Monday, June 3, 2013

Spotlight on Mom -- Lisa Smith and Melissa Crescitelli of Mona MELisa Designs

I am so excited to share this week's Spotlight Moms with you, as my daughter Savannah can't get enough of the Pony Girl Peel and Stick Headboard we were sent for review, and I know your children and grandchildren will fall in love with their selection of customizable and personalized room decor and interactive toys.  I stumbled across Lisa Smith and Melissa Crescitelli's website, Mona MELisa Designs when looking for peel and stick room decor for Savannah's big girl room a few months back.  I had always thought that Savannah and Arabella would share a room growing up, but due to Arabella's fussiness at bedtime, we had to give Savannah her own room so that she could sleep.  With a new room, meant new bedding, wall decor, etc. -- all of which Savannah helped us pick out for her new room.  If we were moving Savannah last year, her room would have been filled with all things Toy Story.  But now, Savannah is into My Little Pony, and ponies in general.  She can't wait until next month when she celebrates her 3rd birthday, as it will be pony themed.  But, in the meantime, she is enjoying her peel and stick Pony Girl headboard from Mona MELisa Designs --


Not only was this headboard easy to peel and stick, but once up, it really pulled the whole room together and gave Savannah's room a big girl feel.  And, every night when Savannah goes to bed, she cuddles up to her plush My Little Pony toys, and makes a point to wish a good night to the ponies on her peel and stick headboard.  When day comes, this headboard also acts as a fun backdrop to her pretend pony play with her little sister.  Savannah loves to pretend that the ponies in the headboard image are in a magical world. :-)

But, before I share photos of Savannah and Arabella showing off the Pony Girl Headboard from Mona MELisa Designs, I want to share my Spotlight Mom interview with the ladies behind this and other customized children's wall art, growth charts, name signs, wall murals, etc.  And, without further ado, please enjoy my interview with Lisa Smith and Melissa Crescitelli of Mona MELisa Designs.  Then, make sure you head back here on Friday, when I will share more about this cute pony headboard I was sent to review, as well as share a giveaway for either a boy/girl/neutral peel and stick headboard, as well as a discount code just for Inspired by Savannah readers.

