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Creative Entrepreneur

CYOP #106 - Making Big Changes + Going with the Flow: A Chat Between Me + Melanie Biehle


CYOP #106 - Making Big Changes + Going with the Flow: A Chat Between Me + Melanie Biehle

Photo: Amy Humphries (@amyjhumphries) via  Twenty20.

Photo: Amy Humphries (@amyjhumphries) via Twenty20.

Today’s show is the first ever co-hosted episode of CYOP! I’m excited to bring the Melanie Biehle back on the show every so often as a cohost. She is an incredibly talented artist and designer and she’s also the 2017 CYOP Artist Resident.

In the episode, we step away from the interview format and just have an open discussion about what’s going on in our respective businesses right now, some of the big changes we’ve both made over the last few months, and how it’s all shaking out.




Check out Melanie's art
Melanie on InstagramPinterest + Twitter
Melanie's pop-up event in Seattle
Me on Instagram, Pinterest + Twitter
My office hours
Google Hangouts
Melissa Camilleri Anicich
Steph Jagger
Thanks to Sandra + Adina (Adina + Zeke's podcast episode) asking awesome questions!


The Creative Digest
(Extra interview snippets + the CYOP Slack Community!)



CYOP #1 - Embracing a Multi-Passionate Career Path with Janna Marlies Maron and Jeremy Maron of ThinkHouse Collective

Welcome to the new and improved Creating Your Own Path series! It has always been a goal of mine to transition this series from a written Q & A to a podcast and I finally decided to make the jump! Up until a few days ago, I really didn't know how to make a podcast happen and, though I've made it this far, I still have so much to learn (as in, please excuse the reverb and sound variations in this first episode!). Luckily, my first guests are some of the coolest, most understanding people around.

Janna Marlies Maron and Jeremy Maron in the lobby of  ThinkHouse Collective . // Photo courtesy of  Marita Madeloni

Janna Marlies Maron and Jeremy Maron in the lobby of ThinkHouse Collective. // Photo courtesy of Marita Madeloni

Meet Janna Marlies Maron and Jeremy Maron, ladies and gents. Not only were they supportive of my "hey let's see if I can figure out how to do this" attitude, they are both super inspiring.

Janna and Jeremy are the husband and wife team behind ThinkHouse Collective, which is a fantastic coworking space here in Sacramento. Janna also publishes a quarterly literary arts magazine, teaches college writing courses, co-hosts a storytelling series and writes and edits on a freelance basis. Jeremy is the man in charge at ThinkHouse, but he's also learning the ropes of the wine industry, nurturing his love of film and creating connections through various events here in Sacramento.

Pretty great, right? I cannot wait for you to hear our discussion about creativity, what it means to be a creative entrepreneur and so much more.


You can listen to the full episode below or subscribe to all of the Creating Your Own Path podcasts over on iTunes.

The inaugural episode of Creating Your Own Path (in podcast form) brings me to ThinkHouse Collective to interview the owners of the Sacramento coworking space, Janna Marlies Maron and Jeremy Maron.

Janna and Jeremy chat about career trajectories, finding time to create, working with each other and the art of juggling multiple businesses, side projects and hobbies.

We mentioned quite a few different resources and projects during the interview and I wanted to make sure I linked up to them, as promised. 

To learn more about Jeremy and Janna's various projects, check out:

Other resources mentioned:


I hope you've enjoyed listening to the podcast as much I enjoyed creating it, my friends. Janna and Jeremy were gracious first guests and I can't wait to get started on the next episode!

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Tag: Creating Your Own Path



Creating Your Own Path - Interview 5 - Anne Ditmeyer

Today's post has been a long time coming and I'm thrilled to be able to share it with you. 

