July 17, 2022
Listen to the episode here!
This episode was originally released March 5th, 2022.
Sarah: Hello, and welcome back to the Marshall Arts and Crafts Podcast. I’m Sarah Deacon. I’m your host. And today I have guests with me, two guests at once, which I haven’t done before. Austin and Monica Mangelson are graphic designers and they help new businesses and creatives to get clarity on their brand values.
They build bomb websites and branding in a fraction of the time in a way that truly represents you and your business. The Mangelsons are college sweethearts, and they’re currently traveling the world in constant search of adventure, good food, and new friends. You’ll be able to find them online at aandmdigitaldesign.com to hop on a discovery call and talk about your business goals regarding your website creation and branding.
Austin and Monica have also incorporated some of the tenants of Tae Kwon Do into their business journey. And I’m excited to talk to them more about that. So welcome to the show, Austin and Monica.
Austin: Hi Sarah. Thank you. We are super, super excited to be talking with you today.
Sarah: Great. So we were just chatting a little bit before I hit record about your Tae Kwon Do journey. So tell me more about that for our listeners, about the history you have with Tae Kwon Do and how you sort of brought those tenants into the business journey with the graphic design.
Austin: Yeah. My whole family did Tae Kwon Do. My parents joined with my older siblings first. I’m the fourth of six. And so my older siblings started and then it kind of became like the cool thing to do in my family was we joined Tae Kwon Do and go to practices and stuff with everybody.
So I joined when I was pretty young, maybe eight or so. It was fun. We loved it. We all ended up getting our black belts. I ended up getting a second-degree black belt. Most of my older siblings ended up getting a third degree.
My little brother, the youngest in the family, started in what’s called kinder-kicks.
Sarah: That would be our little ninjas in our program.
Austin: Yeah, there you go. They’re so cute.
Sarah: Yeah. My youngest started when he was three in the little ninjas, so yeah.
Austin: Yeah, it’s cute.
We all kind of ended by the time that he was working up towards. The higher degrees or the higher belt colors. So we were all kind of done. We kind of faded out of that part of our life. Cuz all my siblings moved on, went to college, got married, and such, but he felt really bad cuz he was the only one that was not a black belt in the family.
So he worked really hard through high school and he ended up getting it. So now all eight of us are black belts in TaeKwonDo.
Sarah: So that just says a lot about your family culture, right there. Just the fact that every single member of an eight-person household had made that commitment and not just to do it as an activity, but to continue and pursue the black belt and then the higher degree ranking of black belt and beyond. So that’s, that’s really awesome. I love that.
Austin: Yeah. That family culture that you were talking about, that’s been part of our Tae Kwon Do journey. We are all really close and we all get along really well and enjoy being together. And so that was a really fun activity for us, that we all could kind of bond over and have in common. But the funny thing is, my family loves to wrestle. Every time we get together for holidays or whatever there’s wrestling going on. But you would never think that we did Tae Kwon Do because we don’t use it in our wrestling.
Monica: His family fights dirty. They don’t play fair!
Austin: When it comes to wrestling all of those Tae Kwon Do skills, just go out the window.
Sarah: That’s really interesting. And I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that you all know that you can do that, but then that’s not the intention behind it. Wrestling is a different way of connecting than the formal practice of the martial art.
Austin: Yeah, maybe. So in Tae Kwon Do, there are five tenants. And I, I remember every single time you go to practice, you recite them at the very beginning of class. And I think you recite them at the very end of class. And those tenants are courtesy, integrity, perseverance self-control, and indomitable spirit. And it’s one of those things where I didn’t really think about what those things meant. I just remember you’ve recited it so much it’s just stuck in your head.
And now that I’m older, I go back and think about those things and how those different tenants have played out in my life or in our business. And I feel like if they just kind of take on new meaning when you’re older.
Sarah: You grew up in that culture, you grew up with it, surrounded by it, immersed in it. That’s normal to you. Whereas tenants like that, that actually show up in behavior and choices and how people move in the world, those tend to be a little bit rarer in the, were out in the world, you know, it’s, that’s sort of seen more as an extraordinary thing that was just normal to you because your family was just in it and that’s just how you grew up.
So how could you not bring all of that into the other aspects of your life as you went through your journey and then now to starting your business?
So talk a bit about the journey of starting your business. Tell me about how you got started and what made you decide to work together as spouses who have known each other since college.
Monica: So just really quick as the outsider here who like never grew up with these values, I definitely agree with what you’re saying about a lot of people don’t grow up with these values and stuff. That really stood out to me when I met Austin with his family that, probably without even realizing it, they have incorporated these things into their lives.
And I actually have a list here so I don’t forget what they are cause I’m just not used to it, but it’s so cool to see it become ingrained in your person through this martial arts training.
Sarah: I appreciate you sharing that. Monica. Thank you. That’s beautiful. And I think that’s what attracts a lot of so-called outsiders to martial arts. That’s why we watch the karate kid and Cobra Kai because there is something about a martial artist that’s different than your average person.
And we can incorporate parts of that without doing and practicing the physical martial art by applying and living those values and behavior.
Monica: So after graduating college, our need for adventure kicked in. So we joined the Peace Corps. And we were all set to go out to Mozambique, Africa. We sold all of our stuff. I had everything packed and then COVID of course hit.
Sarah: Okay, so that’s kinda not that long ago.
Monica: No, no, it was not.
Sarah: I didn’t wanna assume how young you were, because it’s hard to tell over zoom.
Austin: We’re both 25. We graduated, like Monica said we had sold our housing contract. We had someone lined up to buy our car. Our plans for the next two years were basically set. Actually, almost two and a half because you do a few months of training before you actually start.
And then COVID happened. So we kind of ended up in a bit of a scramble to try and figure out what we were gonna do. We ended up moving back with my parents for a little bit in California. We just started searching for jobs wherever we could find them. I ended up working as a waiter at a Mexican restaurant and we both ended up working in senior care, doing home visits.
Monica: It was hard. That’s a whole different set of skills.
Austin: It wears you down very fast. Especially during this time, during COVID it was difficult. And so while we were working, Monica started thinking. Monica was a lot faster at saying, “you know what? We need to come up with a new plan, move on.” I just fell into a depression, where I was just kind of going through the motions and not really planning much anymore in my head. I was like “well, this is what it is now.”
And so Monica started looking up different jobs that we could do.
And she found a course that taught you how to become a virtual assistant. It’s kind of funny how you tell this. She says that she had to look it up in secret because she didn’t think I was gonna be on board.
Monica: For a while, I had to plan it out before I could present it to him. I had a secret Pinterest board and all these things were hidden.
Austin: She pitched an idea to me. She’s like, “Hey look, we can take this course. And then we can work online. And you know, we can help other businesses with their organization, with their management, with their social media.”
And eventually, she convinced me. So we purchased the course and we did kind of an unorthodox transition where we didn’t start working part-time while we were working on our VA business, we just went cold turkey.
We quit our jobs, started taking this VA course and then started looking for clients. And this was the end of 2020, the beginning of 2021. We got our first clients working as virtual assistants. And then all of last year we ended up having a bunch of different clients from every industry.
We worked with like mental health coaches, wellness clinics, food bloggers, sleep coaches for babies, and yoga studios. We did a lot.
But we still didn’t quite feel like this was what we really loved doing or where our passions were. We felt like it was a step in the right direction, but we hadn’t quite found it.
And so we sat down and we both wrote a list of all the things that we enjoyed doing as virtual assistants. They have a bunch of different tasks. It’s kind of a catchall for businesses. And so we wrote down all the things that we liked doing and then compared our list. And we had a couple of things in common. One of them was graphic design.
And so we decided to go for that one. And you know, we learned more about that and started focusing on that with our projects. And then the end of last year is when we officially relaunched our business as website and branding designers.
Sarah: That’s fantastic. Now, did you go to school for art, graphic design, anything like that?
Monica: I took several graphic design classes in my major. I’m actually an international studies major, but I had a lot of extracurricular room in my schedule. And so I took a lot of graphic design and business classes, having no idea that this was gonna happen. But other than that, we’ve taken some online classes from other web designers and stuff and that’s kind of where we’ve learned.
