Leverage Your Art with Stacie Bloomfield
Stacie Bloomfield

Laura and Nikki interview Stacie Bloomfield, a perfect example of a Startist. Stacie has been creating artwork for brands and products around the world since 2009. Today we learn more about how her illustration business, Gingiber, went from an Etsy start to the thriving company that exists today. Gingiber has had products sold in over 800 stores, along with licensing deals with major product brands.

Stacie’s a Moda fabric designer, a published author, and an amazing educator. At a time last year when product based businesses were really suffering, Stacie pivoted and shifted her focus into teaching all the amazing knowledge she’s learned over the last decade to other artists, to show them how to leverage their artwork across multiple revenue streams.

She’s the creator of the Leverage Your Art course, as well as the Creative Powerhouse Society membership. She’s incredibly passionate about the industry and super generous with all of her knowledge. We’re excited to have her share that knowledge with you today.

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Topics discussed

  • Stacie’s Startist story and Etsy beginnings (2:32)
  • Getting started with wholesale and working with Grace Kang (6:23)
  • Exhibiting at trade shows (12:54)
  • Finding her own voice (16:30)
  • Growing her social media presence and wholesale business (18:25)
  • Getting into licensing (22:37)
  • The importance of multiple revenue streams (28:34)
  • Working with a business accelerator (30:53)
  • Growing her business (34:32)
  • What would Stacie do differently? Advice she would give her past self (37:47)
  • Pivoting her business in 2020 (43:51)
  • Creating the Leverage Your Art course (49:52)
  • How Stacie manages her time, projects and team (55:43)
  • The story behind her book, Give Yourself Margin (1:03:47)
  • Creating live art retreats and the importance of self-care (1:07:30)
  • Launching the Creative Powerhouse Society membership (1:12:11)
  • Having the courage to ask for help  (1:15:50)
  • How her brand name Gingiber was chosen (1:21:24)
  • Stacie’s free 52-page guide to creating multiple income streams in your creative business (1:22:50)

Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:31
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours. Laura, who are we talking to today?

Laura

0:41
Nikki, today’s guest is the perfect example of a Startist. Stacie Bloomfield has been creating artwork for brands and products around the world since 2009. Today we’re going to learn more about how her illustration business, Gingiber, went from an Etsy start to the thriving company that exists today. Gingiber has had products sold in over 800 stores, along with licensing deals with major product brands. Stacie’s a Moda fabric designer, a published author, and an amazing educator. At a time last year when product based businesses were really suffering, Stacie pivoted and shifted her focus into teaching all the amazing knowledge she’s learned over the last decade to other artists, to show them how to leverage their artwork across multiple revenue streams. She’s the creator of the Leverage Your Art course, as well as the Creative Powerhouse Society membership. She’s incredibly passionate about the industry and super generous with all of her knowledge. We’re excited to have her here to share that knowledge with you. Stacie, welcome to the Startist Society.

Stacie

1:46
Oh my goodness, thank you so much for having me here Laura and Nikki, you make me sound really cool. Like, can you just hang out and say that into my ear all the time?

Nikki

1:56
Maybe it’s because you are really cool.

Stacie

2:00
Well, I’m really excited to be here. Like you said, I am really passionate about the industry and about encouraging creative entrepreneurs to start, to make it happen, and to just keep going. Because that’s what I’ve been doing.

Nikki

2:17
Yeah, and that’s what we’re all about. And you are so incredibly generous with all that you share. So let’s get a little background info on you. Let’s hear a bit about how you got started as an artist and how your brand Gingiber was born.

Stacie

2:32
Absolutely. So I’ve told the story before, I think, maybe in my course, if you’re listening to this and you have been a part of one of my courses, or you’ve been in my membership, this might sound familiar, but my earliest memory is literally of drawing puppy dogs on napkins and on church brochures. It was the only way my parents could keep me quiet. And I was too sick as a little kid to be able to go into like the church nursery. And that’s a whole other story, but that’s how my parents kept me quiet. They would, my dad would draw puppy dog like copy the puppy dog, you know, try to draw a Disney character, I draw a Disney character.

Nikki

3:09
Awesome.

Stacie

3:09
And then my whole life, it’s just like I knew, I’m gonna be an artist. You know, I’m the type of person that I just like, decide things pretty easily, what I want to do and I was like, I’m gonna grow up and be an artist. So I went to college, got a degree in graphic design, while in college married my fella, Nathan. And like, right after I graduated college, I became pregnant with my first child. And we’d been married for two years. And I couldn’t decorate a nursery because we were literally like, had no money, and my husband was a graduate student. So I made some art prints, artwork, and my husband said there’s this new place called Etsy, why don’t you try selling your art on Etsy. And so I did, like so many people back, you know, 2009, 2010 and it did take a little while to pick up traction. You know, probably a good year and a half to two years before I really saw any part time income coming in regularly from selling work. So I was selling art prints. I invested in a $600 archival printer that was everything to us. We literally, I think cashed in some savings bonds that my husband had had since he was a child.

Nikki

4:17
Oh, wow.

Stacie

4:18
To pay for this $600 archival printer. And I did everything I could possibly do with that printer. I was printing calendars from that printer, art prints, patterns. Anything you can think of I was hand making things too, stuffed animals. And a lot of things worked and a lot of things didn’t work. So within three years of starting on Etsy, I really found an audience, right, as a nursery decor artist. And I had my second child, I quit my day job and decided to focus on Etsy full time and I was like, look at me go. But I wasn’t making much money yet. But I was just like, this is what I’m doing and I’m gonna do it all way. And that was, you know, almost 12 years ago, or when I started, yeah.

Nikki

5:04
You weren’t making a lot of money, but it was a great proof of concept. It was enough to show you, Okay, this is something I can do.

Stacie

5:13
Oh, yeah. Like, I started getting featured on blogs. And back then if you were getting featured on a blog, I mean, it was converting into sales almost, immediately. It’s different now in the blog world, but getting featured on Decor8 and Oh, Joy and a couple of places like that. And I was doing like only animal illustrations at the time for nursery decor. And I was doing them in a way that was sweet, but also a little bit sophisticated. So like a grown up wouldn’t mind seeing this artwork in a nursery. It wasn’t obnoxious, you know, and that was like my whole point of view. I want to make artwork that I can enjoy and also my kid can enjoy and felt a little timeless at the time.

Nikki

5:55
Yeah. Yeah, your work is cute, but not cutesy.

Stacie

6:00
Yeah, cute. Cute, but not cutesy. Yeah, just like me.

Nikki

6:06
Exactly.

Laura

6:09
So you started out on Etsy at a prime time, by the way to start on Etsy, back 10-11 years ago, and then at some point, you started developing and selling wholesale products, right?

Stacie

6:23
Yes. So you’re right, I was in the right place at the right time, I feel like, because back then you honestly didn’t have to market yourself. Because Etsy was like a machine that was like, marketing you all the time. So I wasn’t thinking about the things I think about now and my business, I was really just focused on making products on Etsy. And like I mentioned that third year, whenever I quit my job Etsy featured me and a big interview series that they used to run. And that feature got me in front of a lot of people. So people started reaching out and saying, Can we wholesale your products in our store? And I’m like, absolutely, let’s do this. And I had no idea what wholesale was, frankly.

Nikki

7:00
But I don’t think you’ve ever said no to anything, have you? That’s another story.

Stacie

7:10
I actually had to say no to a really great opportunity this week. I was it’s a it’s a whole other thing. But it was this really exclusive program that I was invited to be a part of through the SBA. And I actually said, No, I can’t do it right now. I’m too busy with my kids at home.

Nikki

7:25
Good, for you.

Stacie

7:27
Yeah, it’s a big deal. But you know, back then, and this is the thing, whenever you’re trying to figure out your way forward and your trajectory, you have to be a little bit gutsy. And if you wait to have everything figured out, I see this all the time, people don’t start because they want to have every single thing figured out. And so they just keep coming up with reasons why it’s not perfect, right?

Laura

7:47
And people can’t see, but

Nikki

and I are raising our hands.

Nikki

7:50
We’re raising our hands.

Stacie

7:53
First I said yes. And then I started trying to find resources for like, wholesale. And you know, the internet was a lot smaller back then than it is today. And it wasn’t like I could just like, type in like, wholesale line sheet template and find like a million resources. I literally knew of one retailer that I worked with at the time, she was one of my first retailers. And I remember that she did some business coaching for wholesale. And I reached out to her. And after I’d kind of done it myself and just like gotten some orders out the door, I actually hired this woman to be a coach for me for six months. And her name is Grace Kang and she runs the Pink Olive retail stores out of New York City. You should look her up. She’s amazing. And you know, I’ve always been really big on if I don’t know how to do something, I find someone that I know who does and I just say hey, how do I do this thing? And I gotta tell you, I’ve had so many big breaks because of that. So I do what I can on my own and then I go to someone who knows better than me and I learn from them.

