Tamara Paylor is a single mom to a five year old daughter. She lives and works in North Carolina where she owns her own graphic and web design business, Mae Lea Designs. She does web design, logo creation, t-shirt design and more! Tamara is passionate about helping small businesses brand and market themselves for success.
Me: Tell me about your experience as a single mom. How long have you been a single mom?
Tamara: Since day one. I had my daughter five years ago and I’ve been a single mom since the beginning. I knew I was going to be. It was one of those situations where her father and I had stopped dealing with each other before I even found out I was pregnant.
Me: How has that worked for you? Do you have a large support system or did you just have to navigate life on your own?
Tamara: I do have a support system. I actually ended up moving from where I was because I was by myself and had no family around. So I moved to North Carolina where my mom was. So I have her as a support system. She helps out a great bit but I still have the regular everyday dealings of being a single mom. I can’t just leave her with my mom 24/7 because she has her own job. So I still go through a lot of things that all single moms go through in providing for my daughter and what have you but it does help to have that support system.
Me: So had you completed college when you had her?
Tamara: Yes I had her when I was 32 so I was done with college. Actually, what had happened around that time was the economy had gotten really bad and I was an art supervisor and I was one of the first ones out the door when they did the layoffs because I was the youngest manager on the floor. At the time I was kind of taking a break and trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do. I was focusing more on plus modeling and those type of things. Once I moved to North Carolina I tried to do some of my graphic work and that was a side job more than anything. So I went back into customer service and had to put her into daycare so I could provide.
Me: How was the daycare experience for you?
Tamara: Horrible. Absolutely horrible. My mom had only lived in the area for a short time and didn’t really have any recommendations to go off of. In North Carolina, they have the star rating system so I was going off of that thinking 5-star facility means they’re really good. The first daycare was fine but when I switched jobs for better pay I got put on a later shift so she went from part time to full time and I just couldn’t afford it. So I ended up taking her out of there and then the next facility was supposedly the oldest five star facility in the county.
The first incident that happened they called and said “she’s ok but she just got a hold of some bleach solution.” What is bleach solution doing in a classroom while the kids are there? Messed up a brand new outfit which they didn’t even tell me about! So they replaced the clothes and profusely apologized but a little bit later down the road she ended up with a bump on her head. We’re like ‘where did that come from’ and asked them about it. They told us she did hit her head but nothing showed up. Head injuries don’t always show up right away but why would there not be an incident report? So I just felt like for the safety of my child I would have to take her out. The front staff was very apologetic and what not but when your child is dead and gone apologies mean nothing.
So I took her out of there which was such an abrupt thing. There was one close by that also said they were a 5 star facility so I her in there. Her aunt picked her up from daycare in the dead of winter and they had her out on the playground with no coat on. They said they didn’t know who’s coat was who’s. Does it really matter which coat you put on a kid as long as they have a coat? She had 2 coats in the classroom!
She’s been through about 5 or 6 daycares which is crazy. I took her back to a nicer daycare and she was having some behavior issues, which could be because of all the transitions, but the lady who was helping me with daycare assistance didn’t seem to really know what she was doing. We had a speech therapist because she was a little behind on her speech and an inclusion specialist that the daycare actually recommended. And the inclusion specialist more so worked with the teachers on how to deal with the child than with the child themselves.
We had this meeting and told them exactly what they needed to implement in the classroom and the very next day they called me and said “we’ll let her stay for the rest of the day but we need you to take care of your balance”. So now that they had to implement these things in the classroom the balance on my account is an issue. I have talked about some of the things I’ve gone through in an online magazine I’m apart of and it’s been eye-opening because not everyone has those experiences so I try to give people references. Even in home daycare can be unsafe.
Me: What ended up happening with child care after all that?
Tamara: After all that the original daycare she went to when she was an infant took her back and they ended up deciding they could not handle her behavior. They had a larger class size than they said they did and she doesn’t do well with large class sizes. The inclusion specialist traveled with us from daycare to daycare and actually stopped working with that daycare because they were never implementing the things they said they were. Since they could not meet her needs they referred us to another daycare.
This daycare is perfect and it has blended classes. They have regular kids but half of the kids are special needs from autism to what have you. So the teachers are specially trained and that’s where she ended up. We saw a big improvement and she’s off speech therapy but we do still have some problems with behavior. They decided she needed a little bit more help and we got in touch with the county again and they put her in a blended class in her actual elementary school.
