Minneapolis Illustrator, Invitation Designer, + DIYer Blog


Art, Inspiration, and Life. Sharing all the inspires me to create.

Monday Muse: Mercedes Austin

I’m really jazzed about this week’s Monday Muse - Mercedes Austin, Founder and Owner of Mercury Mosaics. Not Familiar with Mercury Mosaics? I’m sure you are, you just might not know it. Mercury Mosaics is a hand made ceramic tile company based in Minneapolis. Been to the Bachelor Farmer Cafe ? You’ve seen Mercury Mosaics. Follow Morgan of Construction 2 Style? Her kitchen backsplash is Mercury Mosaics. Stayed at (or dream of staying at!) Eichler Palms in Palm Springs? Yep. Mercury Mosaics. I could go on. They create art with tile. Truly. And Mercedes is the woman in charge. That’s what I love about my Monday Muse series. I continue to be amazed at the number of women owned/founded businesses that are kicking ass and doing cool things here in MN! Just reading her bio on LinkedIn makes you want to join the team: “Mercedes Austin is the CEO and Chief Mover/Shaker of Mercury Mosaics, a hand-made Minnesota based mosaic tile company. The shop started as a one-woman show and is now thirty humans and two canines strong, telling stories through hand-crafted tile, bringing joy and beauty to spaces all over the world.” I mean who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Create art? Dogs are welcome! Make spaces beautiful? Chief Mover/Shaker? Sounds like a fun time to me. So let’s get to know Mercedes more and see how she grew her company to the 30 strong it is today.

Let's start at the beginning - did you always want to be an artist and is that what you went to school for?

I’ve been an artist all my life, it’s all I know. I did go to some school for it. Did I set out to turn being an artist into an entrepreneur having this deep care of manufacturing? No, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

How did you get started in Tile?

I started in tile when a local mom & pop hired me for pay in tile – taking on a role paid for barter to learn the trade.

And when did you know it was time to venture out on your own? 

I knew it was time to venture out on my own when my ideas to improve their business were not able to come to life – it was time to forge my own path and get some skin in the game. I needed to show myself what it would be like to create something and take a risk in this vision I had for handmade tile. This was 17 years ago. :0)

Your space in NE Mpls is what dreams are made of and I'm sure it's taken blood, sweat, and tears to get here - how did you navigate your growth and know when to add to your team to build what you have today?

This is a very big question! Yes, blood sweat and tears, for sure. To keep it simple, you need to “start where you are”. I cannot emphasize this enough. You navigate growth by having really simple metrics to measure your performance over time and manage by statistics. If I sell $100 in tile per week and to hire a new person I need to sell $200 in tile per week, this is my goal. I work toward it, sustain it (put in some sweat and extra hours while I’m one person) and as I have that consistent $200 in tile per week, I hire the next person. This is put very simply, but I do best with simple. You can stay really busy with little to no results if you do not focus your efforts. I don’t spend time on Facebook and mindlessly surfing the web. *wink – the world is filled with distractions. With each new goal, you work toward it. For example, the goal I’m working toward now: phasing out of day-to-day sales and starting a second factory. You’re always working toward the next goal. The actual answer to this question could be a book.

What has been the biggest hurdle you've had to overcome and how did you do it?

Overcoming myself and the barriers I used to impose on what I could accomplish. I’ve invested my time in self-improvement, education & physical well-being, aggressively, over the last 15 years. Each year I reflect on the next thing I can do to get out of my own way and build this into a better company that will employ and take care of its people and its clients, impacting what is possible with great design accomplished in handmade tile and mosaic patterns.

What's your favorite project to date and why?

I have too many favorites, it’s true. My current favorite is a project I gifted myself and our studio-recently. In getting our space, I committed to investing in personalizing the space with our tile. Recently we commissioned Adam Turman to illustrate a great quote in the backdrop: “Make Something Together” – it’s significant because, indeed, with everything we do at Mercury Mosaics – we’re making something together. We’re bringing back products made with passion, integrity & the care of craftspeople in the US.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Invest in your imagination and keep dreaming, there are no limits.

Rapid Fire:

  • Early Riser or Burn the midnight oil: Burn the midnight oil

  • Coffee or Tea: Coffee

  • Three words to describe you: Dreamer + Dedicated + Creative

  • Go to restaurant: French Meadow

  • Favorite way to unwind/relax: get into Pjs and recline & read

Thanks again Mercedes! You can check out all the great tile designs Mercedes and her team create at www.mercurymosaics.com

Monday Muse: Lani Basa

When I met Lani at Modern Well to interview her, it was like meeting a long lost friend. Not only was she warm and welcoming, but we both quickly learned we had spent the better part of our careers navigating the corporate side of Target. And, had probably crossed paths a time or two! Minneapolis is a small world like that. Lani is everything I expected and more. She’s driven by the desire to build up and support women. She gets her kicks out of learning what your goals are so she can help you achieve them. And she’ll give you the tools to make sure you do. This is the kind of culture she’s built in her consulting business as well as with The BWC. Read on to learn more about Lani and all the she does.

Let’s start at the beginning - What did you study in school and how did you get started in your career?

I studied Advertising/Marketing and after graduation was offered a job in NYC with McCann-Erickson but at the last minute decided to turn it down and stay in MN and see what I could find here. When I went in to interview at Dayton's Ridgedale they actually asked if I wanted to interview for the Management Training program instead. I said no as I had not planned to stay in retail. 6 months later I ended up joining that Management Training class I was offered to interview for. After a few years in Store Management - I joined the Stores Training Team for Marshall Field's, ended up managing it and then started the HR Training Team for all of the corporation before becoming the first Director for OE at Target. I moved around a lot within Training, got to create a few of my own roles, and realized I was truly happy as an entrepreneur. Which was something Target couldn’t give me and I knew it was time to move on.

How did you end up co-founding the BWC?

