Meet Sandra Manton Mills, the super talented graphic designer, blogger and photographer behind Her Creative Studio and SM Design Shop. Sandra took a leap of faith to pursue her dreams as an entrepreneur while raising her two beautiful children and she has no regrets.
Her work is beautiful and her personality is just as pretty and as a result she has a very successful business with people wait listed to work with her (including me!). Enjoy her lovely interview!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services / products do you offer?
Hi! I’m Sandra Manton Mills, the graphic designer, blogger and photographer behind Her Creative Studio and SM Design Shop. A business, design and styled photography resource for creative small business owners.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
I owned my own brick and mortar print and design shop that I nurtured for seven years but I was burnt out and unfulfilled. I really LOVED being a graphic designer but the fast paced, deadline driven printing Industry was not for me anymore so I closed shop and regrouped. My other motivation was being newly married and wanting to be a stay at home mom so I switched to freelance design work while I had my babies. In November of last year I launched my styled photography store, reinvented my blog and am working on exciting new projects.
Do you have any special training?
I began in high school when I apprenticed part time for a graphic designer and worked for my Dad who taught me everything I know about business. I left University to work (much to my parents horror) so I could pursue my dream of opening my own business which I achieved at the age of 27. I love reading, learning and developing new skills and am 100% self taught in photography.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
Opening my first business was a big one for me but I am most proud (and grateful everyday) of the fact that I took a leap of faith and have been able to gradually but successfully pursue my entrepreneurial goals while raising my kids at home. I could not have done it without the encouragement of my husband.
What mistake(s) have you made with your business? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
The biggest mistake I made was trying to do everything on my own. I was juggling a million balls and I got burnt out really fast. My other pitfalls were not saying no out of fear of losing a client and not charging what I was worth.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
It’s important to really LOVE what you do and surround yourself with supportive, positive people and professionals. Learn as much as you can from both your mistakes and successes. You need passion, an endless amount of energy to power through and faith in yourself and your abilities.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Get involved in a community with like minded women. They are an endless source of support and knowledge. Learn what experts in your industry are sharing and absorb as much information as you can. Knowledge is power!
One of my favorite business guru’s is Melanie Duncan - she inspires, encourages and teaches me how to grow and succeed.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Do it the right way from the start! Separate all business finances from your personal ones. Put aside money in your budget to learn from experts like Onada from Clever Girl Finance! You will save yourself tons of time, headaches and money.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
I work on this everyday. I have learned to prioritize. Family first, then work, then me. Everything else can wait. Naptimes are my time to relax or catch up on deadlines and I work late into the night when it’s quiet. I don’t do it alone! I have a supportive husband and I am fortunate enough to have help.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years
In five years (both kids will be in school) I hope to have my own beautiful home studio (right now I share my work space with toys and my photo studio is in our unfinished basement!) 1 to 2 new employees, a huge blogging/social media community, a consistent growth in sales, a grand opening to my first art exhibit and finishing my marketing degree.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I have an identical twin sister and am absolutely in love with winter and everything that goes along with it. Freezing cold weather, being snowed in, fireplaces, hot chocolate, cute boots and wool coats, Santa Claus and family time together. The best time of year!