• Hoboken Girl of the Week: Morgan McCue of Little Sister Studios

    For 12 years, Morgan McCue lived in Hoboken, but over a year ago, she came home crying for the umpteenth time from her self-described miserable job at the Daily Mail. She knew what had to be done. “My husband and I decided enough is enough. I quit. I quit my job leading the department I had single-handedly launched in 2012. It was beautiful. I had no plan,” she recalls. Months later, after “remembering” she went to school for art, Morgan started her own company Little Sister Studios – specializing in wedding invites, pet portraits, people portraits, personalized art for children’s rooms, and stationery. Here is a bit more about her journey to entrepreneurship.

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    When it comes to being inspired, Morgan found that her inspiration to create art and the inspiration to create a business were quite different. “I graduated with an art degree,” she remembers, “but for many years after college the inspiration to create eluded me. I always thought art had to have a message and that true artists created in a sort of desperate form of self-expression —like they all felt the way Stevie Ray Vaughan looked when he played guitar.” But it was only when her friends started having babies that she began wanting to create again, but this time with a completely different motivation. “The pressure was off because all I wanted to do was paint a pretty little something to hang over the crib. It didn’t need to have meaning or even ME anywhere in it.”

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    About Art as Expression

    At some point along her journey, Morgan realized an important element of her talent that would shape the mission of her new business – her ability to turn other people’s visions into works of art. “I’ve come to realize art isn’t my voice – I’m actually pretty good at expressing myself with words – and that I’m driven not by some inner possession but by other people. I like taking a customer’s idea {‘I want a painting of a constellation map’}, pulling it out of their head and making it real. I’m inspired by the desire to manifest the imaginations of others.”

    ^Original watercolor by Morgan

    About Inspiration for Starting Her Business

    But for Morgan, pulling inspiration from the thoughts of others doesn’t end at creating art. It’s also what drives her success. “I wish I could say the inspiration to create my own business comes from the love and support of my family,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, they are SO supportive, but I take my motivation right from the chip on my shoulder. I’m inspired more by the people who think I can’t than the people who think I can. It’s sick, I know. Every time I feel slighted or underestimated it puts a fire under my butt and I start humming ‘watch me Nae Nae. Ooh watch me, watch me’… The odds are stacked against small businesses, so clearly I was made to be a small business owner.”

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    ^Morgan and her mama

    What are your goals for this year?

    This year is all about growth for Morgan – and one reoccurring focus. “My goal this year is to become more business savvy and less afraid of self-promotion and cold-calling. I want to generate recurring revenue from my products like prints and stationery so that my business is not largely contingent on custom commissions. Part of that is learning what sells, and to help in that process I want to get my products in more stores on both sides of the Hudson. Which leads me right back to cold calling…”

    ^Some of Morgan’s custom work

    What’s a typical day look like for you as an entrepreneur? 

    “I get up when I hear my husband grinding the coffee beans, and after breakfast I take our dog, Cooper, on a long walk. We call it his ‘mommy walk’ because he’s so used to the routine by now he’s absolutely insistent that I take him {even though my husband and I both work from home}. Then I settle into my ‘office’ {i.e. the kitchen table}, turn on NPR and get to work. Mondays and Fridays are for business – editing my website, boosting my online presence with SEO, taking webinars, blogging, posting signs around town, running errands. Tuesday-Thursday I paint all day. Every day I break around 4pm to hit the gym or go for a run, then feed the dog, walk the dog, make dinner and start working again around 7:30 until about 10:30. Weekends are for projects like building a mini ‘studio’ out of cardboard to photograph my work.”

    ^Morgan specializes in custom dog portraits. Look at that tongue!

     

    What are the highs and lows of your job?

    It’s no surprise that Morgan loves the way her art makes others feel. “The highs of my job are making a customer happy. There’s a moment of dread between completing a painting and delivering it to a customer when I think, ‘what if they don’t like it?’ But then there’s the satisfaction of getting a genuine ‘OMG I LOVE IT’ from the customer that always follows. That’s the best.”

    But if you think everything about owning your own business is easy, Morgan describes the self-discipline and sacrifices it takes to make your own hours and work from home. “The lows of my job come with my struggle to reinvent myself and be taken as seriously as I was when I worked at a regular job in the city. Sometimes I think my friends assume I putz around all day, go to lunch, walk the dog, maybe paint a pet portrait. They don’t see how hard I’m working and how hard it is to forge my own path. Just because I can’t contribute anymore to the TGIF bitchfest about how much we hate our bosses doesn’t mean I didn’t have a long week. I’ve come to the revelation that success doesn’t have to be measured in misery and exhaustion. I can be successful AND happy. I can love my work.”

    I’ve come to the revelation that success doesn’t have to be measured in misery and exhaustion. I can be successful AND happy. I can love my work.

     

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    What has been the highlight in your career/life so far?

