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A Mother’s Work:  Tanya Philbin-Chin, Zinnia Designs

A Mother’s Work: Tanya Philbin-Chin, Zinnia Designs

Meet Tanya Philbin-Chin. She is a ceramic artist and owner of Zinnia-Designs, based out of Needham, Massachusetts. Tanya makes custom designed dishes and tiles for weddings, engagements, newborn baby footprints and so much more. In addition to running her business, Tanya is also a wife and mother of two. Her son has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum and her lifestyle as an entrepreneur allows her the flexibility she needs to be there for her son.   Read to the end of this post to see Tanya’s advice to other creatives thinking about starting a business and also to take advantage of a special offer on Tanya’s beautiful products!

A Mother’s Work:  Tanya Philbin-Chin | Artist/Owner Zinnia Designs

WebsiteEtsy |Instagram

I first met Tanya at a local charity event in Needham several years ago. Since we are both artists and entrepreneurs, the topic of our businesses is never far from our minds. We hit it off right away.  I always love chatting with other artists who are also entrepreneurs. Even before I saw Tanya’s beautiful ceramic creations, I knew I liked her. She was just as motivated and passionate about her business as I was.

Soon after that night, we met up again at Tanya’s studio. It was so fun to see where all the magic happens –from the kiln and the clay right down to the ribbons and the packaging materials! It is always so interesting to take a peek behind the scenes to see how someone’s business operates!  

Recently I visited Tanya again to have my son’s handprints done on a tile.  It was such a treat to watch Tanya work.  She is a natural with kids and her work is impeccable.  My son has his tile now proudly displayed on his bedroom wall.

It is an honor to feature Tanya in my A Mother’s Work series.

Tell me the story of how Zinnia Designs began.  

I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in 1998, with a BFA in Ceramics, but the “real world” came calling soon after and I began working full time as a Marketing Manager in 1999. I was really missing my artistic endeavors so in 2004, I decided to start getting my hands dirty in clay again. I began by making tiles with impressions of my close friend’s new babies. Then in 2008, a co-worker introduced me to Etsy and I opened a shop selling ceramic trinket dishes. I continued with my full-time job and growing my ceramics business until I had my first baby in 2009. 

I decided my family and ceramics were now my main focus and didn’t go back to my marketing position. With the help of local family to watch my son, I was able to continue to grow my ceramic business locally doing impressions of baby’s hands and feet in clay along with worldwide Etsy sales of my custom ceramics. Baby #2 arrived 3 years later and again being able to be there for my kids while working from home was perfect for me and my family. I took a little time off, but when you work from home it can be difficult to “take time off”. Today the kids are in school 5 days a week, but it’s important for me to be home and available at 3pm when my son gets dropped off. He has ADHD and is on the Autism Spectrum, so I want to be able to help him with his homework right when he gets off the bus before his ADHD medication wears off. Also having the afternoon available for appointments is convenient, too. 

When you were little, was there something specific you wanted to be when you grew up? 

We laugh that I wanted to be a hairdresser for a long time. It actually makes sense because hair styling is a 3 dimensional art. 

What is your favorite part about being your own boss?

I love that I can make my own hours! I can be involved in events at my kids’ school. And we all know kids get sick, so usually it’s easy for me to take care of them by adjusting my studio work schedule. It also allows me to workout 3 mornings a week. 

What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time?

It’s a big challenge to juggle it all! As a mom we have lots of “ balls in the air” and it’s tough when one of those balls bonks you on the head so to speak. One moment I’m making sure we get a refill for my son’s medicine and next I’m emailing a new local business to discuss a partnership all the while I’m thinking about how I should really be working on my Etsy listings! So that leads to the “mom guilt”…it’s easier now that they are older, but when they were little I’d feel guilty being down in my studio and when I was with them I felt guilty I wasn’t in my studio getting work done.   

What is the best piece of advice you can give to other creatives who are thinking of opening their own business?

Beyond the basics (target market, pricing, marketing, accounting…) you have to create a weekly schedule for yourself or you will just get sidetracked and nothing will get done. I do love that I can multi-task household jobs (like laundry) while working in my studio and I’ve been known to pick weeds from the lawn while watching my kiln during the last phase of firing. In your schedule be sure to include time for you- I work out 3 days a week 8-9am and my husband puts our daughter on the bus before starting his day. 

Is there a promo code I can share with my audience for your products?

Yes, use the code CARA2019 to take 15% off your Etsy order!

WebsiteEtsy |Instagram

Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series here!

