There is no doubt in my mind that had Grammatical Art been around in the early ‘90s I would have worn it more or just as much as my beloved Winnie the Pooh-based ensembles. Intertwining her love of all things educational with fashionable tees, accessories and trinkets, Natalie started this wonderful and empowering brand all while keeping her day job as a real life, legit scientist. Say what? If you think that’s crazy, think again – because it’s where we’re about to start this back and forth between two gals who love them some learning.
Kendra: Over the past year, I’ve encountered dozens of creatives who’ve walked away from their day job to do what they do now whether it’s fashion, art or photography. You though, you’ve kept the day job as a chemist after all these years. Do you ever think one career path will win out or do you feel like you’re going to continue to thrive and kick ass in both for years to come?
Natalie: This is an interesting question for many reasons. When I first started my business, it was mainly a creative outlet for me; I didn’t imagine it as something that would ever make money. Then as my business started to take off, it became a challenge to see how far I could grow it. I never thought of it as a profit center.
As Grammatical Art became more successful and I was starting to weigh whether or not I could do this full time, my life became more complicated with my daughter’s autism diagnosis. What that meant was a lifelong commitment to her progress and success, and most importantly: medical insurance.
I could not walk away from my corporate job for the simple fact that I could not afford the level of insurance my daughter required on my own as a business owner. Do I wish that hadn’t been the case? Perhaps, but it did end up pushing me to continue to develop both the business and my career as a chemist at the same time. This is something I do not regret in the slightest.
Running a business and having a career is a challenge to say the least, but it has taught me to be very purposeful with my time, and both experiences make me better at the other. In my day job, I look at how a large corporation manages their bottom line and processes, and I leverage what I’ve learned and apply it to my business. In managing Grammatical Art, I see how decisions I make directly impact profitability and the happiness of my staff, and I take those back to my day job. It has made me a better decision maker, a more creative problem solver, and a more effective manager of people in the process.
Kendra: Grammatical Art has been going strong on Etsy since 2012, but have you ever ventured into the craft fair circuit?
Natalie: I have done some in-person fairs and comic cons, and I absolutely love doing them. I truly enjoy interacting with my customers in person. There’s nothing better than witnessing a customer get a kick out of your work in person. Because I operate online, I miss these opportunities, and the fairs really do provide them.
Kendra: As a whole, I enjoy so many of your products because I was/am a nerd. I grew up in the honors classes and was the outcast of my family for loving school. For me, summer vacation was pure torture. Did you feel any backlash growing up as one of the smart kids?
Natalie: I don’t know that I felt any backlash per se, but I am still a bit of a weirdo who’d rather vacation seeing the world’s libraries than the beaches. Plus it’s a bit easier these days as being a nerd is kind of a cool thing to be.
Kendra: Let’s talk about the team for a second. Jess is a librarian and Kate is a copy editor with a biology background. How did you three come together? A Grammar Loving Facebook Group?
Natalie: I lucked out here! Jess and I went to college together. We went to a small liberal arts school where the science people were forced to take writing classes and the English majors had to take some science classes. Our paths crossed back then and we’ve been fortunate enough to remain friends throughout the years. When she decided to stay home with her kids, we both benefited. I got some part-time help, and she was able to keep one foot in the working world. Kate is Jess’s sister, and she stepped in when Jess took a leave after she had her second son. Even though Jess has been back, Kate helps out when we’re slammed or need her writing skills.
Kendra: What I love and appreciate most about Grammatical Art is that you and your team are all very intelligent women pushing the power and importance of education through fashion. Since I was younger, it’s gotten better but women still face some backlash in terms of science. How do you feel we as a whole can stop science and math from being a total boy’s club?
Natalie: I think this problem starts young. We need to encourage more girls to go into STEM fields and we need to preach that message early. We need to continue to support them as they explore these fields. I truly believe in the adage of, “You cannot be what you cannot see.”
As a female scientist and business owner, I work to be an example not only for my daughter, but for those around me as well. I would like to be able to talk to more classes of young girls and to host events where I can answer specific questions about what it means to manage a lab or to run your own small business. I would challenge other women in STEM to do the same. We have to lead by example and show young girls what they can be when they grow up. They don’t have to be a scientist, but they should have the example so they can see if they’re interested in the field. I think that’s something people in my position can specifically do.
Kendra: To wrap things up, let’s talk about what’s coming up for Grammatical Art as we finish up 2019 and start 2020. Are you adding new products in the new year? Lines?
Natalie: We are always creating and adding new designs and products. We like to listen to our customers in what they want and what they would like to see and give that to them. I’m really into hand lettering and calligraphy, so I’m hoping to expand more into that arena with fun, custom designs for our customers.
2019 has been a year of a lot of changes for both of my jobs. At Grammatical Art, we’re in the process of recapping the year and moving forward for 2020. One of my strengths is not being afraid to try new things and learn from them, so there’s definitely more to come.