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Astra and her husband, Al have been running Itty Bitty Book Co. together, since 2013. They both quit their jobs and worked full time on this business when their son was just three months old. They aim to make their company 100% carbon neutral and 100% of their products are made in Ireland. 

We chatted to Astra about how they got started and how they manage their work/life balance.

What inspired you to start Itty Bitty Book Co.?

Itty Bitty Book Co is the amalgamation of my positivity, creativity and my husband, Al’s design skills. I made the very first Positivity Book as a gift for my sister and I just loved the process of creating something that's sole purpose was to make someone smile, feel loved and inspired!
I’ve always had a strong interest in positive psychology. Throughout my life, people close to me have suffered from mental illness and depression. From these experiences I’ve become acutely aware of the struggles people go through but I’ve also seen what a big impact small gestures can have. Our range of inspirational quote cards and gifts are designed to be given to happy people and people going through hard times, because we all have ups and downs, and we could all use more happy moments!

You often sell your work at St Georges Market, what’s it like being surrounded by a community of creative industries?

We have a permanent stall at St.Georges Market, Belfast on Saturdays and Sundays every week. When we first started Itty Bitty, the market was like our lifeline, it provided a steady income (we’d quit our jobs and jumped with both feet into entrepreneurial life!), opportunity to engage directly with customers, hear feedback and make some lifelong friends! It has really been a big part of our lives these last five years and it’s something we still value.
It’s easy to get cabin fever when you’re starting out so having a reason to get out of the house two days a week was fab! The first few years we also brought our son, Ché Phoenix with us, that was a brilliant conversation starter with customers (some days I think he made more sales than me!), I think all the diversity and engagement at such a young age helped him to become the chatty confident little boy he is today. Who knows maybe in a few more years we can take the weekends off and he can run the stall!

How do you and your husband manage your work/life balance with a young child and a business?

I feel like we’ve had a few different stages of family/business. The first stage was really us finding our feet, in both worlds. There was a lot of excitement and passion but very little sleep or progress happening! Once we started to forget about the idea of a perfect work/life balance and find what worked for us, things got easier.
There isn’t a secret formula and it’s not like we have help in terms of lots of family around. It’s really just been a case of learning as we go, working seriously hard and trying different things during different kid phases. Once Ché Phoenix started sleeping through the night we started something we call the '5am Club’ which is us both getting up and working on the business from 5am. It sounds crazy but it is incredible how much extra work you can get done in a week with an extra 6 hours each day! We don’t always get up a 5am but we know that extra time is there if we need it. 

Any projects you’re working on at the moment that you’d like to share with us?

Currently Itty Bitty Book Co is working on the re-launch of our Gratitude Journal. We launched a 21 Day Gratitude Challenge last Autumn and it was a huge hit. We’ve taken all the feedback from that and are in the process of designing an even more awesome journal. We’re taking the opportunity to add in an additional feature that's been proven to increase happiness levels too, so I’m really excited about that!
A little further down the road we have plans to bring our Itty Bitty Books to America! Since we already have a large fan base and customer base there is a natural step for us… Watch this space!