When I realized I wasn’t happy in my job at Target, I reached out to one of my mentors to get her advice. I was planning on starting my own consulting business and I wanted her to help mentor me and I could be her apprentice. She basically told me “you don’t need me”, you’ve got this. Then she called me back the next day and asked if I was really serious about starting my own company, because she had an idea. That idea was the BWC and she wanted me to do it with her. When we started out, I focused on all the operations pieces (content, format, memberships, etc) and spent my time getting the circles set up. Three years ago I bought her out and now own the business.

Tell us what the BWC is.

The Business Women’s Circle is a collective of women in business who come together to talk Business, Leadership, and Life (our three circles). Being a member of the BWC holds you accountable to your goals. It gives you a space to connect, learn, mentor, share, and grow. The BWC is made up of circles of 10-12 women from non competing industries who meet monthly for 10 months out of the year. The focus of these meetings is on business and personal development. A typical meeting involves group problem solving for a particular business challenge and a learning topic that that circle has agreed is what they want to learn.

What do you think makes the BWC so special (member engagement is high!)

I think it’s a combination of things. I meet with everyone interested in joining to make sure it’s a fit and they know what they are signing up for. They need to be open to learning, vulnerable, looking for growth. I have an amazing facilitator team that provides great structure and support while that pushing their circles to foster growth and development. And finally, I think by bringing women together, they can share and grow together. That support goes beyond the circle and into everyday life.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t care so much what others think

Rapid Fire Questions:

  • AM or PM person: AM

  • Introvert or extrovert: Introvert

  • Three words to describe you: Problem solver, empathetic, open

  • I feel empowered when: I am accepted for who I am

  • Current Favorite restaurant in Mpls: Young Joni

  • Favorite Quote: “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you Lani for taking the time to share your journey and the BCW with us. You can find our more about the BWC on their website.

Monday Muse: Anne Sage

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a new Monday Muse. Life got busy. In the best possible way with some fun new projects. We’re back at it today and I’m so excited to share with you Anne Sage. I’ve followed Anne for almost 10 years! It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. She was an original Muse Monday for me way back when I was making cards and actually blogging on the regular. You can see that post here. A lot has changed since then. Anne has moved from San Francisco to LA. She’s written a book, opened a creative space, continues to provide styling and art direction, and has recently moved into doing interior design. With all the hats Anne wears, it’s a wonder how she finds time to do anything else. But she does. If you follow her on IG, you know she’s avid about her workouts (mainly SoulCycle and Studio MDR), loves to brunch, goes to Palm Springs on the regular, and very soon will be a new mom (Congrats again Anne!). Read on to learn more about Anne.

Let's start at the beginning - what did you want to be when you grew up? Is that what you studied in school?

When I was 8 years old I declared I wanted to be an author! I even started a nature club with my friends just so I could write the club newsletter. So I guess you could say that writing, reporting, and storytelling has always been my passion! As I grew older, I got really into decor, cooking, and other lifestyle pursuits—all things that I did with my mom for fun. I went to school for English and then did a short stint at interior design school before dropping out to work at a small branding agency. At that job, I loved seeing how informed strategy and thoughtful design could come together to tell brand stories; it definitely was a foundational learning experience for me! Around the same time, I started my blog in order to have a creative outlet that was just my own. That was in 2008, and the rest is, as they say, history!

Shortly after I discovered you, you started Rue Magazine - tell us what that was like to co-found a digital lifestyle magazine. What were some of the hurdles you had to overcome to bring it to life? Had you done anything like that before?

The biggest hurdle was exactly that, actually: I’d never done anything like that before…and frankly no one else had either! It was fun and exhilarating to be a pioneer in the industry but definitely also stressful. A lot of the time we were flying by the seat of our pants, unsure if what we were doing even had legs beyond the next issue! I definitely jumped in feet first without thinking about the business side of things, and after two years chose to step back because the drain on my resources (emotional and otherwise) was unsustainable. I wouldn’t change a thing, though, because the skills and relationships I built during that time have proven priceless over the years. I mean, I met my husband Ivan as a result of Rue!

Your career has evolved a lot over the years - Co-Founding Light Lab, writing a book, offering interior design services, co-founding influencd - was the plan intentional or did things fall into place? How did you each of these come together?

There’s definitely no plan, haha! That largely has to do with the nature of the industry itself; social media as a career didn’t even exist when I started my blog in 2008. It’s impossible to predict where it will go next, so part of the challenge and joy of being a creative entrepreneur is a willingness to live in uncertainty for what’s next. I’ve always just followed what interests me, and what feels most right in my heart, and it’s served me well til this point. I’m currently pregnant, and I have a feeling that motherhood will bring a big shift in my career too—but I can’t predict how. You’ll find out when I do, ha!

Where do you look for inspiration?

Travel is definitely a huge source of inspiration for me, and I don’t even mean huge international trips to exotic locales. Even a morning exploring a favorite neighborhood in LA fills me with ideas—there’s something about getting out of my own element that gets my creative juices flowing.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell her that there are no mistakes, only learning experiences. I definitely have spent a lot of time feeling guilt and regret for things I did in my wayward youth, but the truth is that I’m really proud of the woman I’ve become today—and I wouldn’t have reached this destination if I hadn’t walked my own unique path. As my favorite Soulcycle instructor says, “We don’t stand in our past like mud, we stand on top of it like a mountain.” I love that image so much!

Rapid Fire Questions:

  • Coffee or tea: Coffee! I’ve tried giving it up so many times and it never sticks. I just adore the stuff so much.

  • Cardio Junkie or Zen Master: Cardio all the way! If I don’t throw up into my mouth at least once during the workout, then why bother?

  • AM Warrior or Burn the Midnight Oil: AM Warrior: I’ve always been an early bird! The predawn hours are the best for getting stuff done, and you get to feel self-righteous and morally superior for being up before everyone else.

