I was a crafty little thing growing up. Once, while painting a volcano for a science project, I wondered what brown polka dots would look like on the outside of my parent’s home, so I tried it on for size. I’m fairly certain that particular creative display is a great source of pride for them. Beyond home improvement, I penned a business plan for my hemp bracelet company (it was going to be huge, I swear), sewed pajama bottoms for all my friends (surefire way to any preteens heart), and made an iMovie video for everything (seriously…everything). I also tried my hand at making cards, and while the results were lovely (I’d come a long way since my house painting days), I could’ve taken some notes from Anastasia Marie. You see, she’s kind of a black belt in card making. Her layered art pieces are so lovely, you could (read: should) frame them – yes, that lovely.
NAME Anastasia Marie Mikailenko, but my friends call me Stacey
LOCATION Portland, Oregon
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND Associates in Art
COMPANY Anastasia Marie
Tell me a little bit about your company & how you first became interested in cards & stationery. My interest in cards started as a young preteen. I was bored with the usual cards that I found at my local grocery store and wanted something more special to give. So out came the scissors and the sparkly backing of an old chocolate box became my first card. It was love soon after that. But it didn’t take off as a possible career choice until my junior year in high school. I was told that graphic design was not a reliable choice and to stick to something like nursing. But nope, I held firm and here I am today with my own company working from home. It was the best decision I made for myself.
Your studio looks like a crafter’s dream come true! What does a day in the life of Anastasia look like? Well, it used to look like me getting up with my husband in the morning, making him coffee and breakfast and sending him off to work. Then I’d get my own breakfast going up in my studio and start working on whatever projects I had going on. Now, as I’m still adjusting to having a 4-month old in my life, there are many days I don’t even make it into the studio to work at all. It’s a challenge for me because I miss my studio and working on projects, but spending time with my new munchkin is nothing short of amazing.
Your layered art pieces are truly something special. What sparked the idea & what is the creative process like? I honestly don’t know what sparked this idea, it just came to me somehow. I start by drawing up designs in Illustrator and then have an electronic cutting machine cut out all the little shapes from various colors of paper. Then assembling it all together requires lots of patience as all the little pieces come together to form a story — sometimes with glue, sometimes with tape, sometimes even by hand stitching.
How did you get the word out about your business when you first launched? I had a mentor actually push me to do things that made me uncomfortable at first. Meeting up with complete strangers one on one was never something that I did before, but now, some of my best friends are folks I met this way. Getting the word out meant getting on social media, connecting with other folks in the same industry, getting my work featured on the right blogs, and so on. It’s challenging because you have to try to set yourself apart from others, but I learned that if you have something special going on and you show people it’s worth their time, interest grows fairly quick. Also, having a large extended family helps, too. They’re amazing at spreading the word!
What have been the most rewarding and difficult parts about working for yourself? The most rewarding aspect has been being able to work from home and call all the shots. It’s especially rewarding now with a baby in the house because I can stay home with him. The flexibility is out of this world! The most challenging part is working alone. I find myself getting rather lonely with no one to talk to. Sometimes I wish I worked in a place where I had co-workers to talk to, but eventually, I start enjoying the quiet and being able to blast my music. And now with my little guy, there’s more than enough noise in the house!
As you well know, being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance? That’s a really big challenge, for sure. I know setting work hours for yourself is a big thing, but often times I still find myself working outside of those hours. Mostly right now it’s because I’m still trying to adapt to being a new mama and I work whenever I get the chance. I’m still terrible at this, but learning to put things in order is key. I care very much for my clients and I want them to have the best experience working with me, but at the end of the day, giving up my family to make that happen isn’t worth it. I need to be available to them first; isn’t that why I started my own company in the first place? It starts in the heart first. If your heart isn’t where it should be, no matter how many schedules you set for yourself or goals you want to accomplish, you’ll find yourself straying from them constantly.
You have impeccable taste when it comes to packaging products (the glitter!). What sort of packaging & embellishments are you drawn to? I’m really drawn to anything gold, kraft, and white. Those are pretty much found in all my packaging, but sometimes I like to stray from that and go have fun with color. It’s good to take a break from the usual every now and then.
Congratulations on your bundle of joy! How has shop life changed since he arrived? What advice do you have for new mothers who also own their own business? Thank you! We’re excited to have that little guy around! Honestly, I think everything has changed! Nothing seems the same anymore. I now find myself changing more diapers than packing up orders these days (haha) but it’s an amazing adventure all the way. I’m still struggling to find time to do everything I want, but I know I’ll get there eventually. It’s been four months, and I’m already way better than I was at one month, so I have hope. I stopped taking on large custom projects months before I gave birth because I didn’t want to commit and then not fulfill, but I’m hoping to start taking them on soon. Little projects are still very manageable.
As for advice, I still feel like I should be taking it, not giving it. Having a baby is a full-time job and my little guy will always come before work. That was something I decided before he was even born and as much as I stress myself out about wanting to get back on the horse and go lasso me some big projects, I always calm myself down by saying it’s all a process. I’ll get there eventually and so will you. So don’t stress about not being able to jump back into everything right away; having a baby is a big deal!
Where might you take the company next? About a year ago, I introduced packaging supplies into my shop and less of my own products as I started re-routing where I wanted my company to go. My focus no longer became doing only custom projects. I hope to eventually have an array of pre-designed goods and lots more fun packaging things take over my company. In the long run, I’d love for Anastasia Marie to become a brick and mortar place that sells paper goods and everything related like tapes and scissors.
Guilty pleasure? After getting pregnant, it became cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting and that kind of stuck around.
Backstreet Boys or N*sync? Neither. I actually didn’t like any of them growing up.
Favorite magazine? Better Homes and Gardens now that we actually own our place and are slowing updating it.
Perfect vacation? Anywhere sunny, really. I’m dying to go to Disneyland right now.
Go-to recipe? Mustard chicken. It’s so easy, one can do it with their eyes closed. Mix together some mayo with just enough mustard to start tasting it. Add in some chopped green onion. Take the mixture and lather chicken breast tenders with it. Cover with breadcrumbs and bake covered in the oven until cooked through. Then at the very end, add some extra breadcrumbs on top and broil on high, uncovered until the crumbs start to brown.