I learned about Amanda Peppard and Corina Gomez’s store, Suite Pieces, via an article in Brooklyn Based, Two New Vintage Shops Breathe Fresh Life into Old Furniture. The article highlighted the store and it’s do-it-yourself workshops, but it wasn’t until I went to the store’s website that I discovered the women’s Chapter Be stories.
Each woman left a non-design career in order to follow her passion for design. Both women had their own venture before meeting one another, which lead to them partnering to open the Greenpoint, Brooklyn store. Suite Pieces is a “vintage furniture & decorative paint boutique…filled with carefully curated items and creatively restored pieces.” Their specialty is being a stockist for Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Waxes, and their workshops help inform the best ways to use the paint in your DIY home projects. The paint is a unique decorative paint, that you can use without having to sand or prime your piece of furniture and can be used indoor, outdoors and on any surface. A wonderful remedy for those who do not have a ton of space to do at-home projects.
After years of struggling to find work that they loved, both women feel that they have finally found a path that they are passionate about and dedicated to – but it didn’t come without some personal and professional pain along the way. To read more about how Suite Pieces came to be, read on…
Before you started Suite Pieces you were a teacher, Amanda, and you were a chiropractor, Corina – what was that process of changing to owning and running a vintage furniture shop & DIY boutique like for both of you? Was it a big shift?
Corina Gomez [CG]: Well, I was also a stay-at-home mother right before this, and it is a big shift. It comes with maybe not anxiety, but a little bit of guilt that you are leaving your child to pursue your own dreams. But at the same time it will strengthen them and show them that both parents work hard and that you work hard to obtain things. It’s a good role model for them to be able to follow.
Also it is wonderful for your children to be able to observe you following your dreams and passion. With our parents’ generation we really watched as people kept the same career their entire lives – that is what they did. That is what was modeled for me, so the whole idea of changing careers is scary because I didn’t ever watch someone do that. That can also be a very informative thing for kids to see.
CG: Yes – it is about following your dreams and your heart, and I hope that my son will be better off for having that modeled for him!
How did you transition from one career to the other – was it something that was very cut and dry or was it a little bit slower with you kind of easing into it?
Amanda Peppard [AP]: I didn’t go straight from teaching to this. I went to college to be a math teacher and when I got about half way through student teaching I realized I wasn’t a huge fan of children, and I may have made a mistake in my career choice (which was my career choice since Kindergarten). I never had any other thought of doing anything else. I had always been interested in design but my whole family can draw. My mom was always crocheting and sewing, and I was always creative but I could never draw, so I thought I couldn’t be a designer. I put that away. I just let that sit. I went the practical route and became a teacher. Not a lot of my family was highly educated, so I wanted to go to college and accomplish that. After college I did teach for a year just to make sure it really wasn’t something that I wanted to do. It wasn’t.
After I got out of that I was living in Buffalo, NY with my boyfriend at the time, who is my husband now, and we met in college. He is from Long Island so we moved there after college. I made the decision that I was going to start fresh and come here and see what opportunities could come my way. I got into a lot of different things. I was just waitressing and bartending to pay the bills. At one point I had started my own cleaning business. I was also in Mary Kay for a long time when I was in college, so I carried that with me as well. I was doing a lot of different things. I was always very entrepreneurial, and I always loved design. I never thought I could actually put those two things together as a career.
So, at one point I had started to get this feeling that I needed to be in corporate America. Maybe it was because teaching was a different world, and I never had experienced corporate America or the business world, but I was very drawn to it. I got a corporate marketing job and sat at a desk for 4 years. I worked on spreadsheets and sales sheets, worked with sales people and did catalog and manufacturing stuff…and I hated it. I hated every single day of it. After I got married I decided I was going back to school for design. I didn’t care that I couldn’t draw any more. I just could not contain the passion that I had for design any longer. I had to get into it. Every moment when I wasn’t sitting at my desk (and a lot of moments when I was) I was reading design blogs, watching whatever I could, I just could not get enough of it.