Nikki

8:51
Fantastic advice.

Stacie

8:52
It honestly is a is a formula that you can’t go wrong with. Of course, you know, working with someone else is expensive. So I always try to push things as far as I can on my own. And then whenever I see like okay, I’ve reached like a point where I feel like if I don’t figure this out, I’m going to hold myself back, you know? Then I did that, so I invested in this program with her, I even flew out to New York, but guys I was a wreck. I was a frantic wreck. I was so nervous. She took me to this fancy French restaurant to talk about business and I like kicked over my bag and the whole water on the table fell over. And she’s like Stacie, let’s talk about where you want to take Gingiber and I’m like, I don’t know. Why am I inNew York? Why am I here? I don’t know. Cuz you know, that. Yeah. So I guess I’m…

Nikki

9:44
You’re not in Arkansas anymore.

Stacie

9:46
No. And I guess what I want you to know is that like, even though you might look at my website now and you know, I have all these programs and I’m teaching other people – there was a time when I did not know what I was doing and I was making a big fool of myself trying to figure it out. But you know, you just have to keep going.

Laura

10:04
Well, that’s the thing I love about you Stacie, is you didn’t let the fear stop you. You’re like, Okay, I have no idea. I am going to figure it out. It may take a little time, but I’m just going to dig in. And it’s not going to be maybe perfect the first time, but I’m just gonna figure it out. And you do that very well.

Stacie

10:19
Well, thank you for saying that. And I will tell you like, there’s not a person that I know who doesn’t look back at their early days of first trying things where they don’t cringe a little bit. Because I remember I used to make these handmade pillows. They were these cute little, they were my animals. And I would print the fabric on Spoonflower. And I would hand cut and sew them. And for a while I was like the pillow lady, like I was just making handmade pillows left and right. Well, there was one time when I was trying to cut my costs a little bit to make my profit margins better, because I didn’t know about the ways to scale other than to cut my expenses. So I bought a much cheaper thing a polyfill. And I was stuffing it a little bit more loosely and I was still shipping, I was shipping internationally a lot more then than we do now because of postage cost. And I’ll never forget when a retailer like showed off the pillows they bought from me on Pinterest, and I was tagged. And they were so wrinkled and horrible. And I was so humiliated. And I was like, I can never make this mistake again. Like this is my brand. And because I was trying to cut costs, to do it on the cheap. Like, I shipped out these products to a retailer who never ordered from me again, obviously. So it’s like, you try things, you make mistakes, it is humiliating sometimes. So you know what I did is I did an Instagram post, you could go back and find it from years ago. And I like recommitted to quality with my brand to my tiny little audience that I had at the time. And I’m like, I decided to recommit to making sure that the quality products you’re getting for me are the things that I can be proud of. And here’s the changes I need to make to make sure of it you know, to my tiny audience, I’m like, Here I am planting my flag.

Nikki

11:59
You gotta start somewhere, you know.

Stacie

12:01
Yeah, but I meant it. And I think at every point in my business, no matter if I knew what I was doing or not, like I took it so seriously, and treated it like it was the most important business in the world. Do you know what I mean? And I think a lot of people get really discouraged early on, like they don’t have, they don’t feel confident enough in themselves. Or they feel like they can’t stand up against a competitor or someone they’re looking at as like the ideal of how to do things, you know they don’t treat it seriously, or they let fear get in the way. So I know I’m rambling a little bit. But that’s a little bit about my backstory. So.

Nikki

12:40
That’s perfect. So tell us a little bit more about going from that like retailer to growing into the, how many over 800 stores that are carrying your work, that buy wholesale from you.

Stacie

12:54
Yeah, isn’t that nuts? I remember a few years ago, a colleague of mine I listened to her on a podcast that she said she’d hit 1000 retailers and I was like, What? I want to hit 1000 retailers. Okay, here’s the truth of the matter. I accidentally, like I said I was on Etsy at the right place, at the right time. I said yes to wholesaling. I figured out how to wholesale. I wasn’t doing it perfectly. But I did know at the time trade shows were really important. And people were doing the National Stationery Show it doesn’t even exist anymore. Now everything’s New York Now. But you know, people aren’t doing trade shows right now because of what’s happening in the world. So, when I did that first trip to New York, when I worked with that consultant Grace, I got in as a guest and I walked the National Stationery Show I timed my trip so that I could actually walk that show and see what was happening. And it was really overwhelming. I realized that I had a lot of work to do to make products that people wanted to buy, because I started to have an inkling that not everyone who was buying my products were parents. So for a while I had pigeon holed myself into nursery decor. And then I realized I could branch out so I was doing calendars and screen printed tea towels. And then I got into greeting cards and greeting cards was actually the hardest thing for me. It’s what I sell the most of now unit wise but I couldn’t figure out how to marry my words with my images. And it was, it took me honestly longer than it should have to figure out like what my creative voice needed to be in that industry. But I kind of committed to it. And so I signed up for the National Stationery Show and I put a lot of money into a booth and I did not make my money back guys. I did not and it was a loss leader. And the best advice someone gave me at the stationery show is that a lot of brands, the bigger brands, the bigger stores that are well established, they don’t buy from you until they know that like you’re going to be around for a while and they want to make sure that you have something to say with your products that’s not already being said somewhere else, right? So I worked really hard to define my creative voice over the first few years of selling wholesale, and trying to think about, like the actual products that people would want to use with my designs on them, because like, I could draw a really cute elephant, but what was I gonna put that elephant on it? You got to really think more than like, I’m good at creating cute artwork, you actually have to make functional products. So that’s why paper goods and tea towels and giftables are so approachable for a lot of us as creatives because the overhead cost is low for production, right? And it’s easy to imagine, like I can invest X amount of dollars, you know, a couple times a year to produce a greeting card line or some tea towels or gift tags. And then I take them to market or I just use email, and I send them to retailers I want to work with and hopefully they will make purchase orders for me, purchase orders, you know, whenever they’re like, yeah, send me these products, and I’m going to pay you. Sometimes they pay up front and sometimes they pay net 30. It’s a whole thing. But you know, it’s a learning process. So it took me years of going to the National Stationery Show before I really broke even, which sounds really discouraging. But it’s one of those things where you don’t want to give up. So it was like in my budget, I knew that I was going to spend money on the show, I was going to build relationships with people, I was going to meet other movers and shakers in the industry. And I was going to just try to make sure that people knew who Gingiber was. So I think it was like the fifth year of doing the National Stationery Show where we like finally had like the best show ever, like we made our money back and then a lot and we just showed up ready to be this distinctive brand. Our booth looked like killer. And our products had grown. And I I feel like what I do really well is I study what other people are doing what’s working. And then I don’t just like try to replicate it, I try to put it through my own lens of like, how can I do this the Gingiber way or the Stacie Bloomfield way, so that my products feel like they strike a chord with people and it’s not just being replicated everywhere. So the biggest turning point for the success with getting into more retailers really was creating the products that I wanted for myself. And this is what I think a lot of people struggle with this as creatives, they’ll see Rifle Paper Company doing this, and this and this. And so they’ll be like, well, I’m gonna just make the exact same products that Rifle Paper Company is even if it’s in their own voice, you know, and even in the messaging, you know, like the messaging will be similar or the style will be similar. So for me, I actually started shifting away from nursery and sweet cutesy animals to creating artwork about things I was thinking about.

Stacie

17:40
I drew a hand holding some flowers, and I said, it’s easy to be kind. And I was like, something about that felt good, because I was trying to teach my kids how to be kind to each other because they were arguing like crazy. So I drew an illustration of it. And I started going to therapy, so I was doing all this deep introspective work. So I was just like writing things that came to me. So I have this one illustration, it is of bears and they’re facing each other and it says one failure doesn’t mean that everything’s falling apart. And it’s called Failure Bear. And I just started literally.

Nikki

18:12
I need a failure bear.

Stacie

18:14
Yeah, I have it as a greeting card and an art print on gingiber.com. What I realized…

Nikki

18:24
Oh wait, that’s how you market!

Stacie

18:25
That’s how you do it! I, you know, aside from trade shows, I realized that there’s a lot more that I could be doing to get my voice out there. So I started working really hard on my social media presence. And when I say working on it, the things I just said to you like talking about what I was thinking and feeling and making products about that, I’m sharing about those things on social media too. And really, the growth was really fast for me to get from like maybe 100 retailers in the first like two to three years of wholesaling to in the past three years getting to like, you know, 800. It went really fast. And it’s because, we even heard this feedback today from a retailer from us, they were like, you do a really good job of making work that feels inclusive, but approachable. And I had never thought of it that way, but like I really do try to create the work that I need and design things with messages that I need. So when you’re thinking about like greeting cards or any paper good with messaging, you can have the most beautiful illustration in the world but if you can’t imagine like a reason to give that card to someone, it’s not gonna sell. So I can sell the failure bear card because how many people do you know are going through a really hard time and could use a sympathy card… but it’s an interesting it’s like a maybe a little different twist on a sympathy card versus before. I think I had like I had an illustration with a monkey on it. It was like maybe it said, ooh ooh aah aah, I don’t know, whatever. Am I gonna sell that to? You know, maybe someone who has a baby?

