This week, I had the pleasure to have a little chat with Shaina, the owner and creative eye behind The Invite Lady. If you're new here, The Invite Lady is a stationery shop that specializes in invitations and all things paper.
Shaina is the definition of a Bossbabe. She is an amazing boss to her employees and works so hard despite living with Lupus. With it being Lupus Awareness Month, I felt like this would be a great time to talk with her about her business and how she's managed to balance her work and health life for success.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I have made cards and paper art for as long as I can remember. When I was small, I would tell people I wanted to write the card messages for Hallmark when I grew up. When I graduated high school, I designed and made my own announcements and invitations.
Fast forward several years... when I started The Invite Lady, I was pretty far from my childhood desire to work as a creative. In fact, I was just leaving the world of banking. In a time before the great recession, my reasons for leaving were less related to economics and more because the work I was doing was not at all fulfilling and pressed my ethical standards on a daily basis. I had left one position to take another and had several weeks off. After just a couple of weeks, I knew I could not return to the finance world. James (hubby) & I had always run a little side business on eBay of things we would find when treasure hunting (shopping Goodwill and yard sales). So one day, I used that account to list a few designs of invitations I had made over the years. The next morning. I had sold 60 invitations to an expectant mother and the rest, as they say, is history.
What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
When I started my business, it was obviously just me, hence the name! As my life grew and my health changed, knowing when to ask for help was always a struggle. James joined the company two years in, long before I was truly sick. Between the two us, we always managed. Many nights we were up til 4 am filling orders but it always got done. As our lives changed and the business grew though, we had to build a team. I had experience in finance, accounting, and creating. James had experience in creating and, as a former mail carrier, an inside track on what packaging would work. However, neither of us had any human resources experience or management experience. This definitely created the most bumps for us, especially once I got sick.
How do you balance your business with managing your health?
These days, we have a wonderful team that has been working together in a supportive and happy environment. Despite working from remote locations, we have formed our own Invite Lady family. On days when Lupus gets the best of me and I am "out of spoons", I can count on James, Allie, and the rest of the team to cover me and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
What impact has lupus had on your business and your ability to work?
Having Lupus, and the flares that come with it, have definitely caused us to change the business and the way we run things. The most important change is how many employees we have. Since I never know if I will be at 100%, it is important I have enough coverage and trained individuals on our team to ensure that I can take care of my health -- whether that means a nap or a trip to the hospital. In addition to cultivating the "dream team", we also found ways to supplement the business and income if I were to become indisposed for a long period of time. Products like our Recipe Cards and popular Thank You Notes can be stocked with Amazon Prime or in house without any effort on my part.
All business owners where multiple hats. For me, having Lupus is just an additional hat. I must be prepared to wear it anytime though, even if I don't want to!
What advice would you give to someone with a chronic illness who is thinking of starting their own business?