Chantilly is an awesome brand whisperer who gives trailblazing entrepreneurs the wings they need to soar online.
When did you fall in love with entrepreneurship?
Not until recently actually. I grew up thinking of entrepreneurs as businessmen with large bankrolls and a rolodex of investors who have access to funding sources. I had no idea that someone like me could be considered an entrepreneur until other people started calling me one. Once I’d heard it enough times, the title stuck.
I became comfortable with being an entrepreneur and I knew that by the very definition of the word, there was nothing separating me from any other “entrepreneur”. I took a lot of risks to start my business and I did it all through my own knowledge and determination. It’s become something that I’m really proud of.
I’m a self-made woman and that fact alone has made me feel more in control of my business and my personal destiny.
How do you define a successful brand?
I think a brand is successful when it can meet the needs of it’s consumers. When you have a product or service that is truly needed and appreciated for what it is, that’s when you know you’ve got something. I didn’t always know I would make it. In fact, there were many times when I felt I wasn’t good enough.
I didn’t know if my work was good enough, but I kept challenging myself and building my skill level. I’ve never stopped growing and I think that has been a key part of my success. I focus on delivering the best possible “product” to every client and exceeding their expectations, as often as possible.
When you can give them not only what they need, but what they want…that’s when you’re golden.
What does a typical day for you look like?
Good question. I’m a night owl, like most designers I know, so I usually don’t rise before 10am except for appointments. I usually get up, have some coffee, give my kids the first bit of my time and then jump right into work.
I work about 2-4 hours per day, 3-5 days per week, depending on client load. That usually includes emails, coaching calls and design work, but there may be emergency or maintenance requests too, which can expand hours. In rare cases, I will work weekends, but I’ve really done my best to avoid that since web design can be draining and downtime with the family is absolutely necessary, especially with a newborn.
It’s been a crucial shift for me and increasing my rates played an instrumental role in allowing me to work less and focus on family more. Just a year ago, I was working between 35-60 hours per week and getting paid half as much, so re-evaluating my priorities and tightening my business plan was absolutely crucial, especially as I grew my business and gained more valuable skills.
How long have you been an entrepreneur?
I started my business officially in March 2011, but it’s really been about four years if you count the first 6-12 months when I was working for free, or next to free, in order to build my skill level and reputation. The first two years were the hardest. I was having a difficult time breaking through income barriers and I was really overworking myself with very little compensation. To keep myself in check, I raised my rates slightly every quarter to work on getting comfortable with charging higher prices.
It wasn’t until my husband lost his job two years ago that I really kicked it into high gear. There was no more time for being timid. I asked him to stay at home with our daughter while I pushed myself to advance. It’s been the best decision we ever made.
Finally this past December, I decided it was time to step up my game. I refocused my entire design process and business model, while also increasing my rates to more than triple what they were before. To my surprise, many of my clients didn’t balk at the higher prices, instead they congratulated me and let me know that we were happy to support my growth. That meant a lot to me.
If you weren’t helping others building their brands what would your occupation be?
Actually, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer and photographer for National Geographic. Another idea I had was to work in marketing or advertising and design concepts for advertisements. In both respects, I think I kind of ended up in the same field.
I have my blogs where I document my experiences through blog posts and photography, and my design business where I help business owners and bloggers to establish their brands. It’s funny how things work out just as they should be, even when you’re not trying.
How did you take your leap of faith into solopreneurship? What has the journey been like?
The leap was more a matter of necessity than choice. I was working a little bit on my own, building up my reputation, but I think if my husband hadn’t lost his job, I, more than likely, wouldn’t have pushed the limits and created a full-time business around my skills.
I may not have taken that leap without the pressure or, at least, it probably wouldn’t have happened as quickly. I really didn’t have any funds to start a business or the time to run it, so it was a big risk, especially with my husband being laid off. But we had to make some really tough choices and I think we made the right ones for us.
In 10 years, what do you envision your life (work and personal) to look like?
I really want to be more financially independent. One of the things I’ve been working on recently is developing “passive” income. As a professional, this is so important. If you can create a product or program that can be packaged and re-sold to many different clients, that can allow you to take more time off, including vacations, maternity leave, etc. from your business.
A lot of new businesses miss this step, and I have to admit that it’s something I avoided because I didn’t think I had enough time to work on side projects. But sometimes you just have to re-negotiate your agenda and pressure yourself to focus on the things that can deliver in the future, rather than the stuff that pays the bills right now.
I wouldn’t mind living in Mexico or abroad in another Spanish-speaking country for a while. Lightening my workload and increasing my earning power would allow me to make this happen.
What is the most important lesson you’ve had to learn as a solopreneur that made you a better person?
Don’t feel guilty for charging what you’re worth.
This was easily my biggest challenge in my business for years. I was holding myself back in so many ways. I had a lot of guilt about raising my rates. I’ve always seen myself as someone who helps others and increasing my rates made me uncomfortable for so long. It started to eat into my business and life over time though.
I was always working and had to take on too many clients to make ends meet, which just left me feeling overworked and exhausted. I was seeing that it was becoming more and more difficult to deliver projects by deadlines or to make all the necessary changes for client revisions. That’s when I knew something had to change. I didn’t want to deliver unsatisfactory work or late projects, so I gave myself a pass.
Charging more ensures that I can deliver a more quality experience for every client. This is was ultimately helped me settle into the final decision to raise my rates. I’ve never looked back. That decision made a huge impact for my business and I continue to raise my rates each year with all of these factors in mind.
