Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

We are Adventurers

Adventures in Business, with Vanessa Laven

Vanessa Laven

Today I'm sharing an adventure with Starship Captain Vanessa Laven. Vanessa writes at Mixed Martial Arts and Craft about kicking cancer's butt with grace and flair + makes  plushie body parts over at Survival Organs

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time entrepreneur. But what's a normal day for you really like?

A normal day starts on my house chores as I figure out what needs to be blogged about and what items need to be made for my shop. This is assuming I'm also not working through a headache or migraine. I get them so frequently that I only let myself sleep them off if they're at a pain level of 8 or 9 out of 10. Anything less than that and I have to suck it up and push through. If I wasn't that hard on myself, nothing would get done – either biz wise or in my personal life. Oh and as a cancer survivor, I also have doctor's appointments and support group meetings to juggle and I have to see if I'm physically feeling up for a martial arts class. While my doctor's appointments aren't every week any more, they do take up most of my day so I need to account for that. Often I end up working after dinner or on the weekends.

There are so many ways to make a living as a biz owner – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed?

I'm doing it by taking my time! One step at a time and I keep track of what's working and what isn't. Since this is a new path that I'm finally strong enough to go down, I'm writing down where I want to be, what that looks like and how I can get it. I do this by keeping track of my expenses, making notes on what my customers respond to (or don't) and generally what does success look like, feel like, act like? Trying to capture what my dreams are, using all of my senses, has helped make them more concrete and achievable.


What new thing are you exploring now?

I'm currently exploring new organs for my shop, new expressions for their faces and writing more about how to take life one stitch at a time! I'm also exploring how to teach people that they are their own guru.

What's your definition of success in your business?

For me, success is more about how many people reach out and let me know how I've helped them. During chemotherapy, there were almost no personal blogs that I could find talking about the day to day aspects of cancer. I found lots of clinical websites but I wanted to hear from a cancer survivor's mouth directly. I've taken it upon myself to do just that. But it's more than just about reaching cancer survivors. I want to help people who feel ready to make a lasting change in their life. With Survival Organs, I'm reaching out to people who need a good laugh or a reason to find something humorous in their life.

What's the next destination you're working towards?

My next major project is to finish the first round of edits to my surviving cancer and chemo guide! It's huge, it's a scary task but it's something that needs to get done. When I really think about doing it, I get really scared and I want to avoid it but then I remember how lost I felt when I was sick. I've held on to that feeling as a reason to conquer my fear and give birth to this book because there's another person just like me who needs this. I've never written a book before, much less published one, so it's a whole new set of skills for me to explore. I love that I'm now charting unknown personal territory!
Vanessa's little thyroid soft toy

Thanks so much for sharing your workday and adventure with us, Vanessa!


Vanessa's a Captain in the Starship. You can meet more Captains + learn if it’s right for your adventure when you sign up for the free mini-course here. 



Adventures in Business with Gabrielle Krake

Gabrielle Krake
Gabrielle Krake

Today I'm talking with Gabrielle Krake, a Starship Captain and the owner & designer of Bee Wise Goods 

