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Below are a few of the designers and bloggers who I admire...

design mentors
1. Jenna Park | whimsy & spice
2. Grace Bonney | design*sponge
3. Joy Deangdeelert Cho | Oh Joy!
4. Erin Loechner | Design For Mankind

I have a few very special mentors in the design world. I've never met any of them, but through the internet I feel like I sort of "know" them. They blog, they tweet, they do interviews and formspring Q&A's, they offer advice and share their stories, and through all those things I have been able to discover that we have similar goals, ideas and inspiration. They are huge successes in my eyes, but at their cores I've come to realize - we really are not that different. I hope one day to be on their radar, but that is not really the point. The point is to learn from them, to soak up what they are putting out into the world like a sponge (some might say like a design sponge! ha ha, blogger joke), and apply that knowledge to my own business and work. I see them as my teachers in a classroom where I am surrounded by students and peers who I find endlessly inspiring.

Personal Style
When I think of the biggest lesson I have learned from my mentors, the first thing that comes to mind is personal style. Their work is distinguished and distinguishable. Their voices are clear and their messages constant. I know when I see their work that it is uniquely theirs, not that it is repetitive or does not grow and evolve, but that it is imprinted with the ideas and qualities that make up the person behind the work. Trends come and go, and sure, we all want to stay current and not miss out on an opportunity to get our work noticed, but at the core if we're only in it for the 15 minutes of mustache (one of the trends from this past year that comes to mind) fame, then what's the point? If we move from trend to trend and never define who we are as artists, then I can't believe that sustained success can be achievable.

Dream big, then dream bigger - Oh Joy
Another important lesson is one that I need to remember everyday; no one is going to do the work for you, it's up to you to set your goals, meet your standards, achieve your dreams and then do it all again. Oddly enough, the work it takes to deconstruct something seems so much easier than the work it takes to build it in the first place. Why laying a brick takes more energy than knocking one down I don't know but, I do know that the hard work and belief in one's self begins and ends with you. I really love Oh Joy's Dream big, then dream bigger tip because it is full of hope and inspiration. It reminds me that I am the only one who places limits on myself, and the only one who can exceed them.

Patience My Sweet
No one, not even Martha became a success overnight. Although, when it doesn't happen immediately, it can be a little disconcerting. I learned my patience lesson within the first month of opening my shop. I had printed off the first batch of Animal Alphabet Posters, my website was online, I had emailed everyone I know to announce the big news. Big Chuck had brought home a bottle of champagne and some yummy cheeses to celebrate, and then.... nothing. Nada, zip, zilch, not a peep. All that excitement at having started my own venture and nowhere to put it. Looking back, I realize that this was perfectly normal, expected really. It takes time for people to see your work, especially on the internet where it is alongside the work of so many other talented artists. It takes time to find customers who love what you do and will tell their friends about it. It takes time to develop a conversation with your audience and find out what it is they are looking for. Perhaps I could have done some of these things before I opened English Muffin, but to be honest trial by fire has always been a pretty effective way for me to learn. Patience is at the heart of any venture. If you begin at a gallop you may loose hold of the reins, and if you can't guide the horse, who knows how far from home you'll end up?!

Having mentors has always been an important part of my own personal learning experience. Especially now, when I'm not in a structured classroom environment, I find it helpful to have a few beacons of light to help me find my way. It is also immensely comforting to know that the struggles I am currently dealing with have all been experience before, that they are a normal part of growing a business.

As always, I'd love to hear your own experiences and thoughts.
Thanks for reading!