Happy Monday! We love Mondays since we get to introduce past attendees of our Inspired Retreat for #InspiredMakerMonday. Today we are talking to Cara McGrady of One Swell Studio, who creates beautiful event stationery and decor to match. Read on to find out more her business, what her days are really like, and what she's doing next below!
When did you attend Inspired Retreat? September 2014
Where were you in your business journey when making the decision to attend Inspired? When I decided to attend Inspired, One Swell Studio had been in business for a little over three years. I worked from home creating personalized party invitations and decor while taking care of two little boys. It wasn't very often that I got to chat with another creative small business owner face-to-face. I desperately wanted to meet another person who faced the same struggles and challenges that I faced as a small business owner. Someone with whom I could also share my successes and small victories. When I heard about Inspired & realized I could meet an entire *group* of women who were just like me, I was all in. On my 30th birthday, I registered to attend the next upcoming session of Inspired.
Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself on Day 1 of starting your creative business? Goodness. I *so* wish I could go back to day one (way back in 2010), pour my younger self a big cup of hot tea & have a nice little chat with her. I'd tell the 2010 version of me that she isn't competing with anyone else. That it isn't worth constantly looking around to see what everyone around her is doing. That she'll be much better off staying true to her own core values & her own style. And that just because someone else is succeeding, that does not (in any way, shape, or form) mean that SHE is failing. I'd also look her square in the eyes and tell her that her dreams are going to be so, so much bigger than what she has planned.
What is one action item from your Inspired Retreat experience that has changed your business and/or mindset? When I boarded the plane from Pittsburgh to Nashville, I was nervous. I hadn't ever really met many people who owned their own small, creative businesses. Especially an entire group of them. I worried that I was somehow competing with each and every attendee-- and that I would fall short when measured up. From the first moment I stepped onto the beautiful grounds of Evins Mill, my entire outlook shifted. I felt welcomed, valued, & supported. The "Community Over Competition" mindset was almost palpable. These women were so much like me, and they were so incredibly willing to share their experience and insight. I finally realized how important it was to cultivate friendships with other like-minded women & distinctly remember wanting to shout, "My tribe! My tribe! I've found my tribe!" The friendships and connections I made during those few days at Inspired have become so precious to me because they truly transformed my way of thinking-- which led to an enhanced outlook on my business as well.
With the abundance of noteworthy creative workshops offered, why would you recommend Inspired Retreat over another? Inspired is unique in that you'll be able to meet, chat with, and get to know talented, like-minded, creative women who might not be within the same industry as you. Many conferences are niche-based, but Inspired welcomes all women who are creative small business owners. Often times, an "outside" perspective on your business is insightful and unexpected. I so appreciated the variety of industries represented at Inspired & felt that the range of creative businesses represented truly heightened the experience for all in attendance.
What is one thing you have implemented that has helped you to streamline or help manage your creative business and family/personal priorities? Before I attended Inspired, I was struggling to "do it all." I wanted to be a great mom, a great wife, & a great business owner. It was exhausting. I constantly felt as though I was falling short in each & every area which only perpetuated my frustrations and feelings of exhaustion. At Inspired, one of my favorite parts was a speaker panel discussion entitled "The Struggle with the Juggle." I could totally relate. It took hearing the encouraging words from other moms/business owners to really make it sink in for me. It was so uplifting to know that other people (successful, flourishing, inspirational people!) struggled with the very same things I did. One gem that rang true for me was, "You can do anything, but not everything." Whoa. I realized that I was overwhelming myself to attempt something that would never be possible. I physically, mentally, emotionally could NOT do it all no matter how hard I tried. I came home with a different perspective-- I would *not* do it all, but I *would* do my best. That has been a game-changer for me.
What things do you do to stay creative/be inspired? When I need a little extra creative juice, I usually head to my craft supplies. Creating something with my hands has always relaxing for me. Sometimes, I can be found just browsing the aisles at Target, dreaming up new color or pattern combinations for my upcoming collections. I also really look forward to phone calls with my accountability partners. Sharing our successes and struggles, advice & questions has been incredibly helpful & inspiring for me.
What is your daily routine like? I typically wake up between 6:30 and 7:00. The very first thing I do each & every morning is to make a myself a cup of hot tea. While sipping my tea, I check my email and review the orders that need to go out for the day. Since my boys (ages 6 & 4) are at home with me throughout the summer, I get them breakfast and set them up with an activity (usually Legos, Play-Doh, coloring, or abcmouse.com) so I can work for a small window of time. We take a snack break, and play outside if the weather is nice. Sometimes, I'll take my laptop outside to work while they play. I usually start making dinner in the late afternoon while my kiddos watch a favorite show. My boys (sadly) no longer take naps, so quite a bit of my work has to wait until my husband gets home from his job around 5:00. We eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. And several evenings a week, I head back into my office to buckle down & work without distractions while my husband takes care of the boys. I'm a bit of a night owl, so I don't mind staying up after everyone else is in bed, so I can tie up any loose ends from the day. All of this varies from day-to-day depending on our schedule. I have to say, I really enjoy the flexibility that comes with owning my own small business.
What is your favorite business book, magazine, or podcast? I read Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic" three times this year. That book resonates with me on so, so many levels. Each time I read it, I find a new nugget of wisdom to apply to my life/business. I also love Seth Godin. "Purple Cow" & "Tribes" are definitely at the top of my book list.
So, what's next for you? Since attending Inspired, I've expanded the custom side of my business. I adore working one-on-one with my clients to create event stationery & decor that perfectly matches (& sometimes exceeds!) what they had in mind. I look forward to taking on even more custom clients (especially first birthdays-- as they tend to be my favorite!) in the second half of 2016. In the next few months, I'll also be hosting a local party planning and prepping workshop, and releasing a comprehensive party planning guidebook.
Thanks for sharing your journey Cara! Keep up with Cara on Instagram.