  • 3 Favorite IG accounts right now: Oooh this is a tough one! Off the top of my head I’ll say @hennasig_ for gorgeous Scandi styling inspo, @saltandlavender for the indulgent comfort food recipes I’ve been craving since becoming pregnant, and @mouthbreather__ for a guaranteed belly laugh.

  • Leopard (or animal) Print is a neutral: YES! Leopard print is the ULTIMATE neutral. It truly does go with everything!

  • Next place you're traveling to for fun: No purely fun trips in the books right now, but we are looking into whether a baby moon is in the cards for us. And in the meantime, I’m headed to North Carolina for High Point Market in October, that’s for work but it’s always a blast too!

Thanks Anne! To follow along with all Anne does, you can find her on her blog, lightlab, and instagram.

Monday Muse: Rachel Seifert

Raise your hand if you’re glad it’s Fall. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE summer. But Fall. Fall is my season. Crisp days and cool nights. Routines that are back in place and schedules that are kept. It’s like a refresh. And what better way to kick of the fall season than a new Monday Muse? This week’s Monday Muse is Rachel Seifert of Rachabella Photography and The Merry Hour. I met Rachel at the very first Merry Hour event over 2 years ago. I had recently left my corporate job and wasn’t 100% sure what was next for me. So I took a leap of faith, did something completely out of my comfort zone, and I showed up to the Merry Hour Event. Rachel was taking head shots in between hosting the event and getting to know all the amazing women they had brought together. Rachel’s energy and passion for lifting others up is evident from the minute you meet her. She’s a connector and she thrives on helping others succeed. She’s not afraid of the struggles that come with running your own business. She tells it like it is and shares the good, bad, and ugly. So grab a cup of coffee and a donut and read on to get to know Rachel.

Let's start at the beginning - what did you want to be when you were younger and what did you study in school? Was photography always the goal?

I never wanted to be one thing when I grew up. I loved shoes. I was a gymnast who dreamt of the olympics. I loved art. I was always moving. I started college as a phycology major and quickly changed my focus to art. I focused on Graphic Design, Spanish, and of course Photography!

How did you start your business? Was it a side hustle at first or did you dive right in full time? How did you build up your portfolio and clientele?

I was always the one with a camera. First rocking the disposable cameras, the family video camera and then my dads 35mm film camera. I always enjoyed looking through old photos of my family and found my true love in the dark room developing black and white film through high school. It continued to be my side hustle while in college. My younger sister and family members were my photography muses. I photographed an intimate wedding in the summer of 2011 and it launched me into my future dreams of photographing full time. After 5 years of jumping from job to job-- corporate jobs to sales to special education assisting in the schools-- I took the leap 3.5 years ago and haven’t looked back since.

What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

CONNECT. Reach out to people. Ask questions and challenge yourself. Create, create, create. Failure is inevitable, but its the learning from the failure that will keep your business going. Trust that everyone had to start somewhere and that people are there to help and support you.

You're also the co-founder of the merry hour. You and Sara have created an amazing community with these events. How did the two of you come together on this and what are your future goals for it as it wraps up its 2nd year?

We met over the beautiful inter webs as Sara and I co-designed a dear friends book. We were thousands of miles apart and over email and some IG DM's she created the beautiful print graphics and I the photographs. It was pure destiny because we both didn't realize how badly we needed someone like each other in our lives. We wanted to feel a part of a community of other makers, creators, dreamers and doers and so out of selfishness we brought women together and made just that. As we approach the end of our 2nd year and almost 13 events later it has been incredible for us to reflect on how many women lives we have impacted by creating the Merry Hour and how much we have ahead for this community. Our goal is to keep reaching women and bringing them together in a space that they always feel welcome, can be their honest selves and can celebrate everything that they are up to.

You're a beacon of inspiration - challenging others to follow their dreams and not afraid of showing the struggles along the way to get there - what keeps you going at the end of the day? What brings you back for more?

I love adventure and I love connecting with people. My job has allowed me too do both and connect the two in ways that I never imagined. Working for myself and building a business off of my creative talents has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience of my life. There is power in acknowledging the good and the bad. Because running a business sure has thrown some major curveballs, but what really keeps me going at the end of the day is the fact that I get to serve so many incredible people in some of the most important and memorable days of their lives. Honesty is key and by keeping things real we can relate and can connect on a much deeper level. Also, knowing that because I work hard I get to create and experience more, adventure often and support my family is pretty badass. AND my family. My main motivator in all that I do. The reason I will keep pursuing what I love is so that I can in turn teach and lead as example for my son and those around me.

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be? Would you change anything?

I would say worry less, you are a badass and you can do it, wayyyy more often. I wouldn't change a thing. I am a firm believer in learning from all experiences in life. Everything that I have done has made me into the woman, mama, wife, friend, creative, business owner, teacher and daughter that I am today--failures, accomplishments and all.

Rapid Fire:

  • Morning bird or night owl Neither. But good coffee gets me out of bed!

  • Mountains or beach vacation: Mountains. Always.

  • Favorite venue to photograph at: Paikka

  • Favorite donut: Good ole fashion cake donut with sprinkles

  • Go with the flow or control freak: Go with the flow

  • You've got one free hour to spend anyway you want - what do you do? Slow morning with coffee in the mountains with my husband Gary and son Griffin

Thanks for sharing your journey with us Rachel! You can find Rachel on Instagram at @rachabellaphotography and @themerryhour. And check out her website here.

Monday Muse: Heather Fox

Do you ever see someone on IG or TV and think “we’d be friends in real life” ? That’s how I feel about Heather. This week’s Monday Muse. I don’t know Heather all that well (we met ever so briefly at an event and we follow each other on Instagram - so that immediately makes us friends right? ) but she’s a girl I want to have in my inner circle. She has this energy about her that pulls you in. She loves life and lives it to the fullest. She has killer style (can we talk about all the colored pom earrings she has!!!) in both fashion and home design. Her home away from home is in Palm Springs (also one of my favorite places ever!) and you can rent it out for your next stay there. She loves to DIY and renovate homes, which is how she and her husband started their company - Fox Homes. And to top it off, she’s got a new show- Stay or Sell - premiering tomorrow night (Tuesday, August 27 8pm CST) on HGTV! Yep. You read that right. Heather and her husband, Brad, are going to be on HGTV. So without further adieu- let’s get to know more about Heather!

