I came across Heather’s bio when I was looking for a web designer/developer who was well versed with WordPress and the Genesis framework to help me create the vision for my blog. Her stunning and extensive portfolio confirmed my decision to hire her to design my blog. As a fellow female in tech, I thought Heather would be a perfect fit for the series. You can learn more about Heather’s business and view her portfolio on her site, Viva La Violet.
How did you get into building websites? Did you take any computer programming courses in high school?
I started tinkering with animated graphics when I was about 16, and from there my obsession with websites began. When I started college, there was unfortunately not a web design curriculum yet available. I ended up studying fine arts and received a BFA in computer animation. During that time, I was building websites in my spare time and learning everything I could on my own. I also worked for a computer software company in college, so I was able to take some FrontPage and Dreamweaver courses to learn a bit more. It was very much a trial and error period for me!
What video games did you play growing up and what video games are you currently playing now?
Oh goodness- where do I begin? My favorite games growing up were Mario and Sonic games- my favorite game to date is still Super Mario World (for the Super Nintendo). In college, I began playing MMORPGs like Diablo 2 and Guild Wars- and I actually met my husband online playing Guild Wars! We’re both gamers at heart, so with all of our games combined and the addition of our 7 year old son and his games- we’ve got quite the collection. These days I don’t really have time for MMORPGs, so I usually play Wii U games with my son, and he’s currently got me hooked on My Singing Monsters, haha.
What made you decide to start your own web design business?
I was working as a lead artist for a casual video game company when I got pregnant with our son, and I knew then that I wanted to pursue my dream of having my web design business and staying at home after he was born. However, I also knew that without a portfolio I was not going to get web design clients knocking down my door, so I decided to start-up an invitation and stationery business on Etsy to make income quickly. Viva la Violet was born in 2008 (as well as our son), and for the next two years I designed and printed invitations as well as slowly built up a web design portfolio. I can remember my husband always telling me back then that all I did was work, and he barely even saw me. Startups are no joke, but if I wouldn’t have put in all of that time in the beginning, I don’t think I would be where I am today.
Where does the name Viva La Violet come from?
My love for purple of course! I have had this over-the-top obsession with the color purple since I was a child. The flower ‘Heathers’ are purple, so maybe that’s where the underlying love comes from? 😉 I was finally able to pass the name Violet along to my very own daughter this past September, and I can’t wait to see how she feels about the color.
What do you like the most about having your own business?
The flexibility has to be one of the best things! I made the conscious decision in 2012 to have Fridays off, not work past 5pm through the week, and to make as many Starbucks runs as needed. I also truly enjoy helping other women achieve their dreams by launching their small businesses and blogs online because I was there once myself and I know how daunting it can be! Owing a small business can be very tough at times, because I do have to wear many hats, but I can’t imagine going back to the 9-5 grind ever again. But probably overall, my favorite thing about it having the ability to stay at home and watch my kids grow up vs putting them in daycare as infants. I’m so grateful for this everyday!
Did you encounter any challenges when first launching Viva La Violet?
Oh definitely! From getting little to no sleep, working 7 days a week around the clock, and still sometimes feeling like I was just ‘spinning my wheels’, it was draining. It was more so I think, because my time was split between the invitation business and the web design business. And just getting yourself out there and in front of audiences was a HUGE challenge when you have no audience to begin with! I spent much of my time marketing, blogging, doing giveaways, interviews, and anything I possibly could to gain exposure. All the while trying to raise a child and keep my head attached to my shoulders, ha!
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from for your WordPress themes?
My themes are tricky, because unlike my custom design projects, I don’t have a client telling me what they want/need. For each of my themes I choose a certain blogging niche, and then come up with all of the different elements I think that blogger would need in a design. I usually change the design many times as I’m creating it, and I also reference top blogging sites throughout that particular niche to see what’s working for them and what’s not.
As a blogger, there are times when I get writer’s block and the words just don’t seem to come out or flow the way I want them to. Do you find yourself ever getting “designer’s block?”
Yes! I also refer to this as ‘burnout’. My number one go to for relaxation and to ‘reset’ is a hot bubble bath. Sounds silly, but it’s just about the only alone time I can squeeze in. To me there’s something therapeutic about being away from my computer screen in silence. I guess because I don’t get that very often! Or I’ll sometimes take a break and play games or just enjoy my children, because I know that time passes so fast when they are this young. But there have been times when I felt so burnt out that I just needed an entire weekend to shut off my web design brain and keep myself occupied with other things (I love DIYs!). That usually helps the most.
What would you say are the advantages to using the Genesis framework with WordPress?
That’s a novel in itself, but to keep it short and sweet, because it’s amazing!!! When I started designing for WordPress, I tried many different frameworks. There were many nights I wanted to pull my hair out and just couldn’t understand why things were done a certain way. Then I tried Genesis, and it all just made sense. I fell in love. The ease of use, security, and community are probably the top three things I love the most about it. As long as it’s around, I can’t see myself developing for any other framework.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in a career in technology or starting their own business?
The best advice I can give is to research, research, research! Make sure you have a very good understanding of what your day-to-day tasks would look like before diving into a new business. Is it something you can see yourself doing day after day without getting bored/tired of it? Are you passionate about it? With the invitation business, by the time I had finally phased it out. I was SO done with it all. I have never felt that way about my Web Design business, and that’s how I know that this is where I need to be. Another piece of advice is to never stop learning, this will set you back in your industry big time. Sure, you may know enough to keep your business hopping this week, but things are forever changing and evolving, especially in my industry. And you don’t want to be left behind! A great example of this is mobile design- when I started out, it wasn’t even a thing. Now with web design, it’s usually a client’s main concern- ‘Will my website or blog look good on all devices?”. It was something I had to spend many hours on, and I am STILL learning about it every day. (Just ask Karen =)
If you are thinking of starting your own business, know that it is so very rewarding, but it can also seem impossible in the beginning. Just keep your head up, be a GIRL BOSS, and own it! I’ll be here cheering you on from the sidelines 😀