On a January afternoon fourteen years ago I sat on the couch in my mom’s office reading Vogue Knitting. There was an article about the rise in popularity of knitting, especially among young women. As an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I was the statistic.
Weeks prior my mom and I had been looking for a stylish bag to carry our knitting in—one that looked nice sitting next to the couch and equally nice on our shoulders. As my mom described, it needed to not be a “black hole bag,” but have pockets for staying organized.
This search for the perfect knitting bag collided with the words I read in Vogue Knitting. If I was looking for a bag, certainly there were other knitters looking as well. My mind raced and I instantly started dreaming up every detail of what was to come—the design, what I’d call the company, how I’d market the bags and who my customers would be. Days later when my thoughts were clear and I knew I could answer questions, I pitched the idea to my parents and asked for their support.
Their support washed over me and my journey into life as a small business owner began.
For fourteen years I’ve lived and breathed Jordana Paige. Today I write to announce its end.
It’s impossible to sum up those fourteen years here. I am grateful the business has financially supported me every year. Mostly I’m grateful for the opportunities, growth, knowledge and friendships that running the business has created.
A few weeks ago I moved my remaining inventory from my warehouse into my dad’s garage. At the time, I hadn’t decided if I would continue running the business. I recently moved from California to Michigan and decided to sell off all inventory rather than moving it across the country. This left me at a fork in the road–do I continue the business or pursue something new.
Prior to moving out of my warehouse I anticipated that packing everything up would tug at my emotions and I’d want to keep the business going.
As I packed I came across my first handbag sketches, clippings from magazines my bags had been featured in, fabric swatches, old tradeshow displays, catalogs, books I was published in and knitwear samples I had designed.
As I sat with it all before me, I realized Jordana Paige was complete. I did it.
I had an idea, I developed it into a product, made it a better product with each new design, built a business around it and overcame every challenge in the process.
In that moment, I knew I could walk away without regrets, only complete satisfaction that I had succeeded.
This success would not have happened without you, my customer, my friend.
You’ve followed me for so long, supported me not only through your purchases, but also through your encouraging words, praises and excitement for my products. You purchased my defective bags and together we raised over $28,000 for causes that are near to my heart. It still overwhelms me.
You have touched my life. When my mom passed away you wrote personal notes to me sharing memories of meeting her at Stitches. When I became engaged and married last year you joined in the celebration. You have been with me on every step of this journey.
What happens next?
Jordana Paige will officially close when all remaining inventory is sold. I anticipate being sold out by this summer. If there are bags you’ve been waiting to purchase, I don’t recommend waiting any longer.
What’s my next chapter?
It’s new, it completely scares me and I couldn’t be more certain that it’s exactly what I should be doing. Yes, it’s a new business.
I’ll be making the announcement of what that new business is in the months to come. If you’d like to receive the announcement, please subscribe to my new mailing list here.
If you’re a small business owner, dream of one day owning your own business or gain inspiration and motivation by learning about small businesses, you’re going to want to be on the list.
If you simply want to keep following me, I hope you will subscribe as well. Yours is the support I would love to have as I write this new chapter.
If you would’ve told Ann Leggett ten years ago that she’d be the co-creator of a natural skin-care line — one that was stocked up and down both coasts of the U.S., she would’ve laughed at you.
“Never in a million years did I ever think I’d be in the natural skin-care business. Never. And sometimes, at the end of a crazy week, I’ll think, How did I do that? How did that work out?”
But Ann is one of those people who loves a challenge. “Don’t ever dare me,” she laughed. “I’m crazier than I look.”
And Ann has certainly seen her fair share of challenges. She has been diagnosed with breast cancer — twice. Because of that, she woke up to more than just her own health but that of all women. She found a very big niche that needed to be filled.
“It was kind of humorous in an odd sort of way. I had just read several articles about toxic ingredients in skin-care products, so I sat on the floor of my bathroom and read labels.”