So although she just started kindergarten this year she’s been at her school since last year. So we still have meetings with the teachers and she has an IEP but it is a much better transition. This year to help with that instead of me dropping her off where we have a little bit of a problem with that transition she’s going to be riding the bus to and from school. I’m one of those moms where if there are services available I’m going to use them and I have not had to pay for any of these services. And now we’re getting additional services to help with the behaviors.
Me: Lets talk about your work. You’re busy running your business and have your little one and teaching her life skills and values and really getting into her education. Tell us about your company and exactly what it is that you do?
Tamara: My company is Marlene designs. I do graphic and web design services. My niche is for startups and small businesses that lack brand identity and need help branding themselves across all their marketing channels. I also do consulting with that as well where I help businesses decide which marketing tools they should use and then we put strategies into place and Skype once a month or something. One client is in South Carolina and I actually go to her shop and sit down with her once a month. I haven’t pushed that as much but the few that I have we’ve gotten good results and they’ve definitely seen growth. So that monthly meeting is something I want to push more in the future.
I want to relaunch my own site. Redesign it a bit and I’m moving toward that as well. I also have a line of graphic tees that I came out with. Two of which are my favorite. One says Entrepreneur Life and the other one says Entrepreneurship is Sexy. Another one says Sassy, Sexy, Self-Employed so they’re along those lines.
A lot of people talk about having several streams of income and some people think they have to be several things from totally different places and for me what has worked is using every part of graphic design that I can and some people say it’s not several different streams because it’s all design. But you have some graphic designers who don’t do web design and you have some web designers who only do the coding they don’t know how to make it look pretty and I can do both. So that is something there that not everyone does. So I’m doing all different types of avenues that can stand alone as individual businesses if I wanted them to.
So that’s what I’m doing with that business and then I am also an independent business owner for Total Life Changes which is a healthy living company. I’ve actually used the product and lost 35 pounds so I just thought ‘hey lets make some residual income here’ and all I really have to do is tell people my experience and say let them try it out. I’ve recently started that and it’s going pretty good for just starting. So those are my businesses and I’m also an associate editor of a plus-sized magazine.
If I had known then what I know now. I actually went to school originally for electrical engineering and was in a program sponsored by NASA right out of high school. I really liked computers at the time but they were like if you do electrical engineering you’ll get a little bit of everything and you’ll be more marketable. So I fell for it and did it but engineering and physics were killing me. I failed it twice and found myself sitting in the dark crying and it got really stressful. So I actually dropped out of that in the 4th year of a 5 year program. $70,000 later in student loans something clicked and said well you know you’ve liked doing graphic design since elementary and middle school, so let’s try this and sure enough I went back to school for that and I graduated with honors.
Then I got an internship with a company where they designed shirts for the NFL that you can purchase in stores. Within a year, I went from being an intern to an actual creative artist and then within two years I actually made supervisor. I was blessed and God has given me that go-getter type of drive. I had my business after I graduated but it was more of a side thing never a full-time business. Once I had my daughter and needed to make ends meet I was doing customer service and sales and I was just not feeling fulfilled. My mom told me she thought I could make a run for it. She had never really said that to me before so I just saw it as a sign from God and so I quit my job as of July 2014. My first month I only made $400 in sales and last month I made $2,500. It may not seem to much like some people but when you’re doing it by yourself it’s a lot and I’m maintaining it.
Me: I can tell from just talking to you. I can hear it in your voice that you’re only going higher from here. So would you say in that moment last year was a moment when you said ok I’m about to live the life I want to live? Or was it another moment where you said you were going all in into this business and I’m going to make it?
Tamara: That was the moment. Because like I said I had the business for 10 years but I never really put energy into it because come on now you’re doing graphics for the NFL and going to the super bowl. I didn’t even concentrate on my own business and it was just a side thing. As of last year I just knew I needed to do this. I already had my tax ID but I never had filed as an LLC. So when they say time and destiny meet that is a true thing because I just started participating in these Facebook groups and started learning stuff and finding new stuff.
I got a design mentor and he’s opened my eyes to a lot of stuff and helped my business grow by leaps and bounds. I used to always want to have my business as my full-time business, but it just seemed like no one was helping me. It always seems like no one wants to give you information on the how because they’re scared you’re going to be their competition. But ever since last year it’s just been like the flood gates have opened up. It’s funny when I go in and look at the difference between what I earned then and now it’s just crazy.
Me: So what does a typical day look like for you? You have Marlene designs, you have your t-shirt line that I know you’re going to be adding to, plus your healthy living business as well. So what does a typical day look like for you? When you hop out of bed in the morning what’s the first thing you do?
