Ok ladies, you are in for a real treat because this conversation I had with Tonya Dalton, the Founder and CEO of inkWELL Press, was seriously amazing.
Tonya started her first business as a SAHM in 2009 and by 2011, her husband was able to leave corporate America to work alongside her.
Late in 2014 she decided to follow her true passion – inkWELL Press which has grown at a rapid pace thanks to their commitment to quality and fiercely loyal fans.
I knew pretty much instantaneously that Tonya was my soul sister. The way she thinks is so in line with the way I think and we had an absolute blast, not just talking about planners and building businesses, but ultimately about productivity. We talked about how to be effective and efficient, about changing things when you’re not happy, and so many other things that so many of us boss moms go through.
She is an absolute joy and treasure, I know you’re going to fall madly in love with her (because how couldn’t you?!) So I’m not going to deprive you of her awesomeness any further. Lets hop in and hang out with Tonya.
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Tonya’s Boss Mom Journey
Several years ago Tonya was one of those moms that thought she would just start a little side business that would be fun for her. Her husband was working in marketing at large Fortune 500 companies, traveling the world and gone for 3-4 weeks at a time.
One night while he was traveling and they were talking on the phone Tonya mentioned a new phrase their young daughter had said that day, and her husband got really quiet then said, “I’m missing everything.”
This broke Tonya’s heart, and in that moment her life changed. She decided she was going to turn her little side business into a full-time gig and make it so that she and her husband could be home working on that business together.
She sat down, got out a notebook and wrote down everything she could think of to build her business and boost her productivity, since she was obviously still a mom with 2 kids to raise with a husband who traveled a lot.
Tonya mapped out a business plan and got to work! Within a year her husband quit his corporate job and came to work with her. The business had grown enough to sustain their life, pay the bills and they loved working together…..and as they worked alongside each other, the business grew even more.
Like so many before her though, she got to a point a few years in where she realized she was losing her enthusiasm for what she was doing because that little side business wasn’t born out of her passions – it was always just intended to be something fun.
After sharing her heart with her husband from a place of honesty and transparency, he was totally on board with sitting down and coming up with an alternative plan. They decided to close down that first business, even though it was successful, so Tonya could really follow her passion and purpose.
What she learned was that she was really passionate about three things: teaching, organization and productivity, and empowering women. She had to figure out what to create that would pull together all 3 of those passions, and from that Inkwell Press was born.
After closing that first business they took a big risk to build their new business, living with no income for 7 months, and today she says it was all worth it. Now she gets to work with her husband on a business they absolutely love and wake up every day fulfilled in walking out her purpose.
The Power of Planning
One of the biggest things Tonya says helped her build her business was having an organized mind and doing the planning….figuring out her “roadmap” if you will.
She shared a great analogy about how you can get into the car and have the idea that you’re going to drive across the country, but if you don’t have a map or GPS you don’t ultimately know where you’ll end up!
So Tonya focused intently on creating a map for herself, that way as she continued to move forward she knew what the next steps were going to be and she could anticipate things.
When you know where you’re going and have a map for how to get there, even when you need to make inevitable adjustments (hello detours and construction work!) you are still able to veer back onto the right path because you know your end destination.
The other thing that has really helped her as she has built her business is being able to hone in on how to best spend her time.
“Productivity isn’t about getting more things done in a day, it’s about focusing in on the things you really want to focus in on, the things that are important to you, and finding these pockets of time by getting rid of the other stuff.” (11:33)
True productivity is about focusing on that one thing that really matters that will move the needle forward the most for you in the direction of your goals.
On Busy, Hustle and Balance
At this point in the conversation we start talking a little bit of trash about some common jargon many people use today, and explore how using these words can hold us back.
The first word up: busy. Tonya says she is not a fan and tries not to use the word because at the end of the day, busy doesn’t always mean productive or happy. It just means busy. One of her big platforms is to stop the glorification of busy, and trade it in for productivity.
She says busy just means you’re scattering yourself in all different directions. Productive means you’re going in the direction that you want to go in and doing the right things to get there.
Think how often you ask people how they are and they reply “busy.” Busy isn’t a state of being, it’s a verb. It’s filling up your time with a lot of things.
Then we shifted into discussing the world “hustle” which Tonya says segues right into busy because it’s about always moving and always doing.
