A lot of my May was spent recovering from an unexpected wisdom tooth surgery. It has been a challenging time for me. It put a lot of my active pursuits on hold and generally left me feeling pretty crappy. I really had no idea what to expect, having never had surgery.
Despite or maybe because of this challenge, it makes me reflect on my overall good health and my life in general. I am grateful for being strong, healthy and active. I’m grateful for the support of my friends and family, and a wonderful boyfriend who makes me feel so well taken care of. I’m grateful for my love of knitting, for keeping from going completely stir crazy while I was recovering. Last but not least, I’m grateful for my freelance career which allows for flexibility when life gets messy.
It’s easy to get lost in the problems you face in life, but with a little effort, it’s easy to turn that around and practice gratitude.
I’m excited to have another installment of Meet the Business today. This time it’s with Brooke and Vicki Rawlins, a mother/daughter duo and co-owners of the online boutique Sister Golden. I always love hearing how people partner up to start a business together, especially when it’s a family business and I’m fascinated by the dynamics, so I was especially excited to get a chance to interview Brooke and Vicki. We also organized a fun giveaway, so read through for more details.
1. Please share a bit about yourselves and your backgrounds.
Vicki – she’s mom, and we like to call her “V” – lives in Evanston, IL just north of Chicago. I live in San Diego, CA but am secretly counting down the days until I’m able to call the Midwest home again. V is the artist behind the Sister Golden operation, responsible for the gorgeous fine art prints, original paintings, hand dyed linen pillows, and recent flower art you’ll find on the shop. I am tasked with doing all of our beautiful pieces justice by managing the shop’s online presence, including website operations, social media, and sourcing new artists. We like to think we’re a good match! The short story of our backgrounds goes a little like this: Vicki was inspired by her mother (my grandmother) – a designer and photographer – to follow her passion for drawing and painting early. While studying fine art in school, she worked as a graphic designer and part-time illustrator, and by the late 80’s she was exploring textiles – creating and selling hand-painted wares and handcrafted jewelry out of specialty boutiques in Chicago. Her path led to commissioned work as a muralist and colorist, where she worked on “showcase” homes and commercial businesses for many years. While that work was fun and rewarding, she’s happy to be back in her studio and focused on creating for SG. My background is rooted in a love for boutique retail, merchandising and marketing. I studied Advertising and spent years working in a combination of women’s boutiques, corporate retail and marketing.
2. What inspired you to start Sister Golden?
My goal has always been to own a small boutique of my own where I could decorate the bare walls with my mom’s art and represent other up and coming artists and makers. About a year ago we came to the conclusion that there’s really no time like the present, but because we lived in different states, whatever we did needed to start in cyberspace. So, I took the domain name from my old blog, “Sister Golden”, and we started working out the details. Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment we said “let’s do it”. The inspiration was really just the urge that we needed to make it happen in whatever way we could. What SG has naturally evolved into is a great representation of what we both bring to the table in terms of interests and abilities. It’s how we live our lives and we’re proud of that.
3. What do you find to be the most rewarding part of running the business?
Just the other day we had one of our customers email us a photo titled “Sister Golden goes to Paris”. The photo was one of our waxed canvas totes along with one of our beautiful scarves amidst her travel must-haves. Things like that make it all worth it! We feel like we work for every. single. purchase. (Ha!), so one of the most rewarding parts has to be making our customers happy by curating the perfect, ever-changing collection of unique and well made pieces, providing exceptionally personal customer service, and staying true to who we are and what we believe in. When those things happen consistently and consecutively, our audience responds well and we know we’re doing something right. The collaborations and relationships we’ve made with all the amazing artists we represent is truly one of the most fulfilling parts of our business for sure. Running sister Golden keeps us creatively challenged everyday and we both feel completely blessed for that.
4. I love that you are a mother and daughter team. Can you share a bit about working together? Do you each have your own strengths and weaknesses?