Tamara: The first thing I do is actually go ahead and get water because that is part of the healthy living. Then I fix my breakfast and get those things out of the way. For me I’ve noticed that I lose more when I take in more water and I have to start that from the moment I wake up. Once I have my water and my breakfast I sit down and check my emails, respond to those, then I’ll check my Facebook feed and see if there’s anybody I need to respond to. Some days doing those two things will disrupt my whole entire day because I’ll just get so many emails and notifications that that ends up being all I’m doing and I’m trying to get better at that.
Then I’ll start design work. Sometimes I will split my day and do all the phone calls and emails and what have you during the day and save the design work when my daughter is asleep. It just works a little bit better because if I’m in a groove with the design work and have to stop and go get her from the bus stop that kind of throws me off to have to come back to it. Or if she comes in she may want to sit on Mommy’s lap and it’s hard to do design work like that so it’s easier for me to do the housekeeping things first and then once she’s in bed at night that’s when I’ll do some of my design work.
It really depends what I have on my plate and how I juggle it. Now I do have a virtual assistant who’s helping me get organized and she’s amazing. She’s helping me build my client list because when you are a one woman show you kind of miss some of the management things that you need to do so all these people were contacting me either through email or Facebook and I was not taking the time to put them in a chart to keep track of their information and so she is helping me go back and build that up because when I do relaunch I want to send that info to those people and then be fresh in their minds. At first I was scared of doing the virtual assistant thing because it’s money but it’s worth it and it’s not as much as people might think it is.
So that’s how my day pretty much is it depends on what’s going on. For the magazine being an editor I have to write a certain number of articles per month and I just try to schedule those in on a weekly basis and I try to do more hot news items so as I see stuff that’s when I’ll sit down and write up something and send it over to my editor. A good chunk of my day is sometimes on the computer and on social media but not just for myself I’m doing things on my clients pages or in some of the groups because I do have some consulting clients in those groups.
Me: So I know you said that you have your business mentor now. Would you say at this point in your life that he’s the one who’s really inspiring you? Or do you have a person in your life who’s just a huge inspiration to you overall or in your business?
Tamara: My design mentor inspires me but also I have another mentor and she is the owner of culsire.com which is a great hub for minority businesses and her name is the Mogul Motivator. She’s great about helping people tap into their inner mogul. We’re working together on some projects and I can bounce some ideas off her and they’re not always graphic design things. I like having that resource as well.
My mom also inspires me. She was a single mom as well and that has given me drive to get this to a certain point where I can pass this off to my daughter and teach her financial responsibility so she doesn’t have to punch somebody else’s clock and help someone else build their own empire. That’s definitely been an inspiration to me as well. So I have a couple of them.
Me: And it’s always great to have a parent’s support and that’s a pattern that I’m seeing with the ladies that I’m talking to. Just having a momma in the background supporting you, rooting for you, and being your biggest advocate. So when you think about how you’ve been inspired, what is your advice to a single mother who wants to act on something but may be afraid to step out of her comfort zone or she’s not sure what steps to take to maybe start a business or get out of debt or purchase a home? What would be your advice for her?
Tamara: Don’t hesitate and do your research. Do your due diligence and do your research but don’t hesitate. I see this debate all the time where people are always telling you don’t quit your job to have your business or save up this amount of money. That’s good advice in the ideal world but that’s not for everybody. I did not have six months of savings in the bank, it was all or nothing, but for me and my personality that worked. You kind of have to figure out what’s best for you because for some people money will never be right and if you don’t go for it you’re going to regret it. So if it’s in your heart and you wake up every day thinking about it and wanting it, then do it. Because like I said there’s nothing like being fulfilled. For me, I get the fulfillment from my customers being so excited and so happy because now their business is something that feels real and tangible because of something that I designed for them.
So try to save up if you’re working a full-time job and try to have an exit strategy but do not let anybody make you feel bad if you do just up and quit because some people are better at sink or swim. I was doing research and stuff for my business but it wasn’t until I quit my job that it got real. I’d always had it as a side business but it was hard coming home at 9 o’clock at night to then sit down and do design work knowing I had to get up the next morning and go back to work. So I couldn’t fully dedicate myself to it and now that’s how I get some clients because I tell them this is my full-time job because they know a lot of designers are only doing it part time.
My number one piece of advice is to do your research and go for it. If that’s the type of person you are then do it. There’s no such thing as failure unless you never try. Everything you do goes into building who you are and what you do. You can go where the dollar signs are but if you don’t have the passion for it and don’t love what you do it’s not going to work out.
Me: You’re right and with growth comes wisdom. So are you reading any good books that you can recommend to a single mom? I know you’re busy with your work but have you read anything now or in the past that talks about starting a business or something similar?