What has been your biggest challenge in life and work?
Balance. For a long time I just kept my head down and worked. I tried not to think about the number of hours or how tired I was. I just got it done.
Nowadays, I’m way more conscious to how many hours a day I work. I keep track of every minute I spend and I take frequent breaks. I’ll often take a 1-2 hour break during my day and I try to only work a maximum of 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. No weekends. Most of the time, I accomplish this.
It’s had a big impact for me and my family, but it took a long time before I had the opportunity to work a schedule like this. When you start out building your business, the hours are horrendous, and it really takes a toll on you emotionally and physically.
Ultimately, I decided that I couldn’t afford to live like that anymore more and I made some really dramatic changes. It took a while to get used to the new schedule, and especially to let go of “unfinished” work at the end of the day, but it has been a huge relief. Yes, I still feel bad when I close down my computer with tasks left undone, but I know that tomorrow is another day and I can tackle any unfinished projects then.
How do you overcome, or try to overcome these challenges?
It’s taken a lot of coaching myself. Telling myself again and again, that there’s always tomorrow. The hardest part of facing challenges is breaking bad habits. Once you’re in a cycle, it’s very hard to get out. That’s why you have to make a conscious choice to create a plan and stick to it. Don’t back down. Just keep at it until you make that goal. Keeping your “eyes on the prize” so to speak.
It’s really important to not let fear or naysayers take hold and the same goes for distractions. Focus in on what YOU want to accomplish and stick to that. Sometimes it helps to create a visual map of where I want to go or what I want to accomplish. I’ll tape it to the wall in my home office or I’ll create a Pinterest board. I do whatever I have to do to maintain the focus and drive that gets me to that next step.
What has been your most prized accomplishment?
That’s hard to say because I feel like there is still so much to experience. I really am at the beginning of my journey in many ways. I would say that at this point in my life, the biggest accomplishment has been the fact that I’m able to be with my husband and children every day.
My husband is currently a stay-at-home dad and we are homeschooling, so it’s been great to have extra time with him and my kids. Because he stays at home with us, I’m able to focus on work, invest time into my business and rely on him for the majority of household and parenting tasks. This gives me the ability to pursue the life I want through my business, without having to sacrifice family.
Over the past year, I’ve worked hard to increase my rates, reduce my hours, and spend more of my precious time with them. I couldn’t do all of that without his support.
What is your most favorite quote?
Well, I have a few. Overall, I’m big on social justice and being true to yourself, so many of my favorite quotes revolve around those discussions. Here are some of my favorites:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Always stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone.” – Kim Hanks
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi
What is your personal style like?
My personal style? I like forging my own path. I’m an outdoorsy person and I think that suits me because I really love freedom. I think that’s why I became an entrepreneur. I couldn’t stand the idea of living my life working for someone else and living by their rules.
There’s nothing wrong with working for someone else, but that’s not for me. In fact, when I get clients who insist on me working a 9-5 schedule with them, I unintentionally become distant.
When there are too many guidelines or the work is too similar and unchanging, I tend to get restless and feel the need to move on. I think that’s why web design and coaching have been such a great fit for me. I can work with someone new everyday or I’ll work with a regular client on a completely new project. That works for me because I like to keep things fresh. As a creative, boring is one thing I don’t deal well with.
If you could go back to your 9 year old self, what would you tell her?
Funny you picked this age. My ninth birthday was my golden birthday (I was born on the 9th). 😉
I actually had a really great birthday that year. It was the first year I got to pick my cake and invite friends over. It was all about the Ninja Turtles theme. Michaelangelo was my favorite.
If I could tell myself one thing, it would be, “Believe in yourself.” I was never afraid to be myself or to explain myself to others, but there were times when I listened to people who may not have wanted to see me succeed. I put too much stock in what other people thought about me and I also let society dictate my worth.
As a “welfare” kid, it was easy to get caught up thinking that there was nothing out there for me. I bought into the idea that my destiny was sketchy at best and that it was in somebody else’s hands. That someone would need to “grant” me the opportunities that I desired. I found out, that’s not the case at all. I do have control over my destiny.
Building your own business is one way that you can take that control back.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Confidence. I would take more risks. More times than not, I probably hold myself back in my business by not taking risks that I know would put me ahead. It’s kept me from charging what I’m worth, it’s kept me from speaking at events, it’s kept me from pushing out new programs or taking on new clients.
Fear can be paralyzing.
But I try not to dwell on the negative. For every opportunity I’ve passed up, there are many that I’ve jumped into with both feet, especially when the circumstances leave me few choices.
It was actually my husband’s layoff just over two years ago that finally pushed me to pursue my business full-time. So life circumstances can definitely be a motivating factor that push you forward and evolve your business. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those inevitable and unavoidable risks.
What 3 words best describe you.
When it comes to both business and my personal life, I think I could be described as intuitive, focused, and intentional. I think all three of these traits have been with me for a long time. I tend to be one of those people who gets deep into things and really absorbs a lot of information about my environment or areas of interest. It’s probably one of the reasons why I am also more selective about who I bring into my life or who I take on as a client.
I like to know that the people and projects I surround myself with are those that I really care about and am interested in. For me, since I exert a lot of energy into relationships and projects, it’s important that I only take on those that feel like a right fit for me.
I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing clients whose projects I’m excited to work on and proud to be involved in. LATINAS THINK BIG™ is one example of an event and digital platform that makes an impact while also allowing me to be extremely innovative and creative as a designer and strategist.