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time maker, or to own their own shop. But what's a normal day for you really like?
Well I often joke if I can shower, brush my hair and teeth and eat at least one salad then I’m doing great! As far as making things, I get to make inventory on Mon – Wed when I’m not in my shops. I have to get super motivated, usually by some unknowable spark of creativity and then I make my things in assembly line mode, cranking out 10-20 of one item and then I move to another. I personally make over 25 handmade items and 16 sewing patterns (I only have to print these and package them, but I have several I would like to develop but do not have the 30-40 hours it takes to draft one, right now). On Thursdays I’m back in my shops and have to catch up on spreadsheets, accounting and merchandising. On Fridays and Saturdays I work for my daughter in her bakery and we start at 6am making her goodies, displaying them and selling all day. Sunday is an “off” day for me but I usually make something fun or watch movies all day. Oh and jammed in all the cracks between business tasks I have four kids that we homeschool (three have graduated but still live at home) make meals, and clean my house (it’s really only clean and tidy when we’re sleeping). We have chickens and dogs, a cat, and chinchillas.
There are moments when I want to throw in the towel and just read books and go to coffee like my friends, but I know deep down I would be bored in about a week of that and start another business, haha!
Bee Wise Goods
Bee Wise Goods
There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?
In all honesty I started my business because when the economy collapsed in 2008, my husband's income was cut in half (at least). I had started a blog and was posting crafty ideas and tutorials so when we realized we were going to need extra money I decided to start making reusable grocery bags and do repairs to bring in money. Over the course of the next few years we had made and sold thousands of products in a very unconventional way, at the time – through a blog and my website that I did myself. There were very little resources to promote tiny enterprises like ours but Etsy and PayPal played the biggest online role and getting my things into stores was the second component to not starving.
The business was a huge miracle in many ways, we were able to barely keep our house and each other but all other peripheral luxuries and necessities were culled. It made life simpler in ways that we adopted permanently.
Three years ago I realized I was giving away much of my income in rents, commissions, wholesale orders and co-op hours so we opened our own shop in 2011, added another one in 2012 and now a bakery in 2013. (The shops are all connected, we’re slowly taking over a 1951 strip mall.) There are days when I daydream about not working so hard but then I see that the legacy we’re leaving for our 4 kids is priceless. Even if they do not emulate us by being business owners, they have a very realistic view of finances, they understand options and they know they have choices about how to make money.
Gabrielle's family bakery
Gabrielle's family bakery
What new thing are you exploring now?
I am in the process of inventing the creative magazine called Makers Unwound. It will start with a local focus and depending on how it goes we can expand regionally and beyond.
What's your definition of success in your business?
The joy I feel, the relationships we have developed and the legacy of income choices we have given our kids is true SUCCESS for me.
Dolls from Gabrielle's product line
Dolls from Gabrielle's product line
What's the next destination you're working towards?
I want to start taking a backseat in operations. Two of my kids are slowly becoming equipped with the skills to allow me to make inventory, create art and work on the magazine. Accounting, spreadsheets and invoices takes up about 15-20 hours per week that I can begin to have back for creative purposes. We are planning on expanding the bakery and offering more products.
Gabrielle's studio
Gabrielle's studio



Adventures in publishing and editing, with Alicia + Kelly

Today I'm happy to be talking to author Alicia de los Reyes and her editor and publisher, Kelly Rizzetta.

We talked about

  • the self-publishing options,
  • the importance of an editor for improving your framework
  • how they collaborated together
  • their best marketing tactic (not what you'd think).

(If you're reading this via email, click through to see the video! If you'd like to get posts via email, click here.)


Alicia de los Reyes is a writer and teacher  in Seattle, WA. She recently published an ebook called The Chick Lit Cookbook: A Guide to Writing Your Novel in 30 Minutes a Day, and she's now blogging about her experience using that guide to write a brand-new novel here. Kelly Rizzetta is the editor-in-chief of New Jersey-based KMR Publishing, which produced The Chick Lit Cookbook.


If you're an author, whether self-published or traditionally published, I've put together a list of resources for you! If you'd like to work together to create a marketing plan for your book, I can help you with that!


You might also like: 


Adventures in Fiction Writing with SJ Pajonas

sj pajonasI made the mistake of reading SJ Pajonas' new novel, Released, during my flight last Saturday. Sitting in between two strangers, 2 hours into a 4 hour flight, I started bawling my eyes out. And snuffling. And generally being the kind of person you avoid sitting next to. But despite the personal embarrassment (or perhaps because of it), I heartily recommend SJ's Nogiku series. It's funny, action-packed and so full of real dialogue that I cried on a crowded plane. So yeah, I LOVE it.

I'm delighted that SJ agreed to answer some of my questions about the writing + marketing of her novels.

People have this fantasy of what it’s like to be a novelist. But what’s a normal day for you really like?

I’m a stay-at-home mom, so typically, my day is: get up at 5am so I have 1.5 to 2 hours of time to write or get other writing-related work done before my kids get up, get kids to school, either run errands or write while they’re at school (they’re not at school all day yet), then the rest of my day is completely normal. I can sometimes get in a few hundred words here and there when they’re home but it’s difficult. When I need a long stretch of time for working, I save it for the weekend when my husband can cover for me.

I've found that getting things done (like writing so proficiently and getting it all published) is about having daily (or weekly) habits and practices to keep working on your project. So tell us about your writing rituals – what do you do to get in the flow for writing?

