Live Video Q + A with Jeanetta Gonzale

Live Video Q + A with Jeanetta Gonzale

I’m excited to be hosting my very first live video interview and chat, with surface pattern designer and creative coach Jeanetta Gonzales. Please register here for this FREE live event.

Thursday, June 20 at 1pm MDT

Los Angeles-based artist and designer Jeanetta Gonzales creates expressive and vibrant art inspired by her love of plants, flowers, colour and texture. Trained in fine art and graphic design, she creates work that is a unique combination of both traditional and digital media. Jeanetta finds joy in creating art for her own products and contributing her art through licensing it on apparel, greeting cards and home décor. Jeanetta also coaches artists, facilitating their artistic growth and confidence. She offers her tips for artists in UPPERCASE issue 41’s Surface Pattern Design Guide.

Have your surface pattern and art licensing questions ready to ask Jeanetta live.

The video chat will be recorded but only available on replay to members of the UPPERCASE Circle.

Register to get the link to the event!

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Steps towards going plastics-free

If I were a contestant on Shark Tank, I'd be laughed off the show. A print magazine? ha! An encyclopedia?! ha! ha! From the perspective of the Sharks, there's nothing to invest in when it comes to UPPERCASE. There's no big franchise, or opportunity to scale because it all comes down to me. My direction, my aesthetics, my decisions.

Many choices I've made over the years have affected the profit potential of my company. There isn't any advertising. I don't do sponsored content. UPPERCASE isn't available in big box stores like Barnes & Noble. I haven't raised subscription prices in 10 years of existence, despite costs going up everywhere else. I use 100% post-consumer recycled paper on the interior pages, which is significantly more expensive. I spend $1.20 per subscription or renewal to plant a tree. I give away Creative Boost subscriptions and complimentary cartons to non-profits. This is my business and these are my choices.

And now I'm looking at a decision that will cost me roughly $4,500 more per issue—getting UPPERCASE plastics-free.

But UPPERCASE is a paper magazine, where's the plastic?

Well, the subscriber copies are mailed in a polybag. Although technically recyclable, it is quite unlikely that the small amount of plastic received by a subscriber is actually recycled either because facilities don't exist, or the relatively tiny amount of plastic for a polybag makes it impossible to deal with in the recycling process. The polybag system is quick and automated, but there aren't any non-plastic eco-alternatives. So I will have to purchase mailers and then pay for the additional manual labour required to pack the magazines into the envelopes.

I've been researching various options: 100% recycled, reusable and recyclable plastic polybags (but still plastic), biodegradable mailers made from compostable corn and wheat straw (but made in China), and various kraft envelopes. It looks like a simple kraft envelope, which is made in North America from 100% recycled material and is also completely recyclable and compostable will be my choice. I'll try it out on the next issue to see how well it works.

Previously, books and magazines sent to our old fulfillment warehouses had to be shrinkwrapped to protect them from dirty hands and indifference. Hopefully, the new fulfillment warehouse will be nicer to our inventory. I am looking into alternative solutions to protect books in storage and transit.

There's also the matter of gloss lamination on the cover of my Encyclopedia series and Little U. The lamination enhances the longevity of the books so I'd like to keep something similar. I'm investigating what bio-degradable options there are. Thankfully, my books and magazines don't end up in landfills because readers treat them with respect. ❤ 

To be honest, I've been feeling very anxious and depressed about the state of the world and our environment. If we're to make a dent in this problem, I believe that more individuals and companies need to get uncomfortable now, rise to the challenge and be willing to spend more. Getting UPPERCASE plastics-free is something that I can do—I'm willing to pay the cost and see it as an investment in our collective future. 

Since this is where my brain space is these days, I thought I'd share behind the scenes of the latest decision I'm making! Perhaps you can make some positive changes in your own daily life.

I think there's one thing that the Sharks couldn't laugh about, and that's my DETERMINATION.

And I hope this is another reason why you'll decide to invest in my business and subscribe, renew or purchase a gift subscription.

Thank you.