What she found stunned her. Every single beauty product she owned — from the soap in her shower to her trusty facial moisturizer she’d used for years to the lip balms lying all over her house — contained at least one of those toxic ingredients.
“I couldn’t believe it. I had to empty my trashcan three times! My bathroom looked like a bomb had gone off. And then I had nothing left. It was an eye-opener, and that single day is responsible for starting this company.”
Ann worked together with her son, Nic, to develop Plus — a modern natural skin care that wouldn’t end up in somebody’s trash can later. One that could wear the natural label without shame. Their products contain none of the toxic chemicals she’d thrown out. They started by creating what Ann couldn’t find alternatives for.
“I had to make the products that I needed the most first. That meant a lip balm, a body butter and a face cream came first. I live in Colorado — the driest place ever.”
Starting Plus was a special way for Nic to deal with his mom’s diagnoses. It was a way to take something terrible and turn it into something positive. People who have loved ones diagnosed with cancer often aren’t sure how to act or what to do. Ann offered this advice:
“Listen to them. Give advice only when they ask for it. Be patient. Try to understand the dramatic ups and downs. There’s a lot going on in their head. Let them know you are always there for them, no matter what.
Disappear if they don’t want anyone around, but don’t take it personally. Help with even the smallest request, as crazy as it may sound. My husband totally understands when I say I MUST HAVE mashed potatoes now. You’ll never be able to really understand it all unless you’ve been there, so just do the best you can. And know that they appreciate you so very much.”
When Ann isn’t wearing one of her many hats at Plus, she’s stand-up paddleboarding on all kinds of water — she highly recommends the Guadalupe River in Texas. But really, her favorite bodies of water are the seas — the ocean.
“It takes me away. It calms my soul. I can be in the Pacific Northwest, on the coast of California, on the Cape or in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t matter. The ocean is my salvation. It keeps me sane and balanced.”
She’s also a big fan of her dogs — these furry beings are the angels of her life, along with her family, friends and the countless medical practitioners who helped her through her illnesses and the ensuing lymphatic condition that followed. She finds comfort in a lot of ways, big and small.
“There was a lot of fear during those dark times. It’s funny how your perspective changes after two bouts with cancer. Oh, and West Wing helped. I binge-watched every single episode after the second surgery! Like I said, it’s the small things.”
Ann’s products are for all women, but with her special background she offers beauty tips to those going through cancer treatment:
“Use only natural, non-toxic skin-care products to soothe your skin, especially if you are going through radiation. Try to eat simply and cleanly, but if you need gooey comfort food, eat it! Give yourself plenty of time to heal.
“It doesn’t always just get better and better each day, so don’t beat yourself up on the low days. It’s OK and normal to have not-so-good days during the recovery process. That’s a tip I have to remind myself of all the time. It’s a long, tough road. But above all: never lose hope.”
Ann’s goals for the future of Plus include a makeup line, which they’ll kick off with an all-natural, non-toxic lipstick in several amazing colors. But Ann and Nic aren’t dreaming small. Their vision includes luxurious Plus-branded spas and wellness centers in special locations.
This makes sense considering Ann’s attitude toward life and business. In fact, when she thought about what she’d tell women who want to start their own company, she said this:
“Set your sights high. The sky is the limit. I set my sights on some crazy and seemingly impossible goals. But I go for it. And 99 percent of the time those goals come true. And once a big goal is realized, it is the best feeling ever.”
You can find Plus on Facebook and Instagram.
It’s a hot Chicago afternoon, and Joanna Hui sips a strawberry-lemon infused water, hoping the chill of the glass will cool her off.
“I love a good BBQ with friends,” the blogger says, “mostly for the social aspect, but also because of the food.”
And Joanna knows her food, among many other things. She’s the voice behind the blog Grace in Style, a fashion, food and travel blog.
The thing about Joanna’s blog is that it’s not your typical fashion blog. Or your usual foodie site. And you couldn’t accuse it of being an ordinary travel blog either.
