photo credit: CAMILLE DEANGELIS
“When I was leaving, it was like saying goodbye
to old friends even though we just met.”
Jeanne Lewis, founder and CCO Creativebug
HEADS UP: Below might be the longest blog post I’ve ever written. Hope you’ve got a hot cup of tea!
In the photo above, Jeanne Lewis sits with fellow squammies Veronica, Sylvia and Anne at the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, a favorite hike from camp. I love this shot because it captures one of the in-between moments that wrap in and around the classes over the course of the weekend. Another great capture of Jeanne, this time hanging on the dock, is HERE thanks to Suzanne French.
Of course, there’s no way for me to experience all the hundreds of such moments going on any given day of the weekend, so you can understand why I revel in the photos and blog posts that roll in after which give me a glimpse of the magic and connections.
I also thrill to the emails and letters and one in particular really rocked my world last June.
It popped into my mailbox on Monday when I was still at camp packing out and I could hardly believe anyone had had time already to sit down and recap (let alone send it to me). When I saw it was from Jeanne I was even more amazed. And then when I read it, everything just got quiet and my heart overflowed. Below is an excerpt. Jeanne was writing to me from the airport as she waited for her flight home to San Francisco.
“I wanted to write before I dive back into the madness and lose this “feeling” from my time at Squam – and say THANK YOU. Thank you for showing up and creating this place for us. Facing the multitude of personalities and trying to meet the needs of hundreds of women is a brave thing and I completely admire your strength.
Leading up to the trip, I was honestly dreading it a little. I’ve been traveling a lot for work and besides the fact that my fear of flying worsens the more I fly, I also have this enormous guilt leaving my girls and husband behind, yet again.
When I arrived, my head was not there. I even had a flash of my 7 yo daughter’s face the first night and was missing her like never before. When you said, “This is it” that first night, I thought, “Yes, this is it. Why am I here? Why did I fly across the country to take art classes when I have so many critical things to do? What’s the point of this trip?”
. . Being thrown together in a cabin with women from all different backgrounds and just sitting in a circle and talking about life was exactly what I needed. I just didn’t know it going in.
Everyone comes from different backgrounds, but regardless of where we came from, we had the same fears, insecurities, and dreams. We’re all making our way through this life trying to find our path and also take note of the journey.
I learned so much from my cabin mates and I’m so grateful I got to really “know” them. It’s so rare to get to sit with other women in a quiet place and just “be”. No agenda, no rushing from here to there, just sitting and being you.
When I was leaving, it was like saying goodbye to old friends even though we just met.
That’s what you created – and it’s magical.
I can say that coming from a place where I had no expectations and my heart was still with my family in San Francisco, resisting being there at all. . . . Thank you so much for giving me a safe place to rest.”
Above is Jeanne with the amazing Creativebug team. (Notice how I segued away from that AMAZING letter that made me cry to a photograph of shiny happy people!? Yeah, that).
As I mentioned to you earlier this month, we are thrilled that Creativebug is going to host the Squam Art Fair next September with a wild CASBAH theme! Oh, yes. Can’t wait for that. But what I wanted to do, give you a chance to get to know Jeanne better. She has the sweetest, warmest energy. I love to be in her space as she brings an ease and grace to all of our conversations. Below are some questions I asked her about how she got the idea to create this amazing online company that has brought so many good things to so many.
You are going to get a good sense of her fun
and creative personality for sure and a glimpse
into how she found the courage to make
Creativebug a reality.
How many years did you live in NYC?
I lived in NYC for 5 years (’95 -’00).
I remember living in the tiniest 2 BR apt in the west village with 4 (yes 4!) of my friends. It was a 6-floor walkup and bc it was so small we were always out and about. I was exposed to so much art in the way of concerts, performing arts, art exhibits and just people-watching. It really felt like you were at the center of all the exciting things happening in the world. NYC has a way of doing that, right? I remember walking down park avenue in cutoff jean overalls wearing birkenstocks when I worked at marvel comics and wandering in and out of B/W photo exhibits in Soho on the weekends, one of my favorite things to do.
