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Meet the Maker – Kelly of Freak + Pocky

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Hey guys! I am excited to share this interview showcase of Kelly, one half of the new online shop of handmade fandom fun & geeky cuteness, Freak + Pocky, with you! On my vacation, I was able to stop in Lexington, KY and spend the night with Kelly & Josh. They are SO cool and I am so eager to introduce you guys to such a fun maker, creative spirit and geek girl soul sister. I think you guys will love her just as much as I do! Without further ado, let’s get to know Kelly!
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Kelly, Me & Zoey!
Hi Kelly! Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m Kelly – or better known to my gaming friends as Pocky, the pocket-sized healer.
I’m a 30-something crafty nerd living in Kentucky with the geek of my life, who I married 6 years ago, and our 14 year old rescue mutt Skylar. I have some nerdy degrees (B.S. in Electrical Engineering & M.B.A.) and work at a zombie job, but would rather spend my days making things + playing games.
When I’m not slaying the zombie job or being the poppet master, I can usually be found gaming with my friends or curled up with Freak and the pup catching up on anime or binge watching tv shows we are seasons behind on.
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When/how did you learn to crochet?
I learned to knit + crochet when I was 11 years old.
My mom was learning to knit and crochet in some group that was meeting at our church. When she came home to work on her project I was mesmerized at how you could tangle up yarn to make a sweater. So I did what I always did…bugged her to teach me because I wanted to learn to do whatever craft my mom was doing.
That was over 20 years ago and I’ve seldom put down the yarn since.
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What got you started as a geek? What was your first video game or geeky obsession?
 
I like to say that I was raised to be a geek. The first movie my parents took me to see – I was just a wee nerdling at the time – was The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t remember it, of course, but I’ve always loved the original Star Wars Triology.
But what really got me started was gaming. I started out on Atari, but Nintendo is where my true gaming love really started. In our house, as an only child, I had to fight my parents for a turn to play. And my dad would organize Nintendo tournaments for my friends and I, which I kinda threw when I picked a game I knew this one boy was better at than me. And yes, I’m still a Nintendo fangirl.
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How did you first intertwine crafting & fandoms? How did you first bring your love of fandoms & craft together?
 
The first project I designed that brought my love of yarn and fandoms together was a surprise birthday gift I was making for my husband, when we just started dating. I designed a stocking hat after Link from Zelda, and a matching Triforce scarf.
It wasn’t until I first came across amigurumi, specifically Creepy Cute Crochet by Christen Haden, that I started finding new ways to make nerdy things. And now I just can’t stop!
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What is your favorite fandom?
 
Ummmm…I honestly can’t decide. I love Doctor Who. Sherlock. Supernatural. Firefly. Star Wars. Sword Art Online. Invader Zim…I could seriously go on all day.
What are you thoughts on a female Doctor?
 
I think it’s great and can’t wait to see where they take the story with her!
Secretly I would love to see Simon Pegg be the Doctor, but I know that really wouldn’t make sense since he’s been a villain.
Zombies, werewolves or vampires?
 
Zombies, no question! I’m a huge Walking Dead fan!
In your honest opinion, should they reboot Firefly?
 
The answer is always YES! The world needs more Captain Mal!
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What Poppets are next on your to-make list that fans can look forward to?
 
Well, my list is longer than I am tall, but a few that I’ve been brainstorming recently are: some Star Wars characters, Leela from Futurama and Shaun from Shaun of the Dead.
How do fans submit suggestions for Poppets or place custom orders?
 
Right now the best way to reach out is by emailing hello@freakandpocky.com.
Since each poppet is handcrafted, we do have a limited number of custom orders we can take at a time. If we’ve reached our limit at that time, you can be added to a wait list and contacted once we’ve caught back up.
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Can people order poppets of their favorite actors to gift at Cons?
Absolutely! Right now these are done as custom orders, so just send an email to hello@freakandpocky.com with the request and we can hash out the details.
Thanks for taking the time for the interview, Kelly! Happy launch day – and happy birthday! ♥
Head over to visit Kelly’s shop, follow their adventures on Instagram and be sure to give them a “like” on Facebook, too!
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Lu & Ed’s 7 Year Envyversary Celebration!