Austin: I took one art class in college. And that’s about it.
Sarah: I was just wondering, cuz you met in college, you were college sweethearts. So it was a wonder of mine if it had been part of your college experience. You took the classes, not knowing that this is where it would lead you, but maybe on some “I’m tapped into the energy of the universe” level, maybe you did know something. I feel like things happen for a reason.
Sarah: So what is it like working together as a couple?. And how has that been? You’ve been doing it for over a year now, so what’s your experience been that way?
Austin: It’s the best. It’s so much fun working with your spouse. It’s different because most people don’t work with their spouses.
Sarah: I dunno if I could. I honestly don’t know if I could and I don’t think he listens to the show, but maybe he agrees.
Austin: The one thing I miss the most is texting Monica throughout the day when she’s away, being like, “Hey, I’m thinking of you,” or “I saw this video”. We’re always together, so I just show her cause she’s sitting right next to me. It’s fun. How would you describe it?
Monica: It definitely has its challenges. We work with a lot of business owners who go through the pivoting process or they really are focused on what they want. And that’s a lot easier when you’re the sole business owner.
But when you have two different people with two different ideas and thought processes, that was a big process for us to decide to pivot our business and to make sure that both of us were on the same page and we’re constantly talking and trying to communicate where each of us is thinking and feeling, and where this business is going so that we can always be on the same page. It’s so easy to think you’re on the same page and not be on the same page.
But the benefit of that is that it’s constantly forcing us to improve. It’s constantly forcing us to work on our processes and our designs. We try to produce work that we’re both really proud of. Because we both have different perspectives, that can take a lot of work sometimes to get to a point where we’re both saying “that’s the one”.
Austin: It’s been a big help for our business because we both propel each other to do better and be better. And then we have a built-in person who kind of reviews your work.
If you ask any brand designer what the hardest project is, I would bet a lot of them would say their own branding is probably the most difficult. It’s easier to build a brand for someone else than it is for yourself. But then when you both have to work on that, it’s tough.
Sarah: I’ve noticed that even as a coach, it’s, fairly easy for me to see what somebody else might need to work on. And then looking at myself, I can see maybe what I need to work on, but can’t necessarily connect the dots to get myself there. And that’s why I have coaches.
Austin: It’s really helped us in our relationship. We’ve learned a lot of really good communication. And just how to work together, how to be together. For example, sometimes I’m really in the mood to work and Monica needs a break or vice versa. You’re at different flows throughout the day.
We have to learn how to match those and how to work together when we’re in different zones of focus and such. It’s helped our business and it’s helped our relationship.
Sarah: Do you each have a style or flavor you bring to the designs? Are there some designs that only Monica will work on or some designs that only Austin does? Or do you work on all the projects together?
Austin: Most everything we’ve worked on together, I’d say.
Monica: We will do different parts. For example, I’m a very big picture person, so I will generally kind of put together the general flow of the website and the structure.
And then Austin is really detail-oriented, so he’ll do the logo because that’s really intricate and my brain doesn’t do that. And then he’ll go back through my designs and make sure everything’s like super picky.
Austin: I’ll tweak the alignment and spacing and stuff after she’s done the main things.
Monica: So in that way, we work on the same project, but we have different sections, different zones of genius.
Sarah: That’s that’s great. Circling back to the tenants of TaeKwonDo, the communication style, the respect, the integrity that you have to bring, even just in your relationship with each other, navigating also the business and also your life together, I can see that.
Austin: It’s been a sub-context, an underlying thing that’s there. Again, I don’t really think about it consciously very often, but I definitely think it’s there.
Sarah: So, you are no longer in California, right? What made you decide to leave and what are you up to right now as far as your traveling?
Austin: I feel like there are a couple of reasons. We both really like to move around and travel. One of the main reasons that we started our business was to be location-independent. It’s kind of a word that a lot of people like to use, but being able to still work on our business and earn a living while moving.
We’ve had lots of friends and family who have house projects that they’re working on, or friends and family who live in different states who we felt like we want or need to go visit for different reasons. And so we’re able to move around.