Cara Soulia is a Boston Family Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images of families in a unique and artistic way.  See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session for your family. 

A Mother’s Work:  Paulina Teng, PT Colormarket

A Mother’s Work: Paulina Teng, PT Colormarket

Meet Paulina Teng.  She is a mother, a wife, a teacher, an artist and co-owner of PT Color Market, handcrafted leather jewelry & accessories, based in Franklin, Massachusetts.  Paulina’s business is just in it’s second year, but it is quite clear that she and her husband are creating something special that is sure to last for years to come.

A Mother’s Work:  Paulina Teng | Artist / Co-Owner, PT Color Market


I first found PT Color Market when the beautiful leather jewelry products caught my eye on Instagram.  I started following along and loved each and every one of their new products as well as the stories behind the jewelry.  Paulina runs hers business alongside her husband Sean and they are a successful team because they have skill sets complement each other so well.  They are both passionate about the business and their products, but they are also determined to keep a healthy balance between work and family.

I’m so inspired by the fact that Paulina’s parents are both immigrants, who came to the United States determined to start a better life.  They modeled for Paulina what it meant to work hard to achieve a dream.  And as Paulina & Sean achieve their dreams, I love that they make giving back a priority by donating a portion of their product sales to charity.

I had the pleasure of visiting PT Color Market’s workshop and was able to see first hand how much care and attention Paulina and her husband Sean put into each and every product.  It was so fun seeing them in action, working along side each other while casually discussing new products and marketing strategies together.   Not only are Paulina and Sean awesome business partners that make truly beautiful products, they also happen to be pretty wonderful people.  They are both so easy going, friendly and kind — I felt like I could have stayed all day and hung out watching them create their art!

Read on to learn more about Paulina’s journey to become an entrepreneur, how she runs a business with her husband, how she balances work and family life, and how YOU can get 15% off your entire purchase at PT Color Market!   { orders need to be place by 2/9 for shipment in time for Valentine’s Day! }

  1. Tell me the inspiration behind PT Color Market

I have always loved to make things. My parents definitely modeled for me what it meant to be creative.  My mom was always sewing, making her own patterns, quilting, always keeping her hands busy. I remember her and my aunts would talk about fabric and outfits and styles.  It was something that happened all the time and I thought nothing of it. My mom would also make clothes for me and I remember going to buy fabric at the local fabric store.  That was also something we did regularly, something very much a part of my everyday life. But now, looking back, I realize how it it shaped who I am. I cherish those memories much more being a maker myself.

My dad was always coming up with new recipes to try in his restaurant and trying to cook different types of cuisine.  He was always thinking outside of the box and modeled that entrepreneurial mentality that I can do it, I will do it and watch me do it. He, like my mom, modeled what hard work looked like and that they could accomplish anything they set their mind to.

My parents have shaped where I am today because they were risk takers who started from scratch. My mother came here alone from Burma to study for a degree in Textile Engineering in Massachusetts and start a new life in the US. During the 1960’s my dad came to this country from Taiwan and after years of hard work and persistence built a successful Chinese restaurant.  He turned a dream into a reality.

I also admire a lot about my husband, Sean. He continues to be an inspiration to me and amazes me in the things he does.  He was a studio art major at UVM, where we met and since those days, I have seen the range of things that he is able to do with his hands and it blows me away. He can rebuild a car, weld a sculpture, carve a wooden sculpture, sew, make furniture, create and now make jewelry. Surrounding myself with creative minds and having the experiences I have growing up has definitely shaped me, inspires my creativity and brought me to where I am.   

The people I look up to have carved a path for themselves with courage and grit. Jewelry is something I have loved forever and from constantly exploring with art materials and crafts, here we are. I have always dreamed of owning a store with Sean so that we could curate our own collection of goods, art, etc. and PT Color Market has been just that. A dream come true.

  1. I love that your business is a joint effort between you and your husband.  Tell me more about what it’s like to work with your spouse!

I have to be honest when I say I love working with Sean.  We spend a lot of time together creating new designs, problem solving challenges that arise and working together to make the business as seamless as possible.  I love hearing his perspective on things, what his opinion is not only on the creative side of the business, but also the business side. His opinions about managing sales, prices, hours we work, materials we use, etc.  We have different strengths and support each other with new ideas and help improve and make them better.

PTColorMarket-Feature-Boston-Photographer-Cara-Soulia-0013 Having a partner in this business has been so critical to its success. I love having someone to run ideas by and someone to challenge what I think about certain business related issues that come up.  Being creative is a true gift and something I am excited to share with others. There is so much to think about when running your own business, so many details like prices, marketing, packaging, materials, photos and so much more. I feel so lucky to have a partner who I can work with to solve problems and grow a business together.  
PTColorMarket-Feature-Boston-Photographer-Cara-Soulia-0017 PTColorMarket-Feature-Boston-Photographer-Cara-Soulia-0019 PTColorMarket-Feature-Boston-Photographer-Cara-Soulia-0018

  1. What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time?

The most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time is BALANCE.  When do we stop talking about the business? How long should we work together on orders? When we get orders, it is really still so exciting!  I love seeing that people love our work and want to be a part of it. I truly feel like dancing when we get orders.

We work hard to give our customers the quality they deserve and in a timely manner.  We pride ourselves at getting our orders filled as quickly as we are able. So we prioritize our customers which is so important to us and makes sense. Sean and I both have full time jobs as well. Sean is an arborist and I am a classroom teacher.  We have two children, 9 and 11 years old. They have busy schedules and so do we. We work on PT Color Market business around our work and kiddo schedule. We work mostly around the time the kids go to bed and early in the morning.

This is our second year, we are still growing the business and shaping what we want it to look like.  It has been hard to balance our business time, free time, family time and alone time. It is definitely a juggling act. We are both passionate about making it successful so it is really hard giving ourselves a hard line of quitting time! We are truly passionate about PT Color Market and give it our all. We find that there are ebbs and flows of the business and we are figuring that out as we go.  We often have conversations around how much we are going to work on a daily basis and talk about how we can do our best to spend time on other things.


  1. Tell me more about your Box of Love product and your connection to Strong Women, Strong Girls.

I have really found strength and a passion in supporting other small businesses.  I was thinking after meeting so many wonderful small businesses through this work, it would be great to curate a gift box which included all local and handmade goods from the area.  It would be a way to support and get the word out about a variety of businesses. At the same time, it would provide a great gift that a customer could get for a loved one or friend who also is a supporter of local businesses.  

I wanted to create this box because our business went through a transformation this summer with the support and help of ALL women run businesses. We have to support each other. We have to collaborate and lift each other up. It is definitely part of my philosophy and what I value.  There is strength in working with others and it strengthens our business at the same time.

I also wanted to donate a portion of the sales to a nonprofit organization called, Strong Women, Strong Girls. This is an organization that supports positive mentoring relationships between college women and pre-adolescent girls in underserved communities.  I didn’t know about them until doing a little research but I knew it was going to be a perfect fit for the Box of Love. Their belief in education and helping the girls/women know that success is within their reach which also marries with my passion in education and being a teacher.

Box of Love, containing items handmade by women in the Greater Boston area

  1. When you were little, was there something specific you wanted to be when you grew up?

When I was little, I loved working with children and was babysitting at age ten.  I knew that being a teacher would be a natural progression in my work with kids. I always thought it would be great to own my own store.  When I was little, family friends owned a toy store and I was in awe of it. Since that moment, I wanted to own my own store. It has always been in the back of my mind as something magical about having your own things and selling them.   


  1. There are so many people that sell jewelry.  What sets PT Color Market apart from the rest?

Our use of leather sets us apart from the rest.  We also have a variety of leather that we use. We use designs that are original to us and no one else.  There are other leather jewelry makers out there but we pride ourselves in creating our own line of jewelry that is special to us.  We have really built this business based upon our designs and are proud of sticking to what is truly PT Color Market.

Jewelry makers of all kinds are everywhere.  The market is saturated online, in stores and at shows we participate in. We believe in our products and what we are doing. Our customers love what we are making and how we are able to personalize so many things in our shop.  Personalizing and working with customers is such a fun part of making jewelry for others. It allows their ideas into the process which I think makes a much more personal gift to oneself or to a loved one. Sean and I love being part of that process and I definitely feel that it is one of the aspects of PT Color Market that sets us apart.  

Thin leather heart/mantra bracelets | $22.


Valentine’s Day original bracelet | $26.


Sweetheart Necklace | $25.

Please let me know if there is a coupon code I can share with my newsletter subscribers!

CARA for 15 % off of anything ordered.  


Read other A Mother’s Work Stories here!

Cara Soulia is a Boston Family Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images of families in a unique and artistic way.  See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session for your family. 

