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.