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[26] How a Natural Disaster Inspired Sonia McManus to Follow her Creative Dream

Deciding to run a business and follow your passion is not always (i.e. – ever) the easy choice.

You will work harder than you ever have before, and there’s no doubt that you need to be dedicated, because you’re in it for the long haul!

This week, I invited my friend and long-time student – Sonia Mcmanus of Tiki Kiwi and Paper Petals – to come on the podcast. I’ve watched Sonia grow her businesses over the last few years, and I love the path she’s created for herself. Not only that – she has a moving story to tell about how a natural disaster in her city prompted her to finally chase her creative dreams.

As you’ll hear, she knows a thing or two about being a busy entrepreneur – all while juggling ‘the day job’, and being a single mum to an almost-teenager. Her passion and determination really shine through in this interview – I literally got goose bumps at one stage listening to her!

If you’ve ever been unsure as to whether you’re on the right path – whether you should be chasing your own dream – don’t miss this episode.


Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • We all hit crossroads where we must decide if we want to “chase down something that is really meaningful.” {Sonia}
  • Natural disaster makes you recognize the need to follow your passion.
  • Turning your hobby into your business takes dedication, commitment, and time.
  • Self-Doubt is a part of the creative-process.
  • “Acknowledge your doubts. Sit with them without judgement.  Ride it out.” {Sonia}
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Opportunities can only present themselves when we are available to receive.
  • It’s okay for your business to evolve over time, in fact, you may want to expect it.
  • Different outlets can fulfill different creative needs within ourselves.
  • Know your audience and your business.
  • Have a creative hobby/outlet OUTSIDE of your business.
  • Morning Pages: Start your day with a writing meditation exercise.
  • How to Change your Life by Changing your Morning Routine
  • Sean Wes: Revolutionize Your Day, By Changing Your Routine
  • If something doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to get rid of it.
  • “Just don’t give up, keep it going.” {Sonia}
  • Running a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint.  You need to be in it for the long haul.
  • Show up everyday!
  • To learn more about Sonia visit her website TikiKiwi or her Instagram.

Download/Listen to this Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

Say Hello to the New C&T Right-Hand Gal – Grace Gulley!


Hey Thrivers!

I’m so happy to be introducing you to my new assistant today!

First – I’d like to take this opportunity to give my enormous gratitude to my dear friend and outgoing assistant – Kath Chown.

Kath really helped me to grow C&T and the Thriver Circle this year – she was my confidant, sounding board, help in all things, and all-around wonderful person to have by my side. Thank you, Kath, for everything you’ve done not only for me – but for the whole C&T community. I’m so thankful we live in the same city and can still have our regular brunches! xx

Second – let me say I was blown away by the number of amazing people who applied for this job – truly, I’m honoured that so many of you love what I do here so much that you wanted to help me create it. Immense thanks to each and every one of you – it was super hard to choose just one of you – I wish my quest for world domination was a bit further ahead so I could hire a whole team of you! 😉

Finally – I’d love it if you would all please say a warm hello to my new right-hand gal – Grace Gulley.

Grace hails from the West Coast of the USA, and runs two amazing projects of her own as well as helping me here – the CYL Collective; and her own handmade business, Lark + Arrow. If you take a peek at both of those, you’ll see that not only does Grace have a deep passion for her own craft + business, she’s also deeply committed to supporting and inspiring female creatives… which, among other things, is what makes her perfect for her role here with me at C&T.

She’ll be working behind-the-scenes – finding amazing creatives to feature on the blog and podcast – and she’ll also be working closely with the members of the Thriver Circle on a daily basis. You can get in touch with her via email at

But enough of my rambling, here’s a little hello from Grace in her own words…

Jess x


Hello all!

I’m Grace, fellow artisan and small business owner. My creative journey has been a long-time in the making. Like many other creatives who are searching for their artistic identity, I dabbled in everything, but never excelled in anything. It took finding a creative community to find my place and lead me to my craft. That craft was, and is, the recently-revived art of knotting, macrame! It quite literally roped me in (excuse the cheesy pun).

I am so excited to be here with all of you Creators and Thrivers!

