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Amy Riordan "Everything is Figureoutable." - Marie Forleo. Amy Riordan Welcome to the Amy Riordan Podcast. They say owning a business is a journey in self development, so I decided to explore just that. Whether you're an entrepreneur or looking for fulfillment in your day to day life, get inspired here through interviews, life stories and proven self help techniques. What you do with the information received in this podcast is completely up to you, but if you act, you will alter the course of your life in ways you never could have possibly imagined. I'm Amy Riordan. Let's do this.
Amy Riordan I have the pleasure of interviewing Sasha Mitten today. Now Sasha is not only a dedicated mother, wife and teacher, but she has two side businesses that she started, that she's very proud of. One's Rainbow Sprinkle studio, the other is Smitten Paper Co. Now this interview was really great, not only because of the passion she has behind these side jobs, but she's also made it very clear that these are almost therapeutic for her, and it really, truly makes you feel like you could do anything. So without further ado, my interview with Sasha Mitten.
Amy Riordan Sasha, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm so excited to have you on! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sasha Mitten Alright. I'm excited to be here. I'm Sasha Mitten, I am a mom to a spunky 3.5 year old girl, I'm a wife, I'm an elementary school social worker, and I am running two side businesses currently.
Amy Riordan So let's go right into those side businesses. Tell me a little bit about Smitten Paper Co.
Sasha Mitten Uh, so that's where it started. I started Smitten Paper Co., which is a wedding stationery business that I run on Etsy in 2015. So I work at a school, so I have the summers off, and I don't really like just sitting around in the summer time doing nothing or lazing around. So I decided to start up in invitation business, and I think at the time of my life, I was also thinking of like, wedding planning, and I was near engagement, and that's just for my mind's that was. And that was a really fun ride, and I still have that going on. But last year I started a second side business, which is where most my focus is now.
Amy Riordan OK, and tell us about that other side business.
Sasha Mitten So that one took the graphic design part that I really liked of creating invitations and it's creating clip art images for elementary educators to use in their resource. So that I sell on teachers pay teachers, which is basically like an Etsy for teachers only. And that has just been wonderful, like selling to community of teachers has been awesome. I love creating the art. So, for example, like I have a giant collection of alphabet art I created, and teachers will use that alphabet art to create phonics resource and all these different things. And it's been so cool just working with different teachers and getting to really, get very creative and making images kind of like, I think back to when I was a kid and loved like Lisa Frank stickers and things like that. And basically now I'm making, like, lots of, like, cute and fun, the images and I love that.
Amy Riordan It sounds like you're very design oriented and I love that. Tell me a little bit about the difficulties getting into your side gig. I want to know when you first started out, how, like what's struggles did you deal with?
Sasha Mitten Oh my gosh, so in the beginning, I'm definitely... tend toward being a perfectionist. So I started that summer of 2015 wanting to open my wedding invitation shop. And I must have created such a collection before, even like I accidentally created my shop. So, I like was just, I felt like never enough. Like I didn't have enough. I didn't have it perfect; I have the perfect logo. I didn't know exactly how I wanted everything to be, and I remember hitting a button, and I thought it was saving something as a draft and said, 'Congratulations. You've listed your first like invitation.' And I'm like, "No!" uh, "How do I go back?" I wasn't ready, but I was actually very ready. I had so many sets I could list, but I just felt like - I feel like if you wait until you're ready, you'll never start. I was so grateful that I hit that button accidentally because it pushed me into go mode and I listed a ton of things and then in reality, everything changed, my logo changed my style changed, everything changed and there's no way of knowing what your niche will be like when you're first starting out and to let that develop. So that was my biggest hurdle, was just like starting.
Amy Riordan Did you find a way to embrace the evolution of what your company was becoming? And how did you do that?
Sasha Mitten Yeah, I think that happened just very naturally. I think, in the beginning, I was just going with, like, florals and what was like sweet and nice stationery. And then I just thought more of my own personality came out as I was going, and so I have a very kind of like off-beat audience. But it's like quirky and funny, and it's nothing like what I started as like florals and peonies, it's all now just, I work with, like, very cool brides and grooms, and they're very laid back, and I just like that. Like, just naturally as I was designing it, I was just gravitating more towards like what felt more like me and what I wanted to design, but you don't - you kind of like, you grow through it, you know, like you have to.... You have to actually take the steps and then see; what do you like? What don't you like? What do you want to do more of? And I was wanting to figure it all out before starting. And I think, honestly, that that's impossible.