Nikki

20:08
What is that the perfect message for?

Stacie

20:10
I know, right? The perfect message. And, I think, you know, my biggest struggle was trying to like find the perfect message for so long that I was like not creating work that was relevant. And so once I started again, making the work that felt really like it resonated with me and where I was at in my life, a woman who was trying to get reacquainted with herself, and figure out her place in the world outside of just trying to make her business work, it was like, all of the sudden, doors opened up for me. So I, maybe you feel this way too. Like you’re like, just knocking on the door, and you’re like, come on, come on I’m working so hard. I’m putting all this energy into growing my business. Why is it growing? Why, why, why. And then it’s like, I took a deep exhale and took a step back, and kind of put a little bit of joy back into my work and what I was doing, and all of a sudden, people were like, Hey, can we buy wholesale from you? Hey, can we buy wholesale from you? I saw you on Instagram, can we buy wholesale from you. And it was kind of nuts. And so I don’t know, I think it was the whole journey I had to go through to get to that place. So now we’re at well above 800, probably approaching 900 retailers, we’re shipping out products all the time. And it’s we now because I have a team. And one of the best things I did for myself really early on was bring my sister on board to help me because my sister is like the other half of my brain. Like as creative and big thinking as I am, she’s really good at getting into the details of things. And so I own the business completely, but she’s worked for me for years. And she’s our wholesale manager. And so she makes sure that we have relationships with our wholesalers. And we don’t just do like, we do mass mailings, of course, but we also keep meticulous notes of who we sell to and what they like. And when we are showing them new work, we customize our emails for them. And we reach out every three months to people and show them what’s happening or what’s new, and check if they want to restock. And it is a system that we’ve developed. But everything is a relationship, every single thing. So that’s how we view it. So that’s my story, my long winded story of how I went from accidentally getting a wholesale order to kicking water over in a New York French restaurant to actually having people want to buy my products and put them in their stores.

Nikki

22:27
That is a fantastic story. And then how did you go from that into starting to license your work?

Stacie

22:37
Well, it was all happening almost simultaneously. And this is the challenging part because I try to teach people now how to create multiple revenue streams for their business. And so people want to know, like, well, what’s my timeline for this? How quickly can I add in other revenue streams? And I have to like kind of deconstruct what I did, because mine was a little unconventional. Again, I was on Etsy. And my first licensing deal came from that feature, it was a magnet deal. Someone reached out to me, like can we put your images on magnets. I didn’t make much money off of that, but that’s how they found me. And I figured out oh my gosh, I can put my products on, or my designs on the products that other people make and make money and get these cute little checks in the mail.

Nikki

23:17
And who doesn’t love a cute little check?

Laura

23:20
Exactly.

Stacie

23:21
Who doesn’t love a cute little check? So the reason I think that licensing is such a great way to create additional income for you, whether you start with licensing or you start with a product based business, they complement each other so well, because you can just take the same artwork, and you can squeeze every ounce out of it to see how you can make that work across multiple revenue streams.

Nikki

23:42
And you’re so good at that.

Stacie

23:44
Thank you. I, you know, I guess, I guess a lot of it came from the fact that I had young kids and I didn’t have the time to make brand new artwork for every single thing I wanted to. So I really had to figure out how to make the artwork that I had, like really sing as loud as it could, you know, so I use this example a lot in my teachings. But you know, I had this like sheep illustration. And at one point, I’m selling the sheep as art prints and cards myself. I think I snuck it into a calendar I sold, I put it on a tea towel that I sold all on my own. Then I licensed that sheep to Land of Nod for bedding, for pillows, I licensed it to my fabric company, I’ve licensed it to another greeting card company. I’ve licensed it to a children’s clothing company. And you know, I’m just like where would people like to see a sheep? Where would they like to and the thing that you have to know is, Yeah, you can license your artwork on the products but pitching your work is the same whether you are pitching it to a retailer that you want to wholesale with, or you’re kind of, or if you’re trying to like sell on social media direct to customer, or if you’re wanting to license, like really learning how to get brave and to take your work and kind of reconfigure it a little bit for the right audience, just the presentation, and then like just sending the emails out to people, like, it’s almost the exact same process. And that’s what I realized really quickly, whenever I got into wholesale, and I had to make like a really big catalog, you know, of all these products that I’m selling. And then I’m like sending them to retailers, you know, like, wow, all I have to do is like, write an email about who I am, what I do, why I think you’d like me, and here’s my products, I’ll follow up. And the same goes for licensing, I make a list of the retailers that I would love to work with and I do the same thing. And you know, I tailor it for each retailer. And you know, there’s a lot of rejection, there’s a lot of not hearing anything, but it’s a numbers game. And the more you do it, the more likely you are to land those clients. So my first big licensing job was, you know, it was all happening at once. I flew to New York, and I met with Grace, and she’s like, who would you love to work with? Who are your dream clients? Like, what do you dream of for your business? And I told you, I kicked the water. And I’m like, I don’t know. And then, like, well, what company would you like to collaborate with? And again, licensing wasn’t a word I was using a lot. And I said, the Land of Nod, I love their products. And I think it’d be cool to design for them. And I was listening to a podcast a few weeks later, and then creative director, Michelle, who’s now a friend of mine, was on the podcast. And she literally said, I find artists because they email me and she gave out her email address, and I stopped what I was doing right then. And I made a photo collage of my work. And I inserted it into an email, and I sent it to her because you don’t have to have perfect pitches. Although you can have really great pitches, but sometimes just enough is all you need to get your foot in the door. So I emailed Michelle, and I’m like, Hi, Michelle. I’m Stacie Bloomfield, I was featured on this blog, I have an Etsy shop that’s pretty popular. And here’s a photo collage of my favorite work. And I would love to design for you. It was more eloquent than that, but like that was the gist. And she actually wrote back and was like, let’s do this thing. And I designed my first collection for them. And because of that, I had to figure out how to make a repeat pattern. Because I didn’t know how, and I needed to. And that’s a whole other story. But my point is, you’re right, I just jump into things. And I put myself out there. And then if I get a yes, I figure it out as I go. And then I keep trying to learn from people who know more than me, which is how I became acquainted with like Bonnie Christine and learning surface pattern design from her. And I realized with my licensing, working with The Land of Nod are now Crate & Kids. And they’re, they work much differently now because of the way their business is restructured. But that was one of the best learning experiences for me, because not only was I just taking my illustrations and giving them to them to put on products, but they involved me and the actual product layout. So I was actually helping to design products that I never would have thought to design on my own. And it just opened up my mind to realize like, there are so many different things to do with illustrations. And again, I started licensing my art to people without even knowing how to do surface pattern designs yet. And I think a lot of people who think about licensing, they’re thinking, Oh, my gosh, I have to make repeat patterns to be a successful surface pattern designer, you actually don’t because there’s an industry for you, where you can just illustrate what you want to and it could be in books on book covers, it could be on wall art, canvas art, you know, like, not everything has to be like these beautiful intricate hero repeat patterns, you know?

Laura

28:29
And sometimes people have their own staff that will create the repeat for you, right?

Stacie

28:34
Yeah. And that was actually what happened with me with Moda for my first line with them. So, I guess I’m jumping around, but we’re talking about licensing and how this all works together. So you know, I have all these balls in the air. And at that point, it’s my three revenue streams, direct customer sales, and wholesale, and then kind of pursuing licensing. And the thing with fabric is I have this really keen sense of like listening to my internal voice. Like I feel like it’s really important as a creative to pay attention to not only like what you’re working on now, but listening to like what your gut’s telling you. And every time I’ve listened to my gut and have not ignored it, it’s been correct. So, I made a lot of mistakes. And one of the biggest mistakes I made was putting all my eggs in the Etsy basket for a while. Even though I was pursuing licensing and wholesale, it was not like an even distribution of like, where my money was coming in. So much of it was coming in from Etsy, and I was dependent on that. And I was basing like growth projections as if I knew what I was doing on Etsy, right. And so then whenever Etsy went public and their algorithm changed, and at the same time blogging changed, and it became rightfully so where bloggers should get like paid for the work that they’re doing. But before that no one really thought about it. It was like people should blog for fun and share my work and whatever. Why aren’t they sharing my work anymore unless give the money? The idea became that I had have been like building an audience on my own. And I saw my Etsy sales really tank, like they really tanked. And that was right around the time I was having my third kid. And I didn’t have a system in place for like being seen. And so the first thing I did was like, I hired a PR agency that was way too expensive for me, because I thought maybe the answer would be a PR agency to get me in front of people, right. And they’re a great agency, and they still exist, but I wasn’t ready for it. And I gave them a lot of money, and I didn’t see huge return. That was happening and Etsy sales were tanking and I was postpartum. And I was really depressed and the artwork I was making was horrible. And I almost closed up my whole shop I like called my sister and I was like, I can’t do this anymore our sales are tanking.

