Boss Lady - Lara Kahler

   

Several months ago, ok, maybe a year ago, I was inspired to start a blog series called "Boss Lady". The mission behind Boss Lady is to inspire young women (and men) to follow their instinct/talent/passion and become entrepreneurs. 
My team and I are reaching out to all the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis. We will start with a brief background, then dive in to the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between. 

                                    Photo Credit: Elle Roman

I’m Lara. I’m from Little Rock and except for a short stint in rural Montana I’ve been here my whole life. I lived in West Little Rock as a child - - back when Reservoir Road backed up to a farm and the kids who lived there would sometimes ride their horses into my neighborhood - -and gradually migrated East. As a teenager my family lived mostly in Hillcrest and I graduated from Central High. My first apartment was at 10th and Scott and most of the folks in my sphere thought I was nuts for wanting to live downtown, and I was crazy for that old apartment building and the energy of the neighborhood. Flash forward more years than I like to count, and I’m still downtown. This time with a retail business on Main Street just five blocks from that first apartment and a warehouse project behind my old high school.

I’m sort of a late bloomer…didn’t start college with any seriousness until I had two young children and a full time job and even then I didn’t really mean to. I didn’t think that college was an option for me at the time, but working in the office of the president and CEO of Heifer International inspired me take a single UALR course on Sustainable Development. I loved taking that class so much I took another one. Then I took two. It took seven years, but I graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a minor in Gender Studies.

Being in retail was also something I just sort of fell into. I started creating staff and VIP gifts for Heifer’s president, which led to work as the coordinator for the Heifer Gift Shops, which led to working with the Clinton Museum Store, which led to managing the Store at Esse Purse Museum, which led to Moxy…  (A fun aside is that my first real job in high school was working at MM Cohn Department Store which was THE swanky store in Little Rock at the time. My desk at Moxy is a rescued fixture from the MM Cohn lingerie department given to me by our friends at Good Stuff Auction.)

                      Photo Credit: Nancy Nolan

  1. What is your business?  Jon Estelita and I own Moxy Modern Mercantile in the SoMa district of downtown Little Rock. We offer vintage and industrial furniture and décor along with a fresh and often irreverent mix of gifts and stationery. We love the quirky and have a knack for finding things that others might overlook. Our approach to decorating at home is pairing the old with the new to find that just right blend of fun and function and we bring this approach to our retail mix, too.

    As a sideline, I’m renovating a biggo warehouse behind Central High. It’s 20,000 square feet of concrete and steel that houses a workshop and storage for Moxy and when it’s complete, will offer studio space for artists and artisans.

  2. When did you start your business? Moxy officially opened Feb 11, 2014. We got the keys to our space at the tail end of October 2013 and spent three months readying the space. We were both employed full time elsewhere, so we were squeezing in renovating time where we could.

  3. What inspired you to make the leap?  I got a call from a friend letting me know about an upcoming storefront vacancy on Main Street. She asked if I knew of anyone looking who’d be a good fit or “maybe you…” Well, she planted a magic bean with that phone call. Jon and I made an appointment to see the space and without a clue as to what we were going to do with it, decided to take it on the spot.
  4. What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation??  Gotta have the java in the a.m. and my daily call with my mother. We talk every day, usually in the morning, but if we miss our morning call we catch up in the evening. We talk about the events of the day and what’s on the horizon for the next. She is my partner in the warehouse project and a real inspiration to me. I come from a family with more than its share of strong, entrepreneurial women. My nana had a beauty shop in her basement where my cousins and I couldn’t resist spinning each other dizzy in the shampoo chair. All three of her daughters are business owners. My aunt, Susan Maddox owned a marketing firm in Dallas, before “retiring” to open Rosemont Bed & Breakfast here in Little Rock; and my mother and her other sister Sylvia Payne co-own Kahler Payne Antiques & Vintage in Hillcrest - - a sweet cozy shop, which coincidentally was once a beauty shop, and was where I learned the ins and outs of retail early. I spent my teenage years and young adulthood going to auctions with my mother and aunt and scouring estate sales on the hunt for great finds.

                                    Photo Credit: Hannah Carpenter

  5. Tell us about a day in the life of running your business.  I used to be a night owl but during the last few years, I’ve begun getting up earlier and earlier and find that I can make a lot happen before 10am. I typically am up around six and spend about an hour waking myself up, tending to pets (Fergus – a corgi, Mario – a terrier mix, and Stella, a highway kitty) and readying myself for the day. Then I spend time doing something around the warehouse. One of my current projects is removing carpet adhesive from a long corridor, so I might work on this for half an hour or so and then settle down for a quick chat with my mother. Before I leave for the store a little after ten, I work my list of phone calls that need to be made that day. I like getting these out of the way first thing to keep me from getting sidetracked by the day’s events. I hate remembering at 5 pm that I’d meant to get in touch with a contractor or vendor and have to wait for the following day to make the call. At the store, Jon manages the visual merchandising and customer service and I do all the behind the scenes business to support the store. On an average day, I’m sourcing new products, placing orders, entering inventory, paying consignors, balancing checkbooks...all the myriad odds and ins that it takes to run a business.
  6. What keeps you motivated?  I really enjoy the lifestyle we’ve created. I love that I almost never have to set an alarm clock and that I have a work partner who complements my skills so well and is so much fun to work with. And I love the response that our customers have to our store. It’s a terrific boost to overhear them laughing at some wacky thing and enjoying themselves. Jon and I both get a lot of positive affirmations from their comments. “This is my favorite store!” will keep us going for a long while.
  7. Describe your dream day.  Lounging in a posh hut set in a secluded tropical cove with an unending supply of fruity drinks and a loaded Kindle.