You know all that time in the previous question when I’m taking care of the kids and the house? I’m brainstorming that whole time. I brainstorm while loading and unloading the dishwasher, while I’m making dinner, while I’m sitting and waiting for school to be dismissed, etc. Because when I actually have the time to sit down and write, I want to get words on the page immediately. I honestly don’t have the time to stare at a blank page in front of me! I also do a lot of writing on my phone in Evernote. If I’m working in the kitchen and I have a great idea for some dialogue that I just know I’ll forget before I get up at 5am the next morning, I open Evernote and write it all down quickly. I have a folder for each book and I just keep adding notes when I have the chance. This way I always have material when I sit down to write.

What's your favorite apps or tools? What do you use to write, edit, etc?

My favorite app for writing is definitely Scrivener. It’s a $45 application from Literature & Latte and I would say the best money I’ve ever spent. You can use it to organize your work or novel like a file system, and it allows you to write in snippets and then move them around.* If you do this in Word, you have to highlight, copy, cut, and paste, and it’s annoyingly clunky. Once you’re done with a novel, you can export to a range of formats for ebooks. Since I self-publish, it’s all I use. Calibre is another piece of helpful software. Sometimes I export a book from Scrivener to HTML format, I tweak the HTML and then use Calibre to convert it to ebook formats. And Evernote is the other software I can’t live without. I can access it on all my devices so I keep a lot in it from notes about each book to information and links I gather on self-publishing to recipes for those dinners that fuel me!

*Tara's note: I agree! I used Scrivener to write my book!

As you've self-published books, I have loved watching your marketing unfold (which is so rare!). What is the most effective thing you've done to share the book with more people?

Thank you! There are several things I’ve done that I think work for books in general. I give away a lot of copies in the hopes that they garner reviews. I make a lot of multimedia items to promote the book like teaser images that I post on my blog, twitter, and Goodreads, and I had a book trailer made. I have a presence on most of the social media networks where I am, most importantly, MYSELF. I don’t try to project that I’m an expert in anything or give advice that I know nothing about. If you find me online, I’m usually talking about random things from my life or sharing tidbits of information that have been coming my way. I keep the ranting to a minimum and I usually reply if you want to chat. I do let people know when I’m excited about my work because I hope that, if you know me, you’ll be excited too.


 What's your most-favorite (enjoyable) thing you've done to share your work?

I really enjoy making the teaser images that I reveal in the weeks before a book is published. I love choosing an iconic image and pairing it with a quote from the books. I find them really exciting probably because I come from a film background. I love that pairing of images and words. It works for me everytime.

What resources did you find helpful in learning how to share your work?

I’ve been self-publishing for about six months now (from the time I decided to self-publish which was last June 2013) but I spent a few ramp-up months before my first book was published watching other authors publish as well. I’m the quiet scientist in the corner. I sit and observe what other people are doing first, determine what is or is not working for them, and then write it down for use later. To get started, I went to Hugh Howey’s blog and searched for “self-publishing” because I had read his books and knew he was a self-publishing advocate. I read all of his posts and they led me to the Kindle Boards and from there I just gathered information when I could. I haven’t read any books specifically on self-publishing though a lot of my author friends recommend Write, Publish, Repeat which was written by authors who also have a very helpful podcast. I plan on reading it soon as well to see if there’s anything I’m missing!

 What are you exploring now?

I’m trying my best right now to have a more balanced life. Sometimes marketing my books can take over my life! And really the best marketing for current books is to put more books on the shelves. Very few writers can make a career on just one book. So I’m working on a schedule to publish four books plus short stories over the next two years. It’s big for me, to plan so far ahead. I know that something can happen in the next week or month to send that schedule into a tailspin but I’m going to try it anyway. In writing, I’m exploring writing outside of my genre. I like writing science fiction and I’m going to continue writing in the Nogiku world that I’ve built and love, but I also want to write contemporary romance. I’ve been working on a book for a year that I’ll be publishing in the late Spring. It’s an adult contemporary romance called FACE TIME and it’s different from what I’ve already published. I want to continue writing ideas and taking risks with my work and exploring stories outside of my norm is how I’ll do that.

What’s your definition of success in your writing business?

Success has been hard for me to define! And it has changed over the course of the last six months. At first, my definition relied on sales. Was I selling books? How many? And how much money was I making to offset my initial costs? But sometime in the past month, my definition has changed and now my idea of success is just publishing more books. Each book I work on and move it towards publication is another success. The ultimate goal is to have a dedicated audience for my work and with each book published, I gain more readers. Success and its definition will probably change over time for me as new doors are opened and I’m able to do more with my work. For now, writing and gaining my audience is my primary goal.

