Over the years, I have come across interior designers, business owners, architects, and other remarkable individuals, as clients and in daily life, whose work and lives completely inspire me. After getting to know these women and men, I have found that one of the keys to their success is organization.
As a result, I decided to develop a question and answer series, The Organized Lifestyle, which showcases their work and dives deep into the daily organizational systems, products, and habits they use and incorporate into their lives. I hope we can all learn a thing or two from them!
This week, we interviewed Hillary Denham, owner + designer of Free Babes Handmade, the "classic bows for adventurous souls." I came across Free Babes on Instagram and quickly fell in love with these darling bows, and of course, the beautiful, organized, and heartwarming photos on the @free_babes Instagram feed. We posted a photo on our Instagram feed of some of her organized bows and are so impressed by Hillary's success as a designer and entrepreneur. I couldn't be more grateful to feature her on our series, The Organized Lifestyle.
The Organized Lifestyle: Q&A with Hillary Denham, owner + designer of Free Babes Handmade.
Company Location: Denver, Colorado. Hometown: New Albany, IN.
1. Tell us about your business! How would you describe it? What do you like most about your role?
Free Babes Handmade is a baby and girl’s accessory company for little adventurers. We make simple and classic bows that are the perfect accessory to everyday explorations. I absolutely love getting to be creative on a daily basis and design collections and style cute little outfits. It’s been a personal adventure to figure out how to create a business that will be a direct reflection of my passions and unlock opportunities for my family and I to live uncommon lives.
2. Does your job require you to stay organized?
Totally. You have the actual inventory side of things with all of our bow collections, and we are also releasing a new collection at least 3 times a month. So we are always planning about 3 months ahead so we can make sure we order the fabric, distribute it amongst our 8 seamstresses all around the US to make the product, send to our photographers for website images and list on the website for each launch.
3. Are there any organizing products or tools you use everyday and “could not live without”? (Can include notebooks, pens, apps, etc.)
I absolutely LOVE my “Basics” brand notebook that helps me keep track of my upcoming marketing efforts and different launches. I also use Google Drive to house all of our company files and the QUIP app to communicate with our different seamstresses.
In the shop, we love the simple birch wood garage shelving sold at Ikea and The Container Store shoe bins to hold our bow inventory.
4. Do you rely mostly on electronic organization systems or prefer the paper and pen type? Would you recommend a combination? How do you best manage both?
Personally, I’m a huge proponent of paper and pen - specifically those Pilot needle point pens. :) I am a visual learner, and writing to-dos and calender items down really helps lock them in my brain. I do love the virtual aspect of apps like QUIP, because they allow us to house all of our communication from the past months in one place. But when it comes to personal planning, paper and pen will always be my go-to.
5. Are there any organizing tips you’ve tried over the years that did not work for you? What were they? Why do you think they did not work?
I have tried to go “virtual,” moving to-dos and calendar items strictly online. But I always revert back to a paper organizer. It’s almost as if once things go on the cloud, they completely leave my mind.
6. Are there any habits you have formed and use everyday to get and stay organized?
I recently started using “The Freedom Journal” by John Lee Dumas, the podcaster at Entrepreneur on Fire. It helps you break down your big picture goals and make sure you accomplish one significant, but manageable, step towards your goal every day. The concept of eating the frog first, or making sure you take at least 30 min. in the morning to plan your day so you can accomplish something that will lead you towards your business vision (and not just wasting time answering emails and reacting to things all day) is key.
7. What is your favorite organizational tool that you use, whether it be a product, app, or routine?
Google Drive and QUIP.
8. What sort of calendar or planner system do you use? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it?
The Basics Journal. It’s a paper journal with a calendar and daily to-dos that I love! Trust me, I’ve tried so many calendars, planners and journals… it’s crazy.
9. Why do you think it’s important to stay organized in your role?
I’m not a naturally organized person, so I have a lot of past experiences where disorganization has been the tipping point for small parts of the company imploding. Organization is key because it gives you the peace of mind to know things are under control, so you can focus on the most important things in your business. Luckily, I recently started working with an assistant who is on top of it. The organization she brings helps things move forward and feel steady. I’m learning it’s really important to surround myself with structures for organization. Organization also helps me separate work from home, and truly be present with my husband and children.
10. What is one piece of advice you would give others to stay organized?
Figure out what works for you. So many people out there are really great organizers, but only certain methods will work for you. As Tim Ferriss says when asked the best workout regimen: “The one you will stick with.” If you are not naturally an organized person, that is also ok. When building a business, make sure to surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak.