In 2006, self-taught South African illustrator Heather Moore began experimenting with screen-printing her patterns onto fabric and blogging about her experience. A few months later, she opened up her first small online shop on Etsy and soon began sending her designs around the world.
That was the start of Skinny laMinx.
What began as a side project nine years ago has since turned into a thriving creative business. Today, Heather and her small team of sixteen work out of a small store, studio, and factory at 201 Bree Street in the center of Cape Town.
Skinny laMinx fabrics, scarves, wallpapers, phone covers, and more can be found all around the world. Thousands of designers, customers, and fans follow Heather’s blog and Instagram where she shares her creative thoughts and inspiration.
We caught up with Heather to find out how she launched her own business as a self-taught illustrator, how she balances her business and creative work, and how she uses Todoist daily to stay focused and inspired.
You’re a self-taught illustrator and designer (which is pretty darn impressive by the way). What advice would you give to people who want to learn a new skill and don’t know where to start?
HM: My advice is just to get started, even if you don’t really know much. There are great online tutorials and books out there that will help you plot your way. Skillshare.com is a great place for well-designed online courses that give you enough information to get going.
Even if it doesn’t turn out very well, I think that making mistakes is a great way to learn how to do things better. I’ve always written off any costly mistakes I’ve made (and there have been a few!) as my “school fees.”
How do you find the time and energy for creative work while also running your own business?
HM: Anybody who launches a business off the back of their creative output will find this to be a challenge. A few years ago, when I was insanely busy, and definitely didn’t have any time to spend in the studio, I needed some time-consuming dental work. When I realized that it was not all that difficult to find the time to spend in the dentist’s chair, but somehow impossible to spend any time on creative work, I could see that my priorities were a problem. This “aha!” moment caused me to schedule in a weekly studio day that I called “Making Friday” where I spent time on non-work creative projects.
I find it so important to prioritize this time, not only because it feeds the rest of my work but because it stops that feeling of resentment that all those other “have-to” business tasks can generate.
These days, I’m lucky enough to have a team helping out with all the millions of aspects of running the business, so I have lots more time to spend in the studio. I’m taking a ceramics class on a Monday, and having a Making Friday too!
Why did you start using Todoist?
HM: I ended 2014 feeling overwhelmed and uninspired. I felt I was going through the motions, lacked direction, and felt that I wasn’t really getting anywhere. I had grown a strong social media presence, but didn’t understand what I was doing right, how to do it better, and how to get assistance with the workload. I had no idea where to begin, and I just wanted to run away from everything!
I came across a Skillshare video by Tiago Forte called “Get Things Done Like a Boss,” which was all about setting up productivity systems using tools like Todoist and Evernote. I got excited at the prospect of turning my larger goals into bite-sized tasks that could slowly be tackled, so I downloaded Todoist and got sucked in. It was a really great way to start the year and has set the tone for a really successful year at Skinny laMinx.
How do you use Todoist on a day-to-day basis?
HM: I always start my day by reviewing my tasks for the next seven days, and making an assessment of what is reasonable to deal with today. As emails come in, I either deal with them, delete them, or assign them as an action to Todoist. I’m always adding tasks (call plumber / order book for Mom / review newsletter), and simply love to check them off the list.
I’m working at getting my team to use Todoist to organize their inboxes and their tasks, and some of the girls are using it very well. We have group projects, where team members are assigned tasks as we break down the steps along the way that will enable us to reach our goal.
How has your work changed since starting to use Todoist?
HM: I have far more of a bigger picture of what it is I am wanting to achieve, and a better sense of how long it will take to get there. Recently, I found a “strengths and weaknesses” list I had made at the beginning of 2015, and I was quite taken aback at how many of the weaknesses I had identified had been tackled and improved. I can honestly say that the effective use of Todoist to tackle these projects in a step-by-step way has played a huge role in making those improvements.
What’s the most useful feature you’ve discovered in Todoist that you didn’t know about to start off?
HM: The very best thing about Todoist is that it has helped me turn my inbox into a useful tool instead of an instrument of torture. Each email that comes in is either answered, deleted, or turned into an action, assigned with a completion date. I LOVE IT!
What’s your best productivity habit?
HM: I’ve always been super impressed by my business manager, Pearl, who is the queen of the follow-up email. Nowadays, I get a big kick when it’s me who sends the follow-up email, because it’s been popped into my follow-up task list and assigned to a date. It feels good to look super efficient and alert!
If you had to live with only five apps/tools (besides Todoist) what would they be?
HM: Right now, my favourite thing is a cat purr generator, which is the most deliciously cuddly white noise you can imagine, and can get me through the most boring of tasks.
What does your workspace look like?
HM: I have been using a standing desk for over a year, ever since my back started complaining about sitting down. My feet occasionally complain, but that’s a good reason to start moving about. Behind me, I have a large worktable for drawing and cutting, and I have corkboards for pinning up ideas all around me.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from starting your own business?
HM: Before I went into business, I was under the impression that ‘business’ was a cut-throat, nasty place to be, so I wasn’t very keen to get involved. However, I’ve encountered such super-generous, friendly, enthusiastic people along the way, and I’ve realised that business can be a human-sized activity that is all about being connected to others. I am also a lot more respectful of all kinds of businesses out there, because I know how much energy and enthusiasm is needed to get anything off the ground.
Check out Heather’s beautiful designs and creative insights at skinnylaminx.com.