Inspiring Enterpreneur: Meet Karen Young of Hammocks & High Tea

December 22, 2010 Decorating


Karen and an assortment of products from Hammocks & High Tea

Earlier this year I attended a design industry talk and throughout the night I heard several people drop the name “Hammocks & High Tea” but I had no idea what they were talking about. I felt like the lone outsider left out of the loop so as soon as I got home I googled Hammocks and High Tea and discovered a beautiful range of eco-friendly home accessories with fun, vibrant colors and eye-catching prints that are influenced by Caribbean and South American style. Its founder was Karen Young who shortly thereafter I had the pleasure of meeting at a blogger event and we’ve kept in touch ever since! I’m constantly inspired by Karen’s drive and ambition and one of the things I admire most is how she had the courage to leave the daily grind of her corporate job as a fashion industry sales exec to follow her dream of designing her own collection of home goods. She launched Hammocks & High Tea in 2007 and since then her products have been featured in a number of top media outlets like InStyle, Lucky, Real Simple, Daily Candy, Better Homes & Gardens, The Nate Berkus Show…and the list goes on. I recently caught up with Karen to chat about being a creative entrepreneur, how she took a leap of faith to launch her line and her advice for running a creative business. Read on to hear what she had to say and I hope you find Karen as inspiring as I do!


Products from Hammocks & High Tea

How did Hammocks & High Tea Come about? Had you always wanted to start your own line?
To be honest, the reason I started working in the fashion industry was because I aspired to be a fashion designer. I wanted to learn the backbone of design, the sales & development, because without sales there is no collection which especially holds true in fashion. At one point I realized that although I loved clothing, my real response had always been to anything relating to home and I started to ponder the possibility of launching a collection of home goods. I started in fashion right out of college and within two to three years I was contemplating a home goods collection. When I first discovered home design, I would go into ABC Carpet and imagine my name over one of their gorgeous displays of bedding and furniture. It’s important to allow yourself to dream it so that you can do it.

What allowed you to finally take the leap of faith to launch Hammocks & High Tea and how did you manage the transition from employee to business owner?
I learned from the fashion industry that you must have a unique voice if you want to make yourself or your brand stand out. I was working for D&G when H&M hit the US market for the first time. I remember seeing my co-workers scramble to stand in line to buy cheap knock offs of what we sold just a few blocks away at H&M. It occurred to me that I have to create a voice that cannot be found anywhere else if I wanted to be successful, and knowing that I had one allowed me to take a leap of faith. The transition was rough to start, there are no hours in self employment and direct deposit of a steady paycheck was sorely missed. Balancing everything is a struggle as well, and I sometimes miss having an assistant or co-workers to help with the workload. In my old career I was in the position though of having to consistently make sales, meet deadlines and dollar amounts, so transitioning to doing that for myself was actually a relief.

Tea Towels from Hammocks & High Tea

Was it hard leaving comfort of your day job?
I was working full time when I started Hammocks & High Tea. Leaving was a matter of very well synchronized timing. I was at a job that I was getting pretty comfortable at because it allowed me  free time to develop Hammock & High Tea on the side. I was rushing though because I knew that the economy wasn’t going to keep my current job afloat much longer and I was planning to put in my notice shortly after I realized this. One day I went in and was told that the brand would be pulled from the market and weeks after that my business got hit with a massive wave of press. I could not have managed to do both so I would say I was literally moved right where I’m supposed to be.

What is the hardest part of running your own business?
The hardest part has been learning to manage everything and certainly giving myself time to step away from it as well.

What inspires and influences your work the most?
I’m most inspired by my childhood, travel, and family memoirs/pictures, etc. I’ve long been obsessed with architecture, pattern, and textiles. When it’s time to design a pattern, I still get giddy about diving into the research and seeing where I end up. In the years to come, I hope to fit more travel in to influence my collections.

Linden (L) and Maya (R) pillows from Hammocks & High Tea

What do you do when you hit a creative road block?
For me a creative roadblock usually means I have something stressful going on, so I take a minute (or a few days) away from everything until it’s lifted. Sometimes a few minutes of meditation helps too.

What advice to you have for other creative entrepreneurs?
I would advise other creative entrepreneurs to be passionate about what you do. I thought those were just words before I started a business, but it requires great sacrifice of time and energy sometimes, so find the thing you are passionate about and give it your all.

Do you have a favorite pattern in your collection?
I think my favorites are the Linden and Maya patterns, but I have some runners up coming out for Spring.

What’s next for Hammocks & High Tea?
I am launching a collection of fabric to the trade and working on developing an expanded collection of lifestyle goods for Fall 2011.

11 Comments

Barbara Segal

Reply

Not only will Karen never look back. She is a role model and inspiration for many others. I look forward to seeing her success and growth in the home decor and gift industry.
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” Pablo Picasso

sherry hart

Reply

Love all of her patterns! Look forward to seeing her fabric line!

Tonia

Reply

Thanks Nicole for another fabulous interview. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Karen a little better and I’m inspired.

Chedva

Reply

I have so much faith in Karen, and can’t wait to see what she does next. As always, Thanks to you two for the inspiration.

Tia

Reply

What a great interview and huge inspiration! Thanks for sharing. I have been hearing about Karen’s items and I’m heading over to her site now!

julie at BV

Reply

Love the patterns. I look forward to seeing her new line of fabric.

Adrienne

Reply

Fab interview! I love reading about women who are doing it for themselves because it’s so inspiring, and Karen’s story is no exception. Thanks!

Sondra

Reply

Love her designs and the name of her company.

Toya @The Limerick Lane

Reply

I’m always inspired when people leave the grind of a 9to5 and pursue their passions. Karen transitioned seamlessly into her new role as a designer. This was a truly inspiring post.

S Designs

Reply

Thank You.

I am actually more inspired that i asked her for advice to start my own business and she responded saying its personal she cannot help me. Someday i will tell my story of how i became successful and all the rejections i received seeking advice from those who work USE TO inspire me.

Its a big ole world with billions of people and there is oppotunity for everybody to grow – not need to feel threatened that some one will steal your ideas.

I AM MORE DETERMINED NOW THAN I HAVE EVER BEEN DUE TO THE REJECTION AND I AM KEEPING A JOURNAL TOO – i WILL BREAK THROUGH WITH MY OWN LINE BEFORE THE END OF 2011, by the grace of God

God Bless

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