I'm fairly certain that my first exposure to Anne Ditmeyer's creative work dates waaaaay back (read: a handful of years ago) when I started reading blogs. Design*Sponge was one of the first blogs I remember reading regularly and I just loved Anne's posts. So naturally, I started following her blog, Prêt à Voyager, and was even more inspired! Most recently, I had the pleasure of taking her Map Design class over on Skillshare and had a great time learning from Anne and my fellow classmates.

I've been a fan of her work for quite some time and it wasn't until I sat down to write this introduction that I realized:

  1. I've been consuming online content much longer than I've been creating it.
  2. In many ways, Anne's work sparked my desire to create – both in print and on the web.
"I love being able to do what makes me happy." - Anne Ditmeyer // Photo by  Meg Gagnard .

"I love being able to do what makes me happy." - Anne Ditmeyer // Photo by Meg Gagnard.

Though I have yet to meet Anne in person, her work and creative journey are nothing short of incredible and I'm so glad we all get to learn more about her through the powers of the internet. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, so let's see what she had to say!


JEN: When people ask you what you do for a living, how do you generally respond?

ANNE: Funny, I know that I'm inevitably going to be asked this question, but I have yet to come up with an answer that I'm happy with. I'm such a visual person that I always think it's easier to see something to understand it, which is harder in conversation. Also, I do a ton of different things – something particularly foreign to the French who tend to have highly focused career trajectories. I think of mine as a hybrid. 

I've also been thinking a lot lately of how to explain myself in terms of what I want to be doing, rather than just what I'm doing now. It's also interesting that terms like freelancer and blogger can have a negative connotation based on the person's experience with them (particularly an older generation). Right now I consider myself a communications designer and writer focused on travel and education, bridging online and "real" worlds. I tend to work with small independent businesses and start ups who see the world creatively.

I seriously forget what I do sometimes because I juggle so much. I teach online on Skillshare (Map Design and InDesign, which are open to anyone who wants to sign up), teach an undergrad Designer/ Entrepreneur class at Parsons Paris, give tours of Paris through Vayable and do freelance consulting, social media and graphic design work.

I have worked as a long time contributing editor for Design*Sponge, and have written for publications from time to time including AnthologyeasyJet TravellerDwellKinfolk, and Fast Co. Design. Here's the catch: I rarely pitch ideas. Most opportunities come to me – that's how I ended up being published in these magazines. That never would have happened before my blog and twitter, which have allowed me to share my voice and create a name for myself. I started Prêt à Voyager in 2007, so it's been a slow and steady race to get where I am now, but proof that hard work pays off.

J: You currently live and work in Paris. How does working as a creative in Paris differ from working in America?

A: Health care. I honestly don't think I could afford to be a freelancer in the U.S. The cost of living in Paris isn't cheap and I pay hefty social charges, but it's comforting to know if I get sick, I won't be in as much debt. I also like that doctor's offices feel more like going to someone's home instead of some sterile void. I'm sure at the end of the day it all evens out, but it's more the peace of mind that comes with socialized medicine.

The other big difference is that I lose a lot of money in the exchange rate. Where my work comes from changes all the time, but right now most of my earnings are coming from U.S. clients. So not only do I lose in the exchange rate, but also in PayPal fees or wire transfers.

On the up side, I've been really fortunate to find fabulous French friends, most of whom do their own thing. It's been wonderfully inspiring and encouraging for me to do my own thing too. Overall, I've tried to create a job for myself that I can do anywhere. You never know what the future will bring so I want to be able to be ready for anything. 

"My  thesis  looked at tourism and new media in Morocco." - Anne Ditmeyer

"My thesis looked at tourism and new media in Morocco." - Anne Ditmeyer

J: When did you begin your creative venture(s)?

A: I suppose it all started when I was a kid. I used to wake my mom up early because I wanted to "make things." We had a really awesome craft closet growing up and my mom was our Camp Fire leader. I'm so glad I grew up before all these iPhones and iPads. I'm old fashioned in that way and still crave the opportunity to disconnect. (In fact, I just made a party hat decorating station at a friend's surprise 30th birthday party – my goal is to bring back what we rarely do anymore).

