Bella Vita launched a blog titled “Boss Lady” in March 2017 - after years of being inspired by the women that we are friends with, work with, or do business with, that are building their empire doing what they love.  Running a business takes work, and getting started takes courage. At Bella Vita, we wanted to take this opportunity to praise and encourage some of the great female entrepreneurs we have met over the years and we hope to inspire more young women (and men) to follow their instinct/talent/passion and become entrepreneurs.
My team and I are reaching out to the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis.  We will start with a brief background, then dive into the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between.

Leana and I first met at the very first Spring Little Craft Show in downtown Springdale. I remember perusing her art and loving everything I was seeing. Its been so fun to watch her work evolve and grow over the past few years. I personally love her watercolor flower paintings/prints the best.
Look for a fun collaboration with Bella Vita + Leana coming this Summer! Until then, meet  Leana of May We Fly.

I'm Leana Fischer, the artist, designer, and instructor behind May We Fly.  Both of my parents are artists, so my creativity growing up was very encouraged. I always loved to draw, and chose to take drafting class in high school instead of art. That led me into the field of architecture, which I studied in college and did professionally for a number of years. I enjoyed designing buildings, but never felt quite myself in an office setting and found much of the work to be creatively frustrating. 

In 2013, I married my husband Dan and moved to Fayetteville (from Virginia) so that he could pursue his PhD in History. This left me temporarily without work, so I used the extra time to get back into my painting and drawing, which I hadn't done much of since college. I fell in love with it all over again and started to take it more seriously. After about a year, I started my little shop, May We Fly, as a place to sell the pieces I was creating. Slowly but surely, over a number of years, it grew into a full-fledged business, which is where we are today.

  1. Give us your elevator pitch. I am an artist, designer, and instructor with a stationery shop called May We Fly. I love adding beauty to people’s lives with my artwork and helping them discover their own creativity through watercolor workshops and classes.

  2. What is your business?  May We Fly is my stationery and gift shop devoted to delighting in simple joys and celebrating the beauty that I find every day. I have a local studio that doubles as a tiny brick and mortar shop, as well as an online shop, where I sell my artwork on products such as greeting cards, art prints, and calendars. A big part of my business has also become hosting workshops and classes, which I offer quite regularly for locals.  In addition to my products and workshops, I do commissioned custom artwork and freelance design.

  3. When did you start your business?  I officially opened the online “doors” of May We Fly in late 2014. It slowly but surely grew as a side hustle for a couple of years, until I made the leap to go full time with it in late 2016.

  4. What inspired you to make the leap? I worked at an architecture firm part time as I grew the business, and it became harder and harder to balance both. Though taking the leap was a big risk, I had to see what May We Fly could become if I was able to devote all of my time to it. There are still days when it feels uncertain and scary, but I’ve never looked back.

  5. What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation??  I start every morning with some sort of exercise. I’ve learned that if I don’t do it first thing, it doesn’t happen, and it’s become something I need to feel like my day is off to a good start. Most days it’s a short yoga or pilates workout, some days it’s a longer run. I’m also a big breakfast person, so I always eat something substantial, along with a couple of cups of coffee.

  6. Tell us about a day in the life of running your business.  In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work for me when it comes to scheduling my time. Though every day as a small business owner is different, I’ve realized that it’s helpful, at least for me, to build as much structure as possible into my week. What’s worked very well is devoting different days for different tasks. For example, Monday is my main studio day. After breakfast, I check my email, and then get to the studio as early as possible to work on painting artwork for new products. Other than a break for lunch, I spend the whole day in there. When it comes to creating artwork, I find that I need fairly large chunks of time to get into the “zone” and make much progress, so having at least one day devoted to this per week is important.

  7. What keeps you motivated?  I constantly have new painting ideas popping into my head and keep a running list of them in my journal. Though I love most of what I get to do for May We Fly, creating artwork is definitely my favorite part. My main goal with my business is to support my artwork, so I’m very motivated to do whatever it takes to make creating artwork possible.

