Janine Vangool in her office.

Photo courtesy of Janine Vangool

Full disclosure: Craft Industry Alliance invited me to write about B-School, an 8-week online training course about business and marketing. I’ve declined payment for this article. I’m a B-School affiliate because the online business course had such a tremendously positive effect on my life and business. If you click on my link, I earn a generous portion of every registration that results because of my promotional efforts. Registration for B-School 2019 is from February 19-March 1. The course begins on March 4.

Although you (hopefully!) have heard of UPPERCASE magazine and books, I’ve actually done quite a variety of other things since graduating from art college in 1995. I was a solo freelance graphic designer for arts and culture clients for a dozen years, I taught publication design in college for two semesters, I had a stationery store/art gallery, designed and wholesaled a line of greeting cards and handmade notebooks, curated art exhibitions, hosted workshops, sewed my own products for sale, wrote a blog, and the list goes on!

Uppercase Magazine

Photo courtesy of Janine Vangool

Marie Forleo, entrepreneur and founder of B-School.

Image credit: © Marie Forleo International


Have you ever heard the term “multi-passionate entrepreneur”? It certainly describes me—and probably you, too. It’s a description that business coach Marie Forleo is fond of employing for folks like us who find our creative energies engaged in multiple projects sequentially or simultaneously.

The downside to exuberant creativity is exhaustion. These passions can take you in all directions while you’re trying to make a living through your art, craft, or design talents. It’s hard for any one of those areas to support you when your focus is being diverted. You can end up feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and confused when trying to start or maintain a creative business.

In 2014, I was feeling that way about my business. I’d been publishing the magazine for over five years, but I was still only just barely staying afloat financially. Everything I’d ever done, be it running a freelance design business, opening a gallery, or launching a magazine, I did without any business or marketing training—just a lot of hard work and trying the next thing to see if that would be the one that could sustain me both creatively and financially.

I was having the toughest time I’d ever had in business. I had employees and big print bills, but I was always just 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 and discovered Forleo’s B-School, an 8-week interactive, online video-based training program. I admit I was extremely wary of the genre of “life coaches,” and daunted by the price tag ($1,995 USD), but I signed up for the free video training she offered in exchange for my email address.

I was immediately impressed. There was so much actionable advice about marketing and how to think about one’s business that I was able to shift some aspects of my business and see results almost immediately.

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 control of EVERY aspect of my business. Including, in particular, the marketing and voice of my company.

With the help of the practical information presented in Forleo’s course, 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. I shared what I was going through in my very first newsletter. From that vulnerable spot, I began again.

Through the practice of writing a weekly newsletter, not only did my customers get to know me better, but I got to know them as well. I became more productive, my stress level went way down, and I was inspired and happy to grow personally and in the business.

Heather Reinhardt, silkscreen t-shirt artist.

Photo courtesy of Heather Reinhardt

Fellow B-Schooler Heather Reinhardt, who silkscreens illustrated t-shirts, agrees that a newsletter is an important part of any online business. “I’ve learned a whole lot about marketing; something that I really didn’t understand prior to taking B-School,” she says. “One of the most helpful things I took away was the importance of sending a regular newsletter and gaining subscribers, and of how to do those things in an effective and classy way.”
B-School prompted me to ask important questions about the nature and intent of my business while engaging in some self-reflection. Catherine Ruddell, a printmaker and educator, took B-School in 2011 and agrees.

“I would say the most impactful part of joining the program and community was the shift in my mindset and the greater vision for my life. Before B-School I had not been exposed to personal or professional development outside of traditional education or career paths, and it was incredibly empowering to find tools to build a vision for my life and business from a very personal perspective, rather than presumptions/appearances.”

Catherine Ruddell, printmaker and educator, took B-School in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Ruddell

I made some hard decisions in my business and forged ahead. Within a few months, I was out of the financial hole and UPPERCASE has continued to become profitable in the years since I first took B-School.

Illustrator and publisher Sasha DeWitt says, “B-School helped me take my business more seriously. To stop being embarrassed by how unprofitable I was—to get to grips with my finances—and to move in the direction of making a profit. I’m now working with more clarity and I jump around less between projects. I have a much clearer vision of where I am and where I want to go in the future.”

Oompahpah magazine for kids by Shasha DeWitt, illustrator and publisher.

Photo courtesy of Sasha DeWitt

Since tuition to B-School gives you access for life, I’ve gone back to it year after year. The content and its delivery have adapted over time to reflect changes in technology and the changing landscapes of online business, but solid information and good advice from Forleo remains at its core.

Felt artist Christianna Ferguson reflects, “I joined B-School because as an artist I felt as though I was floundering. My work was being well received but I knew nothing about the nuts and bolts of running a business and didn’t know where to start. I was loving the work and what I was doing but wanted to feel like it was a sustainable way to be spending my time. I was really feeling like it may not be financially responsible to continue with the work I loved to do. Making the financial investment felt tough when I was already struggling to make my business profitable. Although in the end, I felt it was a good value and a resource I could continue to tap into.”

Felt artist, Christianna Furguson in her studio.

Photo courtesy of Christianna Furguson

The effects of B-School on my life and business have been so impactful and lasting, that last year I applied and was accepted to be an affiliate, which means that I earn a generous portion from every registration that results from my testimonials and promotional efforts.

Wanda Kerr, rug hooker and textile artist.

Photo courtesy of Wanda Kerr

Rug hooker and textile dye-maker Wanda Kerr discovered B-School through my links last year and says, “In this economy doing things old school doesn’t work. Scattering yourself everywhere on social media doesn’t work. Having focus, goals, a targeted audience, joy in your work does. So does authenticity. B-School helps you gain the traction your great ideas deserve. It will mature your hopes and dreams into a profitable business.”


The Benefits of B-School for Big-Hearted Craft Entrepreneurs
Laura McDowell Hopper

Laura McDowell Hopper

Social Media Manager and Staff Writer

Laura is our Social Media Manager and Staff Writer. Her work has appeared in Curated Quilts, Modern Patchwork, Quiltfolk, QuiltCon Magazine, and more. She is also an award-winning curator focused on textile preservation, an avid quilter, and a volunteer on nonprofit quilt boards. Laura believes that every crafter has an interesting story to tell, and she is committed to telling those stories elegantly and rigorously. She lives near Chicago, Illinois.

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