Hip pip hooray! Today marks 7 YEARS since I launched my Storenvy shop. Whoa. I can’t believe how far my little monster shop has come in 7 years. I can’t believe how much Storenvy has evolved in 7 years! When I joined, there was barely 500 stores on the platform, and now there’s hundreds of thousands of Storenvy sellers!

My business has grown so much thanks to all of you – thanks to your support, cheering me on, kind words, orders, referrals, fan photos to keep me trucking when my eyes are crossing from sewing too much. Thank you all. I couldn’t have made it this far without my sweet, awesome, wonderful monster loving fans!  I have made some super amazing friends through the Storenvy community – and I decided to reach out to some of my favorites to together a huge giveaway to thank you all for your constant support & love, and to celebrate 7 years selling on Storenvy! Woohoo!!

Sidenote: This will be one of the LAST giveaways I host this year, so if you want a chance to get your hands on some free Lu & Ed monster merch, make sure to enter and come back daily to earn your daily entries every day this week, too!

Speaking of daily entries, this giveaway has a ton of ways to earn entries, including some that involve Storenvy functions like Watching & Envying items on Storenvy. I’ll post screen shots on how to do that below – but first here’s the prize line up!

Small Semi-Custom Mon-stor – Winner chooses color scheme!

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Zombie Tee from Zom’s – Winner picks size and styleIMG_8277

Winner’s Choice – Four hair bows or one headband from Bow Peeps

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Double Set Kitchen Towels and Hot Pads from We R Crafts

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Spring Headband by It’s a Girl Thing by Trinidadimage1

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Cardinal Field Cards from Pinecone GroveNorthern_20Cardinal_20Card_20Display_original

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Now, like I said above, you can sign up for Storenvy to earn a good chunk of extra entries, so click over and sign up – the process takes less than one minute if you aren’t already a member, and it is one of the coolest online shopping platforms out there so we def want to make sure you get all signed up. 😉

Here is how to earn the Storenvy centric entries:  Watching a shop. This is like favoriting it so you don’t miss product drops! Here is a photo example – just click the “Watch” button! Then input your Storenvy username on the giveaway widget to complete the entry. (So I can double check the entries when selecting an winner!)

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Entries can also be earned by Envying a product. An Envy is basically “liking” the product. Your Envies will show up on your user profile so you can easily find items you’ve liked to purchase at a later date. They also show in the feed of anyone who follows you, allowing you the opportunity to start trends and become a popular user on Storenvy! Photo example below!

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Super easy peasy! You can also earn entries by sharing products from the stores to social media – you can do one blog post a day with products from each shop, share on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or even pin some items to Pinterest! Then just post the URL of your share into the giveaway widget for the entry to count!

Here is all the official rules: Contest is open from 12AM EST 4/10 to 11:59PM EST 4/15. Giveaway is open world wide, where allowed, to entrants over the age of 18. International winners must pay shipping prior to their item being shipped. One lucky winner will reap all the prizes, selected at random by Rafflecopter!

Now, let’s get down to winning some stuff! The more entries you earn, the better your chance of winning all of these epic prizes. So click the  link below and start earning your entries!

>>> Click here to enter! <<<

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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Happy March, mamas and maker friends! I’m so excited to bring you this HUGE collaboration giveaway this month – I hope you are feeling lucky! There’s over a dozen prizes – and over a dozen chances to win! Below, you can view the prize line up, then dive right into earning your entries!

Some of the options are new and can be done daily – like sharing an item to social media to earn FIVE extra entries (a total of of 60 extra entries a day!). To complete this entry, all you have to is select an item from the shop on that entry, copy the product URL or use one of the share buttons on the product, and post it to social media – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your blog, etc. Then copy the URL of YOUR post into the box on the giveaway widget – easy peasy! You can also now “heart” items from Etsy shops for an additional 8 entries per day, too!

Rules & other info: Giveaway opens at  12am 3/6 & runs until 12am 3/12 (Eastern Standard Times).  Giveaway is open to all eligible US citizens over 18, and international entries are accepted where allowed but postage must be paid by winner. There will be one winner per prize, drawn randomly using the Rafflecopter widget (YAY! Lots of chances to win!). Each item is mailed directly to the winner from the sponsor, who will be contacting winners individually to collect shipping info so please keep an eye on the email you use to enter giveaways powered by Rafflecopter with!