Let's start at the beginning. What did you want to be when you grew up and what did you go to school for?

I grew up on a small hobby farm in NW MN and as a little girl, I could only imagine working with horses. As I got older, I realized I had other passions and went to school for business knowing I wanted to start my own business someday. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and hoped that I could follow in their footsteps, but I was lost on what my business would be.. something creative. I saw the hard work that went into owning a small business, but also the freedom that can come along with it and the feeling of building something that yours. My parents worked hard and had struggles, but also built everything they had!

Can you share your career journey?How did you get started in real estate? Did the renovating/designing part come naturally?

Real Estate fell into my lap about 15 years ago to be honest. It wasn't my expected career. I was offered a job as a sales person with a local builder and decided to give it a try. I fell in love with helping people build and design their dream homes. I'd always had an interest in home design, but that job gave me SO much knowledge and grew my passion for all things home! I found my perfect mix of helping people and being in a creative career!

My husband was intrigued and started in the real estate industry just a few months after I did. During that time we decided to flip our first home. We had no idea what we were doing and no money to do it, but we went for it and it worked! We literally pushed bills out to the last minute they had to be paid and lived on Mac and cheese to make it happen.

After we had our first son, I decided to join Brad in what is now "Fox Homes". It was a leap of faith to leave my well paying corporate job to be a fully self employed, small business owning couple, but I craved more time with my baby and was lucky enough to make it happen. I was able to work 3 days a week while my kids were small and I will forever be SO grateful for that time.

Over the past 10 years it's been an evolution from just Real Estate (helping buyers and sellers) to a design firm to a full scale construction company. We now have the most amazing team of agents, designers and contractors. It's been slow, hard process to get them all to thriving, but here we are! We now (along with our team) specialize in helping people find fixer upper homes and turn them into their dreams homes- we're a one stop shop.

Fox Homes is a large team! How did you know when to add to your team and did you have any growing pains as you got bigger?

This is always a tough one for me! I'm a "heart" thinker and decision maker. I do everything with heart and just hope I make the right decisions. Luckily, my better half uses spreadsheets and numbers to help ground me. We always joke that I'm writing in a glittery rainbow notebook with stickers while he's using excel and true data. Despite my head in the clouds, we're SO stinking lucky to have the best team ever. We have the greatest crew of creative people who are humble, smart, funny and just completely wonderful. We've said no to some people of course and had to let go of a few over the years, but overall, we've been SUPER lucky! We're like a little family. We hang out, travel together and celebrate each other daily.

You've got a new show on HGTV: Stay or Sell (CONGRATS!) - can you share what that's been like? how did it all come to be?

Thank you! It's been the wildest ride! It all started with a phone call 3 years ago that we thought was a joke. It turns out it wasn't a joke and here we are with a TV show about to air. We never took the prospect of it too seriously and were always waiting for a door to close. I'm so grateful for where we are and humbled by the process.

We never really thought of TV as a career path, so had NO idea how hard it would be. After our pilot that aired last summer got good enough reviews, they picked up a full season that we shot from November 2018-July 2019. It was so fun, but much harder than I thought it would be. Everything is real. We are doing 100% of the work- finding the houses, full design, full renovation... all while filming 40+ hours a week and trying to run 3 businesses and raise our family. Phew! Luckily, we've had a lot of fun and created some truly incredible homes for people. And one of my favorite things was incorporating so many incredible local artisans and artists! And of course, we got to show off MN!!

We were lucky enough to do this while we had a functioning business and people to help us run it. And we have an amazing nanny and both grandma's helping often. We could never have accomplished what we have without them. And I wouldn't have wanted to do any of it while my kids were babies/toddlers, so the timing was somehow perfect.

What's the easiest remodeling trick you can share that gives you the most bang for your buck?

Paint! Paint is the least expensive and most transformative trick ever! It takes work (or you can hire someone too!), but it will be worth it! Are you disliking a space? PAINT IT! I promise it will feel new and fresh. The hardest part is choosing the right color. We can help with that though!

What's the best advice you've ever received?

That is a great question! I can think of so many!! But... the one that stands out the most is something my mom always used to say (and still does!) "Kill them with kindness- whatever the situation". If I was 12 years old and fighting with a friend or 32 and not getting along with a client. It's not always easy, but I try my hardest to smile and choose kindness. Of course, I'm happy to speak my mind when needed, but in minor disagreements or rude people I encounter, I try my hardest to choose happy. I rarely leave a situation feeling regretful for what I've said or how I've acted. So, if someone is rude to you today instead of rolling your eyes, try telling them to have an amazing day.

What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now? And what would you tell your younger self?

I wish I would've understood that some people just won't like me and there is nothing I can do about it. Everyone can't like everyone else! Maybe the reason for not liking someone is that they smile too much, which could also be the reason that 100 other people love you. I'm still working on this one and might be forever, but I wish I would've spent less time caring about other people's opinions of me! It seems people think that because you're on TV that you're open to public criticism, so it's an ongoing and ever changing battle for me.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • Early bird or night owl- Is it possible to be both? I'm part insomniac

  • Control freak or go with flow- 100% go with the flow

  • Design Style- I'm organic modern with a good dose of color.

  • Beach or Mountain get away- Can I choose desert with a Mountain View? Pool is a must.

  • Favorite room to design/style- Kitchens!!

  • Go to paint color- Paper white by Benjamin Moore

Thank you Heather for sharing your journey with us! Tune in to watch their new show Stay or Sell on HGTV.

