I am so pleased to introduce you to Jennifer Wise. This interview truly warms my heart and motivates me to take some action on something I should have started a long time ago: organize the pictures of our three boys growing up. Jennifer is so passionate, warm, funny, and so sincere about her journey through motherhood and how her hobby of scrapbooking turned into an entrepreneurial adventure. She talks about balancing the stress of selling as an introvert, wanting to get too much done and how to filter and sort through all the feedback and ideas everyone has been giving her along the way. I can guarantee you that by the end of this interview, you’ll all feel a little guilty if you haven’t done anything with the billion of pictures on your iPhone, but also committed to checking out her blog and her solutions to get you started if you feel way behind. This is a longer interview but I couldn’t get myself to edit it because it’s packed with awesome advice.
Tell me about your business: what, why, for how long?
My business is Heritage Makers, a digital publishing company offering heirloom-quality do-it-yourself storybooks, photo books, digital scrapbooking, and very personal gifts from the heart (among other things!) My motto is “Don’t let your babies grow up to be jpegs.” My goal in my business is two-fold: to educate and inspire about why memory-keeping is so necessary to our hearts and souls, and to give people a high-quality, doable way to accomplish it.
The why of this question is my story. In March 2005, I was pretty much just minding my own business. I was a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) raising three kids under the age of seven. I wasn’t looking for a business or even a new hobby. I’ve always been very passionate about connections. I’ve always been a journal-writer and a photo-snapper because memories are both precious and fleeting. Things you think you’ll never forget fade over time. I have always recognized how good it is for me to take time to reflect on my own experiences and memories. One week, I had phone calls from three friends telling me about a new company that they’d just become consultants for, Heritage Makers.
At the time, I was a scrapbooker and as a SAHM was obviously very involved with all aspects of my kids’ lives. I was absolutely not looking for something else to add to my plate, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Heritage Makers. I saw so much possibility in this incredible tool for helping families connect with each other using a simpler method than scrapbooking. In a decision that is thoroughly unlike me, I signed up as a consultant within a few days, having never even used the product before. For a solid introvert, social selling was a pretty gigantic step, but the purpose of the product was something I believed in so deeply that I kind of couldn’t help myself. Thirteen years later, here I am, still passionate about encouraging people to take time to put words and meaning to their life experience by preserving photos and memories.
Tell me about your family
I have been married for 23 years, and my husband and I have three children ages 20, 17, and 13. (That means my kids are at the ages where they don’t want me posting pictures of them on the internet. Sigh. But they’re adorable—trust me!)
How do you balance them?
Work-family balance for me probably looks rather different than it does for many women who are entrepreneurs or working full-time. Because I wasn’t really looking for a business. I chose it because it could fit into my life while maintaining my main goal to be a SAHM while my kids were young. As a consultant working within a social selling framework, I had complete flexibility as to how much time I would work the business, and when I would give that time. Both because I was a SAHM to young kids and because I was trying to find my introvert way in an extrovert field (social selling), for the first several years, I gave much more time to my family than my business, which was exactly how I wanted it.
Once my kids were all in school, I gave more time to the business, and I ventured out online as well, starting a blog, teaching online classes, making tutorial videos on how to use the Heritage Makers program. I am blessed to continue to be able to put my business second whenever my family needs me (or whenever I need some me-time, let’s be honest). I also work part-time as an American Sign Language interpreter, and I currently volunteer as a teacher for a scripture class for high schoolers three mornings a week, so I periodically have to re-evaluate where I’m putting my time and make sure it’s where it should be. Re-evaluating is crucial—otherwise, I feel like I’m being dragged behind a horse called My Calendar.
The how of balancing work and family can be pretty tricky. I keep a calendar, and I hold to some great advice I heard once: If it takes longer than 15 minutes, it should be on your calendar. Writing down even little things I have to do (like paying bills or doing laundry, for example) helps me make sure I have time for them without feeling overwhelmed or like things are piling on top of me. I also really have a need to physically cross things off my list, so making sure I write down everything I need to do gives me more to cross off!
I also made a list of my time priorities that I see at the beginning of each week, right there on my calendar. Opportunities and responsibilities are coming at me all the time. I need a gauge to measure what to spend my time on. For me, self-care is the thing that falls by the wayside the most. I always tend to procrastinate exercising, relaxing, reading, calling a friend, etc. I will drop everything for a child, a Heritage Makers client, an interpreting job, my church service, or a friend who calls me—but I don’t drop everything to make sure I’ve been taken care of. So my list of time priorities is an important tool so that when things feel out of control, I can remember what I really value most and see if that’s where I’m putting my time.
What does your weekly schedule typically look like? How much time per week dedicated to your side business?
This has changed a lot over the years as my approach to my business and trying to find my ideal clients has morphed. Right now, my main activities for growing my business are mainly two-fold: 1. online work such as writing blog posts and recording online classes or tutorials and 2. networking with local groups to meet more people and get the word out. My main activities for servicing clients include online tutorials and helps, answering e-mails/texts/calls, and holding monthly workshops where people can come and bring laptops and work on projects.