Finding your craft isn’t the only step in your artistic journey. It takes some serious know-how to run a successful business. And having a community to support and challenge you will help you along the way!

So here’s to all of us growing together, creating our futures, and thriving in our respective crafts.

6 Tips for Balancing Motherhood and Creativity







Despite giving many talks on signature style, market stall prep and business planning (yikes!) the topic I’m most asked about is how I’ve managed to combine creativity with motherhood. 


I’m so glad when this comes up because it’s a topic that’s incredibly close to my heart!

Firstly, let me tell you a little bit about me.

I’ve been creating for as long as I can recall.  It’d be safe to say that it’s in my blood, and it has helped me though many things over the course of my life.

For me, making and creating is a need that feels as necessary to my existence as breathing.

You can imagine then how it was to have my first baby, 10 years ago.  All of a sudden there was no time for self-indulgent weekends filled with painting!

I struggled through the first year uncreatively, yearning for the me I thought I’d have to set aside and then one day I realised I could be creative in different ways to before. 

Ways that would work with my new role, and ways that would fit in to my new timetable.

The first thing I did was let go of the idea that my only creative outlet was drawing and painting.

I learnt how to sew and appliqué and made clothes for my first-born, which surprisingly to me satisfied my creative urge at the time.  Time went quickly as it does with a baby and pretty soon we welcomed our second baby into the family.

Not long after this I discovered something that changed everything for me.  I discovered a whole network of other creative mums online!  I connected with them and suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore.

I sketched out and designed complicated appliqué designs and began selling my work at local markets and on Etsy.

It’s now 7 years down the track from that first market and along the way I’ve landed back at my first love of painting and drawing with a little woodwork tossed in for good measure!

I still enjoying sewing and crocheting but now I just do those things for my family.

I look at my 3 kids and see the amazing influence staying true to my creative self has had on them as they see creativity as a normal and everyday part of life.

They are excited and encouraging of my artistic achievements and are most importantly confident in their own creative selves.


Here are my top tips for combining motherhood and creativity


1. Relax your mindset

Sometimes you have to change your creative expression up a bit for a short time.

2. Connect

Join a group, make connections with other crafty people and other crafty mums either online or in your local area.

3. Value

Treasure your creative side, it is valuable and provides your kids with different experiences and skills.

4. Time

Create when you can squeeze it in. A quick sketch before breakfast or some jewellery making late at night, if it’s important to you make sure you fit it in.

5. Include

Create around your family. Let your kids see what you’re doing and they will begin to create alongside you.

6. Let go

Release any guilt you feel from indulging your creative side. Having a mum who is sometimes a bit distracted by her latest creation is much better for your kids than a mum who is sad and lost from not following her dreams.


I also recommend reading both editions of The Divided Heart by Rachel Power. 


This book made me realise that I wasn’t alone in needing to create and it showed me that being a creative mum is not only possible, it’s inspiring and fun too!

If you’re a mum (or a dad!) for whom being creative is a deep need – how have you balanced this with parenthood? Share with us in the comments.

[25] 25 Essential Tips for Running a Handmade Business

I’ve been running my own handmade business for almost 7 years now (my bizaversary is this month!), and over that time I have discovered some hard-won knowledge about how to make the most of your time, your creativity, and what you need to do to make your handmade business the best it can be.


Today, to celebrate the 25th episode of the Create & Thrive podcast, I’ve created an epic episode for you, where I outline 25 essential tips for running a handmade business.

I believe that becoming successful is all down to pacing yourself, to being optimistic yet realistic – dream big, but don’t over-extend yourself beyond what’s actually do-able.

I believe that you need to get clear on why you’re doing this – to get clear on your core values, and allow them to guide you in all the decisions that you make.

There is so much goodness in this episode – I really dig down into the principles that will help you to achieve success – whatever that means to you.


I have also put together a FREE downloadable e-book from this episode!

To get your free download, just enter your email below and click ‘Subscribe’!

This is available as part of my brand-spankin’ new #HandmadeBusinessToolkit – which is packed full of free resources (ebooks, downloadables, and guides) that will help you grow a thriving handmade biz.

The Handmade Business Toolkit is available for absolutely FREE to my C&T email subscribers.

