Printed Mint #Girlboss Interview Series
Tell us about yourself: an intro to you, your business, family, fur-family etc. Where do live? And what is your business name (IG handle), the products you sell & services you provide, + your target market?
I'm Christine Borst, I am a mom of three amazing young kids, a licensed therapist, adjunct professor, small business owner (Christine Borst Creative Studio), author/illustrator of children's books, and I’m lucky enough to be married to my best friend. We live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and could not love it more! In early 2020, I took a leap of faith and gave notice that I would be leaving my position as professor to pursue a creative career. A lover of all things bright, cheerful, and whimsical, I hope that my art and stories reflect my colorful nature. I am so thankful for the opportunity to spread joy with every product I create. Christine Borst Creative Studio features a variety of products, including paper products (like stationary and journals), baby and kid gear, and household goods (like tea towels, aprons, and totes).
How long ago did you start your business? And what (or who) inspired you to become an entrepreneur? (ie. life changing event, mompreneur, the pandemic?)
The turning point for my career change was January 2020 - and it was an odd one to say the least! As a kid, I loved the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. In January of 2020 (pre-pandemic in the US), I played hookie from work (I was a professor in a doctoral program) and went to see the new Little Women movie that was out. At the time, I knew a change was coming in my life, but I was just so afraid to take the leap into my own business/new career...somehow, watching Jo (the main character in the book/movie) be so courageous and go after her own writing career (with so many more obstacles for a woman in that time) was just the switch flip that I needed. I got home that night, told my husband I was ready to quit my job, emailed my boss (to set up a phone call, but I mentioned in my email that it was about my resignation just so I wouldn't chicken out by the time our meeting actually came around!) and it was DONE (effective at the end of the semester, May 2020). A few months later the pandemic hit, and in March I wrote and illustrated a book to help my kids understand what was happening. I shared it with some friends on social media (in case their friends would find it helpful too), and it ended up going kind of viral (no pun intended!) I was on the news in a few different states, organizations from all over the world reached out to me, a publisher approached me and asked to publish it - and in a whirlwind, the thing that I was so afraid to admit to the world - that I wanted to be this creative, write and illustrate children's books, create art, etc - it all just happened. It may have been the most validating thing ever.
How did you come to learn what you do? (self-taught, education, classes, books, mentors etc.)
My dad is an incredible artist (though was an engineer until his recent retirement, and now he can focus on art again!) and my mom's degree was in elementary education, and without her knowing it, I realize as a parent that she was such an expert in early childhood and parenting (she became a stay at home mom to her own four kids, and pursued research on parenting as a hobby). My mom has also always been a huge fan of children's books, so they have always been a favorite thing of mine too. As a licensed therapist (who spent a lot of time in pediatric medical practices with children), I rely on my therapy training, parenting research, and my own experience as a mom to write the books (my most recent book Us: An Introduction to Pronouns, is a gentle introduction to pronouns and rethinking gender stereotypes for kids. I have never taken formal art classes, though I really appreciate all of the YouTube videos I have access to, and the books I've gotten, that have helped to inspire me and teach me art tricks! This may sound funny, but I tend to be fairly intuitive, and I rely a lot on my intuition to guide me on what kind of art I should create, when a piece is done or needs more work, etc. I'm not afraid to try anything artistically, and that has given me the freedom to learn new things and hone my technique!
What has been the most rewarding phase of your career / entrepreneurship? (ie. sold out stock, testimonials, IG following?)
I am truly humbled every time someone purchases any of my work - I mean really. As someone who kept her creative side a secret for a long time (trying to be the professional professor/working mom), I feel so ridiculously authentic now, and any feedback that supports that authenticity is just mind blowing. I recently found a journal I had written back in 2017, and it just brought tears to my eyes. The life I dreamed about back in 2017 I am living every day now - and that makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world! I am thankful every day for the opportunities that continue to be presented to me.
What is the most challenging part about being an entrepreneur? (ie. time management, asking for help, juggling life, paying the bills?)
I am learning that my personality is well-suited to entrepreneurship - though there is a lot of learning as I go (e.g., setting up a business, taxes, marketing). Sometimes the hardest part about doing work that I love is when I'm in the flow (I'm sure the creatives feel me on this) and then I'm like "oh my gosh I only have childcare for a few more minutes, I've got to get this wrapped up and go put my mom hat on!" Having recently opened up this creative part of me means that sometimes the inspiration comes out like a fire hose, and I don't always have the time to catch every project. Granted, this is a great problem to have, it's just a matter of being realistic about time management, and making sure I schedule in enough "free creating time" to honor the inspiration.