When you say design, are you talking about Interior Design?
AP: Yeah, I love HGTV and going to fabric stores, putting things together, looking through catalogs, decorating my house and just being creative. When I was at my job I actually found chalk paint on one of the blogs I frequented, Miss Mustard Seed. So that was already in my head, and it was something that I wanted to look into. I went back to school for Design, and I had never gone to school and really, truly loved it. I just couldn’t get enough of it. I couldn’t wait for the next class. It was just so much fun. My very first night of class, the woman said that if you think that you don’t know how to draw, I can teach you. I was like, “What do you mean you can teach me?” I really enjoyed that class because we did a lot of drafting and architectural work. I had a knack for it, actually. I knew I could actually do this and it was a lot of fun. I finished design school at Wilson Tech on Long Island, which was a certification program after about a year and a half. I also went to Metropolitan Institute of Design for some extra commercial design courses. After that I made the decision that come January I was going to quit my job whether or not I had another job or not.
So you were working at your corporate marketing job the whole time you were in design school?
AP: Yes, I was working the whole time in that corporate marketing job. It was September, and I started looking for a new job. I got my resume out there and just started trying to find some sort of job in design. I was doing a lot of marketing and catalog work, and I thought maybe I could do this for Pottery Barn or some other company. I could not find anything. I got a couple of interviews but nothing panned out. January came and I could not take the marketing job anymore. I felt like it was just eating away at my soul.
So I put in my resignation letter and all of my friends were telling me I was crazy – that we were in the middle of a recession, that I had a good job with a good salary, good benefits, a 401K, that I was 20 minutes from home and they were telling me I was nuts. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I would rather make $12.00 per hour if I had to, which is exactly what I did. I got hired a couple days later at Calico Corners as a Design Consultant. About 2 weeks later an interior designer called me and said she heard I was looking for a part-time job as an Interior Design Assistant, would you like to come and work for me? It was as if the stars were all aligned and everything was working out. I started working for her and we did some show houses together. I was still working at Calico and doing all sorts of design work and I loved every minute of it.
About 10 months later I was starting to feel like, okay, what’s the next step? I was doing a $12.00 an hour job, and I wanted to move to the next step. I left there and did brief stint as a manager at a consignment shop. The place didn’t really have it together, so I left there on December 1st in tears. It was 24 days before Christmas, and I had no idea what I was going to do. So, I did what every woman would naturally do. I did some retail therapy! My retail therapy was in a vintage store, and I stumbled into an antique store and there was a big sign that said “Space For Rent.” I thought to myself, I could rent this space and sell my stuff that I have been collecting forever and redoing and painting. So, that’s what I did. I rented it on the spot, that day, and started just filling it up with stuff that I loved and had collected.
About that time I thought to myself I was going to redo furniture so I needed to find out about that furniture paint that I learned about on Miss Mustard Seed. I drove to New Jersey because at that time it was the closest stockist to me, and I wanted to talk to someone who would let me touch and feel the paint. I wanted to see it. The woman said to me, “Why did you drive all the way to New Jersey?” I said, “Well, there’s not a stockist on Long Island.” She said, “Well, why don’t you become one?” I called the company the next day and it turned out they didn’t have anybody that was interested in doing it. We went through all kinds of contractual talks and everything, and then I started my store. I’ve never looked back. I truly live my life by what has been put in my heart. I feel like if it is in my heart, then I will find every opportunity to see that it is done. I just have to walk and do.
How long has your store been open?
AP: Since February 2012. Then in October of that year, Corina walked in and bought some paint and went home and painted 4 pieces. She sold three the first weekend and came back and said that she needed more of this paint because it was amazing. She said, “This paint needs to be in Brooklyn!” and asked what was I going to do to get it in Brooklyn? I told her I would love to have a shop in Brooklyn but that I can’t do that on my own. She said, “Well, I would love to have a shop in Brooklyn, and I can’t do it on my own!” So, we started figuring out how to do it together. We started looking for places and 8 months later…
So, Corina, what was your back-story up until that point of walking into Amanda’s store?
