Our interview today is with Kate Miley, owner/editor of Sweet Mama K. I met Kate 10+ years ago when we were both attending Taylor University in central Indiana. She was then, and is now, one of the kindest, creative, and beautiful girls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Her artistic talent knows no end, her heart for people and for Jesus just abounds, and she is mama to two precious little girls (with another babes on the way!) and a wife to another fellow TU grad. And you know what else is awesome? She renovated a schoolhouse to make it a home. How crazy cool is that?! 
Meet Kate!
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Tell me a little about how you wound up starting Sweet Mama K. What was your original vision and how did it get from there to an etsy shop, blog, etc? Sweet Mama K (sweetmamak.com) is my blog that I started back in 2012.  I was a year into motherhood and realized I needed a permanent space to record all of my new enlightenments and musings.   A public space, such as a blog, I felt would keep me accountable to writing on a set schedule.  My only vision was to write in a way that capture the way I felt for my girls as they grew.Sweet Mama Makes (sweetmamamakes.etsy.com) was started on a dream that turned into a reality on a whim.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a creative job such as the hand-makers I’ve always admired on Etsy.  When we moved into our schoolhouse I found myself doing a bunch of DIY projects and posting pictures of them to Instagram. The requests for duplicates started to roll in.  I figured “now is as good a time as any”, and not one to back down from a dream, I took a few weeks to prepare and then opened up shop in August 2014.  I wrote down my “vision” or business plan for my shop before opening but that evolved as the shop did.  I was such a newbie (still am!) but I knew I could either get my feet wet, or wait indefinitely while I “perfected” myself.
What is your goal for your shop? What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a stay-at-home mom and small biz owner? What do you find to be the most rewarding?My goals for my shop have evolved into “enjoy what you’re doing” and “don’t waste your time”.  I spent too long taking on projects I didn’t love (or would get burnt out on ) and subsequently spent many hours questioning how I was spending my “free time” or even “family time”.  And speaking of time, that is the most challenging aspect of the hand making business.  You are the only boss of your time and usually (if you have little ones like me), your time is severely limited already.  I’m someone who thrives on goals and completing them.  So I would have a determined goal in mind for nap time and then it would get interrupted or the project would hit a snag and take longer than expected and I took on a lot of stress from that.  (managing my time and limiting my projects has greatly helped)The most rewarding part of being a work-at-home mom that creates is having something tangible to point to that you have done each day.  Being a mom of little ones involves a lot of fluid (and sometimes rather banal) goals.  (the kids got fed today, check).  Being able to look at something I made, and made money off of, is very rewarding.  It satisfies a creative itch in my soul and gives me goals to aspire to.IMG_3870 

What is your greatest passion in life? How do you live it out?

Wow—my greatest passion?  I guess I would say something really generic but I can’t think of anything more true; my greatest passion is to be the best wife and mom I can be.  Those two things are at the core of my identity and I feel that if they are being accomplished then everything else will fall in place.  

Honestly, being a great mom feels like it is pertinent in these young, impressionable years (and most days feels like more of a challenge than making dinner, cheering on, and kissing my husband :)).  So most of the advice I am soaking up pertains to that.  The best way I’ve found to live it out right now is to keep my relationship in check with the girls and make sure we are connecting well.  I also write about it on my blog so that someday, when they blame me for a few (well-deserved) things, hopefully they will see that my heart was in the right place.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about following Jesus as a 30-something mom, wife, and friend?

In my thirties, I have two kids and a husband (and a job and hobbies).  My time feels so limited, and often when I have it, I want to be selfish with it.  It is hard for me to sacrifice it for the Kingdom.  

Second, and perhaps equally as challenging, has been giving up control of my family.  The minute I became pregnant with my eldest (which was after a miscarriage), I was paralyzed with fear.  I thought it would go away when she was born, but it only increased as I realized I wanted to do everything to keep her alive and thriving.  Being a follower of Christ should give me peace that my future is secure (as well as my children’s futures), but I often find myself fighting against that and trying to take over the reigns or letting a thought take over my mind and giving it way too much power to scare me.  “Perfect love casts out all fear”.  That is my motherhood mantra.