Monday Muse: Carin Skowronsky

Are you a wine Lover? Always on the hunt for the next great wine experience? Or are you a newbie to wine and looking to learn more about it? This week’s Monday Muse is your gal! It’s Carin Skowronsky of Pairs Well With. She’s a food and wine pairing educator who’s taking her passion for travel and wine and making a career out of it. Carin is a bundle of positive energy and she brings all the passion and excitement to her events. If you’ve ever been to one of Carin’s events, you know what I’m talking about. She brings you along on an educational journey and shares in all your discoveries like they are her own. She’s knowledgeable but accessible, never lecturing or telling you what you should taste or like. She wants to share in your experience and make it enjoyable. So grab a cup of joe (or glass of wine, i mean it’s noon somewhere right?) and let’s get to know more about Carin.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Ummm....everything. First and foremost, I wanted to be a performer. Either a dancer, singer or actress. There was a brief stint where I wanted be to a magician too. I'm someone who still seeks out or creates magic in her everyday life.

What did you study in school?

I was a double major in Marketing and Merchandising. I'm fascinated by marketing and how an individual or company presents itself to the general consumer. I consider myself a creative business strategist, specifically with small and emerging brands and other entrepreneurs. My mind pretty much never shuts off. There are always ideas flowing. I find that to be a good thing.

You were a corporate girl - how did you get into wine?

My story of wine came about through travel. It all started when I took my sister on a birthday trip to Napa and Sonoma. That was my first wine trip and it was great. Then came Italy, France, Portugal....the list goes on and I've now been to over ten of the world's most notable wine regions and even some undiscovered ones, too. There's so much to learn, and I'm such a curious person. Each wine, vineyard, region and winemaker has a different story. You really feel lucky to be part of these works of art in a bottle. When did you know it was the right time to leave your job to start a new career? There was a point in my career where I was no longer inspired and, in fact, I was miserable. That's just not who I am. I needed to find passion again in my everyday life, so I walked into my job one day ( with no planning ahead), resigned, went and traveled the world for a year, did more wine study and really reengaged with The Universe in the biggest way possible. And now here I am, thriving everyday. Sometimes you really just need to trust yourself and take that leap.

Walk us through your day - I'm sure everyone is different - but what's the most common look like?

Each day starts with some sort of goodness: a short mediation, a feel good podcast or a walk to set intentions for the day. While most people think I'm in wine full time, I have a day job that I love as much as I do working in the wine world. I sell a fitness brand called SPENGA and am on sales calls during standard working hours talking to people with the most fascinating stories who are ready to move into business ownership. My evenings are usually filled with client wine meetings, blind taste study or wine dinners. There's usually some sort of wine work most nights, and sometimes it's a glass of the best bottle of whatever I've got in the house.

You get to travel a lot - what's been your favorite trip so far and why?

I've been to 34 countries now, 6 continents and quite a few states. I've seen a lot and have experienced a lot and I'm more than grateful for all of it. While it might sound lame, each piece of this travel fuels my soul in a different sort of way. I've gathered a lot of perspective from each step of my journey and let it shape me who I am today. I am ever evolving through my experiences and that, to me, is what it is all about. What advice would you give to someone looking to make a big career change? I would say if it's something you keep coming back to, keep thinking about, can't let go of, GO GET IT. You're always way more capable than you know, and when you pull the rug out from yourself, you're forced to think more creatively and even differently, putting you into a new space. I'm a big risk, big reward girl - in every aspect of my life. Lastly, you don't get a refund on the time you've spent waiting around contemplating. Seize that day, dream big and go get 'em!

What's the best advice you've gotten?

Easily stated, I'm a very driven person. My Dad always reminded me, "If you're always focused on getting to the top, you're not focused on enjoying where you are in the moment. You can't do both, and there's plenty of time to reach the top."

What would you tell your younger self?

Don't waste time and energy on people who don't want to invest in you as equally as you do them. You've got a life to be living, stop worrying about everyone else and do you.

Rapid Fire

  • Early riser or night owl: Early riser

  • Go to wine: Malbec

  • Planner or go with the flow kind of gal: Planner

  • Favorite wine region to visit: Mendoza (Argentina) or Maipo Valley (Chile)

  • Three words to describe you: Adventurous, creative and sensitive

  • If you could try ANY wine - what would it be? Gosh, anything I couldn't get my hands on day to day. Probably, something a few decades old or that's been in someone's cellar for years that I couldn't come close to affording. (Ha ha.)

Thanks Carin for sharing your journey with us! If you want to check out any of Carin’s events or have her host an event for you or your business, check her out on her website , instagram or facebook

Monday Muse: Katie Kath

Another Monday is here and and what better way to start than with a Monday Muse? This week’s muse is Katie Kath of Jkath Design Build + Reinvent. I’ve followed Jkath on instagram for awhile, but little did I know Katie and I have met before! It wasn’t until we were both at an event together and we were introduced. We were both convinced we knew each other, but could not for the life of us figure out how. Fast forward a week later when I reached out to her for this interview, having done a bit of research on her and Jkath, did I discover how we knew each other. We used to both sell Stella and Dot and she owned Spill the Wine (where we would have our Team Meetings and one of our favorite wine bars back in the day). It’s such a small world and fascinating to see where our lives take us. I knew back then Katie was a force to be reckoned with, but after doing this interview with her, I’m even more impressed. Katie gets stuff done. She is a true girlboss. She sets goals and crushes them. Read on to learn more about Katie and Jkath.

Let's start at the beginning. What did you want to be when you grew up and what did you go to school for? Did you always have an interest in design?