CG: I went to school for biology as an undergrad. Science was always easy for me in high school, so I just figured that was my path. I also took a lot of art history classes when I was an undergrad and took a class at School of Visual Arts one summer. I just loved anything with art, but I knew for sure that I wasn’t talented enough to be an artist. I guess I just didn’t know what else was out there in the arts world. You hear of like a curator of a museum or people who are restoring art pieces, but I just never had the surroundings or the people to tell me that I could be a furniture curator or that there are lots of other things to do in the art sector.
Even at that time I was always going to garage sales and buying furniture and decorating my own room. I just didn’t make that connection. I thought it was a hobby. I thought you just went to school to make a good career and salary for yourself. Also, for me, going into Biology and then later into Chiropractic was more about trying to make my family proud because nobody had gone to college before me. I was the first one and wanted to have that doctorate degree. I did Chiropractic for 2 years, but it was just a struggle. I felt like I was out of my element. It didn’t work out well. I started my own practice and rented out my own space in a holistic health center, but I was struggling to get more patients. Right around that time I just didn’t feel good. I felt very guilty that I had picked the wrong career and had spent all of my parents’ savings to send me to school and that I wasn’t good at it. I knew how to make people feel good but there just wasn’t the passion behind it. I was very insecure about the whole thing.
Right about that time was when I felt like I wanted to start my family anyway. I had gotten married and one of my dreams had always been to raise my children the first few years as a stay-at-home mom and then get back into whatever I was doing. I really wanted to raise my child and fulfill that motherly instinct that I had. I did that and felt very lucky that my husband could carry the family for that time. It was great. It was amazing. Then came the time when I started to feel that itch again to get out there because the soccer mom life is just not the life for me. I just really can’t relate to those other moms that want to be a part of every activity. So, I started looking for other kinds of jobs – moving away from Chiropractic. I did estate management, which is working for families that are very well-to-do and running their whole household. That came about because my mom was a housekeeper. I always was surrounded by wealthy people. They knew me, and I had a great rapport with them so it was just a very natural thing. So, I started doing that but again I was miserable. There was a lot of stress and I was getting physically ill about it. I got fired, which is a sign that I couldn’t handle the high intensity of it.
Was getting fired a relief? I’ve talked to people who have said that getting fired was the catalyst for them to get them to do what they wanted to do. No one wants to get fired, but sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise.
CG: No – I felt like shit! It was the catalyst, but I felt horrible and like a failure. It felt like the second career that hadn’t worked and what was wrong with me? Why can’t this happen for me? My personal life was amazing, my family life was amazing, but my professional life was going nowhere. So, right around that time was when I started thinking more about the furniture because even on the side I was hoarding furniture and looking at interior design magazines. I had a friend who was an Interior Designer at the time. She just kept encouraging me and telling me that I had a good eye for pieces, that I was picking out pieces that other people were looking for in the design world and that I should just do it.
You don’t always know those things until someone tells you, right?
CG: No – I didn’t! She would invite me to her parties or designer events, so I started living in that world without really being a part of it. I was like, okay, I know I like this idea but I certainly don’t want to design for people, so what do I want to do? I even went to some open houses for design schools, but it just wasn’t the right click. I just didn’t think it was what I ultimately wanted. Then one time I walked into Sotheby’s, just to see and experience an auction. I went on the elevator and started crying, because I knew that was what I wanted. I wanted to go back in time and start my whole education over again – be an art major, get a Master’s and then work with high-end furniture. But at that time I knew my family came first, and I wasn’t in a place to start all over again. So, I started at the flea market just to start really small. I really wanted to open up a shop, but I was just too scared to do it. I didn’t want to fail once again at something. I thought I would just do something very simple and safe.
