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Vanessa Quigley: “Mental fitness is finally a priority”

Mental fitness is finally a priority. The stress of the pandemic and working from home have taken a toll on everyone’s mental health and more and more people are opening up about their mental health. These conversations are helping destigmatize mental illness and we are all better for it. And with innovations with telehealth, more […]

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Mental fitness is finally a priority. The stress of the pandemic and working from home have taken a toll on everyone’s mental health and more and more people are opening up about their mental health. These conversations are helping destigmatize mental illness and we are all better for it. And with innovations with telehealth, more people are able to access help. At Chatbooks, 56% of our employees (including me!) are enrolled in Tava Health, a 100% online mental health clinic that we offer to all of our employees and their dependents — it has been a huge blessing, especially during these last few months.


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Quigley.

Vanessa Quigley is the mother of 7 and co-founder of Chatbooks, a photo book printing company with a mission to strengthen families. She holds a degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Brigham Young University and worked as a professional singer and actress before becoming an entrepreneur. She was named Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017, authored Real Moms, Real Hacks, and hosts The MomForce Podcast.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My whole life I wanted to be a singer and actress and studied to become a professional opera singer in college. But my professional singing career took a backseat as I focused on my role as a mother to my growing family — we had seven kids in 15 years! I was looking forward to my youngest starting kindergarten so I could focus on music again, when I had an a-ha moment that changed my career path once again. One night I found my five year old son Declan crying in his room and clutching a photo book his preschool teacher had made for him. Through his sobs he said, “momma, I never wanna grow up!” It was adorable and a gut punch at the same time. I felt like I was failing at one of my most important mom jobs of documenting our family’s story. I used to be a die-hard scrapbooker as a younger mom, but it had been years since I had scrapbooked or even printed photos! So I turned to my entrepreneurial husband and asked him to help me solve this problem. Weeks later we had a prototype and Chatbooks was born, and my singing career was once again put on hold so my husband and I could build the business together.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

One of my favorite memories was surprising our millionth customer at her home with lots of celebratory fanfare! Our company grew so much faster than we anticipated, and that millionth customer milestone kind of snuck up on us. But as soon as we noticed, we contacted the lucky customer and asked if we could bring them a little thank you! Then my husband and I hopped on a plane to California and surprised her with a giant 1,000 dollars check “Publishers Clearing House” style!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Right now I’m excited to be working on season 2 of the MomForce Podcast by Chatbooks. In each episode I get to chat with some amazing mothers and parenting experts, and dig for answers to some of the toughest parenting questions, like “how to get a toddler to sleep in their own bed” to “how to help our kids suffering from anxiety” and “how to juggle working from home, homeschooling, and taking care our own mental health”. It is a tough time to be a parent, but when moms band together we can be a huge support to one another and a force to be reckoned with!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband! When I came up with the idea for Chatbooks I wanted him to do all the work. He is the seasoned entrepreneur with the MBA, not me. But he believed in my vision for the product and company, and literally begged until I agreed to join as a cofounder. He was the one who helped me understand that there isn’t one way to be an entrepreneur, and that my experience as a singer/actress/storyteller was exactly what we needed to help pitch our Chatbooks story to investors, potential customers, and the press.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

Pre-COVID our biggest family challenge was how busy we all were. With all of the kids’ activities and our work obligations, we were like ships passing in the night. So when everything was cancelled and we were quarantined at home together playing board games and doing puzzles every night instead of driving all the dance, baseball and theater carpools, I was in heaven! I loved all of our new family time together and the kids did, too. But the reality of distance learning, working from home, and not seeing any friends or extended family started to wear on us and we started to feel the effects on our mental health. I was especially feeling overwhelmed having to take care of everyone 24/7. So we organized ourselves as “Team Quigley” and set boundaries for work, school and personal time, and set a rotation for how the kids could pitch in to help with the cooking and cleaning — and it made a huge difference! There are still challenges for this new normal but I’m choosing to focus on the upside, and for me it’s the increased family unity as we’ve worked togetherand given each other lots of grace!