Nikki

30:51
And about what year was this?

Stacie

30:53
This is like, my son was born in 2014. So we’re talking years of what looked like online as really successful. And it was, but it wasn’t intentional. It was almost like always accidental. Being in the right place at the right time, working my butt off, you know, exhausted, but like, it looked really shiny, right. And so I was like, I can’t do this anymore. And two really great things happened at that time. I was, I don’t even know how but a local accelerator program run through, it’s like a nonprofit here that works with businesses to help them start their business. They’re called startup junkie, they were running a local program for businesses who’ve been around for like five years, to help them in the middle of their growth, because there’s not a lot of attention to that. And it was a free program and somehow they reached out to me like three times, like Will you apply to this program, we think you’d be a great fit for it. And I almost didn’t because I was like gonna I was literally like, trying to find something else to do with my life. But no one knew this on social media. You know, cuz like, it was embarrassing, frankly. And it was, I told my husband, like, they want a business plan. I don’t have a business plan, like and he said, just show up to the interview. So I did and I got in and it was the equivalent of getting an MBA is what they said, in a four month window of time, because it was a lot of work.

Nikki

32:13
Oh, wow.

Stacie

32:13
So I sort of sharpening my business acumen, which, you know, as I’ve revealed, most of it had been kind of scrappy, and learning from people, but also just like, not really planning right? At the same time as that my gut told me, I needed to really take surface pattern design seriously and figure out how to get into fabric. But I was at a loss. You know, I started pitching to some companies, and I got a I got a few nos. And then I reached out to a friend of mine again, asking someone who knows better than me. And I’m like, you design fabric, right? Do you like the company you’re with? And she’s like, Yeah, I love the company I’m with and like, could you like connect me with someone there so I could just talk to them. And it was Moda Fabrics. And my friend runs 1canoe2. And um within like a day of emailing them, I think we had a phone call scheduled, and then they were like, let’s do a fabric line together. And I didn’t even have patterns for them yet. They just like, like it was in they actually helped me helped me make my first repeat patterns. Like they really did. Like I had learned how to make repeats. But they weren’t like, good. They weren’t good. And so all these things happened at the same time to where Etsy is changing. I almost gave up. I got this email and I said yes. And I started doing this business program. And I was like, why am I not designing fabric, I should be designing fabric. And so I’m going to jump ahead a few months to my first Quilt Market because the National Stationery Show for wholesale happened in New York three days before Quilt Market, which happened in Salt Lake City, I flew to New York set up my giant booth there for wholesale, flew across the country to Quilt Market, showed up there with no quilts in my hands because I had no idea what I was doing. The woman there who was in charge named Cheryl and she actually just retired at Moda. She’s not the president, but she was head of creative. She sees me in this conference center in a hotel where everything’s set up at my booth and I’m sweaty and disgusting. And I get there and she tells me that I’m I had the number one new line for new artists that had just released pre market and I literally started sobbing and I like grabbed her and hugged her and I’m like, You have no idea what this means to me!

Stacie

34:32
I’m like crying sorry, you might you might have to fix the sound on that. And, you know, all of the sudden it was like I could see what I needed to do going forward. And I could see that like the things that I was good at. And it all kind of made sense to me. I was like licensing I did so well with Land of Nod all these little licensing projects that I kind of just did for fun because I wanted to like I could see the benefit because the overhead was so low. And then I could see wholesale was picking up, we weren’t quite where we are right now. But back then I could see like, okay, I just went to a trade show, and I went, Okay, and people know my brand. I just didn’t take this more seriously. And then I did this business course. And so my sister and I, a few months later rented a hotel room. And we just got together for a weekend. And we hashed out everything we needed to do to make our wholesale business like as strong as possible. And we were just like, we’re gonna trim the fat. Anything that’s not working, we’re just like trimming the fat guys. And I’ve been around for so many years at that point. That’s what people don’t realize just because something looks shiny on the outside, a business that you admire. And it’s not to say you shouldn’t admire them. But it’s messy. Running a small business can be very, very messy. And yes, I was running a profitable business during all of this. But profit margins are not always what people think they are. Do you know what I mean? Like, oh, yeah, I was able to pay myself. But if I hadn’t been so scrappy, I don’t know what I would have done. But here’s the beauty of it all. I went through all that and learned all these things. And now I can help other people avoid all these things. Because the truth is, you just need to focus on like, a few things and do them really, really well. And then you don’t have to swing all over the place and try everything. I feel like, now I know what my creative voice is, and what my purpose is for the artwork that I’m putting out to the world. I know that I’m really good at designing the type of work that people like can connect with. And, you know, I also know like, what my where my strengths are and running a business, which is why I’ve hired employees to help me do things better than I could do them myself.

Nikki

36:39
Nice.

Stacie

36:39
And I, it, you know, humble beginnings, accidental good things that happened, I’m really proud of all of the things that I’ve done. But I think the thing I’m most proud of is I almost gave up completely. And I’m so glad that I didn’t because now I’m sitting here now, and it’s 2021. And I’m like running a business that I’m so proud of. And I sometimes don’t even recognize myself, because I feel like I’ve just gotten a lot more confident. And I’ve gotten a lot more okay with, like, the messy parts, because I’ve grown so much because of those messy parts. And I think more people need to hear about the messy parts, frankly, because, I mean, I’ve been there. And I know most people listening to this are probably there right now or have been there recently.

Nikki

37:26
Yeah, definitely. And it never looks, it never looks like that from the outside.

Laura

37:31
Especially not on social media.

Nikki

37:32
Right. You just see, you just see the beautiful growth. And you know… So what would you do differently if you were starting over now, knowing all the messy things you went through, what would you do differently?

Stacie

37:47
Well, here’s the beautiful thing about now versus then. Like I said, the internet was a lot smaller. So back then when I was trying to Google or look for things like, how do I start a wholesale business? How do I create listings that people actually want to buy from? How do I take a product photo with my iPhone, you know, like, I didn’t even have an iPhone until like six years ago, you know, so for, you know, there’s so many more resources now than were available for me. So already people beginning right now have way more advantage to be able to do things at a way more elevated level than I did for many years, because I was having to be so scrappy, and I was having to teach myself. Also, education programs, like I, of course, I teach now. So like, it may sound like I’m plugging for myself, but I’m not trying to do that. Because things changed for me whenever I went through that course that I told you about that local accelerator. So whether you want to work with like someone locally, like through your SBA, or through like, there’s SCORE is another great business organization. I feel like people need to realize that when you’re creative, sometimes you neglect the business part of things like running a really solid business, like that matters, understanding budgets and profit margins, and where your money’s going, and not doing what I did, which is throwing all of my receipts into a box in the back of my studio and never looking at them. You know, like these things matter. And I think that’s the challenge for creatives is because we want to make beautiful artwork. So we want to make beautiful products that people like but we need to figure out how to run profitable businesses because you can be a creative and run like a really amazing business, if you approach it the right way. And there are resources now to help people so I so wish that you know Stacie, who was you know, investing $600 in a printer years ago, you know, and I was like I’ve done it, I bought the printer. Everything’s great. And it was, I’m so glad that I did, but like those programs didn’t exist. We didn’t have you know, business people to look up to who were in our industry, you know, aside from very few people, you know, maybe Mary Engelbreit, I don’t know. I love Mary Engelbreit you know, she was in my bedroom growing up, all of her work. And she she’s amazing. But, you know, I wish I had had more education. You know, I went to art.. I mean, I didn’t go to art school, I was in an art department, I have a graphic design degree, and they don’t prepare people for business as an artist.

Nikki

40:14
Oh yeah, we had a whole episode about art school, I went to art school. And Laura did not. And, you know, we talked about the pros and cons. And I, you know, I went to grad school for fiber arts, and did I learn anything practical about what to do once I got out of school, no.

Stacie

40:34
No.

Nikki

40:35
Nothing about business.

Stacie

40:36
And I don’t mean that to diminish, like, going through a degree program. You know, I enjoyed so many parts of that part of my college life. But you know, I was not ready to run a business. So I could, if I could go back in time, I wish that, I wish that I could have found those resources that are available now. And then also, gosh, so much of the, like slowness of my growth, and I always say slow growth is good growth, I grew in a way that was manageable for my family and for having children, even if it was really hard. And guys, I worked really hard, and I worked weird hours, you know what I mean? So slow growth is totally okay. But at the same time, I would look at what other people were doing, I would get really distracted by what other people were doing. And then the voice in my head would be like, you’re not as good, or you need to emulate them, you know, and that was in those earlier days in my business before I found that really strong creative voice. And I see that as a huge stumbling area for people too. I think you need to make lots and lots and lots of art, specifically for the brand that you’re building. So that you can really find the common threads. Do you know what I mean?