What’s the next destination you’re working towards?

So I have this set of long-term goals for the next two years concerning what I’d like to publish but the next stop on the self-publishing road trip is to publish my contemporary romance, FACE TIME. There are several steps to get there including: a reveal of the cover online, teaser images, designing a paperback layout of the book, possibly make a book trailer, a companion website, and several other things. But I also have a writing journey that runs parallel to self-publishing, and after I’m done with revisions on FACE TIME, I will be starting revisions of the Nogiku Series Book 3. There’s lots to be done! And I’m looking forward to it all.

Thanks for having me, Tara!

Thanks for sharing so much! I've learned tons! 

Disclaimer-y Disclaimer: SJ is a Twitter friend and she sent me an advanced copy of both of her books, but PEOPLE, after reading the first one, I would have gladly paid for all subsequent books. Buy your copy of Released here. Now. For more from SJ, check her site here, her blog tour schedule here, and befriend her on Twitter!





Adventures in Business with Jill Wolcott

Jill WolcottToday I'm exploring with Starship Captain Jill Wolcott. Jill is an award-winning teacher who combines a wealth of knitting knowledge with a great sense of humor to make her classes both useful and fun. Jill is always thinking about knitted garments, how they fit, and how to guide knitters toward a successful knitting experience.  She recently published an ebook of knitting designs: The Goddess Collection.




People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time maker. But what's a normal day for you really like? 

I don't really have a “go with the flow” life.  Weekdays I get up at 6:30, make coffee, tidy up, look at email and Evernote (my assistant works from her home), shower, then hit my office.  My office day is spent working on patterns, marketing, administrative things, book projects, creating classes and class materials, and whatever is on my list.  It almost never includes knitting.  The closest I get to knitting is picking up needles to figure out how I can better explain how to do a technique or maneuver.  I do a lot of editing, drafting, redrafting, initial charting, and a lot of grading sizes.

On Wednesdays I leave my office about 10:30 and go downtown to teach at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.  I'm usually pretty tired at the end of six hours there, but I am a favorite instructor and have been given an outstanding faculty award 11 times in the 14 years I've taught there.

I do volunteer work for TNNA and am part of the Starship and Cat Bordhi's Visionary Authors group.  I also have an elderly mother and we do things on Thursdays and Fridays when I can get away.  She is a long-time knitter so is always interested in what I am working on.

Wendy works with me from Pittsburgh, PA.  She is like the third lobe of my brain and is beginning to take on more pieces of my day-to-day work so that I can explore more, create more, do more.  I would be lost without her.  I have another assistant who comes into my office twice a week and does hands on things–from winding yarn to finishing work on projects.  She does shipping, tracking, and entering things into my bookkeeping software.  Again, without her help I would surely be buried in my own mess.

Most of my samples are knit by paid knitters.  They are a brave lot who embark on projects that are often still in process.  They must be my eyes as I am not seeing what is happening except through weekly photos.  I have someone who works as a project manager to keep the knitters on track–and make sure I answer questions and address problems.

I have a tech editor who works per hour.  She has a wonderfully detailed brain and asks me lots of questions to make sure my work is clear.  I also have a copy editor who works on my longer work.  She is primarily looking for consistency and continuity.  Both are knitters who understand why I like to take a different approach in presenting my patterns.

I knit after I quit work in my office. I cook dinner most nights, and I knit afterwards until I go to bed. I am not usually knitting samples; I am either working on new design ideas or making a second sample or one of my designs for me to wear. I make the final sample myself only if there is a quick deadline or if it is a small item. We've found that I am not reliable at finding problems in the patterns, so it isn't usually a good place for me to put my knitting energy. All my knitting is related to my business and I have no time to knit any one else's patterns, but I do love to knit.

Weekends are often where I find time to follow new ideas or do things I want to do but don't need to do.  I have a wonderful husband who likes to spend time with me–some of it without knitting needles in my hands. We go to a fair number of jazz and world music performances, plays, and author/artist lectures. We both read a lot, although knitting cuts into my reading time!