I have a very detailed work calendar that gives me time for online work and time for networking and workshops and such. There’s always some flexibility required since things never go as planned, but as long as I’ve marked out some hours for it, it usually turns out okay. In an average week, I probably spend 8-10 hours a week on my business.
Describe your start in entrepreneurship.
I would have to say it was pretty shaky. I’m a low-pressure kind of a gal—introverted, as I mentioned–and getting “out there,” “closing the sale,” and that kind of thing was really difficult and horribly unnatural for me. It took me a few years to find my groove. I think embracing your talents is absolutely vital in entrepreneurship! I am not a stick-my-hand-out-and-introduce-myself type of person, but over time I realized I am some other great things.
I’m a problem solver, I’m a listener, I’m responsible and dependable, and I love helping people. I’m quiet at first, but after the general ice-breaking part of a relationship, I’m friendly and funny and supportive, and most people really like me. Once I learned how to stop backing away because I didn’t fit in the “box” of a direct-sales stereotype, I began to learn what *I* could bring to my business that nobody else could.
It took some time and some practice, but “Run With Your Strengths” is a happy place to be. Could I do some aspects of my business better? Sure. But nobody can be all things to all people anyway, so I might as well be myself and let people who appreciate my style be drawn to me.
When did you feel like you’ve made it? Or what’s your definition of success?
This is a hard question for me. Over the last 13 years, I have wavered a little on my definition of success, so I think it’s been hard for me to recognize if I’ve “made it.” Like many businesses, it can be easy to base your definition of success on how your business is received, how many people use it or buy it, or how much money you make from it. I heard a quote recently that blaming your spouse for failure in your marriage is like saying, “Your side of the boat is sinking.” I think business is often looked at like that. I’m sitting in one end of the boat, and clients or potential clients are sitting in the other end, and successful business means we’re floating, not sinking.
The reality of it for me has been that I can’t always define my success that way. The biggest obstacle I have in my business is that people say they don’t have time to do anything with their photos and memories. Is that my responsibility, or theirs? I’ve written quite a few blog posts about time management, tricks for making time, etc., and I hold online and in-person workshops to give people a chance to block out time on their calendars for memory-keeping, but in the end, someone with photos and memories has to prioritize doing something with them.
Therapeutic Tip: I’ve written a lot of blog posts and given keynote addresses and classes on scientific studies about why we need photos and memories, how they create connections and even increase happiness and self-esteem, and how telling your own story is therapeutic, but in the end someone has to believe me and let that information change them and their behavior.
My definition of success has had to stop being dependent on other people’s priorities and choices. I have had to start considering myself successful if I am providing information, quality products, help, services, tools, and solutions to the best of my ability.
How did you handle the slow or disappointing times?
I guess I do two main things when I encounter disappointments, such as the one I just mentioned. I either move forward with hope in the future, or I take a break and re-group. I think a business of any kind requires patience to find your groove, to develop your brand, to meet the right clients, etc., but I also think that sometimes it’s healthy to just take a step back or take a break and just think. Maybe my priorities need to change, maybe I need to cut back on one area and focus on another, or maybe I need to ask someone for help. Maybe I just need a vacation. Sometimes the answer is to try something new, but sometimes I think the answer can be to stop trying so many new things and exhausting yourself.
Women are multitaskers-the good, the bad, the ugly-your views and coping method on this issue.
I always considered myself a great multi-tasker, as most women probably do (because we have to be), but last fall I was at a women’s meeting where the speaker said there’s no such thing as multitasking. It totally blew me away. She said you can really only concentrate well on one thing at a time. It’s just how the brain works. If, for example, you have 5 tabs open in your internet browser, and you are going back and forth between them, you might have them all in the back of your mind, but you can really only give effort and focus to one of them at a time. She said studies show that productivity takes a nose dive when we multi-task.
Because this thought has rocked my world, I’m actually not entirely sure where I stand on the subject of multi-tasking! I suppose I would say that mindless activities can be multi-tasked, but important ones shouldn’t be. Can I drive to the store while calling to confirm my dentist appointment? Sure. But can I write this article while calling to confirm my dentist appointment? Not really. Or at least not very well.
How do you know you are approaching burnout?
I stop enjoying my work. I know I need to take a break, re-evaluate, and re-group.
Does “wanting to do too much” ever affects another side of your life? Like your relationship, parenting style, social life?
A trap I’ve fallen into of late is that I hear a lot of great advice, either through networking speakers or online articles, and I come up with new and improved ideas for my business that sometimes only results in me feeling overworked and stressed, or like I’m wasting my time spinning my wheels. I get lots of ideas all the time, and I think that is “wanting to do too much.” I wouldn’t say it affects my relationship or parenting. What I think “wanting to do too much” does to me is affect my relationship with myself. It sends me straight to burnout. In turn, that does sometimes affect my marriage relationship and my parenting relationships, because I’m tired and grumpy. Taking a step back and really asking myself which of my efforts in my business are helpful, enjoyable, and beneficial is a constant need for me.