Oh! That’s another rewarding part of running the business. Being able to create something together is really special, and we don’t take that for granted. But yes, we joke and say Vicki is the CCO (Chief Creative Officer), while I’m the CEO. Haha. Vicki is in full control of the art she creates for the shop, but I do give her my opinion on what I like best. The paintings, pillows, and flower faces are all V. It’s awesome when we do get to work in the same place for a few days at a time, V will be sitting at her easel painting, and I’ll be at the table behind my computer working – editing photos, adding products to the site, etc. Once in a while mom will have me look at her progress and ask me what I think of a certain part of a painting, or I will call her over to take a look at a potential featured image shot for the site. We’re working on our own things, but actively collaborating all the time. It’s rare that we disagree on how something should be done, but when we do it seems to help us learn and grow.
5. Vicki lives in Chicago and Brooke lives in San Diego. How do you manage the business living so far from each other?
Living apart works OK when we’re both working on our own thing. When we need to collaborate on a larger project we take turns flying out to each others places so we can work together. But in the average week, texting pictures and FaceTime are a life saver (or business saver). It’s another reason I’m longing to get back to good ol’ Chicago. We like to think we see a shared studio space in our future.
6. Have you experienced a significant roadblock along the way? How did you get past it?
The thousands of miles between Chicago and San Diego could be considered a roadblock, but we actually have fun managing that one, V loves to visit San Diego. We’re learning A LOT through trial and error, letting our customers leads us, taking cues from them while staying true to what we love and who we are. As in starting any new business, fear of the unknown and self doubt were roadblocks in the beginning we needed to speed past to even start the business. Now we are full steam ahead! We find strength in each other and, as silly as it sounds, strength from something as simple as a nice comment from a social media follower. It can get us through a day!
7. Do you have any advice for someone just starting a business or looking to start one?
If you’re thinking about starting your own business, take the first step today. You’ll need blinders though. It’s so easy to think, “someone is already doing what I’m doing” or “I’m not good enough”, in a world of talented people, but just pretend you’re the only one out there. Show up and make yourself proud. Do your research, but also know there will always be unknowns and things you can only learn once you’re on your way. Also, running a small business isn’t glamorous, especially at first. The trick is pulling your mess together when it counts and being confident in what you’re doing because you’re doing it. We know we don’t know everything by any means! We are always researching and asking ourselves, “how can we improve?”, all the time.
8. What do each of you do on your downtime to escape work?
Lucky for us we both enjoy working, but there are times when all I want to do is read a book on the balcony (mystery books preferably), or grab a coffee and take a drive up the coast. V would always rather be painting, but sometimes she’ll sacrifice some time to sit by the water (her water is big Lake Michigan) or take a small sailboat out for a few hours.
Check out my Instagram for a chance to win this beautiful pillow made exclusively by Sister Golden. The giveaway is running until June 12th, so hurry over there for more details.
Last month, I hustled to the gym and out for long runs. I hustled to get work done so I could get outdoors and go on adventures with my guy. I love that developing my athleticism has become such a key part of my life. I feel strong and healthy. This month, I chose the word “focus” so that I can hone in on some very specific goals I have set for myself.
Career: I want to focus on marketing myself and developing my freelance career. I have been blessed with some amazing clients and I am so excited to share the fruits of our labor with a portfolio update and blog posts about my process and the final products.
Financial: I have always struggled with managing my money, but as a freelance designer it is an important skill for me to develop as I grow in my career. I proudly just finished paying of my credit card debt (art school!) and now I want to focus on my student loans and other short and long term goals.
Athletic: Running is a huge passion of mine but I’m also getting exposed to other great activities to stay fit, such as swimming and biking. (Just got my first mountain bike!) I also love lifting weights and boxing. As for running, I want to continue to do my weekly long runs, aiming for 12 miles each week, while I work on my pace and skill, and increase from running 2-3 days per week to at least 4 days. I also really want to try a boxing class that has been on my list forever, but have always felt a bit intimidated by it. I also can’t wait to get out on the trails with my new mountain bike and my guy to explore.
What are your goals for the month? Do you have a word of intention for the month?
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