Success Stories ~ Lila of Lingering Daydreams
Sometimes I have the extreme pleasure of meeting makers in person whom I instantly jive with and gush about their products like a teenage girl over a boy band. As soon as I met Lila of Lingering Daydreams, I knew I had to share her story and her work with you. She took a huge leap of faith going full-time and I admire that immensely. You are going to love her words of wisdom. Plus, how cute are her banners?!
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I was born the daughter of two carpenters and right away started making things with my hands. My parents weren’t shy about letting me play with tools. When I entered elementary school, I started out at East Bay Waldorf school where I learned to knit, draw with my toes, and make books. I got it in my head early that if I wanted something, I could probably find a way to make it.
As I got older I held onto this belief. I learned to quilt, make jewelry, work with metal, and design art prints. If there was a art class of any kind, I wanted to take it and kept acquiring new skills. At the same time, I pursued an academic path, which led me to a masters in developmental education, a credential, and a teaching position at a public elementary school. I loved my job, a lot, but couldn’t give up my handcrafting ways. I would get home after a long day and find something to dream up and create. I also started to blog about the ideas that were buzzing around in my mind.
Two years ago my cousin encouraged me to sell my creations at her friend’s backyard craft fair. After experiencing some success, I decided to open an etsy shop. I loved it. My first sale on etsy was a total rush and I couldn’t get over the fact that my cake banner would be brightening somebody’s celebration in another state.
In June, I took a leap of faith and left my classroom for my craft room. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I am passionate about teaching, but I couldn’t do both the way I wanted to. I found myself asking, “When I turn sixty will I regret not giving my business a full on shot at success?” The resounding answer was, “Yes.” And that is how I have arrived where I am today, blogging and shipping orders across the United States. I even recently made my first international sale, sending a cake banner to Australia.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
Committing to it. I am a practical person by nature and leaving a dependable monthly check to pursue my creative endeavors was one of the scariest and most challenging things I have done. It made it even harder that I truly love teaching. Starting your own business is overwhelming, you don’t just get to start doing art all the time. You have to have your finances in order and all your paperwork filed with the city. You spend money that you haven’t yet earned on materials and fees and packaging. Being okay with that and committing myself to my dream with no guarantee of success has been the hardest part of my journey so far.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
Recently I attended Alt Summit San Francisco. It is a large blogging conference that hosts bloggers from across the country. They have gorgeous gift bags that go home with every attendee. A package of my cupcake flags were included in those swag bags. Seeing the name of my business so officially posted in the program and having people that I hadn’t met before recognize me through my business name made me feel incredibly legit. It was a proud moment.
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?
Yes. Regularly. It is hard to wake up every day and wonder what the future holds. It is also incredibly exciting.
And when you have a million ideas it can be a little overwhelming, especially when you know that you are counting on your sales for your income. As a result, I often have to consider if I am making decisions that are true to who I am as an artist, but are still relevant to my audience.
The biggest thing that I have been dreaming of doing is developing and releasing a set of art prints. I have always been passionate about art and I love to adorn the walls of my home with graphic prints. Although I haven’t had enough time to devote to this quite yet, I am making room for it in the next couple months and am so exciting to see where this creative juncture will lead me.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Yes. Especially now that this is my job and not a side project, the pressure is on. This can make it even more challenging. I think that because creativity and inspiration are so organic, it can be tricky to cultivate them. For me the most successful practice has been creating a schedule for myself. In that schedule I have “sit and write time” as well as “sit and draw time.” Having time set aside to do these things on a regular basis has helped me to honor the creative process. But I have to say, sticking to the schedule is a challenge in itself!
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
Balance is something I have struggled with throughout my life. I am a worker bee, born and bred. This is also a particularly important question to me now because I am pregnant with my first baby. I am excited to be starting my business because it will allow me to work from home, but I am also acutely aware of the challenges I will face in achieving my business goals and my mommy goals.
A weekday in my life starts with getting up, having breakfast, taking a walk around my neighborhood, and then doing 30 minutes of yoga at home. Then I head to my basement studio and get to work taking care of business paperwork, creating inventory, or blogging. I try to stop by 6:00 (if possible) and I keep one day a week open for unexpected responsibilities. Since I only started this adventure in June, I haven’t settled completely, but the more routines I put in place the more calm and balanced I feel.
I’ve found in the past that if I don’t schedule it, I don’t do it.
So, for me balance means having a schedule that includes not only the action items I need to complete, but also the relaxing things that I do to take care of myself.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
The power of social media is undeniable. The best marketing move I have made is deciding to put my concerns about judgement aside and getting out there with whatever tool was available to me. I was reluctant at first to let people, especially people I knew personally, know about what I was pursuing in my spare time. I didn’t tell anybody about my blog or my craft shows or my etsy shop. Keeping my endeavors separate made me feel safe and allowed me to distance myself from criticism. But, it also hugely limited me. Once I became comfortable letting the world, including my family and friends, know what I was doing, it opened up amazing opportunities. Now Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are some of the major ways I reach out to my community. Overcoming being self-conscious about my goals and getting comfortable with social media have been essential in marketing my business.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Put yourself out there and be prepared to work hard.
What it really came down to for me was the fear of regret I would feel if I had not tried following my dreams.
I think more than anything it is important to give it a shot. Failing is not the worst thing that can happen. Failure often means growing in ways you never thought possible. I love the lyric in Macklemore’s song, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great cause they paint a lot.” There is a lot to be said for doing what you do, doing it often, and continuing to do it even when you don’t get the results you want the first time. I would rather have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Five years is a long time and I have a lot of big ideas.
I will definitely…
…be a mom.
…make products and prints out of my renovated basement studio for my then well established etsy shop.
…be a regular fixture at the SF Renegade Craft Fair.
…have an established blog with regular content.
…do graphic design work for other small business owners, helping them establish their brand and package their products.
…write a children’s book.
…write a book on diy activities for parents/mentors to do with their children/mentees.
…teach diy workshops for parents/mentors to take with their children/mentees.
The opportunities seems endless right now. We will see where this adventure takes me.