Posted on Mar, 06. 2014 Category in my journal Tags
Tomorrow morning I’m speaking at the Greater Omaha Young Professionals Summit with a handful of other local make-things-happeners who I look up to a lot including Andrew and Angie Norman, Caleb Pollard, Othello Meadows, and Christian Gray. It’s the first time I’ve been involved in this way though I’ve attended a few of these conferences in the past (more in an artist capacity then). I don’t really know what I’m going to talk about. I feel like there is so much to talk about that I have no idea where to begin or what to say. Unfortunately, that feeling is parallel right now to my work life–there is so much to do that I don’t know where to begin. I’ve been in a state of paralysis for a month of so because there are so many things in the works that would be really great if they turned out but nothing seems to be landing quite on target. (This may be my perfectionism.) (I don’t think I’m a perfectionist though.)
Throughout my whole adult life, I’ve been one who cobbles together a living. I’ve always been involved in a lot, and it all paid a little bit–except for 2009-2011 when Princess Lasertron was balling out of control and my whole family lived off of my income, which felt amazing. In general, though, I’ve just scraped by doing whatever weird stuff. I always told myself that I took these risks and worked these long days for little pay because I’d rather do this for now than work for someone else for the rest of my life. I only do things that I really want to do. The tradeoff for the financial security is always worth it.
In 2005 I started Princess Lasertron with the felt flower bouquets and built my reputation locally as an entrepreneur. I think people liked the story–19 year old college student running a company out of her boyfriend’s bedroom, then the story developed as the company grew, an office was purchased, employees were hired, more national press and industry accolades were stacking up. I was doing speaking and teaching gigs all over the country. Advertisements on my blog brought in considerable income. I started a dress line because I thought that the future of my brand would be fashion. I invested the profits from Princess Lasertron into a coworking space, that was me attempting community-building the best way I knew how but it kind of fell flat.
As I got older and the business continued to grow, I realized that I didn’t like designing clothing. I hadn’t taken the right approach to get into that industry–my dart hit the board but it wasn’t quite on-target. I also needed to transition away from doing embroidery work because it was hurting my eyes and hands, and the profit margins for bouquets were too low. The time I spent working on bouquets turned into time spent working on my first book (Pre-order it!). I hoped that writing a book would translate to a career in writing, consulting, and speaking, rather than strictly making.
In the midst of this, I met my now-business partner, Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik. We were 24 and 26. She came to my office late one night to work on a styling project of her own and we started talking about our careers. We were both on the brink of something new but neither of us could place exactly what it was.
Turns out, it was Hello Holiday.
It is fun to work with someone who shares the same vision as I do for a business so we can both work toward it together with our individual sets of strengths. There are a lot of gatekeepers in the fashion industry, lots of barriers to entry for new designers, really hard for them to get distribution of their work. We want to take chances on those designers, especially ones who create with all women in mind. Our biggest priority is discovering and supporting fashion designers with ethical practices, who are in the business for the right reasons, and who don’t use size discrimination to tell half the population that they don’t get to look stylish. They’re small steps–we don’t yet offer the breadth or variety we are aspiring to. Fashion can be so superficial and pretentious, so it can be attractive to say that you reject it, but the truth is that we’re all consumers of fashion and we all want to like how we look, regardless of what that means. My goal is to help women present themselves to the world the way they feel inside–to communicate their identities honestly, to not feel like they’re in a costume. I believe strongly that this is integral to self-esteem, happiness, success, a better world. It’s about women existing for themselves, not for others. But you can’t “market” that to consumers. It has to be real, it has to be a real intention and a real conversation.
I’ve also had a political re-awakening in the past two or three years, exploring and learning a lot about gender and racial equality and economic justice. I know this informed a lot of our goals as we started the business, and it’s starting to shape where I see my long-term career and what else I want to do with my life.
With all this said, I am up late thinking about this entrepreneurial journey, the lessons, the impostor syndrome, the bigger dreams that frustrate me every day as I grasp for them, the motherhood, the divorce, the bills, the thousands of strangers in the world who know I exist and want me to succeed, the beliefs I’ve developed that keep me focused on getting what I want. I have to say tomorrow what my impact is on Omaha, on my industry, and what the takeaway for the audience should be.
I don’t know.
