5 Minutes with Anamarie Dowaliby from August + Stone Design Company
Anamarie Dowaliby: August + Stone Design Company
When I first introduced myself to Anamarie Dowaliby I was in the freak out mode of having just left my full-time job to launch my own creative agency. I was confused on the direction of my work and felt like I had very few women in my life who could relate. I had been following August + Stone, Anamarie’s design company, on Instagram for awhile, admiring her work and aesthetic, so one day I blindly messaged her and asked if she would be interested in letting me pick her brain. Next thing I knew, we were having a Google Hangout coffee talk and talking about the ins and outs of running a creative agency.
I didn’t know it right away, but Anamarie had just made a similar leap only a month before me. We shared the same fears, asked each other questions and generally just connected. Anamarie had this way of making the conversation comfortable - she was kind, smart, and so supportive.
When I decided to launch this blog, Anamarie was one of the first people I wanted to feature. She’s not only a creative genius (truly, I swoon over her Instagram daily), but she’s real, she’s raw and she’s open about how she handles the same situations we’re all dealing with. Check out her Q&A below to learn more about how this mom of two’s untraditional path led her to creating one of Missoula’s best design agencies.
We want to know more about you! Let’s start off by hearing more about you and your family!
PP: Hi Anamarie! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
AD: My name is Anamarie Dowaliby (I changed my last name when I got married and now it sounds like a nursery rhyme). I live in Missoula, Montana with my husband, Shane, and our two kids. My daughter Quinn is five and my son Whit is two - I can’t get enough of them.
PP: Now that we know about you, tell us a little more about your business, August and Stone, and how you got started.
AD: August and Stone Design Company is essentially a graphic design studio. I specialize in branding and marketing, but also spend a decent amount of my time doing wedding and event materials. I started August and Stone in 2016 after we moved from Denver to Missoula for my husband’s job. I was pregnant with my second baby at the time and didn’t see anything in my field (marketing) that jumped out at me right away, so I decided to try doing freelance work.
At first all I really did was buy a website domain and open a business Instagram account while doing contract work for a local marketing firm. My background is in marketing and design so this felt like a good, flexible job for a mom with a newborn, and it was. However, it wasn’t a job with a lot of creative freedom and I found myself unable to give my side projects the focus they deserved.
After redoing my website and raising my prices closer to the market rate in 2017 I started getting more clients and bigger jobs on my own. I was able to venture out full time at the beginning of 2018 and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a lesson in a lot of things but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that valuing my work is the best way to create value for my clients.
PP: On this blog we’ve talking with a number of women who have different relationships with their creative business. Some consider themselves business owners or entrepreneurs, while others look at themselves more as freelancers or side hustlers. How would you describe yourself?
AD: I would describe myself as a business owner, though it took me a long time to truly identify as one. Saying you’re a freelancer feels safer but there’s something really empowering about owning my brand and all the hard work that comes with it.
PP: Absolutely! Can you tell us a little more about when and how you knew you were in the right place to take that leap into running your own business?
AD: It’s definitely hard to know when you’re ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship and realize I’m very privileged to be able to take on a job with no guaranteed income.
My husband and I had our daughter before we were married and were just getting started in our careers and post college lives. It taught us a lot about hard work, living on a small budget, and taking risks. I think having that life experience and seeing the joys of following an untraditional path gave me the courage to step out on my own and really follow my passion.
From a more practical standpoint, we knew that worst case scenario, we could cover our monthly expenses on one salary and had a good idea of how much I could make based on my average profits from my side work before I quit working for someone else.
PP: Give us a look into your day to day. Are you running your business from home? Tell us a little bit about your work space.
AD: This is the last month I’ll be operating out of my home office! I reserved a desk at a co-working space and I’m so excited. Currently, my desk sits next to the bed in our guest bedroom and I have my printer, scanner, and other office items in the closet. Though working from home can be great and I’ve done it at various points in my career, it’s going to be amazing to have my own separate space.
PP: As a small business owner we often find ourselves doing all the things. What are three ways you keep yourself organized?
AD: So true! Google Drive and Google Calendar are my best friends. If a meeting isn’t in my calendar, there’s a chance I’ll completely space it out. I also use a business management software (Honeybook) for invoicing, proposals, and records and that’s huge too. Finally, I try to do a good job of keeping a running to-do list in my journal that combines aspects of my online and physical projects.
PP: Oh I love it. So when it comes to managing all the things, let’s talk a little bit about your family life. As a mom, wife and small business owner, there are a lot of things we’re responsible for every day. It can get overwhelming, you know? Can you share three ways you personally manage that work-life balance?
AD: It’s SO hard! There are definitely a lot of times where I don’t feel like I have any sort of balance but I’m always working on it. One thing that is key is putting my laptop away when the kids are home and awake. They’re in daycare and preschool four days a week and there’s always one more thing that could be done but having our evenings and Mondays together is indispensable.
My husband and I are both very dedicated to our kids and jobs but we try to make a big effort to spend time alone together on a regular basis. That’s really huge because it keeps us on the same page across the board - and it’s fun!
I also take advantage of being my own boss by taking a few lunch hours a week to run personal errands so I can spend time doing things more exciting than going to Costco when everyone is home together.
PP: Yes! The beauty of working for yourself. Is your family involved in your business at all? If so, tell us how you get them excited about what you’re doing.
AD: My husband works in ad tech so he’s always a good person to bounce ideas off of. My kids have also been known to accompany me on deliveries and the occasional meeting and I like that they can see their mom working hard, even though those days are usually a little chaotic.
PP: Especially working from home I feel like it can be tough to separate work from personal life. Do you have any tips specifically on how to separate them? Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, ways to integrate the two?