That’s because many of her trips aren’t just about laying by the beach, finding amazing shopping or seeing the local sites. Joanna traveled to Kenya on one of her most recent adventures as part of a missions trip. Not only is Joanna a blogger, a cook, a world traveler and a stylish lady, she’s finishing her residency to become a doctor as well.
“I cannot speak enough about how that two-week trip changed me and molded my heart to love people more. There were five to six doctors, including myself, and we saw, on average, 300 people each day. It was humbling and eye opening.”
And while Joanna is passionate about the art of style and fashion, she spends a lot of her time on the blog promoting brands that give back or support causes she holds dear. And a lot of that is directly related to her experiences traveling.
“These trips have opened my eyes to the injustices around the world. And they have caused me to think about what I can do to help rid of these injustices. But even more, as William Wilberforce so profoundly stated, ‘You can choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.’ This has affected more the way I live my life.”
In her Fourth of July post, where she’s rocking red, white and blue, she reminds us (in a humble, guilt-free sort of way) to cherish our freedom. Then she directs us to a clothing site, Sevenly, that has adorable clothes and accessories and each purchase gives $7 to help victims of sex trafficking.
“Most times I’ll come across various organizations while educating myself about the injustices of this world. For me, it’s important to do enough research about each organization so that I know that their mission and values align well with mine.”
While that might seem heavy to some people, Joanna manages to pull it off with her airy writing and gorgeous photos. And then of course, there’s the culinary aspect. When it comes to food, she isn’t just sharing recipes from her own kitchen. One of her most recent food posts was a restaurant review in her hometown, although a big part of why she travels is also to experience the food.
“During mission trips I don’t have much time to shop or cook. But when I travel for vacation, I definitely find time to shop. I love shopping at street markets in Asia since not only can you learn more about the culture, you can find really unique clothing and souvenirs. And I love to eat authentic food from each destination, so I prefer to eat out more than cook so I can get a full experience of the local life.”
Joanna credits the evolution and success of Grace in Style this past year, in part, to the fact that she has really been herself. It is one of the biggest lessons she has learned.
“When I started my blog, I tried so hard to be like other bloggers, but I soon realized that trying to be like others took away the joy of blogging. The whole purpose of a blog is to show the world who you are, what you love and your creativity. No one wants to read a blog that’s just like the next, so it’s important to just be who you are and your unique personality and skills will stand out.”
Of course, we all want to know the secret of how she can do what she does with such enthusiasm and, well, grace. She says that while she has always had great time-management skills, she knows it isn’t just luck or her own moxie. All of her passions melt together around this mission she has both for her life and her blog.
“Since starting my blog, I have felt a tug on my heart to be more open about my faith. I hope to lead a Christ-like life and allow that to permeate throughout my writing. My missions with Grace in Style is to show that living a life full of grace, love and kindness is stylish and can positively impact this world, whether in big or small ways.”
And she truly has done just that, with her missions trips, her suggestions for conscious style choices, her beautiful photography and the good vibes she puts out with post after post of smiles and optimistic reminders to be our best selves.
“Learn to love who you are and who you were made to be. Be the best you that you can be and never settle for less. Be an encourager and support other women who are doing what you’re doing.”
Twice a week for the past five years these very hands have held my life.
They belong to Jenni Ward, my climbing partner, friend and one of the most interesting people I know.
Jenni has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, co-founded a non-profit to bring art to children in Haiti, scuba dives, backpacks, is a dog-lover, go-getter and business owner, camps on the beach, takes regular hikes on the trails by her home, has chickens, teaches art, jumps at every opportunity to travel and is generous with her time and care of others.
And while her hands can’t verbally talk to tell you the stories of her adventures, they mold and shape clay to create organic forms inspired by the people and environment she encounters.
Jenni is an artist by profession, but even if creating art wasn’t her job, she still wouldn’t be able to stop herself from creating.
