We had the good fortune of connecting with Justine Niehaus and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justine, looking back, what do you think was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?
The most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make was deciding to become a stay at home mom. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and was working as a teacher when I became pregnant with my daughter in 2011. Shortly after she was born, we packed up our life and moved to Denver for my husband’s job. I was met with the difficult decision of whether to continue my teaching career or stay at home with our daughter. I was so conflicted that I kept delaying my decision, telling myself I was “taking my time” to contemplate all the options. The truth is, I knew I wanted to stay home. However, there is so much pressure put on women to “do it all”: stay on a career path and work 40+ hours a week and then somehow go home, cook dinner and be a super mom. That wasn’t for me – but I was scared I’d be judged for not wanting to go back to work or that people would think my college education was wasted. Fast forward to 8 years later, I can say with confidence that choosing to stop teaching gave me so many things, including this creative career that I never would have thought I could do! I’ve been able to start my own business while also being present for my children. It was hard at the time but now I know that it all worked out for the best. And I love that my kids get to see their mom working hard at something that she created all on her own.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I do hand lettering, which is similar to calligraphy, but more creative and fun. What’s great about it is that there isn’t one style you have to stick to and there are endless ways to create something. Most people know me for the custom work I do. My most popular items are personalized doormats, prints and ornaments. I’m most proud of the customer service I’m able to provide while helping people create special gifts to give to loved ones. Recently, I’ve started getting into small murals. I’ve done a few in some of my customer’s homes and I recently just finished one in my own home that I’m super proud of! Getting to where I am now was a slow start. When I first opened up my Etsy shop I barely got 10 orders within the first year. There was a learning curve when it came to having inventory, figuring out what would sell and promoting the custom orders I could offer. I’d say the biggest struggle, honestly, was just putting myself out there. Taking a leap and trying something I never thought I’d do: starting a business. In the beginning, I struggled with the idea that I wasn’t doing what I initially thought I’d be doing (teaching). But in the end, it was even better to take something I have always been passionate about and turn that into my job. Another thing I struggled with was comparing myself to others (especially since I did not go art school or have any formal training as an artist). But as time went on, and my skills developed I felt more confident calling myself an “artist.” But, like my kids learn in school, it’s important to have a “growth mindset.” It would have been easier to give up when things didn’t start out the way I wanted but I learned that pushing through and not giving up on myself was exactly what I needed to do. My brand is about just having fun and taking chances. My children influence a lot of what I do and I love that they’re the reason that I started this. I feel grateful that my artwork has been a part of many people’s important events, from weddings to birthdays, first day of school to graduation. That is an honor that I do not take for granted!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Some of my favorite places to eat in the city are: Steuben’s, Ace, Humboldt Farm Fish Wine (for brunch), Esters Oneida Park (and Dang for dessert!), Tables, Safta, Annette, and Cholon . You have to remember, I have young children, so we don’t get out as much as we’d like! Places to visit: for the family-friendly crowd, definitely the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science (we just took our kids to the LEGO exhibit and it was pretty awesome). Take the A train to Coors Field and the Denver Milk Market. Catch a show at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. And of course, hiking! Our favorite places are Red Rocks, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and Lair O’ the Bear.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate my shout out to my husband who has always had unwavering support for me. He has always believed in me and is my biggest cheerleader!