What inspired you to start your business?
After the last recession, I was living in New York, helping run the digital media team at Atlantic Records, and feeling very overworked and under-inspired. What did inspire me was A) the thriving contemporary-art scene and B) the indie (what we used to call “hipster”) scene in Brooklyn, where it seemed like everyone I knew was starting their own small business: pickling eggplants, screenprinting, making artisanal whiskey.
I knew I was ready to leave the corporate world and start my own business, and with my background in web development, digital marketing, and e-commerce, a website seemed like the ideal platform. I was so moved and excited by the new creative work I was seeing from artists like Dash Snow, José Parlá, Chris Johanson, but the art world seemed so rarefied and unapproachable, I had no idea how to enter it. But fashion. Fashion seemed accessible, and since I already knew how to design and build websites, it seemed like the easiest way to launch a new business. In hindsight, that was incredibly naive, but the naivete was probably necessary!
How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
Social distancing has affected my business in a huge, huge way—in many ways. Our two brick and mortar stores account for 85% of our sales, so you can imagine the absolute panic I felt when I heard that the mayor of L.A. called for all nonessential businesses to temporarily close. I think a crisis brings out some truths about people, and it’s absolutely fascinating to see how people reacted. I know people who panicked and felt paralyzed with fear. I know people who immediately started hoarding paper goods even though they didn’t need them. And I know (and am so lucky to be surrounded by) people like me, who stepped up to the plate and got shit done during a crisis. My senior staff and I had 24 hours to pack up and load all of our stores’ inventory into my house so I could continue to run the online business safely from home.
Since then, it’s been a true business rollercoaster. The first four weeks I would say I slept maybe four to five hours a night and worked from before dawn till late at night. I was researching grants and government loans, organizing unemployment for my staff, developing a new digital marketing strategy, speaking with friends who are digital- and financial-planning experts, consoling fellow business owners, calling banks for loans, packing orders, and sharing all my findings on social media so that fellow business owners could find help and solace.