Jenni describes her art; “My pieces explore the tensions of opposing forces with results that evoke contrary feelings of unshackled captivity, organized randomness and the density of negative space. At times I work in multiples; the forms are often configured in simple geometric compositions to counter their organic nature. Using clay as my primary medium, I develop these pieces with commonalities of shape, color, texture and movement.”
As small business owners, Jenni and I offer encouragement, empathy and the latest marketing tip with each other as we climb. She shares with me her most recent adventure from the weekend or plans for her next trip (it’s Hawaii). I recently realized I needed to introduce her to you. Here’s a closer look at her art, process and inspiration.
1. Of all the artistic mediums, why work with clay?
I have always worked with clay, my parents still have the first coil pot I made as a kid and I just never stopped working with clay. I was lucky enough to of had an in depth ceramics program in my high school. That exposure gave me the experience to explore clay and know that it was going to be my focus at the university level. I also really love the process of working with clay; each stage that you go through from a soft malleable material to a fired finished piece offers the chance that everything can go wrong at any step in the process. Having the ability to balance control over the clay and letting what happens happen is always a battle for me that I’m very attracted to. I’m constantly learning new techniques or possibilities with clay whether it’s through taking a workshop or seeing another artist at work. Clay is a very basic, primitive material that can be used to make a simple cup or to make tiles for the space shuttle, I love all the possibilities of clay.
2. What is it about nature and organic forms that inspire you?
I am inspired by my environment. My early work reflects ocean forms; corals, shells, anemones because I spent a lot of time around the ocean and underwater. Then I moved into a redwood forest and my work referenced seeds, pollens, insects. Now I think that I’m at a point in my work where those worlds have collided and I’m finding a balance between both the above and below sea level sources of inspiration.
3. How has your art evolved over the years?
My work has evolved tremendously over the years, which I think is a really important part of making art. When I was in school I had access to all the equipment and kilns I needed, so I built bigger. In my current studio, I am limited on my kiln size based on the amount of power I have at my studio, so I can only build what will fit in the kiln which limits me to work small. Now, I build mostly in parts in order to make large pieces this allows for each piece to be unique and thoughtful while also contributing to the larger scale of the whole installation. This process also allows for me to use the same parts in a variety of formations which in turn gives the opportunity for the exploration of multiple perspectives.
4. Do you see a piece completed in your head before you start making it, or does it develop as you create it?
I usually have a concept in my head and then I sketch out ideas on paper and create 3-D sketches in clay and then go for it. Along the building process, I learn what is working and what isn’t, I get new ideas and that’s how a concept will develop into a series of work for me.
5. How do overcome creative blocks?
Generally, I don’t have creative blocks, I usually have too many ideas and not enough time to make them all happen. But if I do get into a slump, I just work through it. Even if I’m making something that I know I won’t keep, I just keep making stuff and eventually something triggers and I’m back on task again.
6. What’s the best part about being a professional artist?
Being your own boss, I love the flexibility and the independence that comes with running your own business. That is also the worst part of being a professional artist, there is no one else to blame or rely on when things don’t work out. Its exhausting and exhilarating, but all of that said, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
7. How do you handle negative feedback?
Luckily, I haven’t encountered much negative feedback, but I also know that my art is not for everyone and I’m ok with that. Being able to take criticism and learn from it is probably one of the best things an artist can do for their work.
8. What it is like to have your art that is a part of you in someone else’s home?
Its really an honor when someone wants to include my work as a part of their personal space. Most of the time I don’t get to see where my art ends up, so its sort of a mystery as to where it lives out it life. Some artists have trouble selling their work because they can’t let go of it but for me, that’s part of the process of creating things – letting them go out into the world and see what happens.
9. If your dreams came true and you could have your work anywhere–museum, gallery, personal collection, etc–where would it be displayed?