Inside Ephemera: The Box SF


Our friend Mark E. Sackett featured in my Ephemera book has the most amazing business dedicated to paper ephemera, the history of graphic design, letterpress and more.


The Box SF is a gorgeous space, formerly the William Randolph Hearst Printing Plant. The period details of the building plus the authentic fixtures and cabinets that Mark has lovingly collected, make The Box SF one of a kind. "It's beautiful and unique and there is really nothing like it in North America," says Mark. He literally has millions of items. 


Very unfortunately, the pressroom and mercantile was flooded with sewage backflow earlier this month due to city sewer cleaning crew. As you can imagine, that's really awful in general—and particularly bad for preserving delicate vintage papers. "Full repairs will take a few months as both bathrooms must be gutted now and additional mold and spores work will be ongoing. You can't risk mold growing near vintage paper and printed items."

"I spent the last three years of my life and all of my life savings and retirement to build my dream Letterpress Shop and Store in San Francisco selling rare printed history," he says. With this flood not covered by insurance, he's facing over $60,000 in costs and repairs.


When my home was flooded in the Calgary flood of 2013, most of my paper archives were ruined. I admit it that I was vainly thinking that perhaps someday the graphic design ephemera that I had made in my design career would someday be valuable, but I was indeed compelled to save all those portfolio items for posterity, at least for me to look back on. Anyway, I know first hand what moisture can do to paper and thankfully my livelihood wasn't affected by the loss of my own things.


Although I haven't met Mark in person (yet! I look forward to visiting The Box SF someday), I can say from our conversations that he is a generous and optimistic person.


Mark has set up a GoFundMe campaign, please consider supporting him as he and his team endeavour to recover and reopen the business. 


"Our items have already survived a century or two and I will continue to work to save them," he says.


Donate here. 

Purchase the Ephemera book.

Thank you!

Issue 41's cover, animated by Lucie Duclos!


The cover of our new issue is by UPPERCASE subscriber Lucie Duclos, whose colourful and patterned collages caught my eye on Instagram.


I liked the idea of creating a cover with found patterns (plus a few from past UPPERCASE covers). It's abstract with a nod to mid-Century shapes, and the dimensional shadows make you think that the elements are still at play. (Don't sneeze!)

lucie in progress.jpeg

"I have always been interested in pattern design on textiles," says Lucie. "My grandmother was an avid and talented seamstress and would bring me along on Rue St-Hubert in Montreal where all the little fabric shops were lined up for several blocks. She would head straight for the remnant bin in search of the perfect little “coupon de tissu” as she called them in French. I was in awe of her skills and was fascinated by her considerable fabric stash and how quickly she could transform a piece of fabric into a stylish and fashionable garment. Everyone in the family had something made for them by grand-maman Lucile. I was named after her and she remains a powerful source of inspiration in my life."


Lucie lives in Victoria now, where she teaches design workshops such as an intro to fabric design. She also offers many online courses.

Decisions, decisions....

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

In the days leading up to my enrollment in B-School, I felt like I was in a sort of decision-making trance. Yes or No? Should I or shouldn't I? How will I pay for it? What will I actually learn? Am I just succumbing to some sort of hype? How come I never heard of B-School before and now I see it everywhere?

I watched Marie's videos, pored over testimonials, reviewed affiliates' various offerings and bonuses, watched Marie's videos again, went back to the course description... it was intense. Since B-School registration is only open once a year for a short time, you are forced to make a decision that will impact, at the very least, the next couple months of your life. (And at best, the upward trajectory of your business!)

If you find yourself in that intense loop of "should I or shouldn't I?" that's a good thing.

You're at a place in your life and career when you're consciously and purposely examining the path before you.

Most often, we're just going with the flow, sticking to what we've always done, staying with what we know.

When I finally said yes to myself and then yes to B-School, it knew that—one way or another—this was a very important moment in my personal history. This was the point where I was turning away from the incredible stress and financial burden that my business had become. Instead of running myself ragged trying to support my business to keep it going, I would build a business that would support me and my family! I would get rid of that vibrating ball of stress and anxiety that lived in my chest.

B-School worked.

It was hard. It was revelatory. It was exhilarating. It empowered me to take on some really difficult decisions. (Honestly, at times it made me feel dumb. I had been doing so many things wrong! How could I have not known some of this stuff before? But you go to school to learn things you don't know, right? Besides, I only have an art college diploma and no business or marketing degrees.)

Anyway, I really hope that your business isn't currently perched on a precipice like mine was back in 2014!!!

Fortunately, you don't need to be in a dire situation like mine to benefit from B-School. What you learn in the program can be applied to all stages of a business. (With lifetime access, that's why I keep taking the program year after year.) Perhaps you've been in business for a number of years and things are sort of stagnating. B-School can inject some new perspectives and techniques into growing your products and services.

If you're in the inkling stages of building a business or thinking about launching a new venture, B-School will be of tremendous value. There's a bonus course that you can take immediately upon enrollment called Start the Right Business. It helps you focus your ideas and intentions so that you can create a business that works for you. How much better off will your business or creative career be if you have the foundation and training of B-School right from the get-go? I wish I had known all of this sooner.

I watch the Start the Right Business videos yearly it to make sure that I still have clarity in my own intentions for UPPERCASE. I also think Marie's Follow-Through Formula is genius. If you struggle with having too many unfinished projects and don't understand how to get things DONE, this is a crash course on a productivity mindset.


Tip: If you enroll in B-School before the deadline of March 1, you will have time to take these bonus courses prior to the launch of Module 1 on March 4. B-School has a lot of content in it, so if you can get a head start, all the better!

B-School registration closes this Friday afternoon.*

* If you decide to enroll, please use my registration link so that I'll earn your referral. B-School affiliate referrals are awarded to the "last click," meaning that the tracking link a customer clicked on LAST (and that drove them to purchase B-School) will get credit for the sale. Thank you!

B-School Bonuses

UPPERCASE magazine issues and book projects that featured B-Schoolers from 2018.

UPPERCASE magazine issues and book projects that featured B-Schoolers from 2018.

When you use my affiliate link to register, you'll also receive these UPPERCASE B-School Bonuses:

  • A one-year subscription/renewal to UPPERCASE, the quarterly print magazine.

  • Jot down your a-ha moments in a custom planner created by 2018 B-School alumnus Crystal Ink for UPPERCASE.

  • Complimentary membership to the UPPERCASE Circle, a gathering place for the creative & curious subscribers of UPPERCASE magazine.

  • Access to the private UPPERCASE + B-School community and discussion board for focussed conversation and support from Janine and your fellow B-Schoolers and Alumni.

  • Online group video calls and weekly B-School chats with Janine to ask questions and share your progress with the encouraging UPPERCASE B-School community.

  • The opportunity to pitch your ideas or business concept to be published in UPPERCASE magazine and books.

  • Access to UPPERCASE e-courses to be released in 2019.

UPPERCASE + B-School private discussion and learning space.

UPPERCASE + B-School private discussion and learning space.

Get an UPPERCASE subscription or renewal when you sign up for B-School through my  affiliate link !

Get an UPPERCASE subscription or renewal when you sign up for B-School through my affiliate link!

By the numbers

Proof that B-School worked for me—and how returning to my roots as a solo entrepreneur was the best decision I could have made.

Since taking B-School in 2014, I've taken a personal approach to my communications and marketing and I've embraced a forthright and honest style in my writing. I share quite a bit with my readers and go into detail about how and why I make decisions (like this: "When You're Supposed to Say Yes"). I've talked about the struggles I've faced in my business. This is an approach that Marie Forleo teaches in B-School: communicating with one's customers should be a service to them. And so I offer my own perspectives, realizations, trials and errors with you so that you might also benefit from my failures and join me in celebrating the successes. I'm transparent with my business.

But I don’t often share the numbers.

I’ve generated a sales graph from Shopify, from when I started selling online (October 2007) until the end of last year (December 2018). From the very early days of e-commerce, selling artwork, greeting cards and handmade paper goods online, to the release of the first issue, the birth of my son... the graph tells the story of UPPERCASE's growth as a company and me as an entrepreneur.

