Real Talk With Tonya Dalton, Owner of inkWELL Press
Tonya Dalton is my organizational inspiration, and she should be yours too. She’s a wife, mom, and owner of a growing business, but she handles it all while also working to help other women find an organized balance in their own lives. If you’re not already in love with her and her beautiful liveWELL planners, you’re about to be.
Name: Tonya Dalton
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Job Title: Owner
Company: inkWELL Press
What it is: A planner and organizational product company
Educational Background: BA in English with an elementary education certification and history minor from Southern Methodist University
What inspired you to start inkWELL Press?
Prior to starting inkWELL Press, I owned a wholesale business. Part of what I offered to my clients was business consulting, so I found myself spending a lot of time helping women grow their businesses (which I absolutely loved). I found in talking with these women that they were struggling with organization and feeling prepared. I looked for tools that I thought could really help empower them and just didn’t find anything that I felt fit the bill.
I wanted to give women something that was beautiful to look at and use, but highly functional. I wanted to be able to help these women grow, so I decided to make education and assistance a big part of what we offered. I used to be a teacher, so I basically took 3 of my passions: teaching, organizing, and graphic design, and combined them into one business.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started, what would that be?
This is a great question—there are so many things that I would tell myself. Hindsight is always 20/20. I think I would tell myself to buckle up because it’s been a fast ride and to always make sure that I’m following my heart. Because of the rapid growth of inkWELL Press, I had to make a lot of sacrifices personally over the past year. There were times that I wasn’t able to be the hands-on mom that I really like to be to my kids—time I cannot get back.
I wish I had told myself to outsource a bit more. Instead of designing and coding the website myself, I should have hired out… things like that. Sometimes it can be scary turning things (especially important things!) over to others, but I really should have looked at my plate with a more realistic eye. I believe though, that every struggle is a learning experience, so I am working hard to not make this mistake again.
What’s been the hardest part of starting and running your own business?
The term work/life balance was coined by someone who either didn’t have a job or didn’t have a life! This is especially true when you run your own business because it’s a 7-day-a-week job—you definitely have to love what you do! For me, running inkWELL Press with my husband as my business partner definitely blurs those lines sometimes between work time and personal time. Luckily, we absolutely love working together and love what we are doing, so that definitely makes a difference!
What advice would you give to other women attempting to create a social media presence for their business?
Be genuine—just be you. I feel that there are so many messages—especially on social media—about perfection in our lives. People curate the perfect images to share and it’s not real. Life is messy – and we cannot be all things all the time. Really be honest about your journey and understand that it’s okay to share your losses as well as your wins. Obviously, we all want to share pretty pictures, but make sure your message really shares YOU and who you are in your heart. My mission is very important to me, so I make sure that I’m sharing words to spread it. I’m definitely sharing my heart.
What’s been the most surprising result (good or bad) of starting inkWELL Press?
Truthfully, how much people appreciate you taking the time to help them. We get the nicest notes and letters from our customers telling us how much our setup videos have helped them use their planner and empowered them to feel successful.
Our Periscopes where we help walk through topics like productivity & goal setting have brought us some of the nicest stories and notes. When we hear from people who say that we’ve made a difference, it makes all the hard work and long hours more than worth it.
What do you think has made inkWELL so successful as a business?
We are very clear about our mission in our business and try to make sure that it comes through in everything we create. I think people love that our true heart is in helping them feel empowered. We aren’t interested in just selling you a planner—we are invested in helping women to find empowerment through organization. Our set-up videos are designed to help you create your own systems and paths because we feel that every woman is different and has her own set of goals and priorities. We are not looking at the financial bottom line, but looking at the impact our products can have on the lives of women.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I generally get up a little bit before my kids—I try to get a jumpstart on my day with work and finalize any tasks that were left from the day before. (Sometimes, to be honest though, sleep wins.) My husband, John, makes the lunches while I help the kids get moving. We all end up congregating somehow in my bathroom all at the same time in a flurry of fixing hair and making sure the kids have actually put on shoes! It’s the normal chaos of a morning with kids. Then John and I drive carpool to drop the kids off and head into work. My husband and I literally sit across a desk from each other—we work hand-in-hand on all our projects. We always spend the first 15 minutes of our [work]day meeting and planning out our daily tasks.
Each day at the studio is very different from the day before, depending on if we are in the middle of a sale, prepping for a Periscope series, or working on new products. It’s always full of music and a lot of laughing. We have an amazing team that works with us, so it’s always fun—sometimes stressful, but always fun!
We make it a priority to leave work every day at 3 p.m. so I can be home when the kids arrive back from school. Once the kids are home, I shift from business mode to mom mode. I help with homework, practice spelling words, do field trip forms, you name it. I’m usually able to schedule in some work time between homework time and dinner prep. I love to cook, so dinner is time for me to enjoy a little time in the kitchen – usually Kate (my 9-year-old) likes to assist as the sous chef (that’s what she likes to call it). After dinner, it’s chore time for my kids, so I usually check in for work before we settle on the couch for a TV show or to play a game. After the kids go to bed, I work a bit more before finishing my day around 11 p.m.
You’re like the goddess of organization and planning, but how do you balance all of your projects with your personal life on a daily basis?
You are too kind, but balance is something we all definitely struggle with, even when we are organized. Balance is something that takes constant monitoring because our lives shift from week to week. Sometimes I feel like my balance is great and other times I feel like my balance is wobbling a bit. It’s at those times that I usually need to stop and do a quick assessment of how I feel and make some adjustments.
I do definitely try to plan ahead. I usually have an idea of when busy work season will begin to hit, so I try to lay groundwork to make life easier at those times. For example, I know that the fall is crazy with our big launch, so I make sure I have things in place well in advance—things like grocery delivery services, meal plans, house cleaning I lay out weeks before so I can spend my time focusing on the important things.
Have you ever felt like you’ve gone overboard with planning and organization? How did you scale it back and find a happy medium?
Definitely! In the past, I think I went a little too far trying to get things completely organized for my kids. I’ve found that you have to include others in your organizing and planning if you really want it to work for them. They need to be a part of the process. I try to involve my kids with organization and planning.
We actually do family planning meetings on Sundays where I help guide them in planning out school assignments or projects. In the beginning, I had to be a lot more hands-on, but now they are really good at doing this for themselves. I love that I’m involved, but they’re in charge of finding systems and plans that work for them. (That’s not to say that I don’t still give my two cents…I am their mom after all!)
How do you define success?
I think doing what you love and living a life where you fall into bed at the end of each day feeling content. I don’t think success is ever defined by money, but how you have affected change for others.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
We live in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, so any time I can spend with my family outdoors makes me happy. I do a lot of hiking and spend time outdoors. Anytime I feel stressed I pull out power tools. I love to build things. Each year for my birthday, I tackle a different project—maybe building a porch swing or rebuilding a deck. That is the ultimate creative time for me. I love house projects, especially big ones!
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by women everywhere. I love attending creative conferences where I get to meet with other women who are building their own companies. I feel like I always leave these events feeling even more on fire for what I do. I love when a group of women gets together to push and encourage one another. There’s nothing quite like it.
What’s next for you?
We are really excited because we will have Academic Planners available for the first time this year. They are just like our regular year planners, but they will run July through June—perfect for those people who like to plan on an academic calendar year. We’ve had a lot of requests to offer these, so I’m thrilled that we are doing it! We will have new organizational notepads launching this spring along with the return of our fitness planner. Lots of exciting things are around the corner, so it’s a great start to 2016!
Last modified on January 9th, 2017