Hmmm…..that’s a tough question. Well, if the Tate or the MOMA called, I wouldn’t say no but ultimately I would really like my work to be permanently placed out in nature where anyone can see, but you’d have to find it to experience it. Maybe it would be hidden in the forest or at the bottom of the ocean waiting to be discovered.
10. What are you currently working on?
Currently, I have been working with clay to create modern abstract installations which are inspired by nature. Typically the installations are made up of many small forms that are arranged in engaging compositions and installed in either interior or exterior locations. I work in series that follow certain themes and concepts, each series explores all of the variables of those concepts from color and form to space and composition. For my exterior installations, named ‘In the Field’, I take the pieces into natural spaces, arrange them, photograph them and remove them. I started this style of working because I am inspired by forms in nature and I am working with a natural material so it only made sense to complete the circle by returning my finished work to the places where they were inspired from. Sometimes the finished pieces are exhibited in a gallery setting alongside the photos. The results are engaging in a way that illuminates the pieces as well as the space they encompass.
I’ve been dating my boyfriend long distance for over two years. This December his eighteen day visit had me working the bare minimum (customer service and shipping orders) during the busiest season of my business.
When he booked his flights months prior he told me he didn’t want his presence to prevent me from working and would help me ship orders (yes, he shipped yours). But what good were those 11 months of work prior if I don’t get to spend time enjoying the fun things?
January 1 comes and up pop articles about creating resolutions for the New Year–things you tell yourself you should be doing and then feel guilty about when you don’t follow through on them.
Anymore my eyes tend to glaze over these articles. I’m all for setting goals, creating good habits, planning and a good kick in the butt for motivation. (I do have a category on the blog dedicated to just these types of posts.)
But every now and then I have to step back and look at what’s important. What good is working every day to achieve my goals if I don’t get to take time to play?
For the last two and a half weeks of December, that’s exactly what I did.
I walked the Golden Gate Bridge, had top-notch people watching in Ghiradelli Square, took a pedal boat around Stow Lake, visited the Monterey Museum of Art, found new places to play bocce ball and billiards and ate at a long list of restaurants, bakeries and lounges I’d never been before. All of these were new experiences in a place I’ve lived my entire life.
Now back at work, I’m refreshed and ready to take on my goals for the year. No, I didn’t need to make a list of goals or what I need to do to achieve them. I know my goals and I know the actions needed. I don’t need a resolution this January to motivate me to do them. I just needed a break.
This January, or anytime this year, when things get overwhelming or you’re not motivated to get rolling on your goals, take a break. Walk away and rediscover your hometown. Upon your return you’ll be more ready to tackle the tasks ahead than any guilt-inducing method of motivation.
Where will you go this year when you need a break? Share with me in the comments the activity in your hometown that you’ve always wanted to do, but never have.
You may have noticed some things changing around here in recent months. What clued you in? Maybe the absence of my sister, the blonde model with the sunny smile who has been the face of Jordana Paige for over eleven years. Yeah, I miss seeing her face, too (well actually, I still get to see her a couples times a month). But it was time for a change.
Each year I look at the places I can improve my business in the hopes of ultimately continuing to grow. This year I decided one of the areas I wanted to focus on was the Jordana Paige brand. I want the images representing our products to be just as high quality as our bags. It was time to bring in some pros to make this happen. Enter Melanie Kluger of Head Over Heals with Melanie.
Melanie is a personal stylist who began her career in New York as theatrical costume designer. I met her for the first time this past spring and was most struck by her being the woman she works to help others find. Melanie is passionate about helping women find confidence and feel amazing in their clothing and body. I knew instantly she was the perfect fit for Jordana Paige.
I invited Melanie to give you a glimpse into our recent photo shoot and her process for pulling the entire project together. I think she must have one of the most fun jobs!
When I first heard from Jordana that she wanted to work with me to create the ultimate Lookbook photo shoot I was STOKED. We were instantly kindred spirits and got to work! We added the insanely talented hair and makeup artist Melissa Hoffmann and amazing photographer Stephanie Court to round out the team.