The Brooklyn Flea Market was great, because it gave me the confidence. I had to send pictures and do a website. They told me they would like me to sell – they were looking for more furniture people because they already had too many jewelry and clothing people. I did and that was great. I learned a lot about what to buy and what not to buy just by talking to other dealers about their experiences. There is a whole culture, a microcosm, there. People were very nice and most people were willing to share where they buy their pieces and for how much. They really embraced one another.
It’s good to hear. So, it’s not that competitive?
CG: Not really. Everybody that I encountered was very nice. I started looking for paint to better my pieces and met Amanda. She seemed surprised that I was willing to share the information on where I got my pieces, etc. Her experience was that most dealers don’t want to share this information. I think it depends on if you are in the industry or just there as a customer. The fact that I went in creating my own pieces with my own style, then as a colleague they start talking to me on an understanding level.
In meeting and talking with Amanda, I saw an amazing opportunity, and couldn’t sleep the night after meeting her. I was so worried that someone was going to do it first and we would miss the opportunity. She is very spiritual, though, and she said that if it was meant to be then it would happen for us. Without her I would never have done this. Her spirituality has helped me have more confidence and gain the patience that it takes to start a business. I know I have to plant the seed, wait and let it grow from there. I have to trust that it is going to grow.
Well in the end it is all about faith – however one chooses to live that word – but just that opening up a business does take a certain amount of faith.
CG: Yes, that is true. The feeling that this is what you are meant to do, so there is no other alternative. It just becomes way clearer. Now it has been almost a year since we opened, and it has been escalating. So far, so good. The community has embraced the shop and we have great pieces with good prices, and people know that we are here to be a part of the neighborhood.
What kind of market research did you guys do? I know it was an 8-9 month process to find a space. Did you always know that you wanted to be in Greenpoint or were you open to other Brooklyn neighborhoods?
CG: We were willing to go anywhere and almost signed a lease in Bed-Stuy. We were literally going by what we thought we could do with our budget. We were looking at prices per square foot and by projecting what we thought our sales would be based on what I made at the market and what Amanda was making at her other store. We factored in everything to the point of like, how many lights do we want in the store, so what would that mean for our electric bill. It was about spaces that we could afford, but still get some sort of foot traffic. We knew we wanted to be in Brooklyn because there is a big DIY culture here. We did a craft fair at 3rd Ward before it closed. We did it right before Christmas just to see how many people knew about the chalk paint. We found out nobody knew about it. We were surprised, but we knew that it was going to be huge once people knew.
The paint is such a perfect thing for an urban culture and environment, since you don’t have to sand or prime. I can’t tell you how many friends say that they would love to refurbish furniture, but they just don’t have the space. This is perfect because all you really need is enough room to put some newspaper down and paint!
CG: Yeah, it is just catching on now. We do get more and more people coming from the website that have looked at our samples and we are also educating everybody who walks through the doors so that they think about it, they absorb it, and then they come back with a project.
Your store started as both a store and workshop space. Was that to bring in your education background, Amanda, or was it just because it was something you were interested in creating?
AP: It kind of came with the product. When you are stockist you need to also host workshops. So, when I really started to learn about this product, I knew that I wanted to redo furniture and sell it. I even wanted to do some design consultation work and things like that. I just didn’t know how to bring it all together. So, when I started to learn about this paint and what it could offer me as a business, I realized that I could now share my knowledge with people. That opened a whole new door for me. I really did love teaching. I just didn’t love teaching children. I feel like I can kind of absorb knowledge and communicate it well to people so I felt like this was the perfect outlet to be able to do this.
When I first started doing workshops I didn’t actually have a workshop space. I actually rented a common area in the antique place and I would have to lug so much stuff, like 30 cans of paint, 10 stacks of workshop supplies, coffee, tea, water and food. It was such a hassle, but I loved it. I loved that interaction with people, and I loved seeing them be creative for the first time. A lot of the people would come in and say, “I’m not creative” or “I don’t know how to do this,” but by the end of the class they had created something really beautiful and were so excited. It was all there in the beginning, but you worry about how this is going to work or how that is going to work, but in the end it all just kind of came together.
