Success Stories ~ Love Mae

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Emily and Peta of Love Mae

Almost immediately after I teamed up with Jess for her *bespoke* magazine, I discovered Love Mae and fell head over heels for their work.  This Aussie duo creates the most beautiful fabric wall stickers, wallpaper, and now dinnerware.  I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want a little piece of their work in their home.  When I reached out to them, I never in my wildest dreams imagined Emily and Peta would actually let me interview them!  So get ready for a truly amazing interview with the team behind Love Mae.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

Mae turns 4 soon, so its been quite the journey. Some days it seems that it was only yesterday that a couple of us met up and fantasized over the idea of working for ourselves creating gorgeous products. Originally we planned on doing wallpaper, cushions, and lampshades, which is why we use so many patterns in our decals. Once we entered the world of Love Mae, inspiration came from everywhere and soon our fantasy was alive. I still can’t believe how much we’ve learnt and where Love Mae has taken us.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

The biggest challenge was doing the things that took us out of our comfort zone. Between us all we had loads of skills, but so much we had to learn along the way. Trying to have a professional front when you are not feeling professional is super awkward. We still face challenges every day, but now we know that the quicker we tackle them, the quicker we can move back onto the fun stuff.

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

Our first trade show! It was mind blowing what we achieved. It was also the moment that we all came on board full time and could proudly say that we worked for ourselves. It was great to stop the juggling and start the joy. We’ve since done trade shows in Sydney, Melbourne, London and New York. I think the travelling is sometimes my favourite part.

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Bamboo Dinner Set – Woodland Creatures

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Every day! Doubt is such a negative force and can sometimes take extreme measures to shift. Doubt can hinder intentions, so its really important to decipher between doubt and real instinct. There is so much to achieve and so little time so work time is best being productive. There is so many things I yearn to achieve, but I make the time everyday even if it is five minutes to open another part of me. I’m self taught with most things in my life, so study is the next big thing I’ll achieve.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

Always. Creativity comes and goes. I definitely think it is so closely linked with confidence. When I’m feeling uninspired I take a moment to myself and walk on an empty beach or enjoy a moment on Pinterest. It quite quickly comes back, but you’ve got to be so careful not to be hard on yourself. I love the cliche Rome wasn’t built in a day… but usually substitute Rome with Love Mae.

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Fabric Wall Stickers – Floating Feathers

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

I’ve got two little girls, 4 and 7, so balance is just as much an artwork as Love Mae. I never wanted to work for myself and lose my time with children so I take this balance challenge on as much as I do anything else. My morning involves getting children ready for school and pre-school.. packing lunches making breakfast. I usually arrive at work around 9.30. A day in the studio is so dramatically varied I never really know what will happen. The only thing I know is the times I need to pick my girls up. I then do the homework thing, play and craft time dinner and baths and books and bed. Most nights I must admit I find my way back to my laptop where the work continues again. I don’t mind this and I make sure I keep the night work interesting. I do remind myself that it will always be there tomorrow if I don’t feel like working. A good thought is … ‘whats the worst than can happen if I don’t get it done’. This usually keeps it real for me.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

In the early days, communicating with good blogs. We really can thank the blogging world for our success… that and our launch pad, Etsy. Bloggers are direct into the homes of our favourite market… New mums! We now have a PR agent and she’s amazing. I must admit I now have a lot of nights off not having to worry about getting our images out there. A PR agency was a great move!

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Wrapping Paper – Stormy Bouquet

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Keep a balance. You can’t always do just the fun stuff and be successful, especially in the early days. Enjoy being out of your comfort zone. Life is about learning and keeping both sides of the brain alive. Set yourself goals and then break them down to bite size pieces. Keep your ‘to do’ list real and achievable as you are always your biggest critic and if you are not achieving your weekly list you’ll soon talk yourself out of your own success. You can do this!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I’m a big ‘future goal’ setter! I love a big picture. In 5 years I see myself in a bigger warehouse with dedicated staff all wonderful in their area of expertise. I like to think I’ve created a lovely work place where we have a rule… life and family come first. I’ve got so many ideas and they will probably take 5 years to all come to fruition. But definitely Love Mae will be grandeur with lots of new pretty goodies available. I’m excited.