We spent a lot of time emailing and on the illustrious Pinterest talking about who our “girl” was. Every step along the way we talked about how to feature the bags in their best light as well as wanting to create a fun, fashionable feel. We wanted to build a story about how your Jordana Paige bag can go with you anywhere. She’s not afraid to go for it with fashion, to mix prints and patterns and to be bold with color. She’s always on the go and her JP is always by her side. She loves stripes, polka dots, color, a mixture of classic meets quirky and feminine details. I mean…don’t you wanna be her best friend too? As much as we talked about the Jordana Paige woman, it all came into place when our stunning model Loni Landon came into the picture. She was the last piece of the puzzle and everything became clear.
This photo shoot had several different looks and locations. Stephanie and I found the perfect spots that conveyed where the “Jordana Paige woman” would reside. This is such a fun part of the process and is crucial to setting the scene.
One thing I always do when prepping for a photo shoot is I create inspiration boards for each look. It really helps to keep everyone on the same page, keeps us focused and excited to make it become a reality! I wanted to share one of my inspiration boards with you as an extra special treat. It really paints the picture of the creative process behind a shoot. This inspiration board was for Bella and we called it the “Out to Lunch” look.
Once I have a clear vision I start to shop. When I’m shopping for a shoot I like to be really open minded. That may sound silly since I have such a clear vision board above. It’s true though. I find that if you shop with too specific an idea in your head, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. This is true for anyone who goes shopping! If I say “It needs to be a fuchsia pencil skirt with black polka dots in a size 2!” and that doesn’t exist I’m not keeping myself open to the idea that a black and white polka dot A-line skirt is actually the better option. I like to have tons of options available day of the shoot too, because once you see something on the model it totally can change your perspective.
I talk a lot more about this in my free style guide on my website “How to Feel Confident in a T Shirt and Jeans” as well as in several blog posts. You should definitely check me out here if you are curious to learn more!
If I can tell the model is really not feeling an outfit, I try to tweak it (within reason!!!) to make everybody feel great! The photos come out much more natural and I like to make people feel confident (helloooo it’s my whole philosophy) so I always keep that in mind. Options are definitely a huge part of my job on a photo shoot. In this case I also wanted to make sure Jordana loved everything and backups ensured that I could be flexible and change it up if need be.
As much as I like to come in with a plan, I also like to throw caution to the wind and see what works the day of. As I mentioned above, by having such a clear vision I’m able to play in the moment with all of the pieces I’ve sourced and see what works on the model.
So…we went from this board to gallivanting around the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, to the final product. I still can’t get over this look. Can you handle it??
Hey there my style-saavy, DIY lovin’ friend. Do I ever have a fun opportunity for you!
We’re looking for guest bloggers to share their area of expertise. We’re specifically looking for posts about fashion, styling, DIY projects (garments that are knit, crochet and sewn, and craft projects for the home) and tips for creating a more organized life at work and home. It’s your opportunity to promote what you do to a new audience.
How to Style a Pencil Skirt This Fall by Jennifer Woolsey, Style Tutor
Tips for Styling an Outfit by Sandae Cooke, Curvy Girl on the Run
Delicious Palettes for Styling the Color Cranberry by Brandi Hussey, Brandi Girl Blog
DIY Yarn Art by Rachel Denbow, Smile and Wave
For examples of what we’re looking for, please peruse posts by past guest bloggers:
Sound fun? Shoot me an email at email@example.com and let’s start a conversation. In the email, please include what you’re interested in writing about and links to a few samples of your work.
I look forward to working with you and introducing you to JP fans!
Two days ago my mom, Noni, passed away. Sixteen months ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and colon cancer.
Much can be said about my mom and her life. I could easily fill a book about the incredible, loving and inspiring woman that she was. Those words all have their time and place, but in this place I want to share with you her influence on me in building this business.
