…in pursuit of what makes life good.

Meet the Business: Lilify Designs

October29

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During my week long Mosey Instagram Takeover, I discovered many new businesses and met some amazing local creatives in the Monterey area. Two of those people were Hanni and Jesse, owners of Lilify Designs, a local artisan shop and boutique design company. Lilify is a beautifully curated shop that features artisan goods, vintage treasures, and handcrafted jewelry. Lilify shares their space with Bright Coffee, making it an inspiring and relaxing environment. I had the chance to sit down with Hanni and Jesse and chat about their journey to starting Lilify, working together as a couple, and overcoming stumbling blocks.

Can you share a bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?

Hanni: I am originally from Alaska and I went to school on the East Coast, in New York City. Then I worked in Japan for a few years and did a design apprenticeship in South Africa for just over a year. Jesse is from California. He went to school at Humboldt and worked oversees as well. We met in South America when we were both Peace Corps volunteers. We moved to Monterey five years ago and two weeks after we got married we started renovations on this building, which was derelict. Everyone said we shouldn’t do it. So we worked on it inside and out for two years. And we then opened the shop just two weeks after final inspection. Then Bright Coffee joined us a year after opening.

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What made you decide to start this business?

Jesse: Since we met we have talked about different ideas for opening some type of business. When starting out, long before there was any ability to start the business, Hanni did freelance floral design and we made and sold jewelry on Etsy. Doing those things were the initial seeds of a business and it did help to fund it and get our name out a bit.

H: We both have backgrounds in shops like this. I started working in the back of a boutique when I was fourteen and by the time I graduated I was working in the front. I first started unpacking goods and doing the shipping and then worked in the front. In a way, it was a natural genesis of what we are good at.

I’ve met a few couples who run a business together or make a product together and I find it so fascinating and wonderful. I would love to know how you compliment each other with your strengths and weaknesses.

J: There are a lot of couples who are in really great, strong relationships, who couldn’t do it. It can be kinda intense, but it works for us.

H: Yeah that part is not hard. As for strengths and weaknesses, I am the one who comes up with the big ideas, business plan ideas, design ideas. I’m not saying that Jesse isn’t innovative also but I’ll be awake at night coming up with some idea. And Jesse makes it into something that is actually functional.

J: I take care of a lot of the backend stuff, getting the product labeled and entered into the system.

H: This can be true of any kind of partnership or marriage, you have to have your roles. Neither one of us could do this on our own. The scope of what we do and what we offer is not a one man gig. This is a full time job for both of us.

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Can you share a roadblock that you have experienced starting the business?

H: Most people don’t own their retail space. We spent two years renovating this space to what it is today, instead of just finding a place to rent. That had so many challenges come with it.

J: We live here, this is our space. Technically we could be two years ahead of where we are now if we had just rented a space. But this is obviously the route we wanted to go. This is what worked for us.

H: So when we were developing the plan for the brick and mortar, we envisioned a partnership with a coffee shop, but it had to be the right one. We approached some people and it never got fleshed out. So when we finished the construction, we thought well we are just going to do this ourselves. But we were solely responsible for bringing in the customers, paying all the bills.

J: We didn’t want to just advertise “space for rent.” We didn’t want just anybody.

H: No because it is a very fluid experience [between Bright Coffee and Lilify]. It is the perfect example of when you reach a roadblock, you say “Okay, we are just going to jump”. Then one of the people we had spoken to found Cameron [of Bright Coffee] and we couldn’t imagine our business without Bright Coffee. And definitely, figuring out how to make it a pleasing experience serving coffee and shopping has been trial and error. The two businesses have to have different hours. It would be unreasonable for a gift shop to open at 6:30 am. We had to figure out how to make it less awkward for the customer. Having Bright Coffee has been a huge benefit to our business that we didn’t have when we first opened. Plus, we just love having that great coffee here.

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How do you foster and work with the creative community of Monterey?

H: Well first of all, we are just honored to be a part of it. Jesse and I have both lived in very very big cities and very very small towns and so this for us, personally, is a happy medium. We are invested in this community. We also know that we won’t make everyone happy. Some people just won’t get what you do. We are not trying to appeal to the masses.

