Today I’m thrilled to be spotlighting my good friend and design goddess Em Connors! Her startup, The Creative Bodega (TCB), helps women entrepreneurs level up their design skills using Canva, a free tool that’s accessible to everyone. (A premium upgrade of Canva does exist, and let me tell you: it is worth every penny.)
If you’ve been following along, you know I’m all about adding value, and Em nails this. Her Instagram feed is packed with helpful tips for navigating Canva and creating compelling visuals. Busy solopreneurs juggle countless aspects of their businesses. Learning a quick and efficient way to design graphics can be game-changing and money-saving! It’s no wonder that TCB’s very first digital course – The Canva Crash Course to Branding Your Business – sold out within two weeks.
I’m so excited to tell Em’s story, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Let’s rewind a bit:
Em’s career journey began in New York City, where she arrived after graduating with a degree in fashion design. After working in public relations for fashion brands for two years (and having the time of her life living with her best friends), she was offered a production assistant job with fashion designer Nanette Lepore. She quickly moved up the ranks to manage the brand’s cutting factory. There, her unique combination of organizational savvy and creativity served her well. After four years, Em accepted the Director of Production position at the company, but it wasn’t everything she’d dreamed it would be.
“It was probably the most stressful two years of my entire life. I was having some pretty serious physical symptoms of anxiety and stress. You hear the story all the time: you think that’s what you want, and you get there and just wish you could go back to that other role. I felt like someone was squeezing my throat at all times.”
Hitting refresh in Baltimore
Burnt out and exhausted, Em decided to start over in Baltimore, where her sister had recently moved. She didn’t have to wait too long before finding a job with an interior designer as a project manager. Shortly thereafter, she met her future husband at a Crossfit gym.
When Em’s husband lost his job in finance a few years later, the family was ready to try something new: they opened a personal training studio. Em, on maternity leave with the couple’s first child, wanted to support her husband and was excited for the new entrepreneurial adventure. They worked with a dietician to provide nutrition coaching at the studio. The dietician quickly took notice of the captivating content Em produced for the studio’s social media feeds, and invited Em to join her team as a marketing mentor for other fitness centers.
Cue Covid – and another creative pivot
The Connors took their business online when the Covid-19 pandemic forced their doors shut. Realizing that she enjoyed the virtual workspace they’d built, Em signed up for Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy. She was immediately hooked.
“I have a pretty much full time job as a business marketing mentor. I couldn’t trade any more time for money; there isn’t time left in the day! So the whole concept of creating a course and generating revenue without having to be present was very appealing to me.”
Em’s initial idea was to create a course on nutrition, having worked as a nutrition coach at the family’s studio for four years. The more she thought about it, though, the more she realized her heart just wasn’t in it. What really sparked her fire was design: fonts, colors, images and using these tools to help other women entrepreneurs grow their own businesses.
She knew what she really wanted to do. In October 2020, The Creative Bodega was born.
Not wasting any time, Em began creating content for her fledgling business. She set out to build connections and add value for her followers on Instagram. In the background, she began working on her first course. (Remember that sold out course I mentioned above? Yeah, that’s the one.)
Her Canva Crash Course aims to show small business owners the ins and outs of using Canva efficiently to confidently create graphics that convert. Em teaches students her content creation process and helps them set up their brand kits, something that I know firsthand can be incredibly stressful, not to mention time- and wallet-consuming. She also created a second, mini-course guiding students through Instagram Reel creation.
What’s been the biggest challenge with The Creative Bodega in these first six months?
“Deciding what my offerings are. I’m nervous about my other workload and how it’ll all work together, how I’m going to build my schedule to work,” Em explains. After all, she’s still working as a full time marketing mentor. She’s now balancing teaching her gym clients how to capture leads and close deals with her work at The Creative Bodega. On top of all this, she has two beautiful children (Reese and Will) at home.
Entrepreneurship certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can be so worth it for those of us who are willing to take the leap!
What does the future hold for TCB?
“I’m living day to day right now! It’s hard. I hope to be doing it full time. I hope to have 2 or 3 other amazing girls working with me who are as passionate as I am, and as excited about the possibilities as I am. It always comes back to just helping people. I love seeing the transformation or it ‘clicking.’ I want people to be proud of what they’re putting out. I don’t want them to be embarrassed by graphics. Confidence shows in your branding, and I want people to feel great about that so they can focus on other, more important things in their businesses.”