This is the 11th post in a weekly series of small business profiles called “10 Questions with” that will feature creative entrepreneur profiles and small business owners who have incredible stories and advice to share. It’s the perfect series to follow for budding entrepreneurs and creative people who want to know more about other people’s creative processes. Check back here every Wednesday to see who will be profiled next.. The interview is below the images.
One of the best things about writing these small business profiles is discovering and meeting some incredible entrepreneurs who really have honed in on what makes them unique and special. The search for entrepreneurial answers has been years-long for me; it started when I was helping to host a business radio show called The Businessmakers and co-hosting a spinoff podcast version of the show with my friend Katie. We would talk about all things small business and try to get to the heart of what makes a small business tick. One of the overarching themes seems to be really knowing yourself, knowing your business and knowing what you are not.
Leland gal founder Maggie Mielczarek really seems to have that nailed. As soon as you visit her site, you get a sense of what her business is all about; easy living, the water, and a whimsical, preppy aesthetic. Her line is both colorful and fun, and her hand-painted textiles will have you longing for a cocktail in the Hamptons.
I was excited to get to know her, and I absolutely LOVE her advice for would-be girlbosses (at the end). Read on to find out how she launched, what drives her and what her biggest challenge is.
Glad to chat with you! First, tell us where we can find you online.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Leland gal is a lifestyle line of color and waterside living inspired products.
Leland gal started purely as a creative outlet, and now has turned into a brick and mortar and online business.
The main motivation to make this into more than just a hobby was becoming a mom. After teaching for 12 years, I knew I didn’t want to send my baby to child care, and started to realize that this business was really evolving into something real. It really and truly felt like the stars were aligning for me to make this jump. I was 6 months pregnant, and a seasonal shop opened up in our summer resort town, and after being interviewed against many others, was shocked to learn I had been chosen. I had my son in March of 2013, opened our shanty in May, and resigned from teaching in August. Now, three years later, I have another son and a life that feels much more my own.
What inspires your work and what sets you apart from everyone else?
I have been fortunate to have spent every summer of my life in Leland, Michigan. It is near the Sleeping Beach Lakeshore, and it is a cherished haven for fun, relaxation and an innocence that has been lost in many communities. When I am there, I feel truly alive, and it is that vibrant lifestyle that is the main inspiration. Color and all things waterside living are what inspire my paintings that I convert to graphic design and then fabric to create home decor and fun products for other folks that have this feeling by the water.
What is your background and how did you develop the skills to start your business?
An entrepreneur from birth, I always loved to sell my wares, whether at the end of my driveway, school fundraisers or creating something!
That is definitely a contributing factor to my relentless drive to succeed, but I also spent 12 years as an art educator, mostly outside of Chicago, and then in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When I made the move to Michigan, I was asked to teach graphic design as part of my curriculum, which I did not know how to do… I had always been a painter on the side, and used my paintings as the backdrop to learn graphic design while teaching it, and fell in love with this new medium. I became obsessed with making patterns, and learned that I could have these designed printed on fabric. After making a few Christmas presents that first year, Leland gal was born.
What has been your biggest success to date?
I was just featured in DESIGN HER, a book written by Julianne Taylor (of Taylor Burke Home) featuring the top female entrepreneurs in design. The book comes out in February, and I am still pinching myself to be in the pages among such wonderful inspiring women.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Editing, editing, editing. I have had to learn to be a lot more hard nosed and edit myself, as I could go on forever with ideas, options and colors for my customer. The same goes with not investing too much money into ideas before testing them out.
Describe your typical work day.
Well, it’s anything but traditional, which I love. I have been able to pull a lot of this off during nap times, with family help, and in the early morning before anyone in the house is awake. My shop is only open from May-October, and the rest of the year, we are back in Grand Rapids trying to juggle mom life with business life. Right now, I have a 10 week old, so I am working mainly when one little guy is at school, and the other is sleeping. I typically do all of my painting in the fall, make decisions for fabrics by January, and introduce new prints and products by spring. !
Which small businesses are you inspired by?
I can’t help but be inspired by women who are doing these things while juggling a family. It’s a hustle that is a circus! I love watching Joy from Oh Joy, Emily McCarthy, Julianne Taylor, Katie Kime and more.
If you could go back to the beginning knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Putting my business infrastructure in place to create a stronger beginning foundation would have been great, but I don’t know how I would have been able to predict how things would have gone. I went into this whole situation in such a whirlwind, I didn’t know a lot about fabric quality, textures and care, and had to rely on professional seamstresses expertise. It would have been nice to have had a little more knowledge about these things too.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start her own creative business?
Start NOW. If you start chipping away at something you are passionate about while you are working on something else, you will feel more fulfilled and then might have the chance to make it into something bigger. You will never be able to “take the time” to start, that is not realistic. Plus, pulling it off while doing other things helps sharpen your multi tasking skills, and that is definitely what being a small business owner is all about!