Can you talk about your process of finding a space and what that was like? I know the New York market is completely insane and daunting but what were some of your experiences with going through finding a physical space?
CG: How long do you have?! We both went at it very innocently. We did a lot of budgeting first to see how much we could afford and that is very important because you can be lured by bigger spaces and nicer spaces, but the rent is considerably higher. If you are not realistic and you don’t stay within that budget then that is where businesses can get into trouble because what is available for your budget is very slim out there.
Did you look at getting a loan or any other kind of financial backing?
CG: We went to meetings for it and we knew that we were either going to use our savings or hopefully get a loan, which we did. Thankfully, Amanda had a great relationship with a local bank that really fosters small businesses and they actually did give us the loan. Both of us had great credit so that was good. Most banks are not willing to loan to a new small business, even with Amanda already being in her other shop for over 6 months. It was still too new. They want to see like 2 years worth of paper work. I feel like we got very lucky.
AP: The other thing for us was that we didn’t want to pay a broker’s fee. So, we did a lot of research online because everything really does go through a broker. We hunted Craigslist and we were on there every day looking for something. We were walking around neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs. It’s funny, too, because you don’t see half of the things that are available when you are just on Craigslist.
CG: Then we got into the actual putting in of offers which often they rejected because some of them were already taken and some of them were just crazy scenarios that we just didn’t want to do. Then they kept changing the price. First it was like $2,200 and we said we would take it and get back to them the next week. Then they never called, so we called them and it was, “Oh, now it’s $2,500.” Everything just kept changing and it gave us both a bad feeling.
AP: Then the next place was a new commercial space done by developers, and we fell in love with the space. It was in our budget until we realized that we had to put in heating, air conditioning, and electrical work. We were willing, even at that point, to swallow that and do it. But, even before we put the offer in these people wanted to meet us and have us do a presentation on our business because they were extremely picky on who they wanted to let in to the space.
We put together a whole presentation, and were accepted to put in an offer. Then it was a lot of negotiating back and forth. I think I lost my stomach half way through. At one point I felt like I was just going through the motions. It was extremely stressful. We paid over $2,000 for our attorney to look over that lengthy, lengthy lease and everything was just a hurdle and a great big pill to swallow. They let us in so I felt like, okay, that was a huge hurdle that we got over and we have to go for it. I still just felt in the pit of my stomach that something was not right. We were a couple of days from signing the lease. We were on the phone with our lawyers who were going through all of the clauses and changes. I called my husband and said that I didn’t know if this was right. He said that I have been saying that from the start.
CG: Yes, but the real estate agent was chewing us out for walking away, but only we can know what we can afford and the liability that these people wanted us to own. It was the liability. So, at the very last minute we found this place on Craigslist, just the night before it was like let’s go look at this place. At that point we said that we might just have to walk away from this and maybe re-evaluate it in 6 months. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time for it.
AP: Yeah, Karina was ready to go get a job.
CP: Yes, I was! I was about ready to get a job at Banana Republic!
AP: So, we came and saw it and it was too good to be true. The night before we were on the phone with our lawyer and I said, “You know, Mona, when we got into this I thought it was going to be a 4 page lease, $2000 per month, heat included, everything ready, we could just set up shop, paint the walls, and be done.” She said, “Well, that’s never going to happen and especially not in New York City.” I said, “I know, I know.” Then we walked in here and it was that exact situation. I was just like, all right, this is it.
CP: We were thinking there has to be a catch because this just can’t be that amazing. We negotiated. After fighting over the last lease it prepared us for this lease. There were some things that needed to be changed, and in the end I think we just wore him out.
That sounds like a good business technique!
AP: I feel like everything we have been through has just been preparing us for the next step. This is the first time in my life where I actually feel like this is it. I always felt like I was looking outside for what I needed. This is the first time in my life that I know this is it.
Now as far as your partnership, it seems like it was very serendipitous. You walked in to Amanda’s store and were both in the same place and wanting the same thing, but how do you guys work together? Would you have done this by yourself? Did you guys come up with a partnership contract?