Just recently we left California to go visit Monica’s family in Washington. Now we’re in Idaho living with a friend for a couple of weeks.
Monica: We also really like exploring new countries and new cultures. We spent four months in Guatemala. We’re hoping to get over towards Greece and spend some time in Greece and really be able to immerse yourself in the culture instead of just going for like a week trip. So we love that ability to stay for extended periods of time in different places.
Sarah: I’m much more of a homebody. I like where I’m at. I don’t really feel the pull to go many other places.
I have some family in other states, as we were talking about earlier. We like to take family vacations, but I’m definitely not in that same mindset of that exploration and immersive into other cultures kind of thing. And I think that’s really fascinating.
So you don’t have a place of your own, you’re staying with friends or family, or do you have like an RV or what?
Austin: No, we don’t really have any place right now. We have an eventual goal to be able to have our own place, like a home base, that we live out of. But as of now, we don’t have that.
Monica: Yeah. All of our stuff is packed away in Austin’s parent’s shed, which they love.
Sarah: They know you have to come back then.
Monica: I’m pretty sure that’s why they do it. We take our suitcases and our laptops and we just go and it’s awesome. I love it.
Austin: The logistics can be kind of tricky. If I’m going to sit down for a couple of hours and work on a project, I work a lot better if I have an office space and a desk and things like that. And we don’t always have that, which can be really tricky. So we do our best to work around that and make that happen when possible.
If it’s something that you wanna do, keep in mind why you’re doing it. And then you find ways to make the details work out.
Sarah: Awesome. That brings me to another question. Say more about why you’re doing it.
Austin: Well, I would say we have a couple of different whys. I went to school for exercise physiology. I loved my math and calculus classes in college and high school, so I’ve always been more of a math, sciencey kind of person.
And I feel like only in the past couple of years I’ve really started diving more into the creative aspect of work and design and stuff and I’ve loved it!
One of my favorite things is to come up with an idea and then build it and create it and then end up with something that’s never existed before. Have something totally brand new. It’s yours that you made and then it’s even better when you share that with someone and they also love it, or they like what you’ve done and that’s just one of the best feelings I ever.
Sarah: I share that sentiment about creativity. That’s one of my core values as I shared with you earlier.
Monica: We always joke that we have gypsy souls. I get bored and so we wanna go explore new cultures and stuff. Another huge reason is that we plan to adopt our kids and we really feel very strongly that we want our kids to be tied back to their culture and feel very connected to whatever culture they come from.
And so for us, it’s really important to get to know those cultures. And there’s so much you can learn. The world is the best teacher and there’s so much to learn from different people and different ways of life. And we love it.
Austin: One of my favorite things about traveling is researching and really diving into a place. Like right now I’m really on a Greek kick. So I’ve been you’re reading books written by and about Plato and Aristotle and Greek culture and history and all that stuff. And I’ve really dived into it.
And then once we go there to be able to walk around and, and stand in the places that I’ve been reading about. We’ve done that with Guatemala, we’ve done that with a couple of different countries. We learn about it. And we learn about their customs and the culture and their traditions.
And then we go and we live there and we talk to the people about it. And sometimes it’s different than what you read about, but to live in a place that you’ve learned about and then to interact with those people is amazing.
Sarah: Yeah. I would imagine the experience is often very different. There’s a lot more depth when you actually are present in there with the people than just reading about it. Just like any other experience, you can read about martial arts, but until you actually feel it in your body, it’s gonna be different.
So I love that. And just listening to talk, I knew this would be a good conversation because hearing Austin say that the creativity and that experience of creating is such a big part of the why. And then Monica to say, oh, well, connecting with these people and cultures. I think I’ve mentioned creativity and connection are top my top two values.
I definitely resonate with what both of you are saying. I definitely think that human beings are much more alike than we are different and that there is something that we can learn from everybody.
Austin: Totally. I 100% agree.
Sarah: Yeah. What does balance really look like for you? Because you are married, you are traveling together. You are in a different place than a home. What does balance look like for you two? Do you need time apart? Do you have different interests that you pursue or do you pursue the same hobbies as well?
