Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Solly Baby + Oh Joy!

If I were to list all the the things I'm passionate about, here's a few things that would be near the top of the list: 
Design, motherhood, blogging, authenticity, creativity, hard work...
(yes, there are big giant family/faith things on the list as well, and of course some littler passions like Coke Slushies/afternoon naps that would make the cut for sure, but stick with me, I'm headed somewhere with this...)

So to have all of these topics come together in one post? Oh yeah...that's the stuff. 

I was chatting with the team at Solly Baby, kicking around a few ideas for a feature on their brand when they mentioned they had a designer collaboration coming up, and offered to have me interview Elle (the Solly founder) and the guest designer. Heck, yeah! Oh- and then? They announced that the partnership was with Joy Cho of Oh Joy! Stahhhhhhp it...

So I acted cool completely geeked out, and set up some time to chat with them. If you're familiar with either Solly Baby or Oh Joy! I don't have to tell you that a collaboration between them is pretty much guaranteed awesome.

I could go on and on about how beautiful the wraps are, how fun the Oh Joy! limited edition print is  and how talented both of these designers are...But for me, the story goes way beyond the product. It's really about the passion each of these women have for what they do. I was honored to have a chance  to talk with them, and I'm thrilled to share pieces of their experiences and perspectives. 

(OK...inspiring business ladies aside, the wrap is pretty awesome...And that baby might be just perfect):
Click to read the full story...

Elle Rowley is the founder of Solly Baby, and a mom of three kiddos: Lucy, Solomon, and Frances. She started Solly Baby in 2011, designing and sewing wraps in her home and four years later, she's grown that project into a wildly successful business. 

So...let's just be honest here. You're gorgeous and stylish, you live in California with your cute surfer husband, you have adorable kids, and a super successful business. If I didn't like you...I might...not like you. What misconceptions do you think people have about your life at first glance? {If you're not familiar with Elle...take a minute to look at her Instagram and try not get even a liiiiiittle bit jealous...It's sort of impossible.}
I meet people at Costco sometimes, and I walk away thinking, "Am I what they thought I'd be?" And I had to stop. I cannot do that, because I'd drive myself crazy. It's hard to know how people perceive you. It's hard to know what that whole picture you're depicting looks like. What's tricky about our situation is that I'm not a lifestyle blogger, I'm not a fashion blogger. This is our business, but by the nature of how our business grew through social media, it is more personal. Our Instagram was my personal Instagram. People were wearing our stuff and wanted to tag me. So once we realized that was happening, we shifted it to our business name. We didn't make a super-conscious decision about involving our family, it just happened. And there's a part of it that I really love and embrace because it enables me to have a deeper connection with our community and it makes my job so much more fulfilling. I love mothers, I love womanhood and entrepreneurship. To connect with women on that level is so inspiring, and we couldn't do that if my life wasn't a part of it. But I'm definitely more reserved about what I share...There are times when I just don't feel like being that vulnerable. Because we're representing a brand we have to be more careful. But I try to keep everything coming from an authentic place and not claiming perfection in any of this.

You talk on your site about the philosophy that becoming a mom or dad doesn't replace you as an individual- it adds to it. I think sometimes women feel like we have to be "all the things"...we're playing all these roles for other people. So how do you keep pieces of "you" when the other roles threaten to overtake things? 
Luckily in my work, there is a lot of creative. Because my job isn't totally typical, I work with a lot of my friends, and there are so many moms in our community that I'm friends (or virtual-friends!) with, so I feel that support I need. At least once a month, I take a date totally by myself. My husband can totally sense when I need that. He'll say, "You know, I don't think you really need to leave the business, or move to Europe for a year, I think you actually just need to go get a Diet Coke, and go to some antique stores for a bit." So I've found that to be a necessity, but I'm lucky that the work I do is a great creative outlet, because that makes it so much easier. 

I love that, because it sounds like pieces of what you really value and what you love are built into your everyday, so you're not looking for a break from that all the time, because it is where you want to be and what you want to do...
I think that's how you know you're in the right spot, professionally...It should feed you in a way that you don't need to escape from it all the time. Even if you love it, there are going to be days that are still the daily grind. But most of the time it should feed you, not drain you.

If you could go back to the beginning- to the "just starting out version of you"- and give her some advice...what would you tell her? 
"Envision the biggest thing you can." 
Envision the end of the road....In my mind, I had these glimpses. I knew that this could be big. I knew that this could be huge. But I was almost scared to see what that would look like. And I didn't want to be disappointed.

Take yourself seriously. Right from the beginning. I talk to friends of mine, or women who are starting businesses, and they can be sheepish about the way they talk about their brand and what they're doing. Let's give ourselves more credit and take ourselves more seriously. Because when I did- when I made that shift- we had awesome growth. So I wish that I had done that from the start, because I think we would have had faster growth if I would have had that confidence in the brand right from the beginning. You miss a lot of your moments by not validating yourself. 

Now...I take myself seriously, and I take my business seriously, but not too seriously. I think the other extreme is people get really wrapped up in their identities with their businesses or their professions. I can feel when I get too stressed out, and I need to take a step back. I think what happens is you start feeling like if your project, or your business, or your blog, fails that it's a reflection of your own worth, and it's not. So whenever I feel that way, I remind myself, that if this were to all go up in flames tomorrow, I'd want to be OK with myself, feel good about what I did, and know that it was all still worth it.