I also remember eating a slice of cheese pizza and a soda for lunch so that I would spend exactly $1.25 each day. None of us were making much money at our jobs so we saved up to go out and see shows etc.
When did you move to San Francisco?
As exciting as it was in NY, I also felt like time was sped up and 5 yrs went by way too fast. I was looking to move to a smaller city, but one with well-known companies so I could still feel like I was part of something big.
Things were starting to heat up in the tech space and I was obsessed with learning how to code so I could design my own sites. I bought my first URL (Creativebug.com) in ’98 so I could build a portfolio site to start my job search in SF. I played beach volleyball for many years and always wanted to live in CA where I could reconnect with that part of my life. But LA wouldn’t do bc there was NO way I would live somewhere that you needed a car to get around.
San Francisco then and now has an energy about it that makes you feel like anything is possible.
I worked for a tech magazine (Business 2.0) which talked about young entrepreneurs, what their idea was and how they started their company. I loved reading these stories.
Do you remember what gave you the spark to begin Creativebug?
After 10 years at Time Inc., I decided I needed to work for a tech-focused company. I started doing freelance for a few companies and came close to taking a job at a fast-rising place. That fizzled and then I felt “stuck” and backed into a corner. Here I was, with a great job where liked the people I worked with and I was miserable.
I would scold myself internally for being ungrateful but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to “DO” something, something more challenging and I was lost on what my next step was.
I went home to New Orleans for a visit in April 2011 and I was particularly irritable. One of my older sisters is a Reikki master and life coach and she pulled me aside one day. She asked me to write down all of the things I could do next.
After writing down about 10 options, she then asked me to add “Start my own company.”
I laughed her off and said there was NO WAY I would do that. I didn’t know anything about “business” and I didn’t want to start a design agency where I was at the mercy of clients and chasing invoices. She smiled in a way that meant she knew something I didn’t (typical older sister behavior!). She said that I would not have a boss in my next move and that didn’t mean I was to become a full-time freelance designer. I was confused and said that’s all nice and good but I wasn’t sure what else I would be doing since I didn’t have an idea for starting a company.
A few days later, on that same trip, we drove a few hours to visit a friend who was living on the gulf coast and earning a living as an artist. While on a bike ride, she started talking about her mom and how she felt her mom was a more talented artist than her but wasn’t as good at making money as an artist.
She then said that her mom has been teaching art in school to kids and would take online classes paying $150-200 to learn techniques she could share with her students. She felt that her mom couldn’t afford this but would sacrifice in other areas because she desperately wanted to learn to then teach it.
I used a site all the time for web dev video classes where I paid $25/mo. and could take all the classes I wanted. I thought something like that should exist for art classes, and that I’m sure it did. Then I did a little research and couldn’t find anything that resembled what I had in mind.
So….there was my idea and
I became so excited that I had no choice
but to try and build it.
How do you continue to make time for YOUR personal creative projects while running such a vibrant, growing company like Creativebug?
We converted a spare bedroom into an art room at home and I noticed that when I would go in there and turn on some music, my daughters will eventually show up and hang out with me versus zoning out on an iPad. They’d start their own project with the bits and scraps around the room. This was excellent because it meant I could work on my own stuff but not feel the guilt of not spending time with them.
This happens mostly on Sundays, but there are still loads of projects I haven’t gotten to and I have a hard time actually finishing them because I have about 6 going at one time.
What are three books, people, or events that you feel helped shape your confidence in yourself?
OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell
What Really Matters by Tony Schwartz
Courageous Souls (this one I feel is all about reading it at the right time in your life, and the cover is super cheesy, but when I read this book, my entire body was buzzing. I’ve never shared that with anyone, but it did leave a lasting impact and led me to believe that our lives are all planned to teach us the lessons we need to learn while we are here).
if you could be any age at all, other than the one you are today, — just for 24 hours– what age would you like to be?
I would be 20 years old playing in a Jose Cuervo beach volleyball tournament in Pensacola, FL. I can easily picture it now 🙂
:: :: :: ::
WOW WOW WOW.
Thank you, Jeanne!!! I am so honored to be getting to know you better and so grateful for all you have shared here which will absolutely support someone else on the precipice of following their dream.