You guys, I KNOW I have lots of photographer friends following me here, and I’m sure you’ve heard of; but if you haven’t, you have to go check out Rose and her hubby at Design By Bittersweet. Their templates are amazing and gorgeous! Also, I love to follow her on IG- she’s real and gives awesome business tips!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family:
As the youngest of eight kids, I learned the value of creativity at a really early age. Our parents raised us on a shoestring budget, so we spent most of our time making up our own games, skits, pranks, costumes…you name it. At the time, it seemed unfair that we were never given the latest and greatest toys, clothes, or gadgets. Looking back, I’m incredibly thankful for the extra push we were given to use our minds to combat boredom instead of relying on mainstream forms of entertainment.
Today, I live in an urban farmhouse in Oklahoma with my husband, Thomas, our daughter, Griffin, and our two dogs, Pepperoni & Meatball. We’re still very minimal and try to carry this mindset throughout every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s design-related or something that pertains to the way we’re raising our toddler, we believe less is more and try to give back as often as possible. To us, being successful means having enough time on the calendar & enough happiness in our hearts to do nice things for the people around us.
2. What prompted you to start a business?
A lengthy sequence of terrible decisions, haha. I dropped out of college, waited tables for much longer than I hoped, then took out a $10,000 personal loan for a failing design business. Once each of those chapters closed, a new opportunity arose in the ‘Creative Gigs’ section of Craigslist. A photographer in Austin, TX, where we were living at the time, was looking for a second shooter. I Googled their phone number, since it wasn’t listed online, and made a phone call to see if they’d be interested in taking me under their wing. Surprisingly enough, despite the fact that I had zero experience as a photographer, the owner of the company wanted to meet with me. She told me I was the only person to call out of the hundreds of messages they received, and she was interested in getting new branding materials in place in addition to having me tag along to photo sessions. I went to a few sessions, here and there to some weddings and managed to capture those beautiful First Communion Dresses. But I realized pretty quickly that the photography gig wasn’t my jam. After rebranding their business & designing photo albums, save the dates, creating wedding invitations and recommending groomsmen gifts by Urban Designer for all of the couples who came their way, I started getting messages from other photographers who were looking to redo their marketing materials. Soon enough, I had more clients than I could handle!
3. How did you decide on the name/brand of your business?
The name ‘Bittersweet’ seemed fitting after paving a new path despite the lengthy sequence of terrible decisions ;). I knew very little about branding at the time and probably would have picked a different name, if I had the chance to do things over, but the name stuck, and the clients continued to contact me for more and more projects. Our branding has always been really minimal and feminine in nature, although it has changed and evolved quite a bit over the years.
4. Tell us more about your product/business and your role:
My biggest goal is to bridge the gap between cheeseball marketing templates and custom design work that is beautiful, yet not affordable for most small business owners. I create high-end designs that are inexpensive & easy-to-use so photographers & creative professionals can spend more time (and money) doing the things they love. All of our templates are completely customizable, which makes it easy for people to update the colors & fonts to match their existing branding. They also come with professionally-written text to save extra time. I do all the design work + content creation while my husband, who was able to quit his job a little over 3 years ago, handles all of our ads & promotions on social media. He’s more of a numbers guy, and I’m more of a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ girl. Numbers & paperwork make my head spin.
5. Do you have a storefront or do you work from home?
We work from home, so our spare bedroom doubles as a home office, and our kitchen also serves as a desk during the day.
6. What does a normal “work” day look like for you?
Our toddler usually wakes us up with her screeching owl sounds around 6:30am, to which I generally pretend to be asleep while Thomas plucks her out of her crib. He makes her breakfast and serves as Super Dad for the first hour or so while I delay getting out of bed for as long as possible. We make coffee & something fairly healthy-ish, then I head to my computer while Thomas entertains Griffin. After a few hours, we swap roles, and Griffin and I usually head outside to dirty up our fingernails in the backyard. We may or may not shower at some point, eat lunch, then by 2:00 or 3:00, our brains are pretty much fried for the day. We both waste time doing random Google searches/surfing social media until about 5:00, when we’re hangry and annoyed with each other. Thomas is a great cook and doesn’t let me touch anything within a 3-foot radius of the kitchen, so he’ll make dinner while Griffin throws tantrums & I pretend not to notice. Once she’s asleep, the only thing we have enough energy to do is veg out on the couch. On a really adventurous night, I’ll do some living room yoga or go for a run. We lead SUPER exciting lives!!