Monica: This is actually an analogy that David A Bedard used in a conference. Have you ever seen those like clowns that have the plates on the stick that spin? And they normally have an insane amount of them. So balance is keeping all of your plates spinning. Each of these plates can represent different things like your relationship, your work, your fun hobbies, your creativity, your friendships, all that kind of stuff. So to keep all of those plates balanced, you need to go and give them a spin every once in a while. And sometimes that looks like “oh, I need a lot more attention to my business today. So I need to spend another day there”. Or “oh, my family’s having a crisis. I need to go spin that plate and I need to be there.” And sometimes you can spend multiple plates in a day, and sometimes you need to be able to focus just on one specific plate, one specific aspect, the one that’s wobbling.
So be really aware of what aspects you do have in your life that you need to balance and pay attention to when they start to wobble or when you just need to give ’em a little spin.
Austin: I love that analogy because it brings in this aspect of every day is gonna look different, depending on what’s happening in your life, what needs attention, and what needs to be focused on. So it’s not cut and dry.
You just have to be aware. I think you need to sit down and write out your list of what your priorities are and what your plates are that you’re spinning and then be attentive to how things are going. Check-in every now and again. If it plates wobbling, give that a little bit more dedication or attention.
Monica: More specifically in our lives, what that looks like is we’ll sit down at the beginning of the day, sometimes at the end of the day, and we’ll go through our to-do list and what needs to be done.
And we talk about things like “how are you doing?, “can I help you with anything?”. Austin and I definitely have different hobbies that we pursue. But we’ll support each other in those hobbies. And then we try to do date nights. We built our business in a way that we can be really flexible.
So for example, the other week I was having a really rough day and Austin was like, “okay, I see that you need some help. So let’s not work today. Let’s, go on a walk.” So we spent the day just being together and dealing with different things that were going on instead of forcing ourselves to work when we weren’t quite in that creative space.
Are there any other applications that you feel like apply?
Austin: No, that was good. That was great, that was a very recent example, cause that was like last week.
Another example from yesterday is the friends that we’re staying with ended up taking the day off of work today. And so we. We stayed up a lot later last night than we normally do hanging out with them and spending time with them.
Then we ended up sleeping in this morning, which is really nice, but sometimes you can beat yourself up about that. I try and get up and, you know, get going and then start my work day by about nine. But today we didn’t even get out of bed till like almost 10 o’clock. But it was in order to focus on our friendship and build that connection with the people that we’re staying with.
So last night, we spun that play a little bit. We built that bond and now we’re getting back to work.
Sarah: Right. Yeah. I feel like, especially when we’re working at home, a lot of us are doing that these days, is we’re either at home or on the road or wherever we can work wherever location independent, right, that the lines between work and leisure can become blurred without that intentional clocking out and saying, “Hey, I just wanna hang out with you. My husband, not you my colleague.”
When you talked about the plate spinning, I did wanna say that that is how one of our chief instructors had talked about how to instruct karate classes, especially with the younger kids, the 3, 4, 5, and 6-year-olds. It’s about spinning the plate, giving that kid a compliment, and then going over here and correcting that kid’s stance.
And then, and it’s a constant motion in the class of the spinning the plates, cuz each student is one of the plates, essentially. So I thought that was really fun that you brought that in as your balance. It’s funny. I mean, it shouldn’t be funny to me anymore, but that is how martial arts align so well with other things that happen in life and in other areas.
Sarah: I really like this question and it’s one of yours. So hopefully you have a good answer about investing in yourself in your business. And you can also maybe touch on some of the lessons that you’ve learned along the way. Cuz you know, I have a business, I love working with entrepreneurs and talking with them cuz the stories are all as unique as we are, but there are a lot of similar threads, right? So talk about investing in your business and then some of the lessons you’ve learned.
Austin: I think there are a couple of different ways to invest. My first thought was how you can invest money into your business. So in our example, when we started, we purchased a VA course, and that was a few hundred dollars and that’s kind of what got the ball rolling and got this whole thing started.