My mom was never someone who sat on the sidelines. Where there was a need, she took action and gave. Where there was wrong, she fought for what was right. As a child I watched her take these actions with passion and drive, without hesitation and without self-doubt. She knew she could make change and wasn’t going to be stopped. I can’t think of a year in school she wasn’t involved in the PTA, if not president. She was always volunteering for something. My dad would tell her to sit on her hands when she went to meetings and when she returned, he’d ask her what she had volunteered for this time.
If it wasn’t the school she was involved in, it was a non-profit. After 9/11, she founded the Monterey Bay Chapter of Project Linus. She was on the board and president of National Charity League when I was in high school. She was director of our church’s children’s ministry, writing curriculum and traveling to teach parents how to raise Christian children. And when she realized the needs of the young adults were not being met in the church, she started a ministry for them and became editor of a magazine targeting them.
Shortly before I left for college she returned to school to become a Realtor. She built her business up and soon became the president of Women’s Council of Realtors and the Monterey County Association of Realtors.
My mom was a leader and she believed she was fully capable of achieving her goals. Her example instilled the belief in me that I could achieve whatever I put my mind to. Which is why at eighteen years old when I presented my idea for a knitting bag, I knew she wouldn’t laugh at me, tell me the idea was dumb, or discourage me because I had no experience or knowledge running a handbag company.
I remember the conversation as if we just had it. We were driving through Pacific Grove running errands as we so often did together after school. I shared with her my idea, she told me it sounded great and asked what I would name the business. “I was thinking, ‘Jordana Paige’.” She loved it, always being so pleased that she’d given me a designer-sounding name.
Her support of me quickly turned from words to actions and never stopped. When I told her I needed to go to the textile show in Los Angeles, she was there. When I cried tears of frustration after months of not making progress in developing my first design, she told me I could do it. She taught me how to set up Quickbooks, invoice and process payments. She drove me hours away to meet with my first manufacturer. And when my first order came in, I ran into her room and she jumped up and down with me in celebration. No one celebrates my joys, accomplishments and excitement with me like my mom would. No one cries with me or empathizes at my challenges like she would. She was present in every way that I needed her.
She was there to move me into my warehouse, clean it, paint it and lay the floor. She’d make sales calls for me whenever I needed the help. She was with me on the knitting cruise to Mexico I taught on, came with me to Burbank to film Knitty Gritty and travelled with me to TNNA in San Diego and Indianapolis. From Santa Clara to Chicago to Baltimore, she attended every Stitches with me over 11 years of business, only missing this year due to being too sick to attend. From set-up to tear down she was there working as hard as she could to show everyone how fabulous her daughter’s bags were.
She could sell. I’d watch her turn a casual passerbyer who gave a bag a light glance into a raving fan, calling her friends from down the aisle to each buy a bag too. Her enthusiasm and passion were infectious. She’d create a scene of excitement and draw “window-shoppers” into the booth to hear what all the talk was about. Then at about 3:00pm as our legs ached and we didn’t know how we could keep the energy up for another two hours, she’d look at me and say, “I think it’s time for some chocolate.” She’d pull out a bag of dark chocolate and I’d smile because she always thought of everything.
I’ve shared with you over the years how I enjoy Stitches for the opportunity to meet customers and hear feedback. Mostly though, I enjoyed Stitches for time spent with my mom. Three days standing next to her, just the two of us talking, sharing and laughing. Running this business has provided me with a lot of great opportunities and experiences, the greatest being these times with her.
She is the woman I will always strive to be. She inspires me in every area of my life and is the person who has influenced me more than any other.
I have a confession to make. Most days I put on jeans, a simple top and the same pair of shoes I’ve been wearing all season (despite having a closet full of options). Probably not what you’d expect to hear from a woman who owns a handbag company, designs the bags herself and gets paid to write about fashion.