Name:  Lisa Smith and Melissa Crescitelli
Company Name/Product/Service: Mona MELisa Designs – Customizable Children’s Room Décor and Interactive Toys
Company Location: Phoenix, AZ
Company Website:
Age of Company:  4 years old
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:
Lise – “Everything will be ok in the end.  If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.” -- Paolo Coelho
Melissa – “Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, but today is a Gift, that is why we call it the Present! Love that one!”
Favorite Book:
Lisa -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Melissa -- I read when I can on my Nook, and have found I read more than I think. It helps me unwind, even at 12am from the day. A favorite book of mine is a classic, Little Women. I’ve read it time and time again and it always makes me smile.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.
Lisa -- I have one 7 year old daughter, Braelyn and a 4 year old golden retriever, Casie.  We homeschool my daughter and although I am on hiatus from agility with Casie, it is something I really enjoy and lets you forget about everything else going on and enjoy the moment of training.  I also hike and do yoga 3-4 times per week. I am definitely a type A+ personality, detail oriented and kind of a control freak!
Melissa -- I am Melissa, a very spirited, passionate person who loves to create art, make smiles, and work hard. I have two children, Mina, turning 7 in May and Nico, 5 in August. For fun we like to make art of all kinds. We like to take items that have been used in the home and turn them into something useful after their use. The children get a kick out of this type of “recycle” and we have lots of fun making new things from old things! We are always in the kitchen cooking and baking something fun together, playing games and all in all, just enjoying one another as a tight nit family.
Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?
Lisa -- Mona MELisa Designs is a company that has been several years in the making.  After owning our own child-related businesses for several years, we met via a virtual baby shower where Melissa won a gift from my Lisa's company being raffled during the shower.  We became fast internet friends and began working together to create a line of customized children's growth charts and canvas wall art for my online business.  As we collaborated on this line of products, we realized we had stumbled onto a unique business idea which would allow us to bring our amazing, custom children's artwork to the world.  With Melissa's artistic abilities and using the unique children's characters from my product lines, In December 2009, Mona MELisa Designs was born! 
Melissa -- Mona MELisa Designs is a business that sells unique artwork for children to play with and for their rooms as decor. By unique, we allow the customer to have some control over what is ordered. You can match up skin shades, hair color and eye colors. This is something no one else does.
We started this business when I won an online baby shower gift from Lisa’s retail store. At the time I was hand painting growth charts and room décor. I emailed Lisa about her store items, she emailed me about my hand painted items and we quickly started working together and became friends. We found a way to take my hand painted art designs, incorporate her retail kids into them and mass-produce art, but still keeping the “custom” look and feel to our product. We wanted to keep alive the idea that you have a choice when you order something. We’ve worked very hard to uphold this idea and it’s catching on with people! 
What is a typical work day like? 
Lisa -- I am up anywhere between 5 and 7 AM and then I check and respond to all of the emails that came in overnight.  I work out after that (either elliptical, run or yoga) and get cleaned up.  I do homeschool lessons with my daughter from about 9-12 and while she is doing some of her lessons on her own, I am working on the computer either responding to or sending emails.  The afternoons are usually my busiest time where I work with our sales reps, admins and my business partner for several hours and then around 5 we do dinner and get my daughter into bed around 7.  About 8PM I start up working again, usually doing website maintenance or very basic art creation.  I typically have my day scheduled to the minute in order to keep Braelyn’s activities and my work schedule straight.
Melissa -- Non-Stop, but worth every second. We have a lot of things to be done and we get them done. No one said running your own business was easy! However, when you work with something you love and believe in so much, it makes it easy. I for one can say I’ve worked harder building this than anything I’ve ever done, but I enjoy it. Creating new art makes me happy. Knowing that something I’ve made is sitting in someone’s house making them happy, brings great joy to my life and is very fulfilling. It gives me the strength to work harder and create more, even on the days when you just want to SLEEP! Do moms EVER sleep? I think not! Might as well be doing something you love and I love making art!
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  
Lisa -- It has been very difficult getting the word out about our company on a limited budget.  I think money issues are always the most difficult thing for a small business to deal with. Cash flow is really hard as we don’t have any business loans or lines of credit.  We have to balance having materials on-hand in order to produce products for our large customers while also considering that we usually don’t get paid for 60 days AFTER we order the materials so lots of our money is tied up in materials and we really have to balance what is coming in, when it is paid and what we are spending our money on.  Sometimes customers are late in paying which then affects our available money for future deals.  It can get stressful! 
Melissa -- Trying to balance home life, and a new business. Wearing 10 hats when you only have 1 head. Working 14 plus hour days to turn around and do it again…then again, and again. You have to REALLY love what you are doing to put forth this effort. It takes a lot to start a business and then be successful. Lisa and I have created a GREAT team and we have been able to lean on one another’s talents to keep this business running. There’s no way it could have been done without a partner who is as dedicated as I am to it. In business AND in life, sometimes the quicksand wants to swallow you up. You might flop and fight for a bit, but if you stay calm and measured, you get out of it. No one can predict the storms, you just have to ride them, and ride them we have. With a great team and family behind you, you can weather any storm! 
What did you do in your past work life?
Lisa -- I kind of floated around since I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up!  I worked as an admin to a wholesale broker which gave me good insights into selling practices in that environment.  I also owned my own company which is where I met Melissa.  Along the way in college, I worked in a vet’s office and in a candy factory!
When I had my daughter, I stopped working and started looking for something to do that would keep me home and nearby her as she grew up and thankfully, I found MMD!
Melissa -- In college I was a Miami Jams girl! I had a lot of fun as a professional dancer in the hottest clubs in South Florida. I also was a waitress on the beach. After I graduated, I started working for graphic design companies. I then was climbing the corporate ladder as a Production Manager in a large advertising company. After the birth of our daughter and seeing her for the first time, I decided I couldn’t leave her! I then started my hand painted business after creating a lot of art for my daughter and nieces. It was a couple years later that I met Lisa. 
What have been some of your major successes?