CG: Yes, we did. That was one of the first things we did before we ever looked at spaces.
AP: Before Corina came into my life and before I started Suite Pieces, I did have another partner. The business never actually got started, but we did a lot of conceptualizing and we were doing some things together but nothing legally had been formed. Right from the get-go I saw flags that things weren’t going to work as far as putting in the work. I am a million percent in. I work 7 days a week and I am always doing something. I am learning now that I need to take a step back from it and take some time for myself sometimes, but I knew that I was going to be all in and that this other person was doing it as a hobby.
When I started to do some research on partnerships one of the first things I read was that if you and your partner don’t have the same vision then it is never going to work. So, you have to be on the same page. So when Corina came to me, I said if we are going to do this then it needs to be done the right way. We need to have a partnership agreement that lays down some ground-rules of how it was going to work. We did it, and it worked. I am a very controlling person, and I know that. I also know that if I’m going to build an empire then I need to let go of some of that control!
I am really thankful that Corina came into my life. Would I have done it on my own? Probably, eventually, but I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason, and this is how it was supposed to work. We try to split things evenly and it is really about communication and trust.
CG: Everything has happened in the right way. We were so frustrated in those first 8 months, but if it wasn’t for us getting to know each other before opening the shop then maybe we wouldn’t have been able to get along as well – we were so new to each other. We didn’t know what our tastes were, how we worked, if we were trust-worthy people, what our values were. We were ready to open the doors right away, and I think that would have been a big mistake. We were just not comfortable with each other yet. We were eager, but with a partnership you are trusting that the other person will do the best they can and be honest with you in every way. It’s almost like a marriage in a way.
Yeah, it is like a marriage in that when you go through a hardship if you make it through to the other side you are that much stronger.
CG: We also have different strengths, which our partnership needs to make it all happen. If you are both strong at one thing then everything else is going to lack and there will be too many things that nobody will care about. We got good at delegating those things. Amanda has also helped me be more spiritual. I feel like I needed that and that came as a bonus for me in a business partnership, because I needed to have that in my life but I didn’t know it at the time. It helps me in my life and puts things in perspective. I was just so focused on my professional path. I was like, this is what is wrong in my life, and I was so fixated on that one area instead of seeing that I have so many other blessings. It was believing that this is something that is going to take care of itself because I am on the right path now. I was not on the right path before. You can be so hard on yourself in this switching careers kind of thing. I was very hard on myself.
I think, too, that when you are trying to become an entrepreneur it becomes your life. It’s different when you have a desk job. One thing I’m noticing is that I don’t feel like I have weekends anymore. When you had a desk job you felt like you somehow earned your weekend. This is more like feeling as if you always have something that you should be doing or thinking about. How do you find that balance of not being entirely fixated on your business? How do you learn to let go when it’s your creation and you own it?
AP: Yeah, I have two stores now and a great customer base and things are going great, but I haven’t learned how to work and find balances yet. I am very out of balance right now, but I am lucky in the sense that I don’t have children. Well, I shouldn’t say lucky, but I am in a position where I don’t have children to come home to right now. My husband is extremely supportive. I would never be able to do this without him. Sometimes he leans over and closes the computer at 11:30 p.m. and says, “It’s time to go to bed now.” So, I am learning.
I have learned that you have to let go of some of that and delegate some of those tasks that are taking up your time. I have recently done a couple of new hires to help relieve the workload. I hired a girl who did advertising and marketing for a book publishing company. She is a stay-at-home mom now and she wanted to be involved somehow. She has helped with the website and creating some promotional materials – just all of the things I think about on a daily basis that I physically cannot get to. So, I’m realizing that as the business grows, if I want to continue on the same path and have some sanity then you are going to have to find other people to help you with the journey. That has been a good revelation for me. I can’t do everything, and I have to delegate some of these things to other people.