                      Photo Credit: Nancy Nolan

  8. What is your greatest strength/super power?  I’d say my greatest strength is being a can-do girl….sometimes I just don’t stop to consider that I’ve never done something before and have no experience, so not realizing that I “can’t” I just go ahead and do it. Having a knack for asking the right questions and finding the right people to ask is also a big help.

  9. Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat?  Instagram. I find lots of inspiration on Instagram, @hannahacarpenter, @bellavitajewelry are two of my favorites. I’m inspired by Hannah’s simple, perfectly compelling photography and aesthetic (I’m sure it’s not as easy as she makes it look) and Brandy is such an amazing business woman. She’s always got something new in the works. Her hustle makes me want to reach higher and work harder.
  10. What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!) Most evenings I take a half hour to sit on the loading dock at Moxy Warehouse (aka my back porch) with a mocktail. I enjoy watching the trains go by while I reflect on the happenings of the day. It’s a terrific reading spot, too and with a little over an acre I have my very own dog park.

    I really enjoy what I do. So my work is my also my play. In my “down time” I find inspiration exploring other stores online or in person, traveling to trade shows and flea markets. The same goes with the warehouse renovation - - chipping damaged plaster from a wall or painting a rusty railing are leisure time activities for me…so I’m really lucky.

                                        Photo Credit: Saira Khan

  11. If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it? Hire staff. Launch an online store. Open a Moxy in a major city or two. Design and produce a line of retro-inspired furnishings. And finish the warehouse renovations complete with solar panels. Okay, I might need 2 million.
  12. What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go?  Jacking up my personal credit cards to open a store….we just celebrated our third anniversary with expanding our sales floor and are now operating with a line of credit.  So far, so good.
  13. Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable?  Tooting my own horn. I struggle with posting on social media. I’m really most comfortable being behind the scenes, and it’s a little tough for me to even brag about the store. However, I understand that we have to get Moxy news out there. We can have an amazing store but if no one knows about it we won’t have it for long. Another thing I try to keep in mind, is how much I love seeing what others are up to. A glimpse inside a maker’s workshop or an artist’s studio is always fascinating to me, and I enjoy following my favorite shops - - so just maybe folks want to see what we’re doing, too.

  14. How do you handle discouragement? I take a nap and then go at “it” harder from a different angle. Unfortunately, for Jon, I may also vent to him before rallying to face something hard. He’s really good about listening even when he’s probably heard that vent before.

                      Photo Credit: Saira Khan

  15. Which iconic person inspires you?  I love Oprah Winfrey. I recently read her book “What I Know for Sure” and found inspiration on virtually every page.
  16. Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote?  “It doesn’t matter how deep the water is, as long as you keep swimming.”
  17. If you could choose anyone to pick as a mentor, who would you choose?  I’d really like to work with marketing guru Seth Godin. 

                       Photo Credit: Saira Khan

  18. Who are you in your next life? A Maine Coon cat.
  19. Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business?  I’ve learned that having two consecutive days off is important to me. I inevitably work during some part of both days but having the time to fill as I “want” to and not as I “need” to is a real gift.
  20. What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs?  Acknowledge your fear and keep going.

                        Photo Credit: Nancy Nolan

Moxy Modern Mercantile social media:
Instagram: @moxymodernmercantile 
Facebook

Photographer social media:
Nancy Nolan
Hannah Carpenter
Saira Khan

 

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    Boss Lady - Stacy MacDonald

    Several months ago, ok, maybe a year ago, I was inspired to start a blog series called "Boss Lady". The mission behind Boss Lady is to inspire young women (and men) to follow their instinct/talent/passion and become entrepreneurs. 
    My team and I are reaching out to all the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis. We will start with a brief background, then dive in to the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between. 

     

    My name is Stacy MacDonald and I am the Owner, Designer, Miner and Maker of made. I am married to a pretty fantastic guy, who I actually started dating in the 7th grade, and we will celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary this August! We have three young children and as a family we love to regularly have dance parties, eat waffles and have Friday night- movie nights. I started making jewelry when I was about 17 years old after a few failed attempts to have my ears pierced. Finally resigning myself to clip-ons, I began making ones that suited my style as I headed off to college. I made jewelry off and on for the next ten years, evolving from selling clip-on earrings and necklaces to the girls in my dorm to eventually starting made. in the summer of 2014.

     

    1. Give us your elevator pitch. I make all of my jewelry with Quartz and Quartz crystals that I mine out of the Quartz mines in the Ouachita Mountains. I dig the stones out, clean them each by hand, and then turn them into jewelry that balances their unique, raw, organic characteristics with simple, minimalist lines. Hand mined. Hand made.