J: But if you appeal to the masses, then the mass is your target, and that is fine. But if you want to appeal to an artisan community, not everyone likes that or is in to that, so you find your market. But I found that there is a pretty big artisan community here. I think any time you get into a beach town, you’ll find that artists are really drawn to it. And maybe we are exposed to more of it because we have this shop. When we first moved here, Hanni got a job with the Youth Arts Collective, a fantastic organization.

H: And Jesse got a job at Pierce Ranch Vineyards and we both worked there through the construction and through the start of our business (and continue to work there a few hours a week), and we got exposed to so many great creatives.

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You’ve already said, you work here, you live here. This business is your life. What do you do in your downtime to escape from it?

J: We exercise. I do a judo class a few days a week and we have a kettle ball class that Hanni and I do together. Hanni does yoga and pilates, and jogging.

H: When we were in construction, and working these other jobs, we didn’t do any of that. The only time we would stop would be when one of us would get sick. When I was working in New York in a very different lifestyle, it was the same. I worked worked worked and then would get sick.

It’s just a very big blessing to work for yourself, to be doing what it is you are most talented at. So many people don’t have that as an option. I constantly remind myself of that. It’s not that it’s not work but it’s your life’s work. We are basically delighted that we get to do this for a living. It’s incredibly satisfying and incredibly enjoyable.

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Thanks so much to Hanni and Jesse for sharing a bit of their experience as business owners and letting me takeover their space with my camera. Their shop is such an inspiration to me in so many ways.

If you are in the Monterey area, Lilify is a not to be missed destination for one of a kind gifts and artisan goods. And of course, grab a coffee at Bright Coffee so you can sip while you shop.

Follow Friday: Words of Encouragement

October24

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: @herhollowway, @kaehope, @ladycascades, @heartedgirl_

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: @herhollowway, @kaehope, @ladycascades, @heartedgirl_

I’m introducing a new series. It’s not a new concept, Follow Friday, but it’s new to me. So often, I am in a particular mood or phase. Something is lingering on my brain. And I often turn to my Instagram feed for inspiration. Each week, I will share four Instagrammers whose feed inspired me in some way that week. The Instagram community has inspired me to follow the path that I am on. It has helped me find my own creative voice and a way of expressing myself that was unknown to me before. It is time that I honor those who have touched my life, whether they know it or not.

To start the series off, I want to share four feeds that always seem to have special words of encouragement to share with the world. Not only do their beautiful images inspire but the words they choose to share with those images are warm, welcoming and hopeful.

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“To wonder is an art that I dare not want to lose. An art that is so vital to the soul in order to keep it alive. Be alive in wonder live in curiosity to never stop searching, yearning, and learning. You owe that much to yourself.” @herhollowway

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“Never stop pursuing your passions. Don’t discourage yourself from using your gifts. You are you, and that’s simply enough. Keep it up.” @kaehope

follow friday: words of encouragement
“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”-Erin Hanson @ladycascades

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“I wonder why I don’t go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip one hour more of sleep and live.”-Sylvia Plath @heartedgirl_

I’d love to know who inspires you. Feel free to leave a comment with suggestions for feeds to follow.

Meet the Business: Soda Pop PR

October15

Photo by: Bonnie Tsang

Photo by: Bonnie Tsang

The last few months, since starting this blog and getting my freelance career going, have been quite a learning experience. I’ve learned that running a business, no matter how small it is (just me!), can be all consuming. It can leave you zapped of energy but excited for more. I look at this business as my baby. I have to nurture it, pay attention to it, and give it all it needs to grow. I also whole heartedly believe in learning from other people’s experiences. They may not be able to prevent you from making your own mistakes along the way, but they can help you understand that mistakes are always part of the process. A few words of wisdom is sometimes all it takes to inspire you to move forward.

When I met Dyan Dolfi-Offutt, the owner of Soda Pop PR, at Create + Cultivate, and she poured over us all her amazing knowledge of public relations, I knew I had to know more about her path to starting and successfully running her own company. So when she agreed to do an interview for me, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Soda Pop PR is a boutique public relations firm based in Los Angeles. It specializes in food and beverage, hospitality, and lifestyle brands.

