Lori Caldwell, Founder of Minnie+George, was one of the first local designers I met with when I moved back to Portland. She kindly invited me into her studio space, shared her process with me, and welcomed me into the beautiful world she has created. We recently partnered up with Lori to loan a few pieces from the shop for her stunning new lookbook (check out this amazing feature on Portland Monthly!).
She is always refreshingly real & honest about what it's like to run a small and bustling business, which is why I thought she'd be the perfect fit to host our next Create+Connect event. Lori will be leading a discussion on creativity & commerce, sharing the truth about what happens when you turn your creative passion into a profession, and the benefits and side effects of that pairing.
RSVP to info@shopwmgoods to join us on Tuesday, 11/14 from 5:30-7:30pm (tickets are free but space is limited!).
Read our interview with Lori below & hear more at Create+Connect!
How did you originally come up with the concept for Minnie+George? Had you always been interested in accessories? What drew you to this path?
There isn't really a linear path that brought me to Minnie + George. I was working as a freelancer for an online company. It was incredibly boring and unrewarding. So, while "working," I would play on Pinterest, pinning creative projects. I stumbled on a DIY leather clutch. That piqued my curiosity about bag making and also got me thinking creatively again. Minnie + George evolved from that a few years later.
Once you decided to start your own business, what were the first few steps you took?
I started to learn my craft. My ex bought me private sewing lessons. I also started reading books on starting a small business and attended some of the free seminars at Mercy Corps NW.
Do you have any resources for creatives who are considering starting their own business?
Resources? Hmm...Well, from a business perspective, definitely take advantage of organizations like Mercy Corps NW. They can help you create a business plan, find additional funding, that sort of thing. Also, find a mentor. Someone related to what you want to do and where you'd like to see yourself in the future. Preferably, someone who has been in the business for more than 5 years and is established. The insight you'll gain in just a few coffees or lunches will be invaluable.
Have you experienced any unexpected setbacks in your business? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
Unexpected setbacks simply come with the territory. At this point, it feels like it's compulsory. You handle them by using the "tools in the room." What I mean is, you use what you have and what is available to you to come up with a creative solution. When I started, I used all my money just getting materials and creating a sample collection. I soon realized that, no matter how great the bags might have been, no one would be interested if I didn't present them with great professional quality images. With no money left, however, that seemed impossible. I had started to gain a little attention on social media. As a result, a few fashion bloggers had contacted me about collaborations. I decided to write them all back and offer to give them each one of my samples, in exchange for them not only blogging about Minnie + George, but also allowing me free use & access to all of the photos taken. I was able to update my website, create a lookbook and promotional materials with those images. I used what I had (samples and interest) in exchange for what I needed (great images), instead of overextending myself financially trying to hire a photographer, models, etc. Use the tools in the room.
What is the most rewarding part of owning your own business? What is the most challenging part?
The most rewarding and challenging are inextricably linked for me. Using, questioning, and growing stronger and more confident in my creative voice while balancing the practicalities of a business. That dance between the two is both rewarding and also the most challenging thing I've ever tried to do.
Where do you hope to see your business in 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?
I have no idea. Currently, I'm changing the business model and also the creative focus of Minnie + George. How will this new vision takes shape and where will it lead next? Too soon to know for sure.
Where does the inspiration for the line come from?
Certainly my parents, who the business is named after. Their classic, understated, timeless style was definitely my first and strongest influence growing up. But, also I've derived a lot of inspiration from the years I spent living abroad and also from what I learned about design when I worked as a floral designer. Oh, also Shelley Mokoena
, a South African blogger is my muse and spirit animal. If you don't follow her on Instagram, you're missing out.
Who are the other designers or businesses that you admire?
Do you think Portland is a good place to start a business? If so, why?
Portland is pretty supportive of independent designers and businesses. And, it's basically become the mecca of the maker movement in the United States. I mean, Portland made goods is a huge phenomenon in Japan! They have stores dedicated to just goods made from our city and huge tourist groups come just to shop here.
What book or quote has made an impact on you?
I don't have a particular quote, but I always turn to my favorite poem, Some Days, by James Baldwin. I love the last stanza: "Some days leave, some days grieve, some days you almost don't believe. Some days believe you, some days don't, some days believe you and you won't. Some days worry, some days mad, some days more than make you glad. Some days, some days, more than shine, witnesses, coming on down the line!"
Be sure to RSVP for Lori's Create+Connect event on Tuesday, 11/14 by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!