You can see that there was an immediate positive effect on sales once I started taking B-School. Click the image to enlarge. (To view even more annotations and detail, click here.)

The magazine had modest growth in the early years. I had help in my retail space for a number of years, and with being a new mom and trying to grow my publishing company, I assumed the logical thing would be to hire more help for the magazine. As online sales were steadily increasing month over month and I was closing the retail location to concentrate on publishing, I brought on some employees specifically to manage orders and subscriptions. In 2012, I had a marketing manager, too. We were a nice little team for a while, but as you can see on the graph, there was no growth. Monthly sales were stagnating and the team and I weren't meeting the minimum monthly sales quota required to keep the ship afloat.

Desperate for a solution to keep my beloved publishing business alive, I used my credit card and enrolled in B-School. I started implementing what I was learning right away. I was scraping the bottom of my line of credit and faced running out of funds to pay my considerable print bills. As the sole earner in the family, UPPERCASE was the only thing supporting my family. I had to lay everyone off and forego my salary. I call it my big "reboot." I pulled the plug on my expectations of what a "real" publishing company looked like and returned to my roots: just me. (A few years later, with our son in school, my husband Glen took on customer support part time.)

Regular readers will know I'm a hard worker, but I never worked harder than that year following the reboot. The spikes in the graph are a testament to the extreme effort I put into kicking UPPERCASE into a profitable company. Without the burden of other people's salaries, plus monthly growth in online sales, I was very quickly out of the financial hole. And soon, UPPERCASE was turning a profit. And it continues to do so.

Taking B-School—and more importantly, taking B-School to heart—was the catalyst that I needed to put my company on the path to profitability.

Making a profit has never been my primary business goal. My goal all along has been to create a business that can sustain itself, that can fund my creative ideas and contribute to a global community of kindred spirit creatives while supporting me and my family. 


When the stress of basic survival is gone, there is space for joyful creating and innovating within your business.

B-School encourages an approach to business that is big-hearted and socially conscious. You can see that exemplified in UPPERCASE. Since B-School, I've given away hundreds of free subscriptions to folks who need a creative boost and can't otherwise afford to subscribe. I’m donating 10% of proceeds from sales of Little U magazine to UNICEF ($4,800 was donated in 2018) and with every subscription or renewal, I plant a tree. (We're at 4,766 saplings and counting!)

How B-School saved my business.

In 2014, I was having the toughest time I'd ever had in business. I had employees and big print bills, but I never seemed to be able to get out of barely getting by—a line of credit was the only thing that kept things going, issue after issue, but I wasn’t able to get to the plus side of zero. I was tired of working so hard to barely break even.

I desperately needed a mentor: someone to help me figure out what to do next. I couldn't find that sort of guidance locally and so I began looking for it online.

Before I signed up for B-School, I had a gut feeling that I'd need to make some big changes to my business. I wasn't sure what they would be, but as I went through the course, it became ever more clear that I would have to take back the control of EVERY aspect of my business. Including, in particular, the marketing and voice of my company.

With the help of Marie Forleo's amazing course and excellent advice, I decided to reboot my company—even though it meant facing some unpleasant realities. I was $50,000 in debt with the line of credit and wouldn’t have enough funds for the next print bill, let alone paying myself a salary (and I was the sole earner in my family.) Letting go of my employees was particularly painful. But I returned to a company of one to start over.

After taking a week to settle into the feelings of sadness and failure, I began to rebuild. Long-term readers might remember my very first newsletter. From that vulnerable spot, I began again.

I became more productive, my stress level went way down and I was inspired and happy to grow personally and in the business.

Taking B-School was a turning point. It let me discover the joy of business and the potential for living generously.

B-School has made such a difference in my life that I would like to share this with my community. I'm thrilled that Marie's team accepted my application of being an affiliate for a second time this year!

My readers are creative entrepreneurs like me—graphic designers, craftspeople, artisans, illustrators, makers... and like me, you've probably no official higher education in business or marketing. We've been learning by doing. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone help you through it?

