quiet time, but the project happening is so all over the place. Sometimes the recipes or DIY projects I do are a big production and sometimes I make something for dinner and think "I should take a photo of this." The thing I try to remember is that I want my blog to be fun for me. 

What is your favorite medium? 
I love photography. There's something so delightful about translating your vision into a beautiful image on the screen (and nothing more frustrating than when you upload your photos and discover that none of them turned out quite right). I know that lots of bloggers hire photographers to do the photography side of things and it would definitely save me a lot of time to do that, but it's one of my favorite parts, so I don't think I could ever give it up. Food photography, especially, is my favorite.

Where do you find your inspiration?
The world is just so full of stimulation now - Instagram, Pinterest, Blogs, Twitter, library books, magazines! - that I feel like I'm just overloaded all the time with things I want to make and try. If something sticks around in my brain for more than ten minutes, I'm pretty ready to try my hand at it! 

What do you do for fun?
I love to read (what a surprise for a librarian, right?) and there's nothing more relaxing for me than listening to a good audiobook and doing something with my hands, whether it's painting my nails or organizing a drawer. I also really enjoy traveling with my family - we just got back from a month of traveling Europe followed by three months of living in London - and I love planning for a trip. 

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?
I feel like, in the blogging world, it's hard to ever feel like that. But when I got my first paid writing gig with Disney Baby a few years ago, that really changed how I saw myself as a blogger. 

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?
I try not to work too much in the evenings or the weekend. Being a parent is a full-time job, so I need time where I'm not parenting or working so I don't get burned out!

What is the most difficult part of Being You?
I struggle with a cross of perfectionism and wanting things to be fast. So it usually means I end up unhappy with the projects I've done because I'm annoyed at the mistakes I've made. I've really had to force myself to slow down and do things right, even if it takes longer than I want it to. 

What is the most rewarding part of your day?
If I can get a solid two hours of work done and be really focused and productive during the girls' naps and quiet time, and then turn off my computer and spend the rest of the afternoon focusing on them, I feel like it's been the best day. I feel grateful every day that I can be home with my children but also have a career that is really fulfilling and fun for me. 

What do you have in the works?
We moved into an enormous empty house in January (long story, but all our furniture is being rented out to another family in the house we used to live in) so we're working like crazy to get this house furnished on a tiny budget and quickly enough that we actually get to enjoy it before we move again in July. It's been a lot of fun projects, so far, and trying to figure out how to make this house work for us. 

Who do you admire?
I admire people who have hugely successful blogs or businesses and are still just normal, nice, and down to earth. People who give credit freely, don't try to make themselves look better than they are, and generally are the kind of person you'd like as neighbor. I'm not hugely successful, but I definitely aspire to be nice. 

social media and blog links