 

Prizes:

  1. Rainbow MEGA Monster by Lu & Ed
  2. Lucky Leprechaun Bow (your choice headband or clip!) by Elle Bee Accessories
  3. Green baby shoes by By Mindy
  4. Rainbow Child size Clouche Hat by Knits for Love
  5. 4 Pack Rainbow Cards & Rainbow Be Awesome Mug by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes
  6. Rainbow Monster Garland by Lisa’s Little Monsters
  7. Personalized Rainbow Family Name’s Heart by Selena Ashley Designs
  8. Rainbow & Leprechaun Hair Clips by Three Little Snowflakes
  9. Adult Size Rainbow Hat by Melli’s Yarn Works
  10. Rainbow Unicorn Mask (winner picks size!) by Deboop Shop
  11. Majestic Unicorn Mug by Rainy Day Geekery
  12. Furry Green Monster by Pink Sprinkles Plush
  13. Rainbow Stacking Toy by Outside Everywhere

 Click here to open the giveaway widget and start earning entries!

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Where do Mon-stors come from? Tacky jammies!

For today’s magical transformation, I’m sharing this funky leopard print nightgown turned radical and adorable Mon-stor! Yup, I converted this discarded nightie…

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Into this mega adorable Mon-stor toy storage bag! How cute is she?

neat laundry toy storage monster bag for kids handmade in asheville

This month, I have been hard at work turning other textile discards into cute monsters, and I am stoked to be turning my textile recycling efforts into a fun keepsake monster project launching soon, called Memory Monsters!

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I still need to make a few more prototypes from various materials (Tee shirts! Receiving blankets! Sweaters!) before I am ready to launch, plus figure out what sizes of clothing I can feasibly turn into monsters (just in, newborn sized sleepers are too small to cut monsters from!). But be sure to follow along on Facebook or Instagram to check out the prototypes as I post them, and sign up for my newsletter to get an email when they launch, so you can send me your child’s special article of clothing or lovey blanket to be converted into a monster!

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Engage – Storenvy’s New Email Marketing Tool to Capture Potential Clients, Address Cart Abandonment & Offer Repeat Buyer Incentives!

You guys! I have some super exciting news to share with you today!!

I’ve had my monster shop on Storenvy.com for almost 7 years. I am a huge advocate for their website because for entrepreneurs both seasoned & just starting out, it is the ideal platform for so many reasons – it’s free to list, free to sell through your custom store, 100% customization, they offer domain hosting & the ability to embed a blog, photo gallery, sizing chart, videos, Instagram feeds – I could go on and on! Storenvy gives you so much control over the appearance and functionality of your shop, and offers so many excellent tools for growth – which is what I’m writing about today!

Storenvy just rolled out a powerful new email service that I have been beta testing for them for a while now, and it makes generating sales and capturing new customers easier than ever! (It will be available to all Storenvy sellers the week of January 23rd.)

Introducing the new Storenvy Engage feature!

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Engage was born from Storenvy’s desire to set shop owners up for success and drive their sellers more traffic. This ingenious direct email feature was designed to help sellers harness the power of email marketing to turn Marketplace traffic & Watchers into customers. Engage is free and shows both Marketplace & Custom Store customer analytics, including purchase history (total amount spent & total number of orders), whether they were captured in the Marketplace or Custom Store, when the last time they visited your store was and if they have abandoned their cart. With Engage, you can use those analytics to send email promotions to individual people or entire segments of potential and previous clients, as well as send cart reminder emails to nudge customers to follow through with a purchase after abandoning their cart. To access Engage, you simply have to have your Marketplace Store open & have active listings in it.

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Here is a quick walk through of the new features, and some tips for maximizing Engage for higher conversion rates.

Firstly, like I mentioned above, your store must be active in the Storenvy Marketplace with active Marketplace listings to access Engage.  You do not need to activate Super Discounts to access the data and send cart abandon emails, but you do have to activate Super Discounts via your Extras tab on your Admin Panel to be able to use the Engage Discount Code features. This costs $5/month & unlocks Engage Discount Codes plus loads of other ways to reward customers! Totally worth the small monthly fee (it’s literally the price of a medium (grande?) white chocolate raspberry mocha at Starbuck’s. Yum!) because the discount code emails bring the cha-ching (in other words, they have a really great conversion rate, especially when used in conjunction with cart abandon emails, which I elaborate on below).