You can find more of Love Mae’s work in their online shop: Love Mae

On their Facebook page: Love Mae

And on their blog: The Love Mae Blog

Success Stories ~ Cat Ivins of Polarity and Uncorked

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Cat, for once, away from her workbench

I met Cat nearly 3 years ago when I was just starting out my own business.  Her hysterical blog, Olive Bites, drew me to her but then I saw that she was running not one successful Etsy shop but two!  Uncorked and Polarity jewelry was selling like hot cakes (and still is) and somehow she still finds the time to partner with an array of amazing artists to create new collaborative works.  I knew you’d have a ton of great wisdom and advice to share and I’m so thrilled I got to chat with her again!

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I used to be a banker (not the kind that makes gazillions of dollars). I started as a bank teller when I left college and worked my way to vice president.
I worked with a lot of business clients and learned a lot about money from that process. Eventually I was burned out and needed something more my own.
I launched a personalized print product line on mall carts during the holidays and started selling collages I made at craft shows and a few local stores. I had always worked with sustainable materials and things that had outgrown their original usefulness, so my jewelry lines have just been a natural outgrowth of that.
I now work with cork, recycled steel and wood scraps to create my Uncorked and Polarity Locket lines which are sold online and in dozens of gift shops and museum gift shops around the world!

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

My biggest challenges are always internal – the physical demands of production work, the 24/7 pull of this thing – the feeling that other people have this so much more together than I do (which could be true actually – ha!).

It’s usually more about letting go of my attachment to a specific outcome (sometimes big opportunities that come up do not end up happening) than overcoming for me.

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 Arrow Color Block Recycled Cork Keychains

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

My fist pumps are when an idea works or when I do something I didn’t think was possible for me. I never thought I could learn to weld. I had been burned as a child over 30% of my body and had always been afraid of fire, so mastering the flame (and master may be the wrong word here!) was huge for me.

I’ve had a lot of good things happen with my business – new accounts and opportunities, too, that were definitely worth celebrating!

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

I have about 5 new jewelry lines still in my head. I am going to write a book or maybe many books, but have no idea what they will be about.

I am going to start a service business, maybe something local that connects people – but have no idea yet what that is going to look like.

I just catch little glimpses of these future selves I will be creating.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

There are times when creativity is alive – like ideas are catching fire and you can’t sleep. And those are great and amazing times.

But I am more about the process than the outcome and I know that explosive energy at the beginning will wane – it’s supposed to wane.

The real stuff happens after it wanes. It’s part of the flow, you just have to move with it. Now our lives are our own – we always have free will – so we can jump into the flow at any place and any moment.

If I want to make something new but am stuck – I make something else – like a cake or a poem or take my camera to the junk yard – there are uncountable ways to move back into the vibration.

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Pinterest Locket

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

I am not so great at this and I had thought until recently that this was ok since I was in a period of my life that work could take a greater piece of me, but I am rethinking this.

It should only take so much of us – it should take 100% of that part – but we still need the other parts to be healthy. My typical day is a terrible example of balance right now – unless balance is me, spinning plates on every finger and toe, I wouldn’t recommend it.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

I am not sure I have ever made any marketing moves – I just make connections.

I collaborate with a lot of artists. I got on Twitter when everyone said – “you must do Twitter”, then along came Facebook, then just as we get settled there along comes LinkedIn and Pinterest and Instagram – it’s never going to end, but the days of any kind of traditional marketing are gone and the whole thing for makers like me is exhausting.

We just have to realize there are a whole hell of a lot of people that are just never going to hear about us! Niche PR beats any kind of marketing – stuff like this interview – thank you very much, Megan!

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 Rhino Fun Necklace made from recycled cork

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

It is not about finding our passion.

So many people get stuck in that idea.

It is about being passionate about the work we do.

These things get unearthed through process. We can only start from where we are, so when we choose to do the things we are doing today with more passion, whatever those things are – the form doesn’t matter, only the energy; the intention matters – when we start being passionate about our life as it is, we draw more and more of the things we are passionate about into our world.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I’m definitely seeing myself living a more balanced life – more hands in the dirt instead of the keyboard, more travel, most likely doing something that hasn’t even occurred to me yet!

You can find more of Cat’s work in her Etsy shops: Uncorked and Polarity

On her Facebook page: Olive Bites

And on Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job series

Success Stories: Leah Duncan

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I have a lot of role models (and hopefully you do too!) who I’m continually looking to for new ideas and inspiration.  I’ve been following the success of Leah Duncan, an American textile artist and illustrator, for nearly a year now.  Every time she comes out with a new line of work, my jaw drops into my lap.  Today, Leah sat down with us to share some of her amazing journey.  I hope it inspires you!

