1. What is your entrepreneurial story? More specifically, how did you become a boss woman?
My first entrepreneur experience was about 25 years ago.
I was 16 years old. Although an introvert and somewhat shy girl, I enrolled in an extra-curricular program they offered in High School called Jeunes Entreprises (I’m French Canadian) which would be called Junior Achievement for the rest of Canada. There you’d learn all the aspects of starting and running a business. We were 22 girls in that program and I was elected VP of administration. At that time in my life, I had big dreams of being my father’s business successor, so I couldn’t be more ecstatic.
After the end of school year, I was sad to close the company because I loved it and so, with the then President we legally registered the company and kept running it from my parent’s basement during the summer. We were making and selling soap to local boutiques.
Once we went back to school, my friend couldn’t handle the company, and neither could I. We both agreed school was more important. We shut down the company and sold our assets. A few short months after that happened, I realized I missed running a business.
So I started a new one called Floridesign. I designed and sold dried flower decorations to boutiques (internet was not born yet). When I graduated from University, I closed Floridesign and started a job in a museum, as a designer. I also started freelancing, by doing little projects for people around me in my spare time. I got a few jobs as an industrial and graphic designer but never kept a position for more than 2 years.
I like being in charge of my own destiny (to a certain degree).
2. What was the turning point that put you on the work path you're on today?
In 2003 I was working full time for a manufacturer.
There I felt so underestimated and frustrated as an industrial designer. Worst, I realized that there was a fair chance things would take years to change, if they were to change at all. I was impatient at that point in my life. I had the passion and energy to work long hours. I needed to be challenged, I wanted more and to not feel limited by politics or someone else’s limitations.
Since I had a little experience freelancing and had a small network at that point, I quit my job, and I quit being an employee altogether.
3. For someone who wants to change their work situation but doesn't know where to start; what would you tell them?
1. Figure out what you’d like to do (your interests and passions) and how will you set yourself apart. If that answers a need in the market, even better.
2. It has to be something you love, or really like. Starting and running a business is highly demanding in terms of moral and physical energy, especially if you’re doing it alone. When the times are rough loving what you do will keep you motivated.
3. Prototype quick: avoid investing too much money and time developing the perfect service/product before quickly testing your ideas to see what sticks. Then improve and test again. Done is better than perfect. Grow from there and don’t overthink things.
4. What would you say was your most difficult and proudest boss woman moment?
The hardest moment was when we closed our design firm (which I ran with my friend from 2005 to 2009) and had to tell the employees. I met great people that I enjoyed working with but the circumstances made it impossible to keep the firm running. Also, dealing with difficult clients and bankers never was easy for me either! ;)
After taking a forced break from being in business, my proud moment is now. Proud of what I’ve been through, accomplished and what I’m rebuilding.
5. How do you handle the nuts & bolts of business i.e. paperwork, money, taxes, etc ... Do you hire someone or do you handle it yourself?
My business is bootstrap, so I’m still doing pretty much everything. I’m using softwares to keep me on track and be in control of my time, money, supplies, orders and customer service. My yearly taxes are done by an accountant.
6. Favorite business apps or sites you're using?
I started using Harvest a few years ago when I was freelancing to track my time, create estimates and invoice my clients. I’m still using it to track my time so I can analyze things at some point in time. I like to draw conclusions based on numbers.
Being a maker, I’ve recently incorporated Stitch Labs to my workflow to manage orders, inventory, expenses and purchase orders. I feel it’s powerful enough to follow the growth I’m expecting for Lemonee on the Hills.
I use Shipping Easy that is linked to Stitch Labs to ship my orders.
I love Squarespace for my website because it makes me look professional in just a few easy clicks. The only thing I’m not happy with is that I have to use a work around so I can use Paypal to sell from my website - their ecommerce only works with Stripe. For that, I use FoxyCart, which is not for everyone - you need to know basic coding. But I really appreciate the flexibility of it.
7. If you could change one business decision from your entrepreneurial journey, what would it be?
To not grow too quickly. And to listen to my guts.
8. Hiring a graphic designer and/or photographer for branding can be daunting for some. What advice would you give them?
Find someone who’s style you like. Then show your designer and/or photographer examples of graphics, images, or brands that you admire and what is not to your taste. Tell her what brand you admire and where you wish you’d be. Discuss budget openly and early. Hiding the money part will only hurt the relationship. Be honest with the designer/photographer so she knows where to put her effort. Trust her expertise and try to do constructive critiques. :)
9. How do you deal with days you're feeling uninspired?
I try to change my work environment if possible; do computer work in a cafe or in my backyard or in front of the fireplace. Go for a short walk and listen to podcasts. Or if I’m stuck in my studio, I don’t beat myself up and do something that will make me feel good while the mood passes. Like cleaning, HA!
10. What is the best business advice or money tip you ever came across?
Learn how and when to say no. Still a work in progress for me.
Lemonee is the maker and photographer who runs Lemonee on the Hills: Bringing the California Outdoors In. With her line of functional handcrafted products based on her photography, she wants to make it easier for outdoors enthusiasts to forget about the cubicle life.
Coming from a background in industrial, graphic and interior design, she has spent 20 years working in the electronics, consumer goods and medical manufacturing industries. Following two big moves to support her husband's career, she now enjoys working in her studio, designing products she love and use, and spending more time outdoors with the family.
Her name, Lemonee, was actually chosen by a two-year-old little girl! French Canadian, she moved in NorCal a few years ago and her new friend's daughter couldn't pronounce her name properly. It came out as Lemonee, and since then, she has been known as 'Miss Lemonee'.