Amy Riordan Agreed. I love how you say that. That's so perfect, cause it definitely I mean, the evolution of anything is sometimes hard to embrace because you feel like you should be following the trends or whatever. And obviously you found your niche, and that's really awesome. How did you go from a mom and a wife and, you know, working at a school to balancing this paper company?
Sasha Mitten It is tough, you know, I really I was definitely raised with something my mom used to say all the time, was the person who has more to do gets more done. And I think sometimes that can make me a little crazy in trying to balance everything, but basically like you can find time to fit it in, if it's something you want to do. I use the summer a lot, because I have that time and as a mom, like really the morning time, like I'm waking up so early and I'm not a morning person, but it's important to me and I'm passionate about it, so I set my alarm and I try and go to bed earlier. I have coffee on, and I just like I'm up early doing it. But it's definitely, it's a balancing act, you know?
Amy Riordan And then you start another business. So how did you like slowly factor that in, and how long did you wait before you started this next one?
Sasha Mitten So one kind of evolved into the other. So I was doing, I did just the stationery from 2015 to 2018, so for 3 years, and that was all custom work, meaning like I have templates of different designs up but a bride or groom would say, I want this design and here's my information. I have then go into 'go mode', like customizing it, making sure they like it, printing it, packing it, shipping it and that got really taxing because to do custom work, I might have a week of no orders and then a week of eight orders, and it's so hard to have your schedule be in your control. Especially if it was like a busy week for me or at work. It felt like, oh my gosh, now I have so many orders to do and it feels like you're on someone else's timeline. So I was really wanting to keep designing and doing design work, but not beyond other people's timelines as much. And that's where I found this opportunity to create clip art. I just really, like, fell in love with it, but essentially, when I make the clip art, I'm creating designs - like I decide I want to make a set of alphabet art. I create whatever I want. Nobody's asking me specifically to make something, and then I list it for sale, and people can either buy it or not. And once it's made its done, so. I listed that and someone can buy it today, they could buy tomorrow, two years from now. It's done. And so that has been so much nicer on my schedule than being at somebody else's timeline.
Amy Riordan Low pressure.
Sasha Mitten Yes.
Amy Riordan I can definitely see that. Did you find it is an easy transition going from your Smitten Paper Co. on Etsy too doing this design oriented... I don't know, I feel like it's very detailed, so I'm very surprised at how, like easy going you are about it. I feel like I'd be like, pulling my hair out like, 'Oh my God', especially with brides. Tell us a little bit about...
Sasha Mitten Yeah, it's definitely... Both are time intensive. Like, even though this one now I'm not doing custom work, I am working at it every morning, weekend, some nights, I'm doing a lot of work. It just feels like my own decision, where if I wanna work Saturday, I can. If I don't, I don't. And that feels so empowering to have my own time in that way. Realistically, to transition I have the help of one of my sister's friends, whose amazing Thoraya, who really took on a lot of helping with the design, the packing, the shipping with the stationary, so realistically I could not be doing both at the same time. And be an elementary school social worker and everything. It would just be too much. So at the time that I started a second side business, I was bringing on this person who's just wonderful and helping a lot with all of that. And I really think that everything I learned in Smitten Paper Co. has prepared me so much in a second business. Everything I learned about, I mean, when you go into business by yourself and you become like, you're the social media person and you're trying to build a website and you're creating branding and there is so much that goes into it that you are not prepared for when you're like, I just like to create things, and you're not prepared for sales and pricing in all these different things. I think I learned so much just about like the business and running a business that I could then apply to my next adventure.
Amy Riordan It seems, like I said, like you're really taking it as it comes and I think a lot of people need to remember that because they just they think they're supposed to know everything right now. And that's just not physically possible. So, in the other seasons tell, tell us about your regular day job.
Sasha Mitten So I work at an elementary school, which is a wonderful school. I love it and I work with kids who are age five to age 10 really, who might be having some things they're struggling with in terms of feeling sad or worried or anxious or going through family changes or school difficulties. And I meet with them per one on one or group counseling. So it feels very different from what I do otherwise. But in that, I love both and I love having a creative outlet because some days are really difficult working at the school, and I'm hearing a lot of what kids are going through, and they really go through some very tough things and a lot of days I come home kind of very heavy, and it feels so nice to be able to have this creative space and creative outlet that's my own, and I feel like it has helped me a lot in being at my job during the day to have this creative outlet at night or on the side.
