Having It All: The Great Adventure 6

Santina Cessor proves that motherhood and entrepreneurship go hand in hand

Webster Dictionary’s first full definition of the word adventure is, ‘an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks’.

How’s that for vague? Ask a friend what that means and she might say trying a new hairstyle; another might say real adventure requires a chunk of money and a plane ticket to someplace unpronounceable.

Santina Cessor admits she doesn’t know exactly what adventure looks like for everyone. But for her, it’s about balance.

A classically trained interior designer who made her mark in sales and then moved into the realm of design and architecture, Cessor owns Threads Studio, a boutique firm that specializes in brand positioning via storytelling.

“The projects I worked on took years to complete,” says Cessor. “And I realized that the customer’s story would often get lost in the process. But it’s through story that businesses connect with clients. I’ve always been entrepreneurial at heart and I saw this as a perfect way to combine my love of writing with my love of design.”

As a new mom, Cessor thought she’d found the elusive balance between home and work when her schedule allowed Fridays off and telecommuting on Tuesdays. Then she had an ah-ha moment.

“I don’t know what that looks like for everyone,” she says. “But I do know that after I had [her son] Frank and went back to work, I thought I had it made. That first year of my son’s life, I did my best to be a mom when I was with him and a professional when I was on the clock.”

She asked herself the question many working mothers have asked themselves: how can I fully concentrate on work when I’m away from my baby, and how can I fully concentrate on my baby when I’m away from work?

Instead of believing the only answer was to compartmentalize her roles as mother and designer, Cessor took a leap and created the reality she wanted. The result: a new business. Her partner: two-year-old Frank, who now accompanies her to meetings and spends his days with his mom, in her office.

“He grows because he sees me grow,” she says. “There is such a thing as having it all. The key is figuring out what that means for you individually.”

For Cessor it means digging into clients’ stories and bringing them to life, making time to volunteer in the community, and being fully present for Frank.

“I think one of the biggest surprises was how easy it was to integrate the different parts of my life once I went out on my own. Being in charge of my own time and being able to control how I spend it, means I can take him to the park and come back to projects at non-traditional hours.

The work benefits because I’m completely focused. I can get more done in three hours than I could in eight hours in an office.”

One of her keys to success, she says, is constant communication with clients, usually online.

“People are so understanding. They love that Frank is part of this and they know that the deadlines will be met because I’ve set that expectation.”

Another is relying on a strong network of support, including Cessor’s husband, Frank Cessor. His support and belief in her goals has made her success possible.

“I’m lucky because I have family who will help when I need help,” she says. “And I built a network of people who know and trust me and refer business my way. Very few people have had anything less than positive to say about Frank being with me and I know that those who do just aren’t my customers.”

Perhaps the most important bit of advice she has to offer, though, has nothing to do with logistics, but everything to do with motivation.

“Do what you love,” she says.

Cessor’s love of storytelling started as a child.

“I learned through stories and I even wrote short stories as a kid. It was so much easier for me to put what I thought on paper than to speak it,” she says. “It comes naturally for me, and it’s what I’m most excited about when I work with a client. To me, that’s the best of both worlds.”

Cessor’s storytelling empowers clients to share the core values of their company with clients. It’s about integration: Cessor helps clients choose a shared vocabulary so that the message is always the same, whether a client is talking to a customer service rep or a C-Level executive.

“It’s about making sure everyone is connected,” she says.

Cessor is a Northland native with a keen desire to give back in a way that leverages both her unique talents and her interests.

“I am passionate about thoughtful development and local politics,” she says. She serves as a board member of Forward Kansas City, an organization focused on communicating Northland perspectives to Kansas City’s elected officials and ensuring that the Northland’s voice is heard at City Hall.

“I want to start a conversation,” Cessor says. “There’s stigma attached to titles like ‘work at home mom’ and ‘momprenur’ and ‘stay at home mom.’ Childcare is expensive, and there’s a false perception that we will always have a job if we just follow the rules.

What if we challenged that perception instead? That starts by questioning internally first, to define what balance means individually. And it means being empowered to follow your passion and take control of your own time. I don’t know what that looks like for everyone, but I do know that the first step is being willing to talk about it.

There will be challenges,” says Cessor, “but that’s been one of the biggest rewards for me. The challenges are so worth it–being able to work and to be a mother, both full-time, and working both sides of my brain in that way makes me more dynamic, more engaged. It’s not just a once in a lifetime experiment now. It’s a way of life.”

Learn more about Cessor and her work at ThreadsKC.com