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I’ve always been an artist at heart, but my professional career didn’t start until after college when I worked as a graphic designer for advertising firms and screen printing companies. While I learned a lot as a graphic designer and am grateful, I never felt creatively fulfilled with the type of work I did in those positions.

When my husband and I moved to Austin after our wedding, I was determined to make a living doing work I was truly passionate about. I started with putting my drawings on Etsy and my shop evolved to include textiles and stationery. That was in 2008 and, at this point, I think it’s safe to say, with a lot of hard work, I’ve made my dreams come true.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

Having your own business is almost always a challenge. I think one of my biggest weaknesses has been that I’m a people pleaser and will almost always do whatever it takes to make other people happy. The truth is as a small business owner and working artist you’re always pressed for time and you consistently have to look out for your own best interests.

This means being firm when needed and saying no when it doesn’t work for you. Looking back it seems so silly, but I think it’s something many women can relate to. It was a hard lesson learned with time wasted or people taking advantage of my kindness, but I got there in the end.

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Triangles Tea Towel

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

They happen every single day! Sometimes simply getting a wholesale order out on time or signing a print without my signature veering off and up to the right is the greatest thing I can achieve. The two biggest challenges I’d say have been taking a leap of faith financially to attend Surtex (an art licensing show) in 2011 and getting my latest collection ready to release last Fall. As a small business owner risks like this have to be taken and it feels amazing when it pays off.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Absolutely! Doubts are a given but are also something that drive me to achieve more. I’d love to one day have my own brick and mortar shop/studio and also have a home goods line released with a well known retailer. I know I’ll get there one day, doubts and all.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

Yes, and it’s a horrible feeling! I always find the best thing I can do is clear my mind and that usually involves yoga, a run, or a walk with my dog. If that still doesn’t work, sometimes it’s better to walk away for a little while and come back when my focus arrives. Or simply call it a day and have a nice dinner and a glass of wine!

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My Heart to Your Heart print

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

It’s tough! It varies depending on the time of year and comes in cycles, but generally during the slower months I like to have two days set aside for creative projects. My typical day could be anything from sourcing textiles to creating a new collection to taking care of my books. It’s amazing how many hats you wear when you’re self-employed.

In a good week I’m able to take two full days off to focus on my friends, family, and general well-being.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

Hands down, signing up for Etsy has been the single best way to connect my work with my demographic.

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 Elena Scarf

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Follow your passion and don’t let anything stand in your way. Make it happen no matter what. Also, mistakes are lessons learned so never be afraid of making them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

With my own shop and studio, hopefully creating two full lines a year, with a great team working for me so I can focus on starting a family and making memories.

You can find more of Leah’s work in her shop: LeahDuncan.com

On her blog: Freshly Chopped

And on Twitter: @leahduncanisme

How I Started Studio MME {Megan`s Story…}

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I have always been competitive, which is probably why when I heard only 10% of art students make a living from their work, I swore to be part of that percentage.

There was no way I wanted to work at Starbucks till I was 30 while dabbling on my illustration in my free time (which is sadly what most of my former classmates are still doing 4 years after graduation).  That’s why before I graduated with my degrees in art and English, I opened Studio MME Illustrations.

My parents wholeheartedly encouraged me to pursue my ‘artsy fartsy’ degrees so long as I started a business.  So I did!  Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that I could fail.  This blind ambition definitely helped me overcome the struggles I had to go through to get where I am today – a self-employed artist.

After earning my diplomas, I applied to 6 graduate schools…and was turned down by all of them.

I wallowed in self-pity (and ice cream) for about a week.  Then my boyfriend got accepted into a graduate art program and I had to start packing for a cross-country move to California, thus leaving my ice cream wallowing behind in my hometown.  While I had visions of setting up shop immediately as a self-employed artist, Silicon Valley rent crushed that dream.  We were literally paying double the rent for an apartment so tiny we had to set up our studios in the kitchen.

For the first time in my life, I had to hunt for a ‘job’.  I landed one as a bookseller at Borders and, honestly, I thought it was going to be the best job ever.  After all, what English major wouldn’t want to be surrounded by books all day?

Well, the appeal quickly wore off when I learned about sales quotas and my bosses learned that my Midwestern background made me a natural seller.  It only took 6 months for my ‘job’ to demoralize me.  I dreaded going to work, I loathed my bosses, and I hated how the company put sales over customer happiness.

