I had a great time working with Tina Moore of Moore Custom Creations as she designed the invitations for my baby shower. I had a basic theme in mind, but Tina used her creative juices to make the invitations and favors very special. The personal care she showed me was great. Our first correspondence was through e-mail, which was very convenient for me. We didn’t meet face to face until the invitations were finished. We met at Starbucks and ended up chatting for 45 minutes. As a local Mamma, I wanted Tina to share with us how she came to be a stay at home mom/business owner, and a little about how she balances her family and work life.
I officially started Moore Custom Creations in 2005, but made my own Christmas cards and party invites for years. I have a degree in Journalism and a minor in graphic art and combined both skills throughout my career.
I always dreamed that one day, I would work from home as a freelance writer. After my first child was born, I made the decision to be a full-time mom. After my second child was born, it wasn’t until he was two that I just kind of fell into this business. My sister-in-law’s friend asked if I would design a bridal shower invitation. After I did, the bride wanted to order wedding and bridal luncheon invitations, thank yous, etc. I didn’t have plans to start a business at that point in my life, but sometimes things just happen. I needed a creative outlet outside of being a wife and mom. It was a blessing that I found something I truly enjoy!
This is perhaps the most difficult part of all-finding time to take care of your family and give customers your undivided attention. Some weeks, I balance it better than others, but the key is to separate the two. Here are five things that I’ve learned:
1. Find a space in your home that is a designated place for you to work.
I started at my dining room table, then a small office loft above my family room (it was a great space to keep an eye on the kids as they played below but the bright sun was not good for cardstock and paper!) and finally, we finished off 400 square feet in the basement for my official office. If you don’t have the room, consider converting a closet or part of your laundry room into a make-shift work space. It’s that important.
2. Have a serious conversation with your spouse about what it’s going to take for you to be successful.
Like most new businesses, it can take up to 5 years before you see a profit; even more when you work part-time. If you have a traditional job, you get a paycheck from the beginning. In the early days, my husband wanted to see that the time I sacrificed away from our family was financially worth it. In most situations, this isn’t the case when you’re the owner. If you have significant start-up costs, it could be years until your investment pays off.
3. Have another serious conversation with your spouse about what working from home means.
Our marriage definitely struggled in the beginning. At first, I tried to do all the things I did before as an at-home-mom and wife, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. (Unless you can live on only four hours of sleep!) My husband didn’t understand how frustrating it was to be working on deadline and having to stop once or twice an hour. I had to explain that when he’s at work, he isn’t interrupted with requests for a snack, breaking-up fights or folding laundry. I needed time to focus and get things accomplished. The kids also had to get used to relying on “Daddy” instead of “Momma” to take care of their needs.
4. Set office hours and try to stick to them.
Because you work from home, a lot of customers think you’re working “all of the time.” If they call you at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning, they need to know that you are “closed” and won’t return their phone call until your next business day. If you’re “always available,” it’s hard to enjoy time when you’re “not working.” You need to give yourself permission to spend an hour or two a day reading a book, having coffee with a friend, gardening-whatever it is that recharges your battery.
5. Work when the kids are at school or even get a sitter for a few hours and make it a priority to “stop working” when they’re home and during their vacations.
My husband and I were fortunate to be in the financial position where I could stay home. Leaving a successful 15-year career to be a mom wasn’t easy. At first, I missed my old life of not being responsible for anyone but myself and working a 40-hour week. The adjustment of being on-call 24/7, craving adult conversation and a carefree schedule took some getting used to. But that’s what I signed up for. Now that my kids are ages 10 & 8, it’s easier, but there are days when I head down to my office at 4 a.m., take a break to drive them to school at 7:20 and continue working until I pick them up at 2:30 p.m. Then, it’s homework, making dinner, cleaning, doing the laundry, etc. I try not to work weekends, but when I have to, I look at it as time they get to spend with their dad. It’s important for them to see that marriage is a partnership. Both of my parents worked full-time jobs and raised seven kids. My dad did all of the grocery shopping, cooking and helped with laundry on the weekends. When you own a business, it’s even more important to have that kind of support.
Everyone has their own ideas of how they “measure success.” For some, it’s how much money they make or recognition in their field. For me, it’s always been about making a difference and feeling good about what I do. Having worked in the not-for-profit field, I had to do a lot with a limited budget. That is still with me today. I truly get excited about creating something unique to celebrate a new baby, a birthday, a wedding. If you want a fill-in-the-blank invitation-Target or Party City is the place to go. But if you want something in your baby’s nursery colors or an invitation with antique bunnies, it would be my pleasure to design something just for you. But, there are a few things customers need to know. Because I’m starting from scratch, depending on my workload, it can take up to 10 days to see initial designs. (Of course, you can always choose from sample invites I’ve done and customize one of those for a quicker turn-around.) I don’t charge a design fee or have a minimum order. This saves money (not having to buy a pack of 20 invites when you only need 15), but expect to pay more than you would at Target. How much more? That depends on the design and if you’re willing to do some of the labor. For example, if your invite has a bow or other embellishment, you can save by doing the assembly yourself. Also know that my price includes everything. In most retail invitation stores, first, you buy a pack of invitations and then pay up to $1 per invite for personalization and printing. Need a matching favor tag or thank you? I don’t charge for brain-storming and love to pass on tips and ideas from prior customers!
To me, I’m not only in the invitation business, I’m in the business of celebrating life’s important moments. It’s my hope that years down the road, my customers will look at a picture, flip through a scrapbook or dig through a box of mementos and smile when they see the invitation that was made just for them!
A little about Tina: