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Ep 61 Transcript: Interview with Anne LaFollette
Andrea Vahl: What would you do if you had to completely reinvent yourself in your late fifties after being laid off from a fancy corporate job? You need to tune into today’s episode where I talked to Anne LaFollette, who went from corporate America into a creative entrepreneur and surface pattern designer.
We’re going to talk about her journey and launching her membership when she did not know some of the first steps to take. It’s awesome.
Hello dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration mindset and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
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And now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Hello Dreamers. It’s your host, Andrea Vahl for the Late Starters Club podcast, and I am joined today by a friend of mine, Anne LaFollette who lost her job in her late fifties, and now she has invented a whole entire amazing business that we’re going to dive into creating surface art and teaching people how to create surface art. So welcome Anne.
Anne LaFollette: Oh my goodness. I’m so excited to be here. Andrea, this is incredible and I’m very honored to be able to be on your Late Starters Club podcast.
Andrea Vahl: I know. And we met in Jeff Walker’s Launch Club. We did a whole mastermind weekend together which was super fun and it’s been so cool to see all that you’ve done with your business and it’s just taken off, so congratulations.
Anne LaFollette: Oh my goodness. Thank you so much. I love to share my story because what I’m doing now is totally different from what I used to do.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. So tell us how you, obviously we know, like kind of the impetus for you getting into it.
Obviously getting laid off from your job and not being ready to retire, not ready or wanting to retire. I don’t know if I really, I always want to be doing something, but tell us how, like what even prompted you to start into this venture?
Anne LaFollette: Yeah, exactly. So I had a corporate career, for over 30 years.
I worked for fashion retail companies, global retail companies, and one day my boss called me into his office and told me, You don’t have a job here anymore, walk down the hall and go talk to human resources. And this came as a complete shock because I had always thought that a corporate career was going to be the way I spent my life, my working life.
And I tried to get another job, but I was in my late 50s. And as year after year went by, thank goodness I have the support of my incredible family and my husband and my son. My son was in high school at the time and my husband turned to me and he said, sweetie, I think the universe is sending you a message , that for this next part of your life, you need to do something different.
Something else. And he really is the one, both he and my son are really the ones that allowed me to explore doing something different. And I had always been creative as a kid, but no one in my family went to art school. No one in my family had any type of creative career. They were doctors, they were lawyers, they were business people.
So I didn’t have really any examples, but my husband would joke with me whenever we would travel, I’d jump into the closest art supply store and I’d buy some more colored pencils, or I would buy a new journal to put my doodles in. And so he said, listen sweetie. We have this huge box of art supplies in the basement, and it’s been gathering dust for 30 years.
So maybe we should bring it up from the basement since you have a little bit of time on your hands. And why don’t you explore your creativity. And my son was going off to wait for it, Art school! My son went to the Rhode Island School of Design and so I said to myself wait a minute.
There must be some creativity somewhere in this gene pool. It’s really allowed me to give myself permission to take some time off from my very, unsuccessful job search, and explore my creativity. And the pivotal moment was that for Christmas that year, my husband said, what would you like?
And I’d done some research online and I had found an art class by this incredible woman and I still take a course from her every year. Her name is Carla Sonheim, and she does a variety of different art classes, but she has a year long class. And since I didn’t go to art school, I needed some foundation, so my husband bought me her year long art class.
It was called Y Is For Yellow? She’s fabulous. People can check her out at carlasonheim.com. In any event, I took this year long art class and one of the modules in it was about this thing called Surface Design, which I had never heard of and probably no. No one in your audience has ever heard of.
Andrea Vahl: No, I hadn’t either.
Anne LaFollette: But here’s the thing. If you look around yourself right now, you’ll probably see at least four things that have a pattern on it. Probably the carpet under your feet, , that cute little notebook that you just showed me that you take your notes in, has a beautiful repeating pattern on the cover. You and I are both wearing a sweater today, but we might be wearing a blouse and usually that has a repeating pattern on it. The tea towels in your kitchen. You can, I can go on and on. And all of those are actually made by someone, and then they learn how to turn that into what’s called a repeating pattern, and then they sell it on all of the products that we buy.
And I fell in love with it. I totally fell in love with it. And so that’s how I landed to start to create an online business where I teach and I sell my own art on what’s called surface designs.
Andrea Vahl: Right. I love that. And yeah like you start looking around, you’re like, wait, this wrapping paper and this, everything like all so much stuff.