 

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You have 2 precious little girls and a handsome hubs. And you live in the coolest restored schoolhouse. What do you find most difficult about the work/life balance? How do you make it work for your family?

Ahh, gee, thanks! For the first 18 months of life in the schoolhouse, we spent almost all of our free time (which is kind of a joke considering he has a full time job, and is studying for his doctorate, on top of new acreage to care for and me raising our two young girls and starting a new business), but anyway, ALL free time was spent on house projects.  Now we are nearly done with the process and can actually enjoy the fruits of our labor! The one thing that we have held onto in this busiest of seasons is our Sabbath.  Sunday is our true day of rest where we don’t work on anything that requires blood, sweat, or tears (if it causes stress, we don’t do it, or stop if it starts to become stressful).  We also make sure to do something as a family such as a bike ride or driving somewhere new.  This has anchored us each week and given us something (literally) to work for.  Observing the Sabbath has truly changed our outlook on the week and I also feel that by honoring God with it, He has honored us by giving us time to complete our necessary work.  Sometimes it comes down to the eleventh hour, but somehow it always works.  I would highly recommend a Sabbath for every family!

 

View More: http://kimmyhowardphotography.pass.us/miley

 

Which woman inspires you? Why?

-I follow a few shops on IG that I am constantly inspired by their creativity and craftsmanship. This seems to be the “golden hour” for handmakers on Instagram.  Many shops are starting from scratch and making huge names for themselves.  It’s very exciting!

-my mom inspires me to be the mom that I am and to press on when things are difficult with the girls because I have an end picture in mind :)

-my late grandmother was a true farmwife (long before they were considered chic!).  I am inspired by her well-lived ninety years of life. She lived very simply, but was very hardworking. I am reminded of her often and would like to think I carry some of her hand-making spirit inside myself.

How was it renovating an old schoolhouse? I think that’s the neatest thing!  Did you ever dream that would be home? 

Honest answer?  It was a challenge!  More of a time and money suck than we dreamed.  But we love the feeling of accomplishment and the end result. I’ve always been drawn to old houses and architecture and felt that the character made the house.  Plus, I love the idea of a good bargain that can be madeover into a vision.  I never dreamed we would live in a schoolhouse (did I even realize people did that?) but now I love it.  I love that everyone in our small town knows where we live by description alone, I love that two educators live in a schoolhouse, and I love that my house came with a built in personality. 

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Describe a typical day in the life of YOU.

My alarm almost always goes off at 6:30am.  I’ve found this is early enough to give me some time before the girls wake up to read my Bible and collect my thoughts (crucial for this introvert).  I also live and die by a schedule, although loose as it may be, I like to have one for each day.  

The mornings are for getting organized for the day, doing some sort of cardio exercise, running errands and the occasional play date or adventure.  The afternoons are spent napping (for the youngest), and “rest time” for the oldest while I work almost exclusively on Sweet Mama Makes.  

When Nate arrives home, he takes the girls outside while I work some magic in the kitchen.  After, it’s bath and bed for the darlings.

I’ve made a conscientious effort to not work on SMM after the girls are in bed and instead use that time as my decompression hour.  I usually work on a “fun” project for myself while watching a show or I read.  Nate works on his doctorate 4 nights a week but we make a point to hang out together at least one “school night” a week and of course the weekend.  

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What advice do you have for readers who are interested in a similar career path?

If you are looking to go into Etsy or a similar handmade field, I have two pieces of advice

set up a good marketing plan

just start

Marketing has been crucial for my business and 90% of my sales come from traffic derived from my Instagram business page.  It is helpful to have a good understanding of the different social media outlets and how they work for advertising.  I would highly recommend studying up on those and then pick one main one and go all out.

It is easy to paralyze yourself with wait, especially when you don’t have a boss directing you to start.  This business is mostly trial-and-error.  I’ve read some good books and learned a lot from asking veterans good questions….but…this is all irrelevant if I don’t have a platform from which to launch.  

Just remember that you will be starting from the ground up, so sales will be slow at first.  Make some goals, have some templates, and then start.  As the sales roll in, you will have time to edit and launch your business to where you want it.  

Thank you, Blaire, this was fun!  It’s always an encouragement to be taken an interest in by strong women such as yourself!

Written by Blaire

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