I had many career ideas, but always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was enrolled in the Institute of Technology at the U of M, with a focus on engineering. Later moved to pre-law, eventually starting my own business upon graduation. In the end, I had a creative yearning that needed to be addressed. I was most happy buried in a cookbook, getting lost in a yarn store, dreaming up projects for the sewing machine. None of which I’ve mastered, but the endless opportunities to challenge myself and evolve creatively keeps me coming back for more. After a few failed start ups, I eventually opened a restaurant. It was an industry I knew, and I knew it well. Creating a profitable bottom line was no sweat, it allowed me to also tap into creative resources to drive traffic and revenues .. particularly in the dead of winter in Minnesota. I wore many hats in this career, and marketing/branding was the most fun hat to wear. Honing in on our target market, spending habits, frequency of visits, how to reach them (insert digital marketing!), and once they arrived how do we impress with the ambiance? What creative and unique ways are we different, what is our niche strategy, what memorable details are we leaving behind. I quickly learned this was no small task and not one I could take on and easily manage while also running the operations of the restaurant. We did our best, and after 8 solid years, many restless nights, a career change was in order.

Can you share your career journey? You've experienced a few different paths, how did they lead you to where you are today?

( .. taking off from the above question) I sold my restaurant and started over with a clean slate. I knew what I was passionate about, what skill sets I used in my previous career that I wanted to take with me:

1) Digital marketing/content to reach an audience- this is much more involved than a singular post in IG. It’s establishing a voice, rhythm, community, and building trust with a wider audience.

2) I also knew how to run a business, staffing, retention, branding, leadership to name a few .. so working for a larger company where I couldn't’ tap into what I enjoyed doing wasn’t going to be a fit.

It turned out my next move was already waiting for me, my significant other at the time had a remodeling business and a cabinet shop. He was managing 1 project at a time, wasn’t documenting his work or end results and was relying on the clients to make all their own selections. We didn’t love the idea of working together, we were also both single parents with full custody of our kids living in 2 separate households, this venture felt too risky. ONE of us should seek the corporate job with securities we often told one another. One small experimental project led to another, and another, and before we knew it we were working nights and weekends on the kitchen island together, CREATING beautiful spaces for our clients. I found this renewed energy safe and exciting all at the same time. Where I may have lacked in formal design language or etiquette, I showed up with an understanding of margins. I found immediate success in helping clients cut back when needed, and knowing when to splurge and where those splurges should be, some of this is innate, some is learned, and the rest is intuition.

Being an entrepreneur - what do you love most about it? Least?

I love the creative outlet, and this isn’t just the arts and craft of what we do, it’s the ability to solve problems, see immediate rewards, take action, results oriented. I also love the creative space of making spaces beautiful again. Least? It’s really challenging setting your own boundaries. I am not tied to an hourly rate/40 hour work week, so knowing when to turn it off can be really difficult. I also enjoy what I do, so it can often be a choice to work on client projects when I should otherwise take a break.

What does a typical day in the life look like for you?

Along with being an entrepreneur, comes the flexibility to write your own schedule. I almost always get up early, 5/5:30am, on purpose, lol! Cup of hot coffee, little bit of cream, no sugar .. and off to the lightrail (summer or winter) to catch a train to downtown Minneapolis for my morning workout at FlyFeet. This isn’t a daily routine, but several times a week. If I am not off and running, I am still finding time for myself first thing in the morning. Rarely do I do client work or early morning meetings. From there it’s go go go for 4-6 hours, I am pretty good about calling it quits mid afternoon to reengage with our kids. This may involve driving someone somewhere, meal prepping for dinner, working on a puzzle, sometimes a quiet moment to read. We opened an office in Highland Park, earlier this year, and since we’ve done this I rarely work after hours from home. An occasional urgent email or prep for a client meeting may take up some evening hours. If possible I am paging through cookbooks planning out our families next meal, scouring Pinterest making plans for our next vacation - things to do and see, may pick up a set of knitting needles or go for a walk with Jesse and our new puppy.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

What other people think of you, is none of your business. Stepping through this door and reminding myself we all have our past experiences that have created the people we are today. Often, the judgement of others truly has to do with their own experiences, and nothing you have said or done. It’s a solid reminder to be yourself, go out into the world putting out what it needs from you, finding happiness and CALM along the way.

What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now? And what would you tell your younger self?

It took me awhile to surround myself with supportive people, I think I was always trying to prove myself early on. That I got this, I can do it .. I am an overachiever and often seeking perfection. It was never enough. I also wasn’t surrounded by the right people to acknowledge this, to support me, encourage me, tell me that I am enough .. all the messages I constantly share with my children now because I didn’t have this as a young woman. Once I experienced these messages and could feel it from the people around me, my life changed. It gave me permission to make mistakes, permission to fall short occasionally, learn from my failures, and realize that I am stronger today because of those lessons. I can also very easily set boundaries professionally and personally. And this has been a huge key to my success, knowing when to say no, or push back, as well as say yes and make a new connection .. I would tell my younger self to figure this piece of life out sooner. I may have lost some relationships along the way, and possibly hung onto to others too long as a result.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • Early Bird or Night Owl: 100% early bird.

  • Caffeine ASAP or nah, I'm naturally full of energy: Caffeine ASAP

  • Go to wine: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

  • Three instagram accounts that inspire you: @clumsy.words, @theprettycities, @humphreymunson

  • City Slicker or County lover: City Slicker

  • Favorite room to design: Mudroom, I love the practicality of it.

Thanks so much Katie for sharing your story. Check on Katie and all the Jkath projects on instagram or their website.

Erin O'LearyComment
Monday Muse: Morgan Molitor

Meet Morgan Molitor. This week’s Monday Muse. She’s the style half of Construction 2 Style, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a tool box. Morgan is a girl after my own heart. She’s passionate about all things design, but isn’t afraid to dig in and do it herself. She’s a true DIYer along with her husband Jamie. In addition to tackling home improvement projects, she writes for a number of publications, holds workshops on how to get started with blogging, social media, etc, just recently launched e-courses to help grow your business, speaks on panels are various conferences and networking events, the list goes on and on. Morgan LOVES to be busy and truly loves meeting new people and helping them. She’s also a big proponent of community of competition (which I LOVE). So with out further adieu, let’s meet Morgan!

