I am thrilled to share this interview with the lovely April Bowles of Blacksburg Belle. I’ve been a big fan of April’s blog for months now and I think you will get a ton of new ideas and inspiration from her today. She moved from a career in social work to creative business coaching and now she’s helping a lot of entrepreneurs turn their businesses into their dream jobs. I really hope you enjoy what she has to share!
In case some of our readers don’t already know how amazing you are, would you mind telling us a teeny bit about yourself and your business?
You’re making me blush! I’m on a mission to empower women who own and operate creative businesses by providing information and services that help them reach and exceed their creative dreams. I truly believe that you can build a successful business around your passion if you have the right tools, support, and motivation. That’s why I put together a membership site, ARTrepreneur, and why I blog regularly.
Blacksburg Belle is a partnership with your mother-in-law. Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs considering going into business with a friend or family member?
I definitely do. I learned the hard way that you have to set clear expectations with each other, know the other person’s strengths and weaknesses, and keep the communication lines open. My mother-in-law is extremely talented and creative, and she’s got so much to offer. But, she teaches art full-time, so she pitches in when she can. That means that I run Blacksburg Belle full-time and get her help when she’s available. If I wasn’t okay with that, then this would never work. If I had expectations that weren’t possible because of her schedule and other obligations, it would turn into a stress nightmare. Flexibility and communication are critical to our success.
I know that you have teamed up several times with Mayi Carles of Heartmade. How did you two meet? And how has that meeting/collaboration grown your business?
I love me some Mayi Carles! I feel like she’s my business soul mate.
We met a little over a year ago when I asked her to participate in a blog series that I created and ran. She said yes. After that collaboration, we kept in contact via commenting on each other’s blogs, social media, and email. We started bouncing ideas off of each other and turning to each other for business advice. Our relationship grew naturally over time. We talk via Skype, because I live in Blacksburg, VA and she lives in Panama, but we recently met in person at a conference.
When we met last year, we were both in the beginning stages of our creative businesses. We both really liked what the other person was doing, so we’ve promoted each other over time. She’s sent business my way, and I’ve sent business her way. We both get emails that include a line like, “I also love April from Blacksburg Belle,” or “I also adore Mayi from Heartmade. That’s where I found out about you.”
I can honestly say that building solid relationships like the one I have with Mayi has helped me grow my business much faster than anything else could.
Your business really embraces diversity. Blogging, coaching, crafting, teaching business skills. How do you balance them all? And how do you keep so many aspects branded under your Blacksburg Belle name?
That’s a tough one. Truthfully, it’s something I struggle with constantly. I’m in the middle of narrowing down some things, because it’s difficult to juggle it all. I’ve had my Etsy shop on vacation for months, and I’m thinking about closing it. I get more enjoyment out of helping other creative entrepreneurs, and I’d rather focus my time on that aspect of my business.
It’s easy for to keep everything branded under Blacksburg Belle, because the name doesn’t really mean anything and everything relates to creative entrepreneurship. If I had named my site something more specific like Creative Coaching, then it would be a lot more difficult. Plus, I’ve gotten lots of branding and design help from Zoe Rooney from A Quick Study. She’s amazing!
Anything else you would LOVE to tell our readers?
Thanks for spending a little bit of time with me today! If there’s anything I can help you with or if you’d like to chat, you can find me on Twitter @blacksburgbelle. I’m always looking to connect with other creatives who share my vision.