Always plan out what you need to do and tick things off as you go, if you look at all the tasks at a high level, it will feel overwhelming, but going bite by bite is how you get through! I often get overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, but by keeping the list simple and straightforward I can go through it as I do, and not feel as overwhelmed.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicola Knobel from My Inner Creative. Nicola is a mom first and a passionate career woman second, focusing on teaching people ways to combine productivity and creativity for a happy more organized life. Nicola lives in New Zealand with her son, and is the founder and owner of the Blog My Inner Creative, where she shows people creative ways to be more organized and productive.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Sure! I grew up in South Africa and when it came time for me to finish school and head to university, my mother told me that I needed to choose a “real job”. I had ALWAYS been creative and wanted so badly to do something in the creative space, but at the time it wasn’t really considered a “career”, so ended up studying an undergraduate in Science. This has served me well to this point, so #thanksmom!
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
When I had my son, I had just completed a Postgraduate In business management, and while on maternity leave was really longing for ways to be more creative. All the way through life however I was always passionate about being organized and had a ton of planners and journals to keep me on track.
I ended up starting and running a successful cloth diaper making business, where I would dye the fabric and design these amazing and elaborate cloth diapers. I learnt all the key tenants to marketing and loved doing it! But it came time to go back to work and start again with my “real job”.
I ended up working at a university where I was able to study for free while I worked, so decided to study a diploma in creativity (That sort of option was definitely not around when I started studying originally!!)
From there, I realized that I was really passionate about showing others that creativity and productivity could be synonymous and thus “My Inner Creative” was born!
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
This is a very real challenge. You need to focus on what is going well for you right now, and work out how you can do more of what is going well, and often, from there, more good ideas seem to grow from this point. Keep track of your ultimate goal is important to making sure you laser focus your business goals.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
You absolutely need to make sure that the commitment to do it full time is not going to impact you financially and detriment your security. You need to make the right decisions for you and your situation.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Especially with creative crafts, there are days when you feel uninspired or flat or you look on line and someone has already done the idea you had 10 different ways. But I am not there to self the craft, I am selling myself making a craft, I am the entertainment and not the craft itself, I am the asset that makes the item unique, and my unique spin on it, and that is what I always need to keep at front of mind. But it is so hard sometimes, and you need to make sure you are ready for feeling that.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
The thing I enjoy most, is being able to say “I create things” for a job. I also get to spend more time with my son, and it gets him excited in being creative and crafty too
But working for yourself can be really challenging, you need to be prepared for things you might not have expected, like computer meltdowns, losing images, negative comments, yuck emails. You are a one man band and don’t have the luxury of a customer services team to support you, so you need to grow a thick skin for this.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I am amazed at how much I have learnt and retained and how my thinking about business and time has changed. I now see time a valuable resource and am far more restrictive on how I spend my time.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Absolutely, and probably weekly. I have a few lovely business ladies I talk to when I am feeling really low, who keep me motivated to keep pushing on. But yes. It can be hard. Really hard. Focus on those business goals and keep plugging away at the small steps to get you there. There is enough room for everyone.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I accidentally broke my website — it was panic stations, and being almost 12 hours ahead of the states, I really struggled with sitting and waiting for them to wake up and fix the issue.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I am inspired by two woman, Amy Tang (Amy Tangerine) and Bonnie Kuhl (Archer and Olive) — both these woman have worked incredibly hard to get where they are now and they. They inspire those around them, and true and authentic to themselves.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
One of the things that are incredibly important to me is mental health and well-being, so I use my larger Instagram account to promote small creatives and show everyone how unique and diverse the creative journaling space is, and how special and amazing their work is. I hope by supporting out community and supporting those starting out, it shows people that anything is achievable regardless of skill!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You will get people who just don’t like you, or will be jealous of what you have achieved, really, don’t let it get to you. My mom always said, you can be the yummiest peach, but some people just don’t like peaches
- Always plan out what you need to do and tick things off as you go, if you look at all the tasks at a high level, it will feel overwhelming, but going bite by bite is how you get through! I often get overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, but by keeping the list simple and straightforward I can go through it as I do, and not feel as overwhelmed.
- You will have hard days. Keep a list of things that make you happy and focus on those on the bad days.
- It is TOTALLY ok to take a day off — or 2. You need to rest.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to trigger a movement around being more real with our mental health and supporting those with mental health issues. Journaling is a known tool for supporting and improving mental health, so starting something in this space would be unbelievable!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Feel the fear and go for it” — I have always tried this but lately if I am honest, I am more risk adverse and now focus on the quote:
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” — Zen Shin
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Good heavens! So many — I would probably sell a kidney just to meet some of the big names in the planner world — I have never been to the USA so would love to come over and meet them all, and do some collaborations — The Happy Planner, Amy Tangerine, Erin Condren, so many!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.