So two things I'm excited for today. That it is finally spring and this month's featured bawse. This month's fab feature is Atlanta-based stationary connoisseur Leela Hoehn-Robinson, owner of the rad stationary and gift line Native Bear. If you haven't heard me mention Leela before, you are living under a rock. Ah! She creates the most beautiful designs. So beautiful, I secretly gift one of my favorite items to my brides in their welcome boxes when they book :) I guess that secret is out... bah.
I met up with Leela at her beautiful home (which now houses her studio space AND separate work space) and we had a good ole time. Her work space is divine. I actually just want to live in a corner of the room, but that might distract her from her work so I will hold off on that request.
So after we made our 4th or 5th cup of coffee of the day, Leela and I (and the belle of the ball Maebe, her sweet pup) sat down for a boss lady chat of all things Native Bear and inspiration. Other things I love about Leela is she too collects Vogue mags, but they sometimes double as a dog bowl holders, showing us that you can recycle and be fabulous at the same time.
Native Bear doesn't have the starting place that you think it would based on Leela's epic design skills. Leela is happily married, but of course once upon a time she was engaged. And as most girlbosses like to take charge, she decided to plan her own wedding and needed an image for her invitations, wedding favors, etc. She loves her dog and decided to create an image of her that she could stamp on wedding stuff. She thought creating the stamp wouldn't be hard (seriously?) and so she just whipped one up as only she can. So her first stamp and subsequently Native Bear, was born. Dont you just love that? She wasn't even trying! She did always want to work for herself, but like most of us, she wasn't exactly sure how the arts were going to pay her bills. She was however obsessed with Etsy and their Quit Your Day Job articles, which I'm sure have fueled a number of fires since they first started. She read them. Every single week. Plotted. Planned. And became a boss.
Right now Leela is revamping her method of production. Up until this year she was doing every single thing by herself, but she knew to grow and to reach more stores, more wholesale orders and more customers she would have to get comfortable with getting outside help. Which is a great problem to have btw. I asked Leela if she is where she wants to be yet, and her answer is no but she is doing better with her own company than the last employee job she had before leaping into entrepreneurship, so by that definition she is doing just fine. This is a day we all cant wait for. The day you realize you've tipped the scale. The day you realize you are actually making the same 'salary' as the one you last had when you were employed by someone else. What a glorious day for entrepreneurs. If you don't know where to start with your goals, make sure you add that one to your list.
A major goal that Leela is currently working on is her wholesale orders. She currently has 44-45 accounts and plans to have 500+ within the next 5 years. I told her she should change her goal to 1000 because with her current success, 500 sounds easy-peasy. She accepted this challenge.
Advice Leela would give to new female entrepreneurs who don't have a clue how to get their name 'out there': "Anything you can do, just do it." For visual businesses like hers and like a lot of creatives she says honing in on Instagram is a must.
"Build the confidence to put yourself out there, but don't beat yourself up if you aren't doing everything right off the bat."
So if you don't really like certain social media platforms, don't focus on those. If Twitter doesn't let you say what you need to say, get a blog. Get one platform down, and work hard to show people who you are there. She also says its really important to listen to people when they give you feedback.
I always like to find out how my super cool creative successful entrepreneur friends dealt with comparison when they first started out. Comparison is one of those things that everyone tells you not to do, but as a creative human, you're basically unveiling yourself to the general public, and comparing yourself to others is pretty hard to avoid.
Leela found herself in this situation a little while back and since these nagging thoughts were keeping her up at night, she decided to get a little outside help.
"I went to a reiki healer and she helped get the chatter out of my mind. At night I couldn't stop the chatter. [Visiting the reiki healer] was an energy release." She also says when you find yourself comparing that you need to remember this one thing:
"You're where you are all the time because that's where you need to be."
This is important for us all to remember as we journey through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. She gave a great example of how at the time she was comparing herself to someone she felt she was equal too, in retrospect she could see that she was actually not ready for the growth that she wanted at that time. Had she gotten a huge order from some national company at that time, she would have completely burnt herself out trying to fulfill it, as she was just a one-woman show. Patience is truly a virtue, so for everyone trying to rush the process, be kind to yourself while you wait for the universe to open up opportunities for you at the exact right time.
By the end of 2016, Leela definitely wants to be a well-known stationary brand both nationally and internationally. And she is well on her way. I personally cannot wait until she posts to her facebook page about her latest feature in some fancy European magazine. I will literally die. It's coming.
I asked Leela what are 3 words she would use to describe herself:
Impulsive- "If it's fun, interesting and exciting" she will jump on it. However, when it comes to design she would switch 'impulsive' out with 'methodical'.
Balancer- Leela is a Libra and a natural justice seeker; "Injustice is a hard thing for me to process. It's a little stressful."
Inspired- "I feel inspired almost all the time." I love that!
Leela doesn't know what her spirit animal is. Her nickname is actually 'Bear' though, to which her company's name Native Bear was derived. If she thinks of her spirit animal later, she will be sure to update us. One contender was tequila.
For anyone out there reading this, and you have a dream to do something, anything, Leela says:
"Theres no better time than the present to get things started. Be patient. Every step you're working on is a valid step. Don't get burned out. And don't get put off if things don't happen as fast as you think they should. Just keep working." I couldn't agree more.
Now it's TOUR time! Today's studio tour is provided by some epic light and Maebe the Muse <3