Welcome to the first official #MomBossMonday - I am beyond excited for this weekly series! It's been so awesome hearing the stories of so many amazing, talented women in the Charlotte area, and I cannot wait to share their words with you!
Our first #MomBoss is the FABULOUS Alison Hall - I'll let her begin!
Hi Alison! Tell me about you!
I have been in Charlotte since elementary school and when I went off to college (at Virginia Tech) I thought that I'd never come back home... but here I am and loving it! I married another Hokie, Chris, and we have two boys. Erik is 6 and Lucas is 4... and we are expecting #3 in December. I'm an architect and have always been very passionate about my career and thus it has kind of become my hobby as well. I love traveling with my entire crew and checking out architecture around the world! Our boys are also very passionate about specific things (right now it's animals), so we spend a lot of time exploring new fun places to learn more about their passions! Our goal this summer is to go to zoos in 4 different states!
What do you do? How did you get started?
I'm an architect and knew that I wanted to be an architect since I was 12. I used to design apartment complexes and houses while watching TV when I was in middle school and I actually do that now! I worked in a firm until my son was born and attempted to work part time after my oldest was born. This was also during the recession, so I was laid off. While it was unexpected and threw me off, I wasn't a fan of being on someone else's schedule so I decided to start my own firm. I started contracting with a local architecture firm and also started getting my own clients for single family homes. Six years in and my client base has grown, yet I'm still just a one person firm. I like working with each of my clients from start to finish and continuing to do the 'fun part' of the job... and I realized that I wasn't great at HR, hiring/firing, etc! I absolutely love the flexibility of my job since I get to set meetings/schedules, but it's hard for me to fully turn off on vacation... and I work most nights after my boys go to bed. It definitely has its pros and cons, but for me and my family, it works!
What is your biggest challenge (or biggest challenges) in juggling your home and business or job?
Child care has been stressful. I try to work mostly full days during the week so that I have my weekends with the family. My boys have usually been in half-day preschool and then I would have to pick them up with a babysitter at home in the afternoons. Some babysitters were reliable and some were not. And having to take an hour break in the middle of the day was a challenge for scheduling meetings. Last year my oldest started Kindergarten and my youngest was part of a reliable nanny share... it was amazing! Next year, both kids will be in full day care, so I'm looking forward to the consistency of that schedule! (Although come December when the baby comes, I will be starting from scratch!) I also learned a few years ago to outsource those house things that I'm not good at... like cleaning, laundry, and yard work. It gives us more time on the weekends to be with our boys.
What do you love most about your business?
I love meeting new clients (who often become friends!) and helping them realize the potential in their homes. Anyone can build a huge house with a room for every need, but I love finding creative ways to reorganize space (or add just a little bit) and make their home work much better for their family. I love that I can take my mom/wife skills and use those in design to make more functional spaces. I get so excited about new projects and then I LOVE going into the houses when they are under construction or visiting a client's home after they have moved back into the space and hearing how much they like everything. Makes all the stress and hours so worth it.
What is your best life hack or secret for getting everything done?
I have a few... First, a calendar on my phone that has a schedule for everyone in the family. I put everything in there (specific camps, school holidays and half days (who invented those?!?), who is picking up what kid and when, gym schedules, meetings etc) so that there is no question as to what's happening a specific day. It's color coded and my husband and I are linked up so we are both on the same page. Second, a village. I have many mom friends as well as my parents (who live 1/2 mile up the road) who I can call on in a pinch if needed. I try not to take advantage of anyone, my husband and I can usually cover any abnormal schedules, but having my village there is key. And lastly, I really try to prioritize my time. When it's work time, I am completely in the zone, knocking off everything on my to do list. And when I'm not working, I try to stay off of email (although I'm not perfect there). I don't usually answer my phone outside of my 9-4 working hours which annoys some commercial clients and contractors, but my kids deserve my time and questions can usually wait an hour or until the morning!
What’s one piece of advice or encouragement you’d give a fellow #momboss?
Be upfront with people. If you set a certain expectation up front (you turn off your phone completely during vacation, you don't take calls after 5pm, you always leave early on Friday, or whatever...) it's a lot easier for them to get used to it. I know that this is harder in certain occupations than others, but just making sure you prioritize your family or your down time from day one will remind you and the people that you work with that you deem motherhood (and your sanity) a top priority.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far in being a working mom?
That my kids will be okay. There's definitely mom guilt when I see some friends who have more time to take their kids to special events or to work on some cool craft, but I have to remember that all types of parenting is great and that we are all doing the best that we can. I also love hearing my boys talk about their mom who 'builds cool buildings'. It makes me happy that they know that I am a smart and hard working woman. And even though they are with the nanny or at school most of the day, mom and dad are there every night for dinner, books and snuggling.
Friends, I hope you've enjoyed hearing from Alison - and by the way, isn't her work stunning?! Check out her Facebook page to see more pictures of her work: facebook.com/alisonhallarchitect.