Tamara: Actually I have a ton of books that I need to read and that is something I have not been good at but the one that I did read that helped me was Success God’s Way by Charles Stanley. That really had me evaluate things and it helps you kind of map out how to go about things. So that for me actually made a big difference. Some other favorites are Never Give Up and The Battlefield of the Mind both by Joyce Meyer.
Me: So we’ve been talking about your business and your daughter. What do you do for you? What do you do to rejuvenate yourself or relieve stress? What do you do to have fun?
Tamara: Good question. I like to go out with a friend or two once in awhile. I like to play some games on my phone or tablet and that could be anything from The Sims or a word game like Words with Friends. I also do have a boyfriend now and like to just talk to him because we don’t live in the same city. He’s a business owner as well so what I love is that we’re able to vibe off of each other. I love that. We may not be actually talking on the phone we might be messaging but just that back and forth is one of my favorite things. I love that.
Me: The name of my website is NatashaVIP.com and the VIP stands for Vision, Inspiration, and Purpose. When you hear those three words what do they mean to you as a woman, a mother, and as a business woman?
Tamara: Well the first thing that comes to mind is without a vision people will perish. So you have to have a vision not just for your business but for your life. That’s what that means to me then with the vision you have to kind of get some type of discernment.
I know when I was plus size modeling my editor kept saying to me you really need to do your graphics and I was just like whatever but more than one person had said that to me and lo and behold what she was saying was right! I just wasn’t in tune with it so when I finally got in tune with what God was showing me and I started feeling that fulfillment.
I inspire people by just doing what I’m doing. I recently got an email from a college friend of mine that said ‘keep doing what you’re doing because I have somebody I can tell my daughter to look up to’ and I was just blown away so I am inspiring people just by being myself and answering the call that God placed in my life. I always say to be blessed be a blessing so I try and find ways to bless other people and that may be doing a free service or going out of my way or just doing the work that I’m doing. I work with people and I don’t think you shouldn’t get what you want or need just because you don’t have the finances.
Purpose ties into everything because you have to know your purpose and if you don’t then ask God to show you. You’ll know when you’re living in your purpose and you’re walking in your purpose. You’ll know. I love it because I want to speak more and I spoke at a women’s big hat brunch and I just talked from experience and I wasn’t there to get a client I was just trying to inspire and a few months later one of my biggest clients came from that. So when you’re walking in your purpose and you’re trying to be a blessing to other people He will provide.
Me: Just to wrap up what do you want to share with us? What’s next for you? Do you want to share any new projects or products you’re coming out with?
Tamara: We have a breast cancer event coming up this month called Pink and Paint. I went to one of those paint things where you can bring your own wine and just paint and it was so much fun so I wanted to do one of those and have the proceeds go to Pretty in Pink which is the breast cancer organization here. I’ve gotten vendors lined up to do swag bags and hired a caterer and I think it’s going to be a big success so I’m excited.
Me: What inspired you to do an event like this?
Tamara: My mom is a breast cancer survivor so I like to participate and do things that give back because I always feel like she had an easier time than someone else might have. Her story was not one of those horrible, really tragic ones. It was caught early on and she’s been a survivor for about 7 or 8 years. I try to do certain things and I’ve really wanted to do an event like this. I’ve done an event when I was working in Tampa and I’ve done the Susan G Komen 3 day walk. And everyone should do something like that because it challenges you but also to see the mix of people that come out and the survivors and everything. It’s awesome. I want to do more and now that my daughter is older start taking her with me to the Thanksgiving dinners in the local community and Habitat for Humanity. Because she’s the next generation and it’s important to teach her how to give back and realize how blessed and fortunate she is.
Me: Well you have shared so much today and thank you so much talking with me and sharing all that you have.
Tamara: One last thing that I would also like to leave single moms with is don’t let yourself get caught up in your circumstances because when I was laid off and even while I was pregnant before I moved. I had to get rent assistance because my roommate left and didn’t pay me rent. I didn’t know where I was going to get it because I was collecting unemployment. A friend of mine told me about rent assistance so I went to the county office and that’s one of those situations where you have to be there at 5 am to stand in a line in the dark and they only let x amount of people in the door and then everybody else has to go home. Not only was that a humbling experience but also I had done it at the wrong time so they ran out of funds and then sent me to metropolitan ministries. That was really humbling too because I ended up getting food and rent assistance but because of that I now have a compassion for people that go through that. So don’t let your current situation dictate your future. Just know that it builds into who you are and who you’re going to be.
You can find Tamara Paylor all over the web!