So it’s amazing and it’s fun that you could create that yourself. Now you started out just doing it and selling it and now, and then you developed it into teaching it, Right? Teaching it and also teaching people how to sell it and make money from it.
Anne LaFollette: Yeah. So I do both because I love to do my own. I’ve always, in retrospect, wanted to put my own designs on fabric or on wrapping paper.
I love during the holidays to have every present in a different paper. And so now I don’t have to buy all those papers from someone else. I can create my own, which is so much fun. And so I still have in the beginning I was selling my work through my local art supply store in my tiny little town.
I took a cute little container store box that had some of my samples, and I walked down there and I said, could I sell these on a teeny shelf in your store? And the woman said, absolutely. And we’ll feature you in the window. So that was a really, really fun thing to do and anyway, there’s a lot of other places where I still sell my work mostly through what’s called print on demand companies like Society 6. So people can find me on society6.com/annelafollette but but I also love to teach it. I just realized that one of the pivotal things for me was finding something that I could really lean into and I could find other women like me I just turned 65, other women like me who have this incredible creativity within them.
But maybe a teacher told them that they didn’t have enough talent or maybe their parents said no, you can’t go to art school. Nobody makes any money from art. You can’t go to art school. And and so now I can help them get their own creativity and bring it out into the world to share with all of us.
Andrea Vahl: That is so awesome. That’s such a, that is such a a beautiful thing to be able to do because a lot of us have been told no or told that, that’s not a, an appropriate career. Why you’re wasting your time with that or whatever. And to now be able to do something like that and express yourself in a new and different way, maybe that, I’m terrible at art.
At painting, but I could maybe do something repeating as a pattern. I like doodling, so that could be, a thing. Who knows?
Anne LaFollette: Yeah. And you don’t need to be an artist. We all have this thing about that word that artists is spelled with a capital A. It means our stuff has to be good enough to go in a museum, and we are all artists.
So we all have a unique handwriting. We can all either, if we don’t doodle, we can learn how to doodle. And some of the most successful sellable products in the world are very simple. They’re dots, or they’re organic shapes, or they’re, think of the merry meko flower that is so recognizable, it’s called the Unicode flower.
No, the, I think it’s called Unico. And it’s that pink flower. And it’s totally imaginary.
Andrea Vahl: Someone made it up. Yes. That’s great. And so just to get a timeline and time perspective on this, you, this is, this has all happened for you in the last six-ish years, is that Yep. Yeah. Yeah. So you went
Anne LaFollette: five to six years.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. So you went from being laid off to, having this idea, to taking a class. To now, like selling it and now having hundreds of students go through your trainings and learn from you it’s incredible.
Anne LaFollette: I love my students. I get out of bed every day and I cannot wait to support them on their journey because we’re all creative.
We may have a buried deep inside us , but we are all incredibly creative. So I love the opportunity that having an online business provides to you and to me, to find new people who actually need what we have to offer, and we can serve them with all of our heart to have them actually have more joy in their lives.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, exactly. And now talk a little bit about how you learned to do some of this as far as you didn’t have any experience in creating a website or creating a, email list or like even launching like we’ve learned how to do. So talk about how you even learned all that and was that overwhelming or was it exciting?
Anne LaFollette: So at the beginning it was definitely overwhelming because I, I had a corporate career and my corporate career was in inventory management. So it had nothing to do with internet. I didn’t use Adobe Illustrator or any art tools. And so at the beginning it was a little, it was definitely overwhelming, but I loved to learn.
I think that one of the things my mom instilled in me at an early age was, And this also speaks to, nobody can take my job away now this is mine, . And so the sense of empowerment that you get when you’re building your own business is incredible and the freedom that it gives you. But to your point around how did I go about learning?
I love to learn. and I’m a very good student, . And so what she, my mom said is, you have to go find the people who know how to do what you want to learn, and you gotta learn from them. And so you gotta invest in a, finding them, figuring out what type of program they’re offering that’s going to teach you what you need to do.
And then I promised myself as I accumulated, Courses and coaching that I needed, that I would pay myself back within the year that I made that investment. . So if I made a big investment in a course, I was going to, I was going to watch every single module in that course, and I was going to then implement what was being taught so that I could get a return on my investment.
And so I did that. First with Jeff Walker and because Jeff Walker is of course the king of launching and he’s the guru of all gurus. He’s taught everyone for the last 30 years how to launch. And and then I also Took Amy Porterfield’s program on how to build a really fantastic online program because she is the queen of building digital courses.