I should also note that I was incredibly shy growing up, particularly in group settings. I was dubbed "the quiet one" at our lunch table. It wasn't until 6th grade, when I got my first camera, that I remember starting to break out of my shell. I could go photograph something else if I ever found myself in an awkward situation.

Otherwise, I didn't really start my creative path officially until after UVA. In college I discovered anthropology through a Cultural History of Still Photography class that I adored. I loved the mix of visual and cultural in one. I was a coxswain for the men's crew team but found a creative outlet photographing the team and working on the end-of-the-year slide show. I remember having conversations with an English professor, after the class was over, about my future. I told him I was interested in design (I was particularly inspired by book covers and Chronicle Books), but I wasn't ready to go on to do a full fledged design degree. (Really the idea of drawing and color theory terrified me). After college I escaped reality and taught English in Paris for a year and when I returned, I enrolled in the Masters in Publications Design program at the University of Baltimore. The program was a great fit for me because it was all about the integration of word and image and aimed more at those with a liberal arts background. I also liked that classes were evenings and weekends so I could work full time and not go into more debt than need be.

J: Did you work any strange/odd/boring jobs before you started your creative work? If so, what were they?

A: I dressed up like a costumed character for bank openings! Honestly, I have photo proof. My friend worked at an events company and we were all still young enough (I was completing my first Masters) to need extra money. You got paid more to be dressed as the character (it was HOT in there) than to be the "character assistant." I found it all very amusing. 

"My best friend  Felice  took this picture of me. We were on a break and went to the grocery store next door. I promise that's me inside the costume!" - Anne Ditmeyer

"My best friend Felice took this picture of me. We were on a break and went to the grocery store next door. I promise that's me inside the costume!" - Anne Ditmeyer

J: Did anyone ever tell you to "have a back-up plan" or advise you against working in a creative field?

A: I was never told to have a back-up plan per se, but on several occasions my mother has had to remind me that I deserve to be paid for my work. I remember when I got really excited about a travel publishing internship in Prague. It sounded awesome, BUT you had to PAY to do it. Thankfully my mom knocked some sense into me. (Anyone who has taken my MAPS class knows who my mom is!) Now I find myself being the person that reminds my friends to value their work and what they do.

In undergrad I studied art history (and anthropology). I always found it interesting that in the U.S. the common reaction was, "So what are you going to do with that, teach!?!" Meanwhile, when I'd tell people in France I was was studying art history the reaction was more like, "Oh, that's great." Perhaps that's why I ended up in France...

J: What inspires your creativity (people, places, things, experiences, etc.)?

A: I'm most inspired by really simple – and cheap things! My best ideas either come from swimming laps in the pool (Paris pools are particularly entertaining), making connections in the metro (it's like I'm solving problems while I'm physically making the link), and wandering neighborhoods and discovering new places. 

My first trip to France with my family as a junior in high school also influenced me in a few ways. First, we stayed at the home of an actual French family – friends of my parents from before I was born – and I thought that was so cool. I still remember their wine glasses that had French words etched in them (they were from the Louvre). And I tried cherry syrup in my water and thought it was awesome. While the Musée D'Orsay was great and all, their café was the first time I saw yogurt you can drink – in French packaging to top it off – and I just thought that was crazy. I think since then I've always been fascinated by understanding cultural differences and learning to communicate them to others.

"Me in the Paris metro." - Anne Ditmeyer // Photo by  Ashley Ludaescher

"Me in the Paris metro." - Anne Ditmeyer // Photo by Ashley Ludaescher

J: Are there parts of your career that provide less income than others? If so, what drives you to continue doing those things?

A: The most frustrating thing about being in the creative industries is that it's easy to not feel properly valued. My least favorite phrase is "can I pick your brain?" You'd never ask your doctor or accountant that question. I'm fortunate to know a lot of people in the world, and I'm happy to help people when I can, but I also have bills to pay (loans for two Masters degrees!) so that can be quite frustrating. 