Don’t get me wrong. I love putting thought into my outfit and getting dressed up. Buying a new pair of shoes thrills me. Reality is though, I’m not going to be strutting down a runway today, or any day. I’m going to work. At my warehouse. By myself. That $30 manicure isn’t going to survive the rock climbing I did in the morning or the boxes I packed in the afternoon (but I do adore having red nails).
This is my average day. You may work in a corporate career where jeans are a no-no, no matter how dark the wash is, be a mom who doesn’t have time to put more than 5 seconds of thought into her daily outfit or maybe you dress in the hopes your picture will be snapped by the Sartorialist as you walk down the street. Whomever you are, I’m delighted you’re here because there’s three things I’m certain of:
1. Our clothing has the ability to give us confidence, credibility, put us in a good mood, and is an outlet for creative expression.
2. Dressing to achieve each of these states doesn’t require having a huge income, four hours for getting dressed each morning or keeping current on every new trend.
3. Even a simple top and a pair of jeans can give us these desired states when they’re purchased thoughtfully and fit right in both size and personal style.
And that’s why this blog is here. To help you dress with confidence, express your style and take on the world with a bounce in your step.
A couple more things you should know.
1. If you haven’t noticed yet by all the pockets I put in my handbags, I’m crazy about organization. To-do lists, filling in my calendar, tidying my home, making goals for the future and creating good habits to stay organized all put me in a calm, stress-free state.
2. I’m passionate about business. In fact, that’s what I went to school for, not fashion as you may think. I’m an entrepreneur that started her business at 18-years old. Watching someone take a risk to go after her passion excites me. You’ll find me right behind her cheering, “you can do this.”
So that’s what you can expect here. Fashion tips, free projects, posts to help you organize the chaos of life and a behind-the-scenes look at running a handbag business all in the hopes of inspiring you to walk bold.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll subscribe to my email list. You’ll receive my blog posts weekly and my newsletter monthly with updates on new products, giveaways and exclusive sales. I’ll occasionally throw in an extra one if I having something amazing to share.
Photos by Kaely C Photography (just one of those gals I love encouraging to go after her goals).
Safe is risky. It’s not a new saying, but when I heard it this week on a TED Talk it caused me to stop and think. Safe IS risky. If we stay where we’re at and keep doing what we’re doing, no progress and no growth can happen. We will continue to keep getting the same results we’ve always been getting.
A year ago I was faced with a very difficult business decision. I wanted to change manufacturers. I’d switched twice before, which in both instances resulted in progress. Given this history I shouldn’t have been afraid. This time was different though. This time there was more of a risk. There was a significantly larger upfront sample cost before I even saw what they could actually do or a ballpark quote of what production would cost.
I decided to go for it and have the sample made up. I figured if it wasn’t great I would cut my losses. The sample turned out beautiful. Then came the shock. Production of the bag was going to cost much more than any bag I’d ever designed. I was going to have to raise my prices. Would my customers recognize the improvement in quality enough to be willing to pay more for it? It was a huge decision, even bigger than deciding to start the business. I agonized for weeks weighing the pros and cons. Finally, I decided to take the risk. I wanted to improve my product and knew this was what I needed to do to grow the business. It turned out to be the best business decision I’ve made.
No, not all business risks I’ve taken have worked out as nicely as the production of Cezanne. In ten years of business I’ve certainly had my failures. Fortunately, failure is not a permanent condition (this is another quote I heard on a TED Talk this week). Perseverance is an incredible thing. We have the amazing ability pick ourselves up and move forward with the new, first-hand knowledge we’ve gained.
In the spirit of celebrating my ten-year anniversary, I’m challenging each of you to take a risk this year. It can be big or small, but I encourage you to go big. The rewards will be that much greater. Think about what makes you uncomfortable. What do you have a fear of failing at? Write it down and commit to do it. I’d love for you to comment here with what risk you’ll be taking, but I understand if you’re not ready to. We’ll be blogging a lot about this theme over the next year. I hope you’ll join in as we push ourselves toward betterment.