Share your biggest downfall-something you are working on changing
I’m a very sensitive person, and I always used to take disappointments or “failure” personally. Over time, I have learned to take disappointments or “failure” more objectively. (I call it “failure” in quotes because you never really know what’s going to come of something in the end.)
I’m still working on that objective approach, though. I think some of this change has happened as a result of being more experienced in my business, but I also think a lot of it has to do with being over 40. My best is just my best. Take it or leave it. That’s often advice I give to my kids, actually: “All you can do is your best.”
What’s your biggest strength, superpower?
I think my biggest strength is supporting clients. I always text/call/e-mail back as close to immediately as I can. I will always find the answers. I will always be there. I will always help. I’m responsible and reliable. I won’t just flake off, ever. I’m there, 100%.
What’s your motivating source, re-charge mechanism: a person, a specific activity, a book, or a quote?
My re-charge mechanism is time away, whether that’s a Friday night date with my husband or going to see a musical with my daughter or a road trip or a family night or leaving “real life” and escaping into a TV show for an hour. Getting away from my business responsibilities and ideas and goals and all the busy-ness of it helps me regain perspective and balance. Something very, very important to me is time spent in spiritual things. That’s the very best way for me to (quickly!) regain perspective, balance, and especially peace and contentment.
How are your 40s different than your 20s? especially in terms of mindset and confidence
I think our society’s general attitude on women and aging is deplorable. A man is “classy” when he ages, but a woman is “less beautiful” and therefore less “valuable.” Women are expected to lie about their age and their weight and cover their grey hairs, but not men. I don’t even want to know the amount of dollars spent on creams and lotions intended to help women look like they’re not as old as they are—as if that’s the most important thing a woman can do or be. Generally speaking, women are devalued by our culture the older they get, when they should really be honored and respected more with each passing year because of their growing wisdom, intelligence, insight, heart, intuition, and their God-given ability to love and lift. I (obviously) have very strong feelings on the unspeakable value of women and the indescribable contributions they give to the world. If I were to assemble a panel or group or force for any purpose at all, I can promise you it would be mostly women over 40. And that’s because I have known so many absolutely remarkable women over 40.
A lot of great things happened in my 20s, but I am so much better at pretty much everything now that I’m in my 40s. My body is squishier, but I’m smarter, funnier, more confident, a better teacher, and a better mom. I put up with less. I know more. I give better advice. I’m more patient. I know myself much, much better, which in turn has allowed me to be kinder to myself, which has changed me. I think it’s a gift to develop the regal grace that wrinkled, gray-haired grandmothers always seem to have. They don’t get ruffled. They have perspective. They start sentences with, “Oh, honey,” and everybody listens.
I strongly believe that we are supposed to learn from life. So if you’re blessed enough to have your life last for 40 years, or 65 years, or 90 years, I believe you’re supposed to enjoy the ride and get better as you go.
Favorite quote: yours or someone else’s-a quote the re-centers or lifts you up
I have collected great quotes since I was about 14, so I couldn’t possibly narrow down to one favorite. Here are two that I think readers here will love as much as I do:
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” -E.E. Cummings
And one just for fun:
“Everybody is somebody else’s weirdo.” -Scott Adams
Where can people find you and learn more about you? Website, social media handles, etc. And your current product, promotion, something you are really proud of.
My website is www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise and that’s where you create storybooks, family yearbooks, wedding books, calendars, playing card decks, canvases, bags, cards, and the like.
My blog is www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com and is a wealth of information, from inspiration and learning why preserving memories and stories is so good for the heart and soul to time management tricks and fun gift ideas.
My Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/315067088563826/ (Jennifer Wise’s Heritage MAKERS)
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/heritagemakerswithjennifer
YouTube: (tutorial videos and ideas) www.youtube.com/user/jwiseheritagemakers
I am also a weekly contributor at Evolve for #familyhistoryfriday www.livegrowgive.org
Finally, a service I currently offer is making “family yearbooks” (a hardbound storybook with the favorite pictures and memories of one year in it) FOR PEOPLE! It helps people get caught up if they’re behind on preserving their photos, getting them out of digital form and doing something with them. You can ALWAYS e-mail me at email@example.com for more information about any of this.
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a licensed psychologist with experience and interest in family therapy, stress and anxiety management, emotional intelligence and executive coaching. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage and My Spouse is Different Than Me: How to Mediate Irreconcilable Differences and Grow in Your Marriage. Check out her 5-day free email series, From Emotionally Challenged To Emotionally Savvy for people struggling with emotional availability and lacking a sense of connection. For more information, join her at ruxandralemay.com, a website for people who hate therapy, but still need it!