Home Work: Lessons from Work at Home Parents. This series of Kidoinfo Interviews with parents is about how they manage to squeeze in work time at home (whether working for someone else or running their own business) while juggling kids, homelife, and childcare (or lack thereof).
My boys and I used some of Stephanie DosReis’ beautiful scrapbook papers designed for Daisy D’s Paper to make this year’s Father’s Day accordion book. The textured solids made a beautiful backdrop for the photos on the front and back covers. The scrapbook papers are reversible and also worked well for pop-collage greeting cards (pictured above) for their teachers.
Stephanie, trained in textile design, is a freelance mixed media artist and designer living in Providence with her family. Her work has been featured on popular design, craft, and family blogs such as CRAFT: Decor8, Cookie, and Real Simple magazine, to name a few. Her line of scrapbooking products and papers are available in stores nationwide as well as across the globe. She sells her work direct through her ETSY shop and through a number of shops and boutiques such as Yes Gallery in Warren, Mahar Drygoods, Tiny People based in Australia, Daisy D’s Paper, Pingg, and Modish.
Today Stephanie DosReis shares with me how she creatively does her Home Work.
Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your business?
Stephanie: I always knew I needed to be my own boss and that my work needed to be creative. After graduating college with a BFA, I started working on a business plan (while working at Starbucks) that didn’t come to fruition until almost a year and a half later.
How did you start your business?
Stephanie: It all happened really organically, which was great. I was nine months pregnant at the time and couldn’t work with the dyes and chemicals I was used to working with for screen printing, and I was uncomfortable painting on the floor, which is how I had always worked previously. So I started making appliquÃ©d onesies and tees and selling them on Etsy (back when it was much smaller) under the name Ponies & Sugar Cookies. It was low-key and an easy way to be creative. My shop took off really quickly and I had loads of wholesale orders as well as Etsy orders and custom orders to keep up with. It came to the point where I either had to cut back on orders or start farming out the work elsewhere. I decided to cut back and then finally phase out of that business completely. With the success of my first shop, I was able to carry most of my clientele over to the next one, where I concentrate on my painting and some textile art. I now work with boutiques, online shops, and galleries, as well as doing private commissions. I also did a professional trade show in New York last spring called Surtex, where I hooked up with Daisy D’s paper company to create a pretty large scrap-booking line.
How do you balance work and family?
Stephanie: It’s SO hard! I stay at home with my son full time, so it feels like I’m living two lives at once. I struggle with it every day, but I find, as my son is getting older, it’s getting easier to juggle both. My studio is in our home, so it’s easy to get distracted by dishes or laundry (just one more load!). I work primarily during naptime as well as logging in some post-dinner hours. I am principally a painter, so I prefer to work in natural light and save the computer work for nighttime, though sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. I think the most important trick I have learned is to have a schedule. There are specific times set aside for errands, play, and work. I’m also big on list making. If it’s not on the list, I probably won’t remember to do it! I also try to take the weekends off or at least stay away from the computer. My husband works and goes to school full-time, so weekends are important for us to reconnect as a family.
Please describe a typical day.
Stephanie: 7a.m. – All of us get up and I stumble into the kitchen to put water on for tea and prepare breakfast. We all sit down together and I really try to make an effort to make the morning special with pancakes or homemade oatmeal. Eggs are big around here too. It helps that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and that I’m a morning person.
9:30 a.m. – After nursing my cup of tea, we try to get out of the house for errands or some sort of activity or both. Lately we have been big beach goers. Our favorite spot is Goddard State Park. It’s free to park and there are all sorts of sea critters to entertain us all afternoon, hermit crabs, tiny shrimp, and horseshoe crabs.
12 p.m. – Back at home for lunch (unless there’s a picnic) and then naptime for Gabe.
1-4 p.m. – I’m really lucky because Gabe is a good napper. He sleeps for three to four hours in the afternoon so I can get some work done around the house as well as get some creative time in.