Every day I grew crankier and during the holiday season, I would wake my boyfriend up to ask if he was ready to check out.  I had no desire to make artwork because all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and dread the next time I had to go in to work.  Obviously, the world of ‘real jobs’ was getting to me.

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Proof that I have always been a bit creative.  One year I trick-or-treated as a snow tiger (ie snow gear and a tiger nose) and when I moved to California, I couldn’t help but pose on my first rocky beach.

Finally, I sat down on my lunch break (in the Borders café) and wrote a great big plan entitled, “Quit My Day Job in 6 Months.”

I was ready to work for myself and by golly I was going to do it before the holiday season came around again.  The act of writing down a plan fired up my enthusiasm to create more artwork and make my dream of being a self-employed artist come true.

The universe must have heard because not two weeks later, Borders declared bankruptcy.  I had a few weeks to start on my big plan and tell my boyfriend about my intention to NOT look for a new ‘job’.  After 6 months in a company that valued money over the happiness of its customers I knew I couldn’t go into any other retail business that wasn’t run by me.  My time at Borders taught me how NOT to run a business and I could now put that knowledge to good use in Studio MME Illustrations.

That’s probably why I was the only employee to dance out the shop door when the last day came.  Everyone else thought I was bonkers to go off on my own but I was blindly ambitious again.

I’d tried the ‘American dream’ way and it had sucked the life out of me and replaced it with crankiness.  Now I was going to do it the ‘Megan dream’ way!

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“The Love Whale”

So, almost two years later, I’ve come a long way.  I’ve illustrated the covers of two children’s books, released an embroidery line, illustrated and designed a CD cover, and been featured in 2 nationally published art books.

I’ve self-published a book of my short stories and illustrations as well.  I love the interactions I have with my customers.  I always strive to create things with them in mind.

I’ve even started a new series on my blog where every week I write a silly story for them so they have something fun to read during their work day.  At the start of 2013 I also started a 365 Portrait Challenge where I’m drawing 365 portraits of my fans, bloggers, artists, etc.  Embracing my talent allowed me to grow as an artist but embracing my customers has allowed me to gain what Borders never had – fans!

While I’m not 100% sure what 2013 will bring, I know that I can truly say that I’m part of that 10%.  A competitive nature, blind ambition, and experience in how NOT to run a business got me to my dream of being an artist.

My goal for this year is to help other people, especially former art students, become part of that 10% because I truly believe the world will be a better place if there are more artists and makers.

Success Stories: Myra of Twigs and Honey

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Myra of Twigs and Honey (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

I’ve had a crush on Twigs and Honey for years now.  Whenever I’m in need of a mental break, or just a little pick-me-up, I head to this Etsy shop to soak in the gorgeous photographs.  Myra, the force behind the wedding accessories company, is not only an amazingly successful woman but a very generous one too because she agreed to share the story of how she went from a research analyst for forecasting to Etsy star.  Get out your notepads because she gives out a lot of advice in her interview.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I started the business as a hobby after planning my wedding to my husband, Matt, back in 2007.  What started as a creative outlet to offset my government research job, has evolved into my full-time occupation. I had always been an anxious, busybody while I was growing up, taking up many artistic hobbies from sewing to painting to clay figurines. I loved to make tangible art but didn’t know how it could sustain the livelihood I envisioned so I got degrees in science and set off to save the environment.

When I became woefully unsatisfied, my creative interests really saved me and for the past 5 years, I really haven’t looked back. From modest beginnings as a little adornments shop on Etsy, I’ve grown the company into a full-fledged brand not limited to accessories but also including a how-to book, fragrance, cover-ups and bridal gowns. I have bigger goals for the future and additional lines in the works, so the creative career path continues and I just have to say that I’m thrilled to be doing what I love.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

One of the biggest challenges has been to stay one step ahead. I feel like when I started, there were very few that did exactly what I was doing. Etsy was relatively new and we were about to head into a handmade revival. Since then, I feel like there has been an endless stream of copycats and competition.  Everyone and their second cousin seems to make hair accessories now.

Staying ahead of the curve by setting myself apart through innovative designs, identifiable branding and pushing myself each season to top myself from the last have been the constant challenges to overcome. I try to overcome the challenges by reminding myself to stay the course and look forward.

Throughout the years, I’ve focused on remaining true to my beliefs and morals (i.e. don’t cheat, “steal”, or take advantage of others), not taking shortcuts and working hard overall. It doesn’t get easier so when things get tough, you have to work harder and wiser.

