As an introverted, type A personality, going to Stationery Academy in July and knowing that I would be sharing a room with someone who I had never met was incredibly intimidating. However, when I arrived and saw Malena in our room and we chatted for a bit I knew that this was a pairing made by God. Over the next few days we shared our stories and grew to know each other much more than I would have expected in four days.
Since our time in Phoenix, Malena and I have been on a weekly capability call with two other amazing women and have gotten to know each other more. She has chosen to put her stationery shop, Little Bird Paperie, on hold because she is so passionate about getting girls engaged in the engineering field. She and her co-founder have created an amazing academy that I pray my girls will get to be a part of as they grow a little older. Malena has tons to teach us and I can’t wait to share her wisdom and passion with you.
What’s the inspiration behind KiraKira?
KiraKira teaches girls the fundamentals of engineering and 3D design programs through fun, interactive, inspiring jewelry design lessons. My co-founder, Suz Somersall, and I both have backgrounds with engineering and/or 3D design. After feeling uninspired and frankly, somewhat unwelcome in the very male dominated environment, I chose to leave engineering and went on to study art & design. Suz, however, continued in the field of 3D and industrial design to become a jewelry designer – she 3D prints all of her jewelry. We recognized a gap in teaching and inspiring girls in engineering. Most existing tutorials target boys and teach how to design objects such as wrenches or auto parts. We wondered how we could teach girls engineering and 3D design in a way that speaks to them, inspires them, and empowers them to create something new.
You’ve got three kids about the same age as mine and I know I’m struggling to balance family and work. Have you found anything that works to help you balance it all? Do you have any tips for us?
Everyday is a balancing act! My first tip is my “Top 3” list. If nothing else gets accomplished, what are the top 3 things I must do today. This works for home and work. Reasonable goals help me avoid feeling like I’m drowning! Tip #2, I’m learning to outsource. I outsource cleaning! For the first time ever I have a housekeeper that comes to my house every other week. She keeps me sane! I work from home and it’s hard to focus in a messy environment. Knowing my kitchen and bathrooms will get cleaned at least every 2 weeks takes a LOT of pressure off of me so I can focus on work rather than dreading scrubbing the tubs! My last tip is one I’m still working on: take time to enjoy your life! Yes, we’re moms and business owners and cooks and chauffeurs and a million other things, but the most important job titles I have are wife and mother. Take time for your family. Schedule it in if you have to! Some days it doesn’t feel like it, but soon my little ones will be all grown up. I don’t want to regret being too busy for my kids.
What three things must you have/do every day?
I wish I could say, “go for a great morning run,” but these days that just does not happen!
Hot tea in the morning with sugar (lots), there are days I WISH I were a coffee drinker!
A phone call (or 3) with my mom. She is my best friend and I talk to her ev-er-y-day.
Hugs and kisses from my kiddos – they sustain me!
If you were going to give someone just starting a business some advice, what would it be?
I have a few key pieces of advice I wish I’d known before I got started!
Don’t undervalue yourself. Your time is valuable.
Figure out what your time is worth and expect it. If your client isn’t willing to pay you what your worth, 1) that isn’t your ideal client and 2) that project isn’t worth your time… unless it is truly for charity, which I’m also a big believer in.
What has surprised you the most about being an entrepreneur?
How hard I am on myself. When I had a 9-5 job I would go home and relax, sleep and not think of work again until morning. Owning my own business I’m slightly (completely) obsessed. I think about it all the time! I don’t relax or sleep as much. (This is starting to sound awful!) The truth is, I LOVE my job. I am obsessed with creating beautiful content and a product that’s of concrete value to others. So I’m hard on myself because I have such high expectations for what I’m creating.
Where do you want KiraKira to go in the next year or two?
Everywhere! Honestly, we would love for KiraKira to be in 10,000 schools, in thousands of home across America, in summer camps and after school programs. We have big dreams for KiraKira!
Who do you admire and keep up with in the business? Any mentors, groups, podcasts, etc that you recommend we keep up with?
Jennifer Faught, owner of Stationery Academy. She has been a WEALTH of knowledge and encouragement to me and so many others! Caitlin Bacher for social media tips. Cathy Olson for Periscope. Heather Crabtree for entrepreneur advice. Love Being Boss podcast. Anything by Simon Sinek!
How can people reach out to you and follow you?
Malena is the co-founder & Creative Director of the EdTech startup company, KiraKira, an online academy that teaches girls the fundamentals of engineering and 3D design programs through inspiring, interactive jewelry design. For the last 10 years, Malena has been thrilled to be a Creative Director, Art Director, Graphic & Stationery designer and is based out of Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. As a mom of 3, Malena is excited to change the landscape of girls in engineering and is hopeful her own daughter will one day cultivate a love for engineering and design through KiraKira.
I am excited to share that as of the writing of this post, the KiraKira kickstarter is 72% funded. I’m proud to say that Tales of a Peanut is supporting their efforts and I encourage you to head to their page and see if you can donate even $5 to help them get their vision off the ground. I also will be sharing some KiraKira products in my gift guides this week so make sure and come back to see some additional ways that you can support them. I would love to see KiraKira as a household name and changing the face of engineering for the better!