4 p.m. – Snack time and a trip to the playground. We like to walk to Brown Street Park.
5 p.m. – My husband, David, gets home and I start getting dinner together. David and Gabe start winding down from the day with quiet playtime, puzzles, or reading.
7 p.m. – Tub time for Gabe, a story, and then off to bed! Then it’s dinnertime and some adult conversation for us big people. After dinner there is either a movie (hooray for Netflix) or work for me and homework for David.
10:30 p.m. – Off to get some Z’s.
Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?
Stephanie: Hmm, not sure if this is earth-shattering or anything, but I have two that do the trick for me. The first is having a really organized grocery list. I love to cook and I hate wasting food. On Monday, I usually go through my cookbooks or go online to gather several recipes (101cookbooks is a favorite) I want to make for the week. I then make my shopping based on the ingredients I will need to cook up everything plus extra necessities like, er, Sea star bars from Ocean State Chocolates. That way I know I have all I need in the house to make everything I want, without additional trips to the grocery store. I also like to make extra portions and freeze them for later. There is nothing like whipping out some homemade mac ‘n cheese or yummy meatloaf on those nights you have no desire or time to cook.
If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?
Stephanie: Enjoy all that free time and try not to sweat the small stuff. If the beds aren’t made, the laundry pile is so large it may have just growled at you as you walked by, or if all you have to eat for dinner is a microwave burrito and some leftover spaghetti because someone couldn’t get to the market, none of that is terribly important. What is important is to be grateful for your health, wealth, and happiness in whatever form it may come in.
Where do you find inspiration?
Stephanie: I’m not really a city person, so hikes in the woods, walks to the park, and trips to the beach really do the trick. I am always inspired by nature. I also really like seeking out those simple moments in the day, like sitting down to a quiet lunch by myself. I also really enjoy reading craft blogs and perusing Flickr.
What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?
Stephanie: Beer. No wait, I’m going to go simple here and say unscented baby wipes. Having a two-year-old boy to keep up with, I find them indispensable. It also appeals to my lazy side when I don’t feel like walking to the kitchen and getting the soap and sponge.
What is your favorite children’s book or music CD?
Stephanie: I really love Time for Bed by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer. The illustrations are so beautiful and the text has such a soothing rhythm. We also really like to listen to The Jellydots and They Might Be Giants.
What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?
Stephanie: The Children’s Museum is a hot spot, or if I’m feeling up for it, a romp around outside for puddle jumping, rainspout inspection, and spider web hunting.
What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?
Stephanie: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
I really liked the message that self-sustainability is possible, and you don’t have to stop shaving your armpits to achieve it. My husband’s and my dream is to move to the country and start a small farm. Every day I am reminded how important that goal is to us, especially when you hear about one food recall after another.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Stephanie: Hands down…Seven Stars.
If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
Stephanie: Get a massage.
Can you share a story or anecdote that is symbolic of your dual life as a business owner and a mother?
Stephanie: A photographer was hired to come take pictures of me in the studio for an idea book that went along with Daisy D’s paper line. I remember being pretty flustered about the whole thing and worried that my son would wake up in the middle of it, especially since the photographer was running late. In the end, it all worked out, my son napped through the ordeal, and we got some great shots.
How has the experience and on-the-job training of being a mom prepared or changed you in business?
Stephanie: I think the most important task I have learned is time management. You can’t always get to everything, but at least you can have an attack plan.
What is next for you and your business?
Stephanie: I’m actually in the process of working with more licensing opportunities and scaling back a bit on the Etsy front. I will still maintain my store there, but the updates will be spaced apart, about once a month or so. I’m also re-evaluating what products I’ll carry online. I also have a website in the works. Process has become really important to me over the last few months, but the byproduct of that is that the work comes a bit slower, and for now I think that’s okay. I also plan on attending Surtex again in 2009.
CREDIT: Pop-up cards created by Anisa and her boys with Daisy D paper designed by Stephanie DosReis. All other images are original artwork by Stephanie DosReis.