Female Feature Friday: Lo Farmer of Sip Dine Design
At the beginning of 2019, I asked y’all on instagram what sort of content you wanted to see and y’all said SMALL BUSINESS. So my team drafted some interview questions for me to answer as a female small business owner and then we thought, “WHY aren’t we sending this to other female small business owners?!?”
So TODAY we’re launching a year-long blog series where every friday we will interview a female small business owner. My hope is that this series will inspire other women to take the leap and provide insight into how fellow female business owners handle the madness of entrepreneurship. We’ll also ask them about their communities, so we can get a glimpse into what it’s like to be a local small business owner in different markets.
I’m starting off this series with a tell all of what I love about being a small business owner… and what keeps me filling my xanax prescription.
Let’s get down to (small) business:
Name and occupation?
Lo Farmer, owner and creative director of Sip Dine Design. (And dog mom to Barley).
Briefly describe your business:
Our agency has 2 main platforms. It’s part influencer platform, where I partner with other brands on my blog and instagram @sipdinedesign, and talk about the realities of being a small business owner…. And part Creative Agency that offers services like: graphic design, logos, branding, print work, copywriting, product photography, and on-site photography and content for hospitality companies. We are an all female agency based in Fort Worth, Texas but have clients from Switzerland, to Nashville, to Napa, to Cancun, to San Diego.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a business owner?
Ha. NO. All caps, underlined, and bold that one. Actually, I specifically didn't want to have my own business. When I first went to college to get my Associates in Merchandise Marketing from F.I.D.M. they offered a program that basically taught you how to build the foundation of a business (taught marketing plans, hiring criteria, accounting, scheduling, how to source insurance, human resources, etc) and I distinctly remember not taking it because I didn’t want to deal with the stress of having my own business.
Looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have let the fear of a little (or a lot) of hard work keep me from pursuing those skill sets. But on the flip side, because I didn’t take that course I ended up starting my first corporate job earlier with an AMAZING bunch of women and I wouldn’t have traded that for the world.
What was your first “real job”?
I was a Marketing Coordinator in the Billabong Womens Global Marketing Department and it was EPIC. I was 20 years old and fresh out of college and just so eager to get my feet wet and learn. Looking back, I was incredibly lucky to find that job because I definitely learned the art of wearing many hats… but mostly I worked with an incredible group of females who mentored me and took me under their wing.
I was the baby (Baby Lo, specifically) so it was like having a group of 8 sisters who mentored me professionally and personally. What impacted me the most was watching them balance motherhood and work. They were so on it, going to these big meetings and making big deals, but also managing nanny schedules and planning birthday parties and I think that is what planted the seed that it might be nice one day to have job flexibility. The Art Director Soph was this bad-ass working mom and I was so inspired by her, later on when I first got into Graphic Design she sort of mentored me along the way. Even now, the girls still encourage me and send me sweet messages, knowing that I’m making them proud is a huge motivator.
Why is small business so important to you?
It’s my lifeblood and it’s the culture that I was raised in. My dad started a business almost 30 years ago and my hometown of Temecula is very small business oriented. So it’s something I’ve always been around.
What motivates you to keep going on the less than awesome days?
Dear Lord… can I say Alcohol? Lol. Honestly, I call my family or my friends or my team…my team is a huge motivator. I’ve been blessed to find a group of incredibly talented women who push each other (and myself) forward professionally and personally. They’ve made a choice to dedicate their days to Sip Dine Design and I don’t take that lightly. It’s important to me to keep creating work and building this agency and investing in them, just like they’re investing in me. My girls are just the BEST, they put so much of themselves into their work, and that is so humbling and motivating.
On the REALLY hard days, the days where there are tears…Dylan and I slow dance. We put on music and we dance in our dining room, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that..but that is what calms my nerves the most. A little slow dance with the hubby therapy, and then I get back to work.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Plan & Brand! Set goals and benchmarks for yourself. My Aunt Jamie (a brilliant, strong, and sassy woman) gave me an interview question tip that I’ve applied to my client work that has helped me tremendously. She said “What does ‘success’ for that job look like in 3 months, 6 months, and a 1 year?” I’ve taken that approach with my own business and it’s helped me create realistic goals during certain timeframes.
