Do you ever wonder what makes someone take the plunge and start their own creative business? Especially in the current financial climate. As a creative entrepreneur myself, I struggle to understand: why when we have mouths to feed, we place feeding our souls so high on our list of priorities. What keeps us motivated during hard times? What keeps our creative juices flowing, when money isn’t, and how do we balance business and family life?
When I started Myang 7 years ago, I had no idea what the journey would hold for me. The highs, lows, joys and above all the stress. When I look back now and ask myself the question, would I do it again? Depending on the day, the answer is not always yes. But, I have always believed that I would rather try, and fail. Than not try, and never know what could have been.
When I think about why I started Myang, and how I started, and I see how far we have come. The beautiful business we have built. I am immensely proud, not only of Myang the business. But also of the fact that we have adapted when times got tough, and stood by our brand no matter what. I am also proud of the fact that the heart of the business has always been the same. Even though that path has not always been the easiest.
I think that whatever happens with Myang in the future, I have proven to myself that I can do this. Not always on my own. Not always as well as I would like. But through every challenge, with heads down and bums up, we have made it to the other side.
When I started thinking of what features I would like to write about for my blog, something that was on the top of my list was the need to feature creative women in business. They say “write what you know”, and even though I don’t know it all, and am still learning, creative business is what I live every day of my life, and have done for the past 7 years.
So, I reached out to my community of Creative Queens, ladies that I know, and some that I don’t know. All of whom I respect – as creatives and business people. Knowing how hard it is to keep my creative tank full, I wanted to know what keeps them going, and how they balance it all. With that in mind I compiled a list of questions and received some interesting answers.
I hope that you learn as much from these talented ladies as I have.
For this the first feature, I chose a friend of mine, Lee-Anne van den Berg creator of the Fox and Heroine stationery brand. Someone who I have seen evolve her business over the years, from designing wedding gowns to now designing stationery. We are both based in Port Elizabeth, so I felt the challenges we have faced, launching a creative enterprise in a small city would be very similar.
Lee-Anne van den Berg, Fox and Heroine
“hearing people laughing out loud at a funny card or when a specific product does very well, it’s so satisfying to know that your creation is a hit.”
As I mentioned I have known Lee-Anne for a long time, in fact we studied fashion design together at NMMU.
“my heart wasn’t totally focused on Fashion.”
This is when her love for graphics and photography led her to start designing her own graphics and using them to create stationery and other related products.
“It hasn’t been easy, with in between getting married and having 2 kids, my business took a backseat for a while, but I’m in the place now to focus, get cracking and make it grow. I started off with just 1 consignment shop in CT (PresentSpace) and I currently stock 17 shops around SA, with 2 of those in Namibia and Ghana.”
Why Fox and Heroine?
“I liked the sound and look of the two-worded name, but I wanted it to mean something. So “fox” is a French meaning of my husband’s name, and I read once, while I was working in Harrods, that my name means “heroine” (female hero).”
I love that her business name is something so personal, I found this to be a common thread with us creative gals, we are very sentimental souls.
The Digital Age of Inspiration
When asked about her daily inspiration, she had an interesting and honest answer,
“I think I just love anything that’s design orientated. I get inspiration from many different avenues. I don’t think many designs nowadays are sucked out of thin air, it always stems from something or even someone else’s work. I definitely get inspiration from other local SA designers. It’s motivating to see how their businesses have grown, so it keeps me going, in knowing that I can be as successful as them in the near future.”
We live in the digital age, which is a wonderful time to be alive. To have access to international and local artists working in the same creative field as you, is invaluable. I feel one can take aspects of their work that you love, meld it with your own style, and by doing this create something completely new.
“There’s a business here.”
When asking Lee-Anne why she started her business, she said the following:
“My business kinda happened organically. With experience in graphic design while working for Billabong SA, I soon gained a liking for graphics. Then when I was making dresses for customers and I’d end up also designing invitations etc. I decided one day to take all these funny quotes that I’d seen on Pinterest etc., and put them into cards and posters. I then began doing markets and the response was awesome! This gave me true creative satisfaction, and I thought, “There’s a business here.”.”
How many people does it take to run Fox and Heroine?
“Me, myself and I. In times when it is busy, I hire casual people to help with packaging.”
You will find Fox and Heroine on Facebook, but Lee-Anne says that Instagram has really helped capture people’s attention.
She has faced the same challenge that I face on a daily basis, not always having the confidence to sell your own product. I think as designers, we tend to be very emotionally attached to our product, and we are afraid of how people will respond to it. I always joke that someone having a negative response to your product, is like someone telling you your child is ugly. You know it isn’t true, but it still hurts.
Stick to your style and you will be successful
She says, “. I think my business would be further along if I was more aggressive in getting sales. Someone told me once as well, don’t worry about what other designers are doing. Stick to your style and you will be successful. I’ve got to say, that is 100% true.”
“it’s kinda cool being the only stationery designer in Port Elizabeth (as far as I know), and I get a great response from people when they think I’m based in CT, and I tell them I’m from little old PE.”
Working to a plan
One of the things I find really difficult is juggling my family life and my business obligations. Lee-Anne says that as much as it is a juggle, if she has a plan for each day, she can get through the work load. A plan? Now why didn’t I think of that!
When I asked what she loved about being an entrepreneur, she says, “Being able to make all the decisions. I ask for lots of advice and opinions, but at the end of the day it is my call. I’m free to create what I want and not what other people want. And most definitely the flexi time. Having two kids, it’s a privilege to be able to manage my hours and spend lots of time with them.” The flip side to this, she says, is being responsible for everything.
An issue that we deal with running Myang, is how to sustain the business with our current volatile economy. Lee-Anne says she also struggles. The key is to keep getting more stockists and to have a core of outlets that order regularly.
What does the future hold for Fox and Heroine? Lee-Anne says in the next 2 years she hopes to triple the outlets she supplies. She also hopes to get her foot in the door with a large chain retailer.
Where can you locate this quirky stationery range? on the recently launched online store, www.foxandheroine.com. Here you will also find a list of physical outlets. you can also find her on Facebook, or Instagram.