Though on first impression some of the content seems geared at more of the coaching or mentoring type business, I've found that it is all applicable in one way or another and I've been able to use what I've learned in UPPERCASE as product-based business very successfully. And in the years since I took B-School, Marie Forleo and team have been adding to the course content and have built up many resources for product-based business models. I've truly benefited from the knowledge and tools that B-School offers and I revisit the course year after year to gain more insight and find new ways of connecting with my readership.

I invite you to sign up for Marie's free 3-video workshop series. Each video is around 30 minutes and full of good, actionable content.

I'm an affiliate for B-School, so I will earn a generous portion of every registration that results because of promotional efforts. I applied to be an affiliate because B-School had such a tremendously positive effect on my business and I value what I've learned.

Print/Maker coming soon!

The next volume in the Encyclopedia of Inspiration series, Print/Maker, is at the printer! It lives up the encyclopedia name with 48 profiles, 368 pages and over 660 images. Here are some mockups showing the various dust jackets and bellyband — the "signature look" of all the books in this series. (Images from Angie Lewin, Starshaped Press, Katharine Watson and Clawhammer Press.)

Print/Maker will be ready to mail in October. You can order it as part of the next 4 volumes of the Encyclopedia and save on the per-book cost and get free shipping. Print/Maker can also be pre-ordered on its own, too. ($50 CAD in North America, $60 mailed internationally.)

Thank you so much for your support of my printed endeavours!

Summer Sale on Back issues and older projects!

We use a fulfillment warehouse to store and ship UPPERCASE magazine and books where we dutifully pay the monthly storage fees and associated handling costs. However, starting in September, that company is implementing storage surcharges. In addition to monthly rent, they will be charging another $10.25 USD per cubic foot for products in inventory that are 6-12 months old and $20.50 USD per cubic foot for products that are older than one year. This additional cost will be incurred every six months. As you can imagine, boxes of books and magazines take up considerable space.

Selling back issues slowly and steadily has always been a sustainable part of the UPPERCASE business. We publish for the long term, with inspiring and beautiful content that stands the test of time. However, this new pricing structure at the fulfillment company is all about fast e-commerce and quick selling. While we examine our options on how to proceed, we have to greatly reduce our older inventory.

Please tell your friends and colleagues about the sale! Thank you.

Encyclopedia Update


Print / Maker is in the writing and design phase and will be heading to print by late summer. Here's a preview of the page design:

Support this project by pre-ordering the next four volumes in the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration. Individual copies of each book will be available for pre-order closer to their publication dates. Also planned for publication this year is volume E, Ephemera. Here's a mockup of the cover, featuring collections from Michelle Geller (Hold Dear) and illustrator Maria Carluccio.

Ephemera cover mockup.jpg

Clever and well-designed

As one can see from UPPERCASE magazine and the books that I publish, I'm a very visual person. I love colour and typography and enjoy creating an experience with these elements. I was a freelance graphic designer for a dozen years before I transitioned into using those skills into my own products.

I’m definitely someone who judges a book by its cover—but also what’s inside! How content is presented, designed and arranged is also very important.

If you’ve been mulling over the possibility of taking B-School, I thought it might be helpful to know that the actual course environment is top notch with excellent navigation, nice typography and clear communication. There is a lot of information packed into the site, through videos, instruction, downloads and bonuses. It’s really clever how the course is sequenced. Through the interface, copy writing and fun little surprises, the B-School site excels at engaging the student—which is great, because you’ll be spending a lot of time there!


There is a lot of content on the site, but the B-School designers manage to keep it well-organized through tabs, navigation and visual cues that show you where you are within a module and within the course overall.

In addition to the modules, there are more resources available on specific areas of building your business. After 9 years and 40,000 students, the Answer Vault really will have the most common questions answered handily.

As you can see from their launch website graphics and materials (plus check out Marie Forleo’s Stories on Instagram) B-School is very well-designed. The learning environment is unique to B-School and that is certainly one of its strengths. 