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

As mentioned above, I teach to make money.  It is the only reliable money source I have.  I am working on making it possible to offer classes via video with live check-ins so that I can continue to teach those classes online  without it being a live performance.  This will make it easier for people to fit it into their schedules too.  Right now those classes are for knitwear designers of any stripe.  I hope to have classes for knitters in 2014 as well.  I do not teach at retail knitting shows right now because I simply do not have time.  I do some limited work for magazines, and sometimes do consulting work.

I don't think the work of a designer has changed much over the years. With Tara's help I am finding the courage to do what I believe I want to put out into the world, even though it is a little different.

Jill Wolcott designs

What new thing are you exploring now?

I have just launched what I call Studio Space.  This is a subscription program to invite knitters to share their knitting time with me and other committed knitters.  I have framed my first offering around my Goddess Collection, but I think this will end up being the beginning of the program, and not our sole focus.  My other new thing is eBook pattern collections, and online classes.  I want to write books too, but need to get some of these other wheels turning more effectively to allow that to happen.

What's your definition of success in your business?

For my business to be successful I need to balance expenses and income, but that isn't the whole picture for me.  I would like some recognition for my skills and talents, but primarily I would like to know that I am helping knitters find pleasure and satisfaction in the actual making of knitted things.  I would like to be able to make a living too!

 What's the next destination you're working towards?

Jill Wolcott Knits Studio and mastery of marketing!


Thanks so much for sharing your workday and adventure with us, Jill!


Jill's a Captain in the Starship. You can meet more Captains + learn if it's right for your adventure when you sign up for the free mini-course here. 




“I find great resources among the other Starship members, and I really love having the weekly accountability (if you want it) of telling someone what I’m doing.  This is making a ton of difference in how I get my work done, how I value it, and how I prioritize my time.
In the 2.5 months I’ve been on the Starship I have seen real differences in myself as a business owner, and my ability to see how to move my business ahead in the direction I want it to move.”
-Jill Wolcott, Jill Wolcott Knits


Adventures with Paul Jarvis, Live!

Today I interviewed Paul Jarvis about publishing (he's kickstarting his third self-published book), experimentation and the importance of creating your own ideal business.

(If you're reading via email or RSS, you probably need to click through to see the video)


Watching + Loving? 

Click here to tweet!

Support Paul's new book!

For more on why Paul's using Kickstarter, read this. 

For more about how to experiment, read this.


Got a question?
Ask it in the comments!




This is the first in a series of interviews about exploring publishing. Subscribe to be sure you don't miss a one!


Exploration Party Notes

Since today's my anniversary (yay!) and I'm spending the day shooting videos for Explore You (eep!), today I wanted to just highlight some of my favorite moments of the Exploration Party. You can find all the inspiring stories here (and I highly recommend reading them when you need a dose of happy!)

Pulling my favorite exploring photos for an #exploreyou project. (Starts Monday! Detail on site)


“Exploration is about living in a state of what if? There’s no place I’d rather be.”



“Bolivia is a place for exploration and new ideas. Bolivia is where I can jump into things without worrying about mistakes. There is no place for feeling embarrassed in my Bolivia.

My map needs to be refined but I’m busy packing. And I am terrified. What does your Bolivia look like? I’ve got an extra ticket, so come join me. We’ll figure out Bolivia together.”

Vanessa (Bolivia = a metaphor for what she's exploring)

“So, this year has been about bravely countering those old beliefs with a lot of exploration and creating new beliefs to live by.”



“But mostly what I’ve learned is that there aren’t that many rules right now. All the tried-and-true get worn-out-and-dull and there’s technology changes every day. The one rule that holds true is there there are people out there who will love what you do and what you offer—which I’ve seen over the last 7+ years on CraftLit and Just-the-Books—and that when you find those people and listen to them and give them more of what they want, they’ll stick with you.”


“After six years of self-employment, I can tell you that everything changes all the time, but one thing stays the same: uncertainty!”

Diane (who is sharing a handy worksheet for exploring your assets!)


Not surprisingly, ignoring problems doesn’t work.

As a part of my turn-around plan I committed to weekly financial tracking. And I stuck to it. No excuses.”



“I'm going to let you in on a big-time secret right now, are you ready for it?

You Are Creative.

Seriously. Don't believe me?  Keep reading, I'm going to tell you some of my tips for being creative, and how I've been exploring my own creativity this summer.  It's all about openness and adventure.”

“In the Starship I've had access to classes and counsel from other creative business owners like me, and I've learned that I can change my business (and really, my LIFE) if I just sit down and take the time to explore what's working – and what isn't working – and map out the steps to make the changes I need in order to get back on track with where I want to be.”