Posted on Feb, 28. 2014 Category in my journal Tags
One week ago my best friend Sarah and her husband Jon brought their first son Hugo Benes Tvrdik into the world to meet everyone who has been waiting to meet him for the last nine months. Everything about this little guy is sweet and perfect and easy–he came two days before his due date and put his mom through a super tough but relatively quick labor overnight on Tuesday, he’s eating well, he’s making the cutest little faces. His cousin Alice is just fascinated with his tiny toes. She and I spent the day today getting the office ready for him to come to work in a few weeks!
For her part, Alice spent her afternoon at the office today preparing lesson plans for Hugo when he arrives. She doesn’t think he will be ready to learn to read when he comes, but she’s not taking any chances on losing an opportunity to impart her knowledge (to whoever will listen). I’m sure she will be grateful for the captive audience (for the next five years or so).
There’s already no one like Hugo in the world.
And doesn’t Sarah look beautiful? She’s a beautiful mother. She’s intuitive and loving and so gentle, and seeing her with her son makes me love her more than ever. The first time you see your own little person it changes you forever. I’m so proud of Sarah. They’re all family to me and I know I’m gonna love that little boy like my own.
Posted on Feb, 20. 2014 Category in my journal Tags
I wouldn’t characterize my style as fitting into any vintage-girl stereotypes (though you might!)….pinup, rockabilly, mod, rocker, whatever. Shades of all of them probably work their way into my wardrobe styling but that’s the fun of learning about fashion throughout history–identifying unique things about what you like to wear, and why. When we started Hello Holiday, we bought a lot of vintage inventory just to have some unique offerings and high-margin sales in our early revenue stage. We knew that with photography and the time it takes to upload and promote each new product, we knew in the long run it would be too costly to sustain, but I have vintage to thank for getting my company off the ground with a profitable first year.
Of course, it’s not only about that. Classic shapes, patterns, and styling has drawn in my aesthetic throughout my whole life. At this point it extends beyond my wardrobe–my entire home is furnished in vintage pieces. Secondhand style is awesome and we should all be open to more of it. Here’s why.
1. It makes it easier to understand the cyclical trends of fashion.
This is obviously a really useful thing as the owner of a fashion e-retailer, but on a personal level it’s fascinating to know what original designs are informing the trends we participate in without even thinking.
2. I don’t like to see things wasted.
Garage sales, thrift shops, and vintage consignment stores are full of vintage furniture and decor, but imagine how many perfectly good things are thrown away every day by people who don’t see the value in old-fashioned craftsmanship and style. Do you get the feeling that this aesthetic skips a generation? It feels good to not be contributing to landfills by offering a good home for old furniture and clothing that just needs someone new to care for it.
3. Increased likelihood of hauntings
I often wonder what the story is behind all the vintage I own. Jewelry from my great-grandmother–who gave this to her? When? Did she love it? Would she be happy to know I love it? Dresses and skirts from a consignment shop or estate sale–who owned these before? Was this hand-sewn by the previous owner or was it purchased or maybe gifted?
4. You can buy with a clean conscience.
The amount of money that companies must spend now to maintain mass-market labels (and the poor ethical practices that come with the cost of manufacturing and marketing) is staggering to consider. Wearing something secondhand can be as much of a political statement as an economic choice–a reaction against modern consumer culture.
5. It feels wonderful to own something unique.
The joy of finding something you know you aren’t going to see anywhere else wearing will never go away for lovers of vintage and secondhand pieces. It’s all about creating an identity instead of buying one from a big-box store or a magazine editorial and getting something different, regardless of where it came from.
I would never claim to have been born in the wrong decade. I love the freedom people have in our time to explore style and fashion as an expression of identity and gender, and the way clothing is so accessible to more people can present themselves the way they really feel. All I want is for everyone to dress, look, and feel exactly the way that makes them happiest. When I look in my closet, I see an eclectic and varied mix of borrowed things from friends, simple mass-produced things from big box stores, one or two big-ticket purchases that I saved for months for the privilege to possess, a huge quantity of things I purchased from my own store, and plenty of vintage clothing and accessories that make me feel like I’m wearing something unique and memorable. I think that’s probably really common because so many people love the way classic, pre-loved pieces make them feel like they look just a little bit better. A little more special.