    2. What is your business? And how long have you been at it? My business is made. I have been making jewelry off and on since I was a teenager, but I started on this adventure the summer of 2014.

    3. What inspired you to make the leap?  Honestly, my third kiddo was about six months old and I was spiraling into an all too familiar black hole of postpartum depression. Having struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager, I knew that I needed to get my hands to work doing something other than changing diapers. We didn’t have the funds to start up anything, but I had some leftover chain and wire from my last venture with jewelry making a few years prior. I got the thought during church one Sunday morning, “Quartz is a natural resource here. I wonder if I could make anything with it?” I shared my idea with my husband and a few days later we loaded up the kids and went on our first dig. I tell people all the time that as I was mining these stones out of the clay, Jesus was mining my heart. My process became like an object lesson of God’s grace, love and redemption because He pulls us out of the miry clay. He relentlessly pursues us. He cleans us up and admires us even in the clay and muck of life. He sees our potential even when we can't see it ourselves. Slowly but surely, the veil of depression began to lift. And to my surprise, these hands that I had nearly come to believe were worthless were making something that people actually liked! And my heart was being flooded with the love of Christ through it all.

    4. What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation??  I love this question because it wasn’t until I had baby #3 that I even started drinking coffee! But now, I don’t know how I ever functioned without it!



    5. Tell us about a day in the life of running your business.  My business is run in between making meals and changing loads of laundry. Sometimes it’s during a movie for the littles (let’s just be honest here) and other times it’s with them right next to me with their own strip of wire to bend into shapes and letters. It’s when they’re at school/preschool and after they’ve gone to bed. It’s between morning coffee with my husband at our dining room table and my weekly lunch date with my sister. I value the time I can spend on made. but I very much value my relationships.  

    6. What keeps you motivated?  It is so cool to me that I get to share the love of Christ with people through a piece of jewelry. made. for me is very much my redemption song and to see it resonate with others and encourage others is absolutely what keeps me going.

    7. Describe your dream day.  My dream day would definitely start with sleeping in and then a big yummy brunch (that I did not have to cook) at home with my family. The day would be fun and free of any pressures or timelines and then we’d finish it up with a fire and s’mores in the backyard with all of our friends.



    8. What is your greatest strength/super power?  I like to think I’m witty. Some may call me corny, but I’ll stick with witty.

    9. Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat?  I have actually gone against all small business advice here and decided over a month ago to completely sign off social media! You can read more about that on my farewell post here.

    10. What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!)  Someday I’ll remember what free time is… multi-tasking is my way of life for now.

    11. If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it?  Oh my! One of the biggest things I look forward to doing with my business is actually an extension of made. called Out of the Clay. I would love to work alongside an organization like Celebrate Recovery or something similar and be able to offer a place with all the tools and supplies for various art and craft forms available to people who are struggling with depression or addiction to come in and be able to make free of charge. If I were a therapist, I’d call it art therapy, but since I’m not we’ll go with “breakthrough crafting”. ;) I would then love to offer those makers the opportunity to sell their work and share their stories at a brick and mortar of made.



    12. What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go?  I feel like life is one big risk after another. The old cliche really is true that if there’s no risk, there’s no reward. I tell my kiddos that sometimes taking a risk can end up hurting, but other times the payoff is so amazing and so exciting that it literally changes your life. We can’t be afraid to take risks for fear of the times it will hurt, because then we’re sure to miss out on some amazing things.

    13. How do you handle discouragement?  Discouragement is tricky. We all experience it and whether you’re pretty good about letting it roll off your back or not, it affects us all one way or another. I am not one of those people that finds it easy to just let things roll off my back. I don’t mean to dwell on discouragement, I just have trouble not taking it to heart. I have to regularly remind myself that I just can’t make everyone happy. Not everyone will be my customer and not everyone will love what I’m doing and that’s okay. *Cue Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”* ;)



    14. Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business?  I think it’s important to keep in mind that an overall balance is probably better and less stressful than focusing on trying to achieve a daily balance. Some days, I’m all mom and absolutely no work gets done. Other days, I have to be in full out work-mode and willing to allow other people to help watch the kids. Some moments of working are all for production and other times the focus is heavily on administrative work. I do a lot, but I can’t do it all all the time. I’ve tried and it just makes me and everyone around me miserable. I sleep when I need to and stay up late when I can. I set goals and work very hard to achieve them, but I also forgive myself when life happens.

    15. What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs?  To me, starting a business is a lot like trying to decide if you’re ready to start having kids. You’re never really and truly ready to start having kids and there’s never a really and truly an excellent time to start a business. We’re all busy and have commitments and throwing a business in the mix is certainly time consuming, to say the least. But why not?! If you have an idea for a product or service or for a business, don't convince yourself that it’s just a romantic notion to pursue it. Don’t listen to that voice that may try to get you to believe that you’re too naive to go after it. Silence that with action! To go after something with passion and dedication is bold and brave and inspiring! To sit on your idea and give into fear or to allow worry to halt you into inactivity robs all of the rest of us of what you have to offer. Go for it.

     

    All photos by: Saira Khan 
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