Meet the #motherhustlers: Laura Vacca
Noticing a serious gap in branding between small business and large corporations, Laura’s goal is to make unique, share-worthy design available to everyone and to help small business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
She has an eclectic design background; with a Masters of Architecture, a minor in photography, and several years of branding, marketing, and graphic design experience Laura also loves to travel (she’s visited Italy, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates), reading, and practicing yoga if she can find a spare minute, and absolutely adores being a mom to her 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte.
Tell us about yourself, your business, and how you got started!
When I was 10, we went on a family vacation to Disney World. More than anything I wanted to ride the Tower of Terror, so my father waited in line with me for hours until finally – finally – it was our turn. We strapped in, the video played, we went up, up, up…and then.
I found out later that the first big drop is 131 feet in the air, but at the time all I knew was that I was freefalling so fast I couldn’t even hear myself scream from the wind rushing past.
That’s how my introduction to becoming a mompreneur felt. Like a freefall with no safety net, no parachute, and silent screams because God forbid I wake the baby.
I so did not plan to start my own business. I actually graduated from school with a master’s degree in architecture and went to work for a small firm in Newport, Rhode Island. Not long after I had a series of flare-ups from a chronic autoimmune disease which led to me starting and leaving three more jobs in as many years before finally saying, enough is enough. I’m done.
Several years later, I have my own brand design company (did anyone see that coming, because I sure didn’t), a silly toddler who likes to paint almost more than I do, and a “work in progress” house on a gorgeous acre that my husband and I are slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, turning into our vision of the ideal homestead.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I wasn’t so much inspired as I was driven to start my own business.
I simply couldn’t keep getting up and going into an office, working on someone else’s schedule and completing someone else’s projects.
I NEEDED the ability to change my schedule based on how I was feeling, and to work around doctor appointments. I NEEDED to be able to work wherever was most comfortable; whether that was at my desk, on the sofa while my daughter watched a Disney movie tucked under my arm, or in bed wearing my husband’s sweatpants while recovering from another procedure or surgery. And I WANTED all the other benefits that come with owning your own business; being the boss, having independence, not having to send my daughter to daycare…I’m sure you have a similar list of reasons for wanting to be a mompreneur!
What struggles do you face when it comes to balancing your work and family and how do you deal with them?
As I write this, I’m sitting on the sofa with my feet propped on the coffee table and my daughter lounging across them like she’s a gymnast on a balance beam.
Balancing work and family is hard. Sometimes I have to stop trying to finish just one more thing and devote my full attention to my daughter because I’ve been telling her “5 more minutes, sweetie” for the past half hour. Other times I wake up with symptoms of my autoimmune disease and just know I’m gonna be parking her butt in front of the TV while I try to get as much rest as possible.
I have three techniques that I use to help me balance.
The first is knowing exactly what I’m going to work on and when.
I have a limited amount of time to dedicate to my business and it comes in waves throughout the day.
I typically average 6 hours of work a day; I get up at 5 am to grab a couple hours before everyone else wakes up, there’s a 2-3-hour window in the afternoon during naptime, and then I work again after the little one is in bed.
Just this past month we started sending her to a 2-year-old nursery school program two mornings a week. (And can I just say, I have never felt more like chopped liver in my life? Man, that girl cannot say goodbye to me fast enough!)
Now I know the when it’s time to figure out the what. Every Sunday I sit down with my planner, pick a blank page in the notes section, and write down everything I have to do.
All my appointments, phone calls with clients, deadlines, projects that need to be worked on, administrative stuff, and tasks that I am working on to build my business. Then I flip to the weekly schedule and, starting with the appointments and scheduled items that can’t be changed, begin filling in my week.
First, I block off Monday as a batch blogging day and Friday as a client project day. I schedule items based on how long they’ll take (because I know how long my blocks of time are) and how much brain power they require. I’m a morning person so I save the “mindless tasks” for evenings when I’m completely burned out.