What did you want to be when you grew up and why? What did you end up going to school for?

Hairdresser, art teacher, fashion designer, coffee shop & boutique owner, server, business owner, and ultimately got my degree in fashion merchandising and marketing. To be honest, even when I got my degrees, I wasn't quite sure what my path would be. I just knew I thrived on creativity. Eventually my goal was to set displays for home magazines.

Can you share with us your journey to construction2style. I understand that isn’t the career path you originally had set out for yourself?

Although I never set displays for home magazines I spent years working the corporate gig creating planograms and setting displays for big box retailers such as Target and Walmart and fashion trade shows such as FAME and MAGIC.

I went to school in Long Beach, CA and after working in the fashion district for a handful of years, my dad died unexpectedly and I decided it was time to be closer to family. So I packed my bags and moved to the largest city in my hometown state, Minneapolis. I'm originally from a very small town up north called, Roseau. Quickly after I moved home to MN, I hit up the dance floor at the Wild Onion on Grand and met my man, Jamie. Fast forward to him buying his first investment property, while we were dating, and me telling him we should start this thing called a blog. And at that moment construction2style was born. Hardly knowing Jamie at the time I was blown away by his talents and wanted to document it all for him. Slowly but surely as he updated the house, I would document what he was doing which in turn led to DIY tutorials. Never would have I thought in a million years it would eventually lead us to the life we're living right now!

When you began blogging, how long before you knew you could make it a business? What steps did you take to get it off the ground and generate income for you?

Yet, again, I had no idea what I was doing when we started c2s. ha! I built the website on my own after a full year of watching how-to build a website YouTube videos. And had no idea that you could actually make a business from blogging until we got our first inquiry from a brand asking if they could do a sponsored post. Jamie went to school for carpentry so he knew he always wanted to be in the home improvement field. But what he probably didn't expect to be his career path was creating DIY content nonstop. He always envisioned that he'd be this big builder rolling the the good 'ol boys. But I put a kink in that plan. ha!

c2s started off as a DIY home improvement blog that eventually led into a full design + build interior residential remodeling company. People started reaching out to see if we could make a table for them or re-do their fireplace or finish their basement. So after we got married Jamie took the leap, got his contractors license, quit his job and dove in. I kept working my full time merchandising job and then once our blog was up and running I was so fascinated by this whole blog and social media thing that I made a career shift to a digital marketing agency and ran their social media department. I worked there up until our second son, Beckam, was born. I realized I just couldn't do it all...run two full time jobs, be a mom of two, and a present wife. Something had to give. So in 2017, I took the leap to be full time right alongside Jamie at c2s.

What advice would you give to someone starting in the blogging/influencer space?

Write, write, write, write and then write some more! Creating content regularly is key. Which can also be very time consuming! But if you're not creating content regularly, as in 3-4 posts per week, your page-views will never increase which means you'll never be able to pitch brands and make an actually money-making business out of it.

But also, don't give up! Page-views take awhile to reach the goal you need to be at, but if you're creating content on a regular basis, you'll get there. It just won't happen overnight. Nothing happens overnight. All good things take time, right?

You’ve had a ton of success with your business - can you share something that didn’t go well or failed and what did you learn from it?

Ohhh you are so kind. There have been a lot of mistakes in our business, for sure. And we've learned a ton over the years. We're still learning every day with every new project and client we face. And I'm always thinking up these crazy new ideas and not all of them work out. But that's ok, at least I tried. The thing I tell myself though when embarking on a new idea is that I have to commit to it for at least 1 full year before I can say, ok, you can be done now. Otherwise, how do you know it really didn't work?

I honestly can't think of any failures because even when things haven't worked out, we've learned so hard and fast from it and it's just made our business better, which is a win in my eyes! But if I had to think of a constant learning experience it would be - cash flow. Running your own business and being financially independent is stressful and cashflow is a constant juggle. For a long time we didn't know our worth and we danced around money with clients. We cringed at having the estimate conversation and explaining to them why what is what. And then if there was something in the project that was out of scope, we'd just do it and not charge them. Because it wasn't worth the time or energy to explain why it was out of scope to our clients and why it's costing x amount. Now because we've learned that we are worth more than that, and are confident in that, we just say it like it is and also don't even explain things. They can take it or leave it. We're not going to sit and convince them why they should have this or that and/or work with us. We're not a non-profit and we're done working for free.

How did you know when it was time to grow your team? Did you plan for it? What was the hiring process like? Do you plan to keep growing?

We never knew that we'd one day have a team, still scares us half to death at times. We have two full time employees and both of them found us through Instagram and asked if we were hiring. They started part time, maybe working 10 hours a week and quickly moved to full time. Each time we just made the jump and figured it out financially as we went. And we all have worked harder and smarter together and doubled our companies profits within the first year they went full time. Best decision we ever made! And we can't wait to keep growing our team. If you asked Jordan what our hiring process was like she'd say... Well, Morgan was 2 hours late to the interview because she was getting her lashes done and it was her first time so had no idea that it took so long and couldn't open her eyes to text me. And... within 5 meetings of meeting her I asked if she could help me setup an event that day. She was hired after that! The hiring process with Topher was pretty similar. So I guess you could say, we don't have a process. I can tell if I like a person within the first 5 minutes of meeting them. And I don't care what your background is, as long as you're a good, genuine person, thrive on creativity and working your ass off, and want to be here- we want that kind of person on our team. Because we can train the rest.

What would you tell your younger self?

Know your worth. No-one needs to know or be convinced of your why but you. Read more books early on. Avoid people who don't fill your cup. Don't stress over the small things, because it's all small thing- learn fast and move on! You'll be terrified of public speaking in college and will avoid it at all costs- knock it off and practice more of it! Do everything that scares the crap out of you. Spend more time with your parents because soon you'll loose your dad way too young.

