Too often in our society, people picture men in their heads when they hear words like, “boss”, “entrepreneur”, or “CEO”. Being a small business owner has put me in touch with so many successful female business owners and entrepreneurs that when I hear these words, I often picture a woman or I just don’t assume anything at all. Women are obviously just as capable as men when it comes to the business world and it is high time that women business owners and entrepreneurs are more visible in the media in our society. This is where the idea for Women in Business was born. Women in Business is a bi-monthly feature that highlights female entrepreneurs and business owners. Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to learn more about small businesses in various fields, but it is a great shopping guide for supporting small businesses.
An Interview with Allison
Tell us a little bit about your business. What exactly do you do and how long have you been doing it?
AllieMarie Design is a graphic design studio based in St. Paul, MN. I work from my cozy home office, helping small businesses with big hearts take their marketing to the next level with beautifully designed visual branding and print collateral. I pride myself in giving my clients a personal, one-on-one experience with a designer who listens to their needs and works to understand their vision. Bringing this vision to life brings me so much joy and I feel blessed to do what I love every day!
I started my business in 2012 when I started picking up regular freelance projects on the side of my full time gig (as an in-house graphic designer and communications lead at a small non-profit). I freelanced part time, building up my client base for about 3 years and then made the leap to running my business full time in 2015. I haven’t looked back!
What does a typical day as the owner and graphic designer of AllieMarie Design look like?
Every day is a little different! I recently heard the phrase “working by structured flexibility.” I totally connect with that. One of the luxuries of working for yourself is the flexibility and the freedom to make your own schedule. And although I thrive having structure to my work week, I also give myself room to breathe and allow my schedule to ebb and flow the way it needs to. Along with meeting client project deadlines, I also carve out time to work on bookkeeping and admin tasks, planning and working toward my own marketing and business goals, and (trying!) staying sane by getting enough sleep and having downtime.
What/who inspires you and your work?
I’m really inspired by awesome typography and minimalist design. I love the quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” I love that! In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded by information and visuals. I believe the best way to stand out and connect with people in this oversaturated environment is to focus on clarity, consistency and authenticity. So I’m really inspired and attracted to clean designs with lots of white space and a clear message.
Outside of the graphic design world, I’m always very inspired by fellow female entrepreneurs who do awesome work and are really paving their own way. I love meeting for coffee dates if we’re from the same area or connecting to those across the world via online networking groups – it’s motivating to learn how others are making their mark on the world, and I enjoy talking to them about their processes, what challenges they face, how they got to where they are. Finding these connections and building these supportive relationships is very inspirational and rewarding.
Do you have a favorite project or product you have worked on so far?
Visual branding has grown into a true passion of mine. I enjoy partnering with small businesses, getting to know their brand and, together, creating an authentic visual identity that stands out and aligns with their mission. Over the last year, I’ve fine-tuned my visual branding process to ensure it’s thorough and fun. It’s amazing to see an idea or concept evolve into a logo, a style guide, a website. I’m always honored to help make my clients’ vision come to life.
How do you stay balanced with your career and personal life?
I think I’ll always be working toward this balance and it’s not an easy thing. But I learned (sometimes the hard way) that downtime is so important in nourishing my creativity and this knowledge alone has really helped me stay balanced. When I’m feeling creatively exhausted or burnt out, my work is less enjoyable and I find that I’m less productive. Now I’ve learned to see it coming in advance. When I start to feel burnt out, I give myself some time to re-coop – whether that means sleeping in, taking an afternoon off, or otherwise. It’s for my own good personally, but the success of my business also depends on it.
The other big way I try to keep balanced is putting up boundaries for myself with how much I’m working. For example, I only answer emails on weekdays and I turned off email notifications on my phone all together. When I put together client project timelines, my evenings and weekends are off limits. These small things make a big difference. Of course, there are times when things don’t go as planned and I need to put in extra design time in the evenings and on weekends. But I try to keep these boundaries as strict as possible, to keep my sanity.
Do you use any apps or programs that help with marketing/social media? Which are your favorites?
Social Media: You can find me hanging out on Facebook and Twitter, but I am the most active on Instagram because it’s such a visual experience. As a graphic designer, I find it to be most effective in communicating my brand, showcasing my work and connecting with people. And, honestly, it’s the most fun!
Squarespace: My website is the most important marketing tool for AllieMarie Design. It’s where I showcase my work, post journal entries, collect emails for my newsletter list, send potential clients to learn more about me and see if we’d be a good fit, and more. Therefore, my site needs to be gorgeous and easy to maintain. Squarespace has fit the bill in more ways than one and I’ve so enjoyed working on their platform!
I’m also kind of a pen and paper kind of gal. I do use Google Cal to schedule out projects in advance, but my paper planner helps me keep organized on a weekly basis with my own marketing and client work. I use Sugar and Type’s Rule the World Planner!
What was the best piece of advice you were given?
“Leave room for growth.” It’s easy to get anxious and overly focused on meeting goals, forgetting how important the journey is. When I look back at this time of growth for my business, I want to remember how exciting it was as I learned lessons and carved my own path. Of course, I need to ensure I make ends meet financially on a month-to-month basis. But beyond that, it’s not all about growing as quickly as possible for me. “Leaving room for growth” takes the pressure off, allows me to actually enjoy the process and gives me time to figure out how to manage the growth before it gets overwhelming.
How do you define success?
Waking up in the morning with a smile on my face, excited to do the work that’s ahead of me and feeling proud of the impact I’ve made on my clients’ businesses.
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
I just launched the new AllieMarie Design brand and website, which has been huge for me. I look forward to continuing to see my brand come to life with my marketing collateral, client communication materials… the works.
As far as client work goes, I’m working on a big project for one of my non-profit clients, a live theater company for whom I’m designing 2016-17 season collateral. I’m really excited about that! I’ve also been connecting with some Twin Cities based female entrepreneurs and look forward to collaborating with them.