Posted on Apr, 01. 2014 Category in the studio Tags
Barnes & Noble, most chain craft stores, and of course Amazon.com all have my first book, Fabric Blooms, available today! Buy it, make something, and share your review on Amazon. I’d love to hear from all of you about what you think–it’s been nearly two years in the making and I can’t believe this day is finally here.
Posted on Mar, 19. 2014 Category in my journal Tags
This blog post from Knock.Knocking. Design, the winner of a recent Hello Holiday contest, brought me to some heavy tears today. There’s something really real, and really extraordinary, about sisterhood in business. I was struck that Agnes mentioned my work with Princess Lasertron which was my first experience with business ownership. Reading that reminder of what I came from and see that the same people are still watching, still paying attention, and still advocating for me is incredibly touching and makes me feel less afraid. When I first connected with Agnes, I was just a woman embroidering felt in her spare bedroom. I was much more sure of myself. Now that I’m building a business that’s bigger, scarier, and harder (but with much more potential), I have more moments when I feel alone. Or floundering. I’m glad people like Agnes are still watching.
Our #tagyourbff contest we did with Hello Holiday was, at face value, a promotional exercise–we wanted our followers (not even necessarily our customers) to share pictures of themselves that they LOVED, that made them happy to post, and associate Hello Holiday with the memory for the rest of their networks. We saw every photo posted and read all the comments, we found tons of new amazing women to follow and engage with, and as a business marketing strategy it was super successful.
But what I’ve learned is that businesses grow through friendships. Individual accomplishments are built through friendships. Feeling trusted, understood, and valued is cultivated in friendships. And what people were sharing weren’t just contest entries, they were expressions of that happiness, the memories, the experiences that are only possible with best friends–our chosen families, the people we make these magical connections with to add so much value and richness to our lives. That was the best thing about the pictures. These photos capture more than friendship. It’s incredible to scroll through all of them and realize that’s what I’m looking at.
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.