AD: It’s super tough. One thing that’s helped me a lot is trying to limit checking emails after traditional business hours unless I’m working on something really time sensitive. Also, making sure that all of my physical work is in my office and not on the kitchen table at the end of the day is key to being able to shut things off mentally.
PP: Totally. Unplugging is definitely my form of self care – just stepping away so to focus more on what’s happening right now. Speaking of self-care, can you tell us how you incorporate it into your life?
AD: One thing that’s really helpful for me is taking the time to clear my head outside. Even if it’s just a quick walk or run, I always feel better after getting some physical activity and vitamin D.
Along those lines, letting go of the guilt of occasionally getting lunch with a friend or working out while my kids are being taken care of by someone else is important. Mom guilt is very real but you can’t be a good parent if you don’t take care of yourself.
I’m also a big believer in getting fully showered and dressed a couple of times a week. I could easily spend all week in leggings and messy hair (and usually do) but it does wonders for my mental state to actually put in effort every once in a while.
PP: Can you tell us a little about your life and career before motherhood? Do you feel like motherhood impacted your professional choices?
AD: It seems so much longer ago than it is! I actually majored in Political Science and my first professional job was working on a US senate campaign. It was quite the experience but I quickly learned that the campaign life wasn’t for me. As I mentioned before, I found out I was pregnant unexpectedly at 24 - right after I had started my first marketing job at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana. I loved the job and was able to continue working with them after I had Quinn and had moved to Denver but it wasn’t a long term remote position. I was very determined to keep going on my career track so I immediately dove into part-time data analytics for a company in Boulder followed by a two year stint as the Online Marketing Manager for Rocky Mountain Bride Magazine.
There’s a part of me that wonders where my career would have gone had I waited to have kids, but at the end of the day, I’m really grateful for the direction it’s taken. Flexibility definitely became more of a factor as soon as I became a parent and I’m extremely grateful that I’ve been able to maintain that throughout my five years of motherhood while still getting the experience I needed to bring me to my current job.
PP: Going back to August and Stone, something I’ve really loved about following along with you this past year is the diversity of your clients. You work with all types of businesses and still manage to create flawless work. Looking back, is there a specific project that stands out as one of your favorites?
AD: It’s true! I’ve been lucky enough to work with everyone form established law firms to brides to restaurants. At this point, the majority of my clients are referrals from past clients and that makes me really happy. It’s hard to pick one project that stands out the most because one of my favorite things about my job is the variety of clients I get to work with.
Two of my favorite things however, are working with other creatives and revamping outdated materials. I’m on the second phase of branding for an interior design company with amazing taste and getting to collaborate and share visions is pretty ideal. I also got to work with an incredibly creative boutique owner on modernizing her existing branding and it was so fun to incorporate the style of the store with the tags, boxes, signage etc.
PP: Totally agree with you there! Joining forces with other likeminded creatives is a dream. And something I’ve really enjoyed about your work is how well you’ve curated it on Instagram. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve used Social Media to enhance your business?
AD: Thank you! I’ve managed social media platforms for bigger companies so I have a decent idea of what posts well and what doesn’t. That being said, Instagram is always changing and there’s always something new to consider. Mostly, I think about my target audience and how my online presence benefits my business - I guess like a little portfolio.
I put a lot of work into maintaining a level of quality I’d be happy with if I were hiring someone else to do my job. I also don’t post every project I’m working on - not because I’m not proud of them but more because it doesn’t go with what I feel like presenting at the time. I don’t think I’ve quite found the balance in sharing enough of my personality on my business account but I’m working on it!
PP: What do you find to be the most rewarding part of running August and Stone? Tell us about what keeps you inspired.
AD: I feel so lucky to have such a rewarding job. First and foremost, I love designing and coming up with creative solutions to problems. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I get paid to draw or paint. I also really like working with other business owners - helping them create a brand or campaign that matches their vision and personality is really hard to beat. Client relationships are such a big part of any small business and I love the balance of connecting with clients and having the freedom to work on my own.
As a parent, flexibility is also key to our everyday lives and though the balance can be tough, it’s great to be able to pick the kids up early or attend performances without having to ask for time off.
As for what keeps me inspired? Everything. Interior design, the outdoors, and art in all forms - I love finding inspiration for branding in unlikely spaces. There was a mailbox that was the most perfect forest green and we used it as the main color in a photographer’s palette. Nothing says high fashion like the place where your junk mail gets delivered.
PP: We want to hear a little bit more about anything you have that’s coming up. Tell us what we can look forward to seeing as we follow along with you on social media.
AD: I’m really excited about diving into work this fall. This summer was really busy - lots of wedding work on top of my normal load along with a decent amount of personal travel. I have a more consistent calendar for September and October - on boarding a few new branding clients and 2019 brides and working on some long term projects that are ramping up now that summer is over. I’m especially excited about the work I did for a bar that’s opening this winter - we’re done with the branding and are going to get started on signage and menus soon.
My goal is to get started on sprucing up my own website and actually doing a bit of marketing for August and Stone - something I haven’t really had time to do so far. That includes getting better at posting consistently on Instagram - I’ve been a bit of a random poster lately. We’ll see if that gets accomplished!
PP: Going back into what we talked about earlier, it can be SO hard to make time for yourself and your business. I love that you plan on focusing more on your own growth.
So, last question, what advice would you give other mamas who are considering running their own business?
AD: Know that you have value. I think society has a tendency to not take working moms as seriously as working dads or non-parents and that’s such a falsehood. Just because you’re working around the schedule of a family doesn’t mean that you aren’t contributing to the economy in a meaningful way and it doesn’t take away from the value of your work or product.
Charge what you’re worth (this was so hard for me), take your business seriously, and set boundaries. When you have a flexible job it can be easy to say yes to everything but accepting help and saying no are really important tools to success.