If you’re already a subscriber, check your inbox for the email I sent you today – the password to access the toolkit is inside.

If you’re not already subscribed, just pop your email in the box above and click ‘subscribe’ to get access to the #HandmadeBusinessToolkit for absolutely free!



Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • Turning your passion into your business sounds like a great idea but you can run the risk of killing the passion
  • You need to spend quite a bit of time on the business side of things
  • “Are you going to still love it in five years time?”
  • You can get your stuff out there and then you can tweak it and alter it whenever you want
  • “Until you get something out into the world, you’re not going to be getting any feedback.”
  • Are your things what other people want to buy?
  • You need to have a product for sale – not just a business idea
  • “I want to help people find freedom in their own lives.”
  • Get clear on your core values and put them out into the world
  • You may want to create new things which aren’t saleable but you need to make sure you understand that it’s to indulge your creativity and not for your business
  • Remember to be grateful for what you’re doing, especially when you have feelings of boredom or frustrating
  • “Find ways to keep your love and passion burning for your business.”
  • Moving from hobby to business means you might not feel like you can charge the right amount for your work
  • “You might be stuck in an unrealistic price vortex with everyone around you undervaluing their work.”
  • Charge what your time is worth
  • “Don’t hide from working out your prices correctly.”
  • It’s OK to ask for help
  • Paying for workshops and other learning opportunities may be better than using up your time figuring it out yourself
  • SOFTWARE: Xero: bookkeeping software which you pay by the month with lots of great features
  • “Get friendly with your numbers since you want to track how you’re income is going.”
  • If you are growing a business, it’s important to find some joy in the business side of things, not just the creative side.
  • Sometimes you need to get help to make it work and you will earn a little less money for a certain period of time
  • “Think about the stuff you really enjoy and spend your time there but I hope you can find enjoyment in the business side of things.”
  • Getting organised will help you to grow your business with ease
  • “Change and evolve but stick to your core values.”
  • LINK: 4 Systems You Should Have in Place to Ensure You Never Lose a File or Email Again
  • LINK: How to Create a Simple + Streamlined Order Processing System
  • When opportunities come up, go back to your ‘why’


Download/Listen to this Episode



(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

Periscope for Makers + Handmade Business : A Roundup of Top Tips




So, while I was prepping for my sabbatical/overseas, this new thing has taken the social media world by storm. What new thing, I hear you ask?

Why, Periscope, of course.

If you don’t know what Periscope is: it’s basically a way to live-stream video to your followers. And, kinda like snap-chat, your videos are only viewable for 24 hours after your ‘scope’ (there’s already a verb!!). You can save them, but not on the app itself. Your followers get a notification when you start a scope, and can then watch and interact with you live.

I know, I know, ANOTHER social media app – argh!

BUT. This one has the potential to be really, really awesome for makers and creatives. Why? Because it allows you to give people an insight into your studio in real-time.

I’m only getting started with it myself (I’m @JessVanDen if you’d like to follow me!) so I’ve been doing some research to see how others are using it.

As I haven’t got enough experience with it to give you my own thoughts and feedback, I decided the best thing to do would be to give you a little round-up of the best resources I’ve found so far.


So, if you’re intrigued by the possibilities, check out these links:

  1. Getting Started with Periscope – c|net
  2. 25 Things Makers can do on Periscope – Academy of Handmade
  3. What is Periscope and Why you Should use it for your Creative Business – Creative Hive
  4. How to Use Periscope Like a Boss – Little Farm Media
  5. 5 Steps to Getting Started on Periscope – Blacksburg Belle
  6. 20 Unmissable Tips for Using Periscope for Business – Get Response


Those are the best resources I’ve found so far – I’ll update this post as I find more!

Are you on Periscope? Does it sound like something you’d like to try?

I love talking about my work and handmade biz in general (cough, podcast, cough) so I think it’s something I’ll be getting into.

Make sure to follow me (@JessVanDen) to get a peek inside my jewellery studio, and for some creative biz advice, too. I’m already dreaming up weekly scopes I can run for you guys!

And if you’re on there, make sure to leave your handle in the comments below, so we can build up a community of #Thrivers on there!