Are you ready to explore? Join us to explore what's not working in your business and how to find your own answers!



Adventures in Business with yarn dyer Katie




Before we get started with Katie, a quick Welcome to the first day of the Exploration Party! Join in by sharing your own story of exploring, and linking to it in the comments of this post. You can read all the stories that have been shared (so far!) right here!







Today I’m delighted to have Katie, a yarn-dyer, designer and explorer, share her smartness with us. You can find her latest fiber antics, right here on her blog. Follow her on Twitter  or Facebook  for a sneak peek at what she’s dyeing.




Let's start with the amazing email you sent me! I appreciate your kind words, but it is totally YOU that rocked the lessons you learned in Market Yourself to surpass your income goal! What in particular did you put into practice that caused such a monumental shift?

The first thing I did was stop avoiding my financials. I’ve never been naturally adept with numbers and I often used that as an excuse not to bother with the financial aspect of Yarn Love – especially when things weren't going in the direction I wanted.

Not surprisingly, ignoring problems doesn’t work.

As a part of my turn-around plan I committed to weekly financial tracking. And I stuck to it. No excuses. I already had Outright.com up and running for Yarn Love, and now I do a weekly financial check-in. I write the following numbers down on my quarterly map:



Total Income:
(I itemize major income sources like this)

  • Etsy Sales: $
  • Wholesale Orders: $

Total Expenses
(I itemize major expenses like this)

  • Etsy Fees: $
  • PayPal Fees: $
  • Supplies: $

I am highly motivated by goals – but I need to see that I’m making progress or I get discouraged. Keeping track of my weekly financials lets me see how I’m doing. I can correct over-expenditures or pat myself on the back for a job well done.

The second thing I did was make a map. Tara has a great map-making mini-course. I worked through her steps and crafted an effective turn-around plan. It worked so well that I had Yarn Love back on track and humming along in 6 weeks. I had given myself 6 months to dig out of the financial-avoidance quagmire…and with a plan it took me a month and a half.


Now I always know where I am, and where I’m going.


Finally, I took action with my business profit.I withdrew a sane amount of profit and used it to fund my Roth IRA, personal savings, and I have a bit set aside for fun. Taking action with a portion of the new profit helps me feel a sense of accomplishment.

 I have actually only completed 4 out of 10 milestones on my current map, but that’s ok. I know what I’ve accomplished and I know exactly where I’m going. If completing only 40% of my goals resulted in such a dramatic turn-around I can only imagine how awesome business will be when I reach 100%.


How is this different than what you were doing before?

I’m no longer scared to take a good look at how Yarn Love is doing. It’s allowing me to identify new goals and areas of improvement. On the days when I feel a bit out-of-sorts I grab my map and get to work. That prevents me wasting a lot of time trying to decide what I should be doing.

Most major business changes are first predicated by a change in thinking. How is your thinking about your business different now?

This is so true! I stopped thinking the “businessy” side of business wasn’t for me and instead I made it work for me. I didn’t suddenly decide to become an accountant but I did stop allowing my excuses. I am happier. My family is happier. Yarn Love is better than ever.

I also started looking for opportunities. It’s hard to look for new opportunities when you’re stressed out over finances and spending a lot of time ignoring problems. It’s paying off. I feel that all my business efforts are in harmony with my goals.

I’ve added a steady diet of business & marketing education to my daily business tasks. I take time at the beginning of every day to read one article or blog post on some aspect of small business and living a creative life. I simply pick one item from my Feedly Business category and read it through. It’s fun, and often it jumpstarts business brainstorming.


What new thing are you exploring now?

Oooh, this is a hard question for me, because I tend to keep in-progress ideas and projects to myself. (Not for any good reason, I’m just weirdly mysterious that way.) So here’s a sneak peek:

  1. Expanding my dye kitchen and studio space to improve operating efficiency by 20% (or more!)
  2. Expanding my yarn line to include 2 new custom-milled yarns.
  3. Outsourcing repetitive tasks that are necessary, but are also a drain on my time.
  4. A website redesign to show off my yarns!


What’s your definition of success for your business?  

I live a non-traditional life. I was homeschooled. My husband was homeschooled. Our children are homeschooled…and I love it. My definition of success includes a vibrant and adventurous family life where every member of my family – including myself and my husband – have the freedom to live a fulfilling life together.