“It’s okay to stop moving and have white space our lives because the white space is where we grow and that’s really where we can dedicate the time to where we need to go.” (14:22)
Lastly (and we SO have the same belief about this) Tonya thinks the idea of balance in life and work is total bogus. She says there are 3 areas that make up our life: personal, home and work, and it’s all about finding harmony in these areas.
Tonya believes that using the idea of “balance” makes it sound like each area needs to be even – which isn’t feasible, realistic or healthy! To really move towards a big goal in any direction there has to be imbalance.
You have to spend more time on something if you’re really wanting it to grow. So the key is to find how you can get all 3 areas of your life to work together to create harmony, which will add to your happiness with life.
The Challenge of Decision-Making
A really common struggle today is that people want to do all the things, really well, and right now. When we don’t have a clear focus, we won’t have a clear understanding of what we need to say yes to or what we need to say no to. All of this leads to us to being indecisive, or making poor choices when we do finally decide.
“Everyone thinks you need to add in order to grow, and it’s really the opposite. You need to cut in order to grow.” (19:30)
She suggests figuring out the one thing you want to focus on, your key product or offering, and building around that once you feel like it’s gotten established. That, she says, is how growth happens.
From a marketing perspective, focusing in this way will also allow you to know exactly what you’re going to tell people about. And your focused message can be tailored and adjusted so it’s applicable depending on your audience.
If your products and offerings are all based off your core mission, it really allows you to grow at a steady pace.
Tonya says that all of her products at inkWELL Press go through a rigorous questioning process to make sure it aligns with their overarching mission. If it doesn’t fulfill their mission, they don’t offer it (even if people are asking for it!)
Growing Pains & Season of Change
When Tonya first started inkWELL Press organization was the thing she thought was her cornerstone and what she wanted to focus in on. Eventually she started to realize as she was growing and moving forward that her focus really needed to be about productivity.
She believes that if you’re really organized it won’t necessarily translate into productivity because a lot of people use organization as a way to procrastinate.
“If you’re productive, organization naturally follows.” (22:58)
So she changed her focus from organization to productivity and agrees with my philosophy that you find clarity by doing. You find it as you work, if you’re open to seeing it and grabbing hold of it.
It’s really about knowing where you want to go and where you want to spend your time, in the ways that matter most to you.
Productivity is very personal and needs to be customized and tailored to you, Tonya says. It requires clarity, cutting through the clutter and focusing on the things that are important to you.
We also discuss the importance of having a business plan that can act as your decision-support to help you figure out your purpose, gift, the future you want to create, the environment you want to live in, what will you say yes and no to, etc.
People often avoid answering these questions because it feels uncomfortable, but Tonya is a believer in growth coming from outside our comfort zones.
“The first step of any process, whether it’s developing a business plan or doing your goal setting is reflection.” (25:49)
And she says reflection isn’t always easy – it can be tough work! You have to be willing to peel back the layers, get honest and vulnerable – with yourself and others.
It might feel like there are parts of you that you don’t want to explore or talk about, but those are the parts that you’re really going to grow from and that make you beautiful in who you’ve become.
You all know I love brainstorming, and often say “If brainstorming isn’t uncomfortable then you’re just making a list.” (26:38)
But do you just want to just make a list or do you want to come up with actual answers, content, things, ideas that are really going to make a difference?
“Until you get lost, you can’t explore.” (27:27)
Making inkWELL Press Great
Over the years inkWELL Press has experienced a ton of growth and Tonya is sharing some behind the scenes insights into how she approaches her business.
“I really believe there can be a happy marriage between form and function, but I do believe that function comes first.” (35:52)
Tonya starts every new project by sketching out the layout and elements she thinks are important. She intentionally puts things in her planners that she feels are vital for productivity (goal setting, habit trackers, focus points, etc.
She also works completely in tandem with her husband on every single page! She says the most important thing is that each of their products is created to be functional and customizable so it will work for you.
By approaching their creation process with the end in mind – helping people get organized and be productive, they’ve been able to give people what they need and want and grow a thriving business with integrity.
To Tonya it’s all about making her customers feel successful at the end of the day….and making her products pretty is a fun bonus.
She wants every product she creates to be something people will be excited to pull out every day so it becomes a ritual or habit. She believes if you start doing your planning on a regular basis you will see a difference in your life!
Referenced in the Show:
(Just FYI, some of these links may be affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using the links I may receive some love in return!)
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