    “In September of 2015, my husband decided to take a month off from drinking. He’d done this before as a sort of cleanse so it wasn’t all that remarkable. But then it turned into two months, six months… a year went by. Eventually his friends stopped asking him when he was going to break the fast and I started wondering if we’d ever share that bottle of champagne we’d gotten as a wedding present. I thought, at this point, if he were ever going to break the streak it would have to be on a pretty momentous occasion.

    “Last September, I had my first booth at a craft fair in Park City, Utah. I worked really hard to prepare for it. Months. And it was a complete flop. I lost money. I was so disheartened. But in December, my mom’s friend, Regina, invited me to be a part of her trunk show in Dallas {my home town}. I didn’t have my hopes up, but I did have a lot of inventory left over from the Park City fair. Although the trunk show seemed slow, everyone who came bought something. Everyone. It was my biggest success and it rekindled my waning faith in myself and my business. That night, as I was boxing up all my art supplies, Rob walked in with two hefty glasses of Malbec. I stared at him, took my glass, then continued staring to see what he intended to do with the other glass. He looked at me, tipped the glass to clink with mine, smiled, nodded and took a sip. In that moment, I realized he WAS waiting for a momentous occasion and that this was it. He was proud of me. And I think he was most proud of me for being proud of myself. That felt really good.”

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    And what followed was a slew of commissioned pieces and creativity that has ranged from baby’s room watercolor pieces to cityscapes {or shore town} art.

    ^Asbury Park watercolor for a recent bride and groom.

    Of course we couldn’t let our HG of the Week get away with dropping knowledge about entrepreneurship but not about her favorite places in Hudson County. And since she’s lived here for over 12 years, we figured this wouldn’t be hard. Here goes:

    What is your favorite restaurant in the area?

    “Amanda’s is a home base because I worked there for so long. But I really like Anthony David’s, and I went to Grand Vin for the first time on my birthday in February; I was VERY impressed. Pricey, but delicious. They’re stepping up the culinary game in Hoboken {finally}.”

    What is your favorite boutique in Hoboken or Jersey City?

    Washington General Store – does that count? I love that store. Also, Galatea. I wish Galatea still meant the lingerie AND the home store because that’s what I think of when I think of Galatea {the home store is now Luna Rosa}.”

    What do you love most about Hoboken?

    “It’s the best of both worlds – big city meets small town. I love that I recognize nearly every face I see and also love that in minutes I can be in a place where no one knows I take Cooper out in my slippers and PJs sometimes. I also pity the fools who move to the big city with some die-hard idea about living IN the city. On those days, when I’ve felt less than inspired to go into the office, I would stare at the skyline, start humming a little Sinatra, put on my big girl panties and deal. Can’t do that when you’re in the middle of it. It’s bleak from that perspective.”

    When I’ve felt less than inspired to go into the office, I would stare at the skyline, start humming a little Sinatra, put on my big girl panties and deal. Can’t do that when you’re in the middle of it [in NYC]. It’s bleak from that perspective.

    What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County?

    “Strolling, running or drinking around Liberty State Park. It’s a great place run, a great place to bring Coop, a great place to have one of those massive cocktails at the Liberty House in one of their little personal gazebos {we got married there}.”

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    What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Hoboken/JC?

    “The Shipyard dog park. Frankly it’s pretty pathetic in terms of a park – no shade, no water, no real earth, tiny – but I’ve made some great friends and connections there. The dog park social club is such a unique experience you wouldn’t understand unless you’ve held a full conversation punctuated with ‘No! What are you eating?!’ and ‘No humping! Bad!’ without missing a beat.”

    What is your favorite place to work out in Hudson County?

    “I’m a runner so I love running along the water up to Weehawken, down to Pier A. For a real-deal full body workout, CKO. I taught there for years but seriously, there’s no better workout. You won’t get better results anywhere else. Not a pitch, just the truth.”

    Where do you go out with friends in the area?

    “Now that we’re older, we tend to go to each other’s apartments. That’s the beauty of Hoboken – it’s like a college campus for adults. I can realize at 6pm that I’m making enough dinner for an army, call my friends and hold an impromptu dinner party by 7pm.”

    What is something you think needs to come to Hoboken or Jersey City? (ex. Type of restaurant, business, etc)

    “This is really boring but why are the only two hardware stores downtown?? Within three blocks of each other? WTF.”

     

    To get in touch with Morgan:

    Website: littlesisterstudios.com
    Instagram: @littlesisterstudios
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littlesisterstudios/
    Contact: littlesisterstudios@gmail.com

    Want to be featured or nominate someone for as an upcoming Hoboken Girl of the Week? Email hello@hobokengirl.com about your story!


    Written by:

    Jen is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of HobokenGirl.com. She started the site to discover the wealth of fun things happening in Hoboken and Jersey City and surrounding Hudson County areas. When not planning the next Hoboken Girl event or #HobokenGirlHelps volunteer project, she can usually be found shopping at local boutiques, eating an Insta-worthy meal, walking her French bulldog Pierre + rescue pup Finn, or watching some really bad {but oh-so-good} reality TV and ordering takeout with her husband.


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