Got Super Discounts set up? Great! Now, let’s explore Engage!

Engage can be sorted into various views – All Customers, Repeat Customers (obviously, anyone who has bought from you more than once), Customers (anyone who has bought from you at least once) & Customer Leads (potential customers). You can search for a customer by name, or click Advanced Formulas to the right of the search box to unlock even more awesomeness.

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How to send discount codes using Engage

To send a discount code to a customer, you select the person you want to send a discount to, then click “Send Now”. This is the screen that pops up.

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From the top column, you will choose from active discount codes to apply to this promotional email. Once you pick which discount to offer, you just click send! I sent myself a test email first to see how it looked, and here’s what I got on my end:

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Looks great, doesn’t it!? It’s formatted for mobile as well, so it looks sleek in a desktop inbox or on mobile. Buyers can click directly from the email to your shop & the code is automatically applied at checkout.

When someone clicks from that email into your store and places an order, a “Success” icon appears by their name in the Engage window, and their orders have an Engage badge in the Orders Window, too – examples below.

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Engage is really easy to use, and now I am going to go through some ways to leverage this service to get more of those “Success” icons to appear for you!

Utilizing Engage to Address Cart Abandonment

Being able to send a gentle nudge to shoppers who abandoned their cart is such an amazing feature – I mean, I’m a mom. Do you know how often I add stuff to my online cart then get whisked away and completely forget about it? A reminder for that awesomesauce I left in my cart would almost definitely convert into a sale – and that’s exactly what this service offers!

Super Discounts isn’t required to use the Abandoned Cart email feature, but your Marketplace store must be active & have have active listings in it. You can’t, however, entice shoppers who abandoned carts to make a purchase with a discount code without activating Super Discounts.*

To view a segment of customers who abandoned carts, use Advanced Formulas, choose whether you want to sort cart abandons by the last day, week, month or between set dates. Apply your filter, and you can view where your cart abandon issues are happening** (custom or marketplace store), whether the shopper has purchased from you before or not, and the date of the abandoned cart.

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To capture these customers, click “Send Now” under the cart column. It brings up this simple message & you just click “Send E-Mail” – easy peasy!

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*Tip: When you search for cart abandons, you will be able to see which customers you sent a cart reminder message to, and whether it was successful or not. Definitely consider taking the second step to send them a coupon code if the cart reminder didn’t entice them to finish their order. I found the code following the cart reminder almost always sealed the deal!  

**I will be publishing a post soon on what causes cart abandonment and how to reduce the number of cart abandons in your online store!

Utilizing Engage to Convert Watchers into Buyers

Wacthers are people who use the Storenvy Watch function to follow your store & receive email updates about your new products because they like what you sell. Basically, an untapped goldmine until now!  Here’s how to set up a segment for Watchers.

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First, you would click Advanced, then click “Watches Shop” and in the Orders Count row below, select “Equal to” and input 0. This will filter results to show only people who watch your shop who have never purchased from you. (If you activate the Automate feature, this makes sending bulk discounts to watchers a snap! Details on Automate are towards the bottom of this post.)

If you are wanting to capture those potential customers, you can send a discount code to people who Watch your Storenvy shop via the marketplace Watch feature – again, these are people who found your products or shop through the powerful Storenvy Marketplace, liked what they saw & clicked the Watch button (which is a great asset in itself, as it immediately signs them up to get emails whenever you list new products, yay!). This new Engage features allows you to contact Watchers directly through the Storenvy platform to offer buyer incentives to get that first sale!

To create a code just for Watchers, go to Promote tab on your Admin panel & click add new promotion. Give it a name that elaborates what it’s for (“Thanks for following my store on Storenvy!” or “Here’s a code to thank you for Watching my shop on Storenvy!”) and put in the rest of the pertinent info – discount type and amount, code, expiration, etc.

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Tip: Offering a code of 20% or more is the best way to capture a new customer – any discounter greater than 20% is most likely to result in a higher conversion rate, whereas codes offering 15% or less have a much slimmer chance of conversions. 

Then just go down the list & send your code out to Watchers – or sign up for Automated discounts and save yourself from carpal tunnel. It’s worth it, trust me.