Joy Cho is a designer, mother of two (heartbreakingly adorable) girls, author, and blogger. If you aren't already fan of hers (unlikely...she has 13 million followers on Pinterest alone. That's million, with 6 zeros...) you may have seen her work at a little place I like to call Tar-jay. Yep. She has her own line for Target...#NBD.

You talk and write about "the juggle" and trying to find that elusive balance of career and motherhood without the ever-present guilt. What does that mix look like for you right now?
It's always a work in progress. There are always things that I feel like could get better about it, and there are always ways that I'm feeling guilty, regardless of what I do. With having my second kid, I started all over with the mom guilt, feeling like I brought another child into the world when I was way busier than I was with my first. But she doesn't know any different. So what she's coming into.. she's getting a mom that really loves her job, and a mom who has created something from scratch. So those are the kinds of things I try to remind myself of when I feel bad about working, or when I'm distracted and I realize I'm not paying enough attention to my kids. I try to remember the benefits of being able to show my kids what it's like to have a happy work life, that it's possible; showing them what it looks like to create something from nothing.

The ongoing part of the whole juggle is letting yourself not be good at everything, and knowing that it's OK to not be good at everything. I wrote this post recently about not doing it all, where you at some point have to accept the fact that there are just certain things that you're not going to be able to do. Focus on the things that you do really enjoy, and you are really good at and let the other things go.

You're an incredibly successful designer, writer, blogger with an adorable family. I mean, your picture is posted in every Target in America...You're kind of a big deal. What misconceptions do you think people have about your life?
I'd say that the biggest thing, is a lot of people think things are just handed to me, or things just fall in my lap. That's probably my #1 pet peeve...I know a lot of people think that brands just come to me, but in many cases they're actually brands I approach. People think "Oh that must be so nice, Target just came up to Joy and offered her a product line." But in reality, most of the clients we have, I've gone after. Especially the dream clients, because dream companies don't just come to you, you have to go and tell them why they should do something with you. It doesn't always work, but when it does, that's when dreams become reality. 

What are the hardest parts of your current season of life?...And the best parts?
The hardest part is just...everything.
I think that with every phase of life you figure out how to handle different parts better or how to juggle them better, or how those moving parts come together, I think I will always feel like having to do so many things is hard. But at the same time, I enjoy it, I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it. I'm not one of those people who is happy being bored, I always have to be doing something. But at the same time because of that desire to do so many things, and the desire to keep doing more, I'm never just happy with things as they are. It's sort of my personality- the traits that have brought all of these great things are also kind of a curse in disguise, because you can never just rest and celebrate in the things that you've already done, you're always thinking "What's next? What's the next thing that I'm going to do...?"

The best parts of this stage, are the things that are yet to come. 
I'm a super plan oriented person, who likes to know and be in control of everything, but what I've learned in the last five years especially, is that some of the best things that happen are the things you didn't expect; the things that you didn't have any control over. And the way that those things come about always brings something better. For example, there was a job I really wanted that I didn't get, but had that job worked out I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. And there are many instances of that. Things don't work out, and then eventually in some other form there's this better thing that comes along. Those are the things that I think are the best part because they're unexpected. And in many ways they're what you really wanted, you just didn't know it yet. 

So...we can all agree that it's about more than a pretty wrap, yes?
As a working mom and a creative, I can definitely relate to so much of what they shared, but oddly, maybe the most encouraging part is the realization of all the ways we're not the same, but that still brought inspiration. I'm not a entrepreneur, or published author. I haven't braved Europe with three kids, and I don't get recognized at the grocery store. But the common ground of motherhood, passion, the desire for connection with other women, the need for alone time, of guilt and doubt and feeling drained while also feeling so full... That's universal. I loved hearing stories that sounded so familiar, but had a perspective fresh from my own. After talking with Elle, I'm so inspired to be bold in how I talk about my "big-ness". And Joy's take on everything being the hard stuff, but everything yet to come as the best stuff...That's something I never would have articulated, but can't stop thinking about. Both of these women are talented and successful but they are also brave enough to be real, and you know I just can't get enough of that

It was such an honor to chat with these two ladies, and I'm thrilled to be even a small part of supporting the hard work they do. You can learn more about the new Oh Joy! for Solly Baby wraps or just skip to the best part, and pre-order now. And while you're at it, you can shop the entire new line- including some of my favs (the stripe, obviously..but dots? Yes please!)

Oh- and let me just end with this beauty:

Yeah. She's reading a book to her baby, who she's wearing in a dolly wrap just her size. Can you even? Nope.

All photography...except that last little jokester...by Max Wanger
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  1. LOVE this. My favorite part is how Joy said she WORKED for her success...no one came knocking down her door. Maybe it's just my circle, but it seems women are always all "everyone just loved what I sheepishly put out there soo much and I just happen to be successful". Thanks for being real Joy!

    1. yes! I love being reminded that good things take WORK. Helps me feel less alone when I'm slogging things out.