What's all this stuff about B-School? I took the course and it changed my business for the better so this year I'm an affiliate. Read my B-School story on this page.

3 things that helped me to decide about B-School

Looking back to my own decision-making process 4 years ago, here are the 3 things that helped me decide:

1. Testimonials from other B-Schoolers Reading the personal stories of other B-Schoolers was how I first was introduced to Marie Forleo and B-School. I heard about it via an email from Beth Kempton from Do What You Love, whom I had featured in a previous issue of the magazine. Once I got onto the B-School site, I went down the rabbit hole of testimonials, videos and reviews. I spent hours pouring through everything. I'd never taken such a course before and was a little wary so I read everything thoroughly and searched the web for other reviews.

2. Free Training Videos Once I was signed up to Marie's email list, the quality of information of the free training videos was really convincing. There was actionable good advice that I found really inspiring and motivating.

3. The Expense B-School is expensive ($1999 USD). This is likely the biggest obstacle to taking the course. For me, I signed up precisely when money was super tight and used my Visa to pay in full (you save a bit this way, rather than the monthly payment option). I had a new office space with big rent to pay plus employees to support. I really didn't have any extra money to spare, but I was also feeling so stressed about my business that I needed some sort of lifeline. In my mind, the investment into the course was equivalent to the seriousness in which I viewed my business. By spending that sort of money, I demonstrated my faith in the quality of what I would be taught but also that I would follow through on making it worthwhile.

So those are the things that were weighing on my mind as I was trying to decide. I'm really glad that I took that leap. I'm sure you have lots to consider, too. It's a big decision!

B-School registration is open... but just for a short time! The cart closes on March 1. After that date, you'll have to wait another calendar year before the chance to take B-School comes around again.

(IMPORTANT: if you've been looking at other affiliates' offers, please note that referrals are tracked by last click. So if you want to receive my bonus offers and for me to be credited for the referral, use my link to the registration page. Thanks!)

Something extra when you sign up for B-School through me...


When you use my affiliate link to register, you'll also receive these UPPERCASE B-School Bonuses:

  • A complimentary one-year subscription/renewal to UPPERCASE magazine.
  • A pair of Everyday notebooks to jot down your B-School a-ha moments.
  • Access to a private UPPERCASE + B-School community and discussion board.
  • Online conference call with Janine to ask questions and share your progress with the encouraging UPPERCASE B-School community.
  • The opportunity to pitch your ideas or business concept to be published in issue 40 of UPPERCASE magazine (3 profiles available)
  • Access to creative entrepreneur productivity e-course to be released by Janine Vangool / UPPERCASE

If you'd like access to these perks, make sure that you click on my link to sign up for B-School (they track on the "last click" and attribute the sale to whichever site or link referred the sale.) Thank you, I appreciate it!

Integrity Rainbows (B-School registration is open now!)

B-School registration is open today and will remain open until March 1 at 6pm EST. Registration happens only once a year! (But once you've registered, you can take B-School every year or as often as you like. I'll be taking it for a third time this year and each time I learn something new.)

Registration includes instant access to some training videos:

#1. Start The Right Business Program

Marie calls herself a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Sometimes you have so many ideas that you're not sure where to start. This program will show you "step-by-step, how to strategically and intelligently vet your ideas to see which will have the best chance of success." It is really great to start of B-School with this sort of focus.

#2. The Follow-Through Formula Productivity Program

Marie talks you through some habits and techniques to help you succeed in B-School and in your own business and life. Following through is the only way to get things done!

If you register through my link, I will receive an affiliate commission. And you'll get some bonuses from me, too!


  • A complimentary one-year subscription/renewal to UPPERCASE magazine.

  • A pair of Everyday notebooks to jot down your B-School a-ha moments.

  • Access to a private UPPERCASE + B-School community and discussion board.

  • Online conference call with Janine to ask questions and share your progress with the encouraging UPPERCASE B-School community.

