What made you decide to start your business?
I'm drawn to textiles because of my experience in interior design. I wanted to do something that brought me closer to Ethiopia, which is where I was born. And, I wanted to contribute what I could: As my business grows, these artisans will grow, too, which means so much to me and is a big part of why I do this. I get to work closely with people I really care about. And over the years, I've developed such great friendships with my artisan partners. It's bringing me closer to Ethiopians in a very tangible sense and I am so happy to be creating products that are made with love.
What are you inspired by?
I grew up admiring my mother's collection of Ethiopian dresses. (My own little collection of traditional dresses now feeds my imagination.) Today, I think my design aesthetic continues to always be influenced by the textiles I grew up with -- all the vibrant colors. Every one of my collections is inspired by some aspect of a specific textile or Ethiopian culture.
Describe your creative process.
The first step is pulling some inspirational images, maybe pinning it on Pinterest and sketching a few things on paper -- including patterns and color combinations. Then final execution happens in Photoshop or Illustrator. I then send to my artisans either hard copies or I email files for the bigger artisan collectives.
What excites you about your future and what do you feel like you're applying from your past to your current day-to-day life?
I always get excited about new collections -- it sometimes takes a year for me to pull them together, so there's this huge anticipation that builds up. And, each season I try to put out one new product, so it's always a challenge to see what I can create with just handwoven products.
There are so many opportunities to grow, and I love the idea that I'll be experiencing that growth with my artisan partners. I feel like I wouldn't have been able to start my business the way I did if I didn't have 10 years of experience as an interior designer.
It's incredibly rewarding to see that it's happening, that I'm doing this. I'm living my dream life.
How do you energize your batteries and keep your creativity flowing?
I try to walk places when I can. Now that I have a baby, I can't always go to the gym. So, a nice walk through Eastern Parkway or through the botanical garden is a great way to recharge. I also love spa time. Whatever neighborhood I'm in, I try to find an affordable place for massages, facials, etc. I love doing yoga, too; it's a great way to meditate. Sometimes it's good to have some quiet time to really let the ideas percolate and get my thoughts together.
What are some challenges and successes you've experienced in your business?
Balancing the business aspect of being an artist can be difficult (for example: administrative tasks, making sure you're generating a profit, being able to sustain your business). As a woman, I think we sometimes tend to be more timid and modest. I always try to keep that in mind and I try to boost my confidence -- be bold and follow through and it will happen.
My biggest reward is working and going back twice a year to Ethiopia -- the people there are like family to me. We're always happy to see one another and catch up. That's so different from the world of corporate interiors. It's such a joy and honor to work with people you really care about.
What advice would you give to other women looking to begin a second act or pursue their dream job?
It's very important to have a realistic grasp of the financial part of this business. You can start your own business, but you need to be mindful of where your finances come from, whether you take out a loan, or if you work part-time.
I think having a little bit of experience and age on your side is nothing but an asset. I also think when you allow your passions to influence your career, only good things can happen.