A Mother’s Work:  Antoinette Hemphill,  Mamabeasts

A Mother’s Work: Antoinette Hemphill, Mamabeasts

Some girls come into this world knowing exactly what they were meant to do with their lives.  From the moment my daughter could speak, she has been telling me she is going to be a teacher some day.  She is so sure of herself that I believe this will probably happen.  But for many of us, the path ahead is only made clear with time.  School years are spent in a variety of classes and subjects, then our jobs in the “real world” lead us here and there, all the while wondering what we want to be when we finally “grow up.”  Somewhere in the midst of all this, many of us start a family.  Adding babies to the mix is amazing, but also complicating. As we survey our increasingly full and multi-faceted lives, we are often overwhelmed by the sense that we can’t possibly “do it all,” and that we, like so many women before us, must choose between the twin priorities of work and family.

A Mother’s Work:  An Introduction

“A Mother’s Work” is a blog series challenging the traditional concept that women can’t prioritize both their careers and their children. Featuring female entrepreneurs who are also mothers, “A Mother’s Work” showcases women who are passionate about running their business while also raising a family, each with interesting and inspirational stories to tell about their continuing journeys through career and motherhood, and their own challenges and victories in the age-old quest to balance work and family.

Born of my own winding journey through years in the finance industry, starting a photography business on the side, and finally making the leap to follow my heart and launch a full-time career as a professional family photographer, all with children in tow,  “A Mother’s Work” is inspired by the countless women I have met along the way who are managing the same balancing act as me, and my effort to share stories of entrepreneurship, of motherhood, and of hard work, each of them unique in their details yet uplifting and energizing in the familiar passion for work and family.

A Mother’s Work is baby raising, but it is also risk taking, dream chasing, business owning and choice making.  And yes, it’s cliche to say it, but a Mother’s Work is never done.

I hope my readers will find inspiration in these stories of courage and determination and hard work.  For me, it was so scary making the leap to entrepreneurship because I had two kids ( and one of the way! ) and I wasn’t sure how I would manage it all. My hope is that “A Mother’s Work” encourages others to persevere in finding what they were put on the earth to do, and reminds them that, though it might look like a hot mess at times, we really can “do it all”.

A Mother’s Work:  Antoinette Hemphill | Owner, Mamabeasts


Meet Antoinette Hemphill.  She is the founder of Mamabeasts — exercise classes and a fitness community for mothers. She has been inspiring Boston area Moms to ‘get it done with their little ones’ since 2011.  Antoinette is also a mother to three boys and is an inspiration to so many.  She suffered severe post part depression and anxiety after the birth of her third son and she credits exercise for contributing to her recovery and the success of Mamabeasts!Mamabeasts -Feature-Boston-Photogreapher-Cara-Soulia-Photography_0024.jpgPersonally, I have been taking classes at Mamabeasts for a little over a year now and I can tell you first hand that it is ah-ma-zing.  I don’t need to pay for childcare while I exercise, the workouts are challenging, and the community is welcoming and kind (and it doesn’t hurt that the tank tops are super cute!)  But by far, one of the best things about Mamabeasts, is that the kids get to see their moms exercising, being awesome role models — demonstrating how important it is to take care of themselves!

The person who first introduced me to Mamabeasts told me that it ‘saved her life’ after the birth of her first son and I believe it!  I remember exactly how lonely and isolating it can be when you have your first baby and I only wish I had had Mamabeasts when my first son was born.  It is not enough to be motivated to work out, you need a tribe of people to cheer you on when you aren’t feeling motivated to work out.  And Antoinette has created just that.  Read on to find out more about Antoinette’s journey and find out how you can try out Mamabeasts for free!!


  1. Tell me the inspiration behind Mama Beasts

Mama Beasts really came from wanting to create a community and workout during a season of life that I personally found incredibly confusing and difficult – motherhood. As a new mom, I had an experience with exercise where it truly saved me on an emotional level. It made me see a stronger and more capable version of myself at a time in life when I needed it. There are plenty of Mommy and Me classes out there, but I created Mama Beasts for the moms. You can take your babies and young children – and they benefit immensely. But I wanted moms to have an empowering and challenging workout that was something they looked forward to and gave them a spark for the rest of the day. It is an hour they give to themselves – but in a way that they can actually do it. I also wanted to create an environment that was equally challenging and supportive. The classes itself, the community, the eventual challenges and play-dates – I wanted it to be a celebration of motherhood, of women, and friendship – and an antidote to the struggles that often come along with this season. After I had my third son, I got to test out my creation first hand as I experienced a pretty severe postpartum depression and anxiety. Mama Beasts – both the workouts and sense of community – were a huge part of my recovery.


  1.  What is your favorite part about being your own boss?

I think it’s the ability to be creative and the opportunity to constantly (more…)