Amy Riordan You can just tell how fulfilled you are by both, which is important. And I was thinking that it sounds kind of like this is your therapy, your designs, then also you're getting - your regular job is like fulfilling at a whole different level, and I like that a lot.
Sasha Mitten Like, people want us to choose, like, what's your one thing you want to be? And I really believe that, like so many people are multi-passionate, and it's so nice to be able to embrace and pursue two different things.
Amy Riordan It's so true and especially like when you're going into college and you're just, like, "Really. I have to pick one thing?!" You really think you have to do that one thing your whole life and it just makes you realize how young you actually are when you're going into college. So I want to know where you feel these businesses are going to go. Do you feel like they're going to stay where they are? Do you want to expand on one of them and why?
Sasha Mitten I am definitely more interested in expanding that Rainbow Sprinkle Studio one, which is creating images for teachers. It's just, I took to it. I've just fallen in love with it, really like the community that I've built, I'm not personally I'm like, never on Instagram, But, with this I've made so many amazing friendships with other teachers, and it's such a wonderful community. And I just love creating the art that I hope for it to; for to continue to grow and grow and who knows what it might turn into. But I'm I'm just loving it right now.
Amy Riordan You do like the letters and the artwork that they can hang in their classroom, right? So, are you thinking about expanding into more artwork? Or you gonna be doing like things in class they can pass out? I don't even know if that's something you can do. What direction?
Sasha Mitten Basically, I'm selling to teachers who create resource is for classrooms, so I don't create the resource themselves. So let's say I'm creating art that goes with a phonics worksheet. I'm selling it to teachers who then put that are onto phonics worksheets and sell it. So I'm almost like a wholesaler in that way. That, like I'm not creating the resource, but other teachers are creating resource with my art. So I plan to create lots more art - tons. I think it's like, you wouldn't believe just how many possible Christmas images can be creating or phonics or vocab. I mean, it's incredible. Like I think that's something I love about this, too, is that there's so much - there's so much fun brainstorming, but, for example, like just in line with Christmas, like, I just did an entire set of reindeer, an entire set of what Santa's house is, like an entire - like it's so fun to just create and imagine and make stuff that wasn't there before. I love that. But basically, each year, when the season comes up again, teachers are wanting new art, even though they have maybe other Christmas art. Like you're wanting something new the same way you would want, like a new a pair of jeans or new something when the new season comes. So, yeah, hopefully the creative well just keeps running.
Amy Riordan Well, it sounds like you're still excited about it, so I think that that means that there's more to come. That means they can use your art on anything they want, they can just paste it, like that's really cool!
Sasha Mitten Yeah.
Amy Riordan I like that. I like that a lot. So obviously, like as the podcasters usually know, in the notes, I'm gonna make sure that I do all the links, including your social media. I think it's very important on all ends. Is there anything left that you want to say to the listeners? Maybe some advice you'd give?
Sasha Mitten What's been really interesting since running my two different side Business is how many people come out of the woodworks, asking me questions about it and saying that they've always wanted to do X,Y or Z, or try photography or try this and I think there's so much that hold us back from trying and that, like, it's OK to just take the first step and to try it and to be scared and to mess up and have it not be that great, but to try it; there so many people wanting to do something and it's holding them back. And like I was so nervous to put myself out there, my invitation business, and everything I was nervous about, like changing my logo, changing whatever, it all happened. I changed it all, and the world didn't end and nobody noticed. Nobody actually notices! Like nobody minds that you changed your, that you change what your logo looks like to just put yourself out there and do it like you have something in you to share, it's like so wonderful to share that.
Amy Riordan Thank you so much. I agree. People need to take the leap. It's time to do it. And it's almost a new year. So there's another excuse for it. Alright, well, thank you again so much. This interview means a lot. And I know that the listeners are gonna get a lot of this. So thank you so much. Have a good one.
Sasha Mitten Bye.
Amy Riordan Amy Riordan is a weekly podcast brought to you by me, Amy Riordan. Love this podcast? Leave a review and share with friends. You can also find me on social media. Subscribed to this podcast for all new episode notifications. With questions, topic requests or interview nominations, visit AmyRiordna.com. Curious about specific content mentioned in each episode? Those details are linked below.