July 12, 2013

You can make a lot of plans. You can have big dreams and go after them with all your might but sometimes, there is just a different path for you. One you may not have dreamed for yourself but once you’re there, you can see that’s where you were meant to be all along. That’s what happened to Amy Gregory, a graphic designer, online shop owner, and mother or three. She’s the creative mind behind Olive Lane Paper & Gift and the beautiful blog, Ink’d. And though she didn’t choose this path initially, it fits her just right.
I’m excited to feature this dynamic, do-it-all woman in today’s WOMAN’S WORK. Amy has spent most of her life in Arizona and she studied elementary education in college. But here’s the thing… she never set out to become a teacher, and she has never been one. She’s says she’s all about “diversifying.”

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Q) How did you know what you wanted to do professionally? Was it an accident, or was it your plan all along?

A) I’d like to say it was divine inspiration. I always knew I wanted to be a mom first, but on my 6th grade promotion sheet, I wrote down I wanted to be a lawyer, which still holds some truth. Initially, I planned to head down that path & worked two different jobs at law firms in the valley while I was in college. Shortly thereafter, inspiration struck & I quickly realized it might not be wise to have law school sized student loans if the degree just adorned the wall, while I wiped baby bums. I quickly changed course & set my law school dreams to the side and suddenly I was taking classes like, Puppetry in the Classroom. True story.

While I continued with my degree, I accidentally landed the job of my dreams working with a local home builder. It was a small office initially, but as the market took off, we grew & grew & grew. With the growth I was afforded the opportunity to wear almost every single hat possible. I answered phones, I pulled permits, I worked with subcontractors, I wrote checks, I spec’d out houses, I developed flooplans, I named streets, I sold houses & lots and I developed land. After all those years I graduated college and realized I really loved my job. After wearing all those hats we all decided I should land in marketing. With my position in marketing I taught myself Illustrator & began designing sale sheets & signage, hosting seminars & my very favorite thing? I, as a 22 year-old girl, bought a semi truck trailer, hauled it to be cleaned & prepped & then designed signage to be painted on it. It functioned as a huge billboard for us on some land we owned & I’m not going to lie, I’m still impressed with myself on that one.

From there, I got married, then had babies & had to hang up my real estate dreams. The thing was, I still knew Illustrator, I still had a laptop and I was already blogging. With only 1 baby at the time, I had some time on my hands. I started designing things for myself & having them printed through my old contacts with the home builder. At that point my sister, Lindsey had already started dabbling in photography & from there, the rest is history. She started taking more photography clients, I started taking more design clients & we quickly realized we were a match made in heaven. What I didn’t know, she did & what she didn’t know, I did. We’ve leaned on each other ever since.

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Q) Tell me about your road getting there? Bumps? Successes? That moment when you felt like you had finally made it?

A) Oh there have been & still are a lot of bumps. If I’m being honest, I still feel like that 22 year-old girl that showed up in a real crummy part of town in my husband’s BMW to buy a semi-truck trailer. I had no idea what I was doing then, and sometimes now, I still feel like I have no idea. The thing is, I figured it out then, and I know I’ll figure it out now. That’s the fun part; figuring it out. I tend to like ‘figuring it out’ sessions to occur over chips and salsa with a Diet Coke.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never feel like ‘I’ve made it,’ because once I’ve made it to one landmark, I’m looking off to the next. I know I probably won’t do ‘this’ forever & really, in the whole scheme of life, it’s not that important. I’ll feel like I’ve made it if my kids grow up, get married & still want to hang out with me. This is just a hobby on the way there.

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Q) Tell me about your role as a working mother. How do you balance work and mommy hood? If you work from home, how do you get anything done?

A) Ha! Balance. That ever-elusive word. Does anyone ever achieve long-term balance? If so, I don’t think they are challenging themselves enough! I might strike a balance every now and again, but for the most part, we just do what we need to do. I don’t think I even strive for balance anymore, I just strive for happiness & sanity. The season’s of my business & motherhood move & evolve so quickly that any time I’ve struck balance, I know it is only momentary. For once I’ve figured out how to manage homework & dinner & a busy wedding season, well, my baby decides to start teething or my 6-year-old goes on a rebellious streak. That’s part of the territory.

All of that being said, there is a method to my madness. I have 1 child in school all day, another in preschool 3 days a week, and another that naps 3 hours a day. I am diligent in scheduling preschool at the same time as nap time, allowing myself 2-3 hours 3 days a week ALL ALONE. This is when I am on my computer. My house doesn’t get cleaned at this time, I don’t run errands at this time & I hardly answer phone calls, instead, I work. Whatever, I can’t get done in that time, usually has to wait until after bedtime. When my kids are home, I am pretty good at just staying off my computer. We clean, run errands & play during those times. The biggest thing I’ve done for myself is allow that to be enough. Sometimes this means I have some late nights, especially during the Christmas season, but it also means, I don’t hesitate or feel guilty to sit on the front lawn with them either.

