My team and I are reaching out to all the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis. We will start with a brief background, then dive in to the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between.
Since this is my project, I am going first! I hope you enjoy reading about me and all the other ladies we have lined up! And, if you know an amazing lady that is busting her ass, paving her way, let us know! We'd love to know more about her!
Hi! I’m Brandy. I was born and raised in Harrison, AR. Completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2007. After college I moved to Little Rock for a job at an architecture firm. I fell in love with Little Rock but I was very unhappy in my job. Fast forward a year and a half and another design job, I went back to my roots of waiting tables and making jewelry. I started making jewelry when I was 10 so I have 24 years of jewelry making experience! I know that sounds crazy, but it's what I love and I feel confident in my field. My husband and I live in the Governor's Mansion/SoMa neighborhood of Little Rock and I run a brick and mortar shop in the Lafayette Building on 6th and Louisiana Streets in downtown Little Rock. I work A LOT! But I work for myself and I love what I do so I am ok with it. I don’t have children yet and am still very undecided on whether or not I will someday have them. I can’t imagine throwing a kid into the mix of our busy lives.
Bella Vita was born in December of 2008 and in July of 2013 I was able to make it my full time job. And then in October 2014 I opened our brick and mortar shop. We do 4 wholesale gift shows a year (2 in New York and 2 in Atlanta) and we still do retail art/craft shows in our region. As of now, we sell to about 200 different retail shops across the US and Canada. And we employee 2 part time women and two very very part time high school students. Our shop is open Thursday - Saturday and more during holidays.
- Give us your elevator pitch. I make artisan jewelry that tells a story.
- What is your business? And how long have you been at it? -- Bella Vita Jewelry, 8 years officially but really my whole life...
When did you start your business? 2008
- What inspired you to make the leap? Major unhappiness in my 8 - 5 job. But, I worked two part time jobs for the first 4 years of my business. I went full time self employed in 2014.
- What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation? As soon as I wake up, I drink hot tea or decaf coffee then a diet coke around 10. In Spring - Fall I like to start or end the day with a 3 mile walk. And maybe squeeze in some yoga here and there.
- Tell us about a day in the life of running your business. My days usually start very early. I am a morning person! Wake up between 4 and 5 a.m. scroll social media, answer emails, make breakfast and lunch, try to exercise, head to shop/studio around 7. Once I am at the shop, every day is different. Lately, we are working hard filling orders for our new wholesale accounts. I’m making most of the jewelry then I hand it off to one of my assistants. The afternoons are usually filled with shipping orders, answering emails, and powwowing with employees on their tasks. I try to head home between 5 and 6 p.m. -- at this point I’m spent. Drink wine, cook dinner, maybe a little tv or backgammon game with my husband then hit the bed to reset for the next day.
- What keeps you motivated? Successful days in the shop, new retailers calling, designing something special for a client, being recognized as an expert in my field... When these things aren’t happening and I really need a pick me up, I’ll go ‘treasure hunting” and look for inspiration in antiques, buy some new gemstones, visit an art exhibit… After 8 years, I’m still pretty motivated. I hope it sticks.
- Describe your dream day. Waking up without an alarm, yoga and a downtown walk, breakfast at Boulevard in SoMa, opening up my shop to a day full of my amazing customers, happy hour with friends at Bruno’s. My dream day also consists of getting all my tasks done in a timely manner, little distractions, and me not feeling rushed or overloaded!!!
- What is your greatest strength/super power? My attention to detail. It is a strength but can also at times be a crippling obsession :) I’m also pretty good at managing multiple tasks at once.
- Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat? Instagram… but these days I have very little time for any of them. Facebook is a huge distraction to me. And, I’ve never quite figured out Snapchat.
- What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!) I work on my side hustle, Bella Vita Vintage. My husband and I love to collect stuff and curate a little booth at South Main Creative. My real hobbies are collecting antique buttons, cooking, and gardening. I make time for these things in the summer when our garden is in full bloom.
- If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it? I would invest in a commercial building in downtown Little Rock. We would expand our retail offering for our brick and mortar shop. Then I would invest money in online marketing of our website. Oh, and I’d hire out as much work as I could so that I could spend all my time on creative development and business planning.
- What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go? Running a small business is all about risk. Everything is a risk… the biggest steps I’ve taken are opening up my brick and mortar shop and investing in new employees.
- Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable? Probably updating our website. It’s so time consuming… I’ve started watching movies on the iPad while I update the website on our desktop computer. It's one of the most tedious tasks!
- How do you handle discouragement? Well that is tough… Start by taking a deep breath then I remind myself of all the good things that have happened to offset the bad thing I am dealing with in the moment.
- Who are you in your next life? A Restauranteur that grows and raises all meat and produce used in the restaurant.
- Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business? Iced tea and diet cokes and dark chocolate. Ha! No really, life is all about balance. I work hard and play hard and try to take care of my mind and my body. I do get up early in the morning but I go to bed early. The one thing I don’t sacrifice is my sleep. I try for at least 7 hrs a night.
What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs? GO FOR IT! Start small and grow slow and naturally. Big things will happen in time, be as patient as you can but don’t be lazy. Things don’t just magically happen if you aren’t trying. And don’t lose passion for what you do! If you feel burn out, take a break. Even if it's just a walk around the block.
All photos by: Saira Khan