Women Who Create / Maura Sheedy & Luiza Sandru

This first interview of series 3 is a double whammy as I introduce Maura Sheedy and Luiza Sandru of Make Muse Magazine. Sharing two unique perspectives of the creative roles and processes behind building and running a print and digital magazine.

Tell us a little about your background...

Maura: My name is Maura Sheedy and I am the founder and executive director of Make Muse, an online and print magazine for smart and creative young women that is focused on challenging societal gender roles. I spent a year without wearing makeup in high school and have since channelled her project into changing all societal standards- beauty, business, leadership, and more through this platform. In addition to Make Muse, I coordinate outreach for mental health non-profit #HalfTheStory and do marketing freelance work. I am spending a semester in London, but I proudly call New York City my new home (though she's a proud Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native!). I love spending my days exploring cities and meeting new people. She loves museums, Kombucha, clothing swaps, turmeric lattes, and browsing the magazine stacks.

Luiza: I’m Luiza Sandru and I am a Digital Marketer and Graphic Designer. I have a BA in Politics with Human Rights, which is what sparked my interest in social injustices, among others women’s rights - hence my desire to be involved with Make Muse. My creativity wasn’t fulfilled and with various internships and volunteering experiences I discovered how much I enjoyed marketing. So I went back to university and I graduated last year with a MA Advertising, Marketing and the Media degree. After that I moved to London where I work in events marketing. I dedicate my free time to a lot of creative hobbies and I am also working on launching my own creative studio that will offer branding and design services.

Maura Sheedy in front of art mural
Luiza Sandru Marketing expert

Do you have creative habits or rituals within your work that help you stay focussed and happy?

Maura: Organization, interestingly, makes me feel in control of all of the behind-the-scenes stuff, so I can focus on new ideas! As I type this, I’m also jotting down notes of tasks I need to complete tomorrow and during the next week. I’m also typing these at 1:00 AM because I want to make sure I have time to plan a piece for issue 2 of the magazine and create a few designs that need to accompany some of our upcoming online pieces tomorrow! When I’m organized, I feel good about the work we produce and where we are going. As a founder, I have a lot of little things (that definitely do add up) that I have to worry about- from finances to management to marketing- that do pull away from my creative time but making sure that I am organized allows me to do it all.

Luiza: I don’t like clutter, so I try to make sure that my workspace is tidy otherwise I get annoyed by all the things around me - especially since I need space for papers, pens and other art supplies - most times I do some sketching or a quick layout by hand to help me guide through. I also like lists, but funnily enough my anxiety finds them overwhelming. This has taught me how to prioritize, so whenever I sit down I pull out 2-3 priorities that I focus on. Once those are done, and depending on my time, I pick out a few more. Also, always lo-fi music or anything that has a coffee shop vibe to it really helps me zone out.

make muse mood board

What three things can't you live without?

Maura: Definitely my phone, cozy socks, and my 32-ounce water bottle (I’m literally always thirsty).

Luiza: I have to agree with my phone haha. After that PJs and bubble tea

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Maura: Right now, I find a lot of inspiration from all kinds of forms of media. I particularly like getting caught in the spiral of Instagram searches and finding new artists or designers through the platform. Clearly, I’m a fan of slow media, so I own a lot of coffee-table style books that I use as muse and am always adamant about stopping in magazine shops to browse new titles. Also, I love to go for walks in the city. There is no better way to absorb culture, art, and fashion than from the people around you- especially in New York, where I live most of the time. Consuming media allows me to fuel my creativity.

Luiza: East Asian lifestyle and instagram. I really admire the simplicity of Asian living and the whole aesthetic that comes with it. You can clearly see it in their design and how impactful it is. One of my favourite books is a collection of ads produced by Japanese agencies and I am in love!!! And Instagram of course has such a talented and creative community.

What is the meaning of 'creativity' to you?

Maura: I see creativity as a manifestation of a vision or an experience. I think the act of being creative is so cool because it can be carried out in so many ways- drawing, writing, photography, music, and so many more ways.

Luiza: Being able to daydream, take your vision and make an object out of it. Freedom as well.

If you could collaborate on a creative project or idea with anyone... who would it be & why?