Photo by:  Carley Rudd

Photo by: Carley Rudd

Can you tell us a little about your background and what led you to the public relations field?

My journey to public relations is not a straight line or a short story that’s for sure. I went to college at Ohio University where I studied Communications and Public Relations. Graduated in 4 years (plus one summer quarter where the only course I remember taking is “Tuscan Cooking”.) Most of my friends knew what they wanted to do post-college – tech, business, get married, etc. – but I wasn’t ready to settle down so I moved to Los Angeles. After a number of frustrating years living in L.A. with the title “Actress/Waitress”, I reached out to a buddy who owned an advertising firm. He had a few small projects that needed project management. It was first time in years that I felt confident. I was good at it and made things happen. That gig opened doors for me and over the next five years, I worked at some of the best PR firms in Los Angeles, all which specialized in travel, food and hospitality.

What inspired you to start your own PR firm?

Truthfully, it all stems from a few friends and mentors believing in me. It was never part of my “5 Year Plan” to own a PR firm. I was at a point in my career where it was sink or swim. Although I loved the people at my previous job, I was burnt out. My health was in the toilet due to stress and it was time to make a change. Around that time I was presented an opportunity to start my own PR shop. I know for most people the idea of opening their own firm would be more stressful but for me it was the opposite. It was liberating, exciting, and inspiring. It was just what I needed at the time.

At an event for Soda Pop PR's clients QUIN, Dyan helps food blogger, Let Me Eat Cake, style a shot for Instagram. Photo by: Katherine Levin Sheehan

At an event for Soda Pop PR’s clients QUIN, Dyan helps local food blogger, Let Me Eat Cake, style a shot for Instagram. Photo by: Katherine Levin Sheehan

I’m a food lover and I love that you focus your expertise on the food and beverage industry. What made you decide to focus it on that?

Food has always been one of my biggest passions. Growing up in an Italian family food played a defining role in my adolescence. Both my Mother and Nana were amazing cooks and used their talents to bring people together which left a big impression on me. I also worked in restaurants from thirteen to my mid-twenties with experience ranging from a dishwasher to banquet manager. Most importantly, it’s fun to promote! We work with great brands like Tillamook, Union Wine Co., Salt & Straw and QUIN who continue to do cool things. Not too shabby.

What is the most rewarding part of running your own business?

It’s hard to pick just one. Creating a healthy company culture feels really good. I love managing my team. Watching them grow and become PR powerhouses is the best feeling. I also take great pride in the work we do for our clients. I don’t mean for this to come across gross or braggadocios but the amount of thoughtful and quality work we produce with our small team continues to amaze me.

Photo by: Carley Rudd

Photo by: Carley Rudd

Have there been any roadblocks you’ve encountered since getting started? How did you get past it?

My biggest roadblock is my tendency to overthink. The responsibility that comes with owning a business can be overwhelming at times. At least once a month I’m convinced the rug will be pulled out from under me. When worry and negative thoughts creep in, I remember to breathe and focus on the present and continue to do good work. A good 90’s hip-hop dance party always helps too.

Photo by: Bonnie Tsang

Photo by: Bonnie Tsang

Can you share any words of wisdom for others who want to start their own company?

GO FOR IT but be prepared for your brand/company to become your biggest priority, especially in the start-up phase. Love what you do; it makes the long hours and time away from family and friends easier to digest. Don’t under value your talent or work just because you are a new or small company. Know your worth! Get comfortable with the fact that on a weekly or even daily basis you won’t have all the answers but it’s your job to figure shit out. You were brave enough to start your own business so remember – YOU GOT THIS!

What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a long day or week?

I’d love to sound well-rounded and cool and say something like go to Hotel Café to scout out new music or focus on my photography. I’m not that interesting. Because my schedule is full with travel, meetings and planning most of the time my favorite thing to do at the end of a long day or week is to just chill. I love stopping by Silver Lake Wine, picking up a great bottle of wine to enjoy with my husband at home. Happy hour or dinner with friends is always a treat as well.

Thank you so much, Dyan, it was truly an honor having you on my blog. I appreciate the words of wisdom and sneak peek of the public relations world.

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