Nikki

41:48
Yeah, definitely.

Stacie

41:49
And I see so many people who are talented artists who like triy to make some products, and then it doesn’t work. And they’re like, why isn’t this working? And the truth is, I think everyone goes through it. And I’ve mentioned Rifle Paper Company a few times, but I’ve read some really interesting interviews with Anna Bond from Rifle. And you know, she did a lot of work before Rifle and she ran like a wedding stationery company before Rifle and you will see that she was making a lot of work that was leading her to what the Rifle Paper Company voice is, but we don’t see that. And so many of us at the beginning, we’re just now learning how to make the art, right, we’re just like, I was learning, I mean, I barely learned Adobe Illustrator in college, frankly, I learned how to make a logo with it, you know, and then I’m using Adobe Illustrator for all of my design work. And my early stuff was not refined, like it, I have a post on Instagram, if you want to go back and look at it. But I literally go through like the past decade of like, my style evolution and my skill evolution. And it’s not to say that my work was bad back then there’s some really wonderful things from my early days of work, but it only keeps getting better and better the more you make. So if I could go back in time, I would just tell myself to like, keep my head down, focus on what I was doing. Maybe I would have gotten to where I was at sooner, maybe I would have gotten a different direction, maybe I would have stayed in my little animal lane. And I would have taken those animal pillows to the next degree. And maybe I just be making stuffed animals right now. And who knows, maybe you’d still be interviewing me, but it’ll be all about stuffed animals. I don’t know.

Laura

43:22
I think you’ve done an amazing job, though, of leveraging your art across these different areas. And if we look at even the past year, and how your business has developed; we went through a tough year for retail, right? I mean, stores were shut down, people couldn’t get out there, orders were getting cancelled. And so you hit a point in any business when something like that happens, and you realize I have to pivot, like something has to change. So tell us a little bit about what that experience was like for you.

Stacie

43:51
Oh, my gosh, I feel like I’m still recovering from like, 2020. So I was reading about the collective fatigue that the world has right now. So, you know, I’ve had all this growth in my business even before 2020 like we were growing and I was really proud of it. And I was adding team members and wholesale was continuing to grow. So in January of 2020, we traveled to New York, for the National Stationery Show. It was the last year of the National Stationery Show, but we didn’t know it at the time. And I had a really great show. We invested a lot of money, guys, I think we invested like $17,000 you know, just to get there and have our booth and the travel. It’s expensive in New York it’s a lot of pizza. It’s expensive. And so I fly there was like one of my employees and we get all these great purchase orders and I have all these great licensing meetings like I had licensing meeting. I always try to leverage my time. And like I was setting up like meetings with brands who were in town not just for wholesale but for partnerships and relationship building and I came back just so full, I’m like, Oh my gosh, it’s happening, it’s happening! And we had only shipped out a few of those wholesale orders whenever everything started to shut down. And one by one, our wholesale orders kept getting cancelled. And you know, we’re trying to like, be like, please don’t cancel, please don’t cancel your order, because we’d already ordered product for all of those and we were waiting to fulfill. And we just did all this, like purchasing based off of all these purchase orders, right? And then we’re just sitting on inventory. And I have a team that’s, I think they were like six people at the time. And I’m like, I’m like, Oh my gosh, like, I’ll just have to stop paying myself, which is fine. It’s not like I haven’t done that before. And, you know, I’m just gonna keep my team busy. And so the first thing I did, and I came out real early, and I got criticized for this, frankly, but people are who they are. And I went on social media. And I’m like, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’d really appreciate your support. Here’s my action plan for what I’m going to do. And it was from last March. Haha. March was supposed to be a sabbatical month for me, I’d planned for six months to take March of 2020 off to catch up, like 11 years of working. And I think I took like a week off before everything fell apart and I had to come back to work. And never used that yoga membership, let’s be honest. It didn’t happen. And I said, here’s my action plan, social media. First thing I’m going to do is I’m going to create a digital download coloring book. And I took all of my illustrations that I wasn’t currently using, and I retraced them.

Nikki

46:33
I remember that.

Stacie

46:34
Yeah, I retraced them all in black and white on my iPad. And I put together a coloring book. And I said, this is going to help me make payroll this month for my team if I can sell this many. And I did. And the next thing I did is – maybe not the next thing I did is – we were sitting on a bunch of fabric, because I sell fabric. And so we put together all these kits. So pillow sewing kits, and one of my employees was really nervous, specifically about COVID, because we didn’t know what was happening yet. So I literally sent to her house. And I like had a scale sit her house and scissors and I gave her all this fabric and like just cut the fabric, cut the fabric and we’re gonna put together kits. And then we had been, we had a retail store prior prior to COVID-19. And we were hosting workshops weekly. And we had to stop that obviously. And we’re sitting on all this embroidery stuff, because we were teaching embroidery, so we put together a handful of embroidery kits, and we sold them right away. And so we literally have sold more embroidery kits in the past 12 months. And my whole team literally is just putting together embroidery kits. So we actually just moved now to manufacturing kits overseas. And we are literally waiting for customs to clear right now like $40,000 worth of embroidery kits that we have ordered because guess what, guys, we’ve found a niche, a niche that works for us, which is like to make stuff out of my designs. So I literally took my designs, and we put together these really cute but basic embroidery kits. And we just like have fun embroidering my designs. Because for years, people were like, I would love embroidery patterns. Another thing, and so that was like an accidental like, Oh my gosh, this is a great product that we created out of necessity. And the other thing that I did is I had a colleague who sold exclusively, their brand was publishing through Amazon print on demand. And I was texting with him and he’s like, how’s your business doing? I’m like, Oh my gosh, so exhausted. I’m like, how’s yours doing? And he’s like, actually really great. Everyone has their kids at home. Everyone wants to buy these educational books online. And that’s what they specialize in was like kids books print on demand. I said, want to collaborate and make a really quick book together. He said absolutely. So like I literally in two weeks put together what ended up being like a really, really fun kids like coloring book but educational book for animals and I was able to use all this old existing artwork, and I retraced it all, and that is the new flourishes and we put it out so fast, guys, and again, it was just one of those things that brought in money for us because we needed money. Very little overhead, just worked myself to a frazzle. And then my team, the woman who had previously been my workshop manager, she helped us to put together like online courses, like I mean, there’s online courses like the big one I’ll talk about, but like even small classes, like online drawing, online embroidery, we literally filmed things. And we turned our studio into a place where we were filming classes. And where we were assembling and shipping stuff and I repurposed every single person in my studio to have different jobs. And we actually had in March, April and May, the strongest sales that we’ve ever had on our website before.

Nikki

49:51
Wow, that’s amazing.

Laura

49:52
Wow.

Stacie

49:52
It was insane. In fact, I’m even like looking at this March and I’m like, I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to beat last March because last March was my accidentally like really good, wow. And all of that was like what the loss of our wholesale, with having to close our retail store, with having to close our education part of our in person business. And those are just a few of the things I did there. Oh, pen pal program, we put together a really fun, low cost $10 pen pal program match people in my community with people because we were sitting on all these cards that we had ordered for retailers, and they had canceled their orders. And like what I’m gonna do with all those cards, but the biggest thing I did was I had finally pushed myself towards creating a big course called Leverage Your Art which you referenced earlier, which is literally a decade’s worth of everything I’ve learned about growing a successful creative business, and how to work smarter, not harder, and how to take what you have right in front of you. And to make something really great come of it. And that was what 2020 was for me. It was literally like, I’m sitting on embroidery stuff. What am I going to do with this, we’re going to make embroidery kit. I’m sitting on 10 years worth of knowledge of trial and error, what am I going to do, I’m going to create an eight week course to help creatives grow their businesses and figure out their own creative path forward. Because there’s so many ways to be successful as a creative. And one of the hardest parts is figuring out like your own path. And so that’s one of my goals is to encourage people that their voice matters, and that their point of view matters. And that if we can surround ourselves with like minded people who are kind of going towards the same path, it’s going to happen so much faster. Community, community is so important whenever you’re trying to grow creative business.

Nikki

51:42
Definitely.

