I sat down with my friend Amy, who writes here on The Woobie to do a little informal interview reflecting on what it’s like to be in business for 10 years— a good lesson for me to stop and take stock of all that has been built in a decade and look at where Happy Habitat is today. Thank you for sharing in this story, I’m so fortunate to be here, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
How have you gotten to know your own brand better? Give me a little Is / Isn’t.
Wow. I’m realizing right now how easy it is to get caught up in the day to day minutia of running a business. This is good for me think about. Deep breath, without overthinking it here we go…
Happy Habitat is a small, independent, forward thinking company. Happy Habitat is a safe place for ALL people. Happy Habitat is warmth and comfort. Happy Habitat is PERSONAL, it’s about people and experiences. HH strives to be eco-friendly. It is a modern perspective on culture, business and design. Happy Habitat is cozy positivity.
I could give a lot of “Isn’t-s” , but with everything just said, that seems counter-intuitive so we’ll just leave it here.
What have you learned about keeping customers happy? Are there any lessons you’d share with giant corporations?
I should start off by saying that I truly have the best customers. I’ve been fortunate to connect with good folks, nice, kind people. The kind of people that lift each other up and want good for one another. I know, that sounds dramatic, but it’s true.
I actually enjoy helping people out- so if someone needs something quickly as a surprise or something, I’ll go out of my way to make it happen, it’s fun to be a part of and if I can do it, I will!
Honestly, I could probably learn something from the giant corporations as they have programs in place for this. It’s just me here— if there’s an error, I personally get the message and handle it directly. Couple things I’ve learned 1) be simple, honest and direct in the communication 2) fix it and compensate for the error 3) fix it FAST, and then behind the scenes 4) figure out what happened so it doesn’t happen again.
Like .0000001% of the time, there will be a customer is never happy, no matter what the situation. I learned early on, my product and brand isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. So for me, best thing to do is to accept it, be nice, and move along. Dwelling in that isn’t good.
What’s the best opportunity you’ve ever said yes to?
Surprisingly, saying yes to working with West Elm has been a fruitful opportunity for this small business. I am a skeptic of big business. But I grilled them with a million questions, and said yes, and it has been a great partnership. It’s not easy being a small player on the internet in a world of big conglomerates. If you google ‘throws’— big companies pop up first— they have the budgets to show up first online. West Elm has been supportive in sharing my business— it has been mutually beneficial as we do great sales together, but they also give me a platform to be seen as an independent designer. On top of it, our values align- it’s a win/win.
What’s the smartest time you’ve ever said no?
Logos. I used to get asked to put a logo on a throw all the time, and I used to do it. And it felt icky. It felt like a sell-out. It compromised the integrity of the design, and just didn’t feel right. FEELING and trusting my gut is as important as financial outcome, and also equal to being ethical. Each affecting the other, and if one is out of line, the circle breaks and outcome not successful to me.
Did you ever imagine that this business would be such a great way to meet cool people?
I used to think work and home life should be separate. But as it turns out, my business is a way of living for me, and I really like the blur. The people that have come into my life through HH are friends, and some of them have become dear close friends. I have been connected to musicians, artists, artisans, photographers, videographers and business owners from all over the world that I would have never met otherwise. It makes the world feel a little smaller and interconnected, but also so much beautiful diversity yet to learn and know.
In what ways do you think the Happy Habitat look is timeless? And how has your design style evolved over the last 10 years?
Is it timeless? Well, thank you! I’d say because I am inspired by ancient patterns and motifs that have been around since the beginning of time. I did not invent them— I just reimagine them in scale and settings. And can’t help but to evolve as I am influenced by what trends and what I see around me daily— it is consciously and unconsciously absorbed. Right now I’m leaning towards curves, waves and squiggles! (coming soon!)
What parts of managing your own little blankie empire do you enjoy more than you would have expected? Which parts do you have to psych yourself up to do?
“Blankie Empire”— haha, that’s cute Amy!
I have been surprised by my vanity of seeing my babies out in the world. I am not an interior designer, I just design the product. Seeing them in gorgeous, well designed, thoughtful spaces really does it for me.
And second, I couldn’t have imagined that the process and execution of how my product is positioned visually could be so satisfying and fun. I love the collaboration and discovery of coming up with ways to show my throws to the world. It’s a whole other area to explore.
I will reward myself with something fun for paying sales tax. It’s the absolute worst- the process is archaic and annoying. But makes doing the good parts that much better!
What are some things you would never compromise on?
I will never compromise quality. The thickness of a throw and time it takes to knit a throw, we won’t cut corners on that, and always eco-friendly materials. Also design, always has to be something that I personally like. The idea is to put something good out into the world, in all aspects of that sense.
What advice would you share with other entrepreneurs? Anything you’d say specifically to female entrepreneurs?
Ladies— we were meant for this! But we aren’t special— do the hard things, put in the time and effort, be smart and methodical with your decisions, trust your intuition and take advantage of what makes you a woman.