Founder of Art Seed consulting
What does being a business owner mean to you and why did you become an entrepreneur in the first place?
Being a business owner for me means freedom. Freedom to work with clients, arts organizations and artists that I am passionate about. Freedom to be lean and versatile in how we serve our clients. Freedom to take care of my family the way I want to.
I am super lucky that passion is a key driver in my career. I started Art Seed to respond to the needs of small arts organizations and artists to access fundraising for their work and make it happen. I have found that Art Seed is the most effective way for me to work in the industry that I love and the field that I am great at. I also found, as so many of us do, that I wasn’t able to even begin to serve the needs of my family while working for other people let alone prioritize them. So working for myself enables me that freedom.
Through Art Seed I am able to work on projects that I care about and help produce art that inspires me. This enables me to work on the cutting edge. Sometimes in your career – and life – you have to take an educated leap of faith. I knew I could create something that would be useful to businesses and to artists, and that also provided me the flexibility I need as a mama, but it was a very scary leap.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
I have a wonderful personal support network that inspires me to work close to my passion. My husband Rob and my own mom are both highly accomplished business people who have been crucial soundboards for me in establishing Art Seed and determining its path. I draw a lot of inspiration from myself and my passion. I make sure that is part of everything the company does. When we decide to work with a client, or when we decide to pivot slightly, we are guided by that original inspiration to support great art and great artists
Since you are also a mom… How do you balance your personal and professional life?
All parents know the anguish of balancing those two loves. My company is like another child, and requires so much love and attention, but my daughter and my husband are everything. They are on an entirely different plane.
I think that what works really well for me is taking care of the small things each day, so that the larger picture plays out the way we want it to. I have a very clear schedule that separates my work from my home life. When my daughter is up and I am taking care of her or playing with her she has my absolutely undivided attention. Conversely while I’m at work I know she is safe and with people I trust whom she adores, so I can concentrate on my work.
If an important email pops up while I am playing with my daughter, I take a deep breath and remind myself that it can wait an hour (or a few hours) until she is napping or down for the night or until it’s my husband’s turn. I practice mindfulness a lot. Like, all the time! Our phones have become an extension of ourselves these days making work an integrated part of our lives. But phones are very abstract, whereas a child are very much in-the-moment. I don’t want to miss anything my daughter does. Every moment is beautiful! So I prefer to create that separation between my work and her.
Have you made any adjustments to your personal and professional life to juggle these two roles?
Everything about our lives changed when our daughter arrived! I am lucky though, because at its core my work is my life passion. Arts funding is so fascinating to me – the way people respond to a piece of art and how it affects individuals and hence our societies as a whole. The fundamental truth of that doesn’t change, and neither do my goals to support great art.
I have to be very careful and protective of my time now, of course. Working in the arts there are always parties and events that are not only part of the lifestyle but crucial to networking and building connections. I pick my nights. And I have to enact a little self care to make it easier to leave my little one behind – or miss dinner and bedtime. For example, I might make sure our Saturday morning is big on family time, because I didn’t get to see her the night before.
That’s good for me, and Her, and good for Art Seed too.
What is the greatest obstacle you have faced in achieving the success you desire? How do you overcome it?
Self doubt! Imposter syndrome is real. I know a lot of women who run their own businesses or are in incredible positions of leadership who experience this inability to believe they deserve their success.
All of us have a voice in our head telling us that we are not good enough. Sometimes it is triggered by a perceived sideways glance from another parent when your baby is crying in the grocery store, or when someone shuts down your idea in a big meeting.
My trick is that I have another voice. A cheerleader telling me how great I am! She points out things I have achieved, reminds me of those meetings where everyone listened to my ideas and actioned them, and what a great job I’m doing as a mother. I love her! I would encourage other moms to do the same.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs that want to start their own company?
You have to learn to take rejection on the chin and keep working towards your goals, or be flexible and pivot if you need to.
If finding a mentor is too time-consuming, find events for Moms and create a support network around you. I don’t have an official mentor, but I have women whose stories I aspire to. I have coffees with ex-colleagues and baby playdates with my old bosses. The more I trek into this crazy motherhood journey, the more truth I find in the African proverb: “It takes a village.”
It truly does. I would add to it by saying, “Build yours!”
By Olivia Jones