Super talented Justine Crunden is a mama to 2 beautiful children and founder of heidi&luca through which she creates gorgeous personalised products for kids. We chat to Justine about her passion for illustration and design, her tips on how to balance a career with a healthy family life and the things she most loves about living in Dubai.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I must say I have a little bit of an addiction to illustration and print design. I love stationery and find myself stockpiling it. I’m also a bit of an interior junky and have a fetish for lights. I love changing my spaces and adore searching for cool new things and ideas. If I could illustrate all day I would and yes, I do change my living room around way too much. I love lazing with my family, I love snuggles with my kids, I love catching up for intimate dinners with friends, I love listening to music and I love that the sun nearly always shines in Dubai. I am a vegan and I enjoy good food. How? I hear you say. It is possible!
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I was a bit of a workaholic before having children. My professional background is in interiors, retail architecture and visual merchandising. My career is made up of great roles and when I left corporate, prior to having children, I left a senior retail design position that was hard work, very rewarding and included a lot of jet-setting around the world. When I found out I was pregnant I was flitting around South America on a ‘recharging the batteries’ sabbatical. When I returned to Dubai, over four months pregnant, I decided not to go back to corporate as I didn’t know how this would suit the ‘new’ me. However, my career had always been extremely important to me and had been a big part of defining me as a person. I knew I wanted to work but I had to find another way. After I had my first child, a little girl called Heidi, and settled in to my role as a mum, it was time to get back to work. At this time, my business heidi&luca was born. Setting up heidi&luca was both challenging and rewarding. It suited me perfectly and was a wonderful way to balance my new life as a Mum and my new career as a mamapreneur.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
I work from home so it can be difficult to juggle if I have to work when the kids are home. Mainly, I structure my day so I work during the mornings and have time for the kids in the afternoon. This way I can put my full self in to both. I am lucky as the kiddies love watching me illustrate and are often inspired by what I do and want to sit down beside me and make their own creation. It’s nice to share this time.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
Good structure and goal setting help me save time. When you are managing all the tasks involved in running a small business, you have to sport many hats and this can be quite difficult. Having a pretty rigid schedule and trying to stick to it enables me to focus on different aspects of the business and get through different tasks, as required. Allocating time means you’ve got more chance of getting everything done. Setting good short/medium/long term goals ensures your reach your potential. Lastly, enroll people in the know when you don’t know yourself, as they help enormously and save you time.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Dubai?
Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to take a risk or change the status quo. If you think you have a good idea, and get good feedback from people in the know, then just go for it. Also, use people around you as sounding boards, especially if they are potential target customers. Market research doesn’t have to be complicated and expensive. Learn to be a good juggler and seek out other mamapreneurs as you’ll have a lot in common and can offer each other good advice and support. Lastly, surround yourself with people that you can trust, people that will help by giving you honest feedback and good advice. You’ll be amazed at the wealth of knowledge from people that are right on your doorstep. Use it!
Favourite activity with your kids in Dubai?
We love heading to the desert in winter with friends to camp. It’s magical.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai?
I’d have to say Itzza pizza. They adore children and the kiddies just love the very long (one meter) pizza. Also, upstairs is Bussola for the lovely Italian and a very relaxed atmosphere. Smiling BKK for great Thai. Lastly, Archive in Safa Park for good food and lots of space to burn it off.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot?
Cozy fires, great views and home cooked delicious meals with family at our remote country property in the Victorian countryside, Australia.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Make the kiddies bedtime effective. Take time for each other, remember special dates and get away for romantic weekends when you have some spare time.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Tagine, Oceana, 101 and Bussola (downstairs) in the winter.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Children learn what they live. We don’t own our children or their thoughts however we can help them find their way by being good role models, guide, support and teach them to make good choices.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
If you can’t remember all the words to the nursery rhymes put your bubs to sleep singing a classical version of your favorite song. Perfect Day by Lou Reed sounds super when sung classical and is a very fitting tune ‘oh, it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you…’
As a mama I wish I were better at…not being distracted by my list of ‘to do’s!’
My most humbling mama moment was…when I first held each of my children.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…healthy food (and a few little treat’s to go with).
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….I rarely wake up. When sleep is available, I take it!
Even when my children have families of their own, I’ll still…want to be able to run up and down the hallways, ride bikes and bounce on trampolines with their cute and wonderful children.
My favourite moment of the day is…nighttime! When it’s quiet and I have a little bit of down time for myself.
I always feel saner after…a run!
I wish I had more time for…celebrating the little things!
Bedtime is always smoother when…there is a good book and structure involved.
These gorgeous photos of Justine, Heidi and Boyd are courtesy of the hugely talented and very lovely Claire Barlow of Claire Barlow Photography.