Utilizing Engage to Reward Repeat Customer

Honestly, being able to offer exclusive rewards to repeat buyers is my very favorite thing about the new Engage feature! To do this, you click “Advanced Formulas” in top right bar, and in the Orders Count select your segment – you can choose Equal to, Greater Than, or Less Than, then you type in the order number amount. Here, I put in Greater Than 5, so every client who has ever ordered from me more than 5 times will appear in this segment.

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Similar to creating an exclusive code for Watchers, while I was beta testing Engage I made a code just for repeat buyers, offering 20% off. I titled it “A New Year’s Discount Just for You!” and sent it out the first week of January to everyone who had ordered from my shop 5 or more times, and had great success with the campaign!

How to Automate Campaigns

In order to automate discount campaigns through Engage, you have to activate Super Discounts then activate this feature in your Extras. (Keep in mind, these features aren’t available to the public until the week of January 23rd, so your Extras page will look slightly different than this until it’s released sitewide).

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It costs $15/month to use the Automate features, but trust me, after manually pushing over 200 Engage discount codes while I was testing this out, it’s well worth the $15 a month! (I may or may not have bribed my son to send half of them for me, so if you have a preteen who is perpetually bored, that is also an option). Cart abandonment automation & discount code automation are two separate features, and each run $15. But! You are able to bundle all features (Domain Hosting, Super Discounts, Automated Discounts and  Automated Cart Abandonment Messages) for $30 – a total of 25% off savings. If you have a large customer base & lots of Watchers, this is a great investment! If you have a slightly smaller customer base, it’s not too terribly difficult to push the campaigns manually, albeit time consuming.

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When Automate, you create a discount code, then set it in the lower right hand corner of the discounts page, as shown above. Then just click the Automate/Bulk Send button at the top of the Cart or Discount Code column (shown below), and you can bulk send a campaign to everyone in the segment you currently have selected. This is a stellar way to address all recent cart abandons, reward anyone who ordered from you during a certain time frame, remind people who haven’t ordered from you in a while about your shop or to quickly introduce your brand to all of your Watchers at once. You can also use the Automate feature to send a follow up discount once a month as a gentle reminder to people who haven’t used their coupon yet.

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What kind of epic sorcery is this, you ask? The kind that makes getting your sale in front of your entire audience a million times easier.

Pretty rad, huh?

Before we close out, it’s important to note that all transactions that occur through promotions sent via the Engage function are subject to a nominal 10% commission to Storenvy (because these are sales you would not receive without using Storenvy’s functionalities to drive them). It’s a one time fee for orders placed by customers captured using Engage, so if your client typically shops from your custom store or discovered you there, you will NOT pay 10% commission on future sales from them. Make sense?

What do you think about the new Engage feature? Will you be trying it out?

2

2017: Achieve

It’s been a wild year and probably the worst year yet for my little biz, so I’m excited to wrap it up and head into 2017 with a blank slate & lots of ambitions, new products, and plans for improvement!

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See, my word for 2016 was Grind – I knew it was going to be a rough year: I got divorced and moved halfway across the country in November 2015, so I knew I’d be starting from scratch, struggling financially and trying to reestablish myself, my son & my biz. I had chose Grind because this year was all about breaking off the rough bits, uncovering the ugly and grinding it all smooth so I can polish my life & biz into exactly what I wanted it to be. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy & birth that were both exceptionally difficult, and woof. What a year. Grind was the perfect word for 2016.  

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My word for 2017 is going to be Achieve. Inspired by Lisa Jacobs, I decided to set monthly numerical sales goals – and I plan to shatter through them each month! I am going to Achieve more by focusing my efforts where I see the highest conversions for my business – here on my blog, through my newsletter, and by supporting other makers through community and collaborations. I will be relaunching my swag bag program & I am also going to book (at least) 3 events this year to continue establishing myself locally & spreading the word about my monsters, and also putting products up for sale in a local children’s boutique as well.

Besides the stereotypical “I’m going to get back in shape and do yoga every day and meditate more often” personal goals, I also am going to start attending a weekly mother’s circle, to help network & grow my local community, as well as attending more local events/dinners/shows/festivals. As a mother & maker, I feel like having a strong local community is imperative to growing personally & professionally. It’s so important to build your village!

