Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spotlight on Mom -- Julie Rustad, Creator of Desert Dwellers Flash Cards and Julie Originals

I recently shared how I have been weighing my options on homeschooling the girls.  While I am still on the fence about this, as it is a major commitment, I have been enjoying doing an at home preschool curriculum with them, to help them gain the necessary skills they will need for kindergarten a few years down the road.  One thing that we are working on right now is the ABC's.  The girls can sing the ABC song, but are only starting to learn letter recognition and learning how to write each letter.  My hope is that by the summer, they will be able to write out their names.  I know that when they get a little older, they will ask why I gave them such long names -- as each has 8 letters in it. :-)

I don't know about you, but I find flash cards as a great tool to teach everything from letters, numbers, new words, etc.  And, during a recent search online for flash cards that I could incorporate into our daily studies, I stumbled across Julie Rustad and her Desert Dwellers Flash Cards.  Julie is a mom entrepreneur, who created these animal inspired flash cards to help teach her son the alphabet.  She has a love of graphic design, and this can be seen the beautiful animal flash cards that make up this Desert Dwellers set.  After reaching out to Julie, she was not only kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer my Spotlight Mom questions, but she also sent along her Desert Dwellers Flash Cards for me to share with the girls.  We have only had them for a few days, but the girls have taken to them quickly, and choose these over other ABC flash cards we have.  If your child is a fan of the hit PBS Kids show, Wild Kratts, they may be surprised to see animals featured on the show in Julie's Desert Dwellers deck.  I say this because as we were going through the cards the other day, Arabella who is only 2 yelled out "Roadrunner" when she saw the "Road Runner" card.  I asked her how she knew this was the animal and she started to sing the Wild Kratts theme song. Gotta love kids! :-)

Stay tuned on Monday, when I will be sharing a review of Julie's Desert Dwellers Flash Cards with you. In addition to my review, Julie was kind enough to offer 1 Box of Desert Dwellers Flash Cards to one lucky reader.  Cant' wait to enter the giveaway and see if you win?  Then, head on over to Julie's website to order a box of Desert Dweller's Flash Cards for only $20.00 . And, make sure you use coupon code "Savannah" to save 15% off your total purchase (a special limited time savings just for Inspired by Savannah readers).

When you are done ordering your Desert Dwellers Flash Cards, please enjoy my Spotlight on Mom interview with the creator of these amazing flash cards, Julie Rustad below:

Name: Julie Rustad
Company Name/Product/Service: Julie Originals - Desert Dwellers Flash Cards
Company Location: Tucson, AZ
Company Website:
Twitter Handle: @julieoriginals
Age of Company:  2 (but have had my own design business for 8 years)
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: "Creativity is Intelligence having Fun"

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

I'm an artist, illustrator, designer and Mom! I have one son, Syver (see-ver), who is three. I am also a drummer in two bands, one of them is our family band, The Nap Skippers!

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?

I used to sign "Julie Originals" to the back of handmade greeting cards when I was little. In college I earned a bachelors degree in Graphic Design and started my own business. I worked many, many hours on the computer and earned my MBA, too. I was fortunate to take some time off when Syver was born. When Syver was one, I got back into focusing on my love of fine art and creating things with my hands. This is when I started my Julie Originals blog. Soon after I came up with the concept for my Desert Dwellers Flash Cards. I wanted to teach him the alphabet in a fun way. I painted our favorite desert animals and designed flash cards with fun facts about each of them. Now that he's three, he loves to sort them in alphabetical order and show off his knowledge of animals!

What is a typical work day like?

I drop Syver off to preschool at 9am and focus on getting my work done before I pick him up at 1pm. I balance creating memorable marketing materials for my graphic design clients while creating new art for my Julie Originals brand. 

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 

Time. It will always seem like there isn't enough. I've learned to prioritize and also to say No to things that will force me to be overextended. 

What did you do in your past work life?

I was an in-house graphic designer and Art Director. I gained great experience and felt secure in starting my own design business after that.

What have been some of your major successes?

I had an amazing show of my original artwork at Tucson's beautiful Madaras Gallery. The Desert Dwellers Flash Cards recently won an Addy Award by the American Advertising Federation of Tucson. I am getting asked to speak at our schools which is the MOST fun!!!!

What have been some of your major challenges?

It is hard being one person - taking care of all this. I am fortunate to have found a wonderful warehouse that takes care of all my shipping of my flash cards. 

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

I was born motivated - taking action is something I always do. I find even getting something little gets the ball rolling. 

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

My whole family is creative and entrepreneurial. My husband has had his own animation business for over 15 years now and we can relate on so many levels. Our son plays in a band with us too. We love to be together and really jive off each other's energy and spirit!

What is next for your business?

We're been building a Desert Dwellers game for the Ipad. My new Julie Originals website will launch in another month and I will also be in the Tucson Festival of Books!. I plan to continue to present at schools and hopefully inspire other future Mompreneurs!

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?

It can feel scary  - but that feeling in your stomach signals you are taking a risk -- and that's exciting. Find a mentor who's already doing what you hope to be doing. Join organizations that will be resources in your industry, and network with others. Then it won't' feel so scary -- you'll have built the community you need to thrive!

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