Lisa -- We have gone from having to outsource all of our artwork and having just 1 product to now owning 2 printers, 2 cutters, state of the art software, 2 top of the line computers and having our own print shop and having 6 lines of products.  
We went back and forth on the print shop for about 2.5 years and finally decided to take the plunge and do everything ourselves so that we could control the quality of our products 100%.  When I walk into our shop and see what we have become and what we came from, it still really amazes me when I stop to think about it.
Melissa -- My marriage of 10 years, the birth of our children and having the strength to push, fight, and claw my way to a successful business with Lisa by my side. Her and I started this without ever have met face to face! I count that and our business a HUGE success! We’ve not given up even when things were bleak. In truth, we’ve pushed back harder to make us stronger….again, success! 
What have been some of your major challenges?
Lisa -- I think for me, because of what I do in our business, the major challenge has been learning how to work with different types of people and get the best from them.  I am typically not a very ‘cheerleader’ type leader.  I am very logical and don’t do things based on emotion.  I have come to realize though that everyone doesn’t work like me and so I have to adjust the management style for the different people that work alongside me.  Sometimes I get frustrated and think that my way is the best way but I have to stop and think that not everyone is wired like me and what works for me doesn’t necessarily resonate with them.  It is a tough adjustment to make and I still work at it every day!
Melissa -- Working across the country for a couple years and being 3 hours different in time zones. Learning new machines, new programs and new processes. It’s been a learning curve from the start and it’s not been so easy a lot of the time. We learn from our mistakes and try really hard to better what we do to not make them again. I love this about us! 
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
Lisa --  Just knowing the time and blood, sweat and tears I have put into this business and what I have sacrificed for it makes me realize that no matter how bad it is, I could never walk away.  I would feel empty without doing what I do.  It took a really long time (30 years) for me to find what I love to do and what I am GOOD at doing and Mona MELisa Designs is a culmination and a perfect combination of those things. I want my daughter to see that women can be successful in running a business and that you don’t quit even when waters get rough.  I want her to see that being an entrepreneur is a do-able thing and although scary, it not impossible as some people make it out to be.
On those rough days, I just think about how lucky I am to make a living doing something I really have passion and love for.  Not many people can say that.

Melissa -- For me, it’s my art. It really makes me happy. I’m just a big kid! Every single Peel & Play set that’s made is printed, cut and tested by us. I like to play with it! I come alive making new art, seeing it printed, touching the designs and knowing it’s going to someone’s home. My art lives in me, breathes from me, and is part of my heart. When days are hard, I just remember what makes me happy. I get myself focused on what it is we are doing and why. Strip away the non-sense and hit the spot that made you start it in the first place…..then you’re motivated. 
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
Lisa -- I will admit that there are days when I completely fail at balancing the two.  There are some days, at the end of the day where I think ‘I barely spent time with my daughter’ and it makes me sad.  On the flip side of that, because I run my own business, there are days when I can walk away and take her to the zoo all day because it is a slow time for us.  So daily there is not always a balance because when your work is at home, it CAN consume you but I think overall maybe on a weekly or monthly basis, there is a balance where I really try to step away and spend quality time with the family.  Because I am a planner, it works best for me to physically write it in my planner or set an outlook reminder to take a break.
Melissa -- Working a lot from home for me. Working late nights. Being able to take a break to tend to children and get back into the swing of things. Realizing what you are doing and why and putting your priorities in place. Some days it’s more important to not work and so you balance it. My motto….Work Hard, Play Hard! My children know this, but more importantly, see it in action! 
What is next for your business?
Lisa -- We are getting ready to launch a travel PEEL & PLAY set which is a smaller version of our current line that can be played with in the car or on a plane for summer vacation travels.
We are also working on a craft line using our products that will launch this summer when it is too hot in AZ to go outside – kids can play inside and be creative and crafty with MMD!
Melissa -- New designs, new products and reaching more people with the wonderful things we create!
Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business? 
Lisa -- I would say that if you are really passionate about what you are doing, it is worth a shot to see where you can take it.  There are different challenges for any business and not everyone succeeds but if you never try, you will regret not knowing what could have happened.  
You definitely need a lot of support along the way but it comes down to you and your drive and dedication and being self-aware enough to know if you have the personality and skills to jump in and see where the waters take you.
Melissa -- If you love what you do, it’s not work is it? It’s then your passion. It’s not easy, but is anything in life worthwhile EVER easy? No. If you follow your passions and put in the HARD work, it will pay off. You will always be successful if you follow your heart and dreams!


  1. the ponies headboard is so cute! what a great idea!

  2. wow thats amazing how cute looks great and can imagine what it does for the whole unique thanks for sharing...such a cute idea for a room...

  3. That is so cute and clever!!! I love that the artwork also serves as a play backdrop. Very cool!