  • The opportunity to pitch your ideas or business concept to be published in issue 40 of UPPERCASE magazine (3 profiles available)

  • Access to creative entrepreneur productivity e-course to be released by Janine Vangool / UPPERCASE

Need more information about B-School? Take a tour of the program here to see what's included in the course. If you have questions about payment plans, refunds and if B-School is right for you, please visit this page. And to read about my B-School experience and why I'm an affiliate, please visit my dedicated page. Thanks!

Entrepreneurship Q+A with Janine Vangool

Earlier this month, I was contacted by Catrina Auger, a fourth-year student at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. She's working on her Bachelor of Design and is taking a class called Creative Practice and Change. Catrina writes, "We are learning about how to better our selves for our possible future entrepreneurship. For the assignment that I am currently working on, our task is to interview entrepreneurs that we believe are great role models. UPPERCASE has been a large source of inspiration for myself during the past four years—my mother and I share a subscription and just adore all of the work you create."

Here's our conversation:


How did you know that you were ready to take on and start your own business? 

After graduating from the Alberta College of Art in 1995, I had a “real” job working for a design company in Calgary for about 9 months. Just long enough to realize that that particular firm was not a good fit for me! I had a few freelance opportunities and left that day job to pursue my own path. I wasn’t particularly ready to start my own business, but I was ready to leave an environment where I wasn’t valued or treated respectfully. I’ve been my own boss ever since.

Do you feel that freelancing gave you enough experience to create your own business?

I was fortunate that my first freelance contract was a long-term one, and one that introduced me to lots of really nice people who continued to hire me for other projects. So my first business, Vangool Design + Typography, started off immediately with my first freelance gig.

Did you have any prior knowledge of business before starting? Such as taking a course in business and or finance.

Zero training! It was learn by doing, trial and error.

When did you realize and or discover what type of business you wanted to create?

I had always thought I’d have my own design firm—I just didn’t imagine it would happen so soon. I was only 22 or 23 when I started my company. I thought I’d work for someone else (my dream job was to work for a publisher like Chronicle Books) for a few years to gain experience before setting off on my own. I loved having my own design firm (company of one!) and I had excellent clients in the arts, culture and publishing fields. I was fortunate to work with nice people and good companies.

I did freelance for a dozen years before starting to yearn for different challenges. In 2005, I opened a space downtown called UPPERCASE gallery, books & papergoods in Art Central. It was a 3-storey complex with artist studios, galleries and creative companies. I continued to do freelance design from that space, but the front-facing and public aspect was that of a gallery and bookstore. It was a fun and exciting challenge to fill the retail aspect and I began to design and make products to sell. I dabbled in greeting card designs that were available wholesale across Canada, handmade notebooks, sewn objects, vintage type packages, workshops… I tried lots of things.

In 2007, I organized a funny gallery show about William Shatner featuring 76 illustrations of him. To accompany the show, I published my first book. A hardcover tome featuring the artwork plus commentary. Through that project, I realized my dream of becoming a publisher. From then, I experimented with other ways to publish books and, eventually, UPPERCASE magazine.

By 2010, UPPERCASE magazine was a year old and I had a baby, too. So I decided to close up the gallery and retail, officially retire from design for clients, and focus solely on publishing. (And being a mom, too!)

What are some key points that you believe a future entrepreneur should make sure to complete before starting their own business?

I don’t know if there’s anything that you need to “complete” necessarily, but creative entrepreneurs should have organizations skills, be good with scheduling and have a disciplined work ethic. You can be creative with the work that you do, but having structure to how you do the work is important.

Having your husband help and support you and your business, do you feel that it would be better for a new entrepreneur to have family and or friends to help them start off?

My husband has always been encouraging of my many ventures and helped out a great deal back in the gallery days, but it hasn’t been until just a couple years ago that he officially began working within UPPERCASE, handling customer support. In the earlier days of the magazine, his contribution was looking after our son during the day so that I could go to the studio to concentrate on getting things done. It is definitely nice to have a support system and encouragement, but not a requirement. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Through all of the projects that you have worked on, how do you find time for all of them? Are there any time management strategies that you use?