Stacie

51:44
That’s something I didn’t have in those early days. But now I do. And I grow so much faster now, like my business has become something that I have fun with, because I love my business. But I also love my business community, my creative community where I just feel like we’re cheering each other on. And I don’t know. And that’s the sweet spot that I want people to get to, to where they can like make a living from their business, make a living from their creativity, find those connections, those life giving relationships. And, you know, really, I don’t know, feel like seen and encouraged. So that’s what I did, I created this eight week course. And the entrance to that is licensing, art licensing, because I feel like that’s the most approachable way for people to really think about like a low overhead way of like getting your designs out there into the world and create recurring revenue. And from that you can go to so many different places, you can develop your own product, you can wholesale, you could do print on demand on your website, which we do quite a bit of, and then you could eventually teach about it. There’s just so many ways to have a creative business. And I always think that you have to have several revenue streams to create stability in your business. So that’s something I teach a lot of. And again, I think I mentioned earlier, I never answered the question like, how do you add revenue streams to your business? Well, you want to build one up, that’s kind of like the core of your business where you feel really confident where you can shine. So once I got off of Etsy I built gingiber.com is my website, and I just started sending all my traffic that I could there possibly, you know, to really make that to where I was in control of what was happening with like my customers. And I could build a newsletter list and things like that. And then from there, once you build an audience, then if you get into art licensing, that audience is going to want to buy those products because they love you. And then if you get your products into stores, you can announce it. So let’s save some lives in you know, Nashville, Tennessee, and you can be like, you can now find my products at this retailer in Nashville, Tennessee. They’re going to go there and support that too, because it makes sense. And it’s all this beautiful synergy that I think complements really well. And so I think you take a little time, you know, a year or so.

Nikki

53:56
A year or 10.

Stacie

53:58
A year or 10 or 12.

Nikki

54:01
Or in my case, 20 or 30.

Stacie

54:04
I guess what I want people to know is like, there’s no like, aha, I’ve arrived. There’s no like formula for like, Alright, at 12 months, you add in revenue stream and number two, and then you balance that for six months while you turn around and then you know, do the mashed potato and you dance. You know there’s no perfect formula. The reality is it’s messy, but it’s fun. And if you’re organized and you figure out how to look at your business from like, what makes the most sense for like a customer wanting to buy for me, and you tailor it that way, you’re gonna see things accelerate. And because you’re building relationships with all these other people, so I have 500 people in my course Leverage Your Art the first year I launched it.

Laura

54:48
I was one of them.

Nikki

54:49
That’s fantastic.

Stacie

54:50
I know you were! And I love that and what happens is people all over the world are building connections with people who are just like them, and I’ve seen collaborations come out of this. I’ve seen so much growth come from it, I get emails every day from people who took this course, Leverage. And they’re like this is this course changed my life. Here’s what I’ve been able to do since then. Here’s what I did with another student from the course. And we’re doing this together now. And like, that’s the kind of thing that when you’re getting to serve people, serve a community and help them to discover like their creative, like, why? It’s, it’s kind of amazing. And I’m just really proud of it. Because for me, it literally was like, right, what am I going to do now? Like, it’s 2020, and everything’s gone sideways. And I’ve literally done everything in my power for my own business. Maybe now I can help some other people. And, yeah.

Nikki

55:43
That’s fantastic. I want to go back just a little to talking about the the messy and the organized that you just mentioned in the last breath. And I want to know, how do you juggle all the different aspects of your business? Like, I know you have a team, but you still have to manage them and your own time and prioritize. Like, how do you… do you have like a beautiful project management system? Do you… how do you manage all of the time and projects and people?

Stacie

56:16
Well, you know, I have some friends who live by their planner, and I am not one of those people I wish I was. So I hired someone who was really good at living by a planner. But even before that… Okay, so let’s go back to the tools that really helped me when I was on one woman show and then I can just I’ll get real fast to where I’m at now. Finding a way to keep your your books organized from the get go. Like even, so a lot of people used to use GoDaddy bookkeeping or FreshBooks. And now we use QuickBooks but QuickBooks felt scary at the beginning. So like, we found like programs that would keep track of our expenses and our income because they would connect directly to whatever system we’re using. So Etsy, or Shopify, or even directly to our bank. And it would help to auto categorize things like you have to do that from the beginning. And I didn’t do that from the beginning. And it was really messy. So you can for like a really low monthly fee work with a lot of these online programs to help you.

Nikki

57:13
Yeah, I use I use FreshBooks.

Stacie

57:15
Yeah. And for invoicing, and for things like that, like, I think you have to do that from the beginning. And most people, I hope know that, but I think more people than you would realize, don’t do that, because it does feel like oh, I have to stop what I’m doing and get organized. And I think it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, that feeling will exist. Like, I don’t want to stop being creative. But I have to stop being creative to create some systems that work. Right. So another thing that we did is, I told you about my sister, Ana, she was part time helping me answer emails, well, she created so many spreadsheets for keeping track of our wholesalers. Even if all you’re using are spreadsheets guys, we use spreadsheets like they’re going out of business. So a lot of what we do is Google Calendars, and Google Docs, and Google Sheets and we share them within our team on our business account, it helps so much. So every project that we have going on, like we have like spreadsheets for and it’s really great for us for keeping organized and being able to share information with the team. Now I use Dropbox a lot for all of my file organization. And if you’re an artist who has like 12 years of art, it’s a lot. So you know, whether you’re using that or something else, you have to have a place to backup your work to keep it safe. Trust me, I didn’t backup my phone once and lost the first three years of my son’s life photos because I was organized with my work but not my personal life. Oh my gosh, ridiculous, right? So the thing that we use now as a team for a while, as a team, as I added people on we were just he had a private Facebook page. And that’s how I was communicating with my team. But it was like chaos. And now we use Slack. So Slack is a really great program for keeping organized with communicating. And the way it works is you have different channels. So my wholesale team will only have to communicate on wholesale messages and, you know, so on and so forth. And then when I’m working on bigger projects, I just started you started using Asana, which I’m not sure how I feel completely about it. But I’m working with Asana. We’re doing a website rebuild. And I’m using that for communicating with the web developer who’s helping me with that. So I’m getting my feet wet with that. But honestly, I don’t think you need the big fancy programs. I think if you have spreadsheets, and you’re just disciplined with them, you can do so much with it. Faith who was my assistant, so if you’ve taken a course with me, you probably heard me reference Faith. She actually teaches like spreadsheet organization in the Leverage course.

Laura

59:48
She’s awesome.

Stacie

59:49
She’s the queen of spreadsheets, and I’ve learned so much from her. So I feel like if you don’t want to put a lot of money into a lot of systems, get yourself in accounting something that takes care of monthly, just bookkeeping to keep track of things, and then work those spreadsheets and work Dropbox as much as you possibly can. And then in terms of personal organization, I’m a real big picture thinker. And I realized that from the beginning, like, if you put me in the nitty gritty, too much, I’m going to never get anything done. So I really into like vision boards in writing now, my big goals and my affirmations and I actually use those to guide me to keep me on track of what I’m doing. And then this is gonna sound really silly, but like, I have a notepad on my phone, and I have a draft email, it drives my team crazy. But I have a draft email in my Gmail, where it’s like a brain dump. And anything that I know that I need to get done, I dump onto this list, it’s my brain dump list. And then I just work through it. In my team, I’ll two people right now have access to my email besides me, they’re my assistants. And they laugh because sometimes I’ll go into the draft folder, and I just, I literally have like 2000 draft emails from 12 years of working. I have records of everything. And so it’s like a punch list. It’s like I make a punch list. And that’s what I do. So even if it’s stuff that I know that I don’t need to work on for a couple of months. So like, on my calendar that I actually do use, I look at quarterly goals. And I plan out things quarterly because let’s say I’m going to need to be pitching work for licensing, or I’m going to have a new fabric line coming out, I write down all the big deadlines that I know exist outside of myself, like I can’t push these deadlines. And I totally would if I could, those are set in stone. And I write those down. And then I work backwards from there. And that’s where I set my benchmarks for the things that absolutely have to be delivered for clients. And then day to day is like I said, my draft email or my punch list or my Notes app. And then I’ve had to become more organized for my team. And getting the stuff out of my head as quickly as possible and into the right employees hands has been really hard for me, but I’ve learned to do it. So now I set, we have a team meeting for the whole team. And then I have individual meetings with my employees where I literally brain dump to them, and then they know what their tasks are. So that’s how I do it.

Laura

1:02:13
Delegation, delegation.

Stacie

1:02:15
Honestly, delegation, yeah.

Nikki

1:02:17
One of these decades I’m going to learn how to delegate.

Stacie

1:02:20
Even if all you have is someone for five hours a week, who literally comes in and like dissects your notes for you. That’s what I did for a while before Faith was my assistant, she had a different job. And then she came to me and said, Stacy, should I just be your assistant? Because yeah, cuz she was really good at me just like rambling and her writing it all down and her turning it into, like, here’s actually what you need to be working on. And then I’m like, okay, you know…

Nikki

1:02:52
I need a Faith.

Laura

1:02:55
I think we can all use one.

