Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Jodi of The Neighborgoods
How did you get started?
For the past 11 years, I have been running a design business: Hello Neighbor Designs. For the first few years, I took on any kind of job offered to me —fashion, real estate, non-profit, and everything in between. After starting to feel burnt out, I attended a design conference in the hopes that I would learn how to manage my work load and that this new knowledge would magically change my life, and I'm happy to report that it did!
The conference is where the seed was planted that I should have a niche, and figure out what my favorite type of project was. After taking a few months to feel out my favorites, I realized what I enjoyed most wasn’t my typical client work, but the jobs I gave myself, packaging up the cookies I made to gift to my clients every year for the holidays. In general, I found a lot of joy while baking in the kitchen and purusing the beauty found at farmers markets. Once I figured out the foodie scene is where I wanted to be, I needed to find clients in that industry interested in working with me.
I didn't have any food clients at the time, so in order to build up my portfolio to include the food-related work I wanted to be doing I began painting some of the produce I’d pick up at the farmers market, as well as illustrating some of my favorite recipes. I started with the cupcake recipe I made for my husband every year for his birthday because it held a special place in my heart, and because: cupcakes! I then moved on to our favorite pancake recipe, which showed up on our breakfast table at least once a month. This was in November of 2013 and with the holidays coming up I thought it would be fun to print these personalized recipes onto dishtowels to give to family and friends that year.
After doing some research and discovering screen printing was a much more time consuming process than I had originally thought, I decided not to print the towels that year and to sign up for a full semester screen printing course the beginning of 2014 to really learn the process and see where it took me. My very first print was that cupcake recipe printed onto a dish towel, and I haven’t looked back since!
I started creating new designs and a printing a LOT of towels. Soon people in the print shop started to ask if they could buy them. Once my inventory was building up I decided to give myself a company name, The Neighborgoods, and see if I could make it work. And now I'm creating dish towel gifts for everyone!
What influences you?/ Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m inspired by the beauty of food, and how it brings people together, whether through baking cupcakes, making homemade jams, or sharing a love of beets. I could spend hours at the farmers market or grocery store just ogling the produce section, and of course taking pics for instagram (which is where I also find a ton of inspiration). There are so many amazing and talented people out there, and being able to connect with them with just your finger tips, while waiting in line for coffee, is awesome.
Since I work from home by myself, I also try to find time to get out and connect with people when I can. I just moved to DC a year and a half ago from Brooklyn and the artist/maker community here has been so welcoming, inspiring, and supportive, which has been great and exactly what I needed creatively and socially. Whenever I meet up with those ladies (and a few gents), I always come back full of new information and ideas, ready to get back to work.
How do you balance your personal time + work?/ How do you create separation?
If you find a good answer for this please let me know! ;)
Running two businesses, I definitely struggle with dividing the time between both of them and still trying to leave some personal time. It all pretty much blends together and changes daily depending on what the priority is that day.
I admit I sometimes let work take over, but it is mostly because I get excited about wanting to get a new product or design out, so I’m still enjoying my time, and my husband often works late as well so it works for us. When I start to feel overwhelmed and am not having fun with what I’m doing I try to take a step back and see what I can do to move a few things around on my schedule so I can free up time for myself, friends, and family.
What keeps you motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?
I get so much joy out of creating and making people happy. I’m definitely a people pleaser by nature so when my products bring a smile to someone’s face or I can help a customer find the PERFECT gift for their pickle loving friend it makes my day! The same goes for my design business. I work with small- to medium-sized clients, so I’m mostly working directly with the owner/creator. It makes me feel good to know that what I’m doing helps them grow their business and succeed. And the food samples my clients often send me don’t hurt either!
Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?/ What's next for your brand?
I have declared this year my “year of transition,” and writing it here where it will be published online makes it feel super official. I have been running The Neighborgoods as my side hustle for 3 years now and always want it to be more of my main business one day, but never really change anything to make that happen. So this year I’m consciously taking on a little less design work and putting more of that time into Neighborgood-ing to help it grow. I don’t want to give up food branding and packaging design all together since I enjoy that work as well, but am being more selective and want to try to only take on the really awesome design projects and clients (which means keeping all of my current clients because they are great!).
I know this transition isn’t going to happen overnight, so hopefully in 2-5 years I’ll be slinging more foodie goods on a daily basis and working a dream design job, like illustrating a cook book…just putting that one out there into the universe. ;)