In publishing a quarterly magazine, I have to be very disciplined when it comes to timelines and schedules. My readers expect each issue to arrive at a certain time. Being committed to that schedule is one of the reasons I think UPPERCASE magazine is still around 9 years later. My readers can trust that I will deliver.

Over time—and 36 issues in—I have developed systems of organization that help me through the cycle of publishing. I don’t need to reinvent things time and again, I do things a certain way that works for me. I’ve also become a better editor and curator. So as I’ve honed my skills, I’ve create more time to explore additional projects like publishing more books in addition to the magazine.

With running your own business, is it hard to juggle your work and your personal life?

I don’t see it as a juggle. My business is part of my life, it is very personal to me. My family sees how UPPERCASE supports us and benefits us. My schedule is flexible in some of the day-to-day aspects, so I can spend time at home with my child or we can go on trips together. It’s integrated with our lives. There’s balance.

After having a period of time where the popularity of the magazine was low, and having to make the hard decision to lay off a team member; how did you accomplish to recover and grow your brand to where it is today?

It wasn’t that the popularity of the magazine was low, actually, but that having numerous employees was costing a lot of money. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to harness the time and investment of the team to grow the company large enough to keep up with their salaries. I thought more people would equal more productivity would equal more growth. It turns out that equation was wrong. 

It was an excruciating decision to lay people off, but it had reached a point where I wouldn’t be able to pay all the bills. During that time, I had invested in the first business training I’d ever had—I enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School. It’s an 8-week course that teaches marketing and connects you to your ideal customers and business model. The course gave me some practical and applicable skills while validating a lot of things I had been feeling I should be doing in my business but hadn’t been due to the burden of employee management and salaries. Because of that course, I had the courage to reboot my company, lay people off (which was unfortunate but necessary) and start with a fresh approach. Within months, I was out of the financial hole and my business was profitable again.

Full disclosure: this year I applied to be a B-School affiliate and was accepted! It was such a life and business-changing course that I want to help promote it. This year’s course starts in March and I’m sharing my experiences about it in my newsletter and on my blog.

Living in the digital age, did you find it necessary to market yourself and your brand through social media and the internet?

Yes, it is necessary to market oneself through social media. That’s just how it is. But having solid products and skills are the first order of business! I concentrate on making nice things and keeping my customers happy—and then positive testimonials from my readers is the best, natural form of promotion.

When starting your business, were there any goals that you set for yourself and your brand to achieve? Was there a point in the last nine years where you felt that UPPERCASE met and or surpassed your creative goals? 

I’ve set measurable goals over the years. When I launched the magazine, it was to reach 1,000 subscribers. Then it was to get to 3,000… 4,000. My subscriber base is at around 5,000 now, so I’m aiming for 6,000! I don’t necessarily have to reach that next milestone, but it is motivating to have a destination in mind. And I’ve always got multiple projects on the go. In the last two years, in addition to the magazine, I’ve published 3 books as part of the UPPERCASE Encylopedia of Inspiration. The reception for that project was great and I loved putting those books together. So I’m doing it again! The next 4 volumes of the Encyclopedia are in the works.

I’m also launching another magazine this year. Little U is the offspring of UPPERCASE, a smaller and cuter version for the young at heart. It will be published in April.

With having nearly 500 new subscriptions after partnering with Tree Era, do you find that it is necessary to keep up with public issues in order to keep growing and updating your business?

One of the benefits of having a financially stable business is that I can invest some funds into things that matter to me. So in addition to monthly donations to Unicef and Doctors without Borders, I am partnering with Calgary-based TreeEra. For every new subscription or renewal this year, a tree will be planted. So far, the equivalent of 477 trees have been purchased since the start of the year! I’m also factoring a donation to Unicef as part of my planning for Little U. Being a socially conscious human—and by extension business owner—is important to me. And I think it is important to my customers, too.

Catrina  sent me this lovely thank you note in the mail, a customized drawing of a vintage sign! Thanks, Catrina!

Catrina sent me this lovely thank you note in the mail, a customized drawing of a vintage sign! Thanks, Catrina!