Redefining Success with Grace Bonney


Grace Bonney started the blog Design*Sponge many years ago, and today it’s one of the most trusted places online to go for creative inspiration. Her journey has had several points of big changes, like when she decided to pursue her blog full-time, when she came out as gay, and when she was diagnosed with diabetes. She’s an excellent example of how we sometimes must cycle through the heroine’s journey more than once.

Grace is also the author of the recently released  In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs, and shares Heroine’s mission to support and empower creative women from all walks of life.

In this episode, you’ll learn the mistakes Grace has made in order to grow, and the lessons she’s learned as her business has evolved.

And a special thanks to another Grace: Grace Kraaijvanger at my co-working space at The Hivery in Mill Valley, CA who helped make this connection and interview happen! 

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).

Highlighted Excerpt

Majo: Can you share a little bit about how your diagnosis has changed things for you?

Grace: It’s changed everything. I think in the most profound sense, it’s made me an incredibly present person. I was never that way before, I was always on to the next thing, I never let myself enjoy a moment.  

I’ve always been able to just say, Business is more important than anything else, more important than any aspect of my health. But now I can’t. And so it’s really helped me draw better lines between life and work.

Majo: Do you think it’s possible to run a creative business and take care of your body at the same time and still be successful? I know success is defined in so many ways, but I mean at least be financially sustainable?

Grace: Yes. A hundred percent. But I think what you just touched on is the key – it has to do with your definition of success. If your definition of success is being in the top tier of your field and getting a certain amount of press and a certain amount of social media followers and all of that sort of stuff, it will be very challenging. Because that type of “perceived success” takes around-the-clock work, and I don’t think that’s worth it for everybody.

Especially living in a big city, it’s easy to be convinced that success only looks like being at the top in your game. When really, success should just mean that you’re happy doing what you’re doing, you can pay your bills, and you feel good at the end of the day.

I’m doing different things with my day now that help put my work in perspective. Remembering that not being included in an article, or not having two billion followers on whatever... doesn’t mean I’m not successful and doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be proud of what I do and what we’ve built at the site.

For me it took getting out of the city, but it takes different things for different people. I just hope that everyone eventually gets to that point because you deserve to have both of those things. You can have a sustainable business and you can have your health.

Show Notes:

  • Grace growing up: A quiet and shy girl who struggled to feel like her natural self was accepted. [4:17]
  • Transferring to a small liberal arts college after feeling like NYU was too big for her, and how that shifted her path for the better. [10:22]
  • Dealing with pushback and criticism, coming out at thirty, and the importance of transparency. [14:30]
  • On her early career, the evolution of Design*Sponge, and some deeply-seated patriarchal beliefs that she had to unlearn in order to lead. [21:08]
  • Majo and Grace discuss misconceptions about women, like the false sense of competition, and Grace shares how a lot of her growth has come from making mistakes. [27:24]
  • On setting boundaries and letting go of guilt, redefining herself and her business, and the aftermath of being diagnosed with diabetes. [34:11]
  • Defining success in your own way: Grace shares what a successful day looks like for her. [40:12]
  • Digging into her book, In The Company of Women. Grace reveals the huge myth that almost every women she interviewed had learned to let go of. [44:19]
  • Discussing some of the most important messages to women in Grace’s book, including the encouragement to take up more space. [50:17]

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).



In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

The Hivery


by Lucia Lilikoi

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