  8. Describe your dream day.  Honestly, my Mondays in the studio are pretty close to a dream day for me. I love spending my day painting, but in addition to that, my dream day would include meeting a friend or two for coffee, working in the garden, and going out to eat with my husband. Ideally this would all take place in Switzerland. :)

  9. What is your greatest strength/super power?  I think my ability to think of new ideas is one of my greatest strengths. I honestly think I could paint every day for a year and not run out of inspiration.

  10. Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat?  Instagram, hands down.

  11. What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!)  One of my favorite hobbies is making pottery, which I’m trying to build in more time for. Outside of that, gardening, reading, spending time with friends, and going on walks.

  12. If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it?  Whoa. I think I would first of all hire a few people to help with parts of my business that I enjoy but don’t love, such as photo editing, marketing, and writing newsletters. These tasks take up a lot of my time, and if I had help with them I could spend a lot more time in the studio. I’d get some new art supplies, obviously, along with some fun toys, such as an iPad Pro, large printer, and possibly a letterpress. And with all those people to help me, I’d take at least a year and commit it to creating new work, spending as much time as possible in the studio.

  13. What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go?  Going full time with May We Fly is by far the biggest risk. So far, it’s going pretty well! There are definitely still months that are better than others, but choosing to invest in my time was well worth the risk for me.

  14. Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable?  I generally don’t love marketing. Instagram is fun and mostly enjoyable, but I find things like writing newsletters, emailing stockists, and generally trying to sell my products to be quite draining. Limiting these tasks to particular days is helpful, because they have a tendency to fill the space they’re given. And I almost always have a podcast or music on when I’m doing these things, to get in the zone and knock them out.

  15. How do you handle discouragement?  Generally, fairly well. I’ve learned that discouragement is a very normal feeling that comes with running a small business. I can get into a bad spot if I start comparing myself to other seemingly “more successful” business, and sometimes have to take a break from Instagram when I get into that mindset. But, I’m a pretty optimistic person, so even when I’m feeling discouraged, I can usually look ahead and feel hopeful about things that are going well.

  16. Which iconic person inspires you?  C.S. Lewis is someone I’ve learned a lot from over the years. I find him very inspiring, not only for his writing, but for the ways in which he handled very difficult things in his life.

  17. Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote?  I came across this quote in a book I read recently called “Playing Big,” and really loved it: “When we turn away from our callings, we’re turning away from our customized curriculum for personal growth.” - Tara Mohr

  18. If you could choose anyone to pick as a mentor, who would you choose?  There are so many people I would choose, but right now it would probably be someone like Rebecca Green, an illustrator I really admire who is consistently creating beautiful work. I’d love to learn more about her life and process. I’d also like to learn from someone like Joanna Gaines, who of course everyone loves. I admire her ability to pursue big things while being a mom. I’m not a mom yet, but that whole business owner/ mom thing is something I’d like some help with eventually.

  19. Who are you in your next life?  Hmm, I’m not sure, but I hope my “future” self is someone who is very confident in who she is, making a beautiful life around her, and investing in the people she loves. She also would have a pottery studio and huge garden.

  20. Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business?  For me, time management is absolutely crucial. If I don’t put my own work first, all of my other tasks and projects will fill up my time. Prioritizing is key. 

  21. What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs?  Start making something today. I think it’s wise to start small, under the security of a full or part time income, but if there’s something you are passionate about pursuing, don’t wait. The biggest thing I’ve learned through all this is that small, tiny steps lead to big picture goals. So even if you only have 30 minutes to work on a painting or create a new recipe or write a blog post, that is one tangible thing you can do to invest in your future career.  

Visit May We Fly in person

at 221 S. Block Ave, Fayetteville, AR 72701
on social media:

March 26, 2018 — Brandy McNair

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