Stacie

1:02:57
Actually, I know that there’s a lot we could say on this. But I’ll just say real quick, if you are starting out, and you can afford, even like five hours a week of help. Even if it’s like, whatever is a fair wage, wherever you live, like, just get someone for five hours a week. The first big hire I did was someone helped me with shipping five hours a week, it was like, I know, someone else could ship because my brain can be used somewhere else. So I handed off shipping, handed off some of my email replying, handed off any little thing that I could possibly, you know, and I was small still, I was really small. I was like making $10,000 a year and I was like, whoo. I got someone to help me ship! But I freed up my brain to do other things.

Laura

1:03:40
Yeah, that’s the only way you can grow is when you can free up your brain and your time to do your own genius work, right?

Stacie

1:03:45
You got to be in your zone of genius. Yes.

Laura

1:03:47
Yes. But one other thing I wanted to mention was, you know, you also have to take some time for self care. And one of the things that you did this past year, and nobody can see, but I’m holding up Stacie’s book and it’s called Give Yourself Margin. Can you share a little bit with us and our listeners about your book?

Nikki

1:04:05
I’d hold my copy up, but it’s propped up on a beautiful bathtub tray. That’s the perfect place for it, hot bath.

Stacie

1:04:13
I love that! You know, I’m super brief, which I’m not so sorry about that. So this book was already in the works. And I guess, if you know anything about my story, sometimes it’s like, timing matters. And you can work yourself silly. And sometimes if the timing’s not right, things just don’t happen. So for me, for years, people would be like, why aren’t you writing, why aren’t you illustrating books? And I’m like, I don’t know why I’m not illustrating books, I’m trying. Because behind the scenes, I had been pitching my portfolio of work to like, publishers and literary agents. And every time I think I’d come close to getting a book deal, it wouldn’t work out. And I was really bummed, frankly, that I couldn’t just like work myself to death to get this to happen. You know, like, I’m working harder than anybody, why am I not getting a book deal? Which is ridiculous, right? So, um, I guess it was in 2018. Um, I think let’s see, when was my son born 2014. So 2014 my son is born, 2015 my business is falling apart, everything’s weird, I rebuild it, I rise up from the ashes like a phoenix. And I’m like, I’m making something happen. So I had a couple of years of like, good growth in a healthier way. But even so, I worked myself so hard that I was exhausted. And I had just come off of a really heartbreaking ending of a friendship, a personal friendship. And it’s funny how these things affect your business in your life. But I was really heartbroken because one of my best friends and I kind of parted ways under not great circumstances. And I was really sad. And I’d come off of the holiday season, which is really, really busy. And you put everything into your Q4 when you do the business that we do. And then it was January, and I was exhausted and burnt out. And so the phrase Give Yourself Margin and came to me that January, I drew it, it’s a little hand, the original illustration is a hand kind of like holding like a little like a pinch to grow an inch. Like just a little margin. And the hand just says give yourself margin. And I had just bought myself an iPad for the first time because I wouldn’t buy myself presents. And so I bought myself an iPad, it was one of my first illustrations on it, printed it out, put it on my wall. And I was like, you know what, I always think it’s cheesy when people have phrases for the year, but this year, I’m going to do this, this is my phrase that keeps coming to my head. And what that meant to me was I was going to take the whole year, intentionally or not, and give myself the margin in my life, to build some better relationships in my life, build a better relationship with my work, take some time off to get to know myself better. And to get to know my kids better, even though I knew my kids, like I work all the time, you know, and that’s not like the life I wanted. Like, if I’ve created this career for myself, I want the life that is serving my family and myself. Like what’s the point? And i started like sharing that in my work to like the work I was making. I was just drawing for fun. And that’s whenever I actually really started to see the creative brand shift that I referenced earlier with my wholesale where people started resonating a lot more. And it was a whole year of reconnecting with myself in my creative why. And I’ll never forget, like, I just texted a friend who’s an artist, I said, you want to rent a cabin in the woods and go make art all weekend. She’s like, yeah, let’s invite these three other girls and I didn’t even know them very well. And we just rented this cabin and made all weekend and we started a business from it. We started these retreats where we literally rent Airbnbs.

Nikki

1:07:08
I remember reading about those.

Stacie

1:07:52
Oh, can’t wait to do that again when it’s safe.

Nikki

1:07:54
Isn’t Dani Ives one of them?

Stacie

1:07:57
Yeah, she’s one of my best friends now. And it was literally, I never would have given myself a weekend prior to that, honestly, to go away and just make art with a bunch of artists. And we all do different things with our art. But we all just like, meshed in this magical way. And I found creative community locally, which I didn’t really have prior to that. And we’re like, This is so fun. So we started traveling and teaching and we’d rent AirBnbs in Colorado and all these places and all over the country and fly in just to make art with us all week. And we would cook together too. That was a big part of it, we’d cook meals together and make art and share our lives together. Anywho

Nikki

1:08:34
We need to do a Startist Society weekend like that. Oh my gosh.

Laura

1:08:39
That’d be amazing.

Stacie

1:08:40
Oh my gosh, guys, it’s life giving. And what happened by the end of that year was the more I started taking care of myself, so weirdly, the better my business became. And my business are growing more and more. And I became healthier. I started therapy that year, I started going on all these walks. So at the end of that year, I like recap the year. And I share that illustration again. And I was like give yourself margin, this is what it meant to me. So then a literary agent who had, we had a call a few months prior ,she had like said no to working with me. She sent me an email out of the blue and was like you just keep coming to my mind, Stacie. And I feel like we need to make a book together. And I was browsing your Instagram and I saw this illustration, give yourself margin, I think that we need to make a book together about what this means as a creative to give yourself margin and I was like seriously goosebumps. And it was almost a year to the day that like I had created the illustration in the first place that I got that email from her. And then I made a book with her. We created a proposal. We shopped it around to publishers that went to auction. It wasn’t the great money making story of the year, I’m not gonna lie because like books, it’s kind of hard to like get really… but it did go to auction and we got a book deal. And it’s not like I made a million dollars off of a book. It’s not like that. But it was like this magical thing where…

Nikki

1:10:05
But now you have a published book and it’s beautiful.

Stacie

1:10:07
I have a published book and it’s beautiful.

Laura

1:10:09
It is such a beautiful listening, you should get a copy of this book because it is so gorgeous. There’s so many amazing illustrations inside that Stacie’s done. So it’s almost like a picture book along with words, but it’s just stunning, stunning, stunning illustrations.

Nikki

1:10:26
We will link to it.

Stacie

1:10:28
And I really tried to share about like, I write in it too, which is a little weird, because I wouldn’t consider myself a writer. But I do share transparently about like what it takes to kind of all these suggestions for reconnecting with your creative self. And I know I’ve said a lot of words today with you guys. So I apologize if you’re exhausted.

Nikki

1:10:46
Please don’t. We brought you here to hear your words.

Stacie

1:10:50
Exactly.

Nikki

1:10:51
We see your pictures we want your words too.

Stacie

1:10:54
It was just one of those things that sometimes you’ll realize in your life that you have these dreams that you want to see fulfilled, and they come about in ways that you never expected. Like in my head, I thought my way into making books was going to be this one way. And then it came about in a way I never expected. And it was almost because I just let go and opened my hands up and was just like, I’m gonna stop, like strangling this idea to death, which I think I struggle with a lot is when I’m really into something, I’m like, I’m gonna do whatever it takes to make this thing work. And sometimes you can lose the magic. I really think that there’s some kind of inspiration. There’s the book, Big Magic, read that if you haven’t by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Nikki

1:11:36
Oh, yeah.

Stacie

1:11:36
So sometimes you just have to, pointer your arrows towards where you want to go, and then let go and live your life and see what happens. And that’s what happened with me. So the book came out in 2020, we had planned this big elaborate launch. And then that went out the window because of COVID. But I’m so happy with it. And I’m happy with the book turned out. And the reception’s been fantastic. And I’m so thankful because now it’s like this, when you sign up for like Leverage with me, this year if you do like, you’ll get a free copy of the book, which is kind of cool. I can like send out to the community, which was really exciting. So…

Nikki

1:12:11
Nice. Well, since we got back to Leverage, I want to also talk about your membership Creative Powerhouse Society, which I know came after Leverage. And so I didn’t join leverage, because I was already taking Bonnie Christine’s course and Emily Jefford’s course. And that was enough for one year, but…

Laura

1:12:32
And I took all three.

Nikki

1:12:35
And in fact, Laura and I met in Bonnie’s course, we were paired together in one of her peer groups and that’s how we got to know each other. But, anyway, so I joined the Creative Powerhouse Society. So I’m just excited about digging into all of that. So tell us a little bit about what made you go from the big course to having the membership? And what’s the difference between the two?

Stacie

1:13:01
Yeah, okay, so this is really funny. Um, I was doing a live Facebook call with Mable, a lot of you know who Mable is, if you do pattern design.

Nikki

1:13:11
Mable Tan.

