SS: Take us through a day in the life of YOU.Melissa: Wake up, have coffee (decaf now that I'm pregnant) and breakfast (usually oatmeal and an organic apple with peanut butter), look over orders, do social media and marketing, answer emails, write blog posts, send orders (my wonderful employee helps with this as well), work on new art and/or design gigs, tie up loose ends, make tomorrow's to do list, run errands/ do stuff around the house if it's not too late, dinner, movie or read, then bed. Pretty boring! During the week I mostly work. I always take the weekends off though, and I make sure those are filled with fun. It took many, many years before I realized the importance of taking a couple days off every week!
SS: Tell us a little about college and your career path.Melissa: I majored in acting in college (University of Wisconsin- Madison), but a required costume design class brought about an epiphany where I realized I was much more interested in designing clothing than I was acting. I was also very big into environmentalism, and interned with a big eco- nonprofit. I spent a couple years after college traveling, then started my eco-fashion line, Mountains of the Moon, in my tiny apartment using an old sewing machine on a cardboard box. I traveled all over with the company doing different festivals and eventually trade shows in fashion weeks. In late 2010, I needed a change so I started the blog (Bubby and Bean) and [my] art shop (Bubby and Bean Art) as side projects. Eventually they grew, and now I spend more time on blog work than anything else.
SS: What was it about eco-fashion that intrigued you?
Melissa: I was really involved in environmental groups in college, and as I became more aware of how wasteful the fashion industry can be, I starting researching ways to use sustainable materials in my designs and to create production methods that were the most eco-conscious. Things blossomed from there.
SS: Was it hard starting your own brand, Mountains of the Moon?
Melissa: It was hard, because I did it with no funding and no business training. I admittedly learned a lot the hard way. The business peaked in the mid- 2000s and I was lucky to get the company to a place where it really boomed, with a staff of five and a really great studio and workshop space. But after the economy crashed, fast fashion sort of overtook small designers. I had to reinvent myself and that's when I started the blog and art shop to supplement. Now I work from a home studio and I have one employee who works from her home office. But at this point in my life I'm enjoying the downsizing and slower pace.
SS: What pointers do you have for people looking to get into the design industry?
Melissa: Just like any other creative industry, it's not an easy one to get into. You have to be extremely self-motivated (and trust me, that doesn't always come naturally for me!), and you have to push yourself to always do better. Just be patient, be willing to work long hours and 'pay your dues,' and make genuine connections. I adhere to the 'we're all in this together' philosophy. Being kind and genuine can get you far.
SS: If you didn't work in design, what would you do?
Melissa: I'd love to do something with animals. Or be a National Geographic photographer. That would be pretty amazing.
SS: We love your greeting cards you sell on Bubby and Bean Art! How did you start doing that?
Melissa: I'd always loved making cards for friends, and decided it would be fun to try to sell them on the side. I still consider Bubby and Bean Art to be a side business, but it's really grown. I just wish I had more time in the day to design, because I have so any ideas in my brain!
SS: How did you get into blogging?
Melissa: I initially started the blog as a companion to my business. I'd never been a blog reader before, and didn't know what I was doing. But I loved it. And eventually it grew into not only its own entity, but a real business. Now I'm an avid blog reader, and a huge portion of every work day is devoted to Bubby and Bean.
SS: So blogging's become your main focus, professionally?
Melissa: It definitely has. The blog is my bread and butter, because it has provided so many opportunities for me. I do work with brands sometimes on the blog itself, but it's opened other doors as well, for design work and other projects separate from the blog. I always say that I have 3-5 jobs now instead of one, but I enjoy each of them so much that it doesn't always even feel like work. Remind me that I said that on a Friday afternoon after a 60 hour work week :)
SS: 60 hours is a lot! How do you schedule blogging and other projects? Do you find it challenging?Melissa: I try and plan out my editorial calendar 2-3 weeks in advance. I also try to write each post two days in advance of publishing. This works for me because if something comes up with my other businesses and I'm too swamped to write a post for the next day, there will already be one written. The biggest challenge is "blogger's block." There are days where I literally cannot think of anything interesting to post. Usually taking a break helps, but just like in any other creative field, there are going to be those times where you run out of ideas. Keeping content fresh and interesting isn't always easy. Sometimes I just wish I had a 'blog boss' to assign me topics!
SS: What's your advice to your college self planning for a career?
Melissa: Enjoy college! The real world is less fun and brings a lot more responsibility! Also, keep going to class and doing your best in school. It doesn't matter if you use what you're studying as your actual career in a lot of cases- study what you enjoy. School can be an amazing adventure if you're learning about things that truly interest you. College prepared me for a career because of the classes I enjoyed and my real life experiences there more than what I actually studied.
SS: Where do you usually shop for clothes?
Melissa: Local boutiques, thrift stores, Etsy. I also love Target. I'll admit it. I don't spend a ton of money on clothing- I try to focus on staple pieces that are timeless and will last.
SS: If you could be on any reality show, what would it be and why?
Melissa: I couldn't handle being on a reality show. That's the honest truth!
SS: If I were on a desert island and could only pack three things...
Melissa: A really great book that never gets old like 'Catcher in the Rye', raw cocoa butter (the best moisturizer ever, trust me), and my iPhone. I know, it's awful. I am so dependent on that thing.
SS: What's next? Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Melissa: In 5 years, I'll have a 4 1/2 year old child. So I'd like to be a rad mom to him/her first and foremost. I'd like to have a house with a yard, still be traveling now and then, and spending lots of time with those I love. Career-wise, who knows. I feel like my career has been the #1 focus in my life since college, and I'm reaching the age where I'm planning less and going with the flow more. I'll take whatever comes to me and do the best I can with it. I just want to have enough to be able to pay the bills and still be enjoying life. I couldn't ask for anything more.
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