So those are just two examples of the fact that I just took it kind of one baby step at a time. Didn’t know what an opt-in page was, but I like to say this to both myself and to all my students is we can do hard things. We just have to do it slowly, one step at a time and just keep moving forward.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that is just such smart advice about really using the courses that you bought and really implementing, because I think that’s a huge mistake that sometimes people make as they go out and buy all the things and they they, just keep thinking. They have to wait until they know it all before they can learn or launch before they can do anything. And really, you don’t, you can, just turn it around as quickly as possible and it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be done. Done is better than perfect.
That is so smart that. were really intentional about what you were buying and what you were then implementing.
Anne LaFollette: And to your point, you learn a lot more by doing it because then you see what you didn’t do right or what you didn’t right, and you have data that will allow you to then do it again and do it a little bit differently for the things that didn’t work.
And then really lean into the things that are totally working. And you wouldn’t know that if you don’t actually do it, if you don’t actually get started.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of these courses have, groups where you can ask questions and you can’t really, you can’t formulate as good a questions unless you’ve actually done it and have that, perfect question.
Like, why didn’t this work? Or Can I get feedback on this? Or whatever. And then you can learn even faster and, launch again or whatever. So yes. That is great perfect advice.
So yeah, you’ve got, definitely you you invested in learning and in experts, so that’s really good. So what, what have been some of the obstacles that you’ve come up against and how have you moved through those? Have you had any moments of overwhelm during this time here?
Anne LaFollette: Yeah, I listen. I think that when you’re starting something that’s brand new and there’s a lot of unknowns around it it can feel a little daunting.
And I think that my I think this is funny when I, obviously I lost my job and I had 30 years of experience. So when I started to try to figure out what I was going to do next, I thought that I wasn’t going to use any of the skills I had acquired for 30 years. I was like, exactly.
It was like all that just went into the trashcan, but , and what I realized was hold on a second. That’s not true at all. I learned a ton during the time I was in corporate and a lot of the work that I did was very strategic, so it allowed me to ask good questions. I learned how to zoom out to look at problems and solve those problems and that’s is our skills that I use all the time. I think. It was also for me really important that while I, that I needed to recognize the fact that everything, and this is good, I think for anyone listening, that if you’re pivoting or you’re trying something new, everything that you’ve learned so far is really going to serve you well, you’re not exactly sure how it’s going to pop up, but it will absolutely serve you really well. So if I was talking to my younger self, I wouldn’t be telling my younger self, oh, you’re such an idiot. You should have started this 30 years ago. , I would say which I might have said back in the day. I might have said that. I was like, oh my God, that was a a total waste of time. I should have figured this out 30 years ago. How stupid am I? Instead it’s actually no. All of that experience was very worthwhile. . I was doing it for a reason. It was adding to my life experience in a beautiful way.
And that’s continuing to pay off for me now.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. I love that. I love that. And yeah, It is funny you said a couple things there. Just like the way we talk to ourselves , can be a good a good growth edge, definitely. I feel like as I’m getting older, I’m a little nicer to myself than I was or better at ignoring that little voice in my head that might be a little mean and just trying to protect me or whatever. But yeah, I like that. And I do like that, talking about, cuz I like that idea of what would we tell our younger selves? But it is, it does. I’ve had a lot of people say that I don’t think I’d change anything because it’s all been this journey that has culminated in the experience and wisdom I have right now to make this change or make a.
Do this new thing or whatever it might be.
Anne LaFollette: So Andrea, one of the things I really wanted to make sure I had a chance to talk about today is what does it feel like when you’re doing this, when you’re older, and how can we have the courage to do it? And what did I lean into personally to help me go through the transition, but also to continue to make progress when you hit those stumbling blocks.
And I think that for me, and hopefully this is, serves your audience, I think that we, when we’re at this age, I just turned 65, so I think when we’re at this age, we can, it’s really important that we’re doing something that brings us a lot of joy.
And that we are focused on the ultimate goal, which is actually to serve the audience that we’re finding. And that is actually what helps me continue to learn what I need to learn because there’s still a lot that I can do to improve my, myself as a designer, as well as my online education business.
And having that motivation and also having, making sure that there’s some focus around it and that you do understand it’s important to of plan out the steps so that you have a roadmap. are all things that I found were very helpful for me. And again, they lean into all that experience I had in my corporate career.