I chose Achieve for my word for 2017 because I am going to achieve big things for my little monster biz, and in my personal life as well! This year is all about achieving my hopes & dreams. I want to spread roots here in Western North Carolina, to start making connections and friendships, and really make this place my home while growing my monster business to better support my growing family. ♥

Do you pick a word of the year to focus on? If so, what was your word for this year/will your word for next year be?

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On mothering a new baby & running a handmade business

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The last time I blogged, I was 40 weeks pregnant & had been struggling with prodromal labor for weeks. Though the last few weeks were incredibly painful and exhausting because of daily contractions that lasted for hours upon hours at a time, it was a painful, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancy from the get go. Zoey Rose was born October 12th, and it was a traumatic birth experience. Basically, it was all super rough. Pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

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I still get really emotional when I think of it, so I won’t go into details of her actual birth, but in my last post I talked about my frustration with the constant contractions & false alarms, and with everyone telling me “You’ll know when you’re really in labor”. I didn’t, actually. I had chorioamnionitis, an infection that spread from my amniotic sac & amniotic fluid to my placenta, uterus & cervix. I started having bad stomach cramps, followed within a few hours by a fever of 103.7 & uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. I thought it was just a stomach virus. My doctor wanted me to come in for fluids, and by the time I got there I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk or talk (except to scream a few choice words). It wasn’t contraction pain, it was constant, excruciating, sob-crying producing pain from the bottom of my ribs to my hips. By then my fever was 104.2 & I found out I was 9cm dilated. Thankfully they were able to get an epidural in to relieve some of my pain, and she was born a few hours later, through a fast, traumatizing birth. She spent an equally traumatic week in NICU.

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Finding out that I had a life threatening infection that could have taken both me & my daughter if I had waited just an hour or two longer to get to the hospital, followed by her NICU stay, shook me to the core. In the weeks immediately following her birth, I suffered from severe depression and what felt, inexplicably, like survivor’s guilt. Because of her NICU stay, our breastfeeding journey was a little rocky starting out, which any breastfeeding mother will tell you is an emotional battle to begin with. Due to the antibiotics she received, she had gastrointestinal distress for the following week and a half after leaving the hospital and cried & vomited almost constantly. After that, she was in a hip brace for weeks and constantly screamed and cried, and vomited, because of that.

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My pregnancy, birth experience and the early weeks of caring for Zoey were not bubbly, beautiful moments of motherhood. I struggled a lot with depression & anxiety as I tried to care for an extremely fussy baby, home school a 5th grader & somehow plan to return to my business, as NOT working at all was not an option because we simply couldn’t afford for me to not work at all for several months, unfortunately.

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I won’t lie – in those early weeks of fresh, angry, projectile vomiting babyhood, when she would scream no matter I did to comfort her, nurse to the point of projectile vomiting then scream some more, then wanted to nurse to comfort herself after screaming and crying, then back to screaming as soon as she finished nursing until she projectile vomited again, rinse and repeat, I would weep and tell my partner I was just going to have to go back to work outside of the home because I just didn’t think I could balance caring for her, schooling Gauge & running my own business. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up my monster making, but at the time could not see any way I could manage it all. I would get her to sleep and before I could take five steps or touch my fabric she would be awake screaming angrily again. I just felt so drained & like I would never be able to feel creative again.

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Then somewhere, around that fourth or fifth week, she finally started to chill out a little. That’s around the time she gave me her first smile and it was like the dark sky split open & kittens puking sunshine and farting rainbows spilled out of the crack. I started to put her in a Beco baby carrier my friend Magda sent me or the ring sling my friend Kimberly had mailed me while I was still pregnant, and was actually able to sew a little here and there. We readjusted our schooling schedule & lesson plans a bit, and my son quickly caught up on missed lessons & surpassed our semester goals.

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Over this last month, things have done a total 180. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, positive people, and started meditating on positive thoughts every morning again, something I hadn’t been able to do in those early weeks no matter how hard I tried. I was able to get a large batch of monsters made & into the shop in time for Christmas – thanks to baby wearing. I think baby wearing literally save my sanity – she only sleeps when she is being held or very rarely, sometimes in her swing for 10-20 minute spurts. But thanks to wearing her, I was able to start sewing every day again while she napped against me, allowing me to slowly settle back into the mindset being a business owner. In the past two weeks I’ve even been able to outline ideas to make 2017 the best year ever for Lu & Ed – with lots of flexibility and options, because with this little firecracker, who knows what the next year will hold?