Also BRANDING, can we also make that bold and underlined? I can’t say enough how important it is to present yourself professionally. Think of what you look for when making a purchase decision and realize that your customers will look for the same in you. Create a strong logo, brand, message, and website to best present yourself.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?
100% getting too attached to the work. I think it’s important to remember that when you have a client it’s their business. Of course you want to see it succeed, you want to see the business grow in a way that makes you proud. But you can’t force people to make good business decisions and you’re not the morality police, you’re there to provide a service. Your client may make a decision for their business that you disagree with and if your emotional connection to the brand prevents you from doing the work, it’s time to step away.
Also, contracts exist for a reason, use them. Conflicts and miscommunications happen, and it’s best to let the fine print hold people accountable so you don’t have to.
What has surprised you most about running a small business?
It’s SO rewarding and it’s SUCH a pain in the ass at the same time. And it’s constant…There are no days off. Literally, I am glued to my phone. It’s so easy to get swept up and lose the home and work life balance… and that isn’t good for you, your business, or your relationships. I’m hoping to find a better balance in 2019.
I also never realized how much time I would spend doing things that don’t necessarily generate a profit, but are essential to the growth of your business. Hiring, payroll, accounting, taxes, website maintenance, networking, project proposals, consultation, travel, it’s a TON of work, but it all pays off eventually.
Who have you looked to for advice and mentorship?
Oh wow, so many different people. My family for sure… My dad grew his company from 5 people to 250… he is the most amazing business man I’ve ever seen. He is one of those people that everyone loves.. he’s so funny, and wise, and humble, and genuine… and my sister Ashley…she is a FORCE…she owns 3 different small businesses with her husband…. My #2 Lauren, my cousin Bri, my Momma, my sissy Andrea, and Lord knows my poor husband has basically become a free therapist.
I’ve also been really lucky to meet some amazing women that have been so helpful. One of my biggest mentors is Amber from Global Munchkins, it’s so nice to talk to someone who has “hit it big” but is real and relatable and knows the struggle of building a brand. Laura from Brix by Brix consulting has been an amazing sounding board. My friend, Jen, is also a huge help. You’d never know it from talking to her (cause she’s so humble and sweet), but she is this bad-ass bitch consultant and I basically force her to coach me on a weekly basis.
What was your “I’ve arrived” moment?
Well, if I’m being honest I don’t feel like I’ve arrived lol. I still feel like there’s SO MUCH work to be done and the business is evolving everyday. But the greatest joy I’ve ever felt is when I was able to offer a promotion and full-time position to one of my dearest friends my Brand Manager Lauren Osias. Our husbands met in flight school, flew together in our USMC squadron HMH-361, and I met her when my husband deployed. She told me “let me know if you need to come over and cry” and I did, multiple times. She was so creative and funny and smart and I always thought she would be SO good at social media…so a year later I tricked her into working for me, she was the first Sip Dine Design employee.
This past December, Dylan and I flew out to Pensacola and sat down with Lauren and her husband Bo and asked her to take on a more active role in Sip Dine Design and relocate to Fort Worth. We all discussed it as a family, and after she accepted I got to hand her a check for a signing bonus. That has been my proudest moment.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in small business?
It’s important to me that one day when I have a family, I can show my children that I was able to take care of myself. That of course, Dylan’s support was instrumental in pushing me along… but ultimately, I did this with the skill set God gave me, and I did it with lipstick on.
I’ve always been told I can do anything, I was really lucky to be raised by 2 parents who made it very clear that I was the master of my own ship and I could create any future that I wanted. If there’s someone out there that isn’t being told that, I want her to know she can do it too.
What project has had the most profound impact on you?
Honestly, a client we just started working with. It’s a non-profit charity called Colin’s Joy Project in Boston. A year ago our clients Kerri and Brendan lost their son Colin in a tragic accident. We were asked to design a logo and website for the charity, and I felt so incredibly honored that they trusted us with the job of helping them carry on their son Colin’s legacy. It was the first time since I started Sip Dine Design that we have been able to afford to take on a large scale charity project, and it’s been an incredible experience. It’s so rewarding, such a tremendous honor.