Andrea Vahl: . Yeah. That’s so great. That’s so great cuz yeah, let’s just, more joy. That’s what pile it in, , I don’t want to do things that are like, not fun or, sometimes we have to do things that are not fun obviously, but they’re in service of the thing that is going to bring us more joy.
It’s. Yeah. So that’s good. Yeah. Are there some parts of this new business that are not as fun for you? I’m interested cause it seems like you’re having a blast. That’s,
Anne LaFollette: I’m totally having a blast. I’m having a blast. And one of the reasons I’m having a blast is because having your own business is so incredibly empowering and freeing.
So I can do what I do. From anywhere. , because all I need is my laptop and I, I grew up in Paris. I love to go back to Paris every single year. And so I am able to go to Paris, even if I’m in the middle of teaching my course, because I just go online and teach from Paris. . So that is I’m pretty excited about that.
I think the other thing too that’s so amazing is that when one of my students actually succeeds in creating their first repeating pattern. And they do this inside Adobe Illustrator, which is a beast of a program. The joy and sense of accomplishment that they experience, and then they order wrapping paper or they order a set of pajamas for their grandkids or they’ve put their grandkids design on a baby blanket. it’s like the sense of both incredible joy and creating a legacy of your art that’s going to be out now in the world forever for generation and generations to enjoy. It is it’s this snowball of of both fulfillment and joy and physical creation, which is kind of awsome.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s so cool. You get to be there for those fun pivotal moments for others. So not only are you creating this legacy for yourself with just this creation, but you’re helping other people create a little bit of a legacy. How fun. How fun is that? Yeah. Yeah. So has there been something that has happened that you.
Something that went wrong or something that you thought was maybe a disaster at the moment, but has really turned out just great.
Anne LaFollette: Yeah. So here is my story on that. I am, and no one’s going to believe this, but I’m actually an introvert. . I’m a really intense introvert, but my mom told me, and so can I tell me in an early age how to cheat on all the tests so that you’d get like an extrovert score. Because she believed, and I think she was right and she’s probably still right wherever she happens to be. She passed away in 2019, but she’s always watching over me. . She basically said, you have to be loud.
And talk a lot and, make noise enough for people to notice you in the world. Right. And it’s only recently that we see articles popping up that say the introvert in the room is the person you should be listening to. I think that was an article on the New York Times recently, but I am, I’m really introverted, but this type of business, so initially I was thinking, oh, this is never going to work.
It’s this is never going to work. I, how can I possibly teach? I’m an introvert. I have to go, hide under the covers after I’ve been around a bunch of people . And the great thing about the internet is that I’m just talking to the green dot.. Right .. So when you’re on your computer like we are right now, I’m talking to you through the green dot.
So I feel very safe cuz I’m in my house. Yeah. . Yet I can share all of my enthusiasm and my love and my joy of what it is that I’m teaching others and I can create a connection with them without having the sort of stress and pressure or obstacle like we were asking about that having people in the room with me.
So it’s actually a blessing. It’s really a blessing, yeah. That we can communicate and share in this way.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. And you don’t have to be on a big stage to speak to 300 people, or you don’t have to, be like, the shaking hands with everybody or whatever to be able to support them in the group or whatever it.
Whatever that relates to.
Anne LaFollette: Yeah. And listen, I met you at an in-person event, which was awesome. But when we were not like meeting, I was hiding in my room, recharging my introvert batteries . So it’s great that that I have an opportunity to still connect with you in this way. Yeah.
And with your audience. Yeah.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, it is. I do love so many things about what the online digital world can provide in terms of starting your own business, if you’re introverted or extroverted. And the kind of interesting thing is like so many people I talk to who have started their own business, they do talk about being an introvert or is people on social media?
I used to run social media managers School founded that and like all the, like 75% of the social media managers said that they were introverts. And it can be a great way to. Be online and you can, think about your answer and stuff like that. I was just talking to Lou Bortone recent interviewing him and he’s a video expert and he’s a big introvert as well.
It’s just it’s fun that you don’t have to be a certain type of person. You don’t have to be a certain age. Some people think that, oh, you have to be young to be online and no, you don’t, you know, so that, that is,
Anne LaFollette: I think it’s also really great for people who are in my age bracket as I said I just turned 65, technology’s becoming easier.
So a lot of what holds people back in my age group is oh my God, I’m never going to be able to learn the tech. The, there’s no way I can learn the tech. And the thing about tech is that every year that goes by, the tech actually gets easier. And if you break it down into baby steps, you absolutely can do, you can absolutely do.
