On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In August and September, the theme is RUNNING AN ONLINE SHOP. Today I’m excited to introduce you to Meg, a fellow BCS resident and the owner of Belle & Union Co., a source for beautiful American-made homeward and paper creations.
Tell me about your shop!
A little bit sweet, a whole lot sassy, Belle & Union is the creation of Meg and Josh, two honeys known for cookin’ up all sorts of homegrown goodness with their whimsical writings, wrappings and wares.
It all started in 2012 with a relationship: a Southern art student and a Northern soldier fell in love along the sandy beaches of Tybee Island and the shady moss-draped oaks of Savannah, Georgia. Inspired by each other, our family, and the beautiful sights, sounds and differences found from coast to coast throughout the U.S., we decided to celebrate our roots and community the best way we know how: by basking in each others’ company, filling simple moments with memorable laughs, and sharing these moments with friends and friends to come.
Everything you’ll find here is steeped in Southern hospitality — from the deepest grooves of our letterpress greeting cards to the very (literal) fiber of our signature tea towels — all proudly American made. We’ve got a soft spot for vintage American wit and wisdom and goods that tote a bit of a foodie twist. To us, nothing says home and comfort quite like the scents of Mawmaw’s kitchen; it’s the heart of the home and the memories made in it feed our souls.
Our recipe? Start with all-American ingredients: the papers we print on, the cotton in our textiles, and the wood in our hand-crafted gifts. Mix in a dollop of Meg’s doodles and season with a spoonful of Josh’s mechanical moxie. Serve fresh, gather ‘round our table, and enjoy. Whether you speak with a drawl, East Coast boast or West Coast ease, we hope our homegrown wares, made from the heart (of Texas, that is), will always cook up a smile.
Describe a typical day in your business.
There is no typical day in the B&U studio! There are always orders to be filled, products that need assembled and packaged, cards to print, new products to design… the list is endless. The goal is to make sure we get a good balance with priorities taken into consideration. I am definitely a list maker, and this helps keep us in line moving forward.
Who are some of your mentors, role models, or inspirations?
Emily Ley and Kristen Ley of Thimblepress (no, they aren’t related!) are mentors and role models that I am fortunate to say have become good friends. They are navigating this industry right alongside me (or rather, ahead of me) and their encouragement means the world to me.
What is one time management tip you would give to someone trying to build a creative business or portfolio?
Prioritize! You’ll never get it all done. I have a list I make at the beginning of every week, and also each day, that keeps me in line. There are things I know I need to get done, and things I’d like to get done, but having that priority keeps me focused.
What is one piece of life advice you’d give to someone worried about juggling a family, life, and a business or creative endeavor?
I got in a very bad habit of working late and on the weekends while my husband was deployed… there was no one home to keep me from working! Now with him back stateside, I’ve tried really hard to force myself into “regular business hours”, which isn’t always easy when I can just slip downstairs into our home studio. But making sure to take time for him, for us, is an important part of the work/life balance that I am proud I am finally making a priority.
What’s one goal for your business in the next year?
We want to be better about communication in the next year… with our retailers, our customers, really be better about following up and making sure the overall customer experience is satisfactory.
What is the hardest part of your business for you?
Making money! The financial side of things is always going to be the hardest for me, because I am definitely not a numbers girl. Thankfully I have someone I trust to handle the finances for the business, so that is one thing off my plate. But deciding how to price our products to be competitive in the market, as well as actually make a profit, can be an incredible stressful part of the business. Most days I just want to create what I love and let the money figure itself out… but unfortunately it doesn’t usually work that way.
What are you most grateful for?
Having a supportive partner, both in life and in the business, is essential to my my overall well being. He is there to encourage me when things aren’t going the way I want them to, to celebrate with me when they are, and just always be there. I could not be more grateful to have someone in my life, sharing this life with me, that loves and understands what I do and is supportive of that.
If you could start over and, knowing where you are now, change one thing, what would it be?
This is such a hard question to answer! I honestly don’t know that I would change anything… because I know all the lessons I have learned along the way are what got me where I am.
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Meg (and Belle & Union Co.)!
For the first conversation in this series, check out my conversation with Nicole.
As an aside, one book on my booklist is Jessica Turner’s The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. It’s been recommended to me as wonderful encouragement for moms trying to make more time to create.
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