CG: What has helped me is learning to focus on the now and the present and not always thinking about the past and what could have been. That was the mind torturing that I was doing to myself – “I should have done this, and I shouldn’t have done that. I wasted time. I went to school for the wrong thing.” I was always beating myself up about the past. The future, to me, seems very uncertain. It’s hard for me to see where I will be 5-10 years down the road. I know that I am in the right place now and that however things grow, it will take us in the right direction.
I have learned to live in the moment and cherish everything that I have right now and know that I am where I want to be. My family helps me. I have my son who lives in the moment and plays and wants me to be around. If I’m not around then daddy is around and he does a great job. I just love everything that I do so much that on my days off I don’t mind continuing to do it…like maybe I’m looking for furniture or be on the websites to keep current with what is going on. Painting is a great outlet. It is very therapeutic. I don’t really try to stay away from it. The business aspect that I find frustrating is how to get the word out there – how to get these bloggers to know about our place.
What motivates you and keeps you inspired? When you were struggling to find a place, for instance, what kept you motivated to continue on this path?
CG: For me, before I started doing this, I just knew that I was capable of doing something else. I had friends who were actually successful and happy in what they were doing. I was like, why can’t that be me? I am more than capable; I just haven’t found the right thing. It was hard. But the people around me kept believing in me and giving me that support. My husband, my girlfriend in design – just those people who believe in you so that when you don’t believe it, or don’t believe things are going to go your way, they can help you see things in another perspective. I think it was just being surrounded with the right positive people in your life and not the negative people who are miserable so want you to be miserable. “Well, I have a bad job, why can’t you take a bad job?”
I quit my job because I was so miserable, and I didn’t have anything else lined up. I had people who were in a complete panic asking me, “What are you going to do?!” I thought, this is my life and I’m not panicking, why are you are panicking?! Other people were like, “Good for you! Go for it!” I had to learn to say no to people that weren’t uplifting to be around. It is kind of like a colander in a way where you are sifting out the people that you don’t want to surround you.
CG: Yes, there are people in my life that I truly love, but I just don’t discuss with them anything meaningful or that relates to my business life or my decision-making. There are other people who would be the first person I’d call. I have girlfriends that I know are going to give it to me straight because they know me, know what I am comfortable with and will tell me if I am settling. My husband can always tell me, and he does it in a way that gives me confidence. I think back to those days when I didn’t have any idea where I was going, and I looked to the people who were encouraging me and telling me that I could do better and it was just around the corner.
AP: I didn’t have the best support system growing up, and I actually grew up a very depressed child. When I got into Mary Kay they introduced me to Joel Osteen. I just started reading his books, and Mary Kay is very good at praising your success and telling you what you are focusing on that is right and not so much about telling you what you are doing wrong. If you focus on what you are doing right then you will continue to do those things and let go of the things you are doing wrong.
I started changing my thought processes, because I, too, beat myself up terribly for a very, very long time about how I lived and what I did. I felt like a really terrible person. This journey started about 10 years ago – I started to change my thought patterns. I was never really a religious person. I was raised Catholic, but I never really went to church. This was just about treating people kindly and praising them to succeed. It’s about looking at the good things and when something is put in your heart you have to follow it. For me this has been a real journey in learning how to trust. It was almost like a challenge that I gave to myself. It even sounds ridiculous to me today to say that I am building an empire but the more and more I say it the more and more I become comfortable with it.
That is what I turn to when I wonder what I am going to do. You just have to trust. Everything happens for a reason. If you are going through a challenge, then you are either going to come out better on the other side, or it’s going to teach you something and you just have to be in it. Every day it gets a little bit easier to live life that way. I think for a long time I lived in the extreme opposite direction and in complete negativity. I was in the, “why is everything happening to me” and “everything is so bad,” the why this and why that life. Now I have completely flipped the coin and said that I am not going to live like that anymore. I’m just not going to let anything steal my joy. So, anything that comes my way, traffic or whatever it is, I just say that I’m not going to let anything steal my joy. Every day is kind of a lesson in that but it becomes easier and easier.