But even more recent than that, just the other week we purchased a course for designers. It’s a business and marketing course. So that was a fairly large expense for us, but we knew that if we put that money into it and then put the time into taking this course and really apply what this person is teaching, then the dividends that it’s gonna pay off later down the road are gonna be greater than what we spent in the class.
And sometimes that’s really hard to convince yourself of when you have to put in a chunk of money into a class like this. It’s kind of hard to let go of that, but knowing that later down the road, the skills and the knowledge that we’re gonna learn will help us propel our business.
With X number of clients, we’ll make that money back and then some. It’s really important to be able to take that stance and look at it that way and say, “you know what, it’s worth spending this money now because later down the road it’s gonna help us even more.”
Monica: So often I think we see the overnight success stories online and we see these prodigy people who are like, “oh, I pulled in a million dollars overnight”. But we don’t see all of the investment that they had to put into their business. We don’t see all of the hard work, all the sleepless nights, all the tears, we don’t see all of the money that went into it first.
And so people get really frustrated, I’ve noticed, with their business when it’s not doing so well overnight, or like they think it should be. That’s a really big thing that we’ve tried to incorporate into our business, is taking the time to realize that our business needs something to grow.
It needs part of us. It needs part of our money. We need to invest ourselves as well as our money into it in order for it to be successful.
That’s something that we love talking about with different business owners, whether that looks like outsourcing, or hiring a coach, or if it’s getting a class and spending more time and working 10-hour days for a little bit to really give it the extra boost.
Sarah: Do you find then that when you do invest financially in a course or a program, with the intention of growth, that then allows you to invest more of yourself into that process?
Austin: Yeah. It’s that idea of if you buy something with your own money, you’re gonna take a lot better care of it. When we buy this course, now we’ve put our own money into it, and we are going to take a lot more care to make sure we take those steps that it recommends, or to spend more time on it.
Sometimes we’ll work late into the night because we know that it needs to get done. So, yeah, I definitely think that when you put that money into it, then it forces you to invest other parts of yourself apart from your money into making that happen.
Sarah: Yeah. I found that to be true as well. So thank you for reinforcing that and to have a couple of 25-year-olds know and understand that it’s not a frivolous, party-time expense. It’s a real, tangible investment in your future and in your growth, and your business.
Sarah: We are sort of coming down to the end, so I have a lot of episodes and talk a lot about personal growth, investing in yourself, growing a business, or growing personally and professionally based on all your experience thus far with having your business and the people you get to talk to.
Is there any specific, small challenge that you would like to maybe leave my audience with that could make their life 1% better?
Austin: I wanna challenge anyone who’s listening to sit down and develop a business plan for something you wanna do.
Whether it’s something that you’ve always thought about doing, like “someday I’m gonna open a bakery, but right now I’m in this accounting job.” Or maybe it’s just some hobby that you really love doing, sit down and think about what would it look like? Ask yourself “If I were to turn this into a business, how would I do it? What services would I provide? What products could I sell? What connections would I use?”. And I don’t mean you gotta go start your business. And sometimes starting a business is not what’s best for you. Sometimes it’s good for some people and, and not good for others.
But I think it’s a fun exercise to sit down and think “if I were to create my dream job, doing whatever it is I wanted to do, what would that look like?” And just let yourself dream a little bit, like a tangible daydream.
Monica: And maybe to take that one step farther. Maybe think about what your life would look like with that business, what kind of business would you wanna have? Would you wanna only work four days a week? Would you wanna work half days? And formulate that plan.
Sarah: There’s the big picture girl right there. I love that.
Well, thank you so much, Austin and Monica, it has been so fun to talk to you. I am so excited to stay in touch and follow your journey as your business grows.
Where can people find you? I mentioned the website at the beginning. Is there any other information or places you wanted to share to direct anybody after this?
Austin: The website is a great place. It’s aandmdigitaldesign.com Also, if you wanna come hang out with us on Instagram, it’s @aandm.digitaldesign. Those are two great places to learn more about us. We’re always we’re super open if you wanna send us a message about anything, just get in touch.
And thank you, Sarah. It’s been awesome having a conversation with you and we love this podcast that you host. It’s been fun chatting.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s awesome. I appreciate you being here and thank you again so much for your time.