At eighteen, I was a new freshman at Brigham Young University, newly independent and living at the foot of the mountains. I was eager to jump into journalism and discover the adventures waiting for me during a new phase of life. What I didn’t know was that not only would I soon meet the man I’d later marry (the first week, no less), I’d form incredible connections and meaningful friendships, have life-changing experiences, develop my identity, and begin a richly rewarding path I never could have imagined for myself. Those late teenage years were formative and special.
About the time that I was trying to woo the boy from the building next door (spoiler alert: I married him) I met Leslie.
Leslie and I served together in our church congregation, and I quickly developed a great deal of admiration and respect for her. Not only is Leslie extremely kind, but she’s an amazing leader, smart, beautiful, and talented. I learned much from her example and attitude.
Over the years, I’ve loved following Leslie’s adventures and watching her beautiful family grow. It’s also been a joy to be able to watch her share her multitude of talents with others.
As an artist and owner of shop Moments by Mae, Leslie creates meaningful artwork inspired by families’ unique love stories. Her custom creations are perfectly tailored for capturing and commemorating the most special of life’s moments.
And as an “accidental entrepreneur,” Leslie discovered a passion and has grown it into a thriving business. (And it all began with a doodle!)
On this week’s Talking Shop, Leslie tells us about how Moments by Mae got its start, what the creative process is like — from idea to finished product — and why it’s important to boldly show up for yourself. Everyone, meet (and be in awe of) Leslie Alder of Moments by Mae!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up as a military brat, but I spent my teenage years in Texas so I claim that as home. California is the last place I thought I would live as an adult but we ended up here a couple years ago and I’ve fallen in love! You just can’t compete with the ocean. I live here with my husband, our two and a half kids (#3 due in March) and our little dog Duke.
How and when did your passion for art develop?
I never actually took any art classes or did any art growing up. I was more into the music scene; mainly cello and piano. My aunt and cousin are artists and my mom sort of has a hidden talent for it that I see pop up every once in a while. I got into photography as every new mom does but that’s the closest I got to being an artist before I started Moments by Mae.
You describe yourself as an “accidental entrepreneur.” How did Moments by Mae get started?
I have always loved dates and how they can be strung together to tell a story. I sketched up a little timeline of the events that led up to that moment-our love story with corresponding dates. Then I tacked on a photo of the two of us holding our future bundle of joy captioned with my due date.
When I was expecting my second baby, I opted for another sketch of my growing family.
The next year, my husband’s little sister was getting married. I wanted to give a meaningful gift to help them remember the decisions and events that brought them to this new beginning in their lives. I decided to recreate the three-panel love story I made for my husband years ago. In order to personalize it in the way I pictured in my head, I had to evolve the design from stick figures to a watercolor style artwork.
I was really pleased with how it turned out. My family members started saying, you could sell these! So I decided I would try it out! I never could have imagined what it would grow into just a year and a half later.
What lessons have you learned as you’ve started your own business?
- Business owners aren’t evil money misers. I used to think all entrepreneurs and business people were just in it for the money and trying to trick you into spending money (one too many bad experiences with salesman I suppose!). But now of course I know that’s far from the truth for 99% of people. They just want to put good out into the world!
- Marketing is fascinating
- I need to be confident in my own work and value myself if I want others to value me. That’s been hard for me to come to terms with but it has made a world of difference. I teach people how to treat me and my business by how I treat myself and my work!
What was the biggest learning curve?
Marketing! It has been a whole new world for me. Fortunately, it is still very interesting so it makes the long hours I put into it bearable.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Although it has only happened a few times, I love seeing people’s reactions to their portrait. It’s so rewarding! I also love capturing the personality, and unique features of my subjects just right.
What is the creation process like for your artwork?
I used Adobe Sketch on my iPad with an apple pencil. Once I receive reference photos, I sketch the portrait and create a palette of colors I plan to work with. I then submit to the customer and once I have their approval, I go on to complete the artwork. I send a final proof to the customer and once they give me approval, I export to Photoshop and add text. For ornaments, I then print, cut and adhere to a wood slice. Finally, a gift wrap and ship!
How do you balance your business with the responsibilities of motherhood?
My business has forced me to be intentional about time management. To really be there with my kids and spouse when it’s time to be there. I also make a point to involve them where I can. This helps them be excited for this part of my life and understand what I’m doing when I tell them it’s time for me to work.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own passion project?
Show up for yourself. Treat your time you set aside to work on your project like you would a doctor’s appointment. You wouldn’t bail on them last minute because you don’t feel like it. Build a good relationship with yourself by proving you’re reliable and you value what you’ve committed to do. If you had a friend who always made plans to get together but never showed up the relationship wouldn’t last. The same dynamic applies to this new role you play in your life.
The Fun Qs:
What are your favorite family activities?
Hiking, playing outside, exploring the beach and tide pools. Dancing to pirate music.
What book do you always recommend to friends?
Let God Love You by Wendy Ulrich
What is the funniest thing one of your kids has said recently?
Recently, we were preparing for my soon-to-be 3-year-old’s birthday. Her older brother had already spilled the beans on one of her presents so I told him he couldn’t see any other presents. In protest he said “I promise I won’t tell Emma!” and Emma piped in, “Don’t worry! I won’t tell myself either!”
What is your favorite meal?
What song is currently stuck in your head?
The Piano Guys Christmas album. I’m a piano teacher and I’ve had my students working on their Christmas recital songs since beginning of October so I get a full three months of Christmas music in all its glory! It’s a gift and a curse.
GIVEAWAY! Leslie is giving away the Ultimate Moments by Mae Ornament Bundle. One lucky winner will win 3 ornaments + 3 digital portraits. Winner will get to fully customize a family, couples, and baby’s first Christmas ornament and receive digital files of each portrait. Order them all for yourself or create them to gift to family or friends. Giveaway runs November 6-8 at 11:59. Enter here!