If someone is sitting at a desk job and they are miserable and hate their job. They love doing DIY or they love collecting furniture, but they don’t even know how to go about changing their situation, what would your piece of advice be for them? How can they start exploring what makes their heart sing? What would be a good first step?
AP: When I was working at that corporate job, on my lunch breaks I used to go to thrift stores. Every time I walked into a thrift shop or vintage store I would start to get heart palpitations. I would be so excited, and I didn’t really understand why. I had to kind of piece things together. I think it’s about really trying to focus on what really makes you happy. I even started making lists of what the sorts of things are that I love to do. That list (now when I look at it) all makes sense. At that time it didn’t. I loved Excel spreadsheets. I loved creating sample boards for design school, like when you do all of the swatches and color samples. I loved teaching. I loved motivating people. I looked at it then and it didn’t make any sense. When you start to piece everything together then it starts to reveal itself. I would say to really focus on what you love to do. What are the things that really make your heart go pitter-patter and go for it. Don’t question yourself. Just go for it. If it is in your heart then it was put there for a reason. You just have to trust yourself and go for it.
CG: I would say to start with something. Go to a shop and buy a piece of furniture. If your passion is to recreate it and put your own stamp on it, then do it and start with one piece. Then put that one piece on Craigslist or go and see if you could sell it in a consignment shop. When you do that then go to the next piece and you will know if you are getting momentum and moving in the right direction. It is going to be a bit of trial and error to get to know what you like. Now I see that this is not failure, but that you are learning your path. Start with something. That is the only thing that will get the ball rolling. Start with one thing and when you successfully sell it you are going to feel great and you are going to want to do it again. If that goes well then maybe make it a little more expensive next time.
If you start with something huge and you leave your job then it puts a lot of stress on you and not everyone has the luxury that we have with support from our husbands. Unless you feel secure that you can support yourself for a while (which would be amazing) just go with something and see where it takes you. You might realize that you want to do something a little bit different. Maybe you actually want to not recreate the furniture but maybe work at an auction house or be a dealer or be on the financial end of it. You are still dealing with furniture and gaining knowledge about it. You have to focus in on exactly what it is that you want to get out of it and then just start.
Notes of Reflection:
- Pay attention to what it is that you are gravitating to and doing in your spare time. What blogs are you constantly on and can’t wait to read every morning and digest in their entirety? When you take a break during the day – what do you want to do? Where do you find relief in your day? These are the things that you should be paying attention to, because these are the things that you naturally and organically want to do. You might discover that you want them to remain a hobby or you could discover that there is a business idea to explore. The playing and testing and trial-and-error are what let you move forward.
- Don’t do things merely to make someone else proud or happy. Corina explains that much of the beginning of her professional career was not about following her own wants and interests, but done to make someone else proud. What we do for a living consumes a lot of our weekly time – if we are doing it for the benefit of someone else, we will never be able to sustain our love and energy for it. You have to do what you do because YOU love it. Pay attention to this. Be aware of what is driving you and motivating you to do something and check in on that on a regular basis.
- Our trials are our lessons. Amanda and Corina’s process to find a physical space for their store was long and very exhausting. There were moments where one or the other were willing to throw in the towel and they questioned whether or not they should be doing this. But, it was this time that not only taught them important business and life lessons, but also brought them closer together as partners. They were able to use all of this to strengthen their business. It is important to remember that sometimes our lowest moments are what teach us the most and move us forward in life. We can avoid doing something, in order to avoid trials and tribulations – they can be our making.
- Trust. This is a word that was often repeated in this interview. Both women stressed the importance of trusting that things were going to happen exactly the way they were supposed to. Trust allows us to let go of trying to control every step, and evokes a flow to our work that is very freeing. You still have to do the hard work, but it just comes more naturally and with a little less stress.
- Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
- Everyday a Friday by Joel Osteen
- Becoming a Better You by Joel Osteen
*Images via Chapter Be and Suite Pieces