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Bridal Bird Cage (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

One of my biggest ‘fist-pump’ moments is actually a bit of a secret! It’s really under wraps but involves television. Have I got you excited?

Less cryptic, I’ve been really proud of having the opportunity to write a book, Adornments, and have my dear friend, Elizabeth Messina, photograph it.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

I try to make good decisions so as to minimize doubt. I already worry enough, so by focusing on making the smartest business decisions, I don’t have too much in the way of doubts for my future creative direction.

There are some additional lines I’ve already designed that I’ve had to put on the backburner due to time constraints but, hopefully, I’ll be able to revisit those in the coming years.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

For some reason, I have the exact opposite. It probably sounds crazy, but I can’t turn it off – that is, the constant creative drive. It’s a problem! I’m continually thinking of new designs and am perpetually inspired by the world around me. I eat, sleep and think about designing. Like I said above, I’m an anxious person and always have been.

Doesn’t it seem like some of the greatest talents in the world (art, music, writing, etc.) seem a little bonkers? Call it OCD or an addictive personality, but since I was young, anything I did, I had to be obsessive about it. I don’t just do things. I have to master whatever it is I’m doing and I’ll keep working on it until I do. I’m incredibly competitive (to a fault?) – so since I chose to make a living in the creative field, and since it is always evolving, I’m a bit maniacal about it and am never short on inspiration.

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Bridal rhinestone headpiece (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

This is a constant area I’m working on. In the first 2-3 years of the business, I would work an insane amount of hours. Over a hundred hours a week! Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. I would either not sleep for 3-4 days at a time, or sleep maybe 1-4 hours a night maximum if I was lucky. I solidly did this. Isn’t that nuts?

A huge help was to finally relinquish a little control and delegate some of the work out to others. Of course, that could only happen when I had enough revenue to afford it. Nowadays, I’m still overworked, but I do get much more sleep. My typical day starts out by waking up early and checking/answering emails and other correspondence. I usually do this even before the sleep is out of my eyes. I then make my daily cup of tea, take the dog out, tend to the birds (all 3 of them!) and get back to work by about 8:30am.

Every day is a little different after this point. I do check inventory most days and restock supplies as needed. Many days, I will spend the rest of the day until about 9:00pm working on customer orders or wholesale orders, which includes producing, packing and shipping. Other days will be broken up with some time spent on social media, working with my contract workers, designing new styles and working on special projects. There isn’t an exact schedule I adhere to since it’s always changing. After finishing up for the day, I eat dinner with the better half and we curl up on the couch and watch a movie or tv show.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

Building a marketing plan and reinvesting into that plan.

I am very conservative about spending and for the business, I’ve been completely self-financed. So to bring myself to spend money on marketing has been a challenge! What I can say is that I always reinvest into the business. The profits I make from sales are first earmarked for operating costs, taxes, supplies and my marketing budget. My marketing budget includes ads, photo shoots, bridal shows and any other fee for having an internet presence.

By always setting aside funds for marketing, I ensure that my hard work is seen and seen in a way that best represents the brand. There isn’t one exact marketing choice that stands out as the best move… it is more about the marketing strategy on the whole and making sure that a good portion of the profits from the business are reinvested to ensure the ongoing success of the business and continued growth.

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Myra at work (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Align yourself with good, honest people. One of the best things I have done for myself and the business has been to build relationships with amazing, talented and inspiring individuals. Network intelligently. To be honest, I didn’t choose my friends to benefit from them but what happens when you befriend wonderful persons? They lift you up and help you in ways that cannot be measured or “bought”. They inspire you to be better. They grow with you.

If you surround yourself with bad influences, eventually, those people will have an effect on you. Whether my cherished friends help in life or business, it doesn’t matter – it trickles into every aspect of my life. As I spread the good word about them, they do of me. When one friend has a success, we all celebrate! When one needs help, we all pitch in. Positive in is positive out. Sometimes, we can’t do it alone so make sure you have a great support system that you can call on when you need that extra something.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Farming with my husband. Haha! What I mean is that I’d love to move onto a larger property out of the city, build our dream home and do some subsistence farming. In 5 years, I hope to be spending more time with my husband.

You can find more of Myra’s work in her Etsy shop: Twigs and Honey

On her Facebook page: Twigs and Honey

And on Twitter: @twigsandhoney

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