Tips for getting ahead at work while still being there for your kids

christine schmidt
Christine Schmidt poses with her daughter next to some of her designs.
Credit: Provided

Starting your own business can seem overwhelming, especially if you have kids. We talk to one woman who made it happen, Yellow Owl Workshop founder Christine Schmidt. Use her words as inspiration to take the next step in your career, whether it’s working toward a promotion or starting a business of your own!

How did you get the idea to start Yellow Owl Workshop? Do you have a business background?

I have the opposite of a business background — I went to art school! Although I studied fine art, it taught me lessons I use every day in business. I learned how to work with tiny budgets and practical timelines, how to value craft and originality, and the importance of asking questions. Most importantly, I had time to build trust in my own creative vision. I began printing stationery by hand in my basement because the only major cost was my time. After I had enough steady customers, I moved into goods like rubber stamps that require more capital to produce.

Were you nervous about having the time to be both a mom and own a business? 

I consider myself lucky to be able to afford childcare. I am lucky to have a job, especially one that is flexible and fulfilling. For many caretakers, these options are not available. I will say that I am very satisfied with my full life — even if I am tired and wearing old paint-stained maternity leggings. My husband and I have childcare three days a week and I often work on weekends and late at night to make up the time. There are days where I drop the ball at work and days I bawl because I’ve missed something special with my daughter. She just turned 2 and I’m just now learning to forgive myself and work through those guilts.

What is Yellow Owl Workshop like as a workplace? 

I would be nowhere without the amazing people I work with. We currently have five employees, several of whom have creative pursuits themselves. We love public radio, tea and talking about food. This paints us as cartoons of old ladies, but it’s actually a lot of fun and we laugh a lot. The day-to-day operations are run by my friend, Maria Niubo. As the business grew, I brought Maria’s big left brain in to run the show so that I could focus on design and product development.

What have been some career highlights for you? 

Taking the financial risk of my first trade show and having it pay off was a big one. Finishing the final edits on my first book, “Print Workshop,” was another. After pressing “Send,” I laid my head on the keyboard and did that embarrassing laugh/sob only built-up stress and joy can squeeze out of you.

What tips do you have for moms who want to start their own business but still be there for their kids?

Ask for help. You will be most productive doing things that you are passionate about and assigning tasks to others when you can. Half the battle is just preventing burnout. It may mean less money in your pocket, and it may even mean less time with your kids, but consider it an investment in your business, your family and preservation of your own overworked brain.

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is most important for caregivers who feel inadequate about work or parenting. Nobody else is in your exact same circumstance, so judge yourself kindly and don’t look back.

Give yourself a damn break! Take some time to be neither a parent nor a business owner, even if it’s just taking a bath or watching garbage TV. You will be better at both of these tough jobs if you chill out once in a while.

What’s coming up next for Yellow Owl Workshop? Is there anything exciting in the works?

I get most jazzed about making goods that allow others to be creative, especially for those that think they can’t. I made a new line of kits to create custom tea towels or a tote bag using drawing stencils and fabric makers. Even those from the “I can’t draw” camp will be playing textile designer and be able to use their personal, functional artwork in the end.

Follow Emily on Twitter: EmLaurence



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