Mom to Blythe and Daryl // Owner of Pulp Function and Rugs by Roo

We met Sandy years ago when we were producing ReBash and immediately fell in love with the modern and whimsical products she was creating as Pulp Function. So naturally we were thrilled to have a conversation with Sandy about work, a big move out west, and life with two babes (and an adorable beagle).

We were surprised to find out that you haven’t always been a creative entrepreneur!

Almost the opposite! I worked in accounting for six years before realizing it wasn’t something I wanted to do the rest of my life. At my best friend’s wedding in 2006, I met someone who inspired me to pursue my passion, photography. I left accounting and pursued wedding photography for the next 6 years until I became pregnant with my daughter in 2015. I was fully booked that year and shot a wedding while 8 months pregnant. After she was born, I jumped right back into shooting and brought her along to all the weddings with me. Thereafter, I told myself I never want to go through that crazy process again. That was when I shifted gears and focused on my new business, Pulp Function

Pulp Function began as a hobby right?

I’ve always loved stationery and design. The original idea was for me to open an online retail store that sold all my favourite stationery.

How did that idea evolve?

I realized I enjoyed design more than selling, so I wanted to be the creator of what I sold instead of just being a sales channel for other people’s work. I started brainstorming on what I wanted to make and discussed it with whomever was willing to listen. In one conversation I had with a wedding planner friend, she said her clients wanted these large alphabet marquees for her wedding. We realized there was a market for this and my alphabet designs soon evolved into clouds, stars, dogs and bunnies for my daughter’s nursery. This became the start of our Marquee Art collection.

Your work is so visually attractive and pretty universal. Where does your inspiration come from?

Everywhere. I think about my business all the time. My brain never turns off. When I come across stationery that I like, I reach out to the designer and ask if they’d be interested in a collaboration. An example would be the Avocuddle stuffy toy made by Queenie’s Cards. It’s super adorable, so now we have a marquee version of her Avocuddle in our store.

It sounds like a ton of fun to be able to flex your creativity after all those years of crunching numbers – tell us about another favourite part about your business.

My favourite part of running a business is not knowing what will happen next. I hate redundancy and repetition and love spontaneity. I also know that you can plan the heck out of everything but ultimately, what happens at the end of the day is completely out of your control.   That thrill of just following your heart without knowing what’s at the end of it is what I find most fascinating about running a business.
I also get great enjoyment out of seeing an idea come to life.  I love seeing people’s reaction when they see my work. We do the One of A Kind Show every year. Our booth literally stops people in their tracks as they are walking by. It makes me happy because my work actually impacted someone, even for just a brief moment.

So we’ve talked about your passion for what you do, but as any business-owner and parent knows – it takes a shitload of background work to get things to even come close to looking functional on the surface. What’s your typical day like?

On weekdays, I wake up at 6:30 a.m. Usually, Albert (my husband) is already out the door because he works downtown and has a 1.5 hour commute. I wake up Blythe because she takes the longest to get ready. Blythe and Daryl (my 10 month old) share a room so while getting Blythe ready, I am praying that Daryl doesn’t wake up. On a good day, I will have Blythe all dressed and seated downstairs for breakfast by 7:15 and then I race upstairs to get myself ready. At this point, Daryl usually wakes up so I get him ready and downstairs too. I hook myself up to pump while feeding Daryl and eating my own breakfast. We try to get out the door by 8:30 but this rarely happens. It is usually closer to 8:50. The teachers have hinted many times that I should drop her off earlier. I have tried but things just seem to drag out in the mornings and I honestly don’t see myself waking up any earlier than 6:30 a.m.By around 4pm, I usually stop work and go pick-up Blythe from school. I grab Albert from the station and we all head home. We make dinner while the kids entertain themselves and we try to have food on the table by 6pm. We all have dinner together. This is my favourite part of the day because Blythe is such a talker now and she just fills us with so many stories about her day. And Daryl loves eating and it is so much fun watching him cram his mouth with food. After dinner, we go straight upstairs to begin bedtime routine. If my husband isn’t busy working on marquees, he will come upstairs to help out. We usually start with Daryl. His head stinks because he is wearing a correctional helmet to reshape his flat head. Albert cleans his helmet and gives him a bath. And I take Blythe for a shower. Daryl gets a milk top-up and story time with daddy. Blythe gets milk and story time with mommy. And then lights out. Nowadays, I jump back on my computer to research schools for Blythe. Albert usually does the dishes and then is off working on marquees. I am usually passed out by 11pm.

Your days are jam packed, girl! How do you carve out time for yourself and Albert?