Rapid Fire Questions:

  • Early bird or night owl: Both, I don't sleep.

  • Control freak or go with flow Go with the flow 100%

  • 3 Instagram accounts that give you life @beginninginthemiddle, @standtoserve, @ashleyklemieux

  • City slicker or country lover ....Bah, that's hard. If it weren't for family I'd totally be a city slicker. I grew up small town and now married a man who will never leave the country. So the country is where home is.

  • Favorite room to design/style Bathrooms!

  • Go to paint color Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore

Thanks Morgan for sharing your journey and being a part of the Monday Muse series. You can find Morgan on their blog, instagram, and pinterest.

Monday Muse: Elizabeth Ries

It’s Monday and you know what that means… MONDAY MUSE time! This week’s Muse is none other than the wonderful Elizabeth Ries, Co-host of Twin Cities Live and the Podcast Best to the Nest. Every day she openly shares her life on TCL and yes, she is that funny and quick witted. When you meet Elizabeth in person, she gives you 100% of her attention. She really wants to talk to you. Listen to you. Learn more about you. And she does it all without you even realizing you just spilled your guts out to her. She makes you feel like you’ve known each other for years and are just catching up after not seeing each other in a while. Besides her work on TV and Radio, she’s married, has 2 kids, 3 chickens, loves to grow and cook her own food, ride her bike to work (hopefully without crashing!), attend a multitude of events each week, and is also in the process of having her kitchen redone. Whew! I don’t know how she does it all and still stays so positive. Let’s learn more about Elizabeth!

Let's start at the beginning - what did you want to be when you grew up and why? 

I wanted to work in television from the time I was 13. I loved the idea of live TV and getting to connect with people and share stories. 

 What inspired you to go into journalism? 

I remember having a sort of lightbulb or a-ha moment when I was 13 — I was watching a newscast on TV and what a dear friend of mine calls “the still small voice” said, “I can do that.” It was this gut feeling. I listened and followed it. Along the journey, I kept meeting women who were strong, successful and smart who worked in this field and I knew I wanted to be like them.

What does a typical day look like for you? How do you balance it all and stay organized?

 My times on the air are the non-negotiables — I’m either on the radio or tv at those times — but the rest of the day always looks different. I fit in shoots, commercials, meetings and more in between show times. I live and die by my calendar! Making sure everything is on the calendar is the only way I can keep things organized at home and at work. I heard someone say recently, don’t strive for balance because it’s impossible, work towards harmony in life instead. I think that’s really wise. I also try to understand that everything in life is a season. My kids won’t always need me this much, a busy week leads to a lighter week and there’s a lot to be grateful for

 Tell me about your chickens? What inspired you to get them? How are they taking to city life? What does your dog think about them? Do they all get along? So many questions this could be it's own interview :)

We have three chickens right now – Emily, Chippy and Daisy and they are so much fun! I love to garden and the chickens came about as part of my mission to produce as much food as possible on my own property. At the time I lived in a house in the city on a tiny .13 of an acre lot. We’ve since moved to a house with a bigger yard and it’s so fun to plan out where the garden will go and how we can live off our land! Chickens definitely have distinct personalities and a pecking order within the flock. Emily is the bossiest of our bunch and tends to pick on Daisy. Chippy is a free spirit who tends to wander in her own direction! They are so calming to have around, I love hearing their little clucking noises and the way they scratch at the ground to find bugs.

What's it like sharing so much of your personal life with your viewers/followers? Do you have any off limits topics or areas that you stay away from or are you cool being an open book?

I really enjoy making connections with viewers and followers and sharing my life – both the great things and the hard things. One of the hardest days was talking about the death of my dog Henry (who’d been featured on the show for years!). He passed away on a Wednesday and it took until the following Monday for me to even be able to talk about it on the air. It was so hard – but I was just amazed by the outpouring of support from viewers. They sent me cards, stuffed animals and personalized items as a tribute to Henry and shared their stories of losing a pet. It was incredible to feel that support. It really reminds me that we’re more alike than we are different and that the more we share our stories, the better. That being said, I’m very conscious of what I share about my children. I don’t have a problem sharing times when I’ve been an imperfect mother, but I don’t share things that would make them embarrassed or open them up to criticism. And I have a very strict social media policy: if my family or children are criticized (even in a passive-aggressive way!) I hit the block button immediately. In order for me to continue sharing my life I have to feel like my social media community is a safe and supportive space. I think we should all use the block and mute buttons a little more often! Ha!

What’s the best advice you've ever gotten?

The best advice came early in my career from the main anchor at my very first television station in Duluth (shout out to Pat Kelly!). I remember receiving my first critical email from a viewer and he told me two things:

1)      file that away in case the person continues to send messages

2) don’t take the nasty emails personally and even more importantly, don’t take the praising emails personally.

His message really resonated with me because it was a reminder that you can’t determine your self-worth based on what other people think of you, whether they like you or they hate you. Your self-worth is determined by you. That’s a really empowering concept and it’s helped me significantly throughout my career.

What would you tell your younger self?

You are just as smart as anyone you are interviewing! As a young news reporter, I remember being so nervous to ask people in positions of power or leadership questions. I thought they knew so much more than me. Everyone is entitled to ask questions confidently.

Rapid Fire Questions:

  • Favorite restaurant in Mpls/St Paul – IN BLOOM

  • Coffee or tea – COFFEE

  • Fun fact no one would guess about you – I’M MORE INTROVERTED THAN YOU’D THINK

  • Early Riser or Night Owl – EARLY RISER

  • Dream Vacation -- ICELAND

  • Describe your perfect day – Wake up on my own time, solitude in the garden, cooking something amazing for my family who shows up in the evening.

Thank you Elizabeth for willing to be a Monday Muse! I can’t wait to meet those chicks, they sound like a lot of fun. Catch Elizabeth every weekday on TCL and on her podcast Best to the Nest.