Most of the time blogging doesn't pay, but for me it's become a database of my favorite projects and ideas that I'm happy to share. I've met wonderful people through it. Now it serves as a business card more than anything else. I recently shared reflections on blogging, travel and my creative process on Signs of Seeing

I like to think of my blog as my free model, but if people come to Paris and want me to show them around I offer tours through Vayable. Also, it was a great platform for me to help get the word out about both my Map Design and InDesign classes on Skillshare. These days I'm so busy that all my other projects seem to be taking priority over my blog, and it's never been my goal to be a "pro-blogger" who makes a living through my blog (too much pressure!). I have loads of ideas in my head though, so I look forward to being able to find some time to get them out.

I've also learned a lot about "traditional" education and publishing in the past year. I think most people would be astounded by how low-paying those gigs are and that both are highly time-consuming lines of work.

"Me giving my Vayable Design Tour." // Photo by  Andreas Ludaesher

"Me giving my Vayable Design Tour." // Photo by Andreas Ludaesher

J: If you weren't doing what you're currently doing, what would you be doing instead (In other words, have you ever envisioned yourself doing something else for a living)?

A: I have a few ideas cooked up for projects I want to pursue in the future and I've been thinking about what I can do to help get myself to that point. I honestly feel like it took me 2.5 years of running my own business – often learning the hard way – to strike a good rhythm and feel like I know what's going on. Instead of being stressed by a lack of work, now it's too many opportunities at once that causes the stress. But doing your own thing means ups and downs. I feel like I have 5 years of ideas in my head, so I'm not too worried. Moving forward I want to keep working on the cross-cultural and connective elements of what I do. It's also nice to be at a place where I can say no to jobs if they're not the right fit.

If I was doing something completely different, I think I'd like to be an urban planner. I like thinking about how a city fits together and have always been a big fan of public transportation. There's nothing worse than being stuck in a car in wall to wall traffic that isn't moving!

J: Are you involved in any events/happenings in Paris or on the web that we should know about?

A: As much as possible, I like to attend events in Paris – or wherever I am. I try to use my twitter and instagram accounts to help showcase and celebrate events or creators. I think sharing and supporting others is really important.

In terms of the web, Lauren O'Neill and I have been working on Studio/Practice for over a year now. It's a curated library of tips and tools for creative business. We've both been juggling so much that the official launch keeps getting pushed back, but I can't wait for it to go live. I think it's going to be a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to do their own thing. We like to think of it as a collection of things we wish we had learned in school. In the meantime, we've been sharing resources and interesting links through our twitter account.

You can sign up for Studio/Practice  here .

You can sign up for Studio/Practice here.

I'll also be speaking at Blogtacular in London this May. They haven't announced what I'm speaking about yet, but there are definitely clues in these responses! I'm excited to have a mini reunion with so many of my favorite European blogger pals there.


I'm not sure about you all, but I am completely inspired by Anne, her various projects and her outlook on life as a creative. If you'd like to follow her adventures or just need a little dose of Paris in your world, you can visit her blog, catch up with her on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

Many thanks to Anne for taking the time to "chat" with us!

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Tag: Creating Your Own Path



Creating Your Own Path - Interview 4 - Adrienne Cheng

Creating your own career path can be challenging. The more I have opportunities to chat with people, the more I realize that success is about knowing what you want and going for it.

After putting on my big girl pants and chopping off my hair a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to share a little more about the woman who not only makes me and much of Sacramento look and feel pretty, but has also been pursuing her creative career with determination and persistence for years. 

Meet Adrienne Cheng: hair stylist, fashion designer and super inspiring woman.  


Adrienne quickly became one of my favorite people in Sacramento after my first appointment in her chair and I'm constantly in awe of her incredible sense of style and the way she approaches everything with creativity and a keen eye. 