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Q) What is the best advice you’ve ever received or lesson you’ve learned?

A) Ask. If you want something ask for it. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. If you want a better deal, ask. Worst case scenario? They say no. Best case? They say yes. If you can’t bring yourself to ask, or you know you won’t like the answer, just wing it. Don’t be afraid to try it your own way…it might end up being the best way.

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Q) What has been the secret to your success as a working woman and mother?

A) Just do it. Sometimes I think we all talk ourselves silly, myself included. Instead of talking about it, just do it. Your biggest risk? It fails. It doesn’t work for your family. You don’t like it. All of those can easily be adjusted. Embrace the opportunity to fail. It is in the failure where I have learned how to make it work, and it will work differently for everyone. I wouldn’t trade away any of my failures.

Q) What advice do you have for other women wanting to pursue career ambitions, but also be mothers?

A) Allow yourself to be a mom first. Your babies are babies for so little time, E N J O Y it. Your clients can wait if they need to. We live in a day where we feel like we need instant responses. I don’t know about you, but when I email the Gap about an order, they don’t email me back on the weekends, after 5 pm or within 5 minutes. You don’t need to be ‘on the clock’ all the time. Throw perfection out the window, master your product, but nothing else needs to be perfect. Let the little things go. Get done what you can get done in the amount of time you have & move on. If that doesn’t work for your client, let them hire someone else.

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Q) How do you define success?

A) Success…those momentary moments when I’ve achieved balance? Success feels like happiness. It is those days, when the stars align & I feel fulfilled in my work as a wife, mom & designer. Some days it includes babies taking naps & homework getting done. Other days it includes huge brainstorming sessions over chips & salsa with my sister. Still other days, it includes zero work & all play. Success is being aware of what needs to happen in the very moment & then being flexible enough to do it.

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Such wisdom, that one. And is her style just so effortlessly cool, or what? Thank you to Amy for sharing her story and heartfelt advice! And good news– Amy is giving away a multi-pack set of some of her beautiful poster prints to one withHEART reader! You will love these uplifting and inspirational posters, perfect for any room in your home.
To enter:
1) Leave a comment here sharing the best advice you’ve ever been given.
Additional entries:
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like I should unplug at 5 pm today for the weekend like Gap;)

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  1. Katy Reuter says:

    Best advice from my mother in law … Make as much noise when your infant is sleeping and they’ll be great sleepers. My oldest is twelve and sleeps through everything!

  2. Melissa says:

    The best advice I’ve been given: step back and take it all in. In the moments when things are great, step back and look at it to lock it away in your memory. At your wedding, at your child’s first birthday party, or at a family reunion. Get caught up in the joy of the moment but also take some time to let it sink in.

  3. Amy says:

    Don’t sweat the small stuff!

  4. Brenda says:

    It is better to understand than to be understood.

  5. Channa says:

    The goal is growth, not perfection. {Following with heart & ink’d.}

  6. Teisa says:

    My mom told me to not worry about how clean my house was and to sit down and PLAY with my kids…. my house will always be there but my kids will grow up.

  7. Ashley says:

    Best advice ever given is to never go to bed mad at your spouse. Never have and never will.

  8. Callie B. says:

    Best advice I have ever been given – “don’t give up what matters most for what matters at the moment.” My mom put that quote up in the mudroom as a constant reminder.

  9. Callie B. says:

    Following withheart on bloglovin’! Name: calliebowers

  10. Callie B. says:

    Following ink’d on bloglovin’! Name: calliebowers

  11. Meghan H says:

    For aslong as I can remember my mom has told us to always be “kind and loving” no matter what! She is a kill them with kindness kind of lady! I have always tried to be kind and loving and it’s helped me in all aspects of my life, from my relationship with my husband to the ones I have with my clients.

  12. Danielle says:

    It’s better to shoot for the moon and land in the stars than aim for a dung pile and hit it dead on.

  13. […] we can’t forget to announce the winner of the WOMAN’S WORK feature from Amy Gregory of Ink’d […]

  14. […] to find the balance for ourselves & our families.  You can read my remarks on her blog here. For Jen’s…read on: For any career-driven mother, it’s complicated.  You […]

  15. […] we can’t forget to announce the winner of the WOMAN’S WORK feature from Amy Gregory of Ink’d […]

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