Stacie

1:13:12
Mable Tan with her Facebook group to talk about Leverage because she was going to be an affiliate for me. So Leverage is this eight week course where every week we drip content, where I give you a new lesson. But we also have all these special guest live interviews. And we do live Q&As, you get like design prompts as if you’re working to a design brief in the industry. And it’s a really robust, full course full of how to run a really solid creative business and how to grow. So it’s eight weeks, and it’s like, I’m all in Baby, I am there for you and so is my team.

Laura

1:13:43
It was amazing. You did an amazing job with it.

Stacie

1:13:46
Thank you. So I’m doing this live call with Mable. And all of a sudden I just start talking…Someone’s asking me a question about like, how do you figure out what you’re doing with your business and blah, blah, blah. And I said these words just real organically. I’m like, the thing is, you kind of want to become like a creative powerhouse so that when people think about you they’re like Stacie Bloomfield is a creative powerhouse. And all of a sudden it dawned on me like Creative Powerhouse. And I’d had the requests for people to keep learning with us after Leverage. And then there were people who couldn’t sign up for Leverage, but still wanted some ongoing like mentorship and support. So honestly, it was like the most afterthought thing and I don’t mean that in a bad way because the content’s really good, I’m proud of it. But I literally announced I’m going to start a membership called the Creative Powerhouse Society. If you want to keep working and learning with me, you can join this monthly program. If you sign up for a year, you save a lot of money or you can do it month to month and in there, what’s different is I’m not so much I’m not teaching the same content that’s inside of Leverage. What I’m more doing is like guiding you through helping you grow your creative business. So I do do monthly lessons and I do interview experts in the industry. And I even talk to students within the membership to do like a live call where we’ll work through some questions or problems that you’re having, but what it really is, is this living, growing community of like minded creatives who want to have stable, multifaceted creative businesses. And what a joy to be mentioned with the names Bonnie Christine and Emily Jeffords, frankly, because this was my first year. And I feel super fortunate. Emily is a fine artist who knows how to run an amazing business. I am not a fine artist. I am an illustrator and product developer and licensed artist. So we might have some overlap, but we kind of serve two different audiences. Do you know what I mean?

Nikki

1:13:46
Oh yeah, definitely. Except for people like me, who also cross that line between fine art and illustration and products, so…

Stacie

1:15:50
And we did have fine artists in Leverage and and the Creative Powerhouse Society. And so I think sometimes, and what’s beautiful about this is it’s like, my, if you’re learning with me, you’re learning from my experience and my perspective and my point of view, and you can also learn from Emily, her perspective and point of view and get completely different things from learning less, because we have these different experiences. Yeah. And then there’s Bonnie, who I am so thankful for. She’s a good friend of mine, I’ve known her for years, I used to be a sponsor for her original Going Home to Roost blog back in the day. That’s how we first met each other years ago. And another one of those gut instinct things, guys, when you have a gut feeling, maybe listen to it. So here’s the truth. I’ve been wanting to launch a course for a few years, but I kept putting it off. And then obviously, COVID was my trajectory to do it. But prior to COVID, that November, I had seen Bonnie launching courses successfully. And so I just sent her a message. And we were friendly, but not like the BFFs that we are now. And I was like Bonnie, how do you launch courses so well? How do you do it? I am watching you. And I’ve been trying to deconstruct all your emails and I don’t know how to do this. And she said, Well, I’m starting this mastermind group, you can just join if you want, like, you can join. And I’m so thankful that I did, because she taught me how to launch my course because my content, we’re both licensed artists, but she teaches people how to make the art, she teaches you how to create collections and how to use Adobe Illustrator. And then she kind of gets into the business of it. And with her blessing, I created this course to almost be like a stepping stone to her course Immersion. So it’s almost like a next level thing. So if you’ve gone through Immersion, you can take my course Leverage and feel right at home and be ready to go. Or you can just take Bonnie’s, or you can just take mine, whatever, wherever you’re at in your journey. And so I was able to craft this course, to really complement Immersion. And I’m sitting here still thinking like, Oh, my gosh, what if in November, I’ve been too embarrassed to email Bonnie and show my cards be like, girl, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to launch a course. Because a lot of people don’t want to show their vulnerabilities. They don’t want to know, they don’t know what they’re doing. What if I hadn’t sent her that message? I don’t, I wouldn’t be here with you today, I don’t think because the truth is like my gut was like, send the email, Stacie. And then I joined her mastermind, and then we became really close. And I’m just so thankful for that. And then she was so kind to like introduce me to her audience. And even though I had 12 years of experience, I was a brand new educator. So that is just such a fortunate thing for me that I was able to do. And again, if I had not like listened to my gut, and done that, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. So sometimes you got to do things that are a little scary and transparent and vulnerable. And, and things come from it. So there you go. That’s how it worked.

Nikki

1:18:59
Oh, that’s so hard.

Laura

1:19:01
I can say, having taken both classes, I loved Bonnie’s for the Illustrator aspect of it. But I really loved yours for the business aspect and the fact that you were so generous with answering questions that students have. And to me that was just worth the price of admission right there. So there was a ton of value, even taking people through small tutorials, like here’s how you actually copyright your work. Like everybody else just says go copyright it, but you actually have a video that steps you through how to do it. I love that. Like there’s some really great aspects to it.

Stacie

1:19:34
Thank you. I appreciate that. So what I try to do in my course is I take you from figuring out, trying to identify your creative why and your creative voice to learning how to start pitching your work, whoever you’re pitching it to. Also how to then take that work and put it onto products and then how to protect yourself as a business with copyright and my lawyer comes in and does an amazing Q&A. He’s amazing. He’s helped me so much over the years with copyright infringement. And then we talk about manufacturing. And we interview like, agents. And we talk about publishing, because there’s so many different ways that you can make money as a creative. And sometimes I’ve had people walk away from the course being like, Oh my gosh, I took your advice on print on demand. And I just launched my own line of children’s books, which has happened, actually, with one of our alumni. And I’m just like, oh, my gosh, and then I had another email from someone yesterday, and they got their first licensing contract with a children’s clothing company, you know, and I got to tell you, those are the things that mean the most. Sometimes I’ll get random DMS from people who like your course changed my life. And I don’t even believe it. Like I’m like, stop being so nice to me. Don’t say that, no, that can’t be true!

Nikki

1:20:52
That’s, that’s amazing to hear.

Stacie

1:20:54
I’m just honored.

Laura

1:20:56
Well why don’t you tell our listeners how they can find you online and learn more about these. Both the membership and the Leverage Your Art course.

Stacie

1:21:06
Thank you for being so generous with letting me be here, guys. I appreciate it. So if you are interested in my product-facing business, that’s Gingiber, it’s ginger with an “ib” in the middle. That’s a whole other story. So G-I-N-G-I-B-E-R.

Nikki

1:21:19
Actually, can we have a little bit about that story? Where the name came from?

Stacie

1:21:24
Yeah, it’s so silly. But when I was in college, I had to create a brand all about Stacie Bloomfield, a magazine, actually, I had to layout an entire magazine. And I was really into typography and lowercase g. So I opened up a Latin dictionary, and I found the word gingiber. And it’s an old old Latin version of just the word ginger. So I thought it was cutesy. And I made up this whole branding for it in college, I actually have the magazine sitting on my bookshelf that I’m looking at right now, I made in college. I’m like on the cover, and I’m like, smiling like a cheese ball. And then I opened my Etsy shop and everyone knows naming your business is like one of the hardest parts of running your business and you know me I’m always like, use what you got right in front of ya, I have all this branding from college. And I literally just took it and put it in there and no one else was called Gingiber, because why would they be? And now I have it trademarked for my you know, because it’s what I do. So if you’re interested in the product part of my business is gingiber.com, if you’re interested in the education part of my business, we’re hoping to launch our new website in mid April. But it’s live right now an older version, if you’re looking at it before mid April. It’s called leverageyourart.com, and leverageyourart.com is where all of my education lives. So if you’re interested in the course, you can find the Leverage course information there. If you’re interested in our membership, which is called the Creative Powerhouse Society, you can find the information there. And then if you’re interested in just learning about all the possibilities for creating a multiple revenue stream business, I have a free 52 page guide that will be available in mid April on my website that you can get and you can download that is going to walk you through all the different possibilities for creating different income streams in your creative business. And so that’s a free guide that I just give people so that they can figure out if what I’m teaching and this information sounds interesting, but you can also walk away using that guide and grow your business 100%. And then we open up enrollment in mid June for Leverage Your Art. So if you’re interested in joining us, I hope that you are interested perhaps, so that opens up mid June.

Laura

1:23:36
Awesome.

Nikki

1:23:36
Fantastic. So to learn more about our podcast and read today’s show notes and learn about all things Stacie and Gingiber, go to startistsociety.com/staciebloomfield and that’s Stacie with an ie.

Laura

1:23:55
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, follow Startist Society and leave us a five star rating and review so that we can reach more startists like you.

Nikki

1:24:04
Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

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