She kindly answered a few questions regarding her path toward a creative career, so let's see what she had to say!


Jen: When people ask you what you do for a living, how do you generally respond?

Adrienne: I am a hair ninja who dabbles in fashion design. I am in the salon five days a week and sew on the side when inspiration hits me.  

J: I love the title of 'hair ninja!' We're rolling with that from now on. When did you begin your creative venture(s)?

A: I was sewing clothes for my Barbies and cutting my little sister's hair from a pretty young age, but got into both fields professionally late in life (when I turned 30). I've been in the hairdressing industry for 13 years and am currently at Deeda Salon in East Sacramento. I'm a network educator for Bumble and Bumble and  I'm absolutely smitten with my job. Growing up I spent summers with my father who was in construction. The first day, he would pick me up and drive me around town to look at all of the houses he had built. At the end of the day, I can also look back on what I achieved and hopefully I brought some ease and happiness to each person's life by making them feel attractive.

The clothing thing is a little more selfish. I do it as a form of expression. It's like journalling or writing or creating a song. It makes me happy and if it makes others happy too, even better. In the past I've sold to local boutiques but now I just do limited edition runs of collections of clothing that inspire me and sell them individually to friends.


J: Did you work any strange/odd/boring jobs before you started your creative work? If so, what were they?

A: I've done about everything that could be done in the food service industry from waiting, hostessing, dish washing, you name it. I've been a nanny and I worked for a maid service in San Francisco, which was amazing because I'd get to explore some of the most incredible apartments and art galleries and often got tipped in bottles of champagne. I've never been bored by any job because I think there is always an element of entertainment in any job (be it the work itself, the employees, behind the scenes drama and the like). Plus I have a pretty strong work ethic. I had a short stint as a stay at home mom and I got really depressed. I admire women who can do that and truly enjoy it, but I've always felt if I wasn't bringing in an income, anything I acquired had less value.

J: Did anyone ever tell you to "have a back-up plan" or advise you against working in a creative field?

A: I've been lucky to have a supportive, loving and creative family so I was never advised to do anything other than what fueled me artistically. I do find that there is a certain stigma when I talk to some people about what I do for a living, especially hair.  

When a person tells me they have a son or daughter interested in doing hair they often tell me they have higher hopes for their children and I find that funny. This field can be so diverse and you can make of it what you want: day to day behind the chair, editorial styling, working in the entertainment industry, working in education, the list goes on and on.

J: What inspires your creativity (people, places, things, experiences, etc.)?

A: I am usually inspired creatively by everything around me: music, nature, children, old movies, the weather, food, architecture, contrasts, the improbable.

J: Are there parts of your career that provide less income than others? If so, what drives you to continue doing those things?

A: The business of hairdressing is fairly consistent because, thank my lucky stars, people's hair does grow on a regular basis. The clothing thing I -- at best -- break even or make the tiniest profit. My clothing is a little fantasy based and Sacramento is a play it safe kinda town and relatively frugal as well. I am often told if I put my stuff in different markets I'd make more of a profit. At this point, the fun in designing clothes is creating a story, documenting the story via photos or short film, showing it to my friends and family and maybe the world, selling a limited run of pretty items to friends and others and seeing the items being loved by their owners. When I make something that several people want to wear I get bored with sewing that shape or seeing that fabric again and again and want to move on to the next endeavor. And no, I have absolutely no desire to go on Project Runway.

J: Ha! Fair enough. No Project Runway for you. If you weren't doing what you're currently doing, what would you be doing instead (In other words, have you ever envisioned yourself doing something else for a living)?

A: If I wasn't doing what I do now I'd love to teach. I worked with an intern from the Met High School last year and really enjoyed teaching her color theory and hair cutting techniques. It was cool seeing that "AHA" moment where it all made sense to her. She just graduated from high school this past summer and is now enrolled in a cosmetology course at Sac City and I can't wait to see where she takes her career.