7. How do you handle work + kids? (what is your schedule? do you have childcare?)
Define the word ‘handle,’ wink, wink. I don’t think we quite have a handle on either of these, but Mother’s Day Out has been a lifesaver. Griffin goes there two half days a week, and my sister comes over on Tuesdays so we can work for a few hours without being poked at by peanut butter fingers. Our schedule is pretty loosey goosey. We’ve tried to create ‘to do’ lists and tentative schedules, but they only last for about a minute.
8. How do you balance all of the roles that you have?
Living room yoga helps. We both have our completely unwarranted freak-out moments on a regular basis, too. I think the most important thing is to be nice to yourself. The better you treat yourself, the better you’ll treat the people around you. Whenever we’re really stressed, it’s usually because we’ve set unreasonable goals in our own heads or have let the gremlins in our minds do a little too much talking. Once you tell them to shut it, it opens up more time & space to let good things in. Acknowledge your mistakes, apologize, then keep moving forward.
Being busy is not a top priority for us. My ultimate goal is to be a beach bum by the time I’m 40. I’m pretty good at doing nothing and think this role would suit us well in the near future.
9. What is the best aspect of having your own business?
Living room yoga. Being able to make mistakes and own them, then learn from them. Being rewarded for all the late nights & weekend shifts. Having an endless supply of snacks available at all times. Not having to shower. Ever. Being stinky and gross and not caring, because you’re still makin’ that cash money!
10. What is the hardest part about owning your own business?
Not knowing whether something will be a huge mistake or the best thing since sliced bread. Not ever being able to ‘shut it off’ completely. Never knowing what that month’s paycheck will look like. Having to do taxes. Paperwork. Having to filter your posts on social media, because your sense of humor might not be appreciated by clients.
11. What are some long-term or future goals you have for your business?
I’d love to spend less and less time in front of the computer and more time doing hands-on work with others. Whether it’s teaching design & marketing to other small business owners or doing some type of physical labor (house-flipping, maybe?), I think we’ll see a lot of changes take place over the next few years. Bittersweet has been good to us, and we want to do our part in sharing that goodness with as many people as possible.
If we could retire by 40 & submit applications to become beach bums, I’d be okay with that, too.
12. What do you do when you’re not being supermom?
Oh man. That title should be reserved for Thomas, not me. I’m what my friend, Nikki, would refer to as ‘the world’s okayest mom.’ When I’m not working or stealing snacks with Griffin, I’m probably either outside or grabbing coffee with a friend. Woot woot! Super exciting people alert!!
13. What famous person would you love to have dinner with, and why?
Hmm…I don’t really keep up with celebrities. Maybe Ellen? She’s the only person I can think of, because, well…she’s ELLEN and is so kind to others. And funny!
14. What are the best resources that you’ve found as a small business owner and mom? (podcasts, online or local resources, people, great vendors, etc)
The Rising Tide Society group on Facebook is a great place to ask questions and receive advice from 70,000 other creatives who have probably been there and done whatever it is you’re doing/going through. Jenna Kutcher’s ‘Goal Diggers’ podcast is equally inspiring as it is uplifting, so that’s a win-win! If you need some tough love, Gary Vee is a marketing genius who doesn’t sugar coat anything. We love Planoly for scheduling out Instagram posts & Tailwind for pushing out content to Pinterest. If you’re into living room yoga, check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. She’s adorable, quirky, and perfect for those days when you want to do something active but don’t have time to go to the gym (or you haven’t showered and would look too disgusting to go out in public…ain’t nobody got time to shower BEFORE going to the gym).
15. What is one piece of advice that you can give to a mom starting a business?
Be nice to yourself. It’s okay if your kids have snot running down their faces and are throwing a tantrum in the middle of Target. Treat yourself to the home décor section anyway. Take other parents’ advice with a grain of salt. You don’t need to buy all the gadgets or throw yearly Pinterest-style parties. None of that happened 20-30 years ago, and we turned out alright. You’re probably doing a much better job than you’re giving yourself credit for. Allow your kids to take priority over your business. It’s not something you’ll ever regret. Take a day off. Take a WEEK off, if you can! Call a friend or family member when you need help, and outsource the aspects of your business that don’t play into your strengths. I’m not good at doing most of these, but hopefully, other people are!
Be sure to check out this sweet Mama below!