That means my business needs to serve our needs and desires and leave room for us to live our life. It also means that Yarn Love must live in harmony with me, with my husband, and with the needs of our children.

Living in harmony is my definition of success.

(Wow. That turned out to be pretty deep. It’s funny how success in business isn’t always reaching a “business goal”.)


What’s the next destination you’re working towards? 

In the short-term, I’m working on expanding the Yarn Love line and facilities. I will be setting aside funds to take a castles tour of Great Britian – something that we’ve wanted to do for ages.

My long-term goal is to continue growing Yarn Love to be the main source of income for our family. That’s a very big, very scary goal….but one that I think with planning and care can become a reality.



Thanks so much for sharing your amazing story with us, Katie!

I absolutely love this definition of success! (My own definition is similar: to live in integrity!)

Have you read the book or made a map?

I'd love to hear from you! Drop me a line and tell me how it's working out!

And no matter what you're exploring right now, you can share your story in this week's Exploration Party! 







Katie's an explorer in the new class, Explore You. Join her to explore your business and build the confidence you need to make your own good business decisions. (Starts next Monday, but there's a whole week of Welcome materials available as soon as you join!)





The story of a dad, and a bike adventure

Today we've got something a little different….

If you've met me for longer than 15 minutes, you've heard me mention my college roommates. I lived with Carissa, Lindsay and Allison for 4 years, in the dorms, apartments and one very wonky old house. They've been my confidantes, my advisors, and my mirror. 


We got to know and love each other's parents, visited each other's homes and formed strong attachments (I helped C's mom build her first website! I still rave about L's mom's hashbrown casserole! A's dad explained “joint finances” in a marriage to me!) I love these girls and their families.
Allison's dad, Mark Van Sickle passed in 2008, surrounded by his family, after battling cancer since 1999. 

When I heard, I was 6 hours away from my friend. I spent the whole day at my office job with my door closed, crying.  We were just 20-something. We were far too young to lose our parents! The roomates all met up at the funeral and sat there stunned, wanting to help, knowing we couldn't, our hearts breaking for our friend and her family.


In case I had any doubt, cancer sucks. It is an unfair, ridiculous, heart-breaking disaster. One that has struck some of you, and your families. 
When Al emailed me that she was doing an Obliteride to raise money for cancer research, I wanted to do more than just donate. I wanted to take the opportunity to share her story and listen to yours. Our community is full of the chronically ill, the cancer survivors, and those that have lost their parents too young. I'm routinely amazed at your perseverance, at your grit, and at your vulnerability with sharing your stories. Allison's is just one story among many, but it's a place to start. Here's a bit of her story…

(images throughout are from Al's training rides)
My dad bought me my first bike. I was about 5  I had been sharing my older brother's bike because I didn't have one. After dinner one night my dad told my mom “Allison and I are going to the store to get milk”. Instead of going to the grocery store my dad drove across town to Toys R Us and when we walked in he just said “pick one” and I, as a 5 year old in footed pajamas, got to ride bikes around Toys R Us at 9 pm on a school night to pick out my very first bike.
I, of course, chose a bright pink one with purple wheels and a purple seat. No basket, no streamers just a hardcore bike that could do what all the boys bikes could but still look adorable.

When I decided to play softball (about 7 or 8) my dad was super excited because he didn't have to attend anymore dace recitals. The first year I went out I was right in the middle of the pack with everyone else, nothing special, kind of slow and confused. The next year they were watching me during try outs and I was killing it. She said they both looked at each other and were like “where did that come from!?” To which my dad replied “Well, she obviously gets that from me.”  😉

My dad was my biggest supporter and challenger in any competition I entered. He encouraged me to focus more on character than attention. Whether it was not crying or throwing a bat or glove after striking out, or missing a fly ball, or continuing to cheer for my teammates even if we are losing 15-0. I don't care how far behind you are –  you can still try.

As I became a CrossFit  athlete and coach, I take those lessons he taught me and use them when I'm working out and pass them on to my clients (or try). I decided to do Obliteride because I have arthritis in my knee and I can't run anymore (so 5K's and triathlon's are out). I have been looking for something to commit to for raising money for cancer research since he passed away 5 years ago and haven't found anything. When Obliteride popped up, I remembered that night when he took me to get my bike and how close I feel to him when I'm riding. I know a lot of people also loved my dad and wouldn't mind donating in his memory either. I just never imagined that this many people would give so much of their hard earned cash. Training has been a lot of fun and I know that he would be extremely touched by the commitment I've made and the donations made in his memory.

