Mamaprenuer: Julie Varner
Business: Canvas Gadget
Facebook: Canvas Gadget
About Julie's Family:
We're a big, Christian, homeschooling family living in the SF Bay Area with 4 kids, or spark plugs, as we call them. We get a lot of gawks at our family size (which doesn't seem too weird to my husband Jon or to me since we grew up in families with 6 and 4 kids, respectively). One of our biggest goals is to teach our children how to start a business of their own!
About Julie’s Business:
Our goal with Canvas Gadget is to help our clients stand out from the crowd and make more sales. With the saturated online market, we believe that it's still possible to make an exceptional living, but getting noticed has become incredibly difficult! We want to step in and bridge that gap with 3D marketing.
Why did you decide to become a Mamapreneur?
Tight finances and job loss plagued us for the first several years of our marriage. Although both Jon and I have a natural entrepreneurial bent, starting our own business also became a necessity to help stabilize our income.
What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced in your business?
Finding our target audience was a daunting task and it's one we're still working on. Since our service can benefit a wide range of sellers and items, creating our ideal avatar was almost impossible! The first few sales we made really helped. It turned out that we had our ideal avatar off, so we've worked to tweak things in order to really reach those whom we can best help. It's an ongoing journey, that's for sure!
How did you overcome that challenge?
We've always done things through trial and error. Without a lot of savings to pour into our business, we couldn't afford a fancy online course to guide us. We took a few smaller courses, like FB Brilliance, and then tried things until we found what worked. So far, simply reaching out to online sellers we know in real life and through our online endeavors has been our biggest success.
What is your greatest win as a business owner?
Finding a business plan like Canvas Gadget that has a wide target audience took us a few tries. It's not our first start-up, but its success was directly tied to our failed earlier attempts. I also love that we were able to design something that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Because of our financial woes, we really wanted to make Canvas Gadget as affordable as possible. Why should only Microsoft be able to afford 3D marketing?
Describe your ‘day in the life.’
I don't get up all that early in the morning, in fact, sometimes as late as 8:30 am. After my Bible time, I get the spark plugs up, and we eat breakfast together. Since we homeschool, most of my morning and early afternoon hours are devoted to teaching the kids. Around 2:30 pm is when I get to work on the business. I'll check email, watch an FB Brilliance video, and work on creating social media graphics. (Social media is my absolute nemesis!)
When we're running email campaigns, I'll craft and send emails. Writing and grammar are my strong suits, so this kind of work falls to me. Jon gets home around 2:30 from his day job, too, and he works on Canvas Gadget in the afternoons. He creates the 3D models for our clients and then works with our developer in the evenings to make sure things are running smoothly. At this point, we're still working out bugs, and sometimes things take longer than we'd prefer.
After the kids go to bed, Jon and I plan out our next advertising campaigns, ideas, and goals for growing our client base.
What’s your great big dream for your business?
Our dream is to be self-supporting within a year. I would love nothing more than for Jon to be able to work from home. He loves helping me teach the kids, and we see this as a very real possibility. Our long-term dream is to live on the beach! A little cliche, but the ocean just seems to speak of God's greatness and being able to see that every day would mean the world to us. We may have over-dreamed there a bit, but it definitely motivates us to keep going!
Share a tip with your fellow Mamapreneurs.
Don't try to do it all! We weren't designed to live 14 lives simultaneously. Make a list of things you want to accomplish each day, and put them in order of most important to least. Aim to complete the top three. The following day, if nothing more important has come up, tackle the next three items in the list.
Also, don't forget the important work of spending time with your spouse and kids away from any kind of work. Take time to put away the phone and computer. You won't regret a moment of time you spend with your loved ones, even if it means that your business plans have to be set aside sometimes.
Share a funny, crazy, or disastrous Mamapreneur moment you’ve had.
One of the sweetest, most humbling mamapreneur moments I've ever had came a couple of Christmases ago. Finances were incredibly tight, and we were trying to get our first start-up off the ground. All we could do was try to save money on our groceries each week to put toward paying our developer. Christmas morning, the spark plugs gave us an odd-shaped present. Inside were a few crumpled dollars and several bits of spare change. They had collected all of their meager earnings and given it to us with this note, “For the business.” I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time.