Aaron and Claire Van Holland met while working together at MySpace. Yes, that MySpace – the social media platform that was all the rage before Facebook usurped it. Claire was recruited to work for MySpace from her job in Detroit, Michigan. In telling the story, Claire said that she almost had to cancel the meeting where she met the MySpace executives that recruited her – and had she, she might never have met Aaron.
Fast forward several years later and they are now a married couple and business partners. They created the company M.F.E.O. – which stands for we are Made For Each Other. As soon as you meet the couple you understand the name, as they are indeed made for each other. What struck me the most about my meeting with them was how truly committed they were to being a team. Their relationship is the sort of partnership where each has taken a turn supporting the other in their efforts to follow their interests. In creating M.F.E.O. they have found something that they both can be committed to doing and loving.
What started as a shared interest of going to flea markets and estate sales, has developed into a studio specializing in locally crafted furniture, lighting and housewares made from reclaimed and sustainable materials. They create timeless legacy pieces that they hope people will love and pass along to future generations. To add to the loveliness, many of the pieces are created from Aaron’s grandfather’s barn that they deconstructed in an effort to keep it from being burned down instead.
Aaron left a job in advertising and Claire continues to work her 9-5 job in digital media to support them as the business grows. Neither of them had a formal background in furniture design, but this did not stop them from pursing their dream of launching a small, design-based business. And thank goodness, because their pieces are beautiful!
Listen below to learn more about Aaron and Claire’s Chapter Be story…
PODCAST POINTS TO REFERENCE
[03:14] Life before M.F.E.O.
[9:28] The moment when they knew that they should just go for it and give it a try. “Listening to your instincts can really pay off!”
[14:00] Aaron and Claire’s approach to working together to design their pieces.
[17:30] What does it feel like to leap from a six figure salary to the unknown? What does it feel like to have to then depend on your significant other financially? Aaron talks about his experiences of “breaking free from conditioning of the man needing to be the provider.”
[21:15] The couple found that they were redefining success through the adventure of starting M.F.E.O. – “Spending time together was much more valuable.”
[24:05] How do you support a significant other who is making the leap to create their own path?
[29:35] Aaron and Claire talk about how they ensure that their business does not consume their relationship. Key – take the day off!
[34:09] Nature has the power to heal and give us perspective.
[40:20] Claire discusses the benefits of keeping her 9-5 job as they build up M.F.E.O.
[47:35] “Just go for it!”
[49:20] The importance of finding your “tribe” by building community and a network. “There is more than enough work to go around!”
[52:45] Discuss how Los Angeles has played a role in their success.
[55:57] How you know when you are ready to grow your business?
CHAPTER BE QUESTIONNAIRE…
What’s your favorite quote?
“It makes me feel guilty that anybody should have such a good time doing what they are supposed to do.” – Charles Eames
Worst work experience?
Prefer not to relive it!!
What is your definition of success?
Happiness and fulfillment is success to us. Our goal is to simply reach the point where our creative efforts can solely fund the lifestyle we want to live.
How do you tap into your creative energies – especially when you are feeling drained?
It usually requires us to step away and reset. Depending on just how drained we are, that could be a quick trip to Joshua Tree, a climb at the gym, a hike, yoga or an hour in a float tank.
What does “to be” mean to you?
Existing in the moment. Presence.
How do you spend your time when you are procrastinating?
Getting lost in the abyss that is Instagram.
Ideal READING LIST – books, websites, blogs, podcasts, magazines, etc. that you would want on your Swiss Family Robinson deserted island?
- The Pearl by John Steinbeck
- Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
- The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Joe Rogan Experience (podcast)
- Radiolab (podcast)
- 99% Invisible (podcast)
- Snap Judgement (podcast)
- Hardcore History (podcast)
Favorite song with “be” in the title?
How They Want Me to Be by Best Coast
LINKS & RESOURCES…
- M.F.E.O. – website
- M.F.E.O.’s story of Aaron’s grandfather’s barn
- M.F.E.O.’s Etsy Shop
- Partnership with West Elm
- The Getty
- Pandora Media
- Unique LA
Images via M.F.E.O.