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Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations about being able to dive right back into monster maker while I wore my happy, gurgling baby right out of the womb. Maybe it’s because I had rigidly blocked off the week following her birth from visitors at our house, unaware that week would be spent sleepless in the NICU unit. Maybe it’s because my son was such an easy pregnancy, birth and baby a decade ago, maybe that is why I felt so helpless & spent. Maybe it’s just because each pregnancy and birth experience and baby is so wildly different and unique, but these past two months were nothing at all like I anticipated. They were dark, difficult weeks & while the past month has been better and I am feeling more like my old self, and I am finally reclaiming and revitalizing my business from it’s stasis of the past several months, I would be lying if I said I was totally out of the dark emotionally and mentally. But I have learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner & to mother a new baby at the same time, and these are important lessons for maker mamas because the stigma that new mothers should be basking in a happy glow with a pep in their step is just another one of those things that puts pressure on new moms & keeps them from reaching out when they need help & support. Motherhood and small business ownership isn’t some picture perfect Instagram feed. So here’s what I’ve learned about mothering a new baby and owning a handmade business:

It’s okay if you didn’t plan well enough for your maternity leave and unexpected  expenses, losses or struggles arise because of it. There’s no way to plan for every possible scenario, no matter how hard you try. I had a solid plan set in stone for my maternity leave but my last trimester was spent in so much pain I couldn’t even lean over to cut out monster bits, I couldn’t sit to sew, and I was unable to follow through with that plan because I wasn’t able to make the inventory to make the income needed to actually even take a maternity leave, not to mention our NICU stay drained the savings account between gas, lodging, and having to eat out constantly. And that created a lot of stress for me, but you know, c’est la vie.

It’s okay to avoid (or even remove from your life completely) negative, toxic people. I didn’t/don’t have the capacity to handle drama, negative degrading remarks or toxic people – and I’m pretty sure my mama fans know that nothing like a new baby brings out the judgmental and unintentional meanness of others. The first weeks when family members kept lamenting “She’s SO fussy, how do you stand it?”, “Haven’t you tried to get her to stop crying?”, “Does she always cry? Why don’t you do something about it?”, “Maybe she has a disease, have you asked her doctor why she’s always crying?” or “Why don’t you give her formula instead of breastfeeding if it’s so hard?” alongside remarks about how I had a BABY now, it was time to shelf my business; it was soul crushing. From there, I only made room in my life for people who empowered me, comforted me or gave me positive energy. I was not in a good place mentally to allow anyone else access to me without being reduced to a sobbing mess. And that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Trust me, no matter how much grace you give yourself, there’s guilt. Guilt for working, for not working, for wanting to work, for not wanting to work, for not being able to work because your baby is needy, for never wanting to work again because you just want to soak up these peaceful, sweet sleepy moments with your baby, for asking someone else to hold your baby for a little while because you’re overwhelmed, haven’t peed all day & just need to breathe for a few minutes. So much guilt. So much stress.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to lose sight of your goals, it’s okay for things to not go how you planned, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to feel like giving up, it’s okay to be unsure & insecure. You can make new goals, you can make new plans, you can set new deadlines. No number is worth unnecessary mental stress, especially during this already emotionally jacked up time of new motherhood.

It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. You have to try absolutely everything to find what works for you. No one has any magic advice to make all the pieces of new motherhood & business ownership to go together seamlessly. (I don’t even know if they can go together seamlessly).

It’s okay to be frustrated and unsure. What worked yesterday may not (probably won’t) work today. What worked for your business last year may not work for it this year, or next year. What worked to keep your baby happy yesterday, may not work today. I learned you have to try new things, try a new schedule, try new content, try new creations, try new ways to make your baby happy, every single day. Some things work. Some things don’t. And that. is. okay.

It is all okay. All of your feelings are valid. All of my feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. There is no right way to feel. Being a mother is an emotional shit storm. Being a mother to a baby who was in the NICU is an emotional hurricane. Being a mother to an extremely fussy baby while trying to run a business, is like an emotional nuclear explosion. It is all okay.

It. is. all. okay. That is what I learned.

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