We had the good fortune of connecting with Jordis Small and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jordis, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
One of my major goals since I started my business was to create the perfect work/life balance. Almost 6 years later I am still working towards that goal and now that I am a new mom it feels even more crucial. I have always had this vision of balance, I see myself being successful in business, a present mom, and an engaged wife. In my vision everything comes with ease and everyone around is happy… of course that is just my hopeful vision of the future and every day is far from that right now! I got my start in the Fashion industry where they are notorious for crazy work hours. I was 20 years old working 10-12 hour days and the occasional weekend. It was absolutely miserable. I knew I would never be able to have a family working like that. Hints, I ran for the fills and landed in Graphic Design where balance was more obtainable, with the exception of working at an agency. But I was an in-house designer and able to work a fairly normal work week. Of course that all shifted again when I left my full time job to start Stellen Design.
When I started Stellen Design I had absolutely no boundaries and didn’t know how to end my work day when there was always more work that needed to be done. I could probably sit at my screen for 24 hours and keep finding more stuff to do. My boyfriend at the time, now husband, would get on me when he would come home from his 9-5 and I was still staring at the computer screen in my pajamas. He really helped me outline a more balanced work week, I had to learn to leave stuff for tomorrow. I set my work hours as Monday – Friday 9-6… I would usually start early but that would be up to me, as far as my clients know, it’s 9am. Ignoring any emails that came in after 6 or on the weekends was tough but so worth it! It felt good to have my nights and weekends to myself.
Scheduling my work on Trello (or any project management system) was a life saver for me! I learned to schedule light to account for projects or calls running over in time. I could feel good when I finished the tasks for the day instead of over scheduling and feeling like a failure at the end of the day when I had only finished half my tasks.
Balance is just that, like a balancing scale it goes up and down… and my work life balance took a major shift in Jan 2020 when I had my son. I tried to prepare as best I could but I am the first to admit, I was humbled by my baby. I had every intention of taking two solid weeks off then easing back into work. I was over ambitious and I felt so guilty when I was working and my son was just a few weeks old and needed me. For the first time in 6 years I wished I had a normal job with maternity leave. Thankfully my sister in law who is also an entrepreneur encouraged me to give myself the time off. And it is okay to slow down in business because my baby needed me more than my business right now. My baby is only going to be a baby for a short time, I will have the rest of my life to grow my business. I cut my schedule back from 40 to 16 hours a week and started taking Wednesdays off completely. I am now back up to about 30 hours a week but I still take Wednesdays off and plan on keeping that up until my son is in school. It just feels right having a week day off for just him and I. I have had to learn to delegate out more work to account for the time, but it’s worth it.
The hardest part for me since having my son was coming to terms with pushing my 2020 financial goals out the window. For the past 6 years my business has gone in a positive direction and I have geeked out sales strategies. This year I will probably not beat 2019… hard pill to swallow but the prize is time with my son. That might not show in my quick books profits report but in the scheme of life, it’s worth so much more. All that being said I still struggle daily to find balance, there are still days when I don’t get a shower in (I hate those days and feel like college kid cramming for a final project), days where I have to force myself to take a much needed 5 min meditation break, and days where I have to skip a much needed workout. But it makes me appreciate the days when my work gets done on time, I make it out for a run, and am able to enjoy dinner with the family and give my son his bath before bed. The idea of a perfectly balanced life will always be a goal and a dream I will work towards, but along the way knowing that balance will tip from work to family and back to work again. It’s forever moving and what works today might not work tomorrow.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Generally speaking, design has to work, art doesn’t. As a designer I am a creative and an artist but I am also an extremely practical person. That practicality comes out in my designs. I always create with the end use in mind giving my clients something that will work in the real world and serve its purpose. I am so proud of all the brands we have helped build and nothing makes me happier than having a client feel “set up for success” at the end of a brand build. When they come back and thank me for the detailed brand guide I know I have done my job. Creating Stellen Design has been the adventure of lifetime. It has not been easy, or pretty, but the reward I get from clients being so happy with my work makes it all worth it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My ideal day in the South Bay would be going to Redondo Beach, enjoy the ocean for a bit, then hopping on a strand cruiser and riding to Naja’s on the Redondo Pier for some live music and a cold beer and finishing off the day watching the sun set from Old Tony’s. Those are two of the most authentic places around and it creates the quintessential Southern California day.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Thank you to my husband for helping me set boundaries and taking time for myself and my family!
Instagram: @stellendesign / @jordiesmall
Kathy Schuh & Kimber Brown