I'm excited to commit to something again and be in “training”. It is fun and helps me push myself.

I want to help raise money for cancer research, that's all. That's why I'm doing this. I know what I am doing is a tiny drop in the bucket but if even so, it will help. And if I can do something, anything, to help prevent a family from experiencing the pain and heartache mine did, then I will do it. No one, young or old, father or mother, wife, husband, child, friend should EVER have to lose someone to such an annoying and hateful disease.

You can donate to Allison's Obliteride here. You can follow her training and ride on Instagram. 10% of all sales (of the class, the guide, solo-sessions, book, everything!) for the past two weeks (and the rest of the week!) are going to cancer research in memory of Mark. 

Adventures in business, with Karen of One Girl Circus

Today I'm delighted to have Karen, a One Girl Circus, maker, designer and Starship Captain, share her smartness with us. You can find her latest pattern, the Goodship Dress, here. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram, for a sneak peek at what she's sewing.  


You're a full-time maker, teacher, and designer, which sounds like you get to spend all day sewing with beautiful fabrics…what's a typical work day actually like for you?

As your readers doubtless know by now, there is no “typical day” which suits me just fine! My schedule and work location depend on the projects I'm working on, and the materials I need to complete them.

The days I teach Art are the most predictable.  In the morning, while my girlie is getting ready for school, I gather my supplies for the preschool-4th grade classes and pack them into the car.  Once at school, I am fully immersed in facilitating creativity, connecting with kids, and connecting kids to their work and each other.

Studio Days are when I get to play with fabric and sewing patterns.  I spend the day (and night, sometimes) making, making, making. I'm either developing designs, or sewing custom garments from client requests.  Either way, there is fitting and tweaking involved, even if I use my own patterns to begin with, because my clients are paying for something completely individual.

Computer Days are spent entirely in Adobe Creative Cloud.  Once I have designed a garment, or get a spec from a client, I get to work on the digitizing of the pattern, grading into different sizes, and technical writing / technical illustration of instructions for construction and line drawings for packaging. Sometimes I work on the packaging itself (for print or digital delivery).


collage_dress2one of the dresses Karen made for a client, a fabric designer

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

I'm still learning how to “make a living” as a maker.  It's the Making that makes me happy, so as long as I have ideas, I have work.  I teach sewing classes and private lessons at fabric shops and at LilacPop Studio. I make custom garments and show samples for fabric designers.  I also make custom garments for special occasions, for fashion shows, and for sensitive people, because I have a soft spot for sensory-troubled folks of all ages. I make sewing patterns happen for designers with big ideas, and I do technical illustrations.  I'm not a “graphic designer” but I do put together packaging and layouts for print as well.

Goodship dress, by One Girl CircusKaren's pattern, the Goodship Dress

What's surprised you most about what full-time making?

I am a person who thrives on variety. I guess I'm surprised at the many ways I can earn money while helping dreams come true for other people. I'm most surprised at how happy it makes me to support the dreams and businesses of my clients.  I feel like a sewing fairy godmother.


What new thing are you exploring (in your business)?

I'm exploring the cyclical nature of my work, and working on getting ahead of the shifts, instead of working like crazy to catch up. (planning ahead for my clients' big shows, etc.)

Pack in COLLAGEAnother project for the Collage fabric launch

What's your definition of success for your business? 

My definition of success in all of my life is the same.  Was I generous?  Was I competent? Was I kind?  Did I do my best work?  If the answer to all of those is Yes, then my business is successful, and feeds itself.  I am grateful that my largest source of income is referral-based.

What's the next destination you're working towards?

I'm working toward paying attention to the joy I find in my work, and sharing that part of it.  I used to think of all my “jobs” as separate, but I really work along one theme: “making your favorite clothes or teaching you how”  Every bit of my work falls under this theme, even the technical illustration.  Your clothes are an extension of your personality, and are a second skin. They can protect you from the elements, and attract connection.  Clothing can be an expression of how you feel, and how you want to be.  I will continue working toward creating the happiness that comes from feeling beautiful, unique and comfortable.


Thanks Karen!

I love Karen's focus on paying attention to what's working. What's working for you, right now? 





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