Maura: This is so hard. At the top of my head, I’d love to work with Tavi Gevinson, the legendary founder of Rookie Magazine because I admire her so dearly. I really like working with rising creatives, so I love to collaborate with the up-and-comers who are perhaps not household names as well. I think seeking diverse- in both background and medium- are important as well. I’ve recently become very into fashion illustrations- which is somewhat different- and would love to do some kind of collaboration in that area.

Luiza: Any of the partners at Pentagram. I feel like being able to work with such talent is the ultimate honour and I would love to have the opportunity one day to even observe their process.

Do you have a favourite piece of equipment that inspires your day to day process?

Maura: Pretty much all of my work is done through my Macbook. But when you think about it, that can mean so much in today’s world. I can be editing a video or typing out a new article or getting ready to share a photo on social media. This one tool can power so much.

Luiza: Not really, I see equipment as tools rather than inspiration.

make muse magazine online

What is the best thing about running your working for yourself?

Maura: Everyday, I wake up and I want to work on Make Muse. I spend so many hours of my days and life committed to this because of my deep passion for Make Muse, our team, and our mission. There is so much that I want to do with the platform, and the ideas do not stop coming to me.

Luiza: Getting excited by all the projects that I choose to work on. Being my own boss gives me the flexibility to truly work for businesses and with people that I truly align with and whose vision I share. I find it extremely rewarding when my clients and I develop an amazing connection and everyone is happy with the outcome. Make Muse has a stellar team and I am so grateful to each of these talented women, my designs wouldn’t truly shine without all their hard work

Make Muse Mag Cover Design

And what is or has been the most challenging?

Maura: As a founder, you are responsible for everything- both good and bad. You always have to have an answer and have to take the blame if something goes array. There are some days when it feels like everything is going exactly the opposite of how it should; doing your best to keep everything together and running smoothly can be tough. However, these days have taught me the most about myself and allowed me to grow as an individual and leader.

Luiza: With the magazine, it was the first time for me working on such a big project. Even though I did prepare and read a lot about the process of designing a magazine, there were quite a few unexpected things along the way. Luckily though, nothing stopped us and I feel like I learned so much and once I start designing the next magazine I will know what to expect!

What is your proudest creative moment in the journey so far?

Maura: Seeing our first magazine in print was particularly religious for me. There is truly something about having a physical piece of work that you can hold. Having it my hands for the first time- and knowing how many hours and heart had gone into it- made it so much more special.

Luiza: I have to agree on the magazine! All my work has been digital and it is a whole new experience actually having something that you created in your hands!

Make Muse mag in print

What does your support system look like?

Maura: Firstly, the Make Muse team is comprised of a fantastic group of people who support one another and make doing this so worthwhile. On a personal level, I have great friends and a supportive sister and family. I think it’s also important to be able to support yourself and know what you need to do for yourself. I could definitely be better about this, but taking the time to go for a walk by myself or going to a yoga class really helps me stay sane.

Luiza: My boyfriend of 6 years has been my rock all this time. I never in my life thought I could have a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with someone that is such a big cheerleader. My family has also been amazing. Coming from Eastern Europe, being the first person in my family to be college educated and in the UK out of all places couldn’t have been possible without my parents’ support. I wouldn’t be herevwithout them and I will be eternally grateful for that.

What one piece of advice would you share with fellow women who create to help them on their business/creative journey?

Maura: I cannot stress enough that you just have to do it! It’s so easy for people to doubt you, and it can be even easier for you to listen to their negativity. People doubted I could spend a year makeup free. People doubted that anyone would look at Make Muse in a saturated media environment. People doubted that I could hire my own interns as an intern myself. People doubted that I could set up a business, launch a crowdfunding campaign, and generate revenue. Tell yourself that you can do it. Just telling myself that I can do it always helps. Passion is a huge part of it, and there are so many resources to teach you what you do not know.

Luiza: Don’t let fear stop you! For me I feel like I was always my worst enemy, rather than getting negativity from others. I always wanted everything to be perfect, up to the point where nothing was and I wouldn’t actually achieve anything in the process. We all learn as we go, so if you are passionate about something just start. And if you fail, that is okay too - learn everything you can from the failure and start again.

Where is the best place online/in person to find you?

Maura: You can find me on Instagram @maur.velous!

Luiza: You can find me on instagram @luizasandru and @inflostudio

Want to catch up on previous interviews with extraordinary women in business? Click here for a few more or scroll back a little through the blog x