Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mackenzie Bakewell, Founder of ZieBee Media, located in Portland, OR, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is an art shop and publishing company, where I create and sell my own books – and help others make their books too. As a multimedia artist and author, I turn my original illustrations into coloring books, journals, and postcards that will take others on a creative journey. My coloring books are for people of all ages and skill levels who want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and unwind by getting lost in the world of creative play. Additionally, with my publishing expertise, I work with entrepreneurs, authors, and artists who have words to share with the world and need some creative assistance in making it happen. I'm able to guide my clients through the creative process, taking their big-picture visions and turning them into a finished book in their hands.
Tell us about yourself
I've been creating art since I was a little girl, and I've always had a passion for making books. I remember sitting down with my big block crayons and drawing for hours on end, lost in my own imagination. As I got older, I continued to explore new mediums and techniques, always trying to push myself creatively. The step into being a business owner came as a way to follow my creative passions by offering my skills in photography, writing, and graphic design as services to other small business owners. I was fortunate to connect with people in my community who were business owners, who became my first clients, and who helped me spread the word about my work.
Six years after launching my business, however, my creativity was completely burnt out. So, I paused my client work and focused on developing my own art. This was when a big shift happened for me. I began publishing my own artwork, building my coloring book collection, my mindful coloring teachings, and a platform to share the artwork that I love to create.
What motivates me each day is the knowledge that I'm sparking creativity with the work that I do. I believe that making art – in all its forms – has the power to bring people together, to inspire, and to heal. And when I see the smiles on my customers' faces, hear from someone who has been inspired by my work, or see my work out in the world, it's a reminder that I'm doing something that matters.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is publishing my mother's teachings. It was a project that we worked on for years, starting when I was first learning how to self-publish, and that came to fruition as a set of two professionally-made nature education books. Working with my mother was an incredible experience, as we spent countless hours together, drawing out her knowledge and bringing it to life on the page. And now, years later, to see her books selling regularly online, being purchased by people all around the world, and stocked in local bookstores, is truly amazing.
It's especially meaningful to me because my mother's teachings on nature connection were such a big part of my upbringing. And now, through my own product line of coloring books and journals, and art that I've created, I'm able to continue sharing her work in new and creative ways.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
There are so many challenges that can arise! But the biggest, to me, is finding the right work-life balance. In other words, creating a sustainable lifestyle so that you have time to disconnect and enjoy the day-to-day pleasures of life. Because it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of building your business, constantly pushing to create, market, and grow. It's easy to be thinking about and working on your business non-stop, with millions of things to do at any given time.
As the primary person running a business, you wear so many different hats. This can make it even harder to take a pause and develop the key skill of switching from "work mode" to "life mode." For me, I use my personal coloring practice as a tool to do this daily mental transition. Even just a few minutes of coloring helps me stay present and grounded, thoughts focused and calm, finding that balance so I can achieve both my business goals and maintain my personal well-being.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The flexibility and freedom that come from being a business owner is a unique experience because you have complete control over your business, but more importantly, you have complete control over your life. You can create the lifestyle that you want with a big-picture vision of who you want to be.
For anyone looking to start a business, my top three tips are:
- Be Confident. Cultivate confidence in yourself. Know that what you're offering is of value, that you can contribute positively to the world, and that it's worth the effort. Having confidence in yourself is so crucial. It is the confidence to follow through on your own plans, the bravery to put your words out into the world, and the boldness to build the business you want.
- Be Willing to Ask for Help. Stay lighthearted and positive, even as you're asking for help. Be willing to ask for help for the little things, like a peer to edit an article, or the big things, such as a loan from an investor, because even though you're a solo business owner, it doesn't mean you have to do everything on your own. Building and running a business can be challenging, so having a supportive community around you to turn to for advice, support, and inspiration can make all the difference in staying motivated and on track.
- Be Creative. With so many things to do as a business owner, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. To combat this, be creative with how you organize and prioritize your tasks. Keep it fun. And be willing to re-chart your course. Map out a schedule, set goals for each day and week, and make sure to check in and adapt. Being creative outside of work, too, such as through personal art practice, can help you stay productive and effective, ensuring that your time is well spent.
For me, at the heart of it, all is my passion to spark creativity and spread the joy of making art in our everyday lives. Find those things that spark your excitement, and always remember to enjoy the experience.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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