What do you do for inspiration? Do you ever hit creative roadblocks and how do you overcome them?
I've got an amazing coach who talks a lot about honoring where I am at, and not fighting resistance. For example, if I have a commission that I need to work on, and I'm just not feeling it, I let it go and refocus on something else (either business-related, or I go for a hike or see if my kids want to play or read a book or organize a closet, ha!). This method takes a lot of trust, but I think it makes my work a lot more magical, if that makes sense? All throughout graduate school and in my previous career, productivity was my motivation. I felt that I had to prove to the world that I could be perfect, could produce, could compete with the men in the profession while also being pregnant with my kids/being the default parent (especially while my husband was in his own intensive career training!) - it's like the antithesis of creativity; that thinking overrode every natural instinct I had to nurture and rest. Sometimes that other Christine surfaces, but it just feels so much more authentic to flow based on instinct and intuition. I have such an amazing support system (because of my training, many of them are therapists), and early on in my new business, my friends pointed out that if I left my previous career just to hold the same long work hours and stress myself out, then what was it all for? That really resonated with me, and I try to honor the ebbs and flows of the needs of my business and my family - a lot of my inspiration comes from my kids, so just because I'm not physically in my studio doesn't mean that I'm not collecting ideas.
What’s the secret to your success (personally/professionally/spiritually)?
Oh wow - I guess if I boiled it down to one word, it would be trust. I have a very active intuition, and a very strong belief that everything in the universe is for me - and when challenges come, I trust that they are meant for me - just as opportunities are! I was that perfectionist, high-achieving, successful girl who got married right out of undergrad because it felt like the right thing to do - I was in the middle of grad school to become a therapist when I realized that although I could stick it out, I had to leave my marriage. This was a turning point for me - suddenly my own happiness had a vote, and it won out over perfectionism. I trusted myself, I leaned on my amazing family and support system, I grew so much for that experience, and it completely changed the trajectory of my life. Shortly after the divorce, I met my husband, love of my life, soul mate - and even though I had vowed to stay single forever after the divorce, I trusted my intuition (which was telling me HIM! YES!) [by the way, we met at a rest area in Indiana, when he locked his keys in his car and my car broke down right next to his… but that's a story for another day!] This trust in myself, in my intuition, in God/the Universe/the Powers That Be (whatever you want to call it), has served me well in my personal relationships, in parenthood, in friendships, in business. Sometimes it's TERRIFYING to trust and let go/follow that instinct, but always the optimist, I know it will work out for the best :)
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs just starting out? Do you have any tips or tricks you learned along the way that you’d like to share?
I reached the point where I realized that staying where I was in life was scarier than taking the leap (knowing there was a possibility of failing). This past year has shown me that the more authentic I can be, the more open and honest I am with myself, the more I create things because they feel right (not because I think I should, or because I'm trying to cater to a specific niche that doesn't exactly fit with my own brand), and the better things are. I trust the flow, I open myself up to opportunities and experiences and relationships that feel right, even if I don't necessarily know how all of the puzzle pieces come together. Get a therapist (process the things that are holding you back from being your authentic self!), find a business coach, ask for support, honor who you are in the process.
What do you think the #girlboss / creative female community needs right now?
I think we need permission to be our authentic selves. Sometimes that self is sitting at her desk in her office, watching sales roll in effortlessly; sometimes that self is in her studio in the flow with paint in her hair, knowing that this creation is so good she has goosebumps; sometimes that self is stopping mid-project to pick her kids up from school or deciding to scrap the whole workday in favor of a day playing at the park because the weather is nice. This country was built on patriarchal beliefs, and continuing to override our authentic selves to fit the mold of the patriarchy will only continue to limit us. There is a very important place in the world for creative womxn, and we need to honor it!
What are you working on now and what’s in store for your business this year? Or do you have anything extra you want to share with us - business or personal related?
Well, I just released two new books (available on Amazon, links on my website) - Us: An Introduction to Pronouns, and The Wonders of Forest School. I have a collaborative project with a friend and former colleague that we will be releasing, which is set up like a children's book but is for all ages, and is about understanding (and challenging) white privilege. I am so excited for the commissions that continue to come my way, and I look forward to expanding what I offer in my Etsy shop, working with Printed Mint to bring my art to life. It still feels surreal to curl up in a blanket that I designed, you know!? I am so honored to be at this place in my life and in my new career.