J: That's so great! I love internships that really inspire young people to test out a career path. So, are you involved in any events/happenings around town or on the web that we should know about?

A: Right now is a busy time for me, both in and out of the salon. I am lucky enough to work with a supportive, artistic team at Deeda. There are stylists here that are so much newer in the industry than I am that push me to do better work and also joke around with. We were involved in helping Anthropologie put on their winter fashion show at the Fountains in Roseville this past weekend and we're working on a fashion event called Wine Women and Shoes later this month. We've also been participating in the GOOD Street Food and Design Market by setting up a braiding bar and interacting with the community, which has been a blast.

As for my clothing line I just created a capsule collection titled RejectXDeeda inspired by Japan, the 60's and French bohemia (editor's note: see photos below).


I feel like each item would be befitting of both Audrey Hepburn and Kurt Cobain. Fluffy coats and dresses and silky karate pants. I assembled a team of 15 people to shoot a short fashion video featuring these clothes that we are hoping to put up on YouTube, the Deeda website and maybe in the salon on screens as well. We filmed it up in Lincoln on a gorgeous piece of property and based it on Sophia Coppolla's movie The Virgin Suicides. We are in the process of editing the film right now and the clothes are currently for sale at Deeda.  

I feel pretty excited to be in a salon that nurtures me as both a hairstylist and fashion designer. The best way to keep up with all of the fun stuff we have going on is by following me on Facebook at Adrienne Cheng at Deeda.


Well, you heard the girl. Go follow her shenanigans. You'll be glad you did! 

All photos in this post are courtesy of Adrienne Cheng. 

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Tag: Creating Your Own Path

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Creating My Own Path: I've Come to a Few Conclusions

I've been giving a lot of thought to creative paths lately. As I interview others about ditching their traditional office jobs or struggling for years before doing what they love full-time, I can't help but wonder where my career is heading. I've come to a few conclusions, my friends, and I'm hoping you'll indulge me for a bit as I think it will help to share them with all of you.


I'm just getting started. 

I realize that, although my journey feels daunting and hasn't resulted in what I would consider a stable income, my creative path has only just begun. Since I left my first full-time post-college office job, I've founded and folded a web start-up (yes, you can cue the sad trombone if you'd like), I've taken small unpaid gigs in order to work with incredible people, signed up for high-paying jobs with companies I didn't necessarily buy into and everything in between. And yet, this is just the beginning. I feel like there is so much more to do and I have so much more to learn.


It's okay to feel floaty. 

You know what I'm referring to, right? The feeling that you're not attached to any one thing? Well, let me first point out that I'mreallyterrible at feeling floaty.I love deadlines, expectations and results. As a freelancer, there are weeks where I'm pitching my work more than I'm actually working. This constant throwing of oneself out into the editorial universe feels incredibly floaty and I'm here to admit that it's difficult to handle much of the time. Sometimes, however, I throw out ideas and they catch the attention of those in decision-making positions. Those moments are anchors for me. I figure as long as I continue to have solid, anchoring moments, I'm (somewhat) okay with the floaty times in between. 


My path is not a straight line. 

It will always be changing. For all I know, my creative path will lead me to another full-time job. While I've loved the freedom that comes from working for myself, I really do miss working face-to-face with a team to produce results. Email is a beautiful thing and I often collaborate with people across the country (and sometimes around the world), yet I miss regular interaction with others as we work toward a common goal.

Maybe I'll see momentum continue as a freelance creative. At least, I hope to! I've been hustling to create my own path, dear readers, and I've had so many little successes along the way. While I'm grateful for the bright spots, I'm still pushing myself to create a truly sustainable freelance career every. single. day.


It's tough to know how it'll all work out. One thing I know for sure: I'll continue use this space as the creative outlet it is and share my path as it leads me around bends that I haven't even dreamt up yet. 

Thanks for letting me share today, my friends. Just so you know, I'm really glad to have you along for the journey. 

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