They were interviewed by the Boston news and I saw the Colin’s Joy Project logo and website and I just felt like Colin would be so proud. It was a really emotional experience and it’s inspired me to make it a goal to take on more charity work in the future.
What’s next for Sip Dine Design?
Whelp, we just launched branding and logo services in 2019. In the past, we only opened that up to existing social media clients, but now we offer seo blog writing, content creation, and graphic design to the public so that’s been really fun. We’re also doing monthly photography content packages which is new for us.
Our first 3 projects this year have been from female owned businesses, which to me, was just a sign from above that we were going in the right direction. I’m really excited to see what other small businesses we will get to work with and how we can help them achieve their goals. And shameless plug, you can check out our full list of services here.
Let’s get the skinny on Fort Worth:
What brought you to Fort Worth?
My husbands job, he’s an airline pilot. We came here knowing no one and I had 3 days to buy a house on my first trip here. We had a fabulous agent, Karly, that I have forced into friendship.
Best Taco in Fort Worth?
The pulled pork tacos at H3 in the stockyards… life changing. Also, the picnic chicken from Velvet is unreal.
Best Queso in Fort Worth?
Torchys…. Hands down.
Favorite Marg in Fort Worth?
Mango marg from H3 with an extra shot in a to-go cup to walk around the stockyards with.
Favorite Steakhouse in Fort Worth?
Again, H3. I love that place. It’s sentimental for us because that’s where we first went when we found our home, the day we moved here, the day I changed my name... it’s become a Farmer family tradition.
Favorite way to spend a day in Fort Worth?
We love the stockyards… and I can literally feel the Fort Worth locals wincing as I write that. I know that it’s touristy and I get that. But we LOVE it. It’s so Texas. We go get Margs and beers and walk around since it’s open container. Fun Fact: valet at H3 is free if you buy a drink from the bar. A little stockyards Saturday life-saving tip for ya.
What do you love about being a business owner in Fort Worth?
Oh man...Fort Worth is literally the BEST place to own a business. There is this super strong cowtown community of small business owners that just push each other forward. It’s also extremely female friendly, which was honestly a huge shock to me at first. I know so many working moms here, and it’s really shown me that I don’t have to choose. I can chase my dreams, but also plan on raising a family and I love that.
Tell us 3 of your favorite Fort Worth small businesses.
OH this is so hard.
#1 is for sure Burt Ladner Real Estate. When I first moved the Fort Worth that team totally took me in and treated me like I had been there forever. I was living hundreds of miles away from my family, with a husband who was flying all the time and EVERYONE on their team made me feel so welcome. It was a God-send. They’re all such great people and I love that Laura and Suzanne started it together… it’s been an inspiration as a female business owner to see everything they’ve accomplished in such a short time.
TX Whiskey is also a favorite of mine. They have blown up so much, but 2 years ago before we moved I went into their old office to pick up some whiskey for our friend Justin (who is a die hard TX fan) and their co-founder Leonard was there. He found out I was moving and my husband was in the military and sat down with me for 30 minutes to ask me about my Fort Worth plans. He wanted to know if I found a house and what neighborhood and if I had friends yet and if I was ready for the weather and I didn’t realize at the time that he must have been SWAMPED with opening their Whiskey Ranch Facility in a few weeks… but he still took the time to sit down with a stranger and welcome me to town. After we moved, a bottle of TX showed up at our door. That to me is the epitome of being a small business owner… they have hit it big but they are still small town at heart. Also their marketing and sales team is bar none. (hey y’all!)
I don’t even know how to narrow it down to the last one… Christina at Park and Eighth is so brilliant and energetic. I love how Steven & Sara Camp are such a strong husband and wife team. Rebecca at Bottega Tile is just the hardest working mama. Kelly Kay Paper is the sweetest human alive and is such a great source of artistic inspiration for me. Whitney at Shop Small Fort Worth is always there to make me laugh when I’m having “a day”. And Karly Johnston, my beautiful real estate agent/friend hostage introduced me to this amazing small business community so she gets bonus points.
Do you know an amazing female business owner we need to feature? Tell us in the comments below.