Mother’s Day is all about carving out time to celebrate the special moms in our lives. But how can moms and other busy women make sure they’re making time to care for themselves and pursue their passions on a more regular basis? Tonya Dalton, founder of inkWELL Press, is a bit of an expert on that topic. “It’s so important to carve out time for yourself. A lot of it is editing and learning how to say ‘no’ to the things that really aren’t as important to you,” she said. “A lot of women feel guilty for saying ‘no,’ but when we say ‘yes’ to everything, we’re really saying ‘no’ to a lot of the things that really matter to us. We’re saying ‘no’ to time with our families or to the business we want to start. I really encourage people to look at what you’re doing in your day and see what you can scale back because it’s not meaningful to you.”
Dalton did just that when she founded inkWELL Press, a company that makes paper planner tools to help women be more productive and find joy every day. She said, “I wake up each day happy with what I do. I’m passionate about what I create. I don’t think there’s anything better than that!”
Starting the Company
I started my first business back in 2008. I thought I would be a stay-at-home mom and run this little side business. My husband was traveling a lot, going away for three and four weeks at a time for his job. We found that it really did not work for our family. I made the decision that I was going to change my side business into a full-time job that would be able to take my husband on as a co-owner.
Within a year, I was able to take him on to my business, which we loved. Around the fall of 2013, we were finding that we were not having that passion for the business. We sat down and had a long conversation about what we wanted to do. I created a series of exercises for myself to figure out the things I was passionate about. I honed in on three things that I really believe are part of my purpose: education, productivity, and empowering women.
I figured out a way to combine those elements to start inkWELL Press. Women have a lot of unique challenges throughout their day that require productivity, both at work and at home. We create all types of planners to help empower women to feel a little bit more successful and happier about their days, from fitness planners to meal planners to weekly planners to organizational notepads. A lot of what we do is educating women on how to use productivity to live their best lives – working towards their passion, their purpose, and their priority.
When we closed our first business, we knew we were going to go at least 6 months without any income. So, we just tightened our belts and stopped going to movies and eating dinners out because we really wanted to make inkWELL Press take off as best as it possibly could. We made a plan to financially get through that transition period. We started out by dipping into our personal savings. It was difficult to even find a loan at that point because, being a smaller business, it’s sometimes difficult to have the credit that the banks are looking for to achieve a loan. We do have a business line of credit that we use when we need it, because we have acquired enough credit at this point that we can do that.
When you’re manufacturing, you sometimes have to pay for a lot of product before you receive it. Having that business line of credit really helps. We pay a deposit at the front end and then the rest at the back end. A lot of times, the money we put forth comes out long before our customers pay us.
We try to grow organically as much as we can. We manage our growth so we don’t get into tight spots with cash. But, when we do need to, we tap into our business line of credit because it’s a shorter term and we’re able to pay it off quickly.
Business Challenges and Rewards
There are so many challenges, but that’s what makes it fun. It’s never the same day twice. Being a business owner, there are so many different hats that we wear and so many jobs that we do that it never gets boring.
For us, one of our biggest challenges when we started our business was that we did not know how to create the designs that we wanted to have in our planners. We had to teach ourselves to use the program to create them. I think that’s one of the things so many people get scared of when they’re starting a business, not knowing how to do something. I think if you look at it as a challenge and you just kind of tackle it as you would any other goal, it becomes so much more achievable. For us now, using these programs is so much easier. If I had let that stop me, we wouldn’t have gotten past the first month of opening our business.
There are so many challenges, but the rewards are just as great. There’s something to be said for creating something and knowing that every action in your business is having an effect. We are able to impact other people through our tools and our productivity training. We get the most amazing emails every single week from our customers about how the products are touching their lives and motivating them.
Business Lessons Learned
One of the biggest lessons we learned is that when you’re doing production, and when someone else is doing the manufacturing for you, you need to give twice as much buffer time as they tell you they need. Our first year, we wanted to roll out our products in the early fall. It ended up being November when we launched our planners. We thought when we sent our planners to the printer it was like press print and we’re done. We didn’t account for all of the back and forth and the multiple rounds of sampling. Now, we’ve learned to back our timeline up quite a bit so we can hit the deadlines we want to hit.
Investing in our education was very smart. There were a lot of things we did not know how to do. Sometimes, entrepreneurs don’t want to spend the money on education. But, we took the time to educate ourselves on the programs we use to design the planners. We also took courses on how to do Facebook ads and things like that. Doing that really propelled us forward because we were able to market to our ideal customers long before our launch. That’s what immediately made us successful, because when we launched, we already had 500 customers.
Advice to New Entrepreneurs
There’s never a good time to start a business. There’s always a million reasons why you can talk yourself out of it. But, if it’s something you feel really passionate about and you feel that it fulfills your purpose, you just have to go for it. I talk about goal setting a lot with our customers. What I recommend is setting yourself up with a goal and then working your way backwards, figuring out what the mini-goals are that you need to do to reach the bigger goal. Give yourself little mini-deadlines. Figure out what you need to do to make the time to work on these deadlines so you can eventually transition into working on this business full time.
What’s Next for inkWELL Press
We’re really excited because we launched our podcast, Productivity Paradox, back in January of this year and it’s done amazingly well. That has spurred us on to begin creating courses. We’re getting a lot of demand for that. People want exercises and activities to help boost productivity. Our academic year planners are launching this week. And we’re going to continue helping as many people as possible be as productive as they can.