Designer’s Diary: Re-Inventing a Business After Motherhood

IndependentsJun 25, 2019

Designer’s Diary: Re-Inventing a Business After Motherhood

Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf had two sons 16 months apart. Here’s what motherhood taught her that has helped her run her jewelry design business more efficiently.

A custom fine jewelry designer, Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf, has a diverse background in art history, events and public relations, jewelry fabrication, sales and fine jewelry rendering. She can be reached at
(Editor’s note: San Francisco-based designer Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf is taking over the “Designer’s Diary” column for National Jeweler, replacing Jacqueline Stone, who now writes “Designs on Marketing.”)

Life as a working mother is definitely not for the faint of heart, and life as a mompreneur is even more difficult. I fall into the latter category.

Ten years ago, I was newly married, not yet a mother and had all the time in the world. I have always been an independent spirit, a lone wolf of sorts, and I wanted to work for myself.

As someone who also has always been artistic, I decided to pursue my jewelry training by apprenticing on the bench. I fell in love with the process and launched a custom jewelry design business.

Fast-forward a decade: I still have a business, but so much has changed. I am no longer a newlywed, I have two young boys (born 16 months apart), and I’m armed with 10 years of jewelry experience.

Soon after the birth of my second son, I decided to place my design business on the back burner and focus on my boys while working for someone else. Overwhelmed and exhausted, I felt a tremendous sense of relief that I did not have to be solely responsible for everything involved in running a business anymore. I could focus on my three loves: my two boys and designing jewelry.

I ended up shelving my design business for the next five years. During that time, I worked part-time designing for other jewelry companies and focused my attention on my family.

As I began to orchestrate my comeback, I gave serious thought to how I wanted to structure my resurrected business and realized that enough time had passed that I could completely reinvent myself, as well as my business model.

This idea of reinvention began with the realization that, as motherhood changes you as a person so too, let’s face it, does it change your goals and ideals; just about everything about you alters for the better.

Prior to having children, I was a creative nomad who was not held accountable to anyone or anything, especially not myself.

Now, the very existence of my children holds me accountable for every action I take and every decision I make. Becoming a mother forced me to “grow up” and become practical, financially shrewd and task-oriented.

It also made
executive skills, setting intentions and responsibility part of my daily routine.

In this article, I will share some pearls of wisdom I’ve harvested while relaunching my business after becoming a mom.

Maybe you will see some of these points as obvious or little nuggets that you already know. This is OK, too. If there is anything that can be gleaned from my words, it’s that life is a marvelous journey and each one of us takes away something different from it.

At the end of the day, though, we are all in this together; we are a community of jewelers, designers and store owners, and what we do makes people happy.

Build Your Tribe
Whether female or male, a mother or not, you need to build a tribe; surround yourself with people who make you stronger and better, as it does indeed take a village.

There is no shame in asking for help. There is no way you can do it all, and, while you are an expert in the jewelry field, not to mention a creative powerhouse, you most likely will not be an expert in the management, marketing, sales and/or accounting fields.

When I began my business relaunch, the single most important thing I did was hire a marketing/business coach.

As “creatives,” we don’t realize how disorganized we can be until we become completely consumed by brains that are running a hundred miles an hour. When I first had my business, I was way too stubborn to ask for or even think I needed help. Huge mistake No. 1!

After becoming a mother, I learned to ask for help. You don’t have a choice.
“Another member of your tribe needs to be a good accountant/bookkeeper. They know the laws and how to put the best system in place that will not only benefit you financially but keep you legit.”
Hiring a business coach is like having your own personal cheerleader. This professional will help you organize your goals, manage your money and teach you to actually enjoy the non-creative aspects of running your business.

A business coach can also inspire you and hold you accountable.

For creative types (like myself), this is not always so easy. Motherhood holds me accountable for pretty much everything in my personal life, and my business coach holds me accountable for my goals and end results in my professional life.

Another member of your tribe needs to be a good accountant/bookkeeper. I can’t speak enough about how important this is. (This coming from the same person who, when I started, insisted on doing my own books. Not a good idea!)

There are highly trained professionals out there. They know the laws and how to put the best system in place that will not only benefit you financially but keep you legit.

Work-Life Integration
I completely disagree with the term “work-life balance.”

The idea of a balancing act has a negative tone and makes you feel as if you just don’t have room in your life for anything; it is one or the other. If the scales are even slightly tipped, all is thrown off.

I believe, instead, in work-life integration.

The different facets of our lives are not meant to be balanced but are meant to be integrated. Our personal and work lives are intertwined, whether we want them to be or not.

So much of “what we do” is also “who we are.” This is especially true for designers because it is an art form and our art is who we are as creative souls.

If you have a family, partner with them and allow your children to get involved in what you do. Don’t separate the two; bring your family into the mix.

Also, keep in mind that your family is not an obstacle to your professional success. They are enablers who enable you to be better, hold you accountable and are your cheerleaders.
“It is important to stop second-guessing yourself and hesitating. If I make a mistake, I own it, learn from it and move on.”
Admittedly, I was nervous to bring my two rowdy boys into my Zen-filled creative work environment.

One day, due to lack of childcare, I took them with me to run my jewelry errands. They tripped along behind me as we visited the lapidary, the jeweler and then the stone-setter. While, admittedly, I bribed them with ice cream, I was amazed at how well they behaved.

At the lapidary, they were enthralled with all the gemstones on display as well as all the tools they saw at the jewelry studio.

I now take them with me whenever I can, hoping that, through osmosis, they might adopt the entrepreneurial/design spirit as well.

It turns out my youngest son has quite an affinity for gemstones and, just from hearing me talk about them, can now name several and talks about the varying degrees of hardness for each.

Own Your Decisions
Lastly, it is important to stop second-guessing yourself and hesitating.

As a mom, you learn quickly to make decisions on the fly. You are constantly moving at lightning speed and don’t have time to worry if the decision you made was wrong or not.

I used to second-guess pretty much everything I did. I would make a decision and then, if it didn’t work out, I would go over every detail in my head again and again.

I literally don’t have time for that now and I am so much happier because of it. If I make a mistake, I own it, learn from it and move on.

A custom fine jewelry designer, Vittoria d'Aste-Surcouf, has a diverse background in art history, events and public relations, jewelry fabrication, sales and fine jewelry rendering. She currently serves as CEO of her own jewelry company, VAS Bijoux. She also designs part-time for Gleim the Jeweler. She can be reached at
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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