If I can. . Anybody can do it.
Andrea Vahl: That’s so great. Yeah. I do feel and there’s lots of people who know the tech, so if there’s something that scares you, frustrates you, whatever, you can hire someone. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out some of my shopping cart systems where you’ve got whatever stripe and whatever thing is connected.
I’m like, oh, thank God there’s someone who knows how to do that. So that’s Yes, exactly. . Yeah. You had mentioned some non-negotiables in your business. What are some of the non-negotiables that you’ve defined for yourself and how has that come up in, into play here?
Anne LaFollette: Yeah, so when I was in corporate, I had no non-negotiables.
All right. I was list, I was a worker bee. I worked 24/7. I had the Blackberry back when the blackberry was the thing. And then of course I had the iPhone. My husband and I both were terrible at having it at the dinner table and. And we work 24/7 weekends, whatever you’re, it’s total, you have to respond to the boss.
And in my own business I think that I’ve had the opportunity to create sort of these boundaries. And so I don’t work on the weekends at all. I stop working at about five o’clock on a Friday. And I’m very transparent to everybody and say, I’m not going to answer your emails. It doesn’t mean I’m not here.
I am here, but I’m going to spend time with my dad. My dad is 93. , and he’s doing amazing. And while he’s still here, I want to spend my weekends taking care of him. And being, spending time with him as well as with my husband. And my son. And so it’s very important to have those boundaries, which I didn’t have in my corporate career at all. So I think that’s a really important one. And then another non-negotiable is I’m going to go to Paris every year. I’m going to go during Covid, but I’m now back and last year I’m going in April. I cannot wait. And and that’s another part of what why I do what I do, because I have the ability to go to Paris every year.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, that is wonderful. I was in April in Paris once or twice, and it’s just amazing. Just so beautiful. Springtime is a magical time there, so that, I love it. And I love travel too. I think it’s, I think as entrepreneurs or sometimes we might have the idea that, oh, to be an entrepreneur you have to hustle your face off and work all the time.
And certainly there are times for that. But I think that’s one thing I love I love being able to really. Hey, I’m taking vacations and last year I took seven vacations, so I’m .
Anne LaFollette: I know. It’s awesome to see post you about it so we could live vicariously through you.
Andrea Vahl: I know. Yeah. . Yeah. So fun. Yeah. Yeah. So this has been so much fun and I I love.
I love your journey. I love hearing your enthusiasm. Excitement for it and what you’re doing for your students is incredible and so awesome. And I always ask people like for a favorite quote or inspirational saying that they have, that really fires ’em up.
Anne LaFollette: Yeah, so my favorite quote is it’s never too late to create which I actually have now trademarked.
And I think it’s so important for everyone who’s listening to know it is never too late to create. And that is basically what is. It’s my favorite quote and I think that it helps inspire me every day, and I think that it helps motivate and inspire my students as well.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. But both create art and create a new business and a new life.
It is. That’s a whole message of this podcast too. Although I will not use that cuz it is trademarked, but it . It is. But I love it. I love that. It’s
never too late to fill in the blank. Yes, never too late. I is never too late to create. And to your point, it’s to create whatever you want, right?
That is going to bring you joy at the stage that you’re in your life.
So Anne people can reach you at annelafolletteart.com and I’m sure you’re on all the socials as well, posting your beautiful art.
Anne LaFollette: I am. I’m on Instagram as Anne Lafollette Art. I post a reel every day that is a time lapse of how to create a repeating pattern. They’re super fun. They’re only 60. They’re only, they’re less than 60 seconds. They’re usually about 30 seconds long. And of course I get to pick the music that goes with them on the Instagram reel. So those are super fun for people to watch. Also on at Instagram, Anne LaFollette Art.
Andrea Vahl: Awesome. Thank you so much Anne we’ll have all the links in the show notes here. Thank you for your time and your inspiration. Anne and I will see you around at some event soon. I know
Anne LaFollette: we will. People are doing live events again and so we absolutely will see each other soon, but I’m so honored to have been here.
I absolutely love your Late Starters Club podcast, and I’m honored to be here.
Andrea Vahl: Oh, thanks, Anne. All right. Bye, everyone.
Anne LaFollette: Bye.
Andrea Vahl: Hope that was helpful and make sure you grab the free guide Top Tools for Late Starters on the website at latestartersclub.com and let’s turn dreaming into doing.
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