Interview: Susy Christiansen of Busy Bee Studio
Southern California based Susy Christiansen successfully transitioned from the corporate world and created a technology company with kids in mind. She is the mother of 4-year old twins.
“I knew that the work-life balance I wanted as a mom would be tough there, so I decided to make a big change and venture out on my own. And I’ve never looked back!”
MG: Sum up your business in three sentences or less.
SC: Busy Bee Studios is a digital production company that specializes in kids. We do mobile games and apps under our own company name, and create websites, web-based games, advertising and other digital content for our clients.
MG: Where do you sell your products?
SC: We are business to business, and get most of our work through word of mouth and referrals.
MG: Why did you choose to start your business?
SC: When I decided to have kids, I was a managing producer at a company (hint: it has a mouse as its mascot) in a role that required a lot of long hours. It was also advertising/revunue related, so there was quite a bit of pressure. I knew that the work-life balance I wanted as a mom would be tough there, so I decided to make a big change and venture out on my own. And I’ve never looked back!
MG: Where do you find inspiration for your products?
SC: Definitely my kids. This is the easy answer, since I create kids’ content – but before I was a mom, I had to sort of tap into my inner child for inspiration… I still do that, but now I can also pull from my experiences with my own kids and apply what I’ve learned about what they like, how they learn, how parents react to products and content – it’s all a big “a-ha!” moment compared to how I approached things before I was a mom.
MG: Define your style?
SC: Business style? I guess I’m lucky in that my personality is naturally a mix of laid-back and anal-retentive, if that’s possible. 😉 I am very organized, structured, and always plan for the worst, but expect the best and if something does go off-track, my planning ahead lets me relax and take it all in stride. I also remind myself every day that I’m doing this because I love it. It’s a nice balance.
MG: Tell me about your typical day.
SC: Drop the kids off at preschool, then sit down to 4 hours of straight silence, where I first catch up on emails, then look over my handwritten list of to-dos for the day (that I created the day before). I’m most creative during the morning, so if I need to develop any top-level ideas, wireframe out a game, or write any music, I do it during this time. Kids are picked up at noon, and my afternoon sitter (grandma) comes at 1pm. My work day usually ends about 4 or 5.
MG: How do you juggle work and family?
SC: The flexibility of my work-at-home situation makes that possible, along with the fact that my retired mom makes childcare a pretty easy situation.
MG: Three tips you would like to give to moms who are thinking about starting their own business?
SC: Be aware that it’s a long process – plan for at least 6 months of nothing happening, up to a year until you start seeing things going. During the harder times, remind yourself what you are gaining by starting your own business, and why you decided to do it in the first place. And make sure you plan for the ebb and flow of business – save during the flows so you don’t worry during the ebbs. ?
MG: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SC: Hopefully I’ll be able to swap my current split of income from mostly coming from on client work, to mostly coming from our own products and IP.
MG: You worked for a very large corporation before creating your company. What was difficult about the transition? What was easy?
SC: Truth be told, it was very difficult at first – I went from a fast-paced, high volume and pretty stressful environment from one where it was suddenly very quiet for a while, and that did feel really weird. I considered returning to it in the month or two after I left, but once I went through ‘detox’ (as I like to call it!) I realized my life/work balance was infinitely better and I was much happier as my own boss. And now I’m back to being really busy, but it’s a much more satisfying and less manic busy.
Connect with Susy Christiansen