25 February 2012

A Day in the Life of Sarai Mitnick - Colette Patterns

Does this lady need an introduction? I imagine if you have ever read my blog before you will know that I'm a huge fan of Colette Patterns, set up by Sarai Mitnick from Portland, Oregon. Sarai has also recently found time to write the delightful Colette Sewing Handbook, which sewing bloggers have rightly been going crazy for. "What's her secret?" you plead, "Coffee or yoga?" Let's take a peek inside her studio and find out for this month's A Day in the Life...


"It seems paradoxical, but one of the main things I've learned in working for myself is that, if I want to have freedom and flexibility, I have to give myself a lot of structure and organization. My biggest problem is that, like a lot of small business owners, I have workaholic tendencies and take on way too much. Being disciplined and structured with my time helps with that, because I can force myself to come home at a certain time, or to not work on the weekends (mostly).

I wake up around 7, cuddle the kitties for a few minutes, get up and throw on my running gear. Kenn gets up around the same time and we have our coffee and wake up slowly and quietly. I usually read or knit, since I try not to go online before work. Right now, I'm working on mastering the complex art of Icelandic knitting, with its crazy multi-strand colorwork.

I have something small to eat, like a homemade granola bar or a piece of wholegrain toast with almond butter, just for a little pre-run fuel.

Right now, I'm training for a half marathon (and possibly a marathon later in the year!). Most weekdays, I'll run between 3 and 5 miles, with longer runs on the weekends. I really really love running outdoors and really really hate treadmills, so I'll get out there even if it's raining. And in Portland, it's usually raining.

After my run, I have a bit more food, usually a smoothie, and do some yoga stretches. My favorite smoothies right now are this raw chocolate shake or this amazing clementine creamsicle smoothie. I'm a smoothie addict.

I walk to work, and get there sometime between 10 and 10:30. Our office / studio is only about half a mile from my house, and it's a lovely little walk. The space itself is a renovated industrial loft in an old brick factory building. We have huge factory windows, high ceilings, and lots of natural light. Kenn works from the office too, managing our website, inventory, shipping, and customer service. Caitlin works with us a few days a week, doing a lot of sewing and working on the blog.

During the day, the studio is usually full of music, the sound of sewing machines, the tapping on our keyboards, and Caitlin and I laughing and swapping stories about our cats. Overall, I'd say the atmosphere is really relaxed, calm, and fun.

The first thing I do at work is email. I try to practice Inbox Zero, meaning I empty my inbox every day. I take answering email pretty seriously. I consider it a sign of professionalism and respect, I guess. A lot of people take the time to write really thoughtful and kind emails, and I definitely feel it's my responsibility to thank them for all the feedback, well wishes, and smart questions.

I should mention, the only weekday that's a bit different is Friday, when Kenn and I have a weekly breakfast meeting. We go out for breakfast together and discuss the progress that week, our sales numbers, traffic, things like that. It helps me to stay on top of things from week to week, plus we get a yummy breakfast in the bargain. After breakfast, we'll return to work like any other day.

Caitlin and I always get hungry at noon, like clockwork. I bring my lunch most days, usually leftovers that Kenn packs up for me while I run (what a sweetie). Occasionally, the three of us will go out to our favorite Mexican place for tamales and margaritas, but not too often since it makes us all very lazy afterwards.

1:00 - 4:00
I use project management software to keep on top of the bazillions of tasks and projects we all have going on. I'll check in there and see what needs to be done. Right now, we're working on finishing up our Spring patterns, getting them tested and ready for printing. So I'll spend the afternoon working on laying out the instructions. Next week, we'll start planning our photo shoot.

I like to take breaks from the bigger projects to work on upcoming blog posts. Blogging is usually more fun than doing the more technical stuff, so it breaks up the day nicely. We have a list of upcoming topic ideas to work from, so I might need to take or edit some photos, or write a post to go with them. Blogging actually takes up a huge amount of time, even with lots of help from Caitlin.

I like to close out the day with a little sewing for myself. Since all my sewing equipment is at work, that's the only real time I have to sew, and it helps relax me. Plus, it gives me stuff to show off on the blog.

Kenn and I walk home together. Kenn is a cocktail guy, so he'll usually mix us a nice after work drink, like a Sazarac, a Negroni, or an Old Fashioned to drink while we make dinner together. Or sometimes, we'll head out to one of our neighborhood bars, maybe meeting up with friends for a few drinks. Portland is a very social city, and we really enjoy just hanging out with friends in the evening, so we do tend to go out a lot. We're lucky because there are several great restaurants and bars within blocks of our house.

Other times, we'll make dinner together. Kenn and I are both vegetarians, I love to cook, and we both love food. We have pretty healthy and varied tastes, I guess. This week, we've had a vegetarian jambalaya, a curried yam and peanut soup, and a black bean and roasted root vegetable dish with a garlic lime sauce.

After dinner, we sit together and relax. This usually involves reading, knitting, and quality kitty time. I like to read both fiction and non-fiction (often history), and the occasional literary journal (usually The Paris Review).

Other times, we'll watch a movie in the evenings, which is particularly nice when you just feel like zoning out after a long day.

I head to bed around 11. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. I'll often read in bed for a few more minutes before drifting off.

Weekends are a bit different. On Saturdays, I go for a long run maybe followed by a little yoga. On Sundays, I go for a nice long relaxing swim and use the sauna. Other than those things, my weekends aren't scheduled. In the Winter, I spend a lot of time baking, making healthy snacks we can take to work, knitting, going out for coffee with friends. In the Summer, I'm more often found outside, usually in my vegetable garden, out taking walks or riding my bike, or in the kitchen canning up my harvest. We are still eating all the tomatoes I canned this summer, which is pretty awesome.

Being your own boss is wonderful. You have so much freedom and can really design a life that will make you happy. I think the trick is to not become so overburdened by the work of it all that you start putting the business ahead of your own happiness. It's really easy to get tunnel vision and forget why you're doing it in the first place. That's something I'm actively working on, and its made me a much happier (and even more productive) person."


Did you find this as inspiring as I did? Running a fantastic business... and running! Sarai seems to have found the perfect work/life balance, don't you think? Right, I'm going to take a leaf out of her book and get my running shoes on...