With this technique, I’m no longer wasting my precious work hours trying to decide what to work on or bouncing from one thing to another. And because I’m so much more productive, I can dedicate the times when my daughter is awake and home to being with her.
We like to get out of the house when we can; swimming at the YMCA, playing at the library or visiting her grandparents at their office (my parents own their own business as well). Sometimes we just spend the morning snuggling on the sofa, or we take a house cleaning and laundry day, and that’s ok too because we do it together.
My second technique is that I schedule “catch up time” and “time off.”
Towards the end of the week, I actually write in my planner “catch up on everything that’s fallen behind.” It’s a habit that I picked up in college when preparing for big presentations because life always gets in the way.
The kids are sick, you’re sick, a project takes longer than you expected, or a client requests a last-minute meeting. Try to anticipate by giving yourself an hour or two to catch up.
You also have to give yourself a break. I try to take a night off once a week, so I can just have some downtime with my husband. It’s one thing to talk while playing Legos on the floor or making dinner, and another to be able to be together just the two of us.
Finally, my last technique is automation.
Automation is a mompreneur’s best friend.
If my business management software was a person, it would deserve the BIGGEST Christmas bonus EVER.
I put it off for a long time because I didn’t want to spend the money, but seriously, the amount of time I save is amazing. I can send a quote to a client, and after they approve it they automatically receive my design contract. Once that’s signed, they automatically receive their invoice! And all I had to do was watch the emails roll in as they completed each step.
There’s so much more that I could go on and on forever. I also automate my sales funnels and my social media postings. Seriously, you think I have time to be hanging out on Instagram every day? No way! But you wouldn’t know it from my profile!
What do you think is the secret to raising a healthy business and a healthy family?
The secret is to learn how to balance but to also accept your limits.
I know that I can’t go, go, go all day because I just don’t have the stamina. So, I accept my limitations and I work with them instead of against them.
I accept that if I take my daughter swimming, I won’t have the energy to go out and do errands after. I accept that when my daughter wakes up early with a stuffy nose and a fever, I’ll be throwing that day’s “to do” list out the window. I accept that if I spend the morning tidying the house, I’ll leave the laundry for the next day. I accept that even if I do spend the morning cleaning, the house will probably be a mess again by dinnertime. I accept that sometimes, things get away from me and those are the nights I rely on my husband to pick up the slack.
What is one piece of advice you could give to help other mompreneurs out?
Make sure you take time for yourself.
This is something I have been trying to work on as well. And when you take care of yourself, your clients and your family will also benefit.
Spend a few minutes in the morning to enjoy a nice cup of tea, or coffee if that’s your preference. Try meditation or writing in a journal; even just sitting quietly and taking deep breaths can help you unwind. Swap your jammie bottoms for (at the very least) a pair of leggings.
Personally, I use a yoga app on my phone. It has preset classes as short as 10 minutes, and even that is enough to make me feel so much more relaxed and centered.
What words of encouragement do you have for your fellow mompreneurs?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the perfect mom and have the perfect business.
You are an amazing and incredible person!
If you get off track now and then, it’s ok! Hey, this month I’m 1 for 3 on my batch blogging Mondays!
If you have to park your kids in front of Sesame Street for a few hours so you can finish up a project that is taking forever that’s okay too! You know that once the project is done (and you’ve caught back up on your sleep!) you’ll make it up to them.
Do you have any great / inspiring stories from your own experience that you would like to share?
After all the late nights and early mornings, all the strategies I’ve tested, I finally have back to back to back projects scheduled!
t feels incredible to know that I won’t have to hunt down more work in a couple weeks when my current projects are complete.
Now the goal is to keep that going and be steadily booking clients a couple weeks to a month in advance.
You know, I bought some caramel sleepy time tea a couple months ago that smells delicious. I think I’ll celebrate by taking the night off and finally have a cup! Cheers!
PS In case you were wondering, the tea was great. Best. Sleep. Ever.
Where You Can Find Laura
You can find out more about Laura and Creative Mess Designs over on her website, as well as on Instagram and Pinterest.
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