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Creating and maintaining structure has been a huge help during these challenging times. At first it was fun for my kids to stay up late, sleep in and pretend like every day was summer vacation. But I quickly learned that my kids thrive on a schedule! Yes our schedule looks different now that it used to, having set times for meals, and chores, fun outdoor activities, and bedtime has made a huge difference in the happiness of our home.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

Throughout time, working mothers have been trying to find that elusive “balance” between home and work, and now that so many of us are working from home it is harder than ever. As much as I love my home office in my bedroom, it’s difficult to turn off my “mom brain” and fully immerse myself in work when the kids are all right outside my door, and sometimes even opening that door and walking right into a zoom meeting!

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

The biggest and most important thing I have done, is cut myself, and everyone around me, some slack. I actually love it when I see little kids coming in and out of zoom meetings! It makes me feel better when my 12 year old interrupts a meeting asking if he can have some ice cream. However, setting boundaries with my kids around my work time and then making a point to take frequent short breaks to check on everyone has been helpful, too.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Cut yourself some slack and learn to be flexible. It will be impossible to work like we did in the office while we are at home with our families. We have to adjust, and for me it means getting up earlier in the morning to work uninterrupted before my kids wake up, and sometimes working later into the evening so I can be more available for the kids during the day. It means reminding my team that we’re all in this together and if we can’t work 8 amazing hours everyday that is ok. We’re embracing asynchronous work and learning how to be more productive in less time.

*Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

My family LOVES music. I’m a professionally trained opera singer and all of my kids love to play, sing and write music — so we’ve spent a lot of our quarantine time working on music. In fact my daughter Laken and my son Henry’s band Afternoon All Night have both released new music during quarantine that has made me so happy! We’ve also adopted some healthier eating habits and the kids have been learning to cook more which is also so helpful. Oh and puzzles! We’ve been doing lots and lots of puzzles.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I’m really good at looking at the glass half full, but I’ll admit, it has been hard to remain optimistic these past few months. But here are a few things that have helped me…

Stronger community connections. Through quarantine and all the recent events I’ve found so much comfort not only chatting more with friends and family on Marco Polo and FaceTime, but I’ve also loved making new connections through social media and by rallying together with like minded individuals for causes I believe in. I’ve felt more connected as I’ve made masks for healthcare workers and marched for human rights with new friends. Despite the craziness in our world today there is also so much good — and that gives me hope for our future.

Curbside service! I used to love going out to eat, but turns out I prefer grabbing food curbside and eating picnic-style to dining in. I was able to interview several of the owners of my fav local restaurants for my podcast about how they were adjusting during the pandemic and was so inspired by their stories — some created special take and go “Quarantine Pack” menu options, some improvised drive-ups while their dining rooms were closed, and all streamlined operations which in most cases, ended up improving their bottom line. Such a great reminder that growth can come from trying times. And I’m more than happy to do my part to help them stay in business!

Creativity is flourishing. Taylor Swift’s latest album Folklore was all written in less than 3 months starting in April during this pandemic. This is a perfect and inspiring example of how beauty can come from hard things. Completely changing our way of life forces us to rethink the way we’ve been doing things, and in many ways, allows for new and creative ideas to flow. Just scroll through Tik-Tok for more evidence!

Mental fitness is finally a priority. The stress of the pandemic and working from home have taken a toll on everyone’s mental health and more and more people are opening up about their mental health. These conversations are helping destigmatize mental illness and we are all better for it. And with innovations with telehealth, more people are able to access help. At Chatbooks, 56% of our employees (including me!) are enrolled in Tava Health, a 100% online mental health clinic that we offer to all of our employees and their dependents — it has been a huge blessing, especially during these last few months.

Together we’re better! Watching how our team has adjusted to working from home, and how our community has adopted new ways of life for the good of our community is inspiring and gives me so much hope for the future.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I think the most important thing we can do is recognize that it’s normal to feel stressed, anxious, and worried about everything that’s going on in the world. Those are real and appropriate emotions, and validating tough emotions is key to processing them so that we can then recognize the good around us. Yes all the kid’s sports and activities were cancelled, and that was a huge bummer! But because of that our family got to spend more time in the mountains together, playing more board games and doing puzzles together. All that extra family time together means we have even more photos for our Chatbooks that help our socially distancing grandparents still feel close to us.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It will all be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.” I can’t remember when I heard that or who said it but it has become my life mantra. Whenever I’m faced with disappointment, this gives me hope and peace of mind that better days are ahead. And never has hope for better days been more needed than now!

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m @vanessaquigley on Instagram but you can also find me @chatbooks and over on Tik Tok @chatbooksofficial (we’ve got a really fun page!).

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


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