Time for myself means listening to my favourite podcasts while driving to and from school, or while showering. Time for myself means reading a book while doing my last pump of the day. I try to fill my day with pockets of enjoyment here and there, which is usually layered over something else that needs to get done. And I don’t mind this. I am a doer by trait. I like doing things and keeping myself busy. With the big move happening now, I am finding so much enjoyment out of purging because I love purging. If I can fit in a 30 minute purging session in my day, I am happy and I feel fulfilled. That sense of fulfilment when I am able to get things done within my day is my biggest motivator to keep me going. Sure there are times when I feel completely exhausted and my head is spinning from over-multitasking. That is when the meltdowns occur, and then I talk it out with my husband. And then I’m ready to do it all over again the next day! As a couple, we really just enjoy spending time together vegging out in front of the TV with pizza. That is actually a perfect date night for us.

Podcasts while showering? You are the ultimate multitasker.

I am! I’ve done it all. I’ve even pumped breastmilk while driving.

QUEEN! We bow down to you.

With Blythe I sometimes had to pump 8 times a day – it just became a necessity to fit it in around other daily tasks otherwise I’d be out so much time.

We find it totally inspiring. We all do what we have to do, to provide for ourselves and our families, right? Speaking of inspiration, if you could meet anyone, who would it be?

Marie Forleo. She is a business coach and I have been following her for years. I watch her videos, I take her courses and I listen to her podcasts. I would love to meet her and tell her how appreciative I am of all her teachings and guidance.

One thing Marie Forleo talks about often is how to be productive and organized. Do you have any tips on how you stay organized?

As you can tell from our place, we have given up on “organization”.  During my pre-marriage and pre-kid days, I used to be super organized. I was such a perfectionist. But now, I have gotten used to the chaos. Sure, it stresses me out to see the mess everywhere but I also feel that if I can train my mind to be okay with mess in my life, then it makes me a stronger person...because if business has taught me anything, it is that I cannot control everything. Things happen and things get really messy sometimes even if you did everything you possibly can to avoid it.
This is also why I love purging and I love minimalist living.  The less you have, the less mess you are capable of creating.

It’s funny because I’m the same way. I’ve absolutely learned to embrace the chaos. What about with work? Do you have organization tips?

When it comes to work, I try to stay organized and on top of things. I am far from perfect. I put everything on my calendar and I set reminders on my phone. It also helps that I work with other people who are organized. My friendor who does all the cutting for us knows that I am forgetful. He keeps me on track and sends me reminders all the time. That is why building a team that I know I can count on where I fall short is important to me.

Team work makes the dream work! With having kids, especially, and childcare.

For sure. It definitely applies to childcare. Right now, Blythe attends a full-day preschool that is about 15 mins away, which is great. But this might end when we move to Vancouver. Finding a full-day Montessori in Vancouver is proving to be a challenge as most of them are half day only.  So I’ll have to figure out how to occupy her time for the rest of the day when we get over there.
Daryl is with me all the time. My parents come over to play with him, bring me lunch and help me with packing. This also ends when we move to Vancouver because my parents have no intentions of moving to Vancouver with us. But as Marie Forleo says, everything is figuroutable. I’m sure the pieces will fall into place somehow and life moves on.

That’s a great attitude. You’ve got such a “go-with-the-flow” perspective that I think a lot of us strive towards. Having said that, what are some challenges you’re currently facing as a parent and entrepreneur? Things that you’re struggling with?

This is a loaded question. There are many many many challenges I face as a mompreneur. Guilt is probably the biggest challenge. The guilt comes in two ways. There is the normal guilt when I don’t spend enough time with my kids. When at home, I am almost always working on my business and I leave Daryl to play on his own on the floor. When Blythe was a newborn, I had just started up Pulp Function and it wasn’t so busy. I brought her to yoga classes, music classes and playgroups. With Daryl, because we’ve gotten so much busier (did I mention I started another business called Rugs by Roo?), I haven’t brought him to anything. He just tags along with me while I run errands, do drop offs, pick ups, supply runs, etc. Thank goodness he is a good sleeper in the car and he generally plays well on his own.
The second aspect of guilt is financial. While we are still able to provide for the family and afford preschool for Blythe, it is a constant struggle financially. The guilt comes from not seeing financial stability with my business yet and wondering if I am putting my family at risk because I have chosen the entrepreneurial path instead of a steady, lucrative accounting job. Maybe if I had a corporate job, I could afford a bigger house, more toys, more after-school activities, etc etc etc. I know it takes time to build a business and I am doing all the right things to get us there. But I just wish it could come sooner because I am a very impatient person and self-doubt isn’t always easy to overcome.

We hear you. The struggle is so real when it comes to guilt. Ultimately we’ve found that embracing the things that fuel your passion, which is what you’re doing, makes you a happier person – which translates to being a better parent, which typically means the family unit overall is happier. If you’re doing what you love and feeling fulfilled, you’re winning at life already.

To stay connected with what